short fiction by Diana Adams
([email]dianasadams [at] shaw [dot] ca[/email])

‘You are late again….’ He stood too close to me, and tapped at his watch.

‘Only five minutes, that doesn’t count as late does it?’ I thought of all the extra hours I had put in, carefully carving the chocolate clock. The clock, made entirely out of Callebaut Dark, actually functioned and hung in sugary perfection on the wall.

According to my watch I wasn’t late at all. His watch was too fast, but I wouldn’t say that. I had learned the fine art of being quiet, kissing ass, and working in humble silence; for I was an apprentice doomed to 6,000 hours of subservience in order to get my accreditation.

‘I’ve started the white, because you were so late.’ Eli said, standing over a large vat of velvety, slick, melting white chocolate. ‘ And no nuts this time, you work with too many damn nuts.’

He pushed back his glasses on his thin wooden-looking nose and looked me over critically as if even my appearance were up for some kind of exam at the great confectionery academy of his own mind. Somehow I never looked quite right to him, probably because I was already fat and bloated with my craft. I could tell that this was going to be a tough day; he was as wound up as a maniacal cuckoo bird.

‘You must respect this kind of chocolate you know, not too hot, not too slow….’ He waved his finger in the air. Then he stood over me, and breathed heavily with staccato bursts of impatience. I fumbled with the whisk under the pressure, and hated him with an acritude I didn’t know I even possessed.

Last night, at least, I had been able to get out, down a few Acapulco Golds, and forget about Eli. Lately he was dragging me more and more into his life. I didn’t want that; I just wanted to learn how to master chocolate. But tact, the sticky substance that I did not own, was obviously necessary here. For Eli lived with ghosts: both parents, persecuted in Nazi Germany, and two wives that had walked out on him for other men. His last wife, Madelaine, had left him for the Saucier at BeurreNoir on 107th. This had hurt him badly; a saucier was well beneath her station. But strangely enough, neither of his wives liked chocolate. He said he liked it better that way. I knew he liked his women thin and anemic looking, and this worked well for me.

But now work was life to Eli, and I, as his apprentice had become part of his life. It would take 3 years to get my accreditation, and then I could open up a shop on my own. Life would be hell until then, but I had learned something about Eli over the endless trays of boxy chocolate repetitions: he worshipped arcane facts and intelligence. So I loaded up on dictionaries and purchased an on-line esoteric encyclopedia. It was an ace in my hand on days like today, when things could get rough in the chocolate kitchen.

‘They used to drink it without sugar, Eli. The word chocolate comes from the Aztec word xocalatl. It means bitter water…Montezuma drank 50 goblets a day, he believed it was an aphrodisiac you see…’

It worked better than I could have imagined. Eli sat down on the metal chair by the window. He shook his head and wobbly tears filled his thin blue eyes.

‘You mean after all these years I have been working with aphrodisiacs… and I still end up alone? How is it that I, of all people didn’t know this about chocolate?’ He draped both hands over his shiny bald scalp.

The chocolate clock hit 9:30 am, it was getting late, but now the wound-up cuckoo was a shivering Thumbelina doll. I felt guilty playing this kind of emotional poker, but it would be much easier to work with Thumbelina.

‘Chocolate, it always comes back to that… I must find a woman who loves chocolate next time.’ He said, as he looked out the window into the laneway full of garbage, completely oblivious to the fact that I was adding pistachios to his pure, molten white chocolate.

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