38 comments

Romance American

Five days after Yom Kippur, David Jacob Tomaschewitz counted on Sukkot’s challah sales to ensure his foundering bakery made a profit for the year. Although business had been brisk for Rosh Hashanah, the weekly sales of his bread for Shabbat had consistently diminished as other Jewish bakeries in Boca Raton had far more offerings—cookies! pastries! cakes!—than his meager shop. 

David’s father had opened the bakery decades prior, making only traditional Jewish breads, including mountains of bagels his loyal customers bought by the brown paper bagful. But for this year? The challah sales would make all the difference, whether that challah was dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah or served with salt for Shabbat. Although the bakery was on shaky financial ground as it was, October’s sales had netted David around $1,900. A small fortune.

It had been a good month.

As his father had immigrated from Poland after the war, David still made bialy in his honor—a traditional recipe from the Tomaschewitz family’s hometown of Bialystok—bialys served with hot butter instead of cream cheese. Florida commuters didn’t like bialys as well as they liked bagels, so David usually ate the stale poppy seed-filled rolls during his solitary lunch breaks. 

On the High Holy Days, David painstakingly made matzo and shewbread, carefully making round challah bread bespeckled with raisins. The circular shape symbolizes the cycle of years, his father would say, artfully braiding the dough. The raisins represent the sweetness of a new year. 

His father had been gone for years. David wondered for the umpteenth time why he continued to wake up at 3:00 a.m., continued to lug 50 pound sacks of flour from truck to kitchen, continued to shell endless cartons of eggs into batter, and continued to watch sesame seeds toast just so in the hot ovens. Exhausted at night, he looked at his books and the marginal return for his labor and just wondered. He primarily wondered at the years that passed with no wife or son to pass the Tomaschewitz name on to. Now at 45 years old, hair peppered with gray that he quit pretending was flour, he felt his life had been without purpose. Dead yeast, not rising to leaven anything of importance. 


Another bakery had opened on his block in September, but David had not found time to visit his competition. However, the morning commuters had all come and gone, and it would be hours before the lunchtime crowd would drop by to pick up bread loaves for their supper tables. Mid-morning was a slow time, a good time, to see who was flitching his business.

At first, it didn’t seem like there would be much overlap in their clientele, as the new place seemed inordinately frilly with its sign scrawled in Comic Sans and dayglo colors: Birnbaum Bakery. The menu on the door listed all the delectable things David had loved as a child: chocolate babka, raspberry rugelach, coconut macaroons, apricot hamantaschen. Reading the list, David found his mouth involuntarily watered.

Suddenly the door opened, bells jingling. David quickly stepped aside as a tall, thin red-haired woman walked out, holding a broom. Deftly, her broad shoulders made short work of sweeping detritus from the stoop in front of the store. She wore a spotless white apron with Birnbaum Bakery emblazoned in dayglo colors. 

“Are you open?” David asked. 

It was abundantly clear the store was, indeed, open.

“Every day, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.,” she said without looking up, shaking the welcome mat. 

“Do you sell bread?” he asked pointedly. She stopped curtly and looked at him, full in the face. Her large hazel eyes peered through him, attempting to divine whatever subtext he intended or unintended. 

“The only bread I make is stollen and hot cross buns, but usually only during the holidays,” she managed a tired smile. 

“Those are Christmas breads,” he replied, puzzled. 

“Those are holiday breads,” she said, a little defensively. 

“Are you Missus Birnbaum?” 

“There is no Missus Birnbaum,” she smiled again, this time broadly and mischievously. “There's just me, Miss Colleen MacBrennen. And this is Boca Raton, not Boston. My customers prefer pastries from their own kind,” she said flatly. He didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended. 

With a wink, she gathered up her broom and disappeared into her shop. 

Standing there, it was a minute or two before David walked down the block, back to his own bakery. 


Although David had not seen the inside of a synagogue since his own bar mitzvah, Temple Beth El had asked local businesses to donate goods for their annual Sukkot festival fundraiser. His father always brought his biggest and most perfectly formed loaves to the temple’s auction, held in the social hall on the temple’s grounds. Tzedakah is Hebrew for charity, his father said, while his son calculated how much profit they would lose once again from his father’s generosity. 

At year’s end though, the amount was hardly missed. Bread is life, David. That’s why when we break bread, we say, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

Normally, David would have just dropped off his dozen of holiday challah loaves and left, but for an inexplicable reason, he stayed to watch the start of the auction. The auction was chiefly for the building fund, as the temple needed a great deal of repair. A new roof. Refinished pews. The Rabbi even hoped for a new bimah from which to conduct services and read scriptural passages to his congregation. 

Small children ran in and out of their parents' legs, as the excitement started to build. Which local delicacy would bring the highest bid? Tables were heaped with the largesse from the community: prune and poppy seed pastries, artisan honey, perfectly ripened pears, sufganiyot, black-and-white cookies. Congregants readied their pocketbooks to bid on the most luscious holiday items. 

