Friday, November 21, 2014

Angel Food Cake Ice Cream Truck: The Story of Celeste Peterson and a Crowd of Strangers

“Oh no! The ice cream melted!” said the father of 11-year-old Celeste Peterson. 

On the warm December day, John Peterson leaned against the door of his rainbow-painted Ice Cream Truck. It sat in the driveway of his brown brick home, dripping with desserts. The wiring in the freezer had frizzled and left him with nothing but a river of cream and sugar. 

“I’m the Ice Cream Truck Man! My ice cream can’t melt away,” he said, adjusting his red-striped hat. Celeste shrugged her shoulders, licking two melting popsicles at once. 

“Now I have nothing to sell to the children today,” Mr. Peterson said to Celeste.

“It’s already harder to sell ice cream in the winter. It’s usually so cold outside!” he said, enjoying the winter sunshine. “It’s going to cost me a bundle to pay to fix the freezer. There will be no money left for Christmas gifts.”

Every Saturday afternoon, neighborhood children gathered at his truck when they heard its jingle. 

“Well, Dad, the next best thing to ice cream is angel food cake,” Celeste said. “Angels eat angel food cake. I think there might even be angels in the cake . . .”

“Angels in the cake? What are you talking about, Celeste?” her dad said, mopping up the truck.

“I’m going to make you angel food cakes, so you can sell them and pay to fix the freezer!” she said. “We’ll still have money left for Christmas gifts. Maybe we’ll meet some angels if we fill the truck with cakes.”

Celeste ran into her father’s kitchen and pulled the mixer from the lower cabinet. She mixed into the bowl the main ingredients: sugar, flour, egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Then she sent the mixer arms spinning, whipping the batter into a thick mixture. She took her rubber spatula and tasted a mouthful of the batter. 

“Umm! Yummy!” she said, sticking her nose into the mixer’s bowl. “No wonder the angels like to eat angel food cake. It’s so good that I feel like becoming an angel.”

She scraped the mixture into baking tins and placed them in the warm oven. When the angel food cake finished baking, she made sure that her father ate the first slice.

“Dad, come have a piece of cake!” Celeste called to him from the window. He had spent most of the day fiddling with the broken freezer in the ice cream truck.

“It’s wonderful!” Mr. Peterson said, sitting at the kitchen table eating a large slice of cake.

“Next weekend, we’ll sell enough angel food cake to buy a new freezer,” Celeste said.

“Who’s going to buy angel food cake from an ice cream truck in December?” her dad said in a weary voice.

“Mom would say that the angels are going to buy it. It’s angel food,” Celeste said. “Since she’s with the angels, she’ll send angels to buy the cakes,” the child said, thinking of her mom in heaven. 

Mrs. Peterson had passed away last Christmas, and Mr. Peterson had been heartbroken ever since. “I’m still going to try to fix the freezer, Celeste,” Mr. Peterson said, finishing his dessert. “Your mom would like the angel food cake; just try not to overdo it,” he said, looking at Mrs. Peterson’s picture.

“Dad, I never overdo anything, but I might have to take the week off from school,” Celeste said. 

“Your teacher will never agree to you taking the week off from school . . . will she?” he said.

“She might, because I’m baking my own miracle for the angels to come!” she said. “If I bake enough angel food cake, angels will come to help us from every part of heaven.”

Just in case Celeste was right, Mr. Peterson grabbed a pad of paper from the side desk and scratched out a quick note.

“Mrs. Rogers, Celeste has a stomachache and can’t come to school this week,” her dad wrote. Then he scribbled: “She ate too much sugar. I’m sure you understand. Yours, Mr. Peterson.”

He knew it was better not to argue with Celeste, because she would do what she wanted to do anyhow. Mr. Peterson put a stamp on his letter, popped the letter in the post, and kept tinkering with his truck.

The next day, Mrs. Rogers, Celeste’s sixth-grade teacher, called to inquire about Mr. Peterson’s letter.

“Mr. Peterson, why did you write me a letter in the mail? Most people in this century use the telephone! What’s that daughter of yours up to now? She always has some sort of magical idea in her head!” Mrs. Rogers said. 

“Celeste has just been so excited about Christmas that she ate one too many angel food cakes,” he said. “It sort of went to her head if you know what I mean. But don’t you worry about her. Merry Christmas!” 

Before Mrs. Rogers could argue with him, Mr. Peterson hung up the phone and pulled the cord from the wall. 

He stared at the angel on top of their Christmas tree, hoping Mrs. Rogers would not show up at his front door. During the next week, Celeste set about making enough angel food cakes to fill the entire ice cream truck. Mid-way through the week, Mrs. Rogers appeared unannounced, pressing her nose against the kitchen window.

