Episode the Twenty-Third: Little Dot's Bakery

By: Mr. E. S. Stranger

Dot woke up excited on Saturday morning. This was the day she was helping her mom bake, and she’d been looking forward to it. She sat up, full of energy, eyes gleaming in the still-dark room. She heard her frog from across the room.

“Done sleeping already, Dot?”

“Early bird gets the worm,” she replied. “No sleeping in today. I’m ready to help my mom bake.”

“Well, I’m excited that you’re excited,” her frog replied, “but you may have to wait a little while. It’s only half past two.”

“Really?” Dot looked at the clock. It indeed showed two-thirty. “Huh. I was a bit worried I’d already slept too long. I feel completely awake.”

“Don’t know what to tell you,” said her frog. “If it’s alright with you, I’m going back to sleep now.”

“Yeah, sure,” Dot said, and she lay there in the dark, uncomfortably waiting for the time to tick by.

After a while, she fell back asleep. Her sleep was fitful; she woke up many more times and spent a while hovering on the brink of sleep, bobbing up and down like a cork in water. At last, ten minutes prior to her alarm, she fell into a deep doze. When her alarm went off, she fumbled for it, eyes still closed, growing ever more frustrated until she found the button. She lay back down.

“Five more minutes,” she said.

Five minutes later, her frog sang to her, and she roused again, slowly, feeling almost as if she were rising from a vat of warm syrup.

“Mmmh,” she said. She sat up. She let her eyes ease their way into opening. Gradually, struggling through the syrup, she edged her legs off the bed. She stood. Her legs held her up. She shambled to the bathroom and started her day.

At last she emerged from her room to see her mother had already got all of the ingredients together and polished the counter and tables and was doing some light dusting. She strode into the kitchen, feeling fully alive again.

“Okay, I’m ready.”

Together they prepared dough for cookies and breads. Dot helped with all steps of the process except for cracking the eggs, which she happily left to her mom. She especially enjoyed measuring things precisely. She had done her research and remembered the proper order of things. One batch of cookies went into the oven right away, one went into the fridge to chill first, and they set the bread dough aside to rise. They had breakfast and continued. Hours later, all done, they enjoyed some slices of fresh bread and some cookies. It was a good day.

As she sat with her mother, her mind churned, running through ideas for what to make next.

“Can we bake again tomorrow?” she asked her mom.

Her mother spared a glance at the hoard of baked goods they had just produced. “I don’t know. That wore me out. What would you want to make?”

“Maybe a cake?”

“We’d better not make a bunch more sweets,” her mother replied. “Maybe another week.”

Dot nibbled her lip. “How about some hamburger buns? We could have hamburgers for dinner tomorrow. It’s not too hot to grill anymore.”

Her mother considered the plan. “Okay. Sure. We’ll need to start the buns in the morning.”

“Sounds good.”

Dot went to bed that night excited, woke up at three-thirty ready for the day, went back to sleep, and slept through the first alarm. Groggily, she stumbled about like a zombie getting ready, emerged fresh and new in time to get the dough started, and helped her mom make the rolls.

That evening, she, her mom, and her brother sat together enjoying hamburgers. Her brother held his up.

“I approve,” he said. “You can make these anytime.”

Dot turned to her mom. “Can we bake again next weekend?”

“I don’t know, Dot,” her mom answered. “I need to take care of some other things next weekend. We’ll see.”

Dot nodded. She went to bed that night full of ideas, wishing the weekend weren’t over. She had been looking forward to baking with her mom for days, and now that it was over for a while, she realized just how much she loved it.

Well, whatever she couldn’t do, she could research. After school the next day, she got online and began looking up recipes. Cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, breads, muffins, scones, soufflés, various anomalies posted online by others who felt the call of creativity. She cataloged the ingredients, the methods, and the equipment needed. That last bit opened her eyes a bit.

“There’s just so much out there to buy,” she said.

“Tell me about it,” said Funny Bunny from nearby. “Since I found out what a corporate lawyer for a large company usually makes, Zoyla has paid me fairly generously. I just don’t know what to do with it all.”

Toona chimed in. “I don’t have as hard a time spending mine. I don’t have very much left after taxes. For some reason, my taxes are much higher than Funny Bunny’s. He explained it to me a few times, but I still don’t quite understand.”