Just as the crowd settled into their seats in the social hall, David watched as someone attempted to carry in a large platter through the social hall’s doorway. 

Colleen.

He half arose from his seat to watch her struggle to carry a gingerbread house, quickly realizing she had actually fashioned a breathtaking gingerbread temple, complete with colorful candy decorations as well as an elegant icing landscape, showcasing Florida’s palm trees and flamingos. 

As she walked past temple members who loudly clapped their approval, she smiled, tucking a lock of her red hair behind one ear. David was charmed to see her blush from the crowd’s approbation of her work.

“I see we have our first auction item from the Birnbaum Bakery, a replica of our own Temple Beth El,” called the Rabbi cheerfully. “I’ll start the bidding at, let’s say, twenty-five dollars? Anyone?”

“Twenty five dollars,” called out a voice to David’s right.

“Thirty! Thirty dollars!” responded another voice on David’s left. 

“Thirty five,” came a voice from somewhere behind him. 

David looked at Colleen. She smiled and shrugged, a wordless conversation that was more satisfying to David than any actual conversation he’d had with anyone else. For as long back as he could remember. 

“Do I hear forty dollars?” asked the Rabbi, scanning the crowd. 

Without thinking, David called out “$1,900.00!” 

The crowd cheered as the Irish pastry chef carefully walked over to the Jewish baker, rewarding him with the prize he’d waited his whole life to buy. 


December 08, 2020 19:27

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38 comments

A.G. Scott
04:55 Dec 09, 2020

Hi! This was very sweet and I loved reading all the terminology (which was foreign to me). Particularly pleasing were the descriptions of food... I could read a whole book full of food descriptions (maybe not, maybe I'd eat the book itself). Only suggestion: It feels a little over the top for him to bid $1900... both because his bakery is on 'shaky financial ground' and because throwing money at a girl doesn't feel like like an especially good or even appropriate tactic. In my opinion, a simple raise of the hand (i.e. bidding $40) and an...

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Deidra Lovegren
10:25 Dec 09, 2020

Oh let the man have his grand gesture. At 45 he doesn’t have a lot of plays left in the playbook. It’s also a homage to the Grinch who stole Christmas and his father who was so generous 😀❤️

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Scout Tahoe
13:38 Dec 10, 2020

Ah, love this. So well written as always. There are many things that go unsaid but we just know they’re there. Like the kiss. I can’t *wait* for part 2... 😏

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Deidra Lovegren
15:00 Dec 10, 2020

Oh, this is a love affair for the ages. The kiss will be a long time coming, but he'll eventually take her in his strong bread-kneading arms and kiss her with full purpose of heart. A toe curling kiss.

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Scout Tahoe
15:08 Dec 10, 2020

No, not a *toe curling* kiss! I heard those can crush faces with the pressure. But I can't wait...

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Deidra Lovegren
15:20 Dec 10, 2020

Whoever is doing THAT is doing it wrong and shouldn't be allowed around people...

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Scout Tahoe
15:27 Dec 10, 2020

Contacting security immediately, miss--

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Black Raven
13:20 Dec 09, 2020

Did they kiss? Or did she just give him the candy temple? I really hope they kissed. It's really good. Maybe you should do a part 2. I would love to see how their relationship would flow. Also, the guy is crazy giving away that amount of money though I also think that if it was less it wouldn't have as much impact. Great story.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:20 Dec 09, 2020

Oh, they will definitely kiss, Black Raven. Just later, probably in the back of his store. They'll eventually merge their talents together to make one amazing bakery, with excellent bagels as well as pastries :) The $1900 will be a great origin story they will tell others of "How They Met." Why wouldn't he give a month's wages to impress the girl of his dreams?

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Zilla Babbitt
19:36 Dec 08, 2020

Ah-h, this is so unique. I am considering using this prompt for my next one. You've done it so well. Religion in your stories is very diverse, just in the past handful. "Innocence Lost" and this one. It's romantic without the two characters show signs of falling in love. "artfully brading the dough" is I'm sure intended to be "braiding." You know I'm into the story when I start to catch typos. I caught a typo in Your Poor Rick, so... I don't feel good ending a comment without harder critique, but the story's too good. Keep it up!.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:42 Dec 08, 2020

PLEASE catch those typos. I depend on you :) How do you crank out so many good stories each week? One is about all I can do, and a lot of them are sad creatures! Thanks for your continued support and superior proofreading skills.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:44 Dec 08, 2020

. . . and religion is endlessly fascinating to me. :)

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Zilla Babbitt
20:39 Dec 13, 2020

This is sort of random, but Thom got a review of his "Silence" story. Thought you should know, since you commented and liked that one. It was a very detailed review too. Deserved for sure. I'll link it in case you want to read it: reedsy.com/discovery/post/a915878bad

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Deidra Lovegren
20:49 Dec 13, 2020

Go Thom! That particular story was very good. Who is AKEarle?

