Soaked in alcohol and containing pomegranates that had a bizarre fungus, a primitive life had slowly began to grow.
This would lay the foundations to...
THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING FRUITCAKE
“I don't understand what the fascination is with that genre. I have never seen a single one where I actually believed something could rise from the dead.” George the night Superintendent said as he showed his replacement, Tom, the whole store, top to toes.
“All I was saying is that it's a good way to look at the worst possible scenario. How secure is the store if people breaking in don't care about getting hurt, or are after something other than money.” Tom answered, stepping out of the elevator behind George. It was dark in the lower basement areas, but dry and room temperature. Due to foresight and stringent adherence to health codes the basement was clean and rodent free. Pipes were checked three times yearly, so there were no dripping pipes that filled stagnant puddles. There was no way that a cat could sneak in and jump out from behind a stack of boxes. It was also mostly free from cliches, something that many department stores seemed to lack.
George turned on a flashlight and shined it into his own face, illuminating a fine clipped gray beard that framed a strong Scottish face. He blinked a few times and then pointed the flashlight at the wall to the left. The light switch was covered in bright orange reflective tape. George flicked the switch and thirty four rows of ten foot high shelves were illuminated. Tom whistled.
“That's a lot of stuff.” He scratched his left mutton chop sideburn and adjusted his hipster glasses with the prescription free lenses.
“Yup. Every season is represented and cataloged. New Years through to Christmas, Quanza to Earth day. Heck, I think one of these shelves has 420.” George said proudly, his baritone voice not echoing through the enormous room.
“So what do we do here?” Tom asked as he adjusted his belt. The flashlight, pepper spray, stun gun, and multi-tool kept pulling his black pants down.
“We don't have to do much, just make sure the service elevators are locked and that the temperature remains constant. Mildew can ruin a lot of stuff really quick. Some of this stuff has been down here from the first brick that built this place. And I wanted to show you something.” George led Tom to the left and at the back of the room. They got to the very last shelf and George knelt down and pulled a long wooden box out from the bottom shelf.
“This is fruitcake from Tecumseh, Michigan. It is soaked in some of the finest illegal hooch of the time, and is perfectly preserved. A few years ago I was watching Leno and some guy brought in his special reserve of fruitcake for Jay to try. The name Tecumseh stuck in my head, and during one of my rounds I saw this box and noticed this.” He tapped the box. It said “Tecumseh, Mi. Fruitcake”
“I don't get it. What's so great about fruitcake?” Tom answered.
“Well, this is my last nigh working here. And I asked around, and no one seems to know what to do with this stuff. And I happen to know that this stuff is perfectly edible because of the booze in it. So I'm asking you to break the rules on your first night on the job and share some illegally obtained store merchandice.”
“Get drunk, you mean.”
“No, no. There's no way to get drunk off of one piece of fruitcake.”
Tom shrugged and George used his own mulit-tool to open the box. From inside the box came a mix of spices and forbidding. George pulled out a brick sized fruitcake and closed the box. M popped his own tool, pulling out the small knife. Tom pressed it into the wax paper.
“GO NO FURTHER” a voice vibrated. Tom looked at George and George looked at the fruitcake in Toms hand.
“Did that fruitcake just talk?” Asked George. Tom just shrugged and looked around/
“UNLESS YOU ARE DOING REPAIRS TO THE BUILDING, PUT ME BACK.” The voice cried again causing the shelves to tremor.
“Did we eat an entire cake and forget about it?” Tom asked, looking around to see if there were wrappers lying on the floor. “Or is this fruitcake actually talking to me?” Despite the odd situation, George and Tom were conducting themselves quiet well. Talking fruitcake was a subject not to be taken lightly. Indeed, it would sometimes be seen as a form of schizophrenia or some type of hallucination for a person to discuss talking to an alleged inanimate object.
“What do you mean repairs?” George asked.
“FROM IT'S INCEPTION THIS DEPARTMENT STORE HAS NOT ADHERED TO NORMAL SITUATIONS. ONE COULD SAY THAT IT'S FOUNDATION IS EXISTENTIAL.” The Fruitcake said.
Tom nodded, as if he understood. “I always thought this place was a little Kafka-esque.”
Fruitcake has no eyes or even a face, yet there was the unmistakable feeling that eyes were rolling.
“DON'T ACT LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.”
“So, if I may, er, Fruitcake?”
“Right, Joseph. What are you talking about repairs?”
“FROM THE MIDDLE AGES PEOPLE HAVE BEEN GIVING THE GIFT OF FRUITCAKE. IN ENGLAND IT WAS KNOWN AS GROOMS CAKE. IN CANADA, CHRISTMAS CAKE. THOUGH THE NAMES CHANGE, ONE SIMPLE FACT REMAINS: ITS, MY, PURPOSE IS NOT TO BE EATEN, BUT TO ACT AS A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THE CONTINUITY OF A GENEROUS SPIRIT, EVEN IF THAT GENEROSITY CAN BE SEEN AS DISTASTEFUL.”
“So what about the fact that everybody hates fruitcake except George here is coincidence?” Tom asked.
“NO, THE FACT THAT PEOPLE HATE TO EAT FRUITCAKE IS BNECAUSE I TASTE AWEFUL, THERE'S NO COINCIDENCE.”
“What do you mean distasteful?” George asked.
“SOMETIMES PEOPLE GET UPSET OVER THINGS THAT ARE STUPID. SUCH AS WHEN YOU WISH SOMEONE A GOOD MORNING, AND THEY GET UPSET AND ASK YOU WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT? IT IS IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO GET BEYOND THEMSELVES AND ACCEPT THE GOOD WISHES OF OTHERS. FRUITCAKE IS THE MARTERIAL REPRESENTATION OF THAT GOODWILL. SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO GET OVER YOURSELF AND SAY THANK YOU.”
“Well, that's a lot to take in. Tom, you seem to be absorbing this rather well.”
“Oh this is nothing. I swear I saw a beetle in a trench-coat earlier. Hey, Joseph, is the whole 'getting over yourself' thing like when people wish me a Merry Christmas?”
“PRECISELY. JUST SAY THANK YOU. IT IS THE SAME IF THEY WISH YOU HAPPY HOLIDAYS, OR QUANZA, OR FLAG DAY.”
“You know what? I'm glad this is my last night here. From what I can infer, this here cake...”
“...is used to fix parts of the building. Maybe that's why such weird things go on here. I don't think I could work in a building made of talking fruitcake. I'm already old, and I don't need people thinking I'm senile. Tom, put the cake back. I'm leaving.” With that shook his head and moseyed on over to the elevator. He pushed the button and waited.
Tom shrugged and put the piece back into the crate. He met George at the elevator.
“You really don't have a problem with this?” George asked.
Tom shrugged. “Lots of weirdos out there. Talking fruitcake or no, I still need a job.”
“That degree in philosophy not doing much for you?”
“Not one bit, man. Even the fruitcake thinks I got it wrong.”
“Merry Christmas, Tom.”
“Happy Flag Day, George.”