The machine that saws the uncut loaf into slices is mesmerising to watch, the buzzing sound soporific, the smell of fresh bread intoxicating. Then the noise stops and the lady behind the counter carefully places the warm sliced loaf in a paper bag and turns to hand it to me. She stops and looks across the glass counter at me. Her eyebrows are arched and her eyeballs are rotating loosely down to the left and then back up to look me in the eye; I wonder if the poor soul has some sort of eye muscle problem. But then her eyeballs stop swivelling and are fixed, staring down to the left. I swivel my own eyeballs and look down to my right. We both watch as my daughter’s small forefinger completes its journey like an icebreaker traversing the North Pole, slabs of icing piled up on either side of the channel she has cut across the top of an expensive cake.
That morning I had set out from home with my three year old daughter Laura in a harness, Winnie, our dog, on a lead, a five pound note in my pocket and a spring in my step. I was on a mission to buy a loaf of bread from the bakers at the bottom of our street. I was under strict instructions not to buy anything but the loaf and a ginger bread man for my daughter. Money was tight: unlike the gap between the glass fronted display cases on top of the bakers counter.
“Em, I’ll take the cake too.” I mumbled, thinking I should have tied my daughter to the lamppost with Winnie.
A box containing the damaged cake is placed next to the loaf of bread. I start to hand over the precious fiver when the woman’s eyes again roll alarmingly. I look down. Once more laura has slipped her hand between the two display cases and using two fingers, has skied across a gateaux swerving skilfully around a glazed cherry slalom.
As the lady stretches over the pile of cake boxes to hand me the leavings of my five pound note I feel I tug on my sleeve.
“What?” I ask looking down at Laura, I don’t know about the woman behind the counter but my eyes are now rolling like a hospitalised doll.
“Can I have a ginger bread man daddy?”