“It’s confusing for all of us,” Funny Bunny assured him. “I checked your account again this month, though, and it all looks correct.”

“Well, as long as it’s correct,” Toona replied. “And thanks for helping so much with that. You’re very generous.”

Funny Bunny gave a dismissive wave. “No trouble at all. Anyway, Dot, like I was saying, I’m flush with cash and don’t know what I want. So I get it.”

“Hmm. I could use some help deciding what to get. It sure would be nice if Zoyla were here.”

She looked around. Zoyla was not there. She looked at her computer again and then quickly turned around and glanced about the room. Zoyla was still not there.

“You okay?” Funny Bunny asked.

“Yeah,” Dot replied. “I just…hold on.”

She got up, left the room, closed the door, and then opened it and walked back in. Zoyla was not there.

“Huh,” she said.

Toona looked over. “What’s wrong?”

“I just kinda figured Zoyla would materialize.”

“You could just call her.”

“Right, yeah, I know. I just…nevermind.”

She picked up her phone and called Zoyla. Zoyla answered after a few rings.

“Hey, Dot. What’s up?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to come over and shop online with me.”

“Sounds great. Be there in a bit.”

Zoyla hung up the phone, and Dot waited. Fifteen minutes later, Zoyla walked in.

“Bit slow today?” Dot asked.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Zoyla asked. “I got here as soon as I could. So, what are we shopping for?”

“Stuff to bake with.”

“Oh, yes, very exciting. Looking for anything in particular?”

“Stuff to bake with.”

“Right. Okay. Let’s do this.”

She pulled up a chair next to Dot, and they browsed online offerings together. Dot was sure she was being highly selective—she knew a good piece from a bad—but somehow, her cart seemed, when they were done, to be far too large.

“That can’t be right,” she said once confronted with all of it at once. “There must be duplicates or something.”

She and Zoyla went through the cart line by line and came reluctantly to the conclusion that they had chosen quite a bit of stuff.

“Well,” said Zoyla, “I guess you just need a lot of baking supplies.”

“Do I really need it, though?” asked Dot. She scrolled through it all, trying to find a piece that didn’t really interest her. “It’s not just the money. I just don’t know where I’d put it all.”

“You could put it in your house across the street.”

“Yes, I could, but I don’t want it to get too cluttered in there. I wouldn’t want a repeat of Episode Fifteen.”

“No, that would be redundant. How about my bag?”

“I appreciate the thought, Zoyla, but the point is to be able to do baking whenever. I don’t want to have to pull things out of your bag all the time.”

“Why not start a bakery?”

“I don’t think that’s really feasible.”

“Why not?”

Dot opened her mouth to respond and realized she had no words. She closed her mouth and considered the question.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“I’m certain D&Z could use another bakery.”

“No, not D&Z. If I start my own bakery, I want it to be independent.”

“Whatever you want. It’s your bakery. You have the startup capital you need for a space, I think, and I can help with all the paperwork. We can have you all set up in no time.”

“Where would I even put a bakery?”

“Leave that to me. We’ve got a few real state holdings you could purchase. Unless you’d rather lease.”

“Yes, that would be better. I’d like to see how it goes.”

“Alright. Let’s plan this bakery, then, shall we?”

She pulled a drafting table out of her bag, and together they sketched the plans for Dot’s new bakery. They worked through the day and late into the evening, pausing only to eat. By the end, Dot’s room dripped with plans. Her whiteboard was full, documents littered the bed and desk, and they had installed a corkboard specially for the occasion. Together they admired the blueprints for the bakery itself—the lines showing the structure and the numbers showing the dimensions.

“Well, that’s it for tonight,” Zoyla said. “I’ll need you to sign some things.”

That sounded easy enough. Dot went to sleep with a smile on her face that night.

The next morning, Zoyla arrived with a big stack of papers. Dot’s eyes grew wide.

“What’s all that?”

“It’s the paperwork I told you about. I’m surprised you’re surprised.”

“It just seems like a lot.”

“Pretty standard, really.”

“What’s this?” Dot asked, pulling one from near the top. “I don’t understand why I’m agreeing to lease you my soul.”