“What are you doing in there, Celeste?” Mrs. Rogers said. “I don’t believe for one minute that you’re sick!”

“Of course, I’m sick!” Celeste said, putting the blender on high and turning up the Christmas carols on the radio.

“If this behavior continues, you’ll be expelled from school!” Mrs. Rogers said. “Or you’ll at least be suspended.”

“Good! Then, I can stay home and make angel food cakes,” Celeste called to Mrs. Rogers through the window. 

As a peace offering, Celeste slipped an angel food cake through the kitchen’s pet door, wrapped in aluminum foil.  

Mrs. Rogers grabbed the cake and stomped off in disgust: “I’m calling your father as soon as I get home!”

“Too bad! He pulled the phone cord from the wall,” Celeste said, singing “Angels We Have Heard On High.”

Despite Mrs. Rogers’ protest, Celeste added red and green food coloring and icing to the cakes. She even added Christmas colors of white whipped cream, red strawberries, and green mint leaves to the desserts. 

Then she carefully stacked the finished cakes one by one on top of each other in the truck. Every now and then, the cakes toppled over, and Celeste had to dust them off and restack them. On Friday night, while Celeste restacked the cakes with her dad, Mrs. Rogers came up behind her in the driveway.

Mr. Peterson put a bag on his head and hid in the ice cream truck, ducking beneath the counter next to the broken freezer.

“Child, what in the heavens have you been doing?” Mrs. Rogers said. “Home economics doesn’t start until seventh grade, and then you start with something small like garlic rolls or chocolate chip cookies. Where is your father?”

“I’m making food for the angels,” Celeste said. “Don’t you believe in angels, Mrs. Rogers?”

“I believe we have to start home economics class in the sixth grade,” Mrs. Rogers said, taking a cake from the stack. 

“Make sure you come back tomorrow morning, Mrs. Rogers, when the angels come to buy cakes!” Celeste said.

“I’ll be here, but unless you plan to grow angel wings, you better pass your math exam next week!” Mrs. Rogers said.

When Saturday morning finally came, it turned out to be a beautiful December day with an inch of snow. 

So many strangers, including Christmas carolers, visited the truck that Celeste knew they were angels. Customers from everywhere bought angel food cakes for their families, friends, and neighbors. Even Mrs. Rogers bought an angel food cake for her husband to enjoy for dessert that evening.

“Celeste, get your derrière in my classroom bright and early on Monday morning!” Mrs. Rogers said.

“Yes, Mrs. Rogers, thank you for your business,” Celeste said, as she counted every nickel in the cash drawer.

Her father made so much money from the cakes that he bought a new truck instead of fixing the broken freezer.

“I’m naming this the Angel Food Cake Ice Cream Truck,” Mr. Peterson said, displaying a picture of Celeste’s mom.

“I told you the next best thing to ice cream is angel food cake,” Celeste said, eating the cake with ice cream. 

On Christmas morning, there were enough presents beneath Celeste’s tree for everyone in the neighborhood. From then on, Celeste and Mr. Peterson sold angel food cake with ice cream and never lacked a thing.

Celeste told everyone it was because her mother sent the angels from heaven—who had their cake, and ate it, too. She even hung a sign on the new truck that said: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to my grandmother, Dorothy Moyer, for her love of angel food cakes.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Orchestra's Tale: The Story of Giuseppe the Violin and Johann the Flute

Giuseppe the Violin and Johann the Flute are sick of sitting on the shelf. Years ago, famous musicians Giuseppe Tartini and Johann Sebastian Bach played the two instruments for adoring crowds. 

When retired Conductor Franz Melodia of the Luneburg Symphony Orchestra lost his funding, he could no longer put on performances for the community. 

Even his son, George, had become more interested in his electronic instruments and never played the Violin and the Flute. “Dad, I like my electric guitar,” he said. Sadly enough, if Franz could not get the Orchestra back on its feet, he would have to sell the instruments and work at the local butcher shop.

“I hate pork,” Franz said. “Pork chops, pork loin, bacon bits, pork rib, pork leg, and glazed ham. I feel like I’ve been chopped!” 

Each time Franz tried to talk to his son about learning to play Giuseppe and Johann, George put on his earphones and drowned out his father. 

“What did you say, Dad?” George said, turning up the volume. “I can’t hear you.”

Despite the Orchestra’s bleak future, Franz kept Giuseppe and Johann on his living room mantle, hoping for a financier for the Orchestra. 

Giuseppe and Johann had been sitting on the mantle for so long that dust built up in the instruments’ crevices. 

“I want to scratch an itch,” Giuseppe said, “but I can’t even do that from this shelf . . .”

“I can’t imagine how the rest of the Orchestra feels shoved into that closet,” Johann said. “Clara must be out of tune with worry . . .”

