APOTHEOSIS CAKE • by Alexander Burns

Sure, Jennifer liked cake, but this was ridiculous. Her sister’s wedding cake towered over the reception, a pillar of frosting. Any taller and it would block out the sun to usher in a thousand years of darkness and despair. Civilizations would rise and fall in the shadow of this sugary ziggurat. Jennifer half expected her new brother-in-law to start screeching and throw a bone toward the very pinnacle of the cake, harbinger of a new step in evolution.

Devolution would be more apt, though, Jennifer thought. Kim, Jennifer’s twin sister, danced — badly — at the center of the reception with their father, to some sappy song he’d sung to her when they were kids. Kim’s husband leaned against the far wall with his friends, laughing and high-fiving each other. Jennifer suspected the joke involved a penis. The rest of the packed ballroom bustled with people who were, for the most part, strangers. Aside from their smallish family, Jennifer recognized a few people from Kim’s office, but the rest she didn’t know.

Jennifer shifted uncomfortably in her lemon yellow bridesmaid dress and cast a worried glance at her cleavage. The last thing she wanted was one of the more distant and forgetful cousins hitting on her. She spotted one of them at the edge of the dance floor and quickly turned away to avoid eye contact. Maybe she could, in a few day’s time, navigate around to the other side of the mammoth cake…

“Jennifer!” A man approached, smiling, and Jennifer steeled herself. He dressed well, in a buttoned shirt and slacks. His dark hair was neatly cut and combed. About her age, he actually wasn’t completely repulsive. He must have crashed the party, looking for free booze. Or perhaps he was a survivor of a plane that had crashed into the cake, and had climbed down, desperate to get help for his injured comrades still stranded on the uppermost tiers of Vanilla Mountain.

“Jennifer! Hey, wow,” the stranger said, a little out of breath. Walking anywhere in this jam of people required way more effort than Jennifer considered necessary, so she’d hung around the cake since shortly after arriving. She stared blankly, and he laughed. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. I’d forget me, too.”

“Er.” Jennifer scrunched up her face, pretending to try to remember him. “Are you one of Matt’s friends…?”

“No, no,” he said. “I’m Hank. Hank Abram. We went to high school together. I still talk to your sister every now and then.”

Jennifer drew a complete blank. Then again, it had been almost ten years. She was more than a little disappointed that he could recognize her after all this time. Nobody should look like they did in high school.

“Oh, yeah, Hank Abram.”

“Still nothing, huh?”


They regarded the cake in silence for a few moments. Jennifer wondered if, when Kim and her new husband finally cut into it, they would discover the frozen body of a long-extinct wooly mammoth buried within. The groom would no doubt scream something about the awesomeness of dinosaurs.

“You know,” Hank told her, “I hear they had to assemble this thing in orbit, and bring it down piece by piece.”

Jennifer couldn’t help but smile. She slipped an arm around his. “I don’t know who you are, Hank,” she said, “but I like you.”

Alexander Burns lives and writes in Fort Worth, Texas, about whatever crazy stuff happens to occur to him at the time. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction and A Thousand Faces.

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