flashfic

Two Bakeries

In a city where tame peacocks wandered the promenades and trees mingled their branches in graceful arches, there lived two bakers.  It was not a small city, of course; there were other bakers as well.  But these two bakers were notable because their bakeries were side by side on the same street.  One had a sign painted with a sheaf of wheat and a blue rose.  The other had no sign at all.

The first bakery had shelves filled with loaves of all kinds: bread speckled with golden raisins and currants like secret treasures, bread that tasted of mountain honey or molasses, bread fragrant with thyme or rosemary; bread with thick, dark crusts that rewarded thoughtful chewing and delicate crusts dotted with seeds.

The other bakery sold wheat bread in plain, dense loaves.  That was all.

The first baker noticed that, even so, all sorts of people visited the signless bakery next door.  There were servants of the great houses in livery embroidered with amphisbaenas and eagles, and musicians who carried their coins in violin cases, and constables with callused hands and muddy boots.  In short, they were the same kinds of people who came to her own bakery.

Finally, curiosity overcame her, and she went next door where the second baker, a tidy woman with square, strong hands, was sweeping the floor.

“Forgive me for my impudence,” the first baker said, “but may I ask you a question?”

The second baker smiled.  “I don’t sell words, only bread.  What troubles you?”

“My bakery sells all the different kinds of bread I can think of,” she said, “and yours sells only one.  Yet people come to you day after day.”  She stopped, not knowing how to ask her question without being rude.

The second baker understood her anyway.  “When people go to your bakery,” she said kindly, “they are looking forward to the world’s riches.  When people come to my bakery, they are remembering hunger.”

“Thank you,” the first baker said, and she bought two loaves on her way out.

for Nancy Sauer