We cleared stale donuts from the display shelves and threw the discards into empty flour bags. I stuck my head out the back door to check for bears before I threw them away. Raiders from nearby woods marauded late at night to ransack our dumpster. We put out fresh cake donuts (the yeast donuts still rose on trays in the incubator) and dealt with a rush of 2:00 drunks. The bars had just closed, and our staggering, bleary, mush-mouthed clientele wanted coffee to counter the booze and treats to sweeten the bitterness of oncoming hangovers. The shop cleared around 3, and Katie, the night manager, called a break.
She lit a cigarette at her table in the corner and stared out the window. Harry, the lead baker, kept her company but didn’t eat a mid shift meal. Anyone who sat with her could smoke, drink coffee or eat a donut, but sandwiches, fruit, and microwaved left overs were forbidden. She couldn’t stand to watch people eat anything but candy and breakfast food as her father had abused his little girl every night as she struggled to choke down her suppers.
I took a seat at a booth with JoJo, and she talked about her boyfriend, her muscle car, and her obsession with the band, “White Snake”. She noted that I drove a beat up Mazda and wondered about the virility of a man who owned a rusty beater that wheezed when it climbed up a gentle incline. I told her that I couldn’t stand to listen to another White Snake song, and that the band members were nothing but Led Zeppelin wannabes. She threatened to punch me, and our nightly ritual came to a close.
A grizzled man wearing an old coat slumped through the door and sat at the booth at my back. After a few minutes we heard him moan. I turned to look and saw him clutching his chest. He gritted his teeth, squeezed his eyes tight shut and moaned again. I said, “Hey, are you all right?”
He slumped to the side, turned his head so that he could look me in the eye and groaned, “My heart…”
JoJo jumped up to sit beside him and held his hand. I rushed to the office and called an ambulance. I saw the stricken man sitting more upright when I returned, and he smiled sadly as he whispered his life’s sad story in JoJo’s ear. She patted his shoulder.
EMTs arrived a few minutes later, and the lead guy rolled his eyes when he saw the victim. He said, “Hey Charlie, how’s it goin’ tonight?”
Charlie pointed to his chest. The EMT said, “Another heart attack Charlie? Third time this week, isn’t it?” One medic leaned idly against a booth, and the lead slowly pulled a stethoscope out of his bag. He gave Charlie a once over and said, “You’re fine. Just like always.” The medic turned to me and said, “He’ll live to 100, just you bet.”
Charlie hurried out as soon as the EMTs had packed up and gone. JoJo and I finished our coffees and trudged back to the kitchen. We glazed the yeast and filled the cream donuts. JoJo kept dashing out for cigarette breaks, and I cursed when I dropped a pan of chocolate icing on the floor. We worked on the specialty donuts and the eclairs around 6 a.m., and got into a fight about how long I’d taken to do my share of the work. JoJo repeated her claim that she did most while I lagged behind. I told her to work another shift if she didn’t like mine.
We glowered at each other as we punched out and went our separate ways. Charlie was the real target, but he was long gone.