A muse, aloft above the rooftops sprinkles packages of starter through gaping chimneys — little gifts of soul satisfaction for those who know how to knead it. Author Masha Rumer provides the recipe in her short yarn (really, a fable-as-vignette) “The Bread Muse.” A writer and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rumer’s work has appeared in the Huffington Post, the Moscow Times and the Vestal Review. On illustrating the Muse, Fabulist house artist Adam Myers notes: “I got on a Mark Ryden kick and started this one. I tried to keep it ‘quiet,’ as the story seemed to me — not too heavy or serious. A little humor with the life lessons. Some cartoon and color over a sometimes gray world. I kinda wanted her head to remind me of a giant pie.” — Editor.
Yesterday, she was doing it again, soaring above my head during her regular shift. She flits around on her broom above the sleeping cities, wearing espadrilles and doling out flour to the people down below.
The ribbon coiled around the pouch glimmers in the moonlight and momentarily turns gold as it cuts through the cone of light from the streetlights.
Silent or foul-mouthed, just bake, the bread muse says.
When the morning swings its celestial gates open, forget the slippers, forget the Hail Marys or looking for the keys. Instead, take some flour and some water and mix it up in a bowl.
Speak your passing troubles aloud and watch them swirl right in and leaven the dough.
Draw an egg with your finger on the fogged-up bathroom mirror and hold out your hand — you’ll discover the jittery orange yolk in your palm. It’s got to be mixed in, too, and stirred well.
And bake pies, my friend, make waffles, fry pancakes, whip up the flaky pastries, she says.
If it seems too late, bake. If your partner draws the curtains shut to block out the sunlight sifting through, then bake in the dark.
Call in sick, and bake.
Don’t walk the dog first, just bake.
If you don’t know how, do it anyhow. If you’ve resigned to the idea that chopping and stirring and wishing leads to disillusionment so why even try, then grab yourself a bowl and start mixing.
Soon, when the dough starts to rise and crawl over the edges of the bowl, it’s time to roll it out on a smooth surface.
Knead it into shape with your fingers, with your fists, with your pounding, with as much salt as you can set loose from your eyes.
Permit the warmth of the oven door to tickle your knees and make your nose itch. The process has begun.
She’s no magician, that bread muse. She’s no fairy godmother. She just does her thing: deliver flour to the sleeping people who’ve left their window open and their chimney free to look up to the sky.
When the baking’s all done, eat the entire loaf, right then. Nobody else needs to have this, the bread muse says. Not the housemate, not even the dearest, sickest friend. None should have a piece, but you. This is your sustenance for the day.
Eat it all.
Well, almost all.
When you’re satiated and light-headed from the all the labor and the eating, save the last bit, she says. Bundle this piece back in the cellophane wrapper and rest it by your pillow at night.
The next morning, you will find a brand new pouch of fresh flour, delivered by the bread muse.
Start baking all over again that morning.
And the following morning.
And the one after that.
One day, surely, there will be dancing, and succulent rye loaves to feed a village; there will be singing and the giving of thanks; there will be dawn with its tantalizing dew and those butterflies, that hunger for all things; there will be fluffy scones for teatime and raspberry cream cakes for weddings.
All this will be, in due time.
But tonight, just save a little bit of bread crust next to your pillow.
Masha Rumer teaches college journalism and writing in San Francisco and holds a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature. Her work has appeared in Vestal Review, SFWeekly.com, The Moscow Times, The Huffington Post, Dow Jones Newswires and others, and won awards from the New York Press Association.