8. Wherever I May Roam

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Rover, wanderer, nomad, vagabond - Metallica

2:14 a.m. Saturday, September 25, 2021

Staring at the ceiling, hands nestled behind his head, Harry wonders if perhaps Danice was right. This is his third night in this hotel room, and he still can't sleep. He's used to the sounds and rhythms of other people in a house. And while Alison is sleeping one floor below, she might as well not be there for all the noise she makes.

Most people would be happy with that trait in an innkeeper, so why is Harry having such trouble sleeping? Sure, he'd taken a nap earlier, but he's still exhausted. He cannot -- simply refuses to -- go back to Los Angeles and tell Jeffrey the experiment was a failure.

Harry is determined to be on his own. Dammit. How hard can it be? Millions of people live on their own. And they seem to sleep just fine. Pulling up his Calm app on his phone, Harry listens to stories and meditations before finally giving up at 4:48 a.m. and going for a jog.

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4:49 a.m. Saturday, September 25, 2021

Michele's fingers knead the dough, and the rhythm nearly rocks her to sleep. It's too early to crank music to keep her awake, but she twists the volume knob slightly so that Metallica's Master of Puppets is louder, and she bops her hips to the beat. At least the music matches the vintage tour t-shirt she's wearing. It's from Metallica's Damage Inc. tour and features, naturally, a pirate. Or, more specifically, a skull and crossbones. What else would she select for this auspicious day?

This quiet time of the morning is her favorite, although she would prefer to be out jogging. Or maybe over at the high school lifting weights. Morning has always been her time, but since the bakery has been added to her responsibilities....well, everything else is out the window. She wonders what would happen if she decided to sell the bakery and move away. Leave Nowhere and its inhabitants behind. She could go to the city, find her dream job with a travel magazine. Write about exotic places and people.

Placing the dough into the oiled bowl and covering it, she washes the flour from her hands before preparing to make a batch of rye bread. She's in the mood for a Reuben with giant hunks of corned beef and Swiss cheese. Preferably dripping with sauce and sauerkraut juice. She can practically taste it. It will have to wait until another day because of the festival, but she's determined to enjoy the unhealthy treat.

If she closed the bakery, what would happen to the town? Moore Bread had been on this corner for decades. Her mother baked the bread, and her grandmother before that, and her great-grandmother before that. Rumor is that Michele's great-great-grandmother created the recipes that have been passed down through time.

Everyone ate Moore Bread. If Mildred and Dylan want to make French toast for their children, they buy their bread from Michele. When Ace is in the mood to treat himself, he eats a cinnamon roll from the bakery. Every Sunday that communion is served at church, Rev. Browne purchases the challah from Michele. Rolls and specialty breads for The Cellar. Breadsticks and pizza dough for Luigi's Italian. Hamburger buns for the Choo Choo. Muffins and scones for Lee at BrainWash. And the loaves sold by Rosie at the supermarket. The town would collapse without its bread.

So until Phoenix is grown up and ready to take over, it's Michele's responsibility to keep the town's bellies full. It's wearying. Like the weight of the town's survival is on her shoulders.

As the song ends, she swears she can hear footsteps running behind the bakery, setting a steady pace. Curious, she washes her hands. Drying them on her towel, she opens the back door, peering out to find the source of the sound.

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