The Short Story Experience: A CHRISTMAS COOKIE MIRACLE

“Ethel! Ethel!” Emmet yells-whispers into his sister’s ear. She doesn’t wake up. Or, rather, she does, but pretends she didn’t as she usually did when Emmet tried to wake her up in the middle of the night. She knows this can only mean one thing — trouble. “Come one, Ethel, it’s a serious matter this time!”

With him, it’s always a serious matter. Like when he decided to hide a stray dog inside his room. Or when he thought it was a good idea to climb on the roof to see a meteor shower.

Ethel doesn’t move and, when the room becomes quiet, she slowly opens just one eye to see if her brother has decided to walk away. He hasn’t.

“I’ve had an idea!” he grins.

“Of course you did.” Ethel gives in and sits up on her bed.

“So, you know how Santa only comes if we leave cookies for him?”

“Yes.”

“What if we leave the cookies earlier?” His excitement is so that it prevents him from standing still. “What if we make them tonight?”

“We can’t make cookies,” Ethel says matter-of-factly. “We can’t cook.”

“I have mom’s recipe,” Emmet insists, shaking a yellowish sheet of paper in front of her.

“He won’t come,” Ethel squints her eyes, silently looking for some flaw in her brother’s plan.

“He will!” Emmet beams.

“It’s not Christmas yet,” Ethel continues.

“It’s almost Christmas and there will be cookies! He’ll come and we’ll get our presents earlier.”

Ethel thinks about this for a minute. As the older sister, she must act responsibly. She must be wiser and not let her baby brother do stupid things. She’s let him put them in trouble too many times before. Enough! Not this time. She’s learned her lesson.

“Okay,” she says, throwing her legs out of bed, “but you have to do exactly what I say.”

“Why?” Emmet crosses his arms. “It’s my idea!”

“I know, but it has a great potential to be considered a naughty thing. We’re days away from Christmas, I don’t want to risk be put in the naughty list for trying to trick Santa Claus!”

“We’re not tricking him, we’re just summoning him earlier.”

“I don’t think we can summon him,” she says, slipping her foot into her bunny slippers. She’s never heard of such a thing before. “But let’s try.”

They tip-toe down the wooden stairs, avoiding the one that always creaks when they step on it, trying to not wake up their mother. Once in the kitchen, they close the door and turn on the lights. Emmet kneels on one of the stools, carefully spreading the recipe sheet on the counter. He reads it out loud once, and then stares at his sister. Turns out, having a recipe means nothing — they still don’t know how to cook.

“Well…” Ethel sighs. “Let’s start by taking out the ingredients.”

So, they do — flour, butter, sugar, eggs.

“What is baking soda?” Emmet asks, the tip of his nose almost touching the paper.

“I don’t know, but I found this.” Ethel puts a Fanta grape can on the counter. “It’s written ‘soda’ on it.”

“Okay,” Emmet nods.

“And we don’t have chocolate chips, so let’s use some crushed Oreos.”

“Okay,” Emmet nods again. “Now what?”

Ethel rolls her eyes — wasn’t this his idea? He’s certainly being quite unhelpful for someone who seems to have a master plan. She refrains of making that comment, though, since she’s said he’d have to do whatever she told him to. It’s just that she doesn’t know what to do, either. But she’d never admit it.

“We have to mix it all together, right?” she says, pulling the recipe towards her to read it. There’s nothing there about mixing things, but mixing is pretty basic cooking knowledge. Plus, she always sees her mom mixing things in a bowl whenever she cooks.

Emmet drags his stool to one of the cabinets to grab the large green bowl their mom always uses. He takes it to the counter, opens the flour bag and pours it all inside.

“Wait!” Ethel yells, a little too late.

“What? We have to put the ingredients inside to mix them, don’t we?”

“Yes, but not all of it!”

“Oh…” Emmet widens his eyes, looking to the bowl, now full of flower.

“Put it back!” Ethel orders, and her little brother does the best he can to comply. He manages to return most of the flour to the bag, but a lot of it ends up on his pajamas and hair. “Okay, now, it says… it says… what number do you think this is?” Ethel hands him the recipe. Their mother’s handwriting is hard to read.

“This is a one…” Emmet points one chubby finger to the paper.

“And what’s next to it?” Ethel asks.

“It looks like… a three?” Emmet squints his nose.

They stare at the paper and then stare at each other.

“Okay, thirteen cups of flour,” Ethel announces, and Emmet starts to count.

“Now what?” he asks, after adding half of the flour back into the bowl.

“One large egg,” Ethel says.

Emmet throws the egg into the flour and starts to mix it with his hands. He feels it when the shell breaks beneath his fingers and giggles.

“I don’t think that egg was large enough,” he says after it pretty much disappears into the flour. “We need more.”

“No.” Ethel shakes her head.

“But Ethel, look!” He turns the bowl to her.

“But it says one egg in the recipe!”

