From: email@example.com (Gomi no Sensei) Newsgroups: talk.bizarre Subject: FTS: Give Us This Day Date: 2 Dec 1997 00:10:18 -0800 Organization: Pollywog Pond Lines: 116 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> X-Trace: 881050221 24557 gomi 22.214.171.124 Keywords: fail to suck Gray flannel, stalking down the street. Young. Purposeful. Briefcase-laden. His head turns and his nostrils flare; abruptly he is no longer a suit but a young man not yet twenty-five with an uncomfortable collar and an expression of puzzled delight. As he turns around in bewilderment, it seems to him that the world has suddenly turned to freshly baked bread. Gingerbread oxfords. Pumpernickel streets. Whitebread stationery and blackcurrant printers. He tries to follow his nose to the source of the oven's sweet exhalation, but the bread-scent is so pervasive (and yet not cloying, rather delightful in its enthusiasm) that he can find no direction, but lurches this way and that down the street, avoiding black leather purses and smart red ties until accident leads him to a storefront with unusually thick glass and a painted wooden door that says: Joshua's Order of the Herb The door closes behind him, but the smell decides to stay outside a while and play. - * - * - * - "Where is he?" "I don't know, sir." The office didn't smell of anything in particular. It was Trim, Efficient, and above all Professional. Leather and shiny brass and glowing wood paneling, but no smells of cow or stone under soil or forest, not even from the people, of which there were two: the thin man behind the desk and the thin man in front of it. The man in front of the desk resembled the one behind it in every way except that the pressures of shuffling numbers from paper to wires and from wires to papers hadn't quite yet ruined his health, and so he was not considered to be ready for advancement. "We need his briefcase. The papers in it. They have important numbers. Where is he, or at least his briefcase?" "I don't know. Shall I find out, sir?" The room was so sterile that even the least subtle of implications died unheeded, beating senselessly against the paneling like exotic mouth-moths. "Yes." - * - * - * - Inside the bakery, the smell was muted. A thin floury haze softened every edge, and the scent itself was muted, as if in reverence. Behind the counter was a man of fifty, or perhaps forty -- the flour in his hair made it difficult to tell how many follicles had been convinced by the years to abandon their forefathers' dark faith and indulge in the heathenish worship of white. His well-muscled forearms propelled his shockingly long fingers into, over, and around a dark fetal lump of dough. "Hey, g'morning. Get you anything?" His voice was low and unremarkable. "Yes! I mean, I don't know yet. Ah, gimme a couple of minutes." The young man, coming out of his daze but still less than coherent, spun around, looking at the bread that covered the racks that covered the walls. Rye, wheat, sorghum, barley, and oat; baguettes, buns, loaves, slices, and rolls. A special corner just for cookies. "Take y'r time." The baker went back to his kneading. The young fellow collected his wits and a lemon tart and headed for the register. Before he could reach for his wallet, however, a familiar bony face came up to the window. Thin hands opened the door. Reached for his shoulder. "You are shirking! We need your papers, your numbers. Our supervisor is distraught, and you are wasting time. Come." The fleshless hand left his shoulder, reached for the briefcase. But he didn't want to leave, or at least not so soon. The bakery was warm, smelled pleasant, and had an atmosphere of casual courtesy wholly unlike the brittle, demanding etiquette of his workplace. Perhaps it was (as some might have it) an undisciplined, escapist act, a dangerous subversion. Or perhaps he was just getting comfortable, and didn't want to leave. Whatever the reason, he turned to the baker as the emissary's hand descended towards the briefcase, and very softly whispered, "Help me." And the dough rose from the kneading table and wrapped itself around the thin fleshless head, kneading the skull in a strange reversal of its usual role. As if suddenly and ruthlessly leavened, it expanded, covering the pinstriped lapels, the loud tie, the black wingtips. Yet the dough was not in a man-sized lump when the man, the briefcase, the papers in it, and the numbers on the papers had all been consumed; rather, it was merely as long as the baker's arm, although that itself was a considerable weight. The baker sighed. "Well, get over here and help me knead, then. I expect it'll take all day to get this batch done." - * - * - * - He sleeps on the cot in the storeroom, next to the flour sacks and the boxes of yeast. He has weekends off, and takes long train rides into the countryside, where he climbs trees. The bread still smells wonderful. Every so often a black purse or a red tie will come into the store, and when he gives them their change he makes sure to smile very politely and not knead the dough until they've left the store. Sometimes it seems to him that his fingers are getting longer, but it is probably all in his mind. -- kono sora wo daite kagayaku, shounen yo shinwa ni nare.