Before Nova Sparkles: At the Bakery
This is the first in a series of short stories called Before Nova Sparkles, which expand on the backstories of many of the characters in Nova Sparkles. This particular one was the subject of Ultra Short Story Revising Marathon, my sequel to Short Story Writing Adventure Marathon that was on December 27 where I revised as many stories as I could in 24 hours. I hope you enjoy.
I also want this to be an announcement that WhiteKnight and I are revising Nova Sparkles, as well as releasing several more installments of the franchise! (Beyond Nova Sparkles, my nanowrimo 2012, may or may not actually be one of these.)
At the Bakery
A Before Nova Sparkles tale by Thedude3445
Glazed. Make it Glazed.
These few words resounded within Mantisman every once in a while. It wasn’t often when he thought of them, working long and hard in his grocery store, but when he did, they were important. Four simple words. That was all it took for him to stop what he was doing, and remember. They brought him back to a time, long, long ago. when he was just a baker. That profession lasted only for a few short years, and being so long ago, most of his memories of that job were faded, but he could recall one moment profoundly. The one day that changed his life forever…..
The town of Brooklyn. A bustling town which, despite its meager population of 2,300, was always lively. People bustling about, with things to do, places to go, people to meet, and so on, for what seemed like all day, and nonstop. For such a small town, it surely seemed like the most important one around, up in Alaska. It was currently November, and a freezing one at that, but the town remained as busy as it always had been. Even then, rare was a moment when there was silence. Sure, it was usually happy noise, but too much noise drove Mantisman crazy sometimes.
Mantisman was very thankful that he lived in his own shop, so that he rarely had to leave and go into the frosty weather outside. Insects sure didn’t like the cold. There were few to no sentient insects living in this part of the world, though; Alaska was not very arthropod-friendly for about half the year, despite the other half being as pretty as could be. Chilly weather did not suit any bug, really, and if the pay wasn’t so good, Mantisman himself would be out of here in an instant.
The rest of the denizens of Brooklyn went about their business. Some wore more clothes than others (Mantisman didn’t wear any, considering he was a bug and not a person), but they continued along their days nonetheless, being just as busy as any other time of the year. At least these people were motivated enough to go out and do their business even when it was freezing cold. It was more than Mantisman could say, at least.
The town’s incessant activities meant that Mantisman’s store was still as full as it always was, and he could stay busy and not bored. For the Mantis Code was strictly against boredom, and said that any who was unsatisfied with their current activity should be punished via a week of hard labor, so they see how exciting their normal life was compared to this. The… Mantis Police did enforce this rule… So Mantisman was glad for the continuing influx of customers.
This particular day happened to be election day in Brooklyn as well as around the country, and the voting process was a civic activity most all citizens participated in. And it was an important one, too. The Presidential election between Weston Wamp and George Clooney was going to be a tough one, and this very city was divided on who exactly it should have been. Alaska, this election, was a fierce political battleground, being the most important swing state of each candidate’s campaigns, and Brooklyn was representative of this. Mantisman always voted for the Green Party though, for obvious reasons.
The most fierce election, however, was the one for sheriff. Three candidates had been duking it out for months as they campaigned for the spot left open by former sheriff Thomas Smith, and even Mantisman had a hard time deciding on who to choose to vote for. He cast his ballot early for one Magi Eisenberg, but the other two candidates were just as strong competitors, though they went against his beliefs at times. There would surely be a runoff, he thought, since that usually happened when there were three candidates that could all hold their own, which made Mantisman sick, realizing he would have to go back outside and vote again in December, which was even colder than it was now. Brrr.
Because the grocery store was the building next to the election center, it was unnaturally busy in the store today. People who wanted to stock up on food before they went back home were here in great numbers today, crowding the place probably far past the maximum capacity and beyond. But hey, more business meant more money, which meant Mantisman could get a raise maybe.
He wished though that these billions of customers would keep their voices down a little though. It was like the mall, where he could hear every little conversation all at once, and it was so annoying. People all talking about the election, and having political debates, even after they cast their ballots and everything. The latest gossip about who was dating who, and who the police just caught doing drugs and all that. What, were they in high school now? Mantisman was about to scream, it was so loud in this store, but he kept his calm. He merely bashed his head against the counter. Much better.
Surprisingly, very few people who came in were at all interested in the bakery, something Mantisman was very glad was the case. It meant that he could just sit in the back-room and try to get some sleep, just so long as nobody rang the bell for service.
It was about 4 ‘o’clock and getting pretty dark, when one of the candidates for sheriff, Maxwell Weasley, entered, his crowd of supporters following him just past the “No campaigning within 100 feet of the polling area” barrier.
