A few years ago, I managed a bookstore in the center of the tiny town of Tangerine. Right next door, Mr. and Mrs. Garnet operated a mom and pop bakery. Every morning at four am, Mr. Garnet arrived to bake his doughnuts. His wife opened the store later for early birds like me who wanted first dibs on fresh cinnamon rolls and éclairs. In all the years I lived there, the baker never changed the price of his doughnuts from twenty five cents each. I often wondered how the couple fed themselves but they never complained. Along with every baked good handed to their patrons, the Garnets added a smile from their hearts.
One morning just before Christmas, I hurried around the corner to pick up my order of cookies for a big sale. I pulled on the bakery door only to discover it wouldn’t budge. Concerned, I called our local patrolman who broke in and found Mr. Garnet collapsed on the back floor covered in flour from his latest batch of doughnuts. He had died of a heart attack and his distraught wife died two days later of a broken heart. Everyone in town attended the double funeral but was it was curiously void of any relatives.
The local newspaper, the Examiner, discovered the Garnets’ had a son who had moved away from the hillside town decades before and had never retuned…not even for his parents’ funerals. The bakery stood empty for fourteen months until a young couple from the next town tried their hand at baking. They put in tables and coffee and raised the price of a peanut butter cookie to fifty cents and no longer sold sprinkled doughnuts. Their bread tasted like sandpaper and their cream puffs were flat. Within three months, sales had dropped and the bakery once again closed.
One evening in early November, as I was getting ready to close the store after a long day, a man I had never seen before stood before my counter.
“Can I help you?” I looked at my clock. I still had Christmas orders to place before I left.
The stranger fiddled with his hat and cleared his throat for the second time. “My name is Carl Garnet. My parents were the bakers next door.”
Carl Garnet! I could only imagine the rumors his sudden appearance would generate.
“What do you plan to do?” The bakery still sat empty – a sad reminder to the memory of his parents and the doughnuts the town once loved.
“I never wanted to be a baker. I always found excuses to do other things when my father tried to teach me how to knead bread. I even ignored his attempts to show me the correct temperatures to brown a perfect crust. But after all these years, I still dream of his butter cream frosting.” He scratched his bald spot. “I thought I wanted to be an accountant. I never could add very well.” He lowered his eyes. I noticed his hands were shaped like his father’s. “I tried to forget my father’s lessons but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t.”
He took a deep breath and looked up. “I know the secret to the doughnuts.”
My jaw dropped. ”You know the secret and yet you never baked any doughnuts?”
I watched him struggle with regret. His face flushed. “I can no longer run away from what my father wanted me to do.”
Then I watched as relief spread over his worn features.
He was ready to bake the doughnuts.
That Christmas, Tangerine’s main street was lit with more lights than in previous years. Garnet Bakery once again offered the townspeople a wide selection of baked goods…complete with dripping glazed doughnuts that sold for only twenty five cents a piece. But more importantly, Carl Garnet, like his father before him, glowed with the satisfaction of doing a job - well done.
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