The bakery was a hometown favorite, or at least it used to be. Mary Anne’s was the place that drove people to the neighborhood. The street had other neighborhood secret destinations too, but everyone went to Mary Anne’s for a famous hot double chocolate chunk cookie. The original Mary Anne’s made 500 of the double chocolate chunk cookies throughout the day. Since five locations grew all around town, no one came to the original store anymore. No one had a reason. The owner didn’t care though. Daily goals were made and the store was small. The store also stopped giving out free cookies to kids under 10. Not to mention it doesn’t have its annual Christmas Cookie Fest. A day where kids in the neighborhood get to decorate a cookie for free. Things haven’t been the same for a while.
Nathaniel was bouncing a pen off the counter, over, and over, and over….
“Nate!” yelled the owner.
Nathaniel rolled his eyes. Mr. Garrison’s presence was a rarity nowadays.
“Yes?” said Nathaniel.
“I’m going to do some paperwork in the back,” he said. “Make yourself productive and mop the floor.”
Mr. Garrison went into the back and Nathaniel grabbed the mop and started behind the counter. An elderly woman came into the store. She was no stranger to the bakery. Nathaniel loved her daily visits. She worked at the shelter across the street. She always wore the same red plaid scarf and that didn’t quite match with her green and blue striped glasses.
“Hi, Maria,” said Nathaniel.
“Hello, darling,” she said. “Are they ready yet?”
“Not exactly, Maria. I promise I’ll distribute them when I’m done tonight.”
“Oh, thank you!” Maria’s big eyes got even bigger and twinkled bright. “You don’t know how much this means to us.”
“Don’t worry about it, see you in about an hour.” Nathaniel’s smile filled his face.
Maria left and headed back across the street. Her routine line. Maria’s job was to get everyone checked into the shelter. Nathaniel knew almost every face. John in the front lost his wife and then his job. Jody broke her leg and since she couldn’t afford the best care, it took her longer to heal, so they let her go. They made up a different reason to let her go, though, said she wasn’t ‘able to fit their company’s needs for an employee’. She was working as a painter, maybe a carpenter. The woman in the back was always with her son. He always had a blue ball cap and a superhero backpack on. He was always so happy, tossing drawings around in his hands trying to show everyone all his drawings at one time. He even drew a cookie for the store, but it was taken down. He doesn’t know it’s still not on the wall. Nathaniel hid it in one of the counter’s cabinet doors. Mr. Garrison said it didn’t fit the store’s brand. Nathaniel thought the opposite, it was the store’s brand. Hometown, homemade, a place for the community to enjoy and feel at home.
A woman walked into the store. She rushed in, nose high. She didn’t bother to say hello or even smile. Nathaniel moved from focusing on the line to focusing on the empty displays. There wasn’t much of anything left because it was almost closing time.
“Can I get two of the chocolate brownie cookies, two sugar, two oatmeal, and two no-bakes?” she asked while checking something on her phone, not bothering to look at Nathaniel.
“I only have one sugar,” Nathaniel said apologetically. “But I have one sugar and sprinkles if you’d like that?”
“I guess that’ll work.” She rolled her eyes and set her phone on the counter harder than she needed to.
She looked around the store as Nathaniel packed up her cookies. She stared at the line across and the street followed by quickly turning back towards the counter with a scoff.
“I can’t believe that line.” she said, “I wonder if they even try to find work?”
Nathaniel stopped moving, trying to find the right words to say to her. As he was about to speak up, Mr. Garrison came out from the back of the store.
‘I know right, it’s sad isn’t it,” he said with a sinister smile on his face, waving his clipboard in his hand.
“That’ll be $10.60,” Nathaniel said, not bothering to look towards Mr. Garrison.
Mr. Garrison continued. “They’ll stop getting freebies from here, that’s for sure.”
“Good,” she smiled and grabbed her cookies. “Have a nice day!”
Once she left, Nathaniel snapped back towards Mr. Garrison.
“Freebees?” Nathaniel said sharply. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“They won’t be getting leftovers at the end of the night,” he said with an emotionless stare.
“I don’t have to explain my decisions to my employees.”
“What am I supposed to do with the leftovers?”
“Save them. We’re gonna do a half off sale on the old cookies,” he said. “If they don’t sell after that just throw them away.”
“This is awful. The shelter is expecting the treats,” cried Nathaniel, throwing his hands in the air as a show of disapproval. “Maria asks every day.”
“If they want desserts, they can order them,” he said while pointing at the register. “I put cameras up, so don’t think about sneaking anything.”
As Mr. Garrison headed towards the door, Nathaniel yelled out, “Mary Anne wouldn’t have ever wanted this.”
Mr. Garrison froze, his eyes forward towards the line of people across the street. In his silence, he left the bakery. Nathaniel locked the door behind him. He then grabbed all the treats and boxed them up, leaving a note by the register, and snagged the special cookie drawing from the cabinet. Nathaniel looked directly at the camera lens and headed towards the shelter.
“Hi, Nate!” smiled Maria.
“Here’s all the treats we had left. Sorry there isn’t a lot, but there are some customer favorites in there!” said Nathaniel as he handed the box to Maria. “Maria. There’s something I have to tell you.”
She immediately broke down in tears. “Ever since Mary Anne’s opened they’ve donated leftovers to the shelter,” she told Nathaniel.
Nathaniel pulled her in close, being sure not to squish their last box of cookies. A small tear fell from Nathaniel’s face.
Mr. Garrison’s phone rang loud on his nightstand.
“Hello,” Mr. Garrison said with a choppiness in his voice.
“Hey, Mike. It’s Tony,” said the opener. “I’ve got all the displays and stuff for the half off treats, but there are no treats. Should I even set it up?”
Mr. Garrison flung out of bed, hand clenching the phone.
“What do you mean there’s no treats!” Mr. Garrison yelled.
“Uhhh, there are no treats,” Tony grabbed the note on the counter. “There’s this note on the counter from Nathaniel though.”
“Well, what does it say?”
“He took the treats over to the shelter because quote ‘Mary Anne would never let this happen. This place hasn’t been the same since she’s passed. I quit.’.”
Mr. Garrison hung up his phone and stared at his mom’s picture on the wall. His granddaughter, Lucey, ran into the room and jumped on his bed. Her hair was a mess and she drug her favorite teddy behind her.
“What’s wrong grandpa?” she squeaked.
“Uhh. I’m not sure,” he said faintly.
“Can we go get a cookie from the store,” she pulled his shirt the way kids tend to do. “I really want a cookie from the store!”
“We aren’t going today.”
“We just aren’t!” he snapped.
Lucey immediately began to cry and pulled her teddy bear in close.
“Oh, Lucey,” he said. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, I just miss your great grammy.”
“Me too,” Lucey said.
“How about we donate cookies to all the shelters in town?” he hugged Lucey close. “In honor of great grammy?”
“She’d love that!” Lucey ran out of the room to go get changed.
Mr. Garrison looked at the picture of his mom again.
“I’ll make this right,” he whispered to himself. “I promise you, mom.”