I came home home a couple weeks ago to a children’s birthday party underway in the paved-over back yard of my building. I’d seen a sign on the door a few weeks before about some sort of block party and made sure to be away most of the day, but the street was open and there was no more than the usual noise from the idiot neighbors from across the way.

Daniel and Cindy, who live on the first floor, offered me a piece of chocolate cake before I could make my way upstairs. While I waited for Cindy to cut me piece, Daniel started asking me about my artwork. I’ve never said more than a few words to the guy. He always seemed like a meathead. Also, he hangs out with the cretins from the inbred rabbit warren across the way. They have lawn chairs on the sidewalk and are out there day and night, drinking and screaming at each other. One time I was awakened by a screaming match between Daniel and a couple cops at 5am, right under my window. I steer clear of him and his crowd as a matter of course.

But that night I couldn’t just nod and keep moving as usual; I’d accepted that piece of cake, so I had to make nice and talk to the guy. Before I knew it, he beckoned me into his living room to show me a budget-motel-grade painting of a Parisian cafĂ©. He wanted to know if I could make him a sketch of the Eiffel Tower. Then, to my amazement I replied that I would. For $100. The amount gave him pause, but then he agreed. Just make sure and sign it, he insisted. “That way I know it’s real. So when you get famous, it’ll be worth money,” he said, with a goofy grin on his face. Just then, Cindy came back with my cake and I said goodbye and went upstairs.

The next day I knocked out the Eiffel Tower picture, popped it in a frame, and left it by Daniel’s door. A few days later, an envelope with a hundred dollar bill was left under my door, with a note from Daniel and Cindy, saying they loved the painting.

All those years of never turning down chocolate cake (or dessert of any kind, for that matter) finally paid off.