I walk down three flights of steps, through the parking garage, out the heavy door and into the alley. The heartfelt sun sings and I take off my hoodie. Today is a jeans day. Everyday is a ponytail and socks day at the bakery, but jeans or yoga pants is the decision that starts off my morning. My red and white runners now pad through powdery dirt mounds in a lot strewn with abandoned excavators and bobcats. It’s not the two seconds I shave off my trek that begs me to walk through the lot instead of around it; it’s the clouding of silty earth as I step; it’s the dodging of machinery; it’s the invitation to throw down my morning banana peel; it’s the interest factor.
One block to the old motel, and kitty-corner to that is my place of employment. I walk through the door with a couple minutes to blink and coffee up. The light cheerily lunges through the windex smears on the bakery case. Kasey and Tina say good morning. Bucky is filling up the hot case.
Vienna. Portugese. Italian. Winnipeg rye. I put up the bun signs with scotch tape and stack the salads in the cooler. I flip the sandwich station. I unwrap the desserts. I do what I’m told. It’s not cuisine-science here; the instructions are something like, “Place these dough balls three by three on this cookie sheet,” or, “cut these buns into one inch segments.” Tell me to follow a recipe or use my own ingenuity to organize the beverage stacks and that would really glaze my doughnuts—if you know what I mean. I slice bread.
“I’ll take four Nanaimo bars, two date squares—what squares are your most popular here?”
“I’d say we sell a lot of the brownies, coconut brownies and butter tarts.”
“How are the lemon streusels?”
“They’re really good. Tried one last night.”
“How about two brownies and two lemon… the butter tarts are popular you say?”
“Two brownies and two butter tarts; cut in half, please.”
I cut and box. The lady has lovely lines around her eyes. “I hope you enjoy the occasion you are buying these goodies for,” I say.
“Oh, well…” her eyes look down, “they’re for a funeral. My friend’s husband died in a motorcycle accident. She wanted me to help her with some baked goods…” every precious line in her face looks deeper. I am slicing bread and she is sloshing thigh high through grief. Both our eyes water and well for a second. A husband. I hug my sweet husband tight and close in my mind in this very present moment.
“I’m so sorry,” I say, and watch her walk out the bakery door. I resolve to pack each square, cookie and bear claw more lovingly today.