I walked home through the snow, only one paper-wrapped loaf of bread, still warm from the oven, in my arms. I could barely feel its heat through my coat. What really warmed me were the coins in my pocket.
“How were sales this morning?” Mother asked as I came in through the front door.
“I sold all but one, and I saved it for us,” I said, passing the warm bread to her so I could take off my coat and boots. “Oh, and here,” I fished in my pocket. “Here’s for you.”
Mother smiled at the coin, then at me. It was her pay, for washing the bread pans and the mixing bowl. She tucked it in her apron pocket, then went to set the bread on the table.
“Maybe he’ll grow up to be a baker,” my older sister said, then paused to count the stitches on her knitting needle.
I took the rest of my coins out and set them on the table. Four shining quarters to add to the jar under my bed. If I baked bread tomorrow, and again the next day, there would be more, and more! One at a time I turned them over, admiring them in the cold, white light coming in through the window. Then I went to get the knife to cut up the bread I’d saved for us.
Beautiful, golden brown crust topped the snowy-white loaf. It smelled of butter and yeast and goodness. I set in on the board and sliced off a big piece for my mother, but
the knife didn’t slide through the bread like usual. It stuck a little, as if there were something gummy inside. I stopped slicing and looked.
Dough. Raw dough. Down inside my beautiful loaf of bread was a soggy lump of dough.
Were they all like that? All the loaves I had sold this morning, going door to door down the street? Our neighbors, my friends, as they cut into my bread, they’d found this.
My own middle had turned into a soggy lump too.
“It’s raw inside,” I said.
Mother came to look. We both stared at the useless bread for a long moment, it’s grey heart a solid mass of goo.
“What are you going to do?” Mother asked gently.
“Go give everyone their money back,” I said, and slowly scraped the coins from the table. There was nothing else I could do.
Mother took the coin from her pocket.
“No, keep that,” I said. “I’ll get another one from my jar.”
Mother gave me a hug and a kiss. “Good, that’s the right thing to do.”
Coins in my pocket, I trudged back out into the snow.
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