A Little Company and a Little Cake

He's a small thing, bashful when I first met him.  He's a smoke ring of huffs and puffs, circling my feet and licking my calves when I get out of the shower.  Fearless, he kisses me before bed.  His tongue curls up and his tail curls to the left.

I found a dog this weekend, in the trashcan by a Bud Light, his nose rooting through some cardboard.  He was whining, a whine I heard before.  A desperate wheeze that, if I weren't so lonely myself and recognized that same desperation for a connection, could have gone unanswered.  There's no reason to wax poetically on the ethics of abandoning a dog so violently, because he is mine now.  A pug mix, salt and peppered, I named him Milo.

I call him monkey.  He's slept on my chest the last two nights and sometimes his usual pant slows down to my breath.  He falls asleep and wakes up on my chest.  Maybe I don't toss and turn so much with him around.  I used to sleep with a Bible when I was scared shitless of being so alone.  A clover tucked in my sock would have had about the same efficacy.

Milo.  Milo is in this interim period of my life, the in-between.  The unknown.  The unknowable shifting of my tectonic personalities and desires.  I bought so many hollow things from Ikea, from second-hand stores and off of Craigslist.  I didn't want permanency to this place, my little apartment in Texas.  I wanted to be able to drop it all and leave, burn it if I had to.  Use the dumpster behind a 7-Eleven and drive fast if I had to.  Now I'm looking for a dog sitter who can take this small thing in while I'm in California next week.  Now I'm waking up an hour early and walking him in small athletic shorts that belonged to my sister and a cardigan two sizes too big.

Milo.  His permanency is in question, but his presence is appreciated.  Even the small scratches on the door while I'm taking a bath, the heavy snores when I wake up from a bad dream, the loose puppy tooth that I find bloody on the white sheets--they're all signs of the beautiful. living world that I've shut myself away from for more months (years?) than I care to remember.

And in any time of celebration, between emails and cups of coffee, I baked.  I revisited an old favorite, Heidi from Apples Under My Bed's One Bowl Chocolate Cake.  I spiked the frosting with orange blossom water, I topped it with small flowers I found growing on a branch during a walk this morning.  This cake, the orange-scented water, the flowers--they're all signed of the beautiful, living world I never knew I missed until now.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Blossom Royal Icing

For the cupcakes: Use the link above for the ingredients.  Add 2 teaspoons of almond extract, substitute the milk for buttermilk, and add a 1/2 tablespoon of instant espresso powder.  Grease or line a cupcake pan.  Bake at directed temperature for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

For the icing:


  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar 
  • zest of half an orange


  1. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until peaks begin to form.
  2. Add vanilla and orange water
  3. When peaks begin to stiffen, gradually add sugar in parts and turn mixer to higher speed
  4. Continue to add sugar (more than directions may call for, if need be, for desired consistency) until thick and holds on a spoon
  5. Add zest and beat until combined
  6. Pipe onto cupcakes and decorate with flowers, if desired.  Icing will continue to harden and hold shape after decorating