By Jerry Guarino
A great donut (yes, this is how I spell it) is like a great marriage. Really. Let me explain. The best donuts have two components, not that a basic donut isn’t wonderful. Donuts should be filled with fruit, cream or other sweet ingredients. The outside of the donut is the protector, the guardian or in our analogy, the groom. The inside is the essence of the donut. Raspberry, Boston cream and apple fillings make the donut come alive, leave a lasting impression on the palate and provide the love, or the bride. The groom is a wonderful man, but most of the attention on the wedding day is paid to the bride. When you love a donut, it’s the filling that you remember, not the dough, as indispensable as it is.
There are two major donut franchises in the U.S., one great one you can find in 49 states and one not so great one in California (don’t ask me why you can’t get the best donuts in California, that’s another rant); back to our comparison between great donuts and great marriages.
My best friend from New Jersey invited me to his son’s wedding and it was a chance to celebrate their happiness as well as revisit one of my first loves, that donut (you know the name). My wife and I left the hotel to attend the rehearsal dinner. On our way we had to pass that donut shop (with a drive-thru lane now). “We’re stopping there for dessert,” I said to my wife.
“They will probably be serving dessert tonight” my California wife said, obviously unaware of the importance of first loves, be they soft and feminine or named Boston cream.
“I haven’t had one of these donuts in twenty years. We’re stopping.”
My best friend is Asian and so were most of the guests. I hadn’t seen his son since he was a child and now he had just graduated dental school. He was a solid professional, a protector. His fiancé was his perfect complement, a lovely Asian young professional woman, smart and practical, the sweet filling to his outer coating. I have no doubt that this couple, like a perfect donut, will endure and bring happiness to everyone they touch.
I expected a Chinese banquet but the rehearsal dinner was an Italian feast. “This is great,” I said to my wife.
“Really, wonderful” she said. “And so many choices. Did you try the eggplant?”
“Yes, but I’m going back for more of this chicken first.”
At this point I can tell you that the company was as wonderful as the food. To see my friend’s family, from all over the country (I’ll have to corner the Californians and tell them about the donut), were also well suited to each other. Husbands and wives, happily married, like the newlyweds will be. And the single friends, including my son, showed great promise for being happily married someday too. Thank goodness they invited a poor kid from Jersey to this event. After stuffing ourselves over three hours, I was ready to get my treat and head back to the hotel hot tub.
“Ready to go dear?” I said to my wife.
“You’re not still planning on getting a donut after that raspberry, ricotta cheesecake and the chocolate cannolo (yes, the singular of cannoli), are you?”
“I can’t believe you have any room left.”
“Twenty years sweetheart. I’ll make room.” I told my son we would be back to pick him up as he was enjoying new friendships here.
My wife and I headed down the street and pulled into the drive-thru behind a half-dozen cars. This time of night, it wasn’t unusual to see a line; late night donuts are a favorite snack everywhere, and particularly in New Jersey. Passing the right side of the shop, I saw dozens of donuts neatly positioned in their cubicles behind the counter, romantically illuminated, like a bride on her wedding day. “It won’t be long now,” I said.
When it was my turn to order, I spoke clearly and concisely into the speaker. “Two Boston Cream donuts please.” My mouth was watering. I was a minute away from that sweet taste I had been away from for so long.
“No donuts” came the reply from the speaker.
I stared at the speaker then to my wife. Surely they didn’t understand. “Two Boston Cream donuts please.”
“No donuts” repeated the speaker. Have I crossed over to the twilight zone? This is what the shop is famous for. It’s called Dunkin Donuts for Pete’s sake (who is Pete anyway?). This line of cars can’t be here just for coffee at this time of night. I pulled out of the line and returned to the party. My best friend met me at the door.
“Hey, where did you go?”
“I went to get a couple of donuts to end this perfect meal, but they didn’t have any.”
“What? Are you sure?”
“I swear to you. They actually said No donuts.”
“Maybe they didn’t understand you.”
“I ordered twice. Same response. No donuts. I could see them in the case as we drove in. I saw the donuts.”
I felt like a groom being left at the altar. They can’t tarnish this perfect night. Thinking I may have indeed crossed into some surreal dimension, I decided to return to try once more. My son and wife in the car, we pulled into the drive-thru lane, again behind a half dozen cars and waited patiently as each one was served. Then I found myself in front of that speaker, now ominously looking back at me.
“Two Boston Cream donuts please.”“No donuts” came the reply from the speaker.
My wife shook her head. My son was stunned; his mouth was open as if to say WTF, a common phrase from his generation. I thought I should give it one more try.
“Two Boston Cream donuts please.”
“No donuts” came the reply from the speaker one more time. No explanation, no regret, just a matter of fact denial.
I drove back to the hotel, not entirely convinced that this wasn’t some evil omen for the couple’s wedding day. On a night when my wife and I should have been celebrating our love, I could only go straight to sleep, apologizing, but she understood.
“I’m sorry dear. Maybe tomorrow.”
On the wedding day, I woke up early, knocked on the door where my son stayed and waited. He opened the door. “What’s up Dad?”
“We have to get a donut.” He understood. I had taken him to New Jersey on road trips when he was a little boy. He knew White Castle hamburgers, pizza from the Jersey shore and these donuts.
We drove to the shop. I decided to park and go inside. If I wasn’t going to get donuts, I wanted to know why.“Two Boston Cream donuts please.” I had my fingers crossed behind my back.
“Right away sir.” The girl at the counter put two donuts into a bag and handed them to me. Order was restored to the universe. The wedding would go on and the couple would live happily ever after.
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Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, "40 Slices of Pizza" is available on amazon.com (http://amzn.to/HYYIxv) and as a kindle ebook (http://amzn.to/HXvIV9). Please visit his website at http://cafestories.net