Robin de Voh
writer, developer, nerd

Nanoprep 2020 Day 17: The Baguette Bastard

By Robin de Voh on 2020-10-27

Every day he'd come in, just before lunch time, face set to war, grumbling to himself, and sometimes he'd even swear. He'd then hardly look at whoever was working and say, shortly and with no friendliness to spare, 'one baguette'. Sometimes he'd add 'and quick, please, I haven't got all day," but that was reserved for particularly nasty days.

Sometimes the vein on his forehead would be pulsing and he'd be even more agitated.

Somebody had started calling him the Baguette Bastard a while ago and it had caught on. Obviously nobody ever said it to his face. They had no idea who he was, this angry middle-aged man. They didn't know where he worked, or even what he did, or anything at all other than that he was always in a bad mood and he really, really liked baguettes. But they assumed he must work around here, coming in just before lunch time every work day.

He'd been coming to the bakery for about 4 months now and he'd just seemed to have gotten angrier over time. Every single person on the team had by now met him and learned how to deal with him. Get baguette, pack it up in some paper, hand it to him. He'd put cash on the counter, sometimes with a clang, sometimes not, and he'd walk out again. Words were hardly used.

And they'd talk about him.

"Did you see him? His eyes were red," they'd say. Or "No tie today, guess he's going casual". And one time somebody tried "He seemed in a better mood than usual, didn't he?" which got laughs, as he'd actually been in a worse mood than usual.

In a way, this unknown customer with his odd way of acting had become a part of the bakery, like an extra team member, almost. Just not one they liked.

Jim had just joined the bakery and this was his first day. The rest of the team hadn't told him about the Baguette Bastard, thinking it would be pretty funny to see how Jim would handle it. Jim had worked at a restaurant before this, so he was pretty experienced with dealing with customers, and they had considered this a good test.

Well, a hazing, really.

The door opened and the bell ringed. Jim turned around and so did his coworker in the bakery. His coworker held his breath, as it was a familiar face that walked through the door. And he seemed even more cranky than ever before.

A soft chuckle from his coworker was missed by Jim, who put his game face on and with a big smile looked at the angry man.

"Good morning, sir! How may I help you?"

The Baguette Bastard stopped moving towards the counter and looked Jim straight in the eyes.

"Oh, here it comes," his coworkers softly whispered, after which he grinned. Jim was about to find out what this guy was like.

"What did you say?" the man said to Jim.
"I said good morning!" Jim smiled even wider. "It's beautiful weather, and we've got a lot of freshly baked items, so I think it's pretty good. I hope yours is as well."

The man looked at Jim some more, then at the other worker, who immediately pretended not to be paying attention to all of this, continuing kneading his dough. He looked back at Jim.

"I don't know you. You're new here?"
"Yes sir, started today, my name is Jim. Forgive me if I don't know everything just yet," Jim said with an awkward laugh, "but I'll definitely do my best."

The man raised his hand and pinched his nose with his fingers as he closed his eyes. He stood there like that for a few seconds and then opened his eyes again. They were wet, like he'd been crying.

"Jim, do you know this is the first time anyone in this bakery has ever said more than a single word to me?" he said. "And do you know what they call me?"
"Uhm, no, sir, I do not," Jim said as he looked to his team mate, who was still pretending to be 'just working', but seemed tense to him.
"The Baguette Bastard," he said and pointed at the other worker. "When I first came here they ignored me, and helped others first, even people who came into the shop later than me. They scoffed when I said it was my turn. The days after they wouldn't say a word either. When I ordered something they'd just put it on the counter and ring it up and say the price. The only reason I still come here is because it's the only decent bakery around."

"I'm really sorry to hear that, sir," Jim said, looking accusingly at his coworker, who seemed to be shrinking by now. "Allow me to give you a baguette free of charge. I know it can't make up for it, but it might make at least today a little bit better. And I'll talk to my coworkers about this, too."

The man looked at Jim, surprised.

"Oh... Okay. Thank you," he said.

Jim smiled and grabbed a fresh baguette. He wrapped it up in paper and handed it over to the man. He nodded and received a nod back.

"Jim, was it? You're too good to work here," he said, with a faint smile. He then looked back at Jim's still 'working' coworker and his face turned sour again. "Far too good."

Jim smiled and nodded. "Thank you," he said.

The man left, seemingly in a slightly better mood.

His coworker turned to Jim when the door had closed.

"You're paying for that baguette, Jim. You can't just go and start giving away free food to assholes like that."

Jim sighed.

"Take it out of my paycheck," he said as he took off his apron and threw it at them. "Fuck this place."