Rita nodded at the figure of their father, sitting out of earshot on a bench and quietly feeding the birds. “Dad’s not doing too well,” she said, “but he still owns the business. Body’s going to pieces but his mind is still sharp. And he won’t let us sell.”

Gnat folded his arms. “S-surely, even given the cost of raw materials, there’s a considerable profit to be made there, to say nothing of the cachet the bakery holds with the community.”

“It’s not as big a profit as you’d think,” Jim Jr. scoffed. “And you really have to knead and bake and scrape it out of every little piece of dough. It’s hard work, and we’ve been doing it since we were kids. We want out.”

“What about people like m-..ah, people that love the place? Warm baked goods, especially sweets, are statistically much more likely to form lasting memories. Think of all the kids that grew up on Orville’s.”

“What about all the kids that grew up in Orville’s, huh?” Jim Jr. snapped.

“There’s $100,000 in baking equipment alone in that shop, easy,” said Rita. “Old stuff, good stuff, stuff that they don’t make anymore. The stand mixer itself is worth $10,000; Stone Ground Bakery upstate is willing to pay cash and even haul it away for us.”

Gnat looked at the distant, hunched form of Jim Sr. “And your dad?” he said. “What about him?”

“Listen, kid,” said Jim Jr., irked at the gall of someone walking up and interrupting his stroll to cast aspersions on his motives. “Dad cares more about his dumb breads than he does about us. Always has, always will. So, as soon as he can’t hold us back anymore, we’re going to return the favor.”

“Well then,” said Gnat. “I think I may have just saved you the trouble, then, Orvilles.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a cookie, lavishly if crudely decorated to resemble a copyrighted cartoon character. Biting into it, Gnat’s eyes fluttered with joy for a moment before he continued, chewing heavily. “I just unraveled the fabric of your bakery and everything in it. This cookie is all that’s left of your inheritance.”

He threw it at their feet, startling Rita and Jim Jr. enough that neither could respond.

“Go on and see what you can sell that for,” Gnat said. “You’ve earned it.”

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