The Baker and the Mixer
Ole Cruller was born on the wrong side of the tracks, in a small shack papered with tar so as to keep the winds from whistling in. The year was somewhere between there and here.
His ma, Ima C. Cruller (nee’ Kolachi), and his pa, Whata C. Cruller, had fifteen other brats to attend to. Needless to say, as the youngest, Ole was often overlooked. It didn’t help that he was painfully small, totally bald, and wore rimless glasses with the thickest ever lenses.
Unless you took a really close look, you might imagine he was never ever born. But that said, The Valley does strange things to the locals who are often given to imagining, mostly on foggy nights when the Valley itself almost disappears. For example, it’s well-known that Ole was born with a heavy dusting of flour, a coating of white from head to toe. I’m inclined to believe this, as his great great grandpa, Whitey C. Cruller, was at one time the most famous baker in the olde country across the sea. At birth, he too sported a coat of flour, though of this I have no actual proof. Whitey’s ma, Whitney Cruller (see illustration) was said to have suffered from the same syndrome.
As I mentioned, Ole was indeed small (4’ 10”) and he remained so until the end of his days. As a teen destined to not attend the state university, he opted to follow in his great great grandpa Whitey C. Cruller’s floury footsteps. Night and day and day and night he studied the recipes handed down from his ancient ancestor. Pasted just so in a grease splattered, leather-bound book, the recipes, though odd (one in particular was most odd), were detailed and deliciously instructive. Thus was Ole Cruller trained to be The Valley’s greatest baker, working in a shop west of the town square, the third brick building from the corner where once stood a Conoco station with a screaming red roof.
It wasn’t a large space (but then again at 4’10”, Ole was hardly noticeable), but with two big bay windows out front, there was ample room for displays of his considerable culinary skills, among which were Hawk-Eye jelly doughnuts filled with Hawk jam, Blackbird pies and sugary cakes shaped to mimic arms, legs, heads, ears, eyes, nose. The so-named Body Part Cakes were a huge hit in The Valley, as many folks actually had missing parts due to the vast number of limbs gone missing in corn picker accidents. On occasion, an entire person would be swallowed up, gone on to wherever folks go on to. It is here writ that The Valley was given to celebrating the loss of a leg, so on each anniversary of a particular loss, a cake was ordered, be it leg, head, ear, eye or nose that was gone missing.
Business was good enough that Ole could purchase not only a fine toupée fashioned from mink hair, but also a spare pair of glasses with ultra-thin lenses, custom ground at Henry Tinker’s Optical Illusions store.
As his fame grew, Ole was able to install Ima and Whata and their fifteen kids in a splendid mansion up the hill from Reverend Crossbearer’s home. There was talk of importing great great grandpa Whitey C. Cruller, but folks figured the ocean voyage would do nothing for his health.
As the years progressed, they progressed s l o w l y, as the years are wont to do in a Valley where nothing much ever happens. Ole continued to prosper despite his coating of flour (a source of merriment for the locals), though he harbored a tad of ill will toward those who threw their taunts hither and yon. Well, maybe more than a tad, but Ole kept his trap shut, even when they hollered, “Ole, Ole, pants on fire, white nose as long as a telephone wire. Last one down is a floury clown.”
It was a joyful day when Ole discovered one of those new-fangled mixing machines, on page 13, of the Marvelous Wonders catalog. “How much easier it would be,” thought Ole, “to be able to mix monster batches of floury dough, not by hand, but with Giant Mixer X2C. I must have one!”
When the mixer arrived at the post office, it was duly raced across the square to Ole’s Bakery. Word spread that something with astounding power and speed had come to town, and it wasn’t a horse. For an entire week, there it sat, displayed in the bakery’s double bay windows. The Mayor himself proclaimed that week as “Ole’s Week.” Reverend Crossbearer himself intoned a benediction involving fishes and loaves.