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Zilla Babbitt
21:27 Dec 13, 2020

It was my favorite I think. That and the one that he'd written for another contest that got Judge's Choice. A.r. Eakle? The reviewer.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:55 Dec 17, 2020

Have you read A. R. Eakle's stories? A little dark for me. A little dark for Kurt Vonnegut...

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Bianka Nova
22:22 Dec 22, 2020

Exquisite! Both food and religious references were so detailed! You either already know a lot on the subject or did one hell of a research! In any case, it was fun and very informative reading this one. The gingerbread house scene was mouthwatering I should say... :)))

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Deidra Lovegren
22:56 Dec 22, 2020

I'm a research girl. :) Thanks for the kudos... YAY

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Bianka Nova
22:57 Dec 22, 2020

WOW! Definitely capital letters KUDOS for you then!

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Amarillis G
14:57 Dec 14, 2020

Your story is so sweet, warm, and well-written. I would love to read part 2 one day...

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Deidra Lovegren
14:58 Dec 14, 2020

Oh, these two will live happily ever after. No doubt. :)

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San T.
03:14 Dec 13, 2020

Wow, such a wonderful story. It was so rich in description, in information, in emotions. And the ending! Of course, when you fall in love, you want to give your 100%. What a lovely tale. Took my breath away. I do not know if your story will win, but if I were a judge, I would have voted for this one.

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Deidra Lovegren
08:42 Dec 13, 2020

Appreciate the support! Winning is always secondary to kudos. Thanks for helping me feel I’m not just writing into the void.

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San T.
17:17 Dec 13, 2020

Feels good that my comment meant so much. And it is definitely true that comments and opinions do matter. Loved reading your story. Looking forward to more.

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Ging Unabia
07:18 Dec 12, 2020

I don't know why but this write up left me feeling warm on the inside :)

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Deidra Lovegren
12:18 Dec 12, 2020

Tis the season to fall wildly in love ❤️

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I.B. Dunn
21:01 Dec 11, 2020

Your attention to detail is magnificent. You have a way of painting a picture so clearly that the reader is transported into your story. I can't speak for everyone but it made me feel as if it was written for me. A true gem and oh the possibilities.

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Ray Dyer
18:29 Dec 10, 2020

I love your attention to detail, from the flecks of gray that he had to stop pretending were flower to the hot butter instead of cream cheese. This story feels like a window into the lives of real people, the way you usually do. I have to ALSO say that I'm getting equally interested in reading the comments below each story, where you carry on into the future. The couple have a particularly thrilling future, and I'm very happy for them! On a more serious note, I like where you chose to end the story, right where their story is really be...

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Deidra Lovegren
18:56 Dec 10, 2020

I always look forward to your comments, Ray. You are crazy smart and say just the right things! One day, I even look forward to you hating something of mine, then telling me to go straight to hell for being such a hack writer. Let me know when you post. You are one of the writers I love to read :)

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Ray Dyer
19:03 Dec 10, 2020

I'm cracking up so much right now - that's hilarious. And I totally would NOT hold your breath on that day coming. I'm always glad when I see a new story from you, too. I posted my bakery story last night. I'm a little behind where I used to be each week, since Thanksgiving. I'd hit what felt like a nice rhythm, but all the holidays keep mucking with my rhythm!

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Deidra Lovegren
19:04 Dec 10, 2020

You are a very good writer. I'll zip over and see what you've concocted this week. :)

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A.R. Eakle
18:01 Dec 10, 2020

It's always interesting to read things with different cultural backgrounds. Your story provided a really interesting perspective into the culture. If you want a review of your story (or any other ones) head over to my Instagram @EakleReviews!

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Orenda .
17:35 Dec 10, 2020

Hi Deidra, I've a new story out. Would you mind reading it and sharing your views on it? Thanks so muchh.

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K. Antonio
17:47 Dec 14, 2020

Deeply enjoyed the cultural aspects of this story. The descriptions were on point and I loved those little comments from his father. I enjoyed the terminology and the accuracy of everything, the subtle and even passive aggressive interaction between the characters. I like that this is a romantic story that isn't mushy. I think you manipulated the prompt very masterfully. Only thing I will say is that it takes a while to introduce Colleen into the story, a lot of information was presented until we get to meet the main character's "rival/c...

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Deidra Lovegren
19:23 Dec 14, 2020

Thanks for the comments, K Antonio. Colleen is her own story; I'm sure I'll revisit these two at a future date. It'll be interesting how their relationship evolves -- both stuck in their ways. But the goddess Fortuna always seems to have another plan that the one we are comfortable with.

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