Disarming Men

"Once they had to duct tape me to a chair, so that I wouldn't bother everyone," he told me about when he was six and his mother brought him to the bakery. And here he was now. I knew exactly what they meant, the duct-tapers. The room changed into a venue for entertainment and everyone in it, a friend. He went to the bathroom for a minute, and the other man in the room and I just looked at each other: What now?

He gleaned so much, even the cookies I used to like when I was eight. I could see the cookie floating out of my smiling mouth. If I had stayed much longer, maybe I would've started relating my dreams to him.

He was there to replumb the front, to rearrange connections. He stapled up a translucent plastic sheet between the front and back. "Now you can bake in privacy," he said. "You could even bake naked if you wanted. Nobody would know."

Who is his mother, I wondered. Is this friend of his, who slept in the bakery after his paradoxical nightly bender, the same who I heard said of stealing "it tells God you want to be stolen from," and who my boss loudly suspected stole his blender? Gossip is a network and I'm only a repository, my world here all hearsay, scenes told not shown.

His persona was pig's trough of possibilities. He told me I could bring back the chocolate chip cookies I remember from my youth. I said I doubted they were worth bringing back, that they were much more exciting when I was the age he was getting taped to chairs. In retrospect they were dense and floury, thick and dry and not buttery, huge lumps neither chewy nor crisp. He seemed offended by what some people call negativity. I was surprised by how easily I said "no" when he asked if I was a morning person before I started working here. I told him I sleep for a few hours after work. "A little power nap?" He corrected, as if he were Don Draper offering a lesson in ladder-climbing: never show your weakness, spin it this way, it's not spin, there is no weakness.

There is no difference between a power nap and a nap but in the mind. In the mind of such a hustler as this man you would be power napping, taking a power crap, dying of power thrist, power dying. Why miss an opportunity? It's never not a shitty cookie.

14 July 2015


Every Sunday I check the tables and couches in the front of the bakery for bodies. There might be someone sleeping there. Instead I find huge, more than life-sized portraits of musicians. They loom over me in a flash of newspaper delivery headlights.

(I barely believe there's a newspaper delivery. There are no other witnesses. Just this white car driving by every morning, the slap of plastic-wrapped New York Times on the pavement. "When I was a boy, I would've gotten fired from my paper route if I delivered papers like that," says the man from whom we await no wisdom, only his silence, so that we may no longer hear that all women are the same. "Who needs newspapers?" reads a bumper sticker.)

The rat who used to torment the boss is gone, or he's just given up on catching it. I don't hear about it any more, but we still store all the bread pans face-down.

The former delivery driver sings from beyond the town: "Saturday and I've got work, drive and drive and drive. Never thought I'd be that jerk, who didn't want to be alive."

I see things in the corner of my eye, but he stole the list of bread to make for the day from right in front of me. He appeared in the back with his headphones on and his head down. He snuck in like his sister, aggressively inconspicuous.

The former newspaper delivery boy bellows your name when he comes in; he must be acknowledged. Where he has a massive block of a head, this new boy's is a narrow triangle, his mouth small in its corner. His headphone wires are red (Beats) a second vascular system that carries who knows what. I heard him before I saw him, before I even met him. Where is the boy I heard? A ridiculous question, like asking where leaves come from.

14 July 2015

Comic Timing

I've never understood how to recount a break. (A surprise, a jolt, a disjunction.) Probably I lack comic timing. By the time I've gotten to the punchline, it seems to me, everyone is or ought to be bored by all the qualifications. My recourse is to skip over the key moment, looping back around and around. The details accrete, but not like they do in a 3D printer.

And then there's punctuation. Does this belong in the previous paragraph? I never could quite explain what happened on the way to the party. I was just ahead of where I ought to be. There were no marks on me, but I thought how rattled I felt must have glared. Where one wants scraped knees and beauty cuts on the face as evidence, I was just two frames of an animation. Part of me was still riding through the parking lot, hadn't yet hit the handlebars, the barrier invisible, maybe just not there.

Does one remember the exception or the rule? I've walked diagonally through this parking lot for years and years, only once biked. When I biked through it at night I lacked any other cues, so I followed the rule diagonally.

14 July 2015