Marian Iverson, the timer you bought me so long ago didn’t work – not this time.
On a fall night 36 years ago, I had a hankering for a pumpkin pie, so I whipped one up, popped it in the oven, then started to read. At that time, I was living in an apartment above the Broadway Floral shop in downtown Alexandria. I kept checking, checking on that pie, but for some reason the jiggly-wiggly thing wouldn’t “set.”
Forgetting all about it, I crawled in bed, fell asleep.
In the morning, sunshine blazed through my bedroom window. Beautiful warm morning! Breezes floating through the screens. I yawned, stretched, got out of bed, ready to get dressed and walk to the news office just two blocks away.
Suddenly, I smelled something burning. The cooks must be burning their caramel rolls, I thought, thinking of the Traveler’s Inn café just a few doors down main street.
Oh no! My pumpkin pie!
Dropping my toothbrush, I hurried to the kitchen, opened the oven. There it was, my poor pie. After nine hours, it wasn’t jiggly anymore. It had finally “set” and I do mean “set.” It was shiny black, pitch black, hard as a rock, like a black ceramic ashtray.
Holding the hot wannabe pie, I used a baker’s mitt to bring it to work.
“Pie anybody?” I asked in the front office.
“WHAT is that?” wide-eyed receptionist Nancy asked.
“Whadya think it is? It’s a pumpkin pie.”
Gasping, then laughing, she almost shouted, “You must have over-baked it!”
“Well, duh!, I guess,” I told her. “By about nine hours.”
Hearing the verbal commotion, the ever-curious news staff hurried to the front.
“What in the heck is that?!” reporter Hollan asked.
“It’s a pie.”
“Could-a fooled me,” he said, chuckling. “Did YOU bake that?”
“No, I overbaked it.”
Helen the bookkeeper threw some loose change from the cash register onto the pie.
“Burnt offerings,” she said, to everyone’s side-splitting merriment.
Next day, the Society Section Editor Marian Iverson sauntered over to my work desk and handed me a gift bag.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Open it and see,” Marian said. “You’re going to need it!”
“It” was one of those white-plastic wind-up timers, Lux brand. I laughed somewhat sheepishly.
With a stern school-teacher expression on her face, she commanded, “Next time you try to bake a pie, use it!”
Never lived it down. Every year, before our company potluck get-togethers, I’d ask, “What should I bring?” Never failed that one of my co-workers would pipe up: “Bring anything. Just NOT a pumpkin pie.”
Oh Marian, thank you. I used that timer hundreds of times during all those years, and it never failed me. Until – well, until the other night when I whipped up a batch of my morning-toast bread, two loaves, as I do every 10 days. After the dough had risen in their pans, I popped them in the oven, set my trusty Marian Lux timer to 35 minutes, sat on the couch and began to watch TV news. Exhausted from the hideous heat that day, I fell asleep.
Early in the still-dark morning, I woke up.
Oh, no, my bread! I rushed to the oven; I don’t know why I rushed. What’s a few seconds going to matter to bread that’s been baking for seven hours?
I opened the oven. Oh, what a sorry sight. Two bleak, black loaves – just as black as that long-ago pumpkin pie, except dull black, not shiny. It would have required a small chain saw to slice it.
I don’t know if that timer failed me this time, or I failed it. But if only Marian were still among us (she passed on some years ago), I’d love to tell her, “Marian, that timer you gave me doesn’t work anymore.”
And Marian, with her pointed-but-gentle wit, would reply, choking back a giggle: “Dennis, I know what’s not working anymore. And it’s not that timer!”