12 Days of Xmas: The Bread of Hope

The Bread of Hope
by Harper Kingsley

The bread had come out a little lop-sided on top. Otherwise it was a beautiful loaf. The first bread machine bread made since the end of the world.

Standing at the counter, staring at the bread like it was an Old World TV, Wendy was in the midst of an emotional storm. There were so many feelings, and for once loss wasn’t the most important one.

This single loaf of bread represented hope for the future.

And the thought of cutting into fresh hot bread made her mouth water. It had been so long…

Before the End of the World she’d eaten bread every day. Her fancy wooden bread box with its slide out cutting board had always been full.

There had been no truer heaven than bread on demand. She’d regularly used her bread maker, but there had always been the option of going to the store to buy any kind of bread she wanted.

This post-apocalypse loaf was a plain white, but she’d grown the wheat herself and churned the butter from her lonely cow. She figured once the milk dried up she’d be eating 4-ingredient bread (flour, yeast, salt, and water), but until then she would enjoy a last taste of the world Before, when everything was in such abundance.

Wendy brushed her fingers lightly over the not-too-hard, seemingly just-right crust. It radiated heat, the only reason she was willing to wait.

The last thing she wanted was to mash the bread as she sliced it. Which meant waiting for it to cool down.

She glanced at the clock on the wall. It would be another 10-minutes at least. Then delicious chewy bread in her mouth.

She would enjoy the first couple slices plain, then use the rest for sandwiches.

She’d gathered wild strawberries and figured she’d make a bread machine jam. It hadn’t been something she’d ever tried before, but bread and jam sounded so good right now.

She’d been living alone for a long time. She hadn’t seen another human in close to 8-months, and that had been through monoculars and she’d seen him dying his last. It had been one of the deciding factors that kept her from leaving isolation. The Plague was still out there.

Wendy wasn’t a doctor. She wasn’t a scientist. She hadn’t read nearly enough Wikipedia articles or medical site information to know when the sickness was or would be dead. So she’d decided she was on her own.

Which was why a single loaf of bread was so important.

It represented her hope for the future. And it contained her belief that she could make and handle things alone. She could and would survive, because any hardship could be overcome if she worked hard enough.

She’d scavenged parts and managed to cobble together an electrical generator. It relied on an old car at this point, but she was hoping to figure out an alternate charging method–gasoline was only going to last a while and she planned to be around for a long time.

Because she might not have been a “fighter,” but she was a survivor.

The second hand on the clock swept up to touch the 12 and Wendy couldn’t wait.

Snatching up the bread knife, she quickly sawed the end off the loaf. It steamed a little, but didn’t mash or tear. It was cooled down just enough.

That first bite made her groan. The second bite made her laugh.

She had survived the end of the world to eat a slice from the bread of hope. Everything might never be “okay” again, but she knew it could only get better than it had been recently.

Because she had bread, and soon she would have jam, and eventually she would use other gadgets that ran on electricity, and she would raise a garden and make her own vegetable oil. And there would be bread every day.

Because life could only get better from here.

She would make it so. Because she could do anything she stuck her mind to. This after the apocalypse bread was proof of her fortitude.

It tasted delicious.