Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
developed a Saturday morning habit of stopping by the bakery on my
way home from my run. The Three Boatman Bakery, despite its odd
name, was not owned by a retired sailor. I never did hear the
story behind the name. Anyway, I'd pick up a couple of hot
cross buns and by the time I got home with them, Alma would have made
tea. We couldn't afford a house with a garden, but we had some
potted plants in front of a big living-room window, and we'd have
breakfast there. One Saturday when I got to TB2 it was closed.
It looked like Harold Baker had not even been in that
is very good tea by the way.”
Alma handed me a napkin.
chin. Well, I have a few things for you to do, but why don't
you check on Mr. Baker first. You won't be able to concentrate
on anything else till you've done that.”
lived alone, but I solicited the help of a neighbor and I jimmied the
back door. The house was empty. He had no pets. We
checked his house plants. None of them needed water, which
meant nothing, because we already knew he had been gone less than 24
saw no signs of a struggle. I went back to the shop, and talked
to some of the other shopkeepers in the vicinity. The boot
maker next door said he had seen Harold leaving the bakery the
previous evening. He did not stop hammering shoes together.
he seem okay?” I asked.
bells hanging from the door of the butcher shop jingled pleasantly as
I pushed my way in. The air was redolent with the smell of
spiced sausage. Behind the counter a stout man wiped his hands
on an apron that had seen better days.
reason you know of why he might have gone away suddenly?"
well, we had some good times when we were younger, even sailed
together for a while, but we haven't really had much contact
lately. I couldn't tell you if he has a girlfriend or a house in the
country, or anything like that."
meat chopper had no clue. I struck out on the other side as
well. The candle seller wasn't in. On the door of his shop was a
sign saying he would return in a few minutes. I waited around
for about an hour, but he didn't show.
he was taken out by a rival."
hadn't heard anything about this. What was wrong with the old
"I did not know there was killing-level competition for a job where the last person
hold it was summarily executed by his employer. So who fancies
himself a good baker, but might think HB is better?"
this time she was trembling and it was hard to understand her
candlestick maker. I went by his shop today. It's not a
coincidence when two businessmen who knew each other well and who
owned adjacent shops disappear in the same night."
struggled to her feet and hefted her purse, passing it from one hand
to the other.
She took a deep breath and let it out.
angry at myself and my husband about this, that's all. Something
was bothering him--Some person. Someone who was there almost
all the time, but he said he wasn't ready to accuse anybody, and I
respected that. He never told me who was bothering him or
exactly what that person was doing."
"That's okay, I'll see what I can find out."
showed her out politely and shut the door. I didn't know
whether she was still hiding something or she really didn't know
cold icy feeling started to spread through my midsection, beginning
with the spot just above my navel where she had her pistol pointed.
raised my arms slowly.
just can't keep away from his cream puffs or the éclairs.
Definitely, the cream puffs and the éclairs are the best in the
city. And the doughnut holes--There's just something about
She scowled and shifted her weight, but not enough.
he got there just as I was hustling the baker into my van. I had
to take him too. It's not like anybody would miss that
baker. Other people don't appreciate him like I do."
"That's just not right," I said.
"I miss him! I've never had hot cross buns half as good as the ones he makes every morning. I've been buying them every week for a year. Alma feels the same way. You haven't seen me there because you don't get up as early on Saturday morning as I do. So I can't just walk away from this. No one's paying me to find Harold Baker."
was true, but I was being paid to find the candlestick maker.
Baker was just lagniappe. And now she was going to shoot
"You care?" I nodded.
"I thought I was the only one. I thought no one would mind if I kept him for myself. This changes everything. I can't deprive fans of sweet pastry. If I did that, how could I look at myself in the mirror in the morning?"
was already wondering that, but decided to say nothing about it.
She went on for a while in the same vein, and then walked over to an
interior wall and used a key to open a door in the middle of the
wall. She started to step in, but turned with a hand on the
doorknob. "They are locked in the back, Deadbolt,"
she said. "You'll be able to get them out." With that
she closed the door quickly and I heard her footsteps retreating
beyond the wall. I ran to the door, but it was locked. By the
time I broke through to the other half of the warehouse, which was
almost completely filled with junked equipment, and out the door on
the other side, she was gone.
‘Hot Cross Buns’ previously appeared in Nursery Rhyme Noir, Sam's Dot Publishing, 2008
David Kopaska-Merkel describes rocks (and the holes in them) for the State of Alabama. He has been a C6/C7 quadriplegic since a 2003 car accident. Kopaska-Merkel has written and sold ~1000 poems, stories, etc. He won the Rhysling award (2006) for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. Kopaska-Merkel edits Dreams and Nightmares magazine. You can contact him at the Dreams and Nightmare website: http://dreamsandnightmares.interstellardustmites.com.
The Flash fiction website: www.dailycabal.com.
You can read about his new book at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/42875