A Second Chance
By Dawn Natelle
SATURDAY, June 4, 2016
Rachael was up very early. Her parents were already at work, and Bobby was going to have to get up when he woke later and help Grandpa whenever he could. He would make himself breakfast: cereal for him, and toast for Grandpa. This was the most responsibility the little boy had to this point, and he was told to call Maria at the bakeshop if there were problems.
Rachael had to go to the early morning photo shoot at the cenotaph, and ate a quick breakfast first, leaving the cereal and bread on the table where Bobby would find them.
At the cenotaph Mikki set up her camera, and the first actors appeared at about 7 a.m. They were scheduled at five-minute intervals, but some came late, and some were early, so the girls pretty much shot the pictures as the actors were available. Carly had a clipboard where she kept track of who had been shot, and who was due. They were done at the cenotaph by 9:30 and headed to the high school to shoot the theatre guys (and girls), along with their teacher. Mr. Churchill and Mrs. Cathcart had been shot earlier in the week, at the school. Then it was over to the Legion where the last shot was taken, a group shot of all the members who had helped in any way, outside their building.
“Guys, I’m going to donate my share of any of the money that we make from the film,” Rachael said as they were setting up the Legion shoot. Larissa immediately agreed. Mikki thought for a few seconds, and then she said she would do the same, since it was the credit for producing and directing the film that she would need to get into film school. Carly seemed a bit reluctant, but agreed.
After the shoot the Legion president came forward: a woman, to the surprise of the girls. Her father had served on D-Day, and she had supported the Legion all her life, initially in the auxiliary, and later in the main branch, when women were finally allowed to be members.
“Girls, I can’t tell you how much we are waiting to see your film,” she said. “Is there any chance that we can have a showing here at the Legion? So many members are interested.”
“We can do the world premiere here,” Mikki said. “We will be showing it in class at school on June 17, but anytime after that we can do a showing or two for you here.”
“What would you like us to charge for tickets?” the lady said.
“Why, that would be up to you,” Rachael said. “We have all agreed that any earnings from the film would go to the Legion. I think Mr. Churchill spent some money on the special effects and the German costumes, and it would be nice to pay him back, but after that it will all go to the Legion.”
“You girls are wonderful,” the president said, darting from one to the other to give them hugs. “With our members tending to be older, it is harder to find the funds to keep this place running. There are good points to it, I guess. I’m 67 and a lot of the older fellows call me ‘that young girl’ which is great for the ego. But knowing that real young girls like you four care means so very much.”
The girls were treated to a lunch in the Legion. It was just sandwiches and they weren’t made with Love Bread. Rachael found the taste of Wonder Bread so spongy and flat compared to the seven-grain bread she had gotten used to, and only ate one half sandwich. The other girls also ate light, giving each other looks.
Rachael decided to ask Geoff if he could supply the Legion with a flat of Love Bread next week. They might not become a customer, but the $80 retail cost of 20 loaves would help the Legion out financially.
Rachael got Mr. Stover to drop her off at the church, where the bake sale was almost over. She was surprised to see her mother there.
“It is only 1 p.m.,” Rachael said in amazement. “Why aren’t you at the bakery?”
“We made a few too many Cloud rolls,” Maria said. “Mike said they wouldn’t be salable on Monday, so I brought 24 dozen out here to sell. It’s my first time driving the van. I split open one dozen, and cut the rolls into quarters. Pretty much everyone who sampled one bought a dozen, so the church earned almost $75 from just our stuff.”
“Good,” Rachael replied. “I was feeling bad about not baking much, other than some cookies on Wednesday with Pastor Helen. But with film night on Thursday and the trip to the farm on Friday, there just wasn’t time.”
“How are they doing at the store?” Rachael asked.
“It is great. Mike is wonderful. I think he knows more than Geoff about baking. He said our bread molder is a bit loose, and we should get a mechanic in to tighten it up. Geoff will call someone next week.”
“Have him talk to Gary first,” Rachael said. “He can fix anything.” Just then Pastor Helen came over to hug Rachael.
“Your idea was splendid, Rachael,” she said. “We will make something over $500 from the sale. That will be enough to fund at least two dinners. I don’t know about the other two weeks though. The ladies feel we can only do one of these a month.”
“Don’t you worry about the other two weeks, Pastor Helen.” It was Gary, who had joined the group. “We have finished the equipment sale, and took in $9500. Half of that goes to the deacon, but I get to decide what to do with the other half. So no scrimping on the dinner please. I will make up the costs.”
“That money belongs to you, Gary,” Pastor Helen said. “You earned it.”
“It belongs to the Lord,” the caretaker said. “I only get to decide how to use it in His name.”
“How did you get so much?” Rachael asked.
