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Authors: Kathryn Littlewood

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BOOK: Bite-Sized Magic
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Purdy took the paper from him and read it out loud. “By Order of the American Bureau of Business and Congressional Act HC 213, this Place of Business is CLOSED FOR BUSINESS immediately.”

“Can they do that?” Sage asked. “Don't they have to talk with us first?”

“We only just hit the big-time!” Ty said, exasperated. “Katy Perry wants cake!”

Purdy furrowed her brow and read further. “The American Big Bakery Discrimination Act states that bakeries employing fewer than a thousand people must cease and desist operation. Big bakeries are suffering due to the unfair advantages of mom-and-pop bakeries throughout the United States. You are to cease and desist selling baked goods for profit henceforward. Violations will be punishable to the full extent of the law.”

Rose gulped and felt something soft butt against her ankle. She looked down and found Gus the cat, who looked up at her. “A wayward wish is a bitter dish,” he said, then threaded himself around her legs. “Told you so!”

CHAPTER 1
The Cat's in the Bag

E
xactly twenty-seven days later, Rose woke to find her bedroom toasty warm like the inside of a sock fresh from the dryer.

She had suffered through twenty-seven days of waking to morning cold throughout the house, the ovens turned off, the front windows shuttered, the bakery closed for business. Twenty-seven days of living with the guilt that she, Rosemary Bliss, had brought a chill onto her town just by making a simple little wish.

She stretched in her bed and listened to her bones creak and was thankful that it was a warm Saturday in June. There was no need to drag herself through the sad-sack halls of Calamity Falls Middle School. Like everyone else in town, her fellow students had taken a turn for the worse since the Follow Your Bliss Bakery had closed. The teachers lost their pep, the sports teams lost their matches—even the cheerleaders had lost their enthusiasm. “Rah,” they'd mumble at games, halfheartedly shaking their pom-poms.

Worst of all, Devin Stetson was affected too, his blond bangs sitting lank and greasy on his forehead. Rose wondered what she'd ever seen in him at all.

And Rose was droopier than anyone: Alone among all the people in Calamity Falls, she knew that she was the reason the bakery had closed.

“Just another week,” she muttered to herself as she lay there.

“Shhhhhh!” a little voice cried from beside her. “Sleeping!”

Rose whipped back the covers, exposing the snoring bundle of pajamas that was her younger sister, Leigh, curled up like a comma in the space where the bed met the wall.

“Leigh,” Rose said, “you've got to stop sneaking into my bed!”

“But I get scared,” Leigh said, batting her dark eyelashes, and Rose felt guilty all over again. Her four-year-old sister's sudden night frights were probably Rose's fault, too.

“Another week of what?” someone else purred. Curled up in a tight comma against her sister's chest was Gus. He opened one green eye and glared at her. The cat had been able to talk as long as Rose had known him—ever since he'd eaten some Chattering Cheddar Biscuits her great-great-great-grandfather had made, in fact. But she was shocked anew every time he opened his tiny whiskered mouth and spoke. “Cat got your tongue?” he asked.

“Until school is out for the summer,” Rose said. “I can't take it anymore. Everyone's so mopey!” She sucked in a deep lungful of air and felt comforted by the soft scent of cinnamon and nutmeg. “Someone's baking!” she exclaimed.

Gus stretched out his front paws and leaned forward, his tail rising straight like an exclamation point. “This
is
a bakery, you know.”

“But, but, but—we've been closed! By order of the government!”

Leigh blinked and scratched Gus's rumpled gray ears. Since being freed from Lily's awful spell that caused her to praise her aunt incessantly, Leigh had taken on a Buddha-like serenity, and rarely opened her mouth except to speak the simple truth.

“Closed,” the little girl said calmly, touching the wrinkle in Rose's forehead, “is just an opportunity to be open in a different way.”

Rose scrunched up her face. “Well, open or closed, if we're baking, we're breaking the law,” she said. “We'd better get downstairs.”

 

Dressed in a red T-shirt and tan shorts, Rose arrived in the kitchen with Leigh and Gus just as Chip entered from the bakery—Chip was an ex-marine who usually helped customers in the store. Rose didn't know
what
they'd do without him.

“I don't understand why I'm here,” he said. “The sign on the front still says
CLOSED
. The blinds are still drawn. The lights are still off.”

