21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: American Fiction

Bakery Story
Mark Swann

Once I had begun I could not stop—the Neti Pot. I finally bought one. A small Alladin’s lamp that looks like a ceramic kegel device that you stick up your nasum. Look it up if you don’t know what one is. It got so bad I would fill with angst waiting for my sinuses to clog up just so I could use the pot to experience free breathing again. To feel the relief. Like getting high on meditation and seeing the light just so you could attract the attacking envious spirits and rehearse the battle again to get it right. Over and over. Here comes the salt water. Zoosh! There goes the light straight out the perineum with the fishhook flower demons stuck up your ass to sprout and take root.

Where the hell did those bastards come from? Other people? Dead people? Lost animal souls looking for a new burrow? Combinations of these perhaps. Oh well. How deep is the well? Deep, not deep enough for some people. You’ve got to tighten up on the right level at the right time, up and up, on each stack, like a wedding cake, to the unity.
The little bakery store was about as big as two full sized sedans parked side by side. It was old and in a narrow white washed two story complex that had a small local hardware store, an ice cream hamburger place, and the story is dead now, isn’t it ? It’s already dead by now. Going nowhere. Nothings interesting. You can’t top a fishhook stuck up your ass grabbing flesh and prostate and yanking it out in bloody chunks with a demon on the other end, can you? Whatever. Read the rest of the story anyway. There were a few efficiency apartments that were parked above the whole decaying mess with little square windows that all had identical curtains. Identical minds, identical desires, identical fears, identical paranoias, identical erections, identical periods, identical musky pains, the identical blob of decayed thought matter hanging about making people run like hamsters in a wheel of the mind, fiercely curious about how to quell the desire to be fiercely curious.

A girl and her dog, a large tight skinned dark brown pit bull with black streaks like tiger stripes were coming home, if you could call an efficiency a home, after a walk.

The dog was dragging her across the parking lot to the ground floor stair entrance of the apartments, jumping on her, wrestling with the leash, ripping the harness off of her wrist, on the edge of attacking her, indignant that she was trying to laugh it off, enjoying the fact that she was a bit unsure how unstable her dog was, humiliated that she enjoyed having a wild energetic ‘animal’, bubbling with happy subliminal yip barks at her annoyance from realizing "oh boy what did I get self into" as she became closer to losing control of her tiger dog. The dog instinctively hated her and felt driven to mock her.

He resented being made aware that this girl considered him nothing but a dog, an object to enjoy, a bundle of primitive energy in a skin to be used for petty distraction. The girl lived directly above the little bakery store where the owner of the bakery, a woman in her mid fifties, worked ten hours daily. Posters in the window offered deals on custom wedding and birthday cakes. There were a few plates of cookies in the small glass display case, expertly made and of the best quality ingredients. Pride was dripping off of them.

The pride was tired, but it was still there, tenacious. Each cookie was a little talisman of pride and love. There were oatmeal cookies made with real butter, cranberries, whole milk, and real sugar, and sugar cookies with ginger—traditional types of cookies with a few extra things added to make them unique. The wedding cakes had their own tall narrow glass case, and were fake permanent fixtures on display. The cakes had an odd off-white color and looked like marble sculptures from some dusty black and white photograph book on Greek history you'd find on the big shelf in the public library—the shelf with the art books that no one looked at unless they took a class in art and were forced to ruminate about why someone created an object that wasn’t on a billboard or didn’t have an ad statement under it or couldn’t be sold for a lot of money at the time of its construction. I could tell from college that art books were not for artists, they were for regular people to learn about art, but it rarely worked out that way. Art people read magazines about other artists, and sometimes looked at other artists’ art, but only to steal from them. Students read cliff notes and other students’ notes, and professors read articles in academic journals by other professors to find material to rework into their own articles. It was a wonderfully tight feedback loop that was tacitly justified as being a ‘conversation’. Once I realized that noone actually read the books in the library, but merely devised clever ways to appear that they had read them, I looked upon all libraries, museums, and educational experiences as solely existing to supply material for bibliographical citations. Wedding cakes weren’t for eating. The sugar was too concentrated.

