AUTHOR’S NOTE: The prompts drawn (thanks, Cait Gordon!) for the August Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were a horror story, set in a bakery involving a spoon. I’ve been in food service, so I’m familiar with the setting. I’ve written seven stories so far about Billy Gonzalez and his knack for stumbling into the weird. Here’s the latest.
Night of the Risen Dough
by Jeff Baker
It was about nine thirty in the evening and my new boss and I were standing in the dim kitchen at the back of the bakery.
“Okay, Mr. Gomez,” he said.
“Uh, Gonzalez,” I said. “Billy.”
“Right. Somebody will be here to open up at around six-thirty, and the truck will be here to pick up the bread right after that. We’ll expect all of these,” he gestured at the tall, wheeled racks in the large, back room, “to be filled. You know how to do it, right?”
“Yessir!” I said.
“So far you’ve done pretty well, but this’ll be your first time on your own. Take a break at about one-thirty for a half-hour, the orders will be taken off-site. Got that?”
“Yessir.” I said. This was my first job in four months; I would have done about anything.
“Okay, Gonzalo, I’m taking off. Just don’t turn on the old oven back in the back.”
I nodded and didn’t correct him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow evening. Be careful! And lock the door behind me.”
“I will! Thanks!” I said.
I’d been working the day shift at Kolobok’s Bakery for three weeks. The night guy had quit, so I’d been handed the position: longer hours, working nights but more money. I just had to get used to going to bed during the Today Show.
I had the radio down low and I started rolling the dough, filling the tray, putting it in the oven setting the alarm. There was a rhythm to it, once I got started. Working in the bakery in the old, stone building on North Broadway didn’t go with my degree, but neither did unemployment. I was just glad I didn’t have to mix the flour with the huge old spoon they had hanging over the door.
The night went on, and when I was near the front windows, I could see an occasional set of red taillights on the highway in the dark. I managed to fill up the first cart with trays of baked bread, the smell driving me wild, me sweating from the heat. Before I knew it, it was past midnight and I was getting hungry. At around one-thirty, I took a break, pulled my bottle of soda out of the cooler and started in on the sandwich I’d stashed with it, really tempted to stick the meat and mayo on some of the fresh bread I was making.
I checked my cellphone; it was about one-fifty and I was going to have to start up again, when I heard a grating grunt from the darkened back of the bakery. It had been built in the 1920s and was full of sounds. Besides, the ovens were still on and the metal pans made all kinds of noises when they heated up.
I started in rolling the dough again. I was filling up another of the racks when I heard the grating noise from the back again; this time louder. I remembered what my Boss had said about there being an old oven in the back and decided to check it, just in case something was falling apart or someone was breaking in. Just in case, I grabbed the big spoon; I’d thought it was wood but it was metal and it was heavy. I felt like I was in my first apartment just off Arkansas Street where I’d kept a baseball bat by the bed and had jumped at every sound. Still, I’d had my share of strange encounters.
The back of the bakery was a jumble with racks and storage and my Boss’ office and a large room behind it that I’d only been in once. That was the original bakery with an old stone oven built right into the stone walls. Dated back almost a century. I switched on the lights and glanced around the storage area. Nothing out of place. I looked around the old stone oven. Couple of broken chairs and a tray on the floor. And the grating noise again. Louder. Like metal pushing against something.
The door of the oven pushed open and the rack stretched out, piled with greyish, expanding dough, like in an episode of “I Love Lucy” I’d seen. The dough spread out around the oven and suddenly I realized the huge wad of dough wasn’t expanding, it was sitting up!
It slid off the rack and moved slowly towards me, indentations in the front corresponding to a mouth. I yelled at it to keep back and that I wasn’t playing around. I swung the big spoon and connected with the thing’s arm which fell off with a splat. Another fingerless appendage started to grow out of what corresponded to the dough thing’s shoulder as it stepped on the detached arm which suddenly blended back into the creature. I turned to run and tripped over the broken chair.
The thing bent down and covered my face with a paw, hand, whatever. I breathed in dust and flour. I flailed with the big spoon and as I connected, the thing recoiled. I scrambled to my feet and ran for the front door. I could hear the thing behind me, feet slapping the cement floor. I grabbed the key in the lock just as the thing grabbed me; I screamed, I heard the thing make a hollow, horrible sound and I pushed the door open, falling onto the pavement outside.
The air was cool, the street noises ordinary and the thing stood there for an instant and let out a long groaning noise as it shriveled and fell apart.
I sat there, breathing hard, trying to get the lines from “The Gingerbread Man” out of my head.