You Didn’t Mention Hot Fudge Around Ed Stickley
You didn’t mention hot fudge around Ed Stickley. Eric and Katie learned that the hard way.
And by that, I mean they learned it about two months after Ed and his wife Betty moved into the house across the street. Eric and Katie had them over for dinner one evening, and after a pleasant meal with good conversation that was much less awkward than what you’d expect from two couples who barely knew each other and who were separated by a generation, Katie excused herself from the table and re-entered the dining room moments later bearing the dessert tray: Hot fudge sundaes for everyone.
As soon as Katie placed Ed’s dessert in front of him, the old man stood up and launched his parfait glass towards the opposite wall, then stormed out of the house. Eric, Katie, and Betty froze, staring at the splatter of fudge, ice cream, and whipped cream on the dining room wall, still rattled by the sounds of the shattering glass and the clanging of the sundae spoon which had just ceased a moment before. Shortly after the maraschino cherry finished its slide down the wall, depositing itself in the puddle of sundae, spoon, and glass shards at the base, Betty excused herself as well with a barely audible “I’m sorry.”
A humble apology from Ed and another dinner hosted by Eric and Katie later (this one decidedly more tense and quiet than the last one–Eric and Katie were either very forgiving or very stupid), and the truth came out over a dessert of Key lime pie (chosen for its absolute non-hot fudgyness):
About a month after Ed and Betty had moved out of their previous home, selling it in a break-even-for-them deal to a guy named Warren Simmons (whom Ed had taken to calling, simply, “that arrogant prick”), Simmons had discovered underground reserves of hot fudge on the land.
Vast reserves. Warren-Simmons-became-obscenely-wealthy-because-he-was-now-supplying-the-world-with-about-a-quarter-of-its-hot-fudge vast. And Ed Stickley never forgave Warren Simmons–whom he accused of knowing about the reserves all along and therefore not negotiating over the property with the Stickleys in good faith–for this turn of events, and never forgave himself for not knowing about the reserves all the years they’d lived there, never forgave himself for the life he could have given Betty.
And for Eric and Katie, that story humanized Ed. He was no longer a sundae-tossing maniac; he was a man who had lived long enough to have regrets, some deep ones. In other words, normal.
The friendship continued and deepened over the years. Betty passed away, and the three of them who were left behind were devastated. Eric and Katie got divorced, and Eric moved out, and the three of them were devastated again.
Just Ed and Katie remained, each alone in a house too big for just them. They would invite the other one over to their place for lunch or dinner or coffee from time to time. The other one would accept, knowing they had nothing better to do and knowing their inviter knew it.
It was during one of these dinners at Ed’s house one night that he excused himself, went into the kitchen, and returned with dessert: Hot fudge sundaes.
Katie laughed; Ed told her, “You’re more than welcome to throw yours at the wall. It will make you feel better, at least in the moment, I can tell you that.”
Katie decided to eat instead of throw, and Ed joined her. As he plunged his spoon into the glass, he pondered it. “I’m letting it go, finally. Years–decades, really–too late. You know this is the first time I’ve had hot fudge since before Betty and I moved here? I don’t even know how many years it’s been, I’ve lost track. All I know is, I was only hurting myself. I mean, look at this–hot fudge is delicious!”
He took a bite. “That’s what I’m talking about! With all due respect to your Key lime pie, Kate, it is a wedge of green garbage compared to this.”
She laughed, almost sucking hot fudge through her nose. He continued. “There’s something you should know about the whole hot fudge story. I know you know the story, but I just want to make it clear. You know, of course I was upset about the money part of it. I’d be a dirty liar if I said it wasn’t about the money. Of course I wish I had Simmons’s money–I’m not an idiot.
But what bugs me the most is, I missed out on bringing happiness to people. I mean, who doesn’t like hot fudge, right? And I could’ve been the guy providing it. That would’ve made me happy, making others happy–almost as happy as being filthy friggin’ rich. And it would’ve made Betty happy.”
He paused, looked down, then continued.
“And again, I don’t mean the money, although she would’ve enjoyed that as much as me. The worst part of the whole deal was that, you know what Betty’s favorite dessert was?”
He pointed to the glasses.
“She loved these. LOVED ’em. And not only did she miss out on a lifetime free supply of the main ingredient, for the rest of her life, she never ate one again, at least not in my presence. She thought I wouldn’t allow it, and she was right–I wouldn’t’ve. But I should’ve. I should’ve.”
He wiped his nose and eyes and dug back in.
Katie did the same. And at that moment, she found herself hating Warren Simmons as much as Ed once had.