Space Girl Blues
by Bruce Pavalon
Chapter 5: Working Man
The idea of learning to bake bagels excited Aaron so much that he was unable to sleep, which was all right by Aaron. He spent most of the night tracking animals through the snow by the Mississippi River. Then he went to the minimart to see Bear.
Bear was sitting behind the cash register, listening to an Evangelist on the radio. “And the fifth angel blew his trumpet,” wailed the Evangelist, “and I saw a star fall from heaven to earth. From the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and earth were darkened with the smoke...”
Aaron stomped into the minimart; he lifted his ski mask, pulled off his mittens and hooted as if he were at a baseball game, “Cracker Jack!”
Bear turned down the radio and flipped a box of Cracker Jack to Aaron. “Can’t wait for baseball season.”
“I gotta job.” Aaron pocketed the Cracker Jack.
Bear fell back in his chair. “Are you sure that’s something you want to get into?” The radio squealed and turned to static.
“That must be my new boss passing by.”
Bear turned off the radio. “The bagel woman! You got a job at Schroeters’?! Are you nuts?!”
“I’m nuts for Cracker Jack.”
The minimart door swung open, and cold wind blew into the store followed by Nikoli Walsh, a dark, mysterious twenty-eight year old, wearing a long black wool coat like a count. Nikoli hooted at Bear as if he were at a baseball game, “Cracker Jack!”
Bear grabbed a box of Cracker Jack and tossed it to Nikoli.
Nikoli snatched it out of the air. He opened the Cracker Jack and dug in.
Aaron was taken aback. That was one of his routines with Bear. “You do this with everyone?” he asked Bear.
Bear chuckled. “It’s my job. People yell Cracker Jack, and I toss them Cracker Jack. Then they pass me money.”
Nikoli pulled a dollar out of his pocket and placed it on the counter. “There you go, Bear.”
“Thanks, Beams. See, Aaron, everybody does it. It’s in the song.” Bear sang, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack...”
Nikoli joined Bear, and they sang together, “I don’t care if I never get back.” Nikoli and Bear laughed.
Aaron felt naïve. He thought that he and Bear had something special. How stupid could he have been?
“How ya doing, Beams?” Bear asked Nikoli.
“Living in laser land, Bear,” replied Nikoli.
“Heh, heh, heh, sounds good. Hey, do you know Aaron?”
Nikoli looked at Aaron. “Don’t believe we’ve met.” Nikoli put out his hand for Aaron to shake. “Nikoli Walsh.”
Aaron still felt hurt, but he had to accept the formality. He quickly shook Nikoli’s hand while saying his name. “Aaron Evinrude.”
Nikoli held the Cracker Jack box out for Aaron. “Cracker Jack?”
Aaron suspiciously looked at Nikoli and patted the box of Cracker Jack in the pocket of his jacket. “No, thanks. I have my own box.”
Nikoli smiled. “Then how ’bout the toy surprise?”
Now Aaron was annoyed. Who the hell is this guy? “I don’t think so, dude. I gotta run.” Aaron stepped toward the door.
Nikoli pulled the red, white and blue toy surprise wrapper out of the box and opened it. “Wait!” said Nikoli right before Aaron opened the door. Aaron stopped and glanced back at Nikoli.
Nikoli held the open toy surprise wrapper for Aaron to see. It was empty. Bear excitedly watched.
“The toy surprise is missing. Where do you think it might be?” asked Nikoli.
“I don’t care,” replied Aaron. “I gotta go to work.”
“Where do you work?” asked Nikoli.
Aaron huffed, but Bear replied for him. “Aaron just got a job at Schroeters’ Bagel Bakery.”
“I love bagels,” said Nikoli. “I’ll have to go there sometime.”
“That would be swell,” said Aaron, sarcastically. “I really do have to go.” Aaron opened the door. Cold air blew in his face.
“Wait!” said Nikoli. “Look at the back of your hand.”
Aaron looked at the back of his hand. There was a Scooby Doo temporary tattoo stuck to it.
