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McNettle’s Bakery

.                                                                   McNettle’s Bakery

The McNettle’s Bakery was an old family run affair that had been in place along the north shore of the Telford inlet for three generations. While a standard array of traditional baked goods was readily available, what made the McNettle’s Bakery famous amongst the locals was a biscuit from a very special recipe honouring an age-old family tradition of infusing the dough with various garden herbs to give it an extra special kick. A happy customer is a repeat customer, old Walter McNettle used to tell the grandkids in his elder years.

 Unfortunately it is not always possible to accommodate every customer all the time. Wally McNettle Junior lamented this sad fact as he faced two young women, both frequent customers who had arrived only moments apart, with the disappointing news that he was completely sold out of the sticky buns they both favoured. Apart from the two women the only other customer was a well dress-man of about thirty who appeared to be absorbed in pinching the dinner rolls on display in the window.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Sharp, Mrs. Lanfier,” Wally McNettle addressed both women in turn. “There’s been a run on the biscuits and sticky buns today,” the baker apologized. “First batch of biscuits out of the ovens were all bought up by a lorry driver before the sun even came up. Eight dozen he took.  It’s been real busy on account of that big wedding later this afternoon at the Oak.”

“I suppose he bought up all the sticky buns as well,” said Abigail Sharp with a sigh of disappointment.

“Not him directly,” Wally replied. “But when people found they couldn’t get their morning biscuit they turned to the sticky bun in consolation.”

“What about day-olds?” asked Charlotte Lanfier. “I only need them for a bread pudding, it is my little John’s favourite. He is such a finicky eater and I’m trying to fatten the boy up.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Lanfier,” the baker apologized again. “I give everything that’s left at the end of each day to the church. We don’t sell day old goods in here at McNettle’s.”

If Wally McNettle had anything else to say, it was interrupted by the sudden and powerful cry of a baby. Everyone inside the shop, even the well dressed man pinching buns, turned toward the curtained doorway leading to a small room behind the counter. Despite the soothing sounds of a song gently sung by the child’s mother the wailing continued to rise in volume and intensity.

“Is the young one ill?” Mrs. Lanfier asked as she glanced toward the curtained alcove with understandable concern.

“My one-year old Elvira,” nodded Wally McNettle. “She’s right colicky. Sally had to bring her to work on account of we can’t leave her with anybody. We got three other kids and not one of them ever got on the way this one does. I ain’t never seen nothing like it before. She cries for hours at a time.”

“Give her a tablespoon of spiced rum and chase it with an equal measure of honey,” said the well dressed man whose patient probing had apparently paid off with a half dozen perfect buns arranged neatly in a small basket. “It’s a remedy that always seems to work for me.” He removed his hat and bowed to the two women.

“In significantly larger doses I suspect, Mr. Crumb,” scoffed Abigail Sharp.

“Tell you what I’ll do,” said the baker to Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Lanfier, raising his voice above the cries of his colicky daughter. “I’ll have the boys in the bakery ‘round in back fire up the ovens again. Normally we fire the ovens all day but we let them burn down today on account of the chimneys needing a sweep. Seeing as how busy it’s been I think we’ll push that task to tomorrow.”

“So are you saying we can have our sticky buns? asked Mrs. Sharp. “Just a little later?”

“If the boys start into mixing up a batch now they’ll be done by three-thirty. I’ll run back there when we’re done here and tell them to get started. I’ll set aside a dozen for you both, no charge on account of the inconvenience. I’ll even have my oldest, Little Wally run them over to you.”

”That is very generous of you, Mr. McNettle,” said Charlotte Lanfier, shifting her eyes from the curtained-off room behind the counter as the cries from the child continued unabated. “Perhaps I could offer an hour of respite to your young wife in compensation.”

“That’s fair trade,” said Wally. “Let’s credit that payment for the next dozen.”

Mrs. Lanfier nodded then turned to Mrs. Sharp and gave her a smile. “It was nice to see you again Abigail, but I must head back across the Telford. Mariah is watching John for me. She’s responsible enough and there are lots of friendly eyes about but I still don’t like to leave her alone more than an hour.”

“Watch yourself on Shaw’s ferry,” warned Ezra Crumb. “A girl got burned this morning when a cinder flew from the steam winch’s boiler oven and alighted upon the back of her neck.”

“That’s Arnie Shaw for you,” Wally McNettle let out a snort and shook his head. “Never cleans his damn chimneys.”

“Thank you for the warning, Mr. Crumb,” said Charlotte Lanfier. “I shall heed your advice and employ my parasol for the crossing. Good day to you all.”

.                                                                            ****

“That will be two coppers, Mr. Crumb,” said Wally McNettle his voice rising on account of his nerves being shattered from the incessant bawling of his child. He felt as though he needed to constantly apologize for subjecting people to her random outbursts.

“Two coppers!” Ezra turned to Abigail Sharp and winked. “The baker must think I have money.”

“A copper for the buns and a copper for the basket,” Wally couldn’t believe he was explaining all this again. “I keep telling you, bring your baskets back when you’re done with them and you get a copper refund. I’ll be midden if you don’t have a dozen baskets just sitting somewhere. It’s easy math. That’s a silver with two bits of copper to spare.”

“I’ll bring them next time,” Ezra gave a good natured but nevertheless dismissive wave. “In the meantime, charge these to Dr. Joseph Foehammer. You know I’m good for the accounts.”

Ezra glanced back at Abigail Sharp. “I’m administering certain affairs at the Foehammer residence during these periods of long absence the doctor seems prone to of late.”

“I’ll bet you are well suited to the task,” said Abigail with a smile that could either have been reproachful or teasing, it was hard to judge. “Are you still living in that little guest cottage they have tucked away in the back corner of Coronet Gardens?”

“I’m a man of simple wants, Mrs. Sharp,” said Ezra with an exaggerated air of humility. “What more does a man need than a little bungalow overlooking the Iron Bay?”

“Free buns perhaps?” said Abigail, glancing at the basket.

Wally McNettle couldn’t help but chuckle. The familiar quality of banter between his two customers carried him away for a moment allowing him to forget, ever so briefly, the wails of displeasure from the tiny room behind the counter.

“I’ll add the buns but not the basket to the Foehammer account,” said Wally. “If you want I can send round Little Wally to fetch them and save you a trip. All I ask is for you to just give the lad a copper. I’ll credit the returns to the account.”

“Sure, send him along anytime,” said Ezra. He leaned slightly toward Abigail. “Now I’ll have to find something else to hold my socks and small-clothes.”

Mrs. Sharp gave a good natured harumph then turned to the baker. “Thank you, Mr. McNettle,” she said angling towards the door. “Good day.”

Ezra smiled and tipped his hat at the baker then turned to Mrs. Sharp. “Have you heard the news? A ship over in Clockhaven was sunk this morning,” he said as he held the door. “Information is sketchy but they suspect it was foul play.”

The door closed ending the story of foul play and sinking ships, leaving Wally alone in the shop with closet full of screaming behind him.

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One Comment

  1. Mumsy Abigail Mumsy Abigail February 10, 2014

    McNettle’s sticky buns… I haven’t thought about those in a very long time…

    *makes a mental note and hails a hansom to the Gangplank*

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