Outside didn’t look as appealing as inside. The view through the net curtain of a grey, heavy sky and faded light said gloaming; the view from the mantelpiece from the 40 years of continuous service carriage clock said morning.
Carole shuffled in her slippers from the front room window and into the kitchen, switching on the light in the process. The power-saving bulb started up dimly, a shadow of its former self, then quickly improved its disposition until it provided enough light for Carole to be sure there were no slugs on the lino.
Slugs appeared occasionally if it had been raining in the night. Carole was unsure as to how they got into the house as she was very careful to close the kitchen window. For Carole, there was nothing more bothersome than scraping squashed slug from the sole of her slipper, especially before she’d even had a sip from the first brew of the day. Happily there were none this morning.
After opening the wooden roll top bread basket, Carole took out the last third of yesterday’s small white tin loaf. She took it into the back yard to the bird table and slowly rubbed the bread in her fingers until it was crumbed on the table. Carole had a brief thought that she should’ve swept off the last few days worth of crumb that had congealed and stuck together in the rain. “Tomorrow”, she thought.
After drinking the first brew of the day, an instant coffee, Carole washed, pulled on some clothes and pottered off to Samson’s bakers, two streets along.
As usual Linda had only just rolled-up the shutters and propped open the front door with a heavy, old, cast iron flat iron. A warm, gentle steam seeped out from the top of the door and into the murky autumn morning. A slight heat haze could be seen just below the ‘S’ and ‘A’ of the shop frontage.
“Morning Linda,” said Carole. “I’ll have a small white tin loaf please.”
There was no real need for Carole to ask for anything. She had been Samson’s first customer every morning for longer than Linda had worked there. First in everyday asking for the same ‘small white tin loaf’; rarely giving up much in the way of conversation. Initially, Linda had tried to engage in small talk but had given up a number of years back. Her vain attempts to chat about the weather or the state of the trams rarely got much response. The only time Carole had started a conversation was when Jim, the baker who’s name was above the door, had gone on holiday.
On the morning after the first day of Jim’s holiday, Carole had mildly rebuked Linda for not telling her that Jim was away and that a different baker had baked the bread: “It’s not that I don’t like the bread from the relief baker, it’s just that I do not like surprises.” Now, Linda, who herself couldn’t tell the difference between either baker’s wares, was sure to let Carole know the week before Jim went on holiday.
Linda passed over the loaf, which was wrapped in tissue paper. Carole passed back 73 pence, put the loaf in her plaid shopping back and walked back home.
Back in the kitchen of her mid-terrace home, Carole turned on the gas of the eye-level grill, held her finger on the ignition and watched as the flame took, as always, on the fourth click of the spark. She left it to warm while she put fresh water in the kettle and cut three slices from the loaf: the crust (or the ‘heel’ as Carole remembered her old Nana Macintosh from Scotland calling it) she spread with butter and ate while watching the other two slices toast on the grill.
When the toast was finished, it to was buttered, then had blackberry jam applied.
Carole sat down at the small kitchen table with her tea and toast and looked out the window. Two sparrows were stood on the bird table pecking over yesterday’s bread.