How it gleamed, its steely black machine-skin shining in the light of dawn. At 10’ tall, it was nearly double the height of Ole, and at purple-haze twilight time, it appeared to rear its head and take on the appearance of …of what? A dinosaur? A vampire? An alien come down from the moon? Concerned mothers forbade their young’uns to look at it for more than a fleeting moment. A maiden (said to be a virgin), developed a strange tic in her left cheek, and if Valley myth is correct, the tic was a result of prolonged staring at the mixer. The virgin remained ever so, for it is writ, that a tic on the cheek is even worse than an eternal zit on a young maiden’s nose.
The whirrrrrrrrrr of the mixer was heard night and day, day and night, and though no one ever actually saw it in action with Ole at the helm, it was alleged that, yes, Ole stood on a wooden box, so as to be able to feed the flour, sugar, lard and such into the machine’s gaping jaws. The Body Part cakes grew ever sweeter and odder (belly-button shapes, nipples, butts and tits were added to the possibilities) and of course the pies and doughnuts expanded ever rounder. The bakery shelves groaned under their combined weight, and ever more shelves were built. The mixer’s appetite was alarming. Increasingly huge amounts of ingredients were ordered and each day flour, lard of hogs and mountains of sugar arrived in the bellies of B-59 bombers.
And though Ole was modest to a fault and often overlooked, it was duly reported that he seemed to never be in his bakery, though a few hearing-challenged church ladies claimed to have eyeballed the mighty mixer, or at least they were certain they heard it whirrrrrrring in the back room, which only Ole was allowed to enter. But Ole? He was virtually invisible.
In The Year of Our Lord, on the very Friday before the Sunday when everyone eats as many Body Part Cakes and Hawk-Eye Pies (etc., etc.) as possible, the masses gathered at the entry door to the famous bakery were astounded to read a sign scrawled in red frosting:
P.S. Take your fill
In the sticky melee, no one seemed to recall there had ever been a floury soul named Ole Cruller, born to Ima C. and Whata C. Not one soul remembered he was also the great great grandson of Whitey C. Cruller from across the sea. And that long before that, was an ancestor named Whitney.
The exception was a wizened old lady who remembered, and after grabbing her share, ventured beyond the display cases, lured on by the grinding whiiiiiiirrrrr of the mixer. She wished only to thank Ole for his years of supplying her with Body Part Cakes, for she was his number-one-customer, having only one arm. For countless years, she’d ordered Body Part Cakes for each and every one of her kin, each and every one of whom were missing at least one thing. A nose here; an eye there, a distinct lack of brains, and now and then, a belly-button snapped off by a Valley cur. The “outies,” were often the ones snapped off.
With no Ole in sight (at least not yet), the old lady hopped up on to the wooden crate set near the monster mixer. Up and over the edge of the huge huge vat she peered. Down into the gooey dough she squinted through her bifocals, while the mixer whiiiiirrrrred, its steely black skin shining in the dawn’s early Sabbath light.
“What’s this?” she shrieked.
“It’s Ole! In the mixer. Ground to Kingdom Come. Smothered from here to eternity. See there, the shoe that once he wore? His trousers and fine spectacles? His ear? His nose! And isn’t that his fine new toupee?”
To this day, if you travel to The Valley fair, you’ll find the very building where Ole’s Bakery once stood. After the lavish funeral (featuring store-bought Sara Lee frozen doughnut holes), it was surmised that the floury little man simply slipped and plunged, on that springtime Sunday, into the jaws of his faithful mixer. No one pointed fingers, as accidents could happen to anyone, but that said, it was often pondered as to who wrote the red frosting note posted on the door on that fateful day.
Had Ole himself scrawled it and then in a twit of floury despair, ended his life smothered in a batch of dough? Others surmised the mixer itself was to blame, though this is a stretch even for The Valley where folks are given to musing that machines have lives of their own.
Perhaps though, there’s more to this story, than even I know…