NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 3: Bread

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel walked west. He had fifty cents and hunger in his pocket, and the latter was outgrowing the former. Where could he go with two quarters, with the strange word that rang in his ear: “lotten”? With the sound of the owl?

He smelled it before he saw the light, softly illuminating traces of snow on the sidewalk. The bakery, named for an angel. The conchos and cuernos and his Mom’s favorite cookies pulled him in by the nose. Mr. Bussey had told him that the bakery had made the Guinness Book of World Records once, for making the World’s Largest Dog Biscuit. He remembered that a young girl, shy and pretty, sometimes worked the counter.

When he walked in, she was there, taking an order for a birthday cake from a mother with two kids: tres leches, with Dora the Explorer painted on the frosting. She had on a lilac sweater, with one sleeve pulled up higher than the other. A tiny gold cross hung below her neck. Her dark blue apron was softly floured. After the family left he stood in front of the counter for a long time.

“Buenas tardes”, he finally managed to get out.

“Buenas noches”, the girl replied. She showed no signs of impatience. Or interest.

“Solo tengo, um, fifty cents. Tengo hambre—I’m really hungry”

“Supongo que si”, the girl replied, and motioned to the wall behind her. Angel scanned the wall, as if a message was there. He saw the prices for full sheet cakes, halves and quarters. Pictures of Pooh Bear, Tinkerbell and Spider Man. A list of flavors: ronpope, fresa, coco. A clock. If there was a message there, he couldn’t see it. He looked back at the girl and shrugged his shoulders.

“Momentito”, she said, and went into the back. Angel thought he could hear a male voice talking with her, but couldn’t make out the words. After a moment, she reappeared, with a large man in a white apron.

“Este es mi Tío—my Uncle Jaime”

“I understand that you are hungry and have no money”, the man said.

“Yes sir. I mean, no sir. I mean, yes I am very hungry, and no, I don’t have any money.”

Her uncle handed him a sack filled with bread and cake, a styrofoam cup of coffee. Angel thanked him, the man wished him good luck, and went back to the ovens. The girl took a newspaper from the counter, tore off a corner, wrote something on it, folded it and gave it to him.

He was hoping that it was her phone number, but instead he saw a notice for a homeless shelter run by a church. It said you needed to be there by 8 pm to get a bed. He looked up at the clock. It was 7:15. He still had a little time. He smiled at the girl, and she smiled back. He wanted to comment on something: her eyes, her hair, some feature. He felt like Aladdin, trying to talk to Princess Jasmine. Finally, he said, “I like your cross”.

She blushed a little. Her eyes looked down, and her thumb and first two fingers instinctively rubbed the thin gold.

“Gracias” she said, her eyes. “It’s from my Mom. She’s in Guanajuato”

“My name is Angel.”

“Yo soy Luz. Luz María García Rivera, a sus ordenes.”

A sus ordenes. At your service. He hoped that she would be, for a little while at least, but then several customers came in. He said goodbye, and that’s when his eye caught the sign on the wall behind her: it was the seeing eye in the triangle, the one on the back of the dollar bill. Was that what Luz had wanted him to see? What could she possibly mean?

He went off, searching for shelter.

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