Tall, lean Bromley Bristlemore is a broom maker. His wiry blonde hair fans out evenly in every direction, meeting his bushy beard on both sides of his face. Bromley himself could easily be imagined as a broom standing up on its stick. His grandfather founded Bristlemore Brooms, claiming the motto, “the best broom money can buy.” Three generations later Bromley was swept into the business with the untimely passing of his father.
Unfortunately, by the time Bromley and his new bride, Bea, came on the scene nobody was buying brooms. Once a stiff competitor, Bristlemore Brooms had lost its edge. “Broom making is all I know,” Bromley stated with a tone of finality as Bea pressed him to discuss their options. And so a disenchanted, discouraged Bromley continued his daily habit of binding broom corn to expertly turned birch handles. Then he stacked each finely crafted specimen in an ever-growing pile –simply because he couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Bea sat helplessly by until she could take it no longer. The couple needed an income, and Bromley’s brooms were not selling. Not one to despair, Bea got busy instead. First, she swept the cobwebs from the showroom window, cleaning it until it sparkled. Next, she fashioned a viewing counter near enough to the window to be seen by passersby. Finally, she added two words to the sign that hung in the window: Bristlemore Brooms and Bakery.
Bromley mumbled and grumbled, predicting further doom, as his wife buzzed around him, but Bea could not be dissuaded. She baked five loaves of bread and four dozen cookies for the first day of bakery business, all of which Bromley sold by noon. Cautiously optimistic, she doubled her efforts the following day.
The trend continued. Bromley’s deserted Broom shop bustled with activity once again. Occasionally a bakery customer even purchased a broom along with their bag of bagels. In fact, Bromley was so busy waiting on customers that his broom making efforts were all but abandoned.
Bea spent her nighttime hours baking. She whipped up rich red raspberry tarts, light-as-chiffon croissants, angel food cakes as tall as oatmeal boxes, and popovers oozing silky sweetness. Each morning she restocked the counter, and then spent the remaining part of the day sleeping.
News of the fabulous baked goods scattered like dust bunnies throughout the town. Bromley should have been pleased, but instead he despised his wife for her tireless determination, and even more so for her success.
“My compliments to the baker of these fine delicacies,” exclaimed the mayor one morning, swiping cinnamon from the corners of his mouth as he handed Bromley a dollar bill.
“Why, thank you.”
“You mean to say that you, the broom maker, are also the baker? I would have thought the baker might be your wife.”
“You obviously don’t know my wife, sir.” Sarcasm dripped unchecked from Bromley’s lips. “She’s as lazy as a cat in a castle, and just as fat, too. Why, she very nearly eats what I make in profits.”
“You don’t say! Then she must not be the one who stands behind you with that tray full of doughnuts.”
Bromley spun around just in time to glimpse eight dozen hot, sticky doughnuts raining down upon him. One very stunned Bea broke into sobs. Despite being caught in such an atrocity however, Bromley brushed off Bea’s sorrow and her offer of forgiveness as easily as he did the bits of doughnuts that clung to his beard.
Bea accepted the mayor’s offer of a newly remodeled store front for her bakery as part of a downtown improvement project. She hired assistants and moved into the apartment directly above her bakery. Her efforts were rewarded, and her cheerful disposition continues to win and charm customers to this day.
The sign in Bromley’s window now reads “Bristlemore Brooms” once more. The once-sparkling window has grown as clouded and dark as Bromley’s mood and demeanor. His stack of brooms, however, continues to mount even as his back and shoulders bow.
At six-thirty each evening, Bromley glumly wheels his broom cart along the sidewalk toward Bea’s Bakery. He stops at the door, turns the key in the lock, and sweeps up flour and pastry crumbs with the finest broom money can buy. Later he dines alone, munching on day-old bread spread thick with resentment –a table knife clutched in one hand; a grudge in the other.
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