The Choir and the Confectioner
by Maureen Bowden
“Unquiet meals make ill digestions.”
(William Shakespeare; ‘The Comedy of Errors’ Act 5, Scene 1)
Mrs Renee Leary was baking a cake when the flights of angels arrived to sing her to her rest. “Let me finish this, gentlemen,” she said, “and I’m all yours.”
Impatient, the Heavenly Host hung about in the living room, shedding feathers on the laminate floor, causing Cordelia, Mrs Leary’s cat, to become agitated.
Gabriel poked his head around the kitchen door. “How’s it going, Mrs L? We haven’t got all day, you know.”
“Nearly done, laddie, and call me Renee. No need to be formal.”
“Thank you. Call me Gabe, and please get a move on.”
“I will, if you’ll let me concentrate. This last bit needs a steady hand.” Squeezing blue icing out of her piping tube, she wrote, on the cake’s surface, in well-practised calligraphy, ‘Happy Birthday, Will.’ She folded a self-assembly box around her culinary creation, tied it with a blue silk ribbon, washed and dried her hands, and carried the masterpiece into the living room.
“Ready,” she said, placing the cake on the Ikea coffee table, which her dutiful son, Edgar, had given her last Christmas, and on which her dodgy son, Edmund, habitually rested his feet while he watched television. She turned to the Heavenly Host. “Just one tiny favour, boys, before you send me on my way.”
“Gabe sighed, “What now, Renee?”
“Well, the way I see it, you’re all actually messengers. That’s what ‘angel’ means, right? This choir malarkey is only a sideline.”
“Your point is?”
“After you’ve seen me off I need you to pop back to the seventeenth century and deliver the cake to Will Shakespeare for his fifty-second birthday. It’s the last one he’ll ever have, so I want it to be memorable.”
She ignored the note of sarcasm. “Seeing as you ask, make sure Cordelia’s well cared for. My son, Edgar, will take her. He’s a good lad, not like the other one.”
Gabe turned to Michael, “What d’ya think about the birthday delivery, Mick? We’ll be needed there anyway. Two birds with one stone?”
Mick shrugged “Handle the cake as well as the Bard? Might as well.”
Azrael nodded assent, while attempting to disengage a mauled wing from Cordelia’s jaws. The cat coughed up a feather ball, and hissed. The angel said, “Edgar has my sympathy.”
Cassiel picked up the cake, “Good Heavens. Feel the weight of this. It’s the Bard who has my sympathy.” He passed it around to Ariel, Haniel and Kemuel.
Mick said, “I’m not carrying it. I can’t risk straining my sword arm. The rest of you will have to take turns.”
Mrs Leary died, and the seven angels sang. Gabe and Mick provided the bass, Az, and Ari warbled the treble, and Cass, Han and Kem laid on a descant.
They planted a doting obsession for Cordelia into Edgar’s brain, and as a bonus, conjured up a vision of eternal damnation to deter Edmund from doing a runner with the flat screen TV.
Mission accomplished, they flew back to 22 April 1616, the evening before the Bard’s fifty-second birthday, and left the cake outside a stylish new-build in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The lady of the house was setting off to visit her daughter, Susanna. She opened her front door, stepped out, and fell over the cake. She picked herself up, dusted herself off, and carried it back into the house.
Will was filling up the flagons for his drinking buddies, Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton, in preparation for a birthday binge. He said, “How now, Anne, my love. What have thee there?”
She dropped it on the kitchen table. “It’s your birthday tomorrow. It must be for you.”
He untied the blue ribbon, read Renee’s greeting, and tasted a fragment of icing that had been dislodged by Anne’s foot. “Is this a cake I see before me? Whose fair hands could have baked it?”
Anne gave him a sweet and sour look. “Mayhap one of the Bankside whores hath hidden talents.”
No doubt wishing to ease his friend’s discomfort, Ben changed the subject by delving into the cutlery drawer for a cake knife. ”Will you take a slice, Mistress, before you deprive us of your company?”
“No, thank you, Master Jonson. It’s too heavy for my taste.” She turned to Will. “I’m off to Sue’s now. Don’t eat too much of it or you’ll wake tomorrow with indigestion as well as a hangover.”
Will woke with neither. The flight of angels sang him to his rest while Anne comforted her daughters.
Judith, the flibbertigibbet, sobbed, “Oh, woe, oh sad world. We have lost the Swan of Avon in the summer of his years.”
Anne, and Susanna, the clever one, looked at each other and raised their eyebrows.
Sue’s husband, Doctor John Hall, said, “His intemperate birthday celebrations brought on a fever. That was what did it.”
Gabe nudged Mick, and said, “I blame the cake.”
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Maureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian living in North Wales with her musician husband. She has had seventy-six stories and poems accepted by paying markets, and Silver Pen nominated one of her stories for the 2015 international Pushcart Prize. She also writes songs, mostly political satire, that her husband has performed in Folk Music clubs throughout England and Wales. She loves her family and friends, Rock ’n’ Roll, Shakespeare, and cats.