Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome you to the one and only performance of Mitchell Miracle and his Cakes of Instruction!
[Enthusiastic applause and whistling]
Many of you are still settling into your seats, and I will use this opportunity to remind you that all photography, as well as video and audio recording, are prohibited during the performance. You should, in fact, have remitted all electronic devices, in addition to personal effects like purses, wallets, car keys, eye liner, old receipts, bank statements, lip balm, candy, and rape whistles to the gentlemen at the door. Those two guys were hard to miss, am I right?
[Chuckles and supportive claps]
To be completely serious for a moment: those two men, whom some of you no doubt found intimidating and perhaps even unsettling to look at, do in fact have names. They are Feck and Fennel, and as you affirmed with your own eyes, they are identical twins. Nature has inflicted them with the disorder known in the vernacular as gigantism, which is why their bodies are so humongous. Ah, it’s a remarkable and mysterious force, Nature.
[Wild roars of joy]
Feck and Fennel will be playing a key role in tonight’s event, in addition to the important duty of depositing your belongings into those metal buckets. These abnormally tall boys—because you see, they are in fact only seventeen years of age, on the cusp of manhood—have volunteered to consume the Cakes of Instruction before your very eyes.
[Gasps and laughter]
For your amusement, yes of course. For what other reason should we be gathered on this lovely evening? This stage, the seats in which you titter, the theater, the world itself—all of this was constructed for your amusement and entertainment, to provide each man, woman, and child the much-needed escape from the shackles of day-to-day life. Truly, there is no greater purpose in life than to seek smiles, am I right? And such a rarity they are in these troubled times.
When you look in the mirror, how many of you see beauty? How many recognize the sublime in your own visage? How many notice the true, complex machinery of humanity, the soul of an individual spirit as alive and precious and necessary as the sun in the afternoon sky?
[Nervous murmurs and scattered boos]
Mitchell Miracle and the Cakes of Instruction will be appearing shortly. The lights, please.
[House lights dim; stage spotlight creates a circle of illumination on the bare wood]
[People lean forward in their seats; stiff air of anticipation]
[A crying baby is quickly hushed]
[Typhoons, wildfires, and earthquakes rage distantly, providing cosmic balance]
[The scent of pancakes wafts into the crowd]
Ah, yes. Breathe that smell. Smell that breath. Mitchell Miracle has worked his way inside you. Quite literally, his Cakes of Instruction are entering your bodies. Chemical alterations in your brain, causing you to salivate, to squirm in your seats with hunger. If we’re quiet, I’ll bet we can hear the deep grumble of your collective stomachs, yearning for satisfaction. I’ll bet we can hear the veins in your arms dancing, the bones in your feet twisting with pleasure, the flutter of your brainstem as it shivers in a pool of delight and terror.
[Weary applause, some quiet sobbing]
And now we will begin the event. Allow me to stop being excited as we welcome Feck and Fennel.
[Feck and Fennel emerge from Stage Right, the clump-clump-clump of their shoes the only sound as they drag their tired bodies, battling the dark force of gravity]
I feel like a child next to these boys. It’s not a bad feeling, if I may be honest. We all have a desire to return to the un-jaded days of youth. Observe how Feck and Fennel stand perfectly motionless as if etched from rock. Each of their heads is as vertically long as my forearm! Each hand can grip two footballs at once! Not that they are able to play sports, unfortunately. Physical activity puts quite a strain on their bodies, as you can imagine. Doctors say that they don’t have long to live, which is a major reason they will be consuming the Cakes. The suits they are wearing were specially made for this evening, and don’t they look nice?
[Cautious belches followed by coughs of delight]
Now the moment we have dreamed has arrived. Let us all rise and place our hands on our hearts as the Cakes of Instruction are brought before us.
[A wheeled cart enters from Stage Left, bearing two pancakes on a plate. The person pushing the cart appears to be made of clear sky.]
This is Mitchell Miracle, and he would prefer that you do not look at him. He is required, naturally, to escort the Cakes of Instruction onto the stage—after all, this is his duty and his privilege—but nothing would bring him more internal pain and consternation than the crowd’s eyes assaulting him during this private, vulnerable experience.
Feck and Fennel, I can assure you, have never seen these pancakes before. Isn’t that correct, boys?
[Feck and Fennel remove their suits and underclothes, revealing a wilderness of flesh. Their clothing is whisked away by a sudden breeze. Pants, shirts, and coats dance above the audience like ghosts, rising into the darkness of the rafters.]
Now, have any of you in the audience seen these particular pancakes before?
[Eleven hands. These people are escorted from the auditorium weeping tears of joy.]
As you all know, we do not have a drummer in this production. So I will ask each of you to please imagine a drum roll, one that is tight and loud, one that builds anticipation into mania and vibrates your insides like a hurricane shakes a flagpole. Or if you would prefer, you could imagine a section of violins, violas, and cellos playing staccato notes in unison, vibrating your insides once again like a hurricane shaking a flagpole. Or you may simply imagine the flagpole. Any of these options will suffice.
[Audience snoozes comfortably, dreaming of salamanders and knives]
Now, Feck. Now, Fennel. Tender giants of the night. Would you do the honors of selecting a cake for each other? There, do you each have one? Are you certain of your choices? Very well. Please examine the cakes. Look at them closely and be sure that they are well-cooked, warm to the touch, the color of dying corn, the color of fever. There, yes. Place them into each other’s mouths. Open wide. And wider. Breathe softly and caress one another’s cheeks as your mother once did.
[Feck and Fennel have become trees, lean and sturdy, timeless]
[A light snow begins to fall, covering the sleeping audience]
[Hand-in-hand, the buckets of personal items exit the theater, accompanied by a somber wind]
Darrin Doyle is the author of a story collection (The Dark Will End the Dark) and two novels (The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo; Revenge of the Teacher's Pet: A Love Story). His fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, most recently Passages North, Word Riot, Superstition Review, and BULL.