“One large egg, that was a regular-sized egg,” Emmet argues. “We need several small ones to make a large one.”

“But…” Ethel reads the recipe again. “That’s not how cookies are made!”

“Fine,” Emmet sighs. “Let’s put the rest of the ingredients first and see how it goes.”

And so they do. They count the exact number of butter spoons and sugar cups. Or, so they think, since they have to guess all of the numbers scribbled on the sides of the ingredients.

It’s when they add the Fanta grape that the mix start to resemble a dough. A slightly purple dough.

“See?” Ethel says proudly. “We didn’t need more eggs!”

When they’re finished, they stare at the mix and then at each other. Neither one of them wants to admit what’s on their minds — it looks nothing like cookie dough. Silently, Ethel grabs the baking tray and they start to make little rolls of the dough. The tray is full long before they use all the mix. Ethel covers the bowl with a dishcloth, like she’s seen her mom do so many times before.

“These don’t look like cookies,” Emmet ends up voicing his thoughts.

“Of course not, they’re not baked yet!” Ethel argues, trying to stay ahead of the situation. “We have to put them in the oven first.”

“The oven?” Emmet gasps, widening his eyes.

“Emmet, how did you think cookies got baked?”

“We’re not supposed to fiddle with the oven!” He repeats one of the most important rules their mom has for them.

“Well, you should have thought about it before you had this idea!”

Ethel takes the tray and purposefully walks to the other side of the kitchen, opening the oven and putting it inside. Emmet stands beside her, biting his nails. They stare at the closed oven for a while, not quite sure what comes next.

“That’s it?” Emmet asks.

“No,” Ethel says. She doesn’t know what to do next, she just knows she has to do something. “I have to press this button now.”

She taps the burner knobs the way she thinks their mother does. She steps away, and they stare at it for a while longer.

“That’s it?” Emmet asks again.

“Yes,” Ethel says with certainty. She mentally retraces her mom’s steps from the last time she’s seen her baking. She’s pretty sure those are all the steps.

Emmet then opens the oven again to check on the cookies.

“What are you doing?” Ethel exclaims, trying to stop him.

“You said they were ready!” Emmet frowns when he sees the still very raw, purplish cookie dough.

“I didn’t say that!” Ethel closes the oven again, trying to hide her concern. “I said it was all we had to do. We have to wait now.”

“How long?” Emmet crosses his arms impatiently.

“Until we can smell it!” Ethel remembers how their mom always says the food is ready whenever they can smell it. “Come on, let’s wait in the living room.”

They walk over to the couch and turn on the TV. They chat and watch the shopping channel. Their giddiness gives way to sleepiness and soon enough they’re both lying on the couch. Ethel does her best to keep her eyes open, particularly after she starts to hear her brother snoring. But it’s hard. Her eyelids are so heavy… The shopping channel is so boring…

Suddenly, she hears a rumbling coming from the fireplace. They sit up on the couch eagerly. Emmet searches for his sister’s hand and holds it tightly. And, then, Santa Claus himself descends from the chimney with his big bag of presents. He utters the loudest ‘ho ho ho’ they’ve ever heard.

“Children! I hear you baked me cookies?” He looks around, searching for his present.

Without a word, Emmet dashes from the room and comes back with the cookie tray and a glass of milk. They’re miraculously baked, although pretty much still purple.

Santa slouches on the big armchair, feasting in cookies and thankful for their consideration. Nobody ever bakes him cookies before Christmas! He eats them, and drinks the milk, and tells them how it’s the best snack he’s ever had! Before leaving through where he came, he places two presents underneath the tree.

Ethel barely waits until his black boots are out of sight to run towards the tree. She’s about to tear down the paper of her package when…

“Ethel! Ethel!” Emmet shakes her by the shoulders.

“What?” Ethel mumbles. She turns around to find she’s back on the couch. Oh, no! Was it all a dream?

“It worked!” He jumps in place.

“What worked?” Ethel frowns, rubbing her eyes.

“Ethel! Santa was here!”

She jumps up. Sure enough, the cookie tray is sitting on the center table — still perfectly baked and purplish.

“Look!” Emmet takes a half-eaten cookie in his hands, very carefully. “Evidence!”

Ethel stares at her brother, dumbfounded! It hadn’t been a dream! Santa just tried to make it look like a dream, but it wasn’t! He’d been there! It had worked!

She stands up and approaches the tree to see that, indeed, there are two presents under it! Two presents that weren’t there before.

“They’re from Santa!” Emmet whispers as he kneels down to show her the labels.

“Emmet,” Ethel joins him, “you’re a genius!”

“What is going on here? What is all this?” Their mom enters the room. She has a puzzled look on her sleepy face as she points at the table.

“Mom! You’ll never believe it!” Emmet jumps up and runs to her, his big brown eyes glistening in renewed excitement.

“Well, try me.” She narrows her eyes, trying to conceal her smile.


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