You all know the story: the arrogant Gingerbread Man was, supposedly, devoured by the clever fox. But that’s not at all how it happened. Sit tight and contemplate the possibilities.
Once upon a time, an old woman made a gingerbread cookie for her husband, and she shaped him like a man. She baked him, and once he came out of the oven, she piped sugar frosting on him while he was cooling. This gingerbread man was the very picture of confectionary perfection: yellow hair. Eyes, nose and lips in all the right colors. A long-sleeve shirt and jeans, with a zipper made out a squiggly line of frosting. Buttons made of raisins – and he smelled 0f cinnamon and orange zest and clove. Most of all, he had red frosting cowboy boots, and those were the beginning of the old woman’s troubles.
Y’see, when she put the cookie sheet on the window sill the cool it out all the way and to keep the sugar frosting from spreading due to all the retained heat (and that’s what you never do, so be patient when you frost your own cookies,) the red cowboy boots made the gingerbread man into a Gingerbread Man. He jumped right up! He tapped the heels and the toes of his boots on the cookie sheet. The old woman turned around at the sound.
“Get back down,” she said. “You still need to cool.” But she knew she was in trouble. And sure enough, the Gingerbread Man started his irritating back-talk.
“Nuh-huh! You can’t get me, I’m the Gingerbread man!” He jumped off the windowsill and ran down the lane. The old man had been raking leaves outside, trying to get the yard all clean to keep the Neighborhood Association off his back due to what he called “biodiversity issues” and they called “leaves and weeds.” The scent of baking gingerbread had kept him going for the last two hours and he’d been looking forward to sinking his teeth into it, with a cup of coffee on the side.
But no. He saw that Gingerbread Man flash right by him, red frosting boots, raising buttons, and everything!
“Hey, get back here! You look good enough to eat!” yelled the old man. He tripped over his rake and the Gingerbread Man used this opportunity to turn around and snark right back.
“Run run run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man! I ran away from the old woman, and I’ll run away from you, too!” And before the old man could untangle his feet, he turned around and sprinted out of the cul-de-sac and toward the gate of their senior living community. There he ran into a dog.
The dog barked and pulled at the leash, and the Gingerbread Man delivered his tasteless taunts to both the beagle and his short-sighted human. Then he disappeared down the street. He figured he’d run on for quite a while, enjoying his red frosting boots, but a bushy-tailed squirrel scampered right down a trunk of a tree. At first she twitched her nose and tail and gave one of those territorial warning noises that squirrels do, but then her nose twitched in an entirely different way.
“You smell good enough to eat!” The squirrel said, and she pounced on the Gingerbread Man. The words were familiar Forewarned, he jumped to the side, off the curb, and ran across a busy street. The squirrel didn’t follow him, so she wasn’t subject to his obnoxious victory dance, nor the enumeration of his vanquished enemies. She went on to raid the nearby bird feeder, while the Gingerbread Man ran down a street that was getting busier and busier. There were big people, little people, cigarette butts the size of his feet, cups that smelled unpleasantly of coffee and had reminded him of the Old Man’s intentions.
The street was too busy a place for a Gingerbread Man. He ducked into an alley.
“Wow, a Gingerbread Man!”
He twisted his little gingerbread neck and saw a… gingerbread girl! She was about his size. She had long hair piped in red frosting, and frosting eyes and nose and mouth, and she was cut out to wear a short frilly skirt over her long, long gingerbread legs. The ruffles on her clothes were all royal icing swirls dotted with silver drages and looked just like lace. The molasses-brown of her skin wasn’t crusty and dry like his own. Oh no, the Gingerbread Girl looked soft. Almost… chewy.
He realized he was just standing there, looking at her as though she was the one good enough to eat. His victory dance fizzled and his patter of snarky victories just wouldn’t come out of his red frosting mouth as he watched her saunter closer and closer.
“Just look at you,” she said, batting her spun sugar eyelashes. “You look good enough to eat, Gingerbread Man!” She placed her soft hand on his arm, and tugged. “Come out of the cold, why don’t you?”
And that was the end of the Gingerbread Man and his running. He got domesticated, civilized, and learned to kick his fancy red cowboy boots off before coming inside the house. They had sheet-fulls of gingerbread kids, and had sent them to the kind elderly baker just up the street. The baker was a wise woman, and she’d promised to place each child in a good home so they didn’t have to worry.
Now you know where bakery gingerbread men come from. As for me, I’d rather bake my own, thank you very much. And I’ll never pipe boots or good-enough clothing on them, lest they come alive and terrorize the neighborhood squirrels.