“Oh, sorry,” Zoyla answered. She grabbed the page from Dot and examined it. “This is from the D&Z Employment Agreement. I don’t know how that got in there. Maybe I should have gone through the stack better.”

She took the stack of papers from Dot and sifted through them.

“Standard…standard…closing docs for a real estate transaction…standard…plea agreement—really glad we caught that one…hmm.”

She pulled quite a few items from the stack. By the time she handed it to Dot again, it was much thinner, but it still looked intimidating.

“I don’t remember having to do all this when we started D&Z,” Dot said.

“Yeah. Turns out there are all these ‘laws’ about starting a business. Something my legal counsel should have warned me about.”

“We were in training!” Funny Bunny objected. “Right, Toona?”

“I take the fifth,” Toona replied. “Wait—is that right? Maybe this one’s one of those other numbers.”

“Anyway,” Zoyla continued, “now I know what you need to do. Fill that out, and then we’ll get you all set up and get those inspections done.”

“Inspections?” Dot responded, nervous all over again.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got it all in hand.”

Dot worked for an hour filling out forms, and at last the last one was signed.

“All right,” Zoyla said, looking it over, “that should do it. Now let’s see your site.”

“So…where is this site, exactly?”

“Right down the street. We can walk, if you don’t want to take the plane.”

“Walking’s fine. I’ve been cooped up in this room for days. Field trip, everyone!”

“Ooh! Ooh!” Frog exclaimed. “I’ll bring the snacks!”

“Just don’t bring them into the bakery.”

“Right. Good thinking. Health code, and all that.”

Dot, Zoyla, Funny Bunny, Toona, and Frog went to the door. Jimi saw them and decided a walk sounded nice, so Dot got the leash. Together they walked down the road. Summer was over, so the air was more pleasant. Zoyla led them to a little storefront that Dot was sure hadn’t been there before.

“There we are,” Zoyla said.

“Neat,” said Frog.

Dot looked it over. “Not much to look at yet.”

Zoyla nodded. “We’ll jazz it up. Don’t worry.”

“Can we go inside?” Toona asked. He sniffled a little.

“Let’s,” Dot replied.

They went in. It wasn’t much to look at inside, either. The lights weren’t yet on; the only light came in through the glass of the door. In that light, the somewhat dusty little bakery had a rather gray look. Dot gazed about uncertainly as her eyes adjusted.

“I don’t know about this,” Dot said.

“Here,” Zoyla said, and she flicked a light switch. Bulbs overhead glowed yellow. Some browns and pinks showed up in the room around them, and Dot could see the counter was cream-colored beneath the dust.

“That’s…better,” she said.

“Just imagine how it will look once it’s finished.”

“Looks like a lot of work.”

“It’s all in the bag, Dot. I took the liberty of hiring a team of guinea pigs to clean it up and remodel it according to our plans. They start tomorrow. Then we can do inspections.”

“Right…inspections. How do those work?”

“Well, usually that can take a bit, but I found a way around that. Turns out there’s a town in this state that was settled long before statehood but went a while without any actual residents. Due to some old precedents and legal loopholes, the location of the town is defined using hand-drawn early-sixteenth-century maps with updates by miners who visited the area. Most of the miners thought they had struck it rich and wanted to disguise the locations of their strikes or gave up and made money selling fake maps to suckers, so their contributions only made the location more ambiguous. Legally, the town could be just about anywhere. Here’s the official map.”

She pulled a yellowed parchment out of her pocket and handed it to Dot, who took it and studied it.

“Don’t worry about the notations,” Zoyla went on. “I did my own survey, and I’m pretty sure thar be no dragons here. Anyway, I moved in and voted myself mayor. The town has its own county as well, which helps. The mayor can’t also lead the board of supervisors for the county, so I’m looking for volunteers there.”

Toona raised his hand. “I volunteer.”

“I elect you,” Zoyla said. “Problem solved.”

“Yes!” said Toona. “I believe that makes me the Count.”

“Sure. So there. Your inspections should go pretty well. Who wants to be the health inspector?”

Jimi spoke up. “I guess I can do that. I look forward to giving the place a sniff. Once all the dust is gone.”

“Excellent. Any questions, Dot?”