I was at the bakery hoping for donuts and had never been there before. I kept planning to go there but kept putting it off and always just drove by, looked at it and thought "man that is the smallest bakery I’ve ever seen, it looks like it’s been there forever". It was such a fixture in that area of the neighborhood with its off white chipped paint revealing older off white, like the building had been sunburned and had patchy peeling skin, that I just categorized it into a whitewashed background of buildings that I never felt urged to investigate. No one was ever parked in front of that building. I guess it was all delivery business. Besides, it was near a busy four-way intersection that destroyed the neighborhood vibe. Drivers were propelled along into a crossroad to make a quick decision, watch everyone else’s decision, and experience just enough distraction to avoid considering what is in the oven. I wondered if some people that had little shops were living off inheritances, never minding if they sold anything, and just waited for customers to order something, hoping the customer would be someone seducible to have sex with in the backroom after turning around the little 'open' sign on the front door and dropping some odd statement of invitation. Maybe those little shops with no business were meditation chambers. A person would inherit money, start a tax shelter shop, sit there all day, process their past lives, plot their next big move, and justify a gentle retreat. Sure was an odd way to spend your life though, sort of in hibernation. Then again maybe business just fell off due to competition from the bigger shops and the big bakeries in the giant grocery stores. Nobody was intentionally hibernating. Nowadays any hibernation or meditation was forced out of discomfort or necessity. People were manufacturing their little pearls here and there and getting harvested by the great astral opportunistic vacuum cleaner left and right. During their dreamtime fishhooks right in the brain yanked them into a bewildering black space full of lights, angels, dead jerks, know-it-alls, angry relatives, serious pretenders, odd insectoid creatures and sincere helpful entities that usually got constantly interrupted by the disintegrating subconscious residues from innocent, confused dead folk.

Three guys were putting a roof on the complex and were working directly above the bakery. The guys were young, healthy, able, busy at work, laughing now and then at each other, and were oblivious of any potential hibernation, enforced or voluntary, occurring beneath them. I remembered this TV commercial about a technical school where this student was bragging about how the school's program allowed him to escape roofing as if it was punishment for being alive. Now he could be involved in computers, technical matters, routers, modems, electronic signals in general, and lose any beneficial internalization that the roofers got when they ascended just a little higher than everyone else and caught some air that hadn’t touched the ground yet and bounced off into someone else’s disinterested lungs. Plus they sincerely got in touch with their adrenaline functions from time to time if the pitch was steep or slippery. The commercial was saying in a nice, happy way that people who worked basic jobs had no mind, no chance of happiness, and were slaves, which I felt was incredibly wrong. Automatically I projected black streaks of hatred and betrayal upon the people that made this commercial.

Disguising galvanization of workers to better themselves by humiliation was all backfire. I felt odd that a small thing like a TV commercial could command such a passionate indignant response from me, but they say TV is the great frontier of the mind and that people psychically connect through it like an altar, subconsciously, when they watch the same programs at the same time. I had synced up with the angst of the great worker wad via the anti-roofing commercial. Big deal. Wasteland, but why? Maybe during a Bond film on cable at night, one of the older cool ones, like Diamonds Are Forever, I noticed that the air tasted differently and felt there was a positive nightshade twilight hovering about somewhere in the ether. Maybe. I guess that’s how Christ will come back, in the group viewing mind in the twilight, when it feels right and we are connected on a similar focal point, yet still retain our individual natures, full of potent nostalgia we are only slightly ashamed of, yet invigorated enough by to imitate. Yes, Jesus was James Bond. Ian Fleming was one of the prophets reincarnated to douse us over and over in super technical parables of houdiniesque extrication. Roll away the stone, get away from Pussy Galore, what’s the difference. Here comes Thumper, Dr. Goldfinger, and Beelzebub. I didn’t mind having a modern fractured mind, after I realized what a modern fractured mind was, and that 'fractured' wasn’t necessarily 'bad'—some of that modern stuff came in handy—it let light come through all the broken pieces. I knew television had a lot to do with modern fracture, and a walk in the woods would disturbingly bring me back to nature and to a type of mind that I felt alien to and shamed by. I avoided the woods. I couldn’t understand current history. Everyone was doing more and more, yet making less progress. But I knew I was making progress. I just wasn’t getting any credit for it in society. Whether in church during the sermon or sitting through classes at school I felt that phases of history were not occurring as rapidly as they used to. Everyone that was super educated thought it was the other way around, but I knew things were slowing down on the big scale. I swear it smelled like people believed subconsciously they were on that carnival ride that spun around hard and pressed them against the wall and then dropped the floor out.

