CRUMBS OF WISDOM
I know, I know -- why should you listen to me? Yeah, it's just Harry the Heel talking, the last slice at the bottom of the bag, all stale and ugly. The others didn't listen to Harry either, and look what happened to them -- they were eaten. So wise up and pay attention, because you won't hear this any place else, and I haven't got much time.
I may not look like much compared to those oh-so-perfect slices ahead of me. Hell, I probably don't taste like much, either. Most of me is crust -- the stuff kids have their mommies cut off their sandwiches. You'd do it too, except that you don't want to look like your mom made your lunch. Go ahead, give in to your inner child -- see if I care.
Ever see those movies where the prisoner gets fed a cup of slop and a crust of bread? My friend Hana the Heel was in a couple of those, and she tried to get me some work, but I couldn't get out of the bag. Hana's lucky -- she's a top heel. Me, I'm a bottom heel and I'm stuck with all 25 pieces of bread sitting on top of me. It makes conversation a little difficult, and let me tell you, Slice #25 is smelling a little moldy right about now. Ever try talking with your face shoved up against someone's . . . well, you get the picture.
You probably didn't know that only heels have names. Slices just get numbers -- I mean, they're all the same, so why bother? Heels, we're different. Some are big, some are thin, it all depends on how the loaf was cut, so we get names. Besides, there's only two heels in a loaf, so were special. That's right, special, so shut up about it!
I'm a commercial loaf, all nice and processed, and proud of it. So what? You think the heel at the bottom of one of those hoity toity boutique loaves is any nicer? Yeah, the wheat may be whole, but those guys have to put up with all those seeds mixed in, and brother, that chafes! That's why you find so many #@!% crumbs at the bottom of their bags.
I heard that those seeds and crap get stuck in your teeth. Considering that you eat us, I can't get too worked up over it. Just grab a toothpick and shut up about it. It's the last chance any of us get to stick it to the Mouth.
I'm lucky if I get stuffed inside some poor turkey. By the time you get to me, you just want to throw me out and start a fresh loaf. See if I care.
And if I'm really lucky, I'll get made into that last piece of french toast, drowned in egg and milk and cooked over a hot gridle until I'm turned over, because burning me on one side just isn't enough, is it? Even with syrup and butter, I'm still the one nobody wants and I usually get fed to the dog. "Anybody want the last piece? It's a heel. No?" And over to the dog I go.
If you think about it, the garbage is still better than getting eaten. Sure, I get mixed in with old coffee grounds and yesterday's fish, but no one's chewing on me. When Slice #4 gets swallowed, you know where she ends up. I'll take banana peels over digestion any day.
Once in a while some weirdo actually likes crust, someone who can appreciate my extra taste of preservatives with a little toughness thrown in. Stick some salami and mustard between two crusts, and these guys think I'm tasty! Go figure.
It's those chemicals that help give me that long shelf life. Sure, most of me ain't exactly found in nature, but you gotta be tough to survive as a heel.
Those regular slices have it made. They hang out together, sharing their hopes and dreams. "I hope I get taken to school!" "I want to go to work." Blah blah blah. It's all the same, glamorous travel and exciting fillings -- "I hear prosciutto with pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella is good." But in the end it's all the same: paper bags and plastic wrap. Hell, most of them are headed for peanut butter and jelly with little Timmy.
Me? I'm lucky if I get leftover tuna salad and then tossed in the garbage when my Mouth decides to go out to lunch with that cute guy over in Accounting. That's a good end for a heel -- mostly its just into the garbage can under the kitchen sink. No travel, no filling, not even a thought about eating us. It's lonely here at the bottom.
Talk around the bread aisle is that some of the sandwiches get forgotten in the office fridge, and they party hard with the tuna and mayo. By the time the Mouth remembers, they're so wasted they stink up the joint, and then it's down the garbage disposal they go. Ground to death with all the other food -- still, it's got to be better than the stomache acid and intestines. What goes in must come out, you understand me? Those silly slices never talk about that.
I do have it better than the others in one way, and it's a big one. No crustectomies. You can't cut the crust off a heel. Those poor suckers -- that's got to hurt like hell, and before they know it, bam!, the Slice. Yep, they get cut in half. Still feel better than me? The fancy ones get that diagonal cut, but a knife's still a knife.
And what about those pannini presses? Squashed, toasted, and branded! Makes me almost feel sorry for them -- almost. Word around the condiments is that some Mouths are even doing that to PB&J. Compared to that, the trash looks pretty good.
Can you imagine what it's like for little Aiden at school when he unwraps that organic pancetta pannini in front of the guys with their Wonder Bread bologna sandwiches? Aiden will be giving those homemade oatmeal cookies to Ralph and Mikey pretty quick, that's what. They'll make him eat those zucchini slices to help you with your nutrition program, but he may wind up wearing his milk.
Grownups just don't understand these things. I do, and I'm only a piece of bread. I don't even have a brain and I get it!
Look, you may not like me much, but it's not my fault. I was baked this way. I come from an industrial bakery, and hundreds of thousands of heels just like me are made every day.
I started out just like the others -- yeast, flour, salt, and preservatives all mixed together in a big steel vat. Then we get sent down chutes, cut into loaves and baked in ovens. When we come out, they stuff us in plastic bags and drive us to who knows where, all so you can eat us.
If that doesn't make your crust bitter, nothing will. And at the bottom of all that is me. So you can see why I might gripe a little now and then.
Those early times in the vat were the best. No heels, no slices, everyone mixed together as dough. If you listened real close, you could hear Kumbaya now and then. That didn't last long. Paradise never does.
I'm from a bottom shelf loaf, the bread that you actually feed your families. That craft bakery stuff is too expensive, and frankly, the slices are just plain weak. Of course, there are some scarier loaves, like Dave's Killer Bread, made by an ex-con. No one messes with them, and those heels are the worst of the lot.
My time here is getting close to the end. There are only three slices of bread left in my bag, so who do you think makes it into the sandwich? If I'm lucky, I'll get to spend a few more days in the cupboard because you'll wait for somebody else to eat me while you start the next loaf. I won't have anyone to talk to and I'll get stale, and finally someone'll have the guts you didn't and just throw me out.
But that next loaf of bread will have a heel just like me -- and the next, and the one after that. You can't get rid of us. Bread may be the staff of life, but not heels. We're the staff of nothing.
Just remember us when you grab those other slices. Without us, there'd be no loaves and you'd be stuck eating those funny-looking round breads. Try making a sandwich out of them!
You need us, so treat us with a little respect. Next time, don't throw the heel out. Tear us up and feed us to the birds or use us in a meat loaf.
We deserve better than the garbage can.
"Dave's Killer Organic Bread" actually exists. Dave spent 15 years in prison, and after his release, his brother welcomed him back to the family bakery. One third of of their employees have criminal records. It says so right on the bag.
Thank you to halfshellvenus for beta reading this.