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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Cinnamon Temptation

August 15, 1997

I had just poured a cup of coffee and was preparing myself for an hour of uninhibited sloth when a slight noise at the kitchen door caught my attention.  Opening it, I found a small white envelope, its surface covered with fine writing, had been jammed between it and the screen.  As I plucked it from its meshy repository, a childish rhyme popped into my mind: Da-liver da-letter, da-sooner da-better.  I glanced upstreet and down, trying to catch a glimse of the da-liverer.  No one in sight.  Whoever had brought it had not wanted to be seen and recognized.  How very peculiar, I thought, withdrawing to my coffee and indolence, taking the titillating missive with me.   

Squirming myself comfortably into the old rump-sprung recliner, glasses on my snubby nose, rapidly cooling coffee close to hand, I picked up the envelope and read:

"Ellen Davignon.... At last you have been revealed for the Jezebel that you are!"

My forehead went cold and the hair prickled at the back of my neck.  Jezebel?  Me?  Frowning, I turned over the thin paper sheath to see what else had been written in the neat, Spencerian script.

"For years, I have suspected that you have held hundreds, nay, thousands of innocent men in thrall. Now, my suspicions have been confirmed and I - and the whole world - know your squalid little secret.

Signed, A Disgruntled Wife."

With trembling hands, I opened the envelope and shook out the magazine clipping contained therein.  As I unfolded it, large black letters blared forth:  HOT BUNS ARE A SPICY SECRET THAT DRIVES MEN WILD!!  Bemused, I read on.  "The sexiest smell in the world to red-blooded men is that of freshly-baked cinnamon rolls. According to a study of blood flow linked to male arousal, monitored by Chicago neurologist, Dr. Alan Hirsch, M.D., Ph.D., D.Ph., B.S. in ChE., and an honored member of the PGA, it is the only fragrance that consistently turned men on.

"'Not even Chanel #5 or the musky allure of Calvin Klein's Obsession could match the rousing aroma of hot cinnamon,' Hirsch was quoted as having concluded."

The clipping fell from my nerveless fingers.  Good Lord, I thought wildly, what had I done?  All those years; all those men.  I could only guess at how many lives had been ruined by my callous, if unwitting, behaviour.

And Dear Disgruntled Wife, unwitting it was.  I swear.

In the autumn of '78, we closed our highway lodge at Johnson's Crossing and re-opened the following spring as a campground service with the usual accouterments plus a small store and coffee bar that provided snacks that required a bare minimum of preparation (the prime mover and shaker of the aforementioned lodge having emphatically - and somewhat hysterically - sworn to have grilled her final hamburger.) 

And for the first few weeks of operation, it went pretty well, I thought.  I baked a few loaves of bread because I liked making bread and a store should have it.  Then I added a few easy pastries, like apple turnovers and cherry puffs; oatmeal cookies and a simple chocolate cake that took but minutes to prepare but tasted divine.  A tiddyoggy, or meatpie, based on the famous Cornish pasty but excluding the turnip and mutton, was added to my repertoire to mollify those customers clamouring for a J.C.Burger, the pure beef burgers we used to serve with lettuce and tomato, a thick slice of mild onion, pickle relish, special sauce - the works.  And eventually, and with no malice aforethought, I promise you, I added cinnamon buns to my bake table.

I should have realized that something was amiss, right from the outset.

Now, I am a fairly unremarkable person.  Average in height, ample in proportion, pleasant of mien, with tan-and-grey hair that falls over much of my face, I am not the stuff of which fantasies are made. But suddenly, I was the center of attention.  Men of all ages and stations sought me out, claimed my attention with calls from the counter, invited themselves and their friends to coffee in the kitchen, chatting me up even as my hands curved voluptuously around a sinuous coil of fresh warm dough.

They stopped me on the streets of Whitehorse, to enquire as to the state of my health, the condition of the Highway coming to town that day, the possible availability of "them good cimmamon buns," should they find themselves in Johnson's Crossing early of a Saturday morning.   

And I, completely unaware of the licentious nature of their regard until the arrival of that spiteful letter with its damning contents,  revelled in the attention.

Peering at myself in the mirror from under skimpy brows, I studied my plain, round face.  Who, I asked with some amazement, is the most popular girl in town?  And why?  Could I be one of those "late bloomers" my mother used to reassure me I might be?  I pirouetted and tried out a seductive pose, lowering my lids and gazing smokily over my shoulder.  Jiminy, I looked tired!  Nope, it couldn't be anything physical... it had to be my quick mind and my glib line of patter, not forgetting that both the quick and glib came from my subconscious, because getting up at 3:00 in the morning to ensure the fresh supply of buns also ensured a mind and tongue that worked on instinct alone.

As we all now know... my surmise was eroneous.  Seven tons of flour a year for fifteen years add up to something pretty DARN physical.  And translated into hundreds of thousands of velvety rolls, dotted liber- ally with raisins, oozing with golden syrup, laced with buttery icing and perfuming the air with their spicy magic, tantalizing and bewitching.... In retrospect, the wonder is that I was able to hold the ravening hordes at bay.

It's fortunate that the Hirsch report was not made public sooner. Two years ago, we sold our business and I now sell books instead of buns. I find satisfaction in making correct change and being able to tell at a glance the size of bag required for a purchase.  I hope and pray that the men I so enslaved have returned to normal, useful lives.

Please forgive me, everyone.  Truly, I didn't know.

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