The Muffin Man Part 1.
On a long and narrow cobbled lane, many, many years ago. There lived a baker. He made his home in a quaint loft above an old, but well kept bakery. He seemed a simple man to most. Every day before dawn he arose to bake his fresh goods, then set off with his warm basket of pastries, sugar loaves, and savory breads to deliver around the town.
The baker was not married but he was not an undesirable man. He made an honest living, helping care for the children that lived alone on the streets of London. He was an older man, past the years of his youth, and there was a certain air of sadness and melancholy that followed him. As if he had baked all of his happiness into the dough to share it around the city. Even so, he was well liked and generous. No one called him by his real name anymore, if they could even remember it. It seemed as if his bakery had been open for generations. Even the elderly couples in the town simply knew him affectionately as, “The Muffin Man.”
He kept his pastries and freshly baked muffins in the front window: beautifully browned blueberry muffins sprinkled with tiny sugar crystals, lemony cakes with pure white icing over the tops, that dripped down the sides in tantalizing streaks, and the cookies that set him apart from the other bakers in the city: the gorgeously crisp, and intricately decorated gingerbread men that lay side by side in the front window. They were every child’s favorite, and often the baker went out of his way to individually decorate gingerbread men for the children who waited outside his shop in the morning, right down to their button noses and sparkling eyes.
One day as the baker was making his rounds through the streets he noticed a little boy following him along the way. He was a round little boy with a pudgy face, and the baker recognized him. The son of one of the rich bankers who lived amidst the bustling streets of London. The little boy trotted up to the baker just as he rounded the corner back onto Drury Lane where he tended his shop, and tugged on his sleeve. “Make me a gingerbread boy!” the little boy demanded, his beady eyes peering up at the baker’s wrinkled face. The baker smiled gently, “I still have many more deliveries to make this morning, perhaps if you come over earlier I can make you something you’ll like.” He gently brushed the little boy’s hand off his sleeve and paced down the street and up the steps of the next house.
The little boy continued following him from a distance as the baker delivered his warm loaves of bread to the houses on Drury Lane. At the last house the baker leapt up the steps, knocked on the door. It swung open almost before his hand had left the door. A little girl stood in the doorway laughing with glee at his surprise. She tipped his basket of goodies down so that she could peer inside of it. The little boy watched as the girl’s face fell and heard her softly ask, “No more sticky buns left today?” He watched as her teary eyes looked up at the older man’s face. He could not hear what the baker said to her in response but she immediately smiled up at him and grabbed his open hand. They walked together down the narrow lane to the little bakery where the sweet smells of sugar and mixed spices still wafted out of the open side door.
The little boy quickly lost sight of the girl and the baker as they entered the shop door. Panting and waddling down the lane, he thought of what he could do to get back at the baker for letting another child come into the shop to pick out sticky buns when he hadn’t gotten anything. He burst through the front door of the bakery but the little girl was nowhere to be seen. He heard the slamming of the side door but saw the baker wiping his floury hands on his apron behind the front counter. “Why did you give her sweets but not me?” the little boy asked angrily, his round face swelling up and reddening. The baker shrugged and turned towards the back toward the kitchen, saying, “The young lady has no money to pay for sticky buns and other sweets, if you would like some, perhaps you could bring your father here, and his purse as well, unfortunately my little friend, I cannot give out all of my pastries to those who can afford them.”
The little boy huffed angrily in the front of the shop as the baker brought out from the ovens, freshly baked gingerbread men. Even though he had just taken them out, the little boy noticed that one gingerbread man was already decorated and lying on the counter top. It was a little gingerbread girl, with sweet honey hair and a delicate sugar dress. “I want that one!” he said pointing a chubby finger at the gingerbread girl. The baker put the hot tray down on the counter top and picked up the gingerbread girl with carefully pinched fingers. “This gingerbread girl is going to go in the front window with the other gingerbread children,” the baker said with a kind smile. He laid the little gingerbread girl down in the window with the other gingerbread children who looked just as perfect as their new companion. Ushering the round little boy out the door the baker offered up a sympathetic smile, “I must decorate the gingerbread men for sale, and prepare the dough for tomorrow morning. Come back then, when I open the shop before my deliveries and I will have something special and sweet for you then.”
The little boy was irate, and he didn’t want to wait until morning for his sweets. All the way home he stewed and thought about how he could make the Muffin Man pay for refusing to give him sweets. He could tell his father what had happened, but then his father might tell him he was being a selfish little boy. His mother wouldn’t want to be bothered tonight, and the little boy’s nursemaid had already told him that he was not supposed to eat any more sweets except for after dinner because he was, ‘becoming as round as a little pumpkin!’ The little boy decided that the only way he would best the baker would be to take what he wanted, without his father’s help. As he passed the bank where his father worked, he saw the other little boys and their fathers crossing the road. Trotting up to them with a devious twinkle in his eye he explained his plan and together the group of boys headed back the way the boy had come, back toward Drury Lane.