[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This past week, I entered a bit of a . . . um . . . writing slump. I decided this week for Lightning to post a work of writing that was deliberately bad just for entertainment and, perhaps, comedic purposes. Please do NOT consider this an example of my typical writing or writing style. It’s just meant to be fun.]

“OH MY GOD,” Jeff bellowed loudly when he saw what was coming out of his oven: smoke. “What could have CAUSED this?” The black smoke belching out of his oven that made his breathing difficult.

            “I don’t know, Jeff,” Chef James muttered contemptuously when he passed by Jeff’s station. “But you’d better get on it as soon as possible.” He waved some of the smoke away from his face. Louder, he said, “If you don’t, you know, you’re going to be in BIG trouble.”

            Shakily, Jeff nodded.

            He extracted his chocolate soufflé  and told himself you know Jeff at the end of the day you’ve got your pride left intact it’s go big or go home and you went big and you’re still going home and they told you that this should be You on a Plate but you don’t serve soufflés on plates—do you????—so that doesn’t make any since and—

            “Jeff?” Chef James asked questioningly.

            Startled, Jeff turned back to face Chef James. “Yes?”

            “That—that thing,” Chef James said, pointing at the molten soufflé in Jeff’s hands, “looks like an absolute piece of crap. In fact, I’m quite sure that there’s something quite similar to that lying in one of the men’s room toilets in the studio restrooms.”

            “Crap,” Jeff murmured.

            “Yes. Yes, that’s what I said it was,” uttered Chef James.

            I won’t, I can’t, Jeff thought, his mind racing faster than a car competing in the Indianapolis 500, leave this competition. Because Mommy told me I’d be a terrible baker when I grew up, that I should just quit and bury my dreams, but by God, I’m going to prove her, I’m going to show Mommy!

            As if he could read Jeff’s thoughts, Chef James eyed Jeff disgustedly.

            “C’mon, Jeff,” Lana, another competitor stationed behind Jeff, “you can do it! You have to believe in yourself! Just have fun! I gave birth to six kids at once, so anything else is easy!”

            “Thanks for the support, Lana.”

            “You’re welcome, Jeff.”

            “I’m going to need it, Lana.”

            “For sure, Jeff.”

            Chef James shifted his gaze between Lana and Jeff. Veritably snapping were his beady eyes. He furiously stroked his long black moustache. “Are you two,” he declared slowly, “in—KAHOOTS?”

Image by Magnascan from Pixabay

            “OH MY GOD HOW COULD YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT?” Jeff and Lana said simultaneously at exactly the same time.

            Turning a shade of beet bloodred, Lana hurled a frying pan at Chef James’s head. Chef James ducked just in time. The frying pan struck a woman standing in the back in the head, but no one cared.

            “Lana, how could you??!!” Chef James shrieked. “You know I’ve rigged this entire competition so that you could win the $50,000 prize and free copy of my cookbook Just Desserts autographed by none other than me! Those six stupid brats of yours aren’t going to go to college without some help, after all!”

            Before Lana had any time to react to this declaration, which caught everyone in the room off-guard, Chef James proceeded to approach Lana’s station and bent down on one knee and declared in sonorous tones his undying love for her.

            Stunned, Jeff decided this was as good as time as any to reveal that the internet ministry LoveThyNeighbor.com had ordained him as a reverend. “I pronounce you man and wife,” Jeff said as Chef James and Lana smooched generously.

            The rest of the bakeoff’s contestants hooted and hollered and clapped their hands in applause and stomped their feet and wished Chef James and Lana the best of luck in their married life, though they were in for a curveball: it would turn out that Chef James was Lana’s long-lost French first cousin who had been presumed dead in the sands of Arabia from the Persian Gulf War two decades earlier.

            “Aw, crap,” the cameraman whose jobs it was to stand behind the camera said as he watched the scene unfolding in front of the camera he was standing behind. “Could this get any cornier?”

            “What’re you talking about?” smiled the producer standing next to the cameraman. “This is gold! No, platinum! TV platinum! People love romance!”

            “But this is supposed to be a bakeoff,” frowned the cameraman.

            “To hell with baking,” the producer said. “This is TV platinum!”

            “You already said that.”

            “Oh. Sorry,” the producer said apologetically.

            “No problems,” the cameraman announced understandingly.