The already-large wall of sound amplified as soon as he opened the door, his supporters shouting and cheering about a hard-fought and well-won victory that was soon to come. The annoyance turned into horror as this noise got closer. And closer. And closer. And cl-
Mantisman groggily stood up and slowly made his way over to the counter of the bakery. He had prayed and prayed it wasn’t for what he thought it was going to be, and he was a firm believer in prayer, but he was already certain exactly what this man was going to say. Still, he looked at the candidate, sighed, and pretended to be a polite employee.
“How may I help you, sir?”
“Hello, my name is Maxwell Weasley, and I’m running for sheriff. How are you?”
“Uhh… Good, sir?”
“Good. Then I’d like to treat my future constituents to a little something. A donut for each of them, on me.” He laid down a gigantic check, with… five figures? Dang. He wished the money went to him instead of the store. Mantisman was in awe of this massive amount of cash, until he looked up and saw how many people were lined up for food. He only had about a hundred donuts already prepared, and there were many more people than that…
Mantisman got an assistant to start handing the donuts out while he began cooking more with an absolute fury. It was the most exhausting thing Mantisman had done since he left the fry cooking business ten years ago; this was like a lunch rush, but even worse because he had to actually make the food instead of just thaw it!
It took about an hour of hard labor before he finally made enough donuts to fill the bellies of these freeloaders, many of whom Mantisman had met personally in the past and knew for a fact they didn’t vote for Weasley. They just wanted food. And they got some, all right. It seemed like all 2,300 people in the darn town had suddenly decided they wanted a free donut, all at once.
After it was all done, the grocery store was nearly empty; it was already past 7, which was way past dark, and nearly everyone had headed home, since the polls had finally closed, after a long and hard election season, and a particularly long and hard election day, too. The grocery store didn’t close until 9, but hardly anyone stayed out this late, not in the potentially sub-zero weather that Alaska sometimes had.
Mantisman did spot one customer though. It was Mister Roy, an older man who was pretty high up in the community. Why he was here at the grocery store, instead of at some upscale restaurant, was beyond Mantisman. He was eyeing the different types of donuts at the counter with a hungry gaze. Oh no, not again. This guy could buy out the whole store if he wanted; how many donuts would HE purchase?
“Why, hello there, Mister Roy.” Despite his aggravated emotions, he acted as courteous as he could, to make up for the jerks working in the other parts of the store. This did not seem to have any effect on Mister Roy, however.
“Yes. Hm.” Something was amiss with this Mister.
“Oh, uh… Nothing. I was just… Browsing.”
“You aren’t gonna buy the whole store or anything, are you?” Mantisman said with a chuckle.
“Actually… I could not do such a thing anymore.”
Mister Roy looked around to confirm that nobody else was around. “I… Mantisman, you are a good fellow, so I will share this secret with you. ….My wife left me last week. And not only did she take the kids, but she took all of the money, too. I am essentially a homeless man at the moment…. All I have is the cash on hand.”
“What? That’s terrible! Mister Roy, surely if you tell your friends about it, they’ll help you out or something.”
“They’re… on her side. I’ve made some mistakes in my time, and I’m paying for it. That’s all you need to know.”
“Oh. Well, I’m very sorry. So you won’t be buying a donut today?”
“I am afraid not. Actually.. I’d better go.”
A spark suddenly lit within Mantisman’s heart. After all this tiring work, almost literally slaving over a hot stove all day, he couldn’t just see Mister Roy off like this. He had to help the poor man out.
He stopped him just before he walked out of view. “Mister Roy, why don’t you have a box on me?”
“Oh, I don’t think I could….”
“Well then….” He hesitated for a moment. “Glazed. Make it glazed.” There was something of joy in Mister Roy’s eyes. Obviously, he had never been helped like this in his life. He was always the benefactor, or the helper. Never one to actually be on the receiving end of any sort of kindness.
It only took about fifteen minutes for Mantisman to make a dozen donuts; it wasn’t actually all that difficult. He even slipped an extra one in, just for good measure. As he presented the box to Mister Roy, he somehow felt better than he did before. It was so strange.
Mister Roy walked out of the store with the box of donuts with a sort of skip in his step, and Mantisman was very happy. It only cost the store a few dollars and just a bit of effort on his part, but this act of giving incited something that had remained dormant. Mantisman decided, from then on, to help others as much as he could.
A couple months later, a few dramatic events within the town drove Mantisman out of Alaska altogether. He had enough money saved up to survive for a long time in Canada, where he opened up his own restaurant chain that became one of the most popular in the nation.
In his later years, he would give up this endavor, as society in North America progressed and cared less about good food and good service. He eventually settled on owning a grocery store of his very own in the far-off land of Eropia. This was the store where he would meet young Angela Sprinkles, a girl full of joy and ready to do whatever she could to help others. Mantisman knew that she would become great one day. It took him many years to realize what effect kindness had on others, but she– no, she was born with this.
She would do great things. He knew it.