The Beacon Scouts get together to bake cupcakes. Surely nothing can go wrong.
The day was surprisingly chilly for relatively early fall. This wasn't much of a worry to the Beacon Scouts this particular Friday afternoon though. They were safely inside the local middle school. The hallways were painted with the school colors of black and white. There were posters everywhere that said things like "Go Griffons!" or "Remember to Eat Healthy." The fluorescent lights glowed above the round, wooden tables at which the Beacon Scouts sat. Along the edges of the room were various stoves and counter tops with cabinets over them. All along the wall were more posters which boasted of the good home economics can do for a student and various safety warnings.
Felix, Ruth, and Zuri were sitting around one table; they talked as they waited for the meeting to start. Each was very relaxed, basking the fact it was Friday and that a meeting was about to start. Felix was playing with a nice large stick he had found.
"So that lady you're always with," said Felix very carefully, as if he was trying to figure something out, "She's your sister, right?"
"Yep," replied Zuri with her usual cheer. "Is that weird?"
"Well she's white and you're...not," Felix pointed out. "You're black."
"Ha! Shows what you know!" Zuri crossed her arms and said imperiously, "I'm only half black. I'm also half Latina."
"Yeah, but that doesn't answer the question," Ruth pointed out.
"Well, I'm adopted, duh." said Zuri. This caused Felix and Ruth to go "Oooooh" in unison and nod their heads a lot.
"What are you three talking about?" demanded Scout Leader Steward from the front of the room. He was wearing his aviator sunglasses, even indoors. The three looked away from each other and towards him, and noticed that the rest of the room had stopped talking so they could start the meeting. Most of the other Beacon Scouts were looking back at the group of three.
"Race stuff mostly," replied Zuri casually.
"Why are you talking about race?"
"I can see why," said Scout Assistant Jana. "We are a very diverse group despite our town's demographics."
Scout Leader Steward did a quick scan of the assembled scouts and then remarked, "Huh, I guess you're right. But then Rhodes is more diverse than most towns around here."
Jorge pushed back his chair and stood up. "Woo! We're number one! We're Number one!"
Steward quickly held up his hand for silence before a chant could get going. "By that I mean we're about ninety percent white, as opposed to ninety-six percent white."
There was silence as Jorge slowly sat back down in his chair. But then Dominic stood up and chanted, "We're still number one! We're still number one!" This time before Steward could do anything all the Beacon Scouts started chanting too.
"We're still number one! We're still number one!"
"Alright, ALRIGHT!" yelled Scout Leader Steward. The Beacon Scout settled down. Steward took a deep, calming breath and then said, "Let's start the meeting. Dominic, if you please..."
Dominic took a bugle out of his beat-up bag. He began to play Reveille on it as the scouts stood respectfully. They then turned and faced the flag and said the pledge of allegiance.
"Now that the formalities are out of the way, Scout Assistant Jana will be leading this meeting."
He stepped back and let Jana have the attention. She was bubbly and smiling. This was her first time leading a meeting and she intended to prove herself here. She wasn't worried. The kids may have been a handful, but they were well meaning and the task was simple.
"Hello everyone," she said in a cheery tone. "Who's ready for some fun?" There were various grunts and unenthusiastic mumbles from the assembled scouts. Undeterred, Jana pressed on. "Today we're going to be making cupcakes!" Sweets being mentioned caused the Beacon Scouts to perk up.
"Oh, I love cupcakes," remarked Lola from her table near the front.
"That's good," said Jana, "and this will help you all on your way to your cooking badges. First you need to pair up into groups of three."
Ruth, Zuri, and Felix all immediately moved closer together. Coby and Addie did the same. Theo and Jorge glanced around before doing the same. Lola shrugged and moved over to Theo and Jorge. That left Dominic, who joined Addie and Coby over at their table.
"Now the first step is to line the muffin trays with the paper," said Jana as she passed out the trays and paper. Meanwhile Scout Leader Steward was pre-heating the ovens.
