The Baker’s Tale
Mark L. Anderson | Alex Russell
He was slowly steering a tall cart of pastries on their way to the glass showcase in the front of the bakery when he saw her after so many years. He was overcome with a sort of panic. God, what if she recognized him?
Sweating, something he did frequently, he stopped. Was it nerves? Morbid obesity? A combination of both? All he knew was that the pastry cart wasn’t tall or wide enough to shield him from her view as she waited nonchalantly, browsing the baked items.
Cringing behind the aluminum cart, he recalled how they’d once loved and shared and just how lovely she was — her smile, especially — and never an unkind word toward anyone — especially to him!
Life had been good, dreaming young dreams and promising young promises. He, the debonaire and handsome guy in her life, had dropped out of college to pursue his love of painting. But a severe lack of confidence in his own efforts had been the great barrier.
The manager was busily serving customers and would soon spot him in the middle of the place, like a stranded shipwreck victim, clinging desperately to the last bit of flotsam. He had to do something.
He’d tried like hell to be the person she’d first thought him to be — the one she’d fallen in love with one rainy summer weekend at an old cottage in Michigan, where he’d gone to paint rustic scenes in watercolors.
She’d loved his first creation at once, even wanted to buy it from him. But he didn’t feel it was very good at all.
Trying to hide now, sweat stinging his eyes, he mentally kicked himself. If she hadn’t been so nice to me and hooked me right off, I wouldn’t be in this mess right now.
He glanced her way again and saw that she was blithely scoping out the peach coffee cake, another of his creations he’d finished baking less than an hour before. Great! Worse, he still didn’t know how to proceed without causing an obvious scene. He’d been hiding behind his cart much too long, and he had to get the baked goods to the front as the bakery was filling with hungry, early-morning customers.
Having no other option, he heaved himself up from his bent over posture and felt his heart nearly jump out of his thick chest. The exertion was killing him, he knew, but he had to move forward, unload the baked items onto the empty shelves, and get back to his baking.
If only she’d pick something and leave! He knew that wouldn’t happen before it was too late. Karma is about to rear its ugly head. He sighed, resigned to his fate, and resumed his cart-pushing directly toward where she was standing, his heart hammering wildly. A 350-pound person isn’t designed for this sort of thing!
Just then, her number was called and she pleasantly asked for two cherry-filled crescent rolls. A quick exchange of money for the white bakery bag the manager handed across the showcase, and she smiled that smile. He saw this and felt like running to her (as if he could!) and taking her in his arms again.
But he didn’t. He watched her step out onto the busy sidewalk, carrying her white bag of crescent rolls, and disappearing from his life all over again.
He then remembered what she’d told a friend once who wondered what she saw in him: “Not much, but he can change.”
But he hadn’t.