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Secret Bakery In Florence, 1 A.M.

Michael Bjork

Four of us walk a cobbled alley, 
pipes on the walls, green graffiti, 
shimmering lights on iron sconces.

Walt leads. Black coat, flat cap, 
semester student of Florence, 
knows the city like he planned it 
himself. He's shown us the Duomo,

the Firenze-Roma football match,

and now, a secret bakery.


We stop at a sliding glass door, 
misted green, the window above 
cracked open. Smell of chocolate,

caramelized sugar, baking pastries.

I hear footsteps. A figure passes 
the misted glass, a dark ripple. Then

the creak and rush of faucet water.


Walt knocks and steps back, hands

withdrawn to his pockets. The water

quiets. It's illegal for them to sell
he says, except to Florentine cafes.

Footsteps again, and the opaque 
figure appears behind the door. 
That's why they're secret, he says. 

The glass slides, and a man stares out,

t-shirt, apron, paper hat. He looks
between us. Quanti? he asks. Walt says

Quattro, spreads four fingers. The man

nods, slides the door. A minute later,

he returns, hands Walt a wax paper bag.

We each pay a euro coin, and the man

slips them into his apron pocket.


Walt opens the bag, we reach inside.

My fingers brush warm crust, and I 
pull a croissant, drizzled over with 
steaming chocolate that burns my 
finger. I lick it off, smile, bite the 
pastry's corner. It's Nutella, I say. 
Everyone laughs, tastes their own, 
and a lightness fills the air, 
like the fluffy rise of croissants 
in secret bakery ovens. 

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