A shrill ringing pierced through ears, but I promptly convinced myself that it was part of my dream and I slipped back into sleep. After a short thirty second pause, though, it sounded again, and I was forced to acknowledge it.
My arm shot out from underneath the covers and I grabbed my cell phone off the bedside table. I reluctantly flipped it open and brought it to my ear. My voice was groggy as I asked, “Hello?”
“Andy? Did I wake you up?”
“Yes,” I grumbled.
“Good.” I recognized the voice as Macon’s. I could hear some rustling on the other end as he switched the phone to the other ear. “Come into the city today.”
“Why?” The word was stifled by a yawn.
“Because I’m telling you to.”
“Macon, has anyone ever told you that you should be a lawyer?”
“Your honor, my client pleads innocent. I suggest that you grant him his innocence, the grounds being that I’m telling you to.”
Macon ignored me. “Quit being lazy, get dressed, and get on the train. I’m bored out of my fucking mind here. My manager’s not in today. I’m not required to do anything except stand around.”
“Here’s an idea,” I proposed. “Work.”
“Nonsense. C’mon, Andy. We can hang out here. It’ll be fun.”
I turned over on my back, staring up at the ceiling fan while I remained sprawled out on my bed. I was comfortable, and I didn’t particularly want to get up so I could spend another painful fifty minutes on a train. I’d done that enough times this week.
“Don’t you work in a bakery?” I asked.
“So what the hell is there to do in a bakery?”
“I don’t know. Play paintball with the cannoli-fillers. Hacky sack with the Éclairs. It doesn’t matter. Just come here before I strangle myself with bakery string.”
“As much fun as it sounds,” I replied, “my mother has made it exceptionally clear that I’m not to take any unnecessary trips to the city any time soon.”
“Well, is she home?”
“No,” I drawled, “but–”
“Alright. So I’ll see you soon, okay?”
“No, Macon. I really—”
“I’m hanging up so I can text you the directions. It’s not too far from Penn.”
“Dude, would you please just—”
My words were cut short by the click on the other end. I sighed, dragged myself to my feet, and started searching around my room for a clean t-shirt to wear.
The bell above the door rang out as I walked in. I peered around at the tiled floor and the pastel-blue walls. I expected to find Macon near the display counter filled with cookies and pastries; it stretched from the back door to the large-framed window in the front, but he wasn’t standing anywhere behind it.
At first I figured I might have walked into the wrong bakery; these few blocks were crammed with them, and as Macon’s directions hadn’t been clear enough for the directionally-challenged trait that I’d inherited from my mother, I had started to second-guess them. There was some faint music coming from the back room, though, and as my ears adjusted from the sound of traffic and car horns, the noise caught my attention.
It was a heavy-sounding guitar riff with a whole lot of distortion—something Macon would, without a doubt, listen to. The noise was coming through a broad swinging door in the rear of the bakery. I took a few steps toward it.
“Macon?” I called. When I didn’t get a response, I repeated his name, louder this time. A face appeared in the small circular window, and then the door swung open. Macon wheeled out of the kitchen backwards on a rolling chair, pushing off of the tiles to propel himself.
“What’s up?” he asked, gliding his way over to me.
“Well. Doesn’t this seem productive.”
“You bet,” he answered. “Did you get lost or something? I was starting to think you weren’t gonna come.”
“No, I didn’t get lost,” I sneered, though the statement wasn’t entirely true. “I had to come all the way from Massapequa, if you remember. Which reminds me: do you not possess any other friends? Quite possibly one or two that live within a twenty-mile radius?”
“Of course I do.”
“Yeah,” Macon said. “Oh.”
“Mhm.” Skepticism oozed from my tone. “Well, when you get a chance, introduce me to them, okay?”
“Oh, yeah. Sure thing, bitch,” Macon said, deciding that I was mocking him. He pushed his feet off the side of the counter and fishtailed his way toward the back door again. “C’mon. I’ll show you the kitchen.”
The walls were a shade of cardboard-brown that matched the tiles under my Chucks. Wherever the floor met the sheetrock, there was some kind of stainless steel appliance. Cookie sheets, baking utensils, and half-finished cakes lined the counters. Macon rolled over to the stereo and turned the knob lower. “Heads up. Floor’s wet. I just mopped it.”
“Is that the only thing you’ve done all day?” I asked.
“Just about.” Macon lifted himself up onto the counter. He let his legs swing back and forth over the floor like a six-foot-tall child. “I really couldn’t do much even if I wanted to. I don’t think my boss trusts me to use the oven when she’s not here.”
“I don’t blame her.”
Macon’s eyebrows lowered in straight lines over his expression. “Andy, I am a damn good cook.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” I stated, putting my bag down on the counter.
He let out an exhausted sigh. “Whatever,” he mused, leaning against the cabinets. “I’m going to cook for you one day, and it’s going to be so good that you’re gonna rip off your clothes and maul me.”
I started choking on air in a sudden fit of laughter. “Yeah, Macon. That’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
“Good. Looking forward to it.”
