These stories were written as part of a fundraiser for CFRU radio station.
No matter how hard she tried, Mona could not view the macarons as food. Instead, she felt like she was presiding over a tray of buttons, or in the control booth of a plane from some kids’ cartoon. Every day, she loaded them into twee boxes, careful not to crush their luminescent skins with the tongs. Often it was for stroller moms who made a point of pronouncing the confections “mac-a-RONs,” grateful for anything not covered in goldfish crackers. Or foreign exchange students who flocked to the café to exercise their native tongue after a day of discussing less and fewer, farther and further, and other pratfalls of the English language. Today it was a teen Japanese student, bangs down to her eyes, her nametag still on—Vivian. Mona doubted it was her real name.
“Hitomi,” the girl said.
Caught staring, Mona clammed into herself.
“Macaroon?” The girl pointed to the Vanilla Bourbon and Salted Caramel, stumbling over the pronunciation.
“Just call them cookies,” Mona whispered. “Tan cookie. Orange cookie.” There wasn’t any flavour difference. She might as well be selling air.
Awe was not what Stanley was feeling, looking at the installation. He was boxed in a 9’ x 9’ room with the rest of his OCAD intro sculpture class, surrounded by blown glass hamburgers. He’d started to count them, but gave up after 67. All with too-yellow cheese dripping off the opaque brown buns. This piece and a series of dog portraits were the finalists for the Sobey’s Art Award and his instructor had dragged them here to genuflect. The installation wasn’t the point, the professor said. It’s all about the final day, when the artist will come in and smash it all. It’s a commentary on disposable food. Stanley felt like the world’s squarest art student. He was too shy to admit it, but he couldn’t stand conceptual art. He’d spent the semester making tiny screen prints based on anatomical drawings and stitching them together into a giant Franken-canvases. He’d failed his first three crits when he couldn’t find a theoretical framework for his work.
“Isn’t this exhilarating?” his instructor asked.
The other students let out a chorus of “Yes. Statement. Brave!” Stanley thought that if he could just shape his mouth around those sounds he could redeem himself, his term. Instead, what came out was, “I feel sorry for the janitor.”
Ben hadn’t been to a Seder since he was fifteen, much less presided over one. Growing up, he’d barely been bar mitzvahed—always suspected his parents had simply caved to peer pressure. So it had been a surprise, when his wife, Dawn, had suggested resurrecting the bitter herbs and Afikomen. She’d put her Protestant affinity for list-making to good use—checking off Gefilte fish, liberal Haggadahs and a lamb shank. Initial results were less than promising. Their eldest, the only girl, had come down with Chicken Pox five days before. Still, she sat primly and importantly, in sharp contrast to her three vaccinated younger brothers, all busy fiddling with their yarmulkes.
Ben dutifully read his way through the Exodus, watching the boys wilt under the advanced vocabulary. They perked up at the plagues. Mostly because it involved dipping their fingers in their Welches, removing one drop for each scourge. Ben had to admit feeling some vague pride, watching his four children taking part in this ancient ritual.
Then they reached the taking of the First Born.
“Is God a zombie?” the youngest boy asked. Zombie was the only game he wanted to play these days.
“No God is not a zombie,” Ben said.
“Does he eat brains?”
“No. Weren’t you listening to the story?”
Ben looked to Dawn for help—this was her show, ultimately, wasn’t it? She busied herself with wiping crumbs off the table.
“Zombie!” the boy repeated. Then he pointed to his sister. “Tara’s becoming a zombie because she’s the first born.”
“Stupid!” The girl kicked her brother. “God’s more like a superhero, isn’t he?”
Ben skipped forward a few pages in the Haggadah, desperate to return to secular parenting. “It depends on how you behave.”