BUTTER TART TRYST – by Jessica Murphy
Bert parked his pick-up three houses away, nearly a block, he supposed, but there were no formal blocks in Forbes Bay. No pavement either. At the end of the road you cannot expect pavement. He looked around. Saw no one. Put on sunglasses (although every one of the three hundred and eighty-eight souls in Forbes would recognize him anyway), got out and gently closed the driver’s door. He did not want to alert any neighbours.
A minute later he was on her porch, cookie tin in hand. He looked around once more, saw nothing and no one, and knocked. Sunny answered immediately, smiled, and welcomed him in. Her house—cabin perhaps?—was as neat and clean as always, with the familiar air of rising yeast. She baked daily.
“How long are you going to keep blackmailing me?” she laughed, as he handed her the empty tin.
“As long as you keep baking the perfect butter tarts,” he responded.
They went into her kitchen area, coffee already perked, the table set with mugs, saucers, and a plate of still warm butter tarts
They took their usual seats without discussion. Smiling he accepted his coffee black and sugarless, and let her place a tart onto his saucer. She sat down, sipped her whitened coffee.
For the next hour they talked of everything and nothing, the way old friends do. Finally:
“I guess I should get going.” He glanced towards the kitchen window. “Don’t want the neighbours to start talking.”
Bert liked to think that the neighbours—and everyone else in Forbes Bay—did not know that he visited Sunny every Thursday morning, between 10:00 and 11:15 a.m. He drank two mugs of coffee, ate a tart, then left, with his cake tin newly filled with half a dozen of the finest, and freshest honey butter tarts ever baked.
That was how it started, really. A year ago the mayor had inveigled him to be a judge at the Forbes Bay Fall Fair. Not really his thing, tasting mustard pickles, and blueberry jams, and—of course—butter tarts.
The little community, accessible only by boat or via two ferries going from Powell River north into the fjords of British Columbia’s mainland coast, had, some twenty years or so ago, begun to market itself as the home of the butter tart. There was a home-made sign on many of the houses in town, advertising the delectable dessert, hoping to entice the thousands of boating tourists who invaded Forbes Bay every summer. So, of course, butter tarts were the crème de la crème category at the fall fair.
He hated sugary sweet desserts, but he had smiled his way through the tastings as the good citizen he was. There was a list of accepted ingredients for the tarts. The baker could use raisins or currants, pecans or walnuts, no margarine and only brown sugar, pale, golden or demerara, as the baker saw fit. The crust was optional, some bakers going with a regular pie crust, some utilizing the tried and true sugar cookie. All very regulated.
So when he had recognized the distinctive taste of honey he knew he was dealing with a cheat, an outlier, a real ‘baddy’, probably the scion of hippie draft-dodging parents. But when her tarts took first place, his vote included, he could not stop smiling at Sunny, the cute little button of a woman, her long white-streaked blonde hair untidily pulled back, her plaid shirt and jeans restraining a sumptuous body. Circa seventies for sure and looking good. He knew he should not think of a woman that way, but really! She was something. And a widow, at that, he learned from his friend the mayor. So he said nothing. He kept her secret.
She claimed, when he asked, that she had no idea that honey was illegal. Her dad had kept bees and honey still reminded her of her happy childhood. And that is when they made their deal. She would provide him with six honey butter tarts weekly, on Thursdays. After coffee. And conversation. And he would keep mum about the recipe violation.
As usual, when he left her house, he mentally kicked himself for not asking her out. On a real date. Maybe a meal at the only restaurant in town. Or a movie at their local theatre, a memento from the fifties. And, also as usual, he felt like a teenager, besotted by the cutest girl in school, and totally afraid of her probable rejection.
No, Thursday mornings would have to do.
Again, as usual, he drove to the little building that housed the local volunteer fire department and ocean rescue squad. There were two old guys sitting in the sun on the building’s porch. They were the dispatch team, or so they claimed. They were really waiting for the tarts, which turned up every Thursday. He handed over his cookie tin and left. One of the old guys opened it, took a tart and began to munch.
“Bert should marry Sunny, you know?”
His partner replied. “Yeah, but then we wouldn’t get any more of her home cooking. So I’m good with how things are.”
“Yeah,” his friend replied.
For her part Sunny knew where her tarts ended up. She did not care. As long as Bert kept dropping by every Thursday.