With hands used to the heat he pried each loaf from the wide steel pan, fresh out of the oven. The morning cold, the quick heat felt good. He laid the loaves side-to-side on a cooling rack and refilled the pan with the oblong blobs of dough he’d just done kneading a minute before.
He slapped the oven shut and walked away to the rear, to the door that opened onto the alley. He’d left the door ajar to let the cold air in, and he could see his breath.
Hadn’t even froze last night, he thought. No need yet for the furnace. Every dollar mattered.
He pushed the door all the way open with his foot and stepped outside, lighting a cigarette. He smoked absentmindedly, following each smoke trail as it wound up to the sky.
How long had it been now since he’d last tried to quit? A year? Two? He’d made it a month the last time. She would’ve been proud. Maybe he’d try it again.
The wind whipped down the alley, a sharp tunnel of air. He shivered and took a long draw on his cigarette before stepping inside. On his way to the front he picked up the rack with its dozen cooling loaves. One at a time they went onto the wooden shelves that lined the wall behind the counter. He admired they way they looked, ranged in neat rows.
He walked around the counter and switched on the small neon sign that read “OPEN.” He unlocked the front door.