The line outside the bakery was twenty people long and the bakery hadn't even opened. Inside, Chef Sprocket, the baker, opened a cupboard to take down his ingredients. He snatched the bag of sugar. He pulled down the cinnamon. He grabbed the chocolate chips. But when Chef Sprocket went to hoist the huge sack of flour from the shelf, there was was no sack of flour to hoist.
"VHAIR IS ME FLOUR?" he hollered.
Sven, the chef's assistant, ran into the kitchen. "What is the problem, Master Sprocket?"
"ME FLOUR! IZ GONE!"
Sven glanced out the window at the growing throng. How would they ever serve all those people if they didn't have flour? "I will go get some," he told the baker, and he rushed out the back door. He jumped on his bike and rode to the supermarket. But when he got inside he was dismayed to see that they too were out of flour. "How can this be?" Sven asked, but there was no time to waste complaining to the manager. He got back on his bike.
Sven could think of only one other place where he could get flour--McCready's Bakery, Chef Sprocket's only competition in the pastry field. Sven swallowed. McCready was a hard man who made his desire to crush Chef Sprocket no secret. Still, what choice did Sven have?
McCready's was already open and busy by the time he got there. The smell of donuts, biscuits, and cakes filled his nose. In his haste, Sven had forgotten to eat breakfast. He was very hungry. And if he bought some pastries, perhaps McCready would be more willing to help.
"I'll have a raspberry filled donut and a buttermilk biscuit," he told the clerk. He ate the donut while he waited for Chef McCready. The biscuit he put in his pocket for later.
"What do you want?" McCready snapped when he saw Sven. The pastry chef was a tall, thin man with an oily mustache. He wore a pillowy white hat on his head.
Sven said, "Um...uh...see..." And then, in an unbroken string of words, "We've-run-out-of-flour-at-Sprocket's-and-the-supermarket-has-run-out-and-so-I'd-like-to-buy-some-off-you."
McCready smiled. "Why should I sell you my flour? I need it for my own pastries."
"But surely you have some to spare."
McCready's smile grew brighter. "Surely," he said. Then, "The answer is no. Now get out of my bakery."
Sven thought he might cry. He imagined what Chef Sprocket would say when he returned with no flour. He'd probably get fired.
Because tears had puddled in his eyes, he almost missed the sign by the driveway. "The Gilberts" was written in script on a wooden arrow that pointed toward a small house. The name sounded familiar...
The Gilberts! Of course! As in Helen Gilbert. Sven had seen her picture in the newspaper just last week. She'd won the annual pie baking contest at the county fair. He remembered because Chef Sprocket had seen him reading the article and shouted, "PUT ZAT DOWN! ZROW IT AVAY! IZ MY RECIPE. ZAT VOMAN STOLE IT!"
Any lady who had won the fair's pie baking contest would have to have flour in her kitchen. Sven leaned his bike against a telephone poll and approached the house. He pressed the doorbell. No one came. He rang again, but still, no one answered.
He was about to leave when he had an idea--a bad idea. He could break in. It wouldn't really be stealing. He'd take the flour and then come back in a few days and explain the whole thing. He'd give her twice what he took.
Sven tried the doorknob. Locked. But at the bottom of the door there was a square, leather flap. A doggie door. Sven was a tiny man. He got on his knees and stuck his head through. The coast was clear. He crawled inside. The house was quiet. Maybe Mrs. Gilbert had taken her dog to the vet. If that was the case, he'd better hurry.
Sven threw open the cupboard doors and immediately spotted a bag of flour. But as he reached for it, his hand froze in mid-air at the sound behind him.
Sven turned slowly. A vicious looking Rottweiler was glaring at him.
"Good doggie," Sven said. "Good doggie."
GRRRRRRRRRR. Drool dripped from the dog's muzzle.
Sven looked for a place to run or hide or something to hit the dog over the head with. He found nothing. The dog attacked. Sven through up his arm to protect himself, but the dog bit him in the pocket.
He had forgotten about the biscuit. Quickly, Sven pulled the biscuit out and threw it down a hallway. The dog scampered off. When it did, Sven bolted for the door.
It was hopeless. He'd been gone at least an hour. Dejected, he rode back to Sprocket's. Sven was so upset when he got there that he didn't notice the line had disappeared. He walked into a bakery that was buzzing with happy people eating pastries.
"VHAIR YOU ARE! bellowed Chef Sprocket.
"What has happened?" asked a very confused Sven.
"I forget. I order more flour yesterday. The truck vhas late." The Chef shook his head. So did Sven. "Here,"Chef Sprocket said, "Have a biscuit."