Dot kept gazing about. “I don’t guess. This is all very sudden. I didn’t have a business yesterday.”

“Of course. Rest tonight. Work begins tomorrow. Start thinking of the recipes you’ll make.”

“Yeah. I’ll do that.”

They went home. Dot hung out with her friends the rest of the day, had a good dinner with her mom and brother, and went to bed tired but full of thoughts.

For the next several days, there was little she could do. She had school, and she got updates on the guinea pigs’ progress. At last, one Friday evening, Zoyla informed her the pigs were done. They went together to the site. Zoyla insisted Dot wear a blindfold, but Dot was too afraid of tripping, so Zoyla called ahead to have a thousand-square-foot curtain erected in front of it. It was up by the time they got there. Once they were in place, Zoyla gave the signal to the pigs, and the curtain opened, revealing a sparkling storefront with “Dot’s Bake Shop” in purple above the door.

Dot grinned. “Cool. How’s it look inside?”

“Even better,” Zoyla replied. “So excited to show you. Shall we?”

Dot nodded. They went in. It was, as Zoyla had said, even more beautiful inside than out. The creamy counter was polished to a shine. New, cozy-looking tables had replaced the old tables and booths. The bulbs now shone a cozy light from within stylish fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Dot’s eyes went wide.

“Can I see the kitchen?”

Zoyla led the way. She paused a moment at the door for dramatic effect, and then she pulled it open. Dot went in and stopped in awe, admiring all of the new baking equipment that greeted her eyes.

“It’s so beautiful,” she said.

“Isn’t it, though?” Zoyla returned. “Okay, let’s take care of those inspections.”

“How soon can those happen?”

“Umm…pretty soon.”

There was a knock on the door. Dot opened it, and Jimi, Toona, Funny Bunny, and Frog all stood outside. Toona spoke for the group.

“We’re here to begin inspections. May we come in?”

“Uh, yes. Of course,” Dot said, stepping aside.

“I’m the city health inspector,” Jimi began. “May I take a look around?”

“Yes, please,” said Dot. She turned to the others. “What are the rest of you here for?”

Frog spoke up. “I’m the fire marshal. I’ll get started.”

Funny Bunny spoke next. “I’m head of the zoning commission. I’m here to confirm you’re cleared to start your bakery here. Toona here doesn’t really have anything to do with this process right now. I think he just tagged along.”

“Nonsense,” Toona replied. “I’m the head of the county. That makes me the Count. I, Count Toona, will now perform my duties.”

Toona wandered off. Funny Bunny watched him.

“I tried to explain his role to him. He kinda got it.”

Dot observed the others as they went about her restaurant. She meandered over to Zoyla.

“I know these are my friends here, but I’m nervous anyway.”

“Perfectly normal,” Zoyla replied. “You never know what can happen.”

“One!” came Toona’s voice from the kitchen. “One giant refrigerator! Two! Two industrial stand mixers!” He laughed in his rich baritone and resumed counting.

The sprinklers above them turned on, then, and Dot looked about in surprise. “What’s going on?”

“Sorry!” came Frog’s voice from the kitchen. “One moment!”

The sprinklers went off a few seconds later. Frog emerged, somewhat-soggy clipboard in hand.

“Sorry,” Frog repeated. “I didn’t really think that through well enough. First day as Fire Marshal, you know? So, your sprinklers work. Setup of dining room and kitchen fine…I found three extinguishers in working condition…no obvious hazards. I’m giving you a ‘Pass.’”

“Thank you, Frog.”

“Just doing my job.”

Just then, Jimi emerged from the kitchen and sauntered over to Dot. She couldn’t read his expression.

“I’ve completed my inspection,” he reported. “No contaminants, leaks, or other major health hazards visible. I do see, now that I’m back in the dining room, that you’ve got a bit of dog hair on the floor. Be aware you’ll have to be especially careful if you’re going to let pets in here.”

“Okay,” Dot said. “Do I pass?”

“Well, the regulations give me a bit of discretion, so I’ll just make a note of the dog hair for now and schedule a follow-up six months from now. Everything else looks fine. You’re approved to operate.”

“Will that be in writing?”

“I’ll type it up once I get back to my office.”

“Ah. Yeah. I guess it would be hard for you to hold a pen in your paws.”