Except this one had a strobe light that flickered separate frames of information into their noggins against their will. They consciously felt activated and stimulated by tons of ‘events’, but those events were just waves of historical reverb teasing their neurons into silly self important angst. Some giant hairball of a dream on the horizon of the past was vibrating selfishly giving off super death vibes tricking people into thinking those vibes were real events. Death throes of a hairball. I knew things were slowing down on the big scale. The little pieces within whatever great phase of history was happening at the time bustled about like iron filings under a historical magnet, yet the magnet didn’t move around as much as it used to. The filings were transfixed, erect, full of subtle vibration, but weren't going anywhere. The great changes occurred less often as time progressed, but the little pieces within the changes just vibrated more madly, slated with the task of integrating all the past big changes into a stable, happy individuality. People felt that big things were changing, but they were just running in place at a faster pace. Hopefully I was wrong on this because I was getting tons of migraines and I had all the magnet I could stand for a while. The magnet just sped up random access in the mind over time, and I bet if a normal life from one hundred years ago was put on fast playback, it wouldn’t look that much different from a normal life today. Speed just gave you more stuff to look at in less time. Made everyone feel bigger.

Speed was good and helped you survive, but it had to be high quality speed and in the right amount, or it would just cause gibbering foolishness and ADD of the soul. If you weren’t quick at the right time, you would forget your best ideas and be overcome by your surroundings—the whirlpool. I had a dram of quicksilver in my nature and it had been a lifesaver on more than a few occasions, but it would swell like the moon at times and destroy my mental incubation stages that I needed to grapple with the swirl of the whirlpool. Just like air and water, I had to have them—those slow motion plant growth necessities—and it was a constant battle to balance incubation needs from trying to be a quick think-on-your-feet survivalist. People resented me when I figured out which mode to be in and they couldn’t. Had to act like a dumbshit and hide the light when I felt I had a handle on what the problem was. That got to be lonely at times except for the fishhook demons in the ass raging away when they discovered I actually had a moment of clarity, but that was better than mentally drifting on a carnival ride with a flashing idiot scope in my eyeballs. But I still couldn’t keep up with the big changes of history. They were too spread out. I always had to read about them and reflect on them—I hated that I could never experience a big change directly. Big changes occurred in slow motion but you had to study them in fast motion. That wasn’t fair. No one ever got to experience big changes in real time. Oh, there were big events and disasters, but those were only furious vibrating pieces of iron in the blood. It was a big tease. The bakery woman kept asking me Will there be anything else?" every time she got the chance. I guess she wanted to make more sales. The prices were good. I bought six cranberry oatmeal cookies and ate a few of them on the spot. Later at home I threw the rest in the backyard for the birds because they were a bit stale. The cranberries were like red raisins.

A hardware store run by a family was next to the bakery, and they always had familiar old timers sitting around. One was an invalid who sat in a wheelchair near the large plate glass window. These old fellows always knew where everything was in the store and could sense when you were aimlessly wandering from aisle to aisle. They had a way of asking what were you looking for with authority yet did so without making you feel like an idiot. I had been in this store tons of times looking for tape, screws, mailboxes, air conditioner filters, hardware cloth to keep raccoons out of the attic—your basic hardware needs. The store had local bluegrass groups play on Saturday mornings, and the floorspace between the key making machine and the huge bins of masonry nails became a gathering place for a generation that was used to gathering in such places. I went to buy a mailbox one Saturday last year, after some kids had whacked it with a bat the previous night, and I entered into a store full of grandpas, papaws, meemaws, aunts, uncles and grandmas. They looked at me like I was a god damned alien. I just slinked out and they didn’t feel bad about it at all.

A 24hr quick stop gasoline snack beer place shared the same parking lot as the hardware store and bakery, and it felt like a taint on the block. They sold cheap speed at the counter with cigarettes, and stacks and racks of warm wine coolers and bad magazines and tabloids lined the wall near the door. The floor had a sour smell like a rancid mop had just been used on it, and the dirty linoleum had ripples in some areas and was missing in some spots, showing a black plastic grooved material underneath. I had gotten gas there a few times, but the place was weird. It wasn’t like most 24hr gas places. It was so unkempt that the place behaved like it was in contempt of the older more stable stores that it shared the parking lot with. I went in to get a coke after buying the cookies. The clerk was a small blonde woman in her forties who had her midriff exposed, showing a pierced belly button. She wasn’t fat but her skin was pasty and loose. She looked tired and acted like a nerve racked bartender flitting behind the counter from the cash register to the window that faced the gas pumps, even though there were no cars getting gas. I bought my coke and shed my skin as I left.

I drove home and watched TV. I had a short wave and liked it better but it didn’t come in too well. The high frequencies were always jammed out in the daytime, and they barely came in at night. I heard that you could get good short wave reception if you had a fixed antenna or lived in the mountains. I could get the AM/FM stations all the time, but they mainly played the same thing over and over. I wondered about the bakery woman and what she was like as a youth and if she liked sex.
© Mark Swann December 2007

More Life Stories


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.