“Well, as Chipper and I finished something, we took a picture and posted it on Kijiji. That was Skid’s idea. Just a picture and a little description, telling that it would be for sale on Saturday morning.”
“Well, one of the things we found in the shed was an old-time bathtub, with brass claw feet. Chipper worked four hours to clean it up, and it looked like new by the end. This morning, I found three people had asked me to save it for them. One was from Toronto, one from Hamilton, and one all the way from Oshawa. In the end we had a little auction, and the Toronto guy won. He paid $1300 for it. His new house will cost a million dollars, I guess, so that isn’t much to him for an original piece.”
“Most of the other things were sold based on a price tag. I think there were three or four other items where several wanted it, and we had little auctions for them too, and usually got double our asking price. But most importantly, there is now a lot of space in the shed, and I want to put up some bunk beds for the Hobo Army. We are up to seven members now, and I want space for Wednesday. I bet we get a lot more members then after the dinner.”
“That is fabulous, Gary,” Rachael said. “It must have been a lot of work getting things ready.”
“Yeah, Chipper is exhausted. He claims he has lost 20 pounds. He’s sleeping in the shed right now. We worked through most of the night to get as much done as possible. Skid has been working long hours too. I’m going to have to relieve him from lobby duty. He and another new member of the Hobo Army have been keeping it open around the clock.”
“24/7?” Rachael said, turning around to see that the church sign read ‘We never close. God never sleeps.’ “I thought you closed from midnight to eight.”
“Not since we got the last two members of the Army. We had people waiting each morning at 8, and people still wanting to pray late. Our closing time sort of came a little later each night, due to people coming in and wanting to pray. When it was 2:30 last night we just stayed open. I changed the sign early this morning so that people coming to the sales would see it.”
“I hope the deacon won’t mind,” Pastor Ruth said cautiously.
“He won’t,” Gary said with a chuckle. “Not when I show him the pile of bills that I cleared out of the contributions bin this morning. People who come in at night tend to have serious problems: some are at the end of their ropes. They tend to donate heavily when the Lord eases their problems. Deacon Jefferson will be quite happy with the new hours. And it gives the Army something to do to earn their keep. I’ve been using the kitchen in the morning to feed them and they get a meal at night, but we usually do that in our shed.”
“With everything you have sold, do you want more donations coming in?” Pastor Ruth asked.
“Yes, the more the better, especially if there is going to be a sale every month. The shed still has enough junk in it to make for two or three sales, but I want to keep my guys busy. And the men who came to the sale were happy to have something to do while their wives were inside buying baked goodies. More than a few women came out. They finished their shopping before the men. And a couple of women bought things.”
“Well I will make an announcement at the early service, and see that Pastor McNaughton does the same. Can I direct them to you?”
“You may, and I appreciate the advertising.”
“Do you want to check out the sale, Rachael?” Maria said. “There isn’t much left. If you hurry, I can give you a lift back to the bakery.”
Rachael did go to the tables, which had only a few things left. There was a lopsided Angel Food cake, and Bobby and Grandpa really liked those. She picked it up and a woman of about 30 hustled up to her. “You want that?” she said eagerly. “I thought I was going to have to take it home with me. “I’m not really good at baking, and I was surprised that my cookies sold well. But that sad-looking thing just sat there, taunting my inept baking skills.”
“Well baking takes practice. Is it a mix cake, or homemade?”
“Homemade from scratch,” the woman said.
“Well then it is a perfectly fine first attempt. The first Angel Food I made was just as bad. It will probably be tasty though. Mine was,” Rachael said. “You know, we should have a beginner’s baking class here in the kitchens once a month. I gave Pastor Helen a lesson on Wednesday for making cookies. They are kind of my specialty. But there are so many older ladies in the new auxiliary that I bet could teach the rest of us a lot.”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful,” the woman said. “I would come to that.”
“Well, talk to Pastor Helen about it. She is getting married soon, and wants to learn more herself.”
With that, Rachael gave the woman $5 for the cake (marked down from $10 several hours earlier, the woman said) and got into the van.
At the bakery, it was nearly 2 and the shelves were still largely full. Mike was gone to take a nap. He had started the doughs at 11 last night, and when Geoff and Maria got in at 4 he had things well underway. From then until noon the two men worked, and Maria went between her normal three stations, helping in the front, taking phone orders and packing them, and helping in the back, although there seemed to be less and less to do back there.
“I suspect Mike will be back here in an hour or two,” Geoff said. “He will come up with something new and delicious for our customers, without a doubt.”
“I wonder how long we will be able to keep him,” Maria said. “He seems like he could run his own shop before too long.”
“I told him this morning that his probation was over before it even started, and set his hourly rate at $25. It almost floored him, especially when I told him that I was setting his hours for this week at 40 hours, since he had been down here so much. Next week I’m going to try to set him to a limit of eight hours a day.”