“My what now?”

“Oh—I mean your hooves, of course.”

“Ah. Right. Yes.”

“So…” Dot said, turning to Zoyla. “Is that all, then?”

“That’s it! Now let’s get you some ingredients and start you baking. Ten percent discount if you buy through D&Z Restaurant Supply.”

“Sure. How do I order?”

“Let’s do that tonight.”

They strolled back to Dot’s house. Once there, they went straight to Dot’s computer. Dot had already spent some time designing her menu, so she knew what sorts of things to order, but she couldn’t decide how much.

“How do I know how much stuff to order?” she asked. “I don’t know how much stuff I’ll sell. I don’t want the ingredients to go bad while I wait for customers.”

“Good point,” Zoyla said. “Frog is currently in charge of marketing. He may have some insights.”

“I’m really more of a jingle writer,” Frog answered. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, Frog,” Dot reassured him. She turned back to the computer. “I dunno. I guess I’ll just order what I think I can reasonably make. It’s not like I can bake that quickly by myself, anyway. Unless the guinea pigs will help with that, too.”

Zoyla shook her head. “‘Fraid not. I looked into it. Turns out rodents in the kitchen is bad for business. Prejudice, if you ask me.”

“Okay, then. I think I’ve got it figured out for now, then. We’ll see how this goes.”

“Yes! That’s the spirit! Okay. Well, I’d better go. See you at the ribbon cutting tomorrow.”


“Sure. Were you waiting for something in particular?”

“No. I’m just surprised it’s already happening.”

“I hear ya. You sure do know how to move quickly. Well, see you.”

She fluttered off. Dot put her computer to sleep, sat there a few minutes, and got ready for bed. She was exhausted but full of thoughts. She tried distracting herself with her phone, which worked, though she woke up with a start a couple times when her phone slipped out of her relaxing hands and hit her in the face. At last she was out for the night.

The next day, Saturday, she was up before the alarm and ready to get started. Once dressed, she looked over at her companions to see that Toona had somehow obtained a frock coat and a wig for the occasion. Funny Bunny had simply donned a bowtie.

“I’m telling you,” Funny Bunny said to Toona, “that’s not the fashion anymore.”

Toona waved the remark away. “Nonsense, dear bunny. ’Tis just the thing.” He turned to Dot. “Shall we off?”

“We shall,” Dot replied.

Together they headed out and strolled down the street to the bakery. Zoyla was waiting for them. Once Dot, Funny Bunny, Toona, Frog, and Jimi had joined her, Zoyla gave a bit of a speech, into which she managed to slip a pitch for her mayoral reelection, and then the ribbon came out. Jimi held one end in his mouth while Funny Bunny stood on Frog who stood on Toona to hold the other end. Zoyla cut the ribbon and declared the bakery open for business, and they all clapped. Then they went in to get started.

“Your trucks were here earlier,” Zoyla said. “I managed to get you super-priority shipping. You’re fully stocked now.”

“Oh. Wow. So…I guess I’m open for business, then.”


“Okay. I’d better get baking.”

Frog jumped up and down. “I’ll work on attracting customers.”

Toona and Funny Bunny both called the role of cashier. Funny Bunny suggested a game of Honor System Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide the matter. They made the motion three times.

“Whatcha got?” Funny Bunny asked.

“Rock,” Toona replied. “You?”


“Nuts. You’re good at that game.”

Funny Bunny went to stand on the counter near the register, and Dot eyed Toona, standing there in his formal attire.

“You can wait on customers at the tables,” she suggested.

Toona perked up. “Yes, most suitable, most suitable.”

Jimi coughed uncomfortably. “I was just here for the ribbon cutting. I didn’t actually mean to do work. Nice place, though.”

“Oh,” said Dot. “Okay. Zoyla, can you take care of things while I take him home?”

“Sure,” Zoyla replied. “I’ll start on some of the prep.” She went into the kitchen.

Dot walked Jimi home and hurried back to the bakery, fearing to see impatient customers there. The place was empty except for her friends. She went into the kitchen to see Zoyla and a dozen eggs sitting around a card table. Zoyla had most of the chips already.

“Almost done here,” Zoyla said. “Complex recipe. How’s it looking out there?”


