Billy and Grandpa Sam followed Danny Dootley into a bare room. The only furniture in the room was an oak desk, which did not even have a chair. The only items on the oak desk were a cutting board and bread knife.
“Please, take a stand,” said Danny Dootley to his guests. They looked around expecting hospitality, then upon thinking back on the tour thus far, realized they should not be surprised at their host’s lack of social insight.
“Is this where we will die?” asked Grandpa Sam, with more than just a slight sting to his voice.
“Grandpa! Don’t say such horrid things,” reprimanded Billy. “What would you like to tell us, Mr. Dootley?”
“First, I want to tell you that I didn’t plan on all the deaths that happened during my well-meaning tour.”
“Well that’s a relief,” replied Billy. “Now I can respect you as my hero again!”
“Thank you, little lad. Alas, since I did not plan on the deaths, I have to cover myself legally. So…” The Baker took a deep breath. “I’d like both of you to have my Bakery.”
Billy and Grandpa Sam stared at the man standing across the table from them. Danny Dootley, uncomfortable with their strong gaze, began fiddling with the bread knife. It was Billy who broke the silence:
“I don’t know if we can accept your offer—”
“Of course we’ll take it!” interjected Grandpa Sam. “Billy, we’ll be rich. Your parents won’t have to travel the world trying to sell their non-bread-themed art, so they’ll be able to spend more time with you. We’ll be able to have all the fresh bread we could ever want. Maybe even cure world hunger in our spare time. Think of the possibilities.”
“I don’t know. Being the Baker seems so isolating.”
Danny Dootley finally stepped in. “Only if you want it to be. I knew that the only possible life for me was to be alone in my baking palace. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. You could have storks and humans working side by side in harmony. You could have tours constantly. I think you would be out of your mind to do either of those things, but if you were feeling particularly insane, you could do it.”
“Okay, Billy. If he didn’t convince you right then with that fine speech, I don’t know what will,” said Grandpa Sam impatiently.
“I don’t think I could take something Mr. Dootley holds so dear away from him. It’s just not right.”
“Think of it as a present. A present he has to give to avoid nasty lawsuits.”
“Then the present is forced. It’s not altruistic.”
“Billy,” Grandpa Sam said exasperated, “a present is a present is a present. No one just gives out presents. They always want something in return. That’s how our cruel world works. It’s a fact of life, right up there with ‘Fact 237: The Circle of Life’ and ‘Fact 38: The Birds and the Bees.’”
Billy maintained his straight face. But Danny Dootley was now looking at Grandpa Sam in awe. “Since when did you become so wise?” he asked.
“I remember the day clearly. It was March 17, 1968. It was overcast, but the clouds had finally begun to clear. I saw a baby in a stroller. Then an elderly woman hunched over on a park bench. And that’s when I knew. But this suspicion of wisdom was not confirmed until—”
“Grandpa!” interrupted Billy, freeing Danny Dootley from Grandpa Sam’s storytelling spell. “Now’s not the time. We have an important decision to make.”
“What’ll it be, Billy? Will you take the Bakery?” asked Danny Dootley.
“No. We won’t.” Both men stared at the young boy in confusion. “But I do want something else.”
“Well, what do you want?” asked the exasperated Danny Dootley.
Later that day, Billy and Grandpa Sam Crumpette arrived at their home with a new pet stork. The stork was very intelligent, as Danny Dootley had promised, and it helped with schoolwork, taxes, and, of course, baking.
Stork life became the subject of Billy’s parents’ art, which finally sold big, making the Crumpettes modestly rich.
Billy and his family lived a happy rest of their lives. Whenever Billy picked up the fresh loaf of bread from the doorstop each morning, he would smile to himself, thinking of his fond memories of the tour. Then he would pick up The Wheatville Wire and lose any happy thoughts due to the constantly morose nature of the news.
As for Danny Dootley, the three deaths that unfortunately occurred during the tour were reported to the police. However, the officers were such fans of his bread products that they asked the judge to sentence the Baker to house arrest for the rest of his life. All parties accepted this deal. Thus Danny Dootley remained at the Bakery, conjuring up fabulous new recipes daily. His inventions and methods were kept secret, solidifying his hold as the world’s most eminent baker. Although he had the storks to keep him company and read him bedtime stories, he still felt his life and the Bakery were missing something.
Many years later, a note arrived at Billy’s doorstep with the daybreak loaf of carbohydrates. It was written in Danny Dootley’s familiar scrawl. It read:
The offer still stands.