by George Wallace

It wasn’t a dream. It was a snowy night in the Black Forest of Germany. It was late December and a woman with a twisted back was walking past the bakery when she saw the face of Jesus in a loaf of bread and her back was healed. A miracle! She went immediately to the priest to report the news and the priest did the only thing fit to do— he rang and rang the church bells until the whole town turned out.

That night men gathered in the rathskeller and beer poured from the tap like heaven. The mayor stood at the balcony and gave a big speech. Then everyone headed for the bakery, like wise men gathering at the crèche, to see the face of Jesus in a loaf of bread and be healed.

Oh shut up! the baker shouted from inside. He wasn’t having any of it.

The baker was a simple man, an ordinary man. He’d never been particularly lucky in life or well respected in town. But he did his job and he paid his bills. He was a gentle man with blue eyes like the sky. He didn’t want trouble and he left well enough alone.

He sat inside his shop contemplating this fresh disaster.

Why would you do a terrible thing like this to me? he asked the loaf of bread, holding it up to the lamplight and examining it sadly. You’ll bring me nothing but trouble. Then he had a thought. I must tell you, he said to the loaf. I have to say. I have my honest doubts (perhaps doubt was his religion). Maybe you aren’t the face of Jesus at all!

Hope is a powerful drug. Like superstition. The baker crossed himself twice. He mumbled some half forgotten bit of prayer his mother once taught him. He held the face of Jesus up to his own face, so close he could smell the fresh scent of its breath on his own and he said it again, in a whisper this time: maybe you aren’t the face of Jesus at all!

But the loaf of bread was silent. It would not grant him the denial he hoped for any more than it would break into pieces in his gentle hands, or heal a twisted back. Or just go away.

I have no luck, said the baker.

He looked out the shop window into the dark and gathering snow at all the townspeople crowded outside his door.

Now fear poured from the baker’s brow. Like good German beer sweated from a tap.

George Wallace is writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, author of 36 chapbooks of poetry, and editor of Poetrybay, which publishes a regular flash fiction blog entitled Flash Boulevard. A professional journalist and essayist who teaches writing courses at Pace University in Manhattan, his work has previously appeared in Fictive Dream.