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excerpt from Chapter 1 of Cooking Up a Story


The Proposal

Wednesday afternoon
My do-or-die moment…
  Placing her shaking hands on the floor plan and sketches lying between them, Faith straightened up, cleared her throat and forced out some words:
  “I…I do hope you’ll consider my proposal.” Faith looked at Tommy Chung with what she hoped was her most win-him-over face. He dabbed at his lips to remove a crumb of dark chocolate.
  “Miss Jordan, what you gave me to sample tastes amazing. Any more sweeties for me to try?”
  She beamed. “What you just tasted is a keepsake recipe from my mother. Top secret.”
  “Sweet but not overpowering. Sophisticated’s the term I’d use.” He paused and rubbed his chin in thought. “Might just have a real winner on your hands for choosy folks that like something different. And I oughta’ know, seeing as I do so much sampling for the business. Flavor sits on the tongue like…like… a delicate springtime butterfly on the first cherry blossom.” He glanced around to see if shoppers were nearby then leaned in, “Trying out some fancy phrases from a book I’m reading: Improve Your Sales Talk With Poetry. How’m I doing?” Faith gave a weak laugh and mock eye-roll. “And your cookbook—most attractive. Might coax even me into picking up a mixing bowl and spoon. Such a talent you are—attractive chocolate recipe book, plate of elegant candies, topped with a solid business proposal. Knowing my schedule, in reality, all I’d do is drool over the pictures.”
  “Oh but people buy books just to look. My proposal’s perfect for your store…and….” She halted when Tommy raised his hand.
  “You almost got me persuaded.”
  Almost? Almost?  Can’t believe I’m actually doing this! What a waste of time.
  Teetering between a sudden surge of excitement and anxiety, Faith took a huge breath and crossed her fingers.
  “Don’t know how you find the time but then you’re young…this glossy book…goes without saying seeing as you teach English…” His fingers drummed on the counter. Faith held. her breath, waiting for ‘But'.
  It didn’t come.
  “Unless I’m wrong, I won’t be able to keep chocolates of that quality in stock or your book.” He motored on. “And I like your floor plan and sketches.” He squinted his eyes closed. “I can see it now—postage-size display in my Emporium. Might just shoehorn it in.” He laughed. “Hmmm…need space to show off your recipe book, custom flavorings, imported cocoa powder, space for your weekend cooking demos.” He paused and looked at her hard. “Wow is all I can say. You always been this ambitious? If you never been in business, you gotta know it takes gobs of energy. And determination. No one to catch you, if you fail.”
  Pulling off his rimless glasses, Tommy began to pace. Faith smiled, waiting for an enthusiastic ‘It’s a deal’ and his handshake. There was a long pause. “I’d say your project’s a go, however…”
  Here it comes. This is like shoveling out a drainage ditch and praying I’ll find gourmet trout.
  “…there’s a huge but involved.”
  I knew it. Maybe I needed to go bigger with my project. Or not approached him at all.
  Tommy Chung’s voice lowered to a whisper. “Actually two buts. You might even call it real bad news.”
  Faith bit her tongue, not wanting to protest.
  If this doesn’t work, what next? Back to same-old, same old like one more page spit out an endless copy machine of days?
  “Council’s asked me to rethink the expansion of Chung’s Grand Emporium. You might not know I hope to use my empty storage annex next door to expand and juice it up with several entrepreneurs like you. My business situation is at—shall we say—at a nerve-wracking point. Delicate. Even worse that I’m a town councilor and can’t take part in debates. I’m thinking their decision could go this way or that.” Brow furrowed, he motioned with his hand at a calendar. “More bad news…”
  Bad news heaped on bad news?  Can anything else go wrong?
  “You’ve got competition.”


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