Mr Scorsese, can I call you Marty? I’m your biggest fan. Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker, but I must tell you something, then I’ll run, and you’ll never see me again. I’ve watched all your films. You make violence sing, show love is treacherous, turn words into bullets, and stun the audience with these really, really long shots that go on and on and on, even when everyone wants them to stop, because you love cinema, and take cinema to places it’s never been. I always say: you take movies to the movies. You like that one? I thought you would. Don’t leave, please, I have to tell you a story about redemption. It’s my story. You must listen.
A couple of years ago, I got fired from my job in finance, cashed in my severance pay and invested in my dream: a donut shop, where every variety is named after your films. Raging Bull is a fat Berliner packed with raspberry jelly. When you bite the dough, the filling squirts in your face, and it looks like you got punched in the jaw. Taxi Driver is dipped in lemon icing, The Irishman is filled with Bailey’s, and The Color of Money are balls of spots and stripes numbered one to eight. It’s like eating your movies. That’s what my customers tell me. Would you like to eat your movies, Marty? Would you? No? Forget I asked that.
I was foxed by two titles, because they’re similar: Gangs of New York and New York, New York. I went for the second, and deep-fried the taste of your home, Queens, and your alma mater, NYU. It had to be cheesecake. I patented the original New York, New York cheesecake donut, powdered in black and white sugar. Why black and white? Dust and ice. The bipolar seasons of that vile city. Marty, I made this for you.
A bunch of your films don’t work as donuts. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is too long, Shutter Island too weird and Silence too sad. Here’s where I say sorry, because it’s about the movie that finally won you an Oscar. I put dark chocolate balls on display, labeled with ‘The Departed’. They looked like fat bullet holes, or shadows of donuts, or donut graves. The customers were scared, man. One asked if they had expired. Another claimed they’d infect the rest of the stock. I didn’t sell a single one. The Departed may be a badass movie, but it’s a toxic name for a donut.
One title gave me the greatest challenge of my baking career. I had to find the perfect topping, filling or sprinkles for The Last Temptation of Christ. What was my process? I saw Jesus hanging from the cross, his scalp bleeding, and nails skewering his palms and feet. As he fantasized about the pleasures of the flesh, in the foreground of his mind, I pictured a donut.
It needed to be an evil donut. A donut your Mom wouldn’t let you buy. A porno-donut. A donut that traumatized you. It had to be a donut that threatened the foundations of a religion with billions of worshipers. I packed it with all the bad foods: chocolate, jalapeño, vodka, tobacco, coffee, bacon, marshmallow, peanut butter, fruit loops, and M&Ms. It was like biting sin.
There’s a twist. I watched your movie again to see whether my creation echoed the soul of the story, and I was totally wrong. Your Jesus wasn’t a mad pervert. All he wanted was to lead a normal life as a carpenter, and have a nice girlfriend. I needed a new approach.
Now customers browse my display, and say: give me two Berthas, half a dozen Goodfellas, and a Big Shave. They point at a limp, sugar-frosted ring in the corner, with a signpost in its hole, and ask: The Last Temptation of Christ, what’s that?
I say: when we reach the end of our life, we ask ourselves: What choices could have changed my fate? Could I have been a better person to my parents, friends and kids? Could I have been gentler, more forgiving and… and… what donut could I have eaten? And this is the one. This is that donut.
Yes, asks the customer, but what’s it made from?
I’ll never tell, I say.
This intrigues them. They take at least one. Sometimes they buy a box. They come back for more. It’s my bestseller. They dunk it in their coffee and cram it down their throats, but they don’t want to know what it is. Revelation is too frightening for them.
I won’t tell anyone the ingredients. Not even you. Even if The Last Temptation of Christ contains nothing more than flour, milk, sugar, eggs and butter. Even if it’s nothing but the donut stripped bare. Marty, you’re a smart guy, and I know what you’re thinking: could I be giving my customers exactly what they want, and cheating them at the same time?
I can’t say, man. A donut designer never reveals his secrets.
Michael Bird (he/him) is a writer and journalist, with fiction recently published in Porter House Review, Panel Magazine, and Daily Drunk Mag (‘Fry Girl 4Eva’ in the Hello Can I Help You Anthology). As a journalist, he’s investigated organized crime, stray dogs, vampire-hunters, killer home-made drugs, war and organic farming.