Your children can read along as they listen to short story writing contest winner, The Sunshine Cake. This STOR14S episode, written by Grant Dudson and read by the star of City on a Hill, Aldis Hodge, will be released on Spotify and Apple Podcasts on July 6, or you can listen here:
And if you enjoy this story, learn more at GEANCO, who are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and improving lives in Nigeria.
Click here to learn more about the STOR14S podcast series.
The Sunshine Cake
by Grant Dudson
Paul collected and paid for his coffee from the counter and went to sit quietly at a table near the shop’s window.
He was 14 and feeling very sad after breaking up with his first real girlfriend.
"Help me?" said Paul in his head.
"Did you say something?" asked a voice coming from his right.
Paul turned his head to see who had asked the question, but nobody was there. He frowned in confusion and returned to his brooding.
"Well?" asked the voice again.
Paul turned again – left and right – but his eyes were met only by expressionless fellow customers, seemingly minding their own business at their own tables.
"What is going on," thought Paul.
"It's simple my friend ..." said the voice. "I merely want to know what you said."
This time, Paul jumped up from his table and craned his head out the coffee shop door. There, on the patio, was an old man in moth-bitten clothes – staring off into space while mumbling to himself.
Paul was completely bewildered, but who else could he have been hearing?
"Excuse me,” Paul said. “I don’t mean to be rude but who are you talking to?"
"Who else?" replied the old gentleman.
“This guy is nutty,” thought Paul.
"Which guy?" the old man said.
"How did you do that?" Paul yelped.
The man continued looking off into space.
Paul pulled over a chair and sat opposite the old man.
"How …? How can you read my ..." Paul stopped speaking. He looked at the old man's face. His eyes were slightly filmy, and flickering uncontrollably.
“Yes, go on?,” said the old man.
“Erm, how do I say this … are you blind, sir?”
"Yes, I am."
"This is all very strange. I'm not used to people hearing my thoughts."
"Is that what I'm doing?"
"Yes. You must have a special gift."
"Why, of course. Every person has a special gift."
Paul looked around him at the people walking by. He pulled a face of disbelief.
"You're wrong," said the old man. "Each and every human has a special gift but the challenge is finding what that special gift is."
As the old man finished his sentence a pretty young girl – about Paul’s age – came out of the coffee shop and approached their table. She said nothing. She had a piece of folded paper in her hand. She put it down on the table between Paul and the old man.
Paul looked at the paper and then up at her with intrigue.
“Hi,” said Paul, momentarily forgetting all of his problems.
Her bright hazel eyes were framed with dark thick eyelashes.
Her face was perfectly proportioned, and her skin had a caramel glow. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed her inside. She shared a warm, genuine smile before departing.
She's beautiful, thought Paul.
"That she is," the old man said aloud.
"Without being rude... how would you know?"
The old man sighed, and explained: "Outward appearance is just the surface of a much bigger picture. How many problems do we find ourselves in because we've chosen a partner based purely on their looks?”
"I still think looks are important," young Paul thought.
To which the old man replied: "Important as it may be to you now, with time it will fade from your very grasp and then what are you left with?”
"It's hard to have a conversation with a man who sees my every thought," said Paul.
"Shouldn't that make the conversation easier?" said the old man.
"It should ... I suppose. Although some of my thoughts don’t reflect who I really am."
"We all have unwanted thoughts but it's important that you don't attach emotion to them. Thoughts without emotion aren't real enough to hold your attention."
"Having thoughts without emotion is easier said than done," said Paul.
"Just try it. And try not to apply hate to thoughts, or they'll get worse. Hate makes them stronger. Accept them and show them love knowing that they’re nothing more than thoughts. To accept their existence is the first stage of healing."
Paul shook his head. This experience was nuts. “So going back to our conversation about the woman: what you're saying to me is that you saw her internal beauty?"
"I didn't just see it, I felt it. She's a pure soul, hurt by her past. She lost her hearing at a young age."
"So she's deaf?" asked Paul with an injection of surprise in his voice.
"She sees with acute intuition. Her eyes are her gift. She can peer into your very soul."
Paul quietened his voice. "That sounds a bit creepy. I’m not sure I like the idea of that.”
Paul looked at the folded paper left there by the young woman with hazel eyes. He picked it up and began to open it.
The old man reached out – patting the air until he found Paul’s hand. "Wait, all in good time Paul," he said. "The core of her gift is to see into your future. Put it into your pocket for later."
Paul begrudgingly put the paper into his pocket, as a man in an apron and chef hat exited the coffee shop and made a beeline for their table.
“Hi, George,” interrupted the chef, placing a cupcake down on the table.
"This is one of my finest to date, George. I thought your friend here might enjoy it."
"Thank you, Henry.” The old man inhaled. “Oh boy, it smells of sunshine."
"It tastes of sunshine too," said Henry.
"Smells of sunshine? Tastes of sunshine? You guys are ridiculous."
Henry moved the plate in front of Paul.
"It smells of sunshine and it tastes of sunshine. Give it a try."
Paul lifted the cupcake to his nose and gave it a sniff.
It filled his lungs with a feeling he’d never felt before. He experienced a surge of energy flow through his entire body. The feeling lasted for a couple of seconds before leaving him.
"Wow. What was that," yelped Paul.
The old man answered:
"There's a sunshine cake for each and every one of us – although most people never get to discover the right recipe specific to them. Henry here lost his sense of touch, but his sense of smell and taste are unlike anyone else's. This allows him to create food fit for a god."
Cupcake chef Henry blushed, then chimed in:
"Oh, what I'd give to feel again: to touch cold, to bathe in warm. Even the feeling you get when you touch the chipped edge of this table escapes me.”
"The chipped edge of this table?” Paul scoffed. “You're not missing much there."
"But I am. Take time out to access how it feels to be alive. Inhale the essence of life because one day it will be gone. You will not get the chance to experience the same things again. Do something different everyday: whether it be taking a different route to school, or looking up at the rain to see how it feels to have the water dance on your face.”
“No offence, but I don’t like the rain,” replied a dubious Paul.
“Don’t wait for things to disappear before you appreciate them,” Henry said.
Paul’s eyes glazed over with contemplation.‘This is all a little strange,’ he thought.
Not for the first time that day, the old man responded to his unspoken words: "Why strange? Because you are beginning to see and feel how the sun shines within you? It's the sunshine in your heart and mind that makes for a good day – a sunshine that never sets," he said.
"This is just… well, it’s all a lot to take in," said Paul.
"So take in more. What you've just inhaled was sunshine. Now take a bite."
Paul stopped talking. He moved the cupcake towards his mouth and took a bite.
As Paul bit down, bursts of sunlight poured out from the center. His whole body felt alive.
He forgot everyone and everything else in the coffee shop. The light was so bright he felt as though he was entering another world.
He dropped the cake and rubbed his eyes. But as his vision adjusted he found himself back at the very same table he was sitting at before he met the old man. He turned, and peered through the window expecting to see the old man and Henry. But his table was empty.
Paul scanned the room but couldn't see anyone he recognized.
Was it all a dream, he wondered?
He got up and walked to the old man’s table on the patio. He reached out and felt the edge. It was chipped: smooth in parts and slightly cold. He grinned from ear to ear. He turned and walked calmly away from the coffee shop.
And as he stopped to look back, it dawned on him: He reached into his pocket and pulled out the piece of paper. He quickly opened it to reveal … a blank page. Paul didn’t get it.
He looked up to the sky almost in search of an explanation and within seconds it began to rain.
Paul paused, he closed his eyes and began to laugh.
“Thank you,” he said in his heart. “Thank you so much.”
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