“Scooby dooby doo!” said Nikoli doing his best Scooby Doo impression. “That’s where my toy surprise went.”
Bear clapped. “Bravo! Another marvelous magical feat. Bravo, Nikoli! You’re the magic man.”
Annoyed, Aaron rubbed the tattoo.
“Don’t worry, it’s not permanent,” said Nikoli with a wink.
Aaron pulled his ski mask over his face. “I’m outta here,” and he left the minimart and headed toward Schroeters’.
* * *
Carrying her umbrella and wearing her metallic snowmobile suit, Anini strolled up to the front door of Schroeters’. She unlocked the door, and Aaron’s mitten-covered hand tapped her on the shoulder, startling her.
Reflexively, Anini turned, hooked Aaron’s leg and body slammed him into a snow bank. She pulled her stun gun out of one pocket and a large black Maglite-like cylinder out of the other pocket and pointed both of them at Aaron.
Aaron cowered. “Please, not again!” Aaron lifted his ski mask, revealing his face. “It’s me, Aaron, Aaron Evinrude. I’m here to work.”
Anini lowered the stun gun and the cylindrical device. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”
Aaron gazed at the Maglite-like cylindrical device. “What is that?”
“You don’t want to find out,” said Anini. She pocketed the stun gun and the cylindrical device. “You’re not supposed to be here for forty-five minutes.”
“I thought I’d come early and watch you bake bagels. My goal is to learn to bake.” Aaron lifted himself out of the snow bank.
“We need counter help, not another baker. Didn’t I warn you about boundaries?”
Aaron pulled off his mittens, brushed snow off of his butt, rubbed his chest, and grimaced.
“What about my boundaries?!”
Anini looked at the Scooby Doo tattoo on Aaron’s hand. “Are you into Scooby Doo?”
Aaron looked at his hand and shook his head. “Oh, that...”
“Scooby Doo is cool. You can come in. Just don’t piss me off again.” Anini unlocked the door and entered Schroeters’. Aaron followed.
Anini unzipped her snowmobile suit, partially closed her umbrella, and flipped a switch on the handle of the umbrella, drawing Aaron’s attention.
“What does that switch do?” asked Aaron.
Anini shot a look at Aaron. “Boundaries... You can watch. Just don’t get in the way.”
“Follow me.” Anini led Aaron to the back room, gave him an apron then got ready to bake. She fired the oven and boiler then pulled racks of raw bagels out of the cooler. She assumed her baking position, between the boiler and oven with the sink in front of her and the raw bagels behind her, then started baking. She baked methodically.
It was quite beautiful to watch, and Aaron took it all in, the rising dough, the bagels boiling in dark malted water and the orange flames of the rotating convection oven baking the boiled racks of bagels, all leading to the moment when freshly baked bagels were dumped into a basket, ready to be sold.
“Bagel baking is like music. If you lose your rhythm, everything else becomes chaotic,” Anini said while placing racks of glossy boiled bagels into the oven. She flipped a switch, and the racks of the oven rotated.
“Real music occurs in the dissonance,” countered Aaron.
Anini dumped a tray of raw bagels into the boiling malted water. “Dissonant bagel bakers burn bagels... butt-head,” she said, momentarily smiling. “What type of music does your band play?”
“We’ve got our own type: eclectic man-hating anti-technological music. You would like it. It’s right up your alley. You should come to our gig tonight at the Leatherneck Lounge.”
“I work tomorrow morning.”
“Me, too. We can stay up all night together.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Think about it. It’s our first gig. It’s going to be a good one.” Aaron picked up a baked bagel. “You know, bagels are crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside.”
Anini scooped the bagels from the boiler and dumped them into the sink. “But if you boil your bagels too long they become mushy all over.”
“Does that mean you’re coming to our gig?” asked Aaron, hopefully.
“No, and that means shut up.”
Aaron shut up, but he felt good. He had not only started what he considered to be a bagel-baking apprenticeship, he also felt Anini was starting to warm up to him.
Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Pavalon