Months ago, Franz boxed up the other instruments and put them in his hall closet, including: Pablo the Piccolo, Ole the Oboe, Robert the Bassoon, Richard the Double Bassoon, Fanny the French Horn, Peter the Trumpet, David the Trombone, Antonio the Tuba, Sebastian the Saxophone, Wolfgang the Viola, Ludwig the Cello, Libby the Double Bass, Amy the Piano, Elizabeth the Harp, Arcangelo the Timpani, Frederic the Xylophone, Sergei the Cymbals, Mischa the Triangle, Gustav the Snare Drum, Niccolo the Bass Drum, Augusta the Tambourine, Ruth the Maracas, Joan the Gongs, and Jennifer the Chimes. 

Only Clara the Clarinet had broken out of her box to come visit Giuseppe and Johann on the shelf. “My love,” she said to Johann, kissing his mouthpiece. “But I must go before Franz finds me . . .” Once upon a time, she and Johann played gorgeous duets and were madly in love ever since their first solos. 


As time passed, Giuseppe and Johann decided that they would have to organize the return of the Luneburg Symphony Orchestra by themselves.

“Synthesized music is not going to destroy the Orchestra,” Giuseppe said.  

“Clara can’t live in the closet anymore,” Johann said. “True love demands that we are together.”

“When Franz and George take their annual summer vacation, we’re organizing a revival of the Orchestra,” Giuseppe said. “And that is the final note.” 

After Franz and George packed their bags for Blue Mountain Lake, Giuseppe and Johann snuck the Orchestra out of the closet to the Luneburg Symphony Concert Hall.

One at a time, the instruments slipped through the Hall’s backstage door and waited in the wings. Despite the exhausted instruments, Giuseppe demanded the Orchestra perfect enough material for an entire concert.   

“We are an Orchestra, and we are going to sound like one!” he said. “Without musicians to play us, we will play ourselves.”

At first the Orchestra sounded terrible, trying to pluck their own strings and play their own notes, but Giuseppe and Johann said: “Practice makes perfect.” 

So, the Orchestra played until they overcame their problems, and Bach’s Sonata in G minor sounded especially spectacular. Days later, when Franz and George returned from their vacation, Franz found his closet door open.

“Oh me! Oh my! The instruments are missing! Giuseppe! Johann! Where are you?” Franz cried, reaching for the phone. “Police! Get over here quick. Someone stole my Orchestra.”

“Finding an Orchestra of instruments is not going to be a priority,” the police officer said. “I have real criminals to catch!”

“I will offer a reward!” Franz said. “$2,000 to the person who finds them!”

“Are you sure the instruments are really worth $2,000, Dad?” George said, after Franz hung up the telephone.

“If I get those instruments back, I’m keeping the reward money,” he told George. “I’m selling those stupid instruments to the highest bidder and putting the past in the past.” 

In the meantime, the Orchestra hid out at the Concert Hall and advertised their upcoming Sunday afternoon show. 

“We’re never leaving the stage again!” Giuseppe said to Johann. “Never ever!”

Walking to the butcher the next morning, Franz was befuddled to find a flyer for the Sunday concert. 

“I’m buying two tickets to the Luneburg Symphony Concert Hall show,” he mumbled. “I’m going to find out who stole my instruments.”

As the Sunday performance began, Franz shifted in his seat, astounded to find his instruments playing themselves on stage to a sold-out show. 

Clenching his program, Franz could hardly sit still until the performance finished, holding George by his suspenders to keep him from rushing the stage. 

“You can’t interrupt the show, Son!” Franz whispered. “It will only make things worse.”

“But Dad, how did Giuseppe and Johann get up there without us?” George said.

“Son, I had no idea what the Orchestra was capable of performing,” Franz said, tearing up. The pitch-perfect show ended to a standing ovation with several rounds of applause.

“Do you know who that is, George?” Franz said, almost passing out when he recognized audience member Jonathan Bach II, a long-lost relative of Johann Sebastian Bach. 

Bach II clapped from the front row with his wife and three children.

“The Violin! Superb! The Flute! Divine!” Bach II cheered, taking the stage. “I will finance the Orchestra, refurbish the Concert Hall, and conduct the performances. These are my family’s instruments. They are my inheritance! Solos for Giuseppe! Duets with Johann and Clara!”

“Maybe I should learn to play the Violin and the Flute after all,” George said, curling up in his chair.

“The Orchestra has come back to life!” Franz said, running to Jonathan and hugging him in tears.

From then on, Giuseppe and Johann played beautiful music, and the whole world knew the Orchestra’s Tale.


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to my great-grandfather, Robert Moyer, who played the clarinet in Brown's Church Band, and dedicated to my grandmother, Augusta Renner Graf Waters, for her Conservatory Violin.