Return to North to Alaska
Stopped for a walkabout in a roadside park outside Sudan. It's a pleasant place, for the Panhandle, with large shade trees and a fine view of the highway in front and some red dirt on the side. There's enough breeze to keep the flies moving. All in all, a fine day. There's even a sturdy chain link fence to keep kids of all ages from wandering out onto the railroad tracks.
Even better, as I write this I'm eating the first scrumptious slice from a coconut meringue pie I bought earlier in Slayton. I admit I was tempted by the Coca-Cola Cake, and even more by a dozen or so of those "thumbprints", which are tiny white cake cookies with a dollop of chocolate icing on top.
The icing looks a lot better on the cookie than dotted around on the face of the boy outside. These things are just small enough to tempt the daredevil in him to toss them 6 feet or so into the air and try to catch them in his mouth. I'll give the kid credit. He's not easily discouraged, and as a matter of course picks the fragments up off the sidewalk and consumes them tidily. Here in the Panhandle, education does not cease at the schoolhouse door.
But as I was saying, I was tempted by all these things, except maybe the cookie toss. But I settled parsimoniously on a single Coconut Pie. That's my notion of a disciplined diet.
While I was dealing with these matters, my eye wandered along the counter until it reached the Official List of Malefactors. It seems that the Slayton Bakery is plagued by people who call in orders and fail to pick them up. Their names are prominently displayed on a list.
It's a small town. But there's a couple hundred names there, including several listings for "The City of Slayton". No dates were shown, but I suspect the Slayton Bakery has a long institutional memory. Have they no shame? I for one would rather come across my picture unexpectedly at the post office.
I asked the lady behind the counter what happens to orders that are not picked up.
"We keep them for a day. Then they're thrown away."
"That's how people get on the list?"
"Yes. It's a waste. From then on, they have to pay up front."
I don't know why criminal activity among the good people of Slayton captured my imagination this morning. It is mighty good pie. Might even be worth stealing. It's hard to imagine not showing up to claim it. Even harder to think of throwing it away.
Shades of Conrad. The Horror. The Horror.
But if any of you, Heaven forfend, should ever find yourselves in reduced circumstances, or even just need a good story to tell down at meetings of the Silas Marner Society, you might want make your way to Slayton, Texas. Hang out behind the Bakery. You could do worse.
Bring a sack. Business is brisk.
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