If you leave Miami and head north on I-95, the city of Boca Raton is just an hour away. Boca stands out from other cities in South Florida by being just a smidgen more “Floridian”- it is the quintessential ocean coast town. Our palm trees are taller (there is no escape from them- walking down the sidewalk is a threat to your life because you never know when a coconut might fall on your head, or when you’ll trip over a palm frond almost as big as you); and our buildings are brighter- we seem to have an affinity for pastels so bright they make neon look dark. With the exception of the Keys, and maybe Miami, you won’t find a more “Floridian” place in South Florida than Boca Raton.
The most frustrating thing to a Floridian is an ocean breeze; in the middle of August when it’s hot enough to fry an egg, even in the shade, and the humidity is so thick it’s like you’re walking underwater, the last thing you want to feel is an ocean breeze. These are the most fleeting things in the world, and after that brief moment of cool relief is gone, you’re left feeling more miserable than ever. Summer in Florida is nature’s revolt; it’s too hot to do anything, and the people of Boca get lethargic and sleepy, unwilling to do anything, as the slightest movement could cause you to break out into a sweat. The citizens retreat, and nature flourishes with an explosion that you don’t see any other time of the year. Summer is also hurricane season, which means that running to the store without an umbrella is about as risky as crossing the street without looking both ways.
It was on one of those rainy summer days in Boca that the Randall girls were all gathered in their kitchen looking skeptically at something on the counter. They were standing in what looked like the middle of an explosion; flour was all over the kitchen, and a stack of dirty baking utensils were stacked precariously in the kitchen sink. The distinct smell of smoke hung in the air, and there was something dripping from the ceiling that looked suspiciously like raw egg. The girls however, were too busy looking at a baking sheet on the counter that was covered in some unidentifiable mounds of dough.
“I think they turned out all right,” said the oldest in a bright voice. “They actually look pretty good.” The third youngest Randall girl rolled her eyes. “If by ‘good’ you mean ‘I wouldn’t feed this to my worst enemy’, then yes, they look positively delectable.” The oldest shot her younger sister a nasty look as the third oldest snorted from behind a cookbook. Sprawled out over two chairs, she raised the book from her face and said, “That’s such a dumb saying; I would totally feed that-“ She made a vague gesture at the smoking baking sheet, “to my worst enemy.”
“That’s true,” the youngest piped up. “I would put hot sauce in them, too.” The second youngest looked up and said, “Oh! What about mayonnaise?” The third youngest, jumping into the fray, shook her head sagely and said, “If you’re going to do something, do it right- put wet cat food in it.” Her two younger sisters looked at her then as one looks at a god, and the third youngest stood there, basking in the glow of rare genius.
The third oldest and the oldest exchanged looks of disgust, while the second oldest, wringing her hands together, said in a worried voice, “L-let’s not talk about poisoning people, okay? Here, why don’t you guys help us frost the cookies? We have pink AND purple frosting, and we have sprinkles!”
That got the attention of the three younger girls, and they eagerly crowded around the counter, grabbing knives to frost with a recklessness that suddenly made the second oldest wince and regret her suggestion in the first place. The oldest looked pleased that everybody was coming together, and was congratulating herself on her fine leadership skills when the third oldest suddenly sat up, knocking the cookbook to the ground, and said something that made all the girls’ blood run cold.
“Those are supposed to be cookies?”
Feeling as if they were moving underwater, the Randall girls all turned as one to look at the baking sheet, which somehow, inexplicably, had turned into a muffin pan.
And then all hell broke loose.
“This is what I get for leaving you guys alone for longer than two seconds,” the oldest Randall girl fumed angrily. The second oldest scoffed and turned on her sister. “Excuse me? I’m just as capable of handling this as you are. Don’t condescend me!” The second youngest was in sobbing hysterics. “M-mother’s cookies are r-ruined!” She proclaimed before dramatically throwing her arms on the counter and burying her face in them. “Don’t you mean the muffins?” said the third youngest nastily, as she prodded the hardened lumps of dough. The third oldest remained unmoved by all of this; in fact, she had picked up one of the containers of frosting and was proceeding to eat it with a spoon.
Eventually, though, the third oldest got tired of listening to her sister’s fighting; placing her frosting down with a sigh, she interrupted her screaming sisters.
“Okay, first- do not call your sister juvenile animals,” she admonished the second oldest firmly, who scoffed and looked away. “And you,” she said pointing to the oldest, who looked at her in disbelief, “just sit down, please. A college degree does not make you God.” “And lastly,” she said, turning to the third youngest, “that is not appropriate language- you should be ashamed of yourself.” The scolded girl flushed angrily and glared at the ground.
“She’s right,” the oldest said, desperately trying to regain some semblance of authority. “This isn’t about who messed the coo- the muff- the dessert up,” she said with a glare at the second oldest, who gave her an evil eye right back. “These aren’t for us- we shouldn’t be fighting.”
“Do you think those will send Mom back to the hospital again?” The littlest one piped up, looking skeptically at the ruined dessert. The second youngest gasped ad swatted her sister on the arm. “Don’t say things like that!”
“I actually think that’s a valid question,” the third oldest said slowly, looking askance at the “cookies”. “I think they’re still smoking.” The oldest sighed, and rubbed her hands over her face. “Does anyone know when Dad’s coming home?” The second oldest replied, “He’s working late tonight- again.” The atmosphere in the room seemed to deflate a little, as the girls fell silent, unsure of what to do next.
“I’m hungry,” the youngest broke the silence. “Yeah, me too,” the second youngest echoed. “Fine, fine, I’ll make dinner,” the third oldest sighed heavily as she jumped down from the kitchen stool. “NO,” her five sisters said in loud unison. Their sister looked around, affronted. “Excuse me?” The oldest shook her head and said through gritted teeth, “You are not cooking. Ever. Again.” The third oldest scoffed and said, “Why not?” “Because potato chips do belong in hamburger meat, is why not,” the oldest replied. “I thought it would make it crunchy,” the third oldest protested.
“It doesn’t matter,” the oldest said firmly. “I’m cooking, you guys clean up. When Dad comes home, we’ll ask him to go to the store to get a dessert for Mom. And a card- we’ll ask him to get a card. Then tomorrow, we can all go down and bring her home. Now go.” She clapped her hands and her sisters scattered, while the rain continued to patter on the rooftop outside.