“That man down the street,” she said. “I feel bad for that man down the street. Raising two children all on his own. He must be crushed.” She raised one hand, shielding her eyes from the summer rich sun. The bearded man across the street drove by in his used silver Subaru. He saw her standing on her short lawn through tinted glasses and waved as he turned onto his gravel drive. She smiled and flapped her hand in friendly return.
“What man?'” her husband asked as he struggled with the bucking, manual lawnmower.
“That man, the one across the street,” she pointed at the dust his car had picked up. “His wife left him with two infant mouths to feed. That drunken hussy.” She emphasized the last word like an anthropomorphic snake.
“Don’t feel too bad for ‘im. He’s got money that one, what with those two new motorcycles. And he’s got friends going over all hours of the night,” the ancient neighbor shook his head like a dead fish. “He’s fine. Believe me.”
The bearded man stepped through the front door and into his home. His customers called this place The Bakery; a wood-worn house about a quarter mile withdrawn from the paved roads of Hillsburg, New Hampshire. It was August and the heat squeezed New England in its sultry palm. The sweat from the city trip was plastered against his skin by the highway wind, but there wasn’t time to wash. He’d have to hurry. When the sun went down, the customers would come. It was the precipice to letting loose, it was Friday, and the customers needed their confection.
The babysitter Janine was peeved. She scrunched her tiny nose under the frame of her glasses so that all her freckles smushed together.
“Sorry for being so late. I didn’t expect it to take two days. Here, take an extra muffin for your trouble.” He took four muffins from his pockets and passed them to her.
She grabbed them and studied them. She took a bite out of the biggest one. The exhaled and the fervor blew out of her. “Thanks, Marc.”
“How were they?”
“Both fine. Like two little angels from on high.”
“Did you see that undercover cop come by dressed like a jogger? The hefty one that can’t run well?”
“Ya. Once. But it’s been quiet otherwise. I sold to a few customers that came in and out. How’d you make out in New York?”
“Fine. Come back at 3 tomorrow to watch the kids? I’m expecting a lot of orders.”
“Sure. Sounds good. See ya.” She stepped out the doorway.
Peering through the curtains, he watched her drive slowly down the gravel holding his breath. He stared until she was past the last knot of the sinking willow tree.
He went to the trunk of his car and lugged out a full black garbage bag. He slung it over his shoulder and stepped right through the house, stopping in the kitchen to kiss his daughter in between the pigtails. He shut the back door and leaned against it. He opened the garbage bag and pulled out a jelly donut. He looked left and right and then bit into the sweet treat so deeply that he thought he’d gone straight through his jaw. Jelly shot into his throat, and the goo was now coursing through him. He swallowed it all and smiled.
Marc heads toward the pig pen and glides by the beasts within. They’re like mini dirt bikes snorting and kicking up dust. They’re smooth to the touch. Marc puts the garbage bag down beside him. Parting a pile of hay with his two hands, Marc uncovers a metal trap door nestled in the ground. Pulling at the handle, it opens up a large container full of the finest baked goods. Marc reaches into the garbage bag and precisely passes the Saran wrapped contents into the metal container: 20 pounds of muffins, ten sheets of cupcakes and one pound of cookies. Once complete, Marc peers inside to make sure that everything is in order. The sheen from the cellophane glints at Marc, winks at him. Even if they try, Marc knows they’re not his pleasure- no muffins, no cupcakes, no cookies for him. Marc doesn’t touch what he sells.
Closing the trap door, the metal click resounds once but continues to echo in Marc’s ears. Such a gorgeous ring, so final. It was the sound the door made when he left home at 18, his stomach hot with raspberry jam, his father (Mr. Nasty, his mom called him) left behind steaming with the tie around his neck slacked like a noose ready to crack taut. Marc smiles as his memory carries him towards the back door. He tiptoes avoiding the pig crap and piss around his feet just so.
Upstairs, Marc puts his daughter and son to bed for the night. He watches them fall asleep. Marc wonders what they think about donuts stuffed with jelly, how maybe they think it’s daddy fuel like a car or an airplane. He thinks they aren’t too far off. Marc feels the heat flicker in his belly.
Downstairs, he falls into the seat of his leather couch. It’s so worn. It’s the corner crows feet of the gentlest old man’s eyes, the kind that sells flowers in the muck of the street becking and smiling towards lovers as they pass. Marc melts into sleep.
A tenant from the barn crashed into the couch beside him. Marc woke up. It was Cliff, the one with the bushy eyebrows.
“Wanna split this donut with me?” said Cliff. It looked overstuffed, about to split at the seams.
“Sure. Sure I will,” he spoke. He and Cliff passed the donut back and forth. They went bite for bite. The jelly oozed.
It feels like the first time. In the back of Joey’s car, in the New Jersey suburbs, he couldn’t look at himself do it. He ate the whole jelly donut with eyes closed even though he wanted just a bite, the jelly took him, careening off the sides of his esophagus, swallowing him as he swallowed it.
Marc leans back against the wall on his front porch, barefoot. His gaze floats past the gravel driveway, through the arms of the sinking willow tree, over the ardent tree line and above his neighbor’s ranch-style habitat to the sun going down.
Marc sees it glowing orange, not scorching red or dimming violet. It hovers and takes its time as clouds skirt past on their way to the moon. The molten fruit is so content, so natural, its from a different world he decides, of a future where everything is joyous, where harmony arrives ten minutes early, where gifts outweigh pain so much you can’t compare the two. And as Marc watches the sun go to sleep for the night, he decides that some day, a day that can’t be too far off, he’ll move so close to that ball of fire that he himself can kiss it goodnight.
This fiction is based on the personal history of writer and artist Marc Goldfinger. Marc was arrested at his rural home in New Hampshire. The Bakery was shut down and the kitchen was closed. After making bail, Marc was a fugitive of the police for two years until he was captured and incarcerated in 1982. After leaving prison, Marc discovered “Spare Change” newspaper while living on the streets of Central Square. He soon became a vendor, then a writer and eventually Editor in Chief.
Today, Marc has two children, Jasmine and Isaac and a granddaughter named Isabelle. He hasn’t “tasted a jelly donut” since 2005. He attributes much of his sobriety to the initiative that “Spare Change” sparked in him. He lives in his home in Belmont where he and his wife Mary Esther enjoy life together, one day at a time.
(Artwork by Line Olsson)