art by Jason Stirret
by Melissa Mead
"May I help you?" said the store owner to the old woman.
"Do you sell industrial-strength candy, young man?"
"We certainly do!" Hans came out from behind the counter, beaming. "We also carry five grades of structural gingerbread, from Light Gold to Dark & Spicy. If you'll follow me..."
He led the woman into the warehouse, pointing out load-bearing lollipops, candy cane trusses, and sugar shingles.
"This is our Do-It-Yourself section. If you're building from the ground up, you can get flour in fifty pound bags, sugar in twenty-five, and brown sugar by the brick, dark or light."
His customer sniffed. "Adequate. But I've got the basic house already. I'm looking for something to pretty it up for when the kiddies come over for dinner. Decorative bits."
"Frosting? We carry Royal Icing by the gallon. We're also running a special on fondant siding. Half price on installation."
"That's a start."
"We do piped-on trim, wafer cookie shutters..."
"Also landscaping. Crushed rock candy paths, lemonade fountains, lollipop trees, stick candy fencing. Let me show you our catalogue."
While she read, Hans tried to avoid looking out the window, or at the telephone. His fingers itched. The old woman turned the pages with agonizing slowness, muttering and sucking on her teeth. Finally, though, she closed the book and glared at Hans.
"Mighty expensive. Twenty silver for sugar windows?"
"You could try Big Bad Wolf's Dens and Dining Rooms, but he's mostly about furniture."
"Fine. I'll take five gallons of green icing, six of purple, a truckload of peppermints..."