Over with Coby, Addie, and Dominic, the girls were staring intently at the boy. "Do you even know anything about baking?" asked Addie.
"What, just because I'm a boy it means I don't know stuff about baking?" replied Dominic, folding his arms defensively.
"No, it's more that you lack any sort of finesse, and tend to use brute force to solve your problems rather than relying on delicacy or steadiness, which is needed for baking," said Coby matter-of-factly.
Dominic stared at her open-mouthed for a moment before saying, "Well good point, I think, but I do know a lot about baking. You'll see."
Meanwhile Lola, Jorge, and Theo were talking among themselves.
"So do you think life is like a set path, or just a buncha' stuff happening," asked Jorge wistfully.
Theo looked up from the book he was buried in. "What?"
"Well," said Lola, "I think there are a lot of views on that. But one must consider, does it truly matter if some events are predetermined?"
"What is happening right now?" asked Theo.
Once the Beacon Scouts had their trays ready the two adults brought over the ingredients. "Now it's very important to follow the recipe exactly," explained Jana. She walked over to the whiteboard and wrote the recipe down. "Now I've already creamed the butter and sugar for you and Scout leader Steward is passing that around." Steward was going about his business with military efficiency. "Now that you have the base, the first thing you do is take your eggs, and gently crack them on the side of your mixing bowl and then whisk."
The Beacon Scouts followed this direction with mixed results. It took a couple of taps, but Lola got both eggs open with little fuss. Dominic was surprisingly gentle, and managed to open the eggs perfectly. Ruth was not not gentle.
"Euch," groaned Ruth as the contents of the egg dripped all over her hand. Zuri ineffectively tried to mop up the mess with paper towels.
"Ruth, go wash off in the sink," ordered Steward. "Zuri, you need to get wet paper towels. Felix, finish the eggs." As the girls cleaned up Felix very carefully cracked the other egg. Jana handed him a spare egg and he cracked that one too.
Around the room the Beacon Scouts began to whisk the contents of the bowl, Felix significantly more clumsily than the others.
"Remember to be careful everyone," said Jana as she returned to the front of the room. "Now the next step is to add the flour."
Over with Dominic, Addie, and Coby, the three of them were huddled close to the table.
"Cup," said Dominic with the tone most doctors used during a surgery. Addie handed it over. "Flour." Coby carefully poured the flour into the cup. "Now we carefully apply it," Dominic said as he gently poured the flour into the mixing bowl.
Lola, Theo, and Jorge in the meanwhile weren't adding the flour. Jana wandered over to see what the matter was.
"So you're saying that the universe it just a random bunch of events," said Jorge.
"Well some events are random," explained Theo. "Others are predetermined."
"Uh, what are you doing?" asked Jana.
"We're exploring the question about the nature of our reality," explained Lola. "For instance, what if things are predetermined?"
Jana stood silently for a moment, staring at the kids in front of her. Finally she said, "You know that's pretty deep for some kids."
"Please," said Theo. "We're very smart kids." Suddenly there was a cry of alarm from behind them. They all turned to see Zuri's head covered in flour as she stood frozen in shock. After a moment Ruth and Felix both covered their mouths to keep from laughing while Zuri folded her arms and pouted.
Jana rushed over and said, "Alright, Zuri, come with me to get cleaned up, Ruth and Felix, clean this up please." Jana hurried Zuri out of the room and into the bathroom next door while Ruth and Felix scrambled to make the area...if not clean, then less dirty.
Jana returned shortly with a cleaner Zuri, who was trying to shake some more flour out of her wet hair. Felix and Ruth had successfully poured the flour in during the meantime.
Jana returned to the board, looking much more hassled than when the meeting started. "Finally, just scoop out a little bit at a time into the spaces for the cupcakes."
The groups went about following Jana's instructions. Dominic, Addie, and Coby were done very quickly and the results looked very good.
"Told you I was good at this," said Dominic, his face beaming with pride.
