Friday, March 29, 2013

A Beautiful Day

by Colleen Sutherland

Glen Valley's business district, like that of most small Midwestern towns and villages, is slowly shuttering down. Business after business have closed their doors over the past thirty years. There doesn't seem to be much the village board or the Chamber of Commerce can do to stop it.

Two doors down from Aggie's Diner, almost to Mike's Hardware, is a closed storefront, the windows dirty and cracked, the paint peeling off in big flakes. The painted letters in the window are faded but through the grime of years, passersby can read “Bunny's Bakery”. An old placard in the door reads: “Closed, Come Again.”

When it was open, Bunny was famous for her desserts. Need a wedding cake? Bunny provided it. Need sweet rolls for a morning meeting? Call the night before and Bunny would have them ready early the next morning to be picked up. And her cupcakes. Now those were a treat for all ages, in every flavor one could imagine and frosting for the season.

After lunch at the diner or after the Friday fish fry, Aggie's customers refused dessert and she knew they would stop over at Bunny's to pick up something to take home. Aggie didn't mind. She liked Bunny, as did everyone else. Bunny was there behind the counter, all chirpy and smiling, her hair tucked up in a pony tail. She was a skinny little thing who must never have tasted her own cheesecake, muffins and tarts. Customers took their treats to one of the little tables at the front of the shop to have coffee and watch Main Street goings on. Bunny's was gossip central in Glen Valley.

She greeted each customer with a cheery call, “Oh hello, Mike. Isn't it a beautiful day?” “Mrs. Cleary, so glad to see you! Isn't it a wonderful day!”    

She said that every day, even when sleet was pummeling Glen Valley.

One soft spring day when the robins had returned and the daffodils were blooming, Chief Metcalf came in, leaving the patrol car outside. “Isn't it a beautiful da?,” Bunny said. The Chief admitted it really was. He ordered his usual banana muffin and asked her why she always said that.

“It amuses me. Hey chief, have a cup of coffee.” He sat down with his coffee, his police radio on as he ate his muffin. He listened to the chatter in the bakery.

As each Glen Valley regular came in, Bunny greeted them with her usual “Isn't it a beautiful day?”
Mrs. Barton told her it was too windy. “Just had my hair done at the Yankee Clippers and now it's all ruined.” Mrs. Barton's hair was sprayed to a lacquer finish. If there was a hair awry, the Chief couldn't tell.

The mayor complained about the lack of rain. “The water table will shrink if we don't get more rain this summer.”

Aggie stopped in with another complaint: “It's too damn nice. People are home gardening and they don't come into town to eat.”

Then a customer came in and agreed with Bunny. “Yeah, it's gorgeous out there.”

“You're not from Glen Valley, are you?” Bunny said as she went to get the apple pie he ordered.

“Nope. From Constable. How did you know?”

Bunny just laughed but later told the Chief, Glen Valley residents weren't happy about anything. Maybe it was their Protestant background but whatever it was, they were the grouchiest lot she'd ever seen and she had traveled around a bit.

Just then old Mrs. Tartery came in.

“Isn't this a beautiful day?” Bunny asked.

“Horrible day,” Mrs. Tattery said. “Rotten parking out front. Hard to navigate around that police car.” She glared at the Chief.

“But it's hard to be angry on such a beautiful day.”

“Hard to be happy when the mayor is a crook. The board members are just as bad,” and Mrs. Tattery started her usual harangue, telling the Chief about all the things that were wrong and demanding that he look into whatever the miscreants were up to. She was sure the village teenagers were getting into mischief.

“You should keep a better eye on them, not sitting here drinking coffee” she told him. The fault is really bad parenting and bad teaching. Teachers are overpaid. Now there's tax money wasted.”

Mrs. Tattery attended every village board and school board meeting and took notes. Bunny kept grinning as the old lady placed her order for sheet cakes for the Evangelical Mission Society.

“Wait a minute,” Bunny said. She reached under the counter and pulled out a double sized cupcake with green frosting. She put it into a little box and handed it to Mrs. Tattery.

“There, a free sample for your supper. It will make things all better.”

“I doubt it.”

“It's my little way of making the world a better place,” Bunny explained to the Chief after Mrs. Tattery left.

The next morning, Mrs. Tattery was found dead in her bed. The coroner said it was heart failure. Old Doc Waverly said she had diabetes, high blood pressure and of course, she was overweight.

“Dear me,” said Bunny. “I hope it wasn't that cupcake.”

There was an air of celebration at the next village board meeting.

                                                                             * * * 

Carter Grassely, who farmed west of Glen Valley, was one of Bunny's usual customers. He groused about the weather every day. No matter what the forecast, it was terrible for farmers, he said. One day his wife came in to get an order for Carter.

“Carter can't come today, he'll be plowing all day. I'm supposed to get him lunch. He insisted he had to have one of your crullers, too.”

“Isn't it a beautiful day? But what happened to you?” Ellie's face was bruised.

“Oh, ran into a door,” she said, not explaining why there were bruises on both sides.

“Anything for you?”

“No, Carter says I should lose weight.”

“I see. Tell you what, I'll send him one of my cupcakes instead. He'll like that. Tell him it's because it's a beautiful day.”

She put a double sized cupcake with orange frosting into a box and wrapped it carefully with tape.

That night, Ellie Carter went looking for her husband when he didn't come in for supper. His tractor had overturned on the back forty. Carter was crushed underneath it. Ellie sold the farm and opened up a beauty salon in the village.

                                                                * * *

As summer rolled around, the people in Glen Valley seemed to have cheered up, the Chief thought. The undertaker was especially pleased with all the work he had that year. They weren't big funerals, certainly not well attended, but the deceased seem to die regularly, so that he never had to call the funeral home in Brockton for help. The obituaries were short, but they added to the income at the Glen Valley Star. The editor was pleased about that.

Bunny was busy, too, making wedding cakes in June, breads and pies for people going to their vacation cottages, and always, always, those lovely cupcakes. The Chief commented on how content the people in Glen Valley were these days.

“Seem the worst of the old grouches have died off.”

“That's always the way it is. Time for the next generation to take over.” Bunny smiled.

The Chief laughed then got serious. “There does seem to be something about all these sudden deaths that makes me curious. I wonder if I should be paying closer attention? Maybe I'll see about better autopsies.”

“You should,” Bunny said. “Meanwhile, it's such a beautiful day. Can I treat you to a cupcake?”

It took a while before a new chief of police was found. By then Bunny had closed up shop and moved on. She was missed.

                                                                * * * 

On New York City's Wall Street there's a coffee vendor, serving doughnuts, cupcakes and tarts along with Jamaican brew out of her cart. She has become a fixture there. Whenever any of the wall street brokers, bankers or high fliers stop by she greets them with a cheery, “Isn't it a beautiful day?” To a select few, she offers a free cupcake.

“It's my own way of making this a better world,” she explains.   

1 comment: