Miller/Baker

Written By: Jan Jacob Mekes - May• 04•13

Well, finally I’m back to writing Bouffon Stories. The first one in 2013 is based on this prompt by GaryCXJk:

Something Dutch.

This is a very open theme, as you can go in several directions, like, in a literary way (imitate Dutch literature in just a short story), or it could be a story that has a lot of Dutch culture references, even the writing style could be Dutch (as most Dutch novels have a distinct style of build-up). I don’t know. You can make it as obvious or as subtle as you want even. It’s a hard one, it will challenge your creativity, but it’s also a very open one, and I’m really curious as to what you could do with that.

Now, to be brutally honest… despite being Dutch, I hardly read any Dutch literature at all. So the option of imitating it in a short story is out the window, I’m afraid. Which leaves me with having a story take place in a typically Dutch setting, and I like to think I’m pretty good at that. At least I’m giving it a go, and I want to thank Gary for giving me an excuse to write some historical fiction. :)

Miller/Baker

A kestrel sits in the crown of a poplar tree, overlooking the fields below, where a farmer is mowing the grass with a scythe. The falcon takes off and follows a long, straight road, delineated by a patchwork blanket of fields and canals. In a nearby village, the bird finds a resting place on top of a clock tower. Looking down, it sees a small assembly of stalls, gathered around an old linden tree in a circle. Behind one of the stalls, Johannes de Backer is advertising his merchandise.

“Bread! Fresh bread!”

People would shuffle past his stand, some of them merely glancing, others touching his bread and tasting it. One or two would even buy it. Johannes just about made a living selling his bread, but that was about it, really.

Year in, year out, he would stand there at this little village market, selling his bread. Then one day, along came a man clad in silk and velvet, wearing a brocade vest. His cap was even lined with genuine gold thread.

“Hear ye, hear ye!” he said, standing in the middle of the village square, under the branches of the linden tree, but at the same time dwarfing it with his vainglorious attitude. “Good citizens of Honingerdam! Before you stands your new miller. That is correct, sir, there is nothing wrong with your hearing. Today I have signed a contract with the mayor, agreeing that I shall return the old mill to its former glory. This is good news for all you citizens because, ah… well, Honingerdam can become the main producer of products like… paint pigments? Do you have a famous local painter? No? Oh… well, you, sir!” the man said, approaching the baker.

“Who… me?” Johannes replied with a quivering voice.

“Yes, you. You’re a baker, aren’t you? I see you’re not selling all that much bread though… tell you what. In my years of experience as a miller, I have worked with plenty of bakers to increase their assortment of pastries on offer. What do you say, eh… um…?”

“Johannes. Johannes de Backer.”

“Pleased to meet you, Johannes. My name is Adriaen Moolenaer, by the way. In any case, apart from this undoubtedly wonderful bread you’re selling here, we could add things like, um, stroopwafels or appelflappen to your range of products. Well?”

“Str… stroop…”

“Stroopwafels, that’s it. And appelflappen. Never mind about that, I have the recipes right here in my big book of pastries. I’ll explain everything to you in detail. For now, just sign this piece of paper. Don’t worry,” Adriaen said, noticing the baker’s trepidation, “there’s not trickery here. We’ll split the profits fairly, fifty percent each.”

Since I plan to include this story in an anthology, I’ll cut it off here. A link will soon appear here to where you can get a copy of it.

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