The Baker

The Baker had been known for years as just that: the Baker. Some knew his name, of course, but most didn’t. He didn’t mind. Being a baker was his pride, his profession and the thing he loved most, and he was pleased to be so well known amongst the others of his trade so as to be the only man called The Baker in the whole market. He knew he was a good baker. Little girls begged their papas to buy his cinnamon rolls, boys filched their mama’s coins so as to get a raisin filled treat, youths brought their blushing young ladies to his stall for a warm apple turnover to share on wintry days, and the poor, eyes wide with hunger and bellies swollen, came to his back door for the many loaves of stale bread that he would have leftover at the end of each week. The Baker was a warm-hearted man, and always made too much bread – accidentally, of course.

He awoke every day of the week before the sun had even risen. He liked to work that early, because the mornings were cool enough so that the sweltering hot oven didn’t make him sweat too much at first as he began to heat it up for the long day. He had different assistants over the years – some stayed and some left. They all left in the end, though, to marry, to have children, to open their own stall or to change trades entirely. The Baker stayed constant, and could never envision doing aught different.

When he had been a child, he’d been rail-thin. He had been the kind of boy who had arms as thin as sticks, a belly-button that puckered out because his stomach was so flat, and ribs that seemed to almost poke out. As he grew, his thin arms developed muscle and his belly rounded a little, all while helping his uncle in kitchens of the big house they lived in. His uncle taught him to bake. Not to cook, no, the Baker never enjoyed cooking meals, but he loved working with any and all kinds of dough, and he became good at it. When his uncle died and the rich family they worked for kicked him out, he’d found work at a smith, as an assistant. It was his strong arms, muscled with constant kneading of dough, that had gotten him that job. He worked, and worked and worked some more, hating the smell of burnt metal and hot coal and the mixed, unpleasant scent of sweat-soaked leather aprons and smoke. But the Baker worked, and when he’d saved enough coin, he opened his bakery stall in the market, as far from the smithy as possible.

He stayed, and his stall grew, and his rolls and pastries and cakes became known, and he became a real baker, The Baker. He never knew aught else – for even as a servant boy and later an assistant smith, he was always thinking of the way clean flour looked on a wooden board and the way dough felt in his hands and the the way a freshly baked loaf would be just that perfect shade of golden-brown. He never knew aught else, and he would never do aught different, not if it were up to him.

Princess Without A Name [A Short Story]

Once upon a time, there was a princess who didn’t have a name. She lived locked up in a tower, like all princesses do, and had a jolly life there. She got plenty of exercise in the big swimming pool at the bottom of the tower, and read plenty of books in the big library on the first floor of the tower, and had plenty of food in the pantry on the second floor and got plenty of time to gaze outside wistfully from the one window that was on the third floor of the tower. It was a very good tower, as towers went.

The princess without a name was very happy there. She lived her life all alone, except for the girls that came to restock the pantry, and only read about other people in books. She had all the different stories of princesses in the library, and she knew how her story would go. She knew exactly what would happen with her life.

She felt lucky, knowing exactly what was to be. She felt glad to think that one day, her eighteenth birthday probably, or somewhere around that age, a prince would come riding on a white, or maybe black, horse. He would save her from the tower by breaking into it or climbing up it – or doing something else that was very athletic. Then he’d pledge his true love to her, and they would ride off together into the sunset and live happily ever after. The princess without a name liked the sound of happily ever after. It sounded like a nice way to live, though rather vague.

As her eighteenth birthday started drawing near, the princess without a name started worrying about two things. The first was that all the maidens and princesses in the stories had names. Not very good ones, no – for what sort of a name is Cinderella? Or Snow White for that matter? Stupid names really – but they still had names. The princess without a name had no name at all. She never really thought about it. She knew who she was, and that was that. She never felt she needed a name.

The second thing she worried about was that she would have to leave her tower. She really liked her tower, being stocked as it was with good things to do and to eat and to read. She even had a few friends, if she thought about it – the girls from the village who opened the tiny window in the pantry and gave her food every week. The window was much too small to escape from of course, but the girls liked having nice chats and the princess without a name rather liked hearing about their lives, unprincess-like as they might be.

Mind filled with worries, one of which being the creases in her brow from being so worried, the princess without a name’s birthday came and went and no prince or horse came near the tower. As the days passed, she started to forget a little about it. She kept about her routine, and even had the village girls find a few dozen new books to add to the library.

Still, fate is fate, and the day before the princesses nineteenth birthday, a prince appeared. He came riding – of course he did – but on quite an odd black and white horse that looked rather like a tall cow. His face looked very sweaty and his chain-mail wasn’t very shiny, but rather caked with mud. The princess without a name looked down at him from her window at the top of the tower and waited.

“O, fairest of maidens! Princess of these lands! I am Pip, and I have come to rescue you!” He shouted up at her, rather as if declaiming, badly, from a page. The princess stifled a giggle. Pip?!

“O lovely lady, will you tell me your name?” He shouted then, his voice breaking on the high pitch he put on the word “name.”

“I don’t have a name,” called down the princess. The prince blinked a few times. He looked like he was thinking very hard, and not managing well with it.

“Well, then after I rescue you, I’ll give you one, O star of mine!” He eventually yelled, sounding, and looking, rather pleased with himself at the solution he found for this unexpected development. The princess thought to herself. She looked back into the comfy tower room, her bedroom, and sighed a bit. She looked out at the prince and sighed once more.

“Maybe once you break in, we can live here?” She asked the prince a moment later. She really did like the tower. She heard the prince laugh an odd, trilling little laugh.

“Why, lady, I have a castle waiting for us far away from here,” The prince called back, still giggling. “That is where we shall live, get married and have our children! Why, this little place is scarcely enough to hold one little princess, how could it hold a family and servants and courtiers?” The princess without a name cringed at his words. A family? Servants? Courtiers? She wasn’t even nineteen. She wasn’t ready for all that. Happily ever after had always been vague, true, but never had she heard about the happy couples having babies and servants and courtiers straight off. Also, the princes has always been sweet, not annoying and fake like this one/. And they were never called Pip. And their horses looked nice.

The princess thought the matter over for a few more minutes while Pip, who had assumed that she wanted to be rescued already, toiled away at the door of the tower, trying to hack at it with his sword and muttering things like “Have at you!” and “Open sesame!”

“Pip! Hey, Pip!” She called, trying to get his attention away from her faithful door that was solid oak and seemed quite unwilling to let him in. Once Pip looked up at her, wiping sweat from his brow with his hand, she continued.

“Pip, your offer is so kind. But, you see, the thing is,” and she giggled with pleasure at the cliché from all the romance novels that she was about to use, “I’m not really willing to settle for less than the perfect one for me. And you’re not him, Pip. I’m sorry, but you can stop trying to break in. I don’t want to leave.” With those words, the princess who didn’t want a name given to her turned, walked into the depths of the tower and went for a long, aggressive swim in her pool.

She never saw Pip staring in shock at the tower. Nor did she see him hacking hopelessly at the door a few times. Nor did she see the big brass key that hung next to the door on the inside of the tower, just like she hadn’t ever seen it. She would see that key one day, when she wanted to. She would see the key and she would open the door for the knight she wanted and until then she had no need to know that she had the key all along. Her tower was enough for her and would be enough for her until the day she would choose that it wasn’t.