The office kitchen was standing room only. Co-workers stayed late to watch the main event of the evening. They packed themselves in like sardines, all hoping for the best seat in the house.
Mr. Vanel stood between two counters. He was dressed in a referee’s outfit. A microphone was hung from the ceiling. It bounced around his head before he grabbed it with his hand and held it close.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for our main event of the evening!” Fireworks showered across the kitchen. Smoke flickered in the florescent lights above.
“First coming down the aisle. From the Sales Department. Miguel the Mixer!” The florescent lights flashed off and on. Music boomed through the PA system. Miguel stepped into the kitchen donning a red luchadore mask, and matching red cape and tights. The crowd cheered. Miguel clapped the hands of his co-workers as he walked by.
“Next, coming down the aisle. From customer service, being accompanied by Sourbite Spencer and Cravingly Clare, it’s Zach!”
Zach walked into the kitchen, Spencer and Clare behind him. The crowd roared. He felt claustrophobic in the tightly packed room. His music blared while Spencer ran up and down the aisle, clapping hands with the fans.
The music lowered once Zach got to his counter. Spencer messaged his shoulder, prepping him for the match ahead.
“What are we doing?” Zach asked.
“You got this,” said Spencer.
“This is not a good plan?” said Zach.
“I’ve got this under control,” said Spencer. “Just follow the recipe.”
Mr. Vanel spoke up. “The following match-up is a No Disqualification Kitchen Match! The only way to win is by making the most delicious dessert in the allotted time.”
“You’re going down, Zach,” Miguel shouted. “My tres leches cakes are second to none.”
“We’re not afraid of you,” said Spencer. “Our crumb cake is good enough to steal!”
Miguel brushed off the insult. He wasn’t afraid.
Zach looked over the recipe Spencer gave him. It looked awfully familiar. He turned to Spencer. “How did you get the recipe for my mom’s crumb cake?”
“Look,” said Zach, nodding his head toward the crowd. Zach looked out. Embarrassment rose from the pit of his stomach. There was his mom, standing at the railing next to his boss, Mr. Howell. His face was still red with the slap mark of the Buddha’s Hand.
Zach’s mom waved eagerly at her son. “Hi, honey!”
“What’s my mom doing here?” Zach asked.
“She brought us the recipe,” said Spencer. “And she wanted to support you in your first match.”
“Good luck, Zachy!” his mom yelled.
Mr. Howell grumbled at her enthusiasm. He glared at Zach. A pink slip poked out of his jacket pocket.
Zach gulped. Everything was on the line right now. Miguel flexed his stirring muscles for the crowd. There was no beating him.
“Focus,” said Spencer. “You got this.”
Zach nodded his head, fueled only by his friend’s confidence.
“Ready. Set. Bake!” Mr. Vanel yelled, followed by the ringing of the bell.
Miguel began by cracking four eggs at once simply by squeezing them between his fingers. The eggs went into a mixing bowl ready for the next ingredient.
Zach looked over the recipe. He hurried to gather the necessary items.
“How can I help?” Clare asked.
“You’re not in the match,” said Zach.
“It’s No Disqualification,” said Spencer. “We can break the rules.”
“Oh,” said Zach. “Then get me some brown sugar and cinnamon.”
“On it!” said Clare.
“Spencer, I need some milk,” said Zach.
“Sorry, I’ve got other plans,” said Spencer with a chair in his hands.
“What are you doing with a chair?” Zach let out.
Spencer ran up behind Miguel and struck the luchador behind the back with the chair.
The smack of steel on skin echoed through the kitchen. The crowd roared with pleasure at Spencer’s surprise attack.
Miguel hit the floor hard. Batter spilled all over the counter. Flour cascaded into the air, landing on Spencer, the chair, and Miguel.
“Don’t steal my friend’s crumb cake!” Spencer yelled. Then he hit Miguel with the chair for a second time right in the gut.
Mr. Vanel approached Spencer cautiously. He bent down to check on Miguel, holding his hand up to keep Spencer back. A quick check showed Miguel would be okay before long.
Spencer turned away from his opponent. “Keep going. You have to finish the dessert. Win this!”
Miguel stumbled up to the counter. He looked down at his bowl of unfinished batter. Then he hurled all of the contents from his stomach. His entire day’s worth of meals, including the stolen crumb cake splattered across the counter. Miguel then collapsed back to the floor. He was too weak to continue.
“Told you!” Spencer yelled back.
The crowd cheered as Zach stirred his crumb cake mix faster.
“You can do it, honey!” Zach’s mom cheered. “Remember to preheat the oven to 350!”
Twenty minutes later, the oven ringed. Zach took the crumb cake out of the oven. The smell wafted into the air. A wave of cheers escalated across the kitchen as the smell hit the crowd one row at a time.
Zach carefully cut out a piece and presented it to Mr. Vanel, the official referee of the match. He danced it in his hands to let it cool down then he plopped it in his mouth.
Zach, Spencer, and Clare held their breaths. Would it be good enough to end the match?
Mr. Vanel looked at Zach. He smiled. “You’re record is expunged!” he said with his mouth full.
The bell rang. The match was over. Zach was victorious.
Spencer and Clare hugged Zach in congratulations. They bounced around the kitchen careful to avoid the nearly unconscious body of Miguel, the crumb cake thief.
The celebrating continued for the three friends until Mr. Howell walked up to Zach. His presence brought them to a halt. The grim face of Zach’s boss glared at the three of them. Then he reached into his breast pocket. Zach could see the hue of pink reflection on Mr. Howell’s hand.
“This is for you,” said Mr. Howell.
He pulled out a small container of sprinkles.
“It’s for winners,” said Mr. Howell as he gingerly sprinkled the sugary delight onto Zach’s crumb cake. “Keep it up.”
Then Mr. Howell turned and left. He never once smiled.
Zach smiled. “Dig in!”
He grabbed a chunk of the crumb cake and took a bite. Spencer and Clare did the same. Then the crowd rushed forward. They were all anxious to taste Zach’s mom’s crumb cake.
Zach stood in ecstasy. They were just as delicious as his mom’s, if not better with the sprinkles. These were made with victory.