~This story previously appeared in Conclave (2012).
~Selected by Kenneth Fleming, Assistant Editor for Fiction
Give us this day our daily bread. And give us, please, the good stuff. Give us something that smells of wheat, not plastic. Give us this day—right now—something good and chewy, baked with care, to sink our teeth into.
Years ago, newly married and full of youthful enthusiasm, I tried to learn to bake bread. How hard could it be? In our pint-sized kitchen, surrounded by cookbooks, I added water to yeast, salt to flour. I kneaded until my fingers ached. I patted and poked and folded the dough. Eventually I produced six or seven edible loaves, but I also baked some things the dog wouldn’t touch: dense, burnt things more like rustic doorstops than loaves of homemade bread. The successes we ate immediately. Denise oohed and aahed. She made a fuss.
“Mmm, this is good with butter,” she’d say. Or, “This is so good hot.”
It was an awful lot of work for something that could be eaten in one sitting, something that only tasted good hot. After a few weeks, I gave up. Ever since, I’ve been glad to pay what’s asked for a good loaf of honest bread.
Stories should have a bit of historical background mixed into them. That’s what I’m doing when I tell about my early attempts to bake bread and that’s what I’m doing, I suppose, when I tell you that Denise and I are good people. We’ve had, like most married folks, our share of hard times: lost jobs, dreams that disappeared so slowly we didn’t notice them creeping away, a thousand sad things big and small. I don’t recall a time, though, when we were too discouraged, too angry or scared to sit down at the end of the day and eat a meal together. We’re good people who love to eat.
I should mention one unhappy fact: Denise and I are fat. We’re not pudgy. We used to be. We used to be ample, heavyset, substantial. Now, God help us, we’re enormous. I guess, relatively speaking, I’m fatter than Denise, but that’s quibbling—we’re both porkers, plain and simple.