A Special Kind of Folk

an excerpt

Food & Spirits

When the woman collapsed onto the dish cart, her wig detached and slid across the floor. Her male companion's blood sprayed like catsup onto the synthetic tresses. Were it not for the tragedy of it all, one might laugh at the image of Eva Gabor Windswept #12 in tone-on-tone ash blonde and AB Negative.

"Empty the cash register!"

The man and woman hadn't been the most pleasant customers in the bakery, but owners Henrik and Peter von Vlick-Robertson would never have wished the pair leave this Earth by way of two bullets from one shaggy robber.

"I said empty the damn cash register or you two fucks'll be next!"

Fucks. What did it really mean to call someone a "fuck"? On the one hand, there was optimism in the term. Like calling a car a good drive. But on the other hand, it was like referring to a person as a "copulation" or an "intercourse." Technically most all of us are the result of a fuck, good or bad, but...am I really a fuck? Language certainly had its quirks.

"Are you deaf, asshole?"

Though Henrik had just witnessed two murders, had a gun pointed at him, and was about to lose more than $3,501.63, he bristled at this unkempt imp calling him a fuck and an asshole. After all, Henrik had resisted pointing out this boy's laughable attempt at facial hair. And his chicken legs. Just where were the manners of today's youth?

"Open the register, Henrik," Peter said, "and let's have this gentleman be on his way."

"Gentleman indeed," Henrik mumbled. Who was to say this cretin wouldn't mow down the two of them after the money was in his grubby little hands? There was no guarantee. Simply handing over the money was too risky. Henrik knew he had to activate the emergency systems. He'd never used them before but they were always at the ready: the silent alarm, the air horn, and the pepper spray.

"Yes, Peter, I'll just move slowly over here and give this man what he deserves."

"And no tricks. You keep your hands where I can see 'em!"

Whenever things slowed down at the Crystal Falls Candle Shop, usually after four p.m., it was customary for Peter to drive over to Amber Waves Artisanal Bakery to pitch in to help his dear husband Henrik. Vice versa, of course, when the bakery was slow. "It's all about family." The couple lived by that Golden Rule. And were it not for the chunk of change that Peter's sister Prudence had given them as a tax-free maneuver, they never would have been able to open up their two little businesses.

Yes, it was all about family.

"I hope you don't mind small bills," Henrik said.

"Hurry your ass up."

Cowbells in Switzerland. Ah, Switzerland! Where'd they spent their honeymoon. That's what Henrik always thought about whenever he heard the door chime. And when the shop in that very moment filled with the sounds of the Alps, the goatee-challenged youth spun around and fired at Prudence Robertson, who came every Thursday to dine with her dear brother and his husband.

As Prudence crumpled and fell to the floor, Peter picked up a box of napkins and threw it at the robber. Henrik in turn heaved a milk jug and a fork.

When it was all over, Henrik lay on his back with a broken arm, the empty cash register drawer above his head. Peter lay in a heap under the coat tree.

Poor Peter. He looked, in death, as serene as when he was a teenager napping in the hammock at Stella Maris on the Lake, where they'd first met at Catholic summer camp. Beautiful and peaceful. Not a care in the world.

"We'll do our best to catch the bastard," Sheriff Pfeiffer assured Henrik two hours later. His deputy nodded.

"Again our condolences, Mr. Robert...Mr. von...Rob--"

"Von Vlick-Robertson," Henrik said, patiently.

"Yeah, right, got it. Thanks." The sheriff had been brought up right. Polite. Empathetic. Kept a comfortable distance from others. How Henrik hated people invading his personal space. In most cases, anyway. But now was not the time to fantasize about those exceptions.

Poor Henrik had planned that evening to debut a new rye bread. Instead he'd watched the ambulance carry away four corpses. He, in turn, would spend several hours in the Emergency Room having his arm bone set and a cast applied.

"What'll you do now?" the deputy asked as Henrik stepped into the ambulance. "You got someone to stay with you, providing they don't keep you at the hospital?"

"I have plans," Henrik said. "Believe me, I have plans."