I do know where I’m going with the House on the Lake posts – I’m just not into it right this moment. So now for something completely different to make up my 100 words for Tuesday, the suck-ass 23rd of June.
Once upon a time there was a small village surrounded by a wood. And in this small village lived an old lady who ran a bakery. The bakery was in the center of town, just a few steps from the village elders’ hall where the headman met with his old cronies and played checkers all day and pretended to govern the village and its surrounds. The old lady had worked in the bakery for a very long time. So long, in fact, no one ever questioned her presence. Every day young workers, men and women alike, would stop by on their way to the wood or out to the lake, and pick up a loaf of hard bread for lunch and a sweet roll for breakfast. Occasionally the headman would send his niece over for a special order – usually a cream-filled cake – for the village Thing that was held once a year.
The Thing, sometimes called an All Thing, was a meeting where all the villagers gathered in the elders’ hall and discussed the business of living together in the village. Disputes were aired and discussed, marriages were performed, divorces were performed, children were presented. Once a year, the old lady at the bakery made the special cream-filled cake and served it to her fellow villagers. She’d been performing that job for a very long time – so long, no one ever questioned it.
The time and season for the Thing came again – usually at the end of harvest, right before the laying in of provisions for the long and ever longer seeming winter. The headman’s niece stopped by the bakery to order the cake, but the bakery door was closed and the ovens cold. Where had the old lady gone? The niece wondered. Had she slept in today? Didn’t she know the Thing was happening that evening? The niece, a slight girl named Mildred but who was often called Putrid due to her unseemly interest in dead things and the process of death, decided to see if the old lady had perchance fallen down her stairs (living as she did above her bakery) and perchance knocked herself upon the noggin. Putrid let herself in by the back door and called for the old lady. “Old lady baker!” she called, “Are you here?” Not seeing any bodies at the bottom of the stairs, Putrid ran up the stairs to look around.
The living quarters of the old lady were peculiar, to say the least. Filled to the brim with heavy ornate looking furniture. Fine furniture but still – all that dark wood crammed into such a small living space – there was hardly a path to walk from the door to the bed or from the bed to the window. Regardless – there was no old lady baker about, so Putrid ran back down the stairs and let herself into the bakery.
As she noted before – the ovens were cold. She knew this already because the air wasn’t filled with the delicious scent of freshly baking bread or sweet rolls. Someone pounded on the door. Startled, Putrid openned it and found Thom the woodsman – son of the head woodsman – standing there.
“Where’s the old lady baker?” He asked, “And what are you doing Putrid?”
“She’s not here,” she answered, frowning at his use of her nickname. How forward of him.
Thom brushed past her and into the shop. He walked to the back and called up the stairs.
“I already looked,” Putrid said with a snort, “She’s not there.”
Thom grunted in reply and walked back to look under the counter. Day old bread, certainly still edible, sat out.
“I guess I’ll have to eat some of this,” he said, helping himself.
“Oye!” said Putrid, “Leave some money for that you theif!”
“I am not a theif.”
The argument was just starting to get warmed up when Sissy, the headman’s maid and secret mistress, poked her head in the shop door.
“Where’s the old lady baker?”
“Missing,” Thom answered and took a bite of his bread.
“What about the cake for tonight?” Sissy demanded. “Doesn’t she know what day it is?”
Okay – out of steam on this one. The old lady baker is dead in the oven. Eventually they figure that out when they try to bake a substitute cream-filled cake. The reason the old lady baker was dead in the oven, and the reason she had so much expensive and ornate furniture was that she was once a baroness, who escaped her cruel husband, the baron, many many years ago. Finally the hunter he’d sent to find her happened upon her hiding place and although the order for her arrest or execution was almost fifty years old, he did his deed and killed her in the name and memory of the baron, who’d passed on several years earlier.
The moral of this tale: If you’re gonna run, don’t get a service job.