Billy and Grandpa Sam began the trek across town to the Bakery. They got an early start, since they did not want to disappoint the Baker by being late. They put on their sunscreen as they walked and talked.
“Are you nervous, Billy?”
“A little. I mean, we’re going to meet the man behind the bread. And see the source of my favorite foodstuff. That’s no laughing matter.”
“No, it’s definitely not. It still hasn’t quite hit me that all the secrets behind Wheatville’s bread will be revealed in just a few short hours. I hope it doesn’t demystify the Bakery too much; that was half the appeal.”
“Well, we can keep what we learn a secret.”
“I think that’s a good plan. But we can’t prevent the three other kids from blabbing to their friends and family about it…”
“We’ll just have to hope they’re good people—”
“Do you remember their speeches? How could you think they’re good people? Mickey Peeta, the first winner, is a pompous, self-righteous, thinks-he’s-the-best, confused little boy. Hell, one of them—What was her name? Right, Carla Rhy—hadn’t even heard of bread! And Natasha Pumpanik? She’s just a bi—”
“Thanks for that recap, Grandpa. It feels like it’s been weeks since the first Golden Brown Baguettes were given out.”
“What did I tell you? Never underestimate the power of narrative storytelling.”
“Never mind that. What’s more important right now is that we are calm and collected before meeting the big man himself.”
“How do you know the Baker is fat? No one’s ever seen him before.”
“Never mind that. What’s more important right now is that we don’t ask the Baker stupid questions. Like what you just asked me.”
Billy figured Grandpa Sam’s momentary bitter-free conversing was solely a temporary effect of the excitement they both shared. It was good to know that the normal Grandpa Sam was still around. Billy smiled to himself.
“Wipe that smirk off your face!”
Well, his bitterness wasn’t always a good thing.
Billy and Grandpa Sam were the first to arrive at the iron wrought gates guarding the Bakery’s entrance. Next to come was Natasha Pumpanik. Her mother reached to give her a hug, but Natasha ran straight to the gates and peered in curiously. Suddenly, she started banging on the metal bars.
“Let me in now! You can’t make me wait out here by myself! No one ever makes me, Natasha Pumpanik, wait for anything! You’ll pay for this! Did you hear me? You’ll—”
She passed out. Grandpa Sam removed a cloth soaked with chloroform from her mouth.
“Grandpa! Did you just kill her? She was annoying, but she wasn’t that bad!”
“Don’t worry, Billy. I just knocked her out for a few minutes. She’ll be quiet as a person who has just been knocked out by chloroform until the tour starts.”
Mrs. Pumpanik ran up to the boy and the older man. She had a scowl on her face. Which quickly turned into a wide grin. “Thank you so much! You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to do that, I just didn’t feel comfortable. Not to mention, I didn’t know where to get chloroform.” She gave both of them big hugs, then walked away.
“She has a point. Why did you have a chloroform rag in your pocket, Grandpa?”
“Never mind that. What’s more important right now is that we wait patiently for the two other winners to arrive.”
At quarter till nine, Mickey Peeta arrived. He stepped out of his father’s limo, which had the Wheatville Wire logo emblazoned on it in five places too many. Mickey walked up to the other winners. He handed each a copy of the newspaper (he dropped one on Natasha).
“My father wanted me to give a copy to each of you,” Mickey said.
“Good, I was just about out of toilet paper at the house,” replied Grandpa Sam.
“Er, what my Grandpa meant to say was, ‘Thank you for this fine reading material. And it is nice to meet you, too,’” interjected Billy.
Mickey glared at the two of them, then sat down next to Natasha. Either unaware that she was unconscious, or not caring, he started a one-way conversation with her.
By now, reporters, including our favorite, Jim Jameson, had begun to arrive. They set up their large broadcasting cameras, placed multiple microphones ready to record in strategic places, and put on the finishing touches of their overdone makeup. They would not be allowed into the Bakery, but for now, they were content to preen themselves and exaggerate their importance.
Five minutes until the tour. Carla Rhy still had not arrived. Billy and Grandpa Sam were excited as ever. Mickey was still blabbing on about nothing. Natasha had begun to stir.
One minute left. The main characters continued their previous actions, except Natasha was now wide-awake, albeit slightly confused. Suddenly, a figure sprinted through the growing tumor of reporters and toward the small clump of winners.
“Wait for me!” It was Carla Rhy. She had just made it. “I had bread for the first time this morning, and it was so good that I couldn’t stop eating. I ate every type of bread I could find, stuffing myself but not caring because of the wondrous feeling that overcame me. Then I looked at the clock and saw that I was going to be late. So I ran here, and here I am.”
The four people facing her stared at her blankly. Billy turned to Grandpa Sam:
“How ironic is it that she was going to be late for a bread tour due to eating bread?”
“At least she’s not weirded out by bread anymore.”
Grandpa Sam was prevented from saying anything more by a loud creak that emanated from the Bakery’s gates. They opened slowly. The reporters stirred. The winners looked on in awe.
A man stepped out. The Baker. He spoke:
“Welcome and congratulations. Without further ado, let us begin the tour of my bread bakery.”
“Bread bakery?” piped in Mickey. “Isn’t that a bit redunda—”
“Moving on with the tour!”
The reporters grumbled as they realized that they would not learn any valuable information.
“Mr. Baker! Could I have one moment, please?” shouted Jim Jameson from the crowd. He was ignored.
The Golden Brown Baguette winners passed through the eerie gates and walked toward the Bakery’s entrance. The door looked like the door of an oven, which was a little off-putting. They fell into a single file line to pass through the entrance. The Baker had never had a need for multiple people to come in—he was the only one who used any of the doors—so he had built the doorway narrow. When the line of Wheaties entered the Bakery, they could feel the temperature rise several degrees.
They were inside the Bakery.