"Yeah," admitted Addie, "and now we get good cupcakes!"
"Yay!" exclaimed Coby. She and Addie both hugged Dominic tightly around the middle.
Dominic squirmed and said, "I'm not comfortable with this."
Lola, Theo, and Jorge also managed to get everything done quickly. "And then you have to factor religion in," said Theo to Jorge.
As the metaphysical conversation continued Felix, Ruth, and Zuri were, unsurprisingly, having trouble.
"You've got to use more...you know!" said Zuri to Felix as he tried with all his might to make large scoops.
"I'm trying!" he retorted.
"Let me try," suggested Ruth. "It's not eggs, so I should be fine, right?"
Meanwhile the other groups were putting their trays into the ovens. "I can't wait for the cupcakes," said Jorge, practically bouncing with joy. "Philo-philosp-Thinking about big things makes me hungry!"
"Hurry up!" said Zuri, rocking back and forth with worry as Ruth scooped the last of the ingredients in.
"Done," said Ruth, her relief obvious. Felix grabbed the tray and fumbled a bit. He managed to grab the tray again, but this time picked up his stick as well. He ran over to an oven where Jana was and inserted the tray and stick inside. Jana didn't notice the stick, and closed the door.
Zuri noticed the stick was missing, however. "Uh, should we be worried?"
"It would have to be pretty dry to catch fire," replied Ruth.
As if to answer her the oven suddenly started smoking. Jana walked over and then was hit in the face with a ton of smoke. She opened the oven door to investigate. "Fire!"
Right on cue the fire alarm went off as Scout Leader Steward rushed to the nearest fire extinguisher. The Beacon Scouts screamed...
A short while later the Beacon Scouts were outside the middle school on the soccer field that separated it from the elementary school. There were some middle school students and faculty milling about that had been there for after-school programs. In front of the school was a fire truck. Scout Leader Steward was talking to a firefighter.
Over with the Beacon Scouts there was a general air of defeat. Ruth was sitting on the grass with Zuri in her arms. Zuri was sniffling, trying to keep from crying. Ruth tightened her grip on Zuri and did her best to comfort her friend through cuddling. Felix stared off into the middle distance. The rest of the Beacon Scouts just sort of milled around. Scout Assistant Jana also shared the sense of defeat. Her first lesson had resulted in a fire.
Steward had just finished talking to the firefighter and was making his way back to the scouts when Felix walked up to him.
"Uh, Scout Leader Steward," he began, fidgeting awkwardly, "I'm really sorry we set the school on fire." He started to tear up but continued, "We just wanted to-"
Steward cut him off by gently laying a hand on his shoulder. He took his sunglasses off and said, "It's alright, accidents happen and no one was hurt." He guided Felix back to the group and addressed them. "So, sometimes bad things happen. Mistakes are made. But we can learn from our mistakes and be glad that no one was hurt."
"Yeah, and we survived a fire," added Addie. "That's pretty cool!"
"It wasn't that big a fire," clarified Steward. "Really, it barely counts."
"I think it still counts," said Coby.
"Anyway," said Steward, "I think we should all thank Scout Assistant Jana for her hard work." There was a chorus of thank yous from the scouts. "And you'll go down in history as the first group to start a fire in the school kitchen."
Jorge and Dominic grinned and glanced at one another. Then together they began to chant, "We're number one! We're number one!" The rest of the Beacon Scouts joined in as the confused students, staff, and firefighters looked on.
"I'm going to order pizza," announced Jana as she took out her notebook. "I think Hammurabi's is still open. Give me your orders and I'll go and get them." The Beacon Scouts crowded around her to give their orders. All except Ruth and a much happier Zuri, who were still cuddling in the grass.
Scout Leader Steward turned back to look at the school. "And I get stuck with the job of calling everyone's parents. This ought be fun."
And so later that day the Beacon Scouts enjoyed their pizza as their parents came to pick them up. A school kitchen had been set ablaze, but this overall it was considered a successful meeting.