Our banter was cut short when the phone on the wall rang. “Two seconds,” Macon grumbled, slipping off the counter. “Cookie Jar Bakery, Macon speaking,” he said, pressing the phone to his ear. After a short pause, his voice lost all trace of its professionalism. “Oh. Hey Michelle.”
“Yeah. No, it’s pretty slow today.” He absentmindedly tugged at the phone cord while he waited for a response. “Yep. That’s fine.”
I assumed that his manager had asked him about inventory, because Macon then leaned backwards and peered out of the round window. “I think we’re really only running low on Cannolis. Oh. Okay, I’ll go look down there.” While Macon made faces at his manager’s incessant talking, I took this opportunity to jack his rolling chair. He gave me the finger before his attention was brought back to the phone call. “Alright. See you, Michelle. Bye.”
“I need to fill more Cannolis,” he said after placing the phone back on its receiver.
“So fill more Cannolis.”
“I have to get the shells first. My manager says there’s more in the basement.” Macon watched impatiently as I spun myself around in a circle. The cardboard-steel colors all blurred together. “So let’s go,” he finally added.
“Why can’t I stay up here?”
He huffed. “Whatever,” he told me. “If a customer comes in, put on the plastic gloves over by the register before you help them, okay?”
I stopped spinning. “What? Why?”
“Well, you can’t tell them you’re not an employee. They’re gonna want to know what you’re doing back here, and if it’s someone who knows my boss, I’m screwed.” He wandered over to the door positioned next to the refrigerator.
“Goddammit, Macon,” I murmured. I got to my feet and followed after him. I couldn’t see his face as he searched for the light switch by the stairs, but I knew there was smugness written all over it.
He jumped two steps at a time, his clunky shoes making thud noises on the wood.
“This is the basement?” I asked, peering between the railings.
“What did you expect?”
“Something a bit darker, for starters,” I told him. “Basements aren’t usually covered with sickeningly bright geometric shapes and all.”
“Oh. That.” Macon reached the bottom of the stairs first. He waited there, looking up at me while he spoke. “Yeah. My manager was planning on clearing this place out and hosting kids’ birthday parties down here for some extra cash. You know, the whole ‘give thirty screaming children their own cupcake to decorate’ sort of thing.”
“What happened to that idea?”
“There was all this legal shit to go along with it. Apparently you need a permit for that kind of thing.”
“You think? Otherwise pedophiles would be opening Chuck E. Cheeses in their basements.”
Macon laughed. He waited for my feet to reach the concrete before he started deeper into the room. “Ready for the tour?” he asked.
He turned to face me, but he skillfully walked backwards on his heels. “On your left you’ll see some cooking utensils. Oddly-shaped cake molds, stuff for gingerbread houses. Altogether useless crap.”
“Wonderful,” I commented.
Macon extended his other arm, motioning to the opposite wall. “Over there is the freezer. It’s massive, cold, and not so much fun to get stuck in. I would know.”
“Even more wonderful.”
“And this,” Macon said, stopping at an entire wall of shelves, “is what we need.” He located a box of Cannoli shells and vigilantly removed it from the stacks of containers and trays. “Alright. Let’s go.”
“Awesome. It’s sub-zero down here,” I said, taking notice of the goosebumps that were starting to rise on my arms. This place felt like a meat locker.
“Yeah. It’s because of the freezer,” Macon told me. “The door on it doesn’t shut right ever since I mule kicked it in an attempt to get out.”
I followed Macon back over to the staircase, and then he and I made our way to the top. He turned the handle, but the door didn’t open. “Here,” he said, handing me the box of Cannoli shells. “Hold this for a sec.”
Macon then proceeded to shove against the door with his shoulder. It remained motionless. “It’s not opening.” His tone suggested panic. “I think it’s locked.”
“Very funny. Try a mule kick,” I murmured,
leaning against the railing. “Seriously, though. Open it. My fingers are
already going numb.”
“I am being serious.”
“Hah. Yeah. I get it. Objective ten, accidentally get locked in somewhere. Hysterical. Now stop sneaking peeks at my bucket list and let me the fuck out.”
“Andy, I’m not messing around!” He stepped to the side. “Look. You try.”
Sure enough, the doorknob wouldn’t move along with the palm of my hand. It made a taunting click noise each time I tried to rotate it. “Don’t you have a set of keys or something?”
“Yeah.” Macon put his hands in his pockets; first the front ones, then the back.
“You don’t know where they are!?” I demanded.
“I do.” Macon shifted his weight onto the other foot. Then he rubbed the back of his neck in meditation. “I know exactly where they are, in fact.”
“Well they’re sitting on the kitchen counter right next to the microwave.”
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” I groaned, sinking down onto the top step.
Macon sighed and lowered himself onto the stairs, too. “So hey,” he said lamely. “One of your bucket list objectives is to accidentally get locked in somewhere?”
“Kind of convenient, don’t you think?”
I allowed my head to drop back against the railing behind me. “Not the circumstances I had in mind.”