Claudia circled downward on the spiral staircase into her bakery. Flaming orange rays of sunrise licked lace curtains in the front window. Her son Franco was tucked under covers sleeping in before the soccer match that was scheduled for today. Last night she had made sure to clip his hair and nails. She collected the clippings in a small glass jar and hid them on the top shelf in the pantry.
Tarks mobbed the front door, stepping on each other’s green-hued shoulders and jostling to get a peek in the window. Bulbous purple eyes scanning empty shelves and counters; lanky arms reaching toward the door, knuckle covered hands gripping and slipping off the locked knob. Ever since they emerged from her oven, they showed up every morning for breakfast, ruining her business with their bad manners and a smell that brought tears to human eyes.
She hoped today’s recipe would stop the Tarks from implementing guerilla warfare against soccer balls. It had been month after month of failed recipes. Coffee cake made them stay up all night, and chocolate chip cookies increased their appetite. During her desperate experimentation, she discovered Tarks were gluten sensitive. The proteins made them agitated and more prone to destructive behavior.
Claudia measured almond flour, flax seeds, and baking powder into a large bowl. She beat in the eggs and maple syrup. Then she sprinkled a tablespoon of Franco’s dark straight hair clippings and three toenail clippings into the batter. After the ingredients were mixed evenly, she folded in a cup of freshly picked blueberries. Today, she added a baby tooth which she retrieved from underneath Franco’s pillow last night. Covering the Tooth Fairy’s fifty-cent payment made her feel less guilty about harvesting ingredients from Franco as he slept.
As the almond flour blueberry scones baked, she hummed a tune reminiscent of a time before she accidentally created Tarks. It was Franco’s school art project to recycle old soccer balls gone terribly wrong because of her meddling. The worst part was that the whole town knew. Tarks should have been harmless because they were made of clay, but she had added a pinch of Franco’s hair and nails in a misguided attempt at magic. If this recipe worked, she would be able to see Franco play soccer after school today. If it didn’t, there would be no game, again.
Tarks were as uncontrollable as a flock of malnourished sheep, devouring every soccer ball within eight square miles. After the first few attacks, the soccer games had been moved indoors, then underground. Tarks broke barriers and busted barricaded doors to wage war on innocent, defenseless soccer balls. The carnage was not the worst part. It was Franco’s face as the ball he kicked toward an empty goal was snatched out of the air and devoured with gusto.
Ding. The aroma from the scones filled the bakery. She hoped the clippings and tooth were strong enough to stop the Tarks. Without waiting for them to cool, she grasped the baking trays and dumped scones into baskets.
Outside, Tarks pushed to be first in the door. Next to the window, one of them gnawed on what was left of a purple and white ball, another flipped soccer ball chunks into the air and chomped them like popcorn.
Claudia set the overflowing baskets on the counter and opened the deadbolt lock.
Pounding clay feet stampeded through the doorway toward hot blueberry scones.
She ducked and dodged the Tarks and slipped through the swinging door to the kitchen to keep the scones coming.
After a time, empty baskets littered the floor. Tarks stumbled out of the bakery satisfied and rubbing their bulging tummies. Their bulbous eyes were drooping, heavy with sleep.
Claudia exhaled and dusted the almond flour from her hands onto her apron. This afternoon, she would get to watch Franco play soccer.
After she locked the front door, she picked up the clippers. She covered the small jar and slid it into her apron pocket. Claudia circled upward on the spiral staircase to collect more ingredients. She would watch him play again tomorrow.
About the Author: Previously, LC was a wildland firefighter, an agricultural research scientist, and an elementary school teacher. She was given an amazing opportunity to pursue writing stories, following a Lyme Disease diagnosis. Which made it impossible for her to continue her career as an educator. She lives in Oregon with her wife, Lizzy. They share their home with two extraordinary dogs, Pakpak and Mozart and a grand piano, Francesca.