May 11, 2016

TIME TO GO, GO, GO. Tanaka trotted down the stairs, heart pounding half from physical exertion, half from excitement. Today she would be holding down the fort at the bakery. It would be only her, deliciously alone with cookies, steaming brownies, smoothies and colorful marmalades. And the clients of course.

“Peanut! Come on boy we’re leaving.” Tanaka called out to the family’s corgi as she left home.

The bicycle ride to work was short, after all, it was but a couple of blocks away. Tanaka’s bike was old style, didn’t even have gears. She used it because it was fast, it gave Peanut a workout, and because she thoroughly disliked walking; her inner thighs rubbing with each step always ended up in uncomfortable rashes.

Gulp, gulp, gulp. Peanut greedily licked the water from his purple bowl. Tanaka stared, was it possible for a dog to have a favorite color? Peanut adored anything in that hue: socks, shoes, shirts, toys, food, toilet paper, makeup, you name it. Hard as it was to look away, Tanaka took the bakery in. It was peacefully quiet. As soon as they arrived she discovered that her parents had left a candid note stuck to the counter: they left early today, everything was ready to be set. Good luck dear Cuki. She freely grimaced as she read the peculiar way her parents wrote her name. There was nothing else she hated most in the world than her name. She caught herself before she went down the path of self-hatred, there was no time for that, she had to shine today. It was the first time her parents left the bakery in her young thick hands, the stakes were high.

Even though she was a heavyset 24-year-old, she moved with enough ease to the catchy rhythms accompanied by idiotic lyrics blasting from the radio on the wall, as she arranged the baked treasures. The idea was for the after lunch customers to experience a path of delight as they walked up to the counter, tenting them to delve into the sugary side of life. When the last bit of frosting to the white chocolate cupcakes was placed, the door chimed merrily. The clientele had arrived. Tanaka had worked long enough in the business to know that in the next hour and a half a medium sized crowd would steadily flow through the door, looking for their fragrant pick me up so they could return energized to work. The adrenaline raced and Tanaka was there for everyone, quickly attending the growing line and dispatching the orders with good nature. The cashier’s constant rings mixed with happy greetings and promising good byes made up the new music in the bakery for a while. When the last customer was attended to Tanaka took five minutes to give Peanut his afternoon snack and she also indulged in some gluten free pecan brownies. She knew she shouldn’t be having them, she was trying to watch her weight but her rebellious side, the one that was always craving the goods, won the battle in that eternal war. She had an hour and a half at most to replenish all the treats that had been used up and tidy the place before a hoard of hypoglycemic workers marched through the door demanding their daily dose of caramelized delight.

The clang announced the final throw down, the show had started. The crowd seemed hungrier than usual, making them crankier. Tanaka disliked receiving barked orders and was tired enough to get some of the requests mixed up. Nothing that a quick apology and an awkward smile couldn’t fix. That was until SHE showed up and Tanaka felt a cold chill, though that was probably because the queue was so long now that they had to stand outside the shop, keeping the door open.

“Um, hello? Machine decaf with semi-fat milk and the almond brownies.” The woman’s accent could only be described as a bratty-royalty-wannabe kind.

Tanaka quickly had the order ready and dispatched, moving on to the next customer.

“Can I have the dark cho-“

“Excuse moi, is this a joke? I ordered goat milk, g-o-a-t. And I said whole almond white chocolate brownies, not this sad piece of cooked flour with almond crumbs.” The stuck up wannabe-queen cut off the man that was ordering as she threw the open paper bag at Tanaka. The old wrinkly woman had shrilled loud enough for the whole store to hear it. 
“Child it really isn't that hard you know, maybe if you pay attention this time you will understand, or should I speak slower for you? I’m certainly not paying for the dog food you’ve given me.”

Tanaka felt the eyes on her, she turned a blazing red, she’d gone blank, her eyes watering and her feet all but ready to dart out the door. What had just happened? Everything had been going so well and now it was over. She had failed her parents again. What was she to do?

“Oh Lady Marriane so nice to see you yes, so nice.” Tanaka’s mother’s sweet voice emerged from the crowd and the tension that had been palpable seconds before instantly dissipated. In the next minutes Tanaka was prevee to her mother’s masterful work at calming a raging client. Just as quickly as things had gone awry, they were now at peace again. Her parents had been in the crowd the whole time, undetectable.

The three of them finished the day at the bakery. As Tanaka cleaned the last of the counters she felt a sting of sadness mixed with anger. How would she ever be able to take over this business if she couldn’t handle an ancient dehydrated lady? She caught sight of her dad cleaning the kitchen, he offered a quick wink as he mimicked Lady Marriane’s walk behind her mother’s back. Tanaka smiled, but she could see the sadness in his eyes. She was the family’s failure. Had Tanaka known what was yet to come she would have laughed more often at her father’s silly jokes and worried a little less.