January 24th was an excruciatingly chilly day. It was one of those days where the temperature was in the single digits and the weather forecasters warn you to bring your pets inside. I was to spend the day in ultimate comfort, blasting the heat on my three and a half hour drive to Connecticut to visit family, eating Star Wars gummies and listening to my newest favorite musical, Les Misérables.
But this tale isn't about me, it's about a baked good.
In the earliest minutes of my journey, I stopped at Barnes and Noble to buy Les Misérables, the novel by Victor Hugo. As I stood at the check-out, so excited and so proud to be purchasing such a fantastic story, a higher-up employee, who must have been some kind of manager, walked by behind the counter. He plunked a tiny silver tray onto the counter and said to the cashier, "I leave you in charge of selling this last cookie."
It was sort of an ugly cookie, but it still looked scrumptious. It was a Christmas sugar cookie, wrapped tightly in plastic with a maroon sticker on it that announced: 50% OFF. Already a month had passed since Christmas of 2012, so this was an old, forgotten holiday cookie, indeed. I wasn't even sure what the cookie was supposed to be; it was obviously a face of some sort and I'm guessing it was supposed to be an elf, although it looked more like a creepy ventriloquist doll. It was decked out in red frosting and had the coldest, blue eyes that reminded me of freezing, freezing icicles.
"I'll take it," I said very suddenly. Only three seconds had gone by since the man had clunked it down on the counter in front of me and although I would have preferred a snowman or Christmas tree cookie, I could not stop the words from coming. I'll take it. I'll take it? Yes, I suppose I'll take it.
The man and the cashier, obviously glad (and almost a bit incredulous), laughed. It was clearly a victory for them.
I shrugged and smiled. "It looks good." And I did mean that. It looked ugly, but it did look delicious. I figured I'd want a cookie at some point during my three and a half hour car ride.
So after establishing myself as probably the most bizarre customer of the day, I walked out of Barnes and Noble with my book and my cookie, laughing to myself.
After living at Barnes and Noble for who knows how many months, the Christmas cookie embarked on one last adventure, with this author. In the comfort of a toasty warm jeep, the cookie rode shot gun all the way to Connecticut. It most likely did not see much scenery, but it got to listen to almost the entire score of Les Misérables and hear occasional bursts of frustration from me, aimed at either my own driving or somebody else's.
That night, the cookie's long shelf life ended. I didn't eat it at home, microwaved and with a cup of tea like the cashier had recommended. I ate it at midnight, in the cold bathroom over a sink, after waking up with an extreme craving for sugar.
Alas, inanimate objects can have lives, too. Strangely, I will forever associate that trip to Connecticut with my discovery of Les Misérables and the purchase of an old, forgotten cookie that needed desperately to be taken away from the quiet of a bookstore, to the freedom of the open road.