“Good, Chip,” Purdy said. “Now take a seat so I can explain to everyone what's going on.”

He sat on a stool at the head of the table in the breakfast nook, where Rose's parents, brothers, and Balthazar were huddled around the table, with its overflowing pile of fan mail. Rose's father, Albert, held the official letter that had come from the United States government, reading it over and over, as if he expected to find some tiny footnote that negated the whole thing. “This law makes no sense—no sense at all!” he muttered under his breath. Leigh crawled under the breakfast table and reemerged in her mother's lap. Rose slid in beside her brothers.

“I agree: It makes no sense,” Rose's mother announced. “That's why, beginning today, the Follow Your Bliss Bakery is back in business.”

“But, Purdy!” Albert protested. “That would be breaking the law!”

“Honey, the government says we
can't
operate,” said Balthazar, wiping the top of his bald head with a handkerchief. “This document is perfectly clear: Unless we employ more than a thousand people, we are shut down. That fancy lawyer, Bob Solomon, hasn't been able to find a single loophole. And our congresswoman, Big Nell Katey—well, she hasn't made a bit of headway with those other politicians down in Washington. They've got good hearts, the both of them, but we're up against something sneaky here.”

Gus arched his back and hissed. He began to scratch at the wooden base of the breakfast table like it was a cage full of mice.

“Gus,” Purdy said gently. “No scratching, please.”

Gus sank to the ground and twisted miserably until he was lying on his back. “I'm sorry. It's how Scottish Folds cope with sneakiness.”

“The law says that we can't operate
for profit
,” Purdy explained with a strange glint in her eye. “It says nothing about operating as a charitable organization. We have to stop
selling
baked goods, but we don't have to stop
baking
!”

Ty's jaw dropped. “You can't be suggesting that we—”

“—give our baked goods away
for free
!” Sage finished.

Ty put his head in his hands, careful not to mess up his hair. “I can't believe what I'm hearing. We'll
never
get rich this way!”

“Giving our goods away is exactly what I'm suggesting,” Purdy said. “Our work is bigger than simple profits. Calamity Falls needs us.”

Sage groaned theatrically.

Beside her, Albert smiled and folded up the letter. “We won't be able to give away our Bliss baked goods forever—we can't afford to do that. But we can at least do so until we find some way around this backward law.”

“I just know this is Lily's fault.” Balthazar rose from the breakfast table and began to pace around the room, scratching his beard. “May none of you forget: Lily never returned Albatross's Apocrypha. I'll bet you a loaf of Betray-Yourself Banana Bread that Lily is using the sinister recipes in that little booklet to wreak havoc on the government. I should have destroyed it when I had the chance back in 1972.”

Rose's great-great-great-grandfather was fond of warning the family about the dangers of Albatross's Apocrypha, a pamphlet of particularly meddlesome and nasty recipes written by a long-ago black sheep in the Bliss family. Usually, the Apocrypha was tucked into a pocket at the back of the Bliss Cookery Booke, but when Lily had returned the Booke after she lost the Gala des Gâteaux Grands in Paris, the Apocrypha was missing.

“We don't actually know that, Balthazar,” Albert protested, though Rose thought he looked more like he was trying to convince himself than Balthazar. Rose's great-great-great-grandfather just harrumphed.

“Never mind any of that!” Ty shouted. “The solution to our problems is so obvious! All Rose has to do is one commercial for Kathy Keegan Snack Kakes, and we can all retire to Tahiti. None of us will have to approach an oven again.
They'll
be baking for
us
!” He and Sage gave each other a high five.

“It's not about the money, Thyme,” Purdy said, flicking her oldest son on the side of his head. “It's about the people of this town. They need us. And we need them. Baking is our grand purpose.”

“Besides,” said her father, “we can afford it—for now. We've always scrimped and saved in case of an emergency. And this? This is as much an emergency as Calamity Falls has ever faced.”

Somewhere deep within her, Rose felt a tiny flame kindle, a fire of hope and a desire to do some good the only way she knew how. “What are we going to do?” she asked her mom.

