The higher you rise, the further you fall. Her fist sinks into the loose ball of dough, but she imagines her knuckles deep in flesh. That is the difference between real life and the bakery. You can beat the hell out of dough and it never bleeds, it never dies. The bakery is her life. She bakes loaves of bread, cakes, and cookies and sells them to strangers so she doesn’t lose anymore of herself to her memories. She remembers everything too clearly…
The smell of moth balls overwhelms her olfactory nerves as she huddles between two old coats. The front door slams and the sound of feet pounding against the wood floors reaches her ears. She knows it’s her father’s size twelve steel toed boots slamming against the oak laminate in the kitchen. She closes her eyes and wills herself to another world, somewhere safe and quiet, but her father’s voice throws her back into reality.
“Where the fuck is my dinner, you worthless bitch?” he booms.
“It’s on the table, Matthew.” her mother answers.
He thunders to the dining room table and examines his plate.
“How many times do I have to tell you I don’t eat ham? I’m Jewish you fucking moron.”
She hears the plate smash against a wall. Her mother whimpers.
“Clean it up.”
“I said clean it up!”
She winces. Her mother cries out. She wants to help but knows all too well what will happen if she does. She imagines blood. So much blood…
The oven timer brings her back to earth, back to her bakery. She wipes the sweat away from her eyes with her forearm before slipping on an oven mitt and taking a baking sheet full of cookies from the oven. A wave of nausea washes over her as she breathes in the aroma of fresh cookies. Her hand goes to her abdomen. She knows subconsciously, but the truth terrifies her.
Cracked, red chairs make a semi circle in the center of the room. The carpet is a sad shade of brown and the windows are tinted from the dusty film that covers them. She wills herself not to turn on her heel and walk back out into civilization. Despite the protest from her brain, she sits. The sticker on her shirt declares that her name is Maggie. She is tempted to make up a name, to be someone else just this once, but she leaves it as it is. She is Margaret Ann Nolan-Ainsley, mother, daughter, sister, and wife. She is damaged goods as far as she is concerned. She is a failure. She lost the only thing in the world she ever considered beautiful. And faith is hard to revive.
The hollow, pressed-wood door opens and a man walks through. He steadies himself with the doorjamb. A crop of red curls sits atop his head like a mass of pythons fighting for survival. He staggers to the chair at Maggie’s left and plops into it, narrowly avoiding the floor. He turns to look at her, his cold blue eyes fixed on her breasts. She clears her throat. He looks away. A conspicuous odor assaults her senses. She wonders when he showered last. His hair is greasy, his face unshaven. She wonders if he’s homeless.
Logan Malone sits in a cold, cracked chair. What a sorry excuse for a chair, he thinks, What a shit hole. If Megan hadn’t thrown him out, he wouldn’t be here. He wouldn’t be broke and sleeping in an alleyway behind some restaurant where they chop up cats and serve them to rich snobs. They think its exotic, eating food with names they can’t pronounce off of discount china. He hides behind the dumpster and watches people leave every night, Jimmy Choos and Italian leather loafers slapping against the concrete. He’d like to beat them with their shoes. What do they know about hard work, about suffering? He broke his first bone at eighteen months old, watched his mother fall unconscious in a puddle of blood before he was three. He knew how to stop a bloody nose and splint a broken arm by the time he’d turned 8, and by nine he could pull blood stains out of his clothes like a professional dry cleaner. Let them judge him. They have too much money and too few brain cells anyway. So fuck ‘em. What does he care?
He looks at the woman to his right. Her shirt is cut low enough that her tits are playing peek-a-boo with him. He is so caught up in her cleavage that he doesn’t notice anything else about her. She clears her throat. He looks away. If he wasn’t supposed to look why didn’t she cover them up? Women are a foreign species to him. Megan stayed around only because he’d knocked her up after twelve beers too many at a college party.
He pats the name tag on his chest. He hates formalities. He proudly displays Hello My Name is… Fuck You on his stained t-shirt. He hopes someone is offended.