THE BAKER

The cookies kept coming. The cookies and brownies, fudges and tarts and pies. In sheets and stacks, they kept coming.

Just the full moon prior, the wish imp had cautioned with a waggle of its crooked index finger, “Wishes are made of words which makes them as hard as wood.”

The baker didn’t pause to heed the warning. Forgive him. Too long had his ledgers been filled with red. Months of hollowness. A hollow shop with nary a soul to cast a shadow there, save for his slender frame like a bar of soap under a trickle of warm water, growing smaller with each passing day.

“But, even so,” the wish imp added, “wishes like wood uncared for will in time dry and rot.” It giggled then and with one of its long amber talons made an arc upon the shop’s still air. “Such are words,” it said. “Such are wishes.”

His undoing success had begun in the dull dark hours, where and when the baker found himself vexed and far from sleep. Words, the baker considered. What wrong words had summoned this hoary thing? The baker couldn’t coax the answer from his troubled recollections. What pounding of fists and curses railed against Heaven produced this quasit, stepped out from my oven? The baker had no recipe to produce an answer. Not even one ingredient. Only his aching head suffering to settle the now empty belly previously swollen with last night’s brandy.

“Oh, and perhaps an appetizer strawberry from the window treats,” something with a voice of coal whispered from the dark to startle the poor hungry baker all the more. “But even then, tart or sweet,” it added with a giggle, “only a bite or four.”

It had been a few weeks before when the hour was late and rightly dark that the baker twisted and fought his sweaty sheets. His wife, Beatrice, buried three winters gone by, was not there to soothe his troubled dreams. The dreams of her.

Tucking damp sheets about him, the baker battled his fevered dream. And then the imp. A warning. A wish. Bring her back to me.

In his waking there was no piecing it together. Fuzzy minded and fumbling, the baker made his way downstairs where the dream, unfortunately, in part, proved true. Cookies and treats and sweets, key lime and raspberry drizzle, cakes and eclairs, an endless deluge of caramels and chocolate, oh so much chocolate, all were piled and falling about as more just kept coming. From the thin air the counters were spilling over. Cupboards bulged tight and soon couldn’t be closed. The floor a maze, a labyrinth of muffins, pastries, and always cookies. So many cookies.

But best of all, at least at first, far greater than anything he could have wanted or, dare say, wished for, his beloved wife, Beatrice. There she stood behind the counter.

And that was how the crowd grew. So many hungry and here were treats spilling over from every counter. All smiling and pleased to greet Beatrice as she tied their pastry parcels with red and white twine. Some days it was hard to close the till, so stuffed it’d become.

All the while, the baker did not bake. Beatrice was not his wife. She was only there. And still she smiled. Still the shelves flowed over with treats. The line of customers never-ending.

In the end, the baker could not eat. Not an appetizer, not a treat, neither a folded bit of spinach nor a slice of veal. He wasted away among the pastries.

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