Purdy smiled, and Rose felt the dreariness of the past twenty-seven days burn away like a cloud at sunrise. “We are now the Bliss Bakery Underground,” Purdy announced. “We will bake all day and all night, and beginning tomorrow morning, we will personally deliver the cakes and pies and muffins to everyone in town. The people of Calamity Falls stuck with us through our hard times, when we didn't have the Booke. Now we're going to stick by them.”

Albert tore the official government letter dramatically down the center. “I think that's the best idea I've ever heard.”

Purdy moved Leigh to her father's lap. She stood up and began pacing the cramped bakery kitchen. “Chip will make a major grocery store run,” Purdy said, looking at her burly assistant. “Albert—will you inventory our magical ingredients?” Standing tall, she added, “We shall not cease.”

“I'll help,” Rose said, happy for the opportunity to reverse her careless wish and, for the first time in nearly a month, to cut loose and bake—no cameras, no reporters, just three generations of Blisses, doing what they had always done best.

Making kitchen magic.

 

It was three in the morning.

The heat in the kitchen was as thick as grape jelly. Rose cracked the red egg of a masked lovebird into a bowl of zucchini muffin batter to make a batch of Love Muffins for Mr. and Mrs. Bastable-Thistle, who, without the magical intervention of the Bliss Bakery, became shy strangers to each other.

“Mom, look,” Rose said as she mixed in the egg, watching the batter thicken and hiss as tiny hearts of flour exploded into the air.

But Purdy couldn't hear Rose—not over the Malaysian Toucan of Fortune, whose confident squawk she released into a bowlful of pastry cream, then stuffed the cream into a batch of Choral Cream Puffs for the Calamity Falls Community Chorus, whose voices were meek and thin without them. “What was that, honey?” Purdy asked.

“Never mind,” Rose said, continuing with the muffin batter as Balthazar unleashed the gaze of a medieval Third Eye onto a batch of Father-Daughter Fudge for Mr. Borzini and his daughter, Lindsey—after eating the fudge, each could more easily glimpse where the other was coming from. “You never want to look a Third Eye directly in its, erm, eye,” Balthazar told Rose. “It could blind you.”

Mental note,
Rose thought.
Don't go blind
.

The family had been at it for sixteen hours, and Purdy's master list of baked goods was still only half complete.

The kitchen itself was strewn with blue mason jars filled with various sniffs and snorts and fairies and gnomes and ancient lizards and talking mushrooms and googly eyes and woogly flies and jittering, glowing bobbles of every sort. Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla swirled in the air, and all the various sounds coming from the kitchen made Rose hope the neighbors wouldn't think the Blisses were running a zoo.

Albert had ferried jar after jar of magical ingredients from the secret cellar beneath the walk-in fridge—“Watch your heads, Blisses!”—until the dingy wooden shelves were practically empty.

Ty and Sage had long since gone to bed. At one point, they'd come downstairs for a snack, but they took one look at the magical mayhem, at the chomping teeth and flying rabbits and the explosions of color coming from dozens of metal mixing bowls, then scurried back upstairs.

There were Cookies of Truth for the infamous fibber Mrs. Havegood, Calm-Down-Crepes for the angry, overwrought Scottish babysitter Mrs. Carlson, and Adventurous-Apple-Turnovers for the reserved League of Lady Librarians.

There were Seeing-Eye Shortbread for Florence the Florist, who was nearly blind, Frugal Framboise Cake for the French restaurateur Pierre Guillaume, who had a notorious shopping problem, and even something for Devin Stetson, the blond boy whom Rose had thought about at least twice a day for approximately one year, five months, and eleven days. She had made him Breathe-Easy Sticky Buns to help with his frequent sinus infections, which, as far as Rose was concerned, were the only things wrong with Devin Stetson.

By four a.m., Rose felt that the heat from the ovens was slapping her upside the head. She told Purdy she needed to lie down just for a minute, and she nuzzled onto the bench at the breakfast table and promptly fell asleep.

 

Rose woke to bright buttery sunshine and the swatting and drooling of Gus the Scottish Fold cat. “Deliveries, Rose!” he said, batting her on the shoulder with his thick paw. “The list is complete!”

Rose bolted upright and found her mother, father, and Balthazar snoring on the floor. Every surface of the kitchen was covered in white bakery boxes tied with red-and-white-striped twine.

BOOK: Bite-Sized Magic
2.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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