The only person who didn’t love the bakery was whoever was doing the laundry. Never ending greasy thumb prints at the cuffs of shirts, flakey bits of buttery baklava pinched at the legs of pants of someone who was too lazy to get a napkin, and globs of cream that had burst out of pastries, that then anchored into chunky knit wool sweaters. This stuff was gross.
Residue from the bakery’s pastries reacted unusually to stain remover, fighting back and permeating deeper into cotton, silk, and rayon mixes. One dry cleaner in the town recently added a hand-written sign to their window that said “WE’LL TRY OUR HARDEST TO FIGHT BAKERY STAINS”.
It was the grease. I wondered what kind of butter was at play here. I once read that American butter contains 80 percent fat, but French butter is 82 percent fat. Maybe it was something like that. I rubbed the grease between my fingers and it looked a little off, like the rainbows of an oil spill. Sometimes it felt wrong to look at for too long. Whatever it was, the town was addicted.
I sat and read at the bakery most days. The pages of my books were all a little stained from croissanty fingers. The fat and sugar clung to my body. When my hair hit my pillow at night it smelled like Coney Island zeppoles, or maybe sugar plum fairies. I convinced myself it was the latter even though it made me gag a little.
The employees loved the owner of the bakery. She looked like a baguette actually. Waifish, pale, in need of some more butter. It was that Radziwill face -- tight. The bakery was rapidly growing. More employees, extensions to the building, cases getting fuller and fuller but emptying at a faster rate every day. The tip jar turned into a tip bucket. I was proud to be an original customer.
I watched as summer strawberries were plopped into whipped cream for shortcakes. Apples were doused in sugar for autumn tarte tatin. Croquembouche centerpieces were assembled for Christmas, shining with crystallized sugar ribbons.
Aside from the butter-zombie customers growing fatter and duller and the raving reviews about the business, there was something even more consistent about this place. It was the owner. This bitch was always on the phone with her husband! The consistency of batter and precision of lattice on top of pies didn’t concern her. The product quality couldn’t be better. What she was worried about was logistics, and what I was worried about was what part her husband was playing in those.
Listen, I know you’re wondering why I’m calling you at 6 in the morning to tell you all of this but I’m getting to the point. I have a flight this morning, and I wanted a croissant from the bakery for the flight. Airport croissants taste like props. I mean, really! Have you ever eaten something that tasted more like a prop than an airport croissant? So I got there early, the girls setting up shop gave me a few before they opened up. The owner and her husband were carrying medically labeled buckets from his truck into the back door of the bakery.
I eavesdropped from my car as they kissed goodbye and I watched him drive away. But listen! He’s a plastic surgeon, and on Thursdays the bakery uses liposuctioned thigh fat in the pastries. On Fridays they use belly fat. I couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the croissant. I threw it out the window, and then I puked in the bag. Anyway, I’m about to go through TSA but I’ll see you when I land.
Merry Christmas! I’ve had this one written for a while, and hope I can make something a little bigger out of it.