“I have an idea,” Rachael said, and they both turned to her. Rachael ideas were usually worth listening to.
“You know he is going to work more than 40 hours, and you can’t really pay overtime at that rate. Why don’t you do what Archie is doing with JJ? Offer him 5% ownership in the business at the end of each year. After six years, the rate will drop to 3.3%, and then he will be an equal partner in the business with you and Mom. As a partner of course he won’t expect overtime. He won’t think of leaving, especially if you keep letting him being creative with new products.”
“That is a great idea,” Geoff said, and Maria nodded. “I was going to put him on from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. but we are super busy at 8 and I couldn’t see him leaving. I think if he goes up for his nap at 10 and then does whatever he wants after 2 I will be happy.”
“I’ll keep coming in at 4, but I think Maria should start coming in at 8 again. The early hours were to help out, and we really don’t need it. From 8 to 6 is a good shift for her.”
“And you will leave no later than 4, mister,” Maria ordered. “No need for you to stay later, since we don’t bake anything that late.”
“Unless we are short on pies or cookies,” Geoff said.
“Agreed,” Maria said. “Although with two wonder bakers in here, that won’t happen often.”
“Well, maybe on Thursday, if Rachael comes up with a good ad for us for Clouds,” he said.
“Oh yes,” I forgot about that. “Can I use the bakery computer?”
“To write an ad that will make us lots of money? I think we will allow it,” Maria said with a smile as Rachel headed to the lunchroom/office. She returned an hour later. Mike was at the scales, weighing out ingredients for something when she handed the sheet to her parents, who were doing their massages at the bench.
“You see them in the sky most sunny days. Little puffy, white things skittering across the horizon. Clouds.
“Bread Baron’s newest baker, Mike, has discovered how to capture those little clouds and make them into dinner rolls. They are 25% lighter than our regular rolls and 100% tastier. You will make your dinner guests jealous if you serve them, and your family will love you if you make them a regular part of your meals.”
“Clouds are largely hand-made. The dough is too delicate to run through our machines. But we sell them at almost the same price as our regular rolls. $4 for a dozen.”
“That’s wonderful honey, but we have been selling them for $3.50 a dozen,” Maria said.
“Consider that an introductory special,” Rachael said. “Clouds taste way better than most of the other types of rolls, so they should cost more. And people appreciate things that cost a bit more, if the quality is there. That is how Cadillac sells their cars.”
Geoff chuckled. “Maybe we should be making Rachael a partner over time, giving her one percent a year. That is great thinking, honey.”
“No Dad, I want to be a vet, not a baker. But I also want to see you and Mom succeed, so you will get all my ideas and writings. So if you guys are okay with that, I’ll go print out a couple of them as signs for the store. I’ll put one right on the door, so everyone will see it as they come in. You can keep that copy for the lady from the newspaper.”
When the day ended at 6, Mike served up the Red Velvet cake he had been working on, and Maria and Geoff added it to the cakes that were being served. He promised to try a Black Forest cake on Monday.
“Oh my God,” Rachael said as she bit into her slice of the light, chocolaty cake. “This is really good.” She Googled Red Velvet Cake and read the Wikipedia entry. “It says here that people thought that the Red Velvet Cakes sold in Eaton’s restaurants were the invention of Lady Eaton, the wife of the department store founder. Do you think we could call them Lady Eaton’s Red Velvet Cakes? Or would there be copyright issues?”
“Eaton’s has been out of business for 15 years. I doubt anyone will care. Let’s go with that, and if some lawyer objects to a tiny Ontario bakery using the name, we will rename it,” Geoff said.
Everyone enjoyed the cake, and Maria noted that there would be no one working on Sunday. Mike objected, saying that he had arranged for Gary and Chipper to come in after services to work on the funky molder.
“All right,” Geoff said reluctantly, “but then the bakery will make all the bread and rolls for the church supper on Wednesday. Cloud rolls. And we can do a dessert for everyone too. Brownies perhaps.”
“You know, for the homeless people who come, we could do a little baggie with a sandwich or two for them for the next day, and a couple cookies,” Rachael suggested.
“Good idea,” Maria said. “I remember how Gary’s face used to light up when I offered him a bun or two for sweeping the sidewalk. We can order cold cuts, lettuce, and tomatoes from Dasilva’s for fixings.”
Soon after everyone headed to their respective homes. Mike turned down an offer to join the family at the new house, but agreed to come to the Sunday dinner. Rachael also asked Geoff to invite his mother on Sunday. “She is part of the family: Grandma,” Rachael said.
At home Rachael and Maria made a simple dinner using a frozen lasagna. Geoff was about to go out and find Bobby when he saw the boy riding madly from the direction of Marc’s home. The boy seemed to have an internal clock that went off at dinner time.
He managed to get his hands washed in time to toss the salad. There were also Clouds for rolls, and Grandpa, who had not tasted them pronounced them excellent, comparing the taste to the field rations that he had eaten on the march to Holland, when the men had to go nearly a week without hot food. He was thrilled with the Angel Food cake, which didn’t look so bad when it was sliced. Rachael deliberately made the slices small, knowing that Bobby would beg for seconds.
After dinner they sat around like a real family. There was a hockey playoff game on Grandpa’s large screen television, and Bobby sat on Geoff’s lap watching the pros in the Stanley Cup finals. Bobby was cheering for the Penguins, paying particular attention to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and scoring sensation Sidney Crosby.
Maria and Rachael started by doing laundry, which had piled up over the past few weeks. Rachael had been trying to keep up, but with Maria at the bakery or sleeping almost all week, things had fallen behind. But with the two working at it, they soon had cleared up the backlog, and sat on the sofa together, folding clothes for the baskets that would be taken up to the bedrooms as the guys watched hockey.
Eventually Grandpa started nodding off, and Rachael took him to his bedroom, kissing him after helping him into his pajamas. She then headed out to the living room and told Bobby that she expected him to have a bath during the second intermission, and even started the bathwater for her brother so he could watch the last minute of the period, which took several minutes to play.
Then Bobby shot off the couch to run for the tub, stripping off his clothes as he ran to the tub, eager to get done before the intermission ended.
Maria stood up and called: “Mister, we don’t throw clothes like that in this house.” Bobby stopped in his tracks, but Rachael said: “Hurry up and get into the tub, Tiger. I will get your clothes.” Bobby continued his run to the bathroom as Rachael followed picking up the boy’s clothes and dropping them in the hamper in his room.
“You spoil that boy,” Maria scolded as Rachael returned to the family. She noticed that Maria had taken Bobby’s place on Geoff’s lap.
“I know, but I love him so much. He is a great kid,” Rachael said.
“Both of my kids are great,” Maria said. “Both of our kids.”
“Sitting there holding him: being a Dad. It was just great,” Geoff said. “It made all the work the last few weeks great. The bakery is doing great. We beat our sales record today, and even with all the new staff we are making good money.
On Hockey Night in Canada, who air the Stanley Cup in Canada, intermission ends with an interview of a player. When this came on Rachael called up to warn Bobby that the game was back on soon. They heard frantic splashing, and then three minutes later he came down with wet hair and wearing a big fluffy towel. He glared at his mother until she stood up, and then he nestled in to his former seat on Geoff’s lap.
He watched the start of the period, but was snoring softly after five minutes of play. “I’ll take him to bed,” Rachael said.
“No, let me,” Geoff said, getting up and carrying the sleeping boy to his room. Rachael assented. She would have had to wake Bobby, and that would have resulted in an argument about him wanting to watch the rest of the game.
“He really is a great Dad, isn’t he?” Maria said as they watched the baker carry his burden up the stairs.
“He sure is, Mom,” Rachael said. “Good job in picking a great guy. We haven’t had much experience with a father, but he sure has won his way into our hearts.”
“He is so cute up there,” Geoff said when he came back and gave Rachael a big hug before he again sat into his chair. “I always thought that a father’s love for his children was something that grew as they did. But I love you guys as much as I can. You are great kids, and you have a great mom.”
The great mom moved back to her former position on Geoff’s lap and then said ‘yuck’ when she found that his pants were damp from moisture that had run through Bobbie’s towel. She didn’t move though.
The game ended and Pittsburg won, taking a 3-1 lead in the best of seven series. Not long after the three remaining members of the family were yawning.
“It’s not fair,” Maria said. “We finally get a night when we don’t have to go to bed early and we are all too tired to enjoy it.”
“Well, we do have to get up earlier tomorrow,” Rachael noted. “Pastor Helen wants us at the sunrise service at the church. We should all go to bed. Are you coming with us, Dad?”
That last word brought a smile to Geoff’s face, as it almost always did. “I wouldn’t miss getting to show off my new family, just to sleep in,” he said. “Wake us when breakfast is ready.”
“So I’m back to my position as galley slave, am I?” Rachael said with a chuckle. “It will have to be Love Bread French Toast. That is Bobbie’s favorite for Sunday mornings.”
Minutes later Rachael was ready to pray:
Thank you for a wonderful day. We got all of the shooting done for our video. I hope it works to make people remember the veterans. Grandpa’s speech, remembering those who couldn’t come home, is so touching it makes me cry just thinking about it. No actor could provide that kind of feeling. I missed most of the bake sale today and all of Gary’s sale, but thank you for making them a success. We will use all the money raised to help others, and make you proud. And thanks for such a wonderful evening with my family. I love them all so much, and I know it is you who is responsible. I hope what I am doing merits all that I am gaining from my Second Chance.
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