“Well, it’s early,” Zoyla said. “Give it time.”

“I suppose.”

They made a few batches of each of the starting recipes Dot had chosen. It was fun, but Dot wished a customer would come in. A few solicitors arrived, which prompted Dot to put up a “No Soliciting” sign. Two people came in wanting coffee, and Dot made a mental note to order coffee and a coffee maker. In the early afternoon, a few people showed up wondering if they could use the bathroom.

Dot was starting to lose hope when at six o’clock, a man walked in looking for dessert. Dot informed him he was in the right place. After some deliberation, he ordered a chocolate chip cookie. Dot warmed one from the batch she’d made earlier and tried not to seem too awkward as he ate. Toona and Funny Bunny stared at him. Zoyla made sure to draw attention to a stack of survey cards. At last he ate the last bite, said “Good cookie,” and was on his way. A couple hours later, they closed up. Dot chatted with Zoyla on the way home.

“So, I guess not a lot of people know about the bakery yet.”

“That must be it,” said Zoyla. “Frog, I think you could use some help with promotion.”

“I tried telling you,” Frog replied.

“I know what to do,” Zoyla said to Dot. “I need to get on Greennit and do some serious memeing.”

“What’s Greennit?”

“It’s a place people go to get ideas. The key is, you have to convince them that powerful authorities don’t want them to have those ideas. Then they’ll believe whatever you tell them. This’ll take a bit of finesse. I might need a foil. Maybe if the mayor were plotting to take you down.”

“But you’re the mayor.”

“Doesn’t matter. Once a meme gets started, people stop caring where it came from. Well, that’s it. Yes. Okay. I’m going to get started right now. Let’s see…which way is my house tonight?” She did a bit of math in the air and reversed course. “See you tomorrow, Dot!”

“See you!” Dot shouted back, and she continued home.

The next day, Sunday, Dot once again rose early. She was tired but determined to power through to get her bakery going. She headed out with Toona and Funny Bunny and was surprised to see a line of people waiting to get into the bakery. She stopped, a bit intimidated. She hadn’t imagined such a crowd.

Just then her phone rang. She picked it up.

“Hey,” said Zoyla. “So, you might want to come in the back way this morning. Don’t attract attention. Just sort of nonchalantly walk to the back like you just live in the neighborhood.”

“Okay,” Dot said. She started forward again with Toona, Funny Bunny, and Frog. They skirted the edge of the crowd and casually walked to the back. Zoyla opened the back door, drew them in, and closed it.

“Okay,” Zoyla said. “I might have overdone it a touch. But you have customers now. You should probably start baking.”

“You’ll help, right?”

“You bet. I already started cracking the walnuts for your zucchini bread.”

“Thanks, Zoyla.”

“No problem. Once we have some batches ready, we can let in the hoi polloi.”

She opened a hallway door Dot didn’t remember from before to reveal a walnut sitting nervously at a table.

“Okay,” Dot heard her say as she began slowly closing the door, “are you ready to play ball, or shall I just make a deal with your buddy down the hall?”

Dot turned to Toona and Funny Bunny. “Can one or both of you make a pot of coffee?”

“We can sure try!” Toona replied.

“Good enough.”

“What can I do?” asked Frog.

“See if you can figure out what we’re dealing with out there. How many people, at least, and what that means for fire code. I might need you to play host for a bit.”

“Want my help with crowd control?” Funny Bunny shouted from the counter. “I’ll whip these knuckleheads into line for you.”

“No whipping anybody,” Dot replied. “These are customers. Okay. Let’s go. Think, Dot. What recipe comes first?”

She started baking frantically, then. Once a batch of everything was ready and another on the way, they let the customers in. It was all pretty much a blur from there. She struggled to keep up with the orders, but the line just never seemed to diminish. It was all she could do to steal a minute to eat a bite herself here and there, and her frog kept having to remind her that she was also a water-based life form. By the end, she was exhausted and numb.

“Well,” she said, settling into a chair, “we made it.”

“That we did,” Zoyla confirmed. “It’ll take a while for Toona to finish adding up the gross receipts, but I think you made a good bit today.”

“Why is Toona adding them?” Dot asked. “Isn’t it all computerized?”

“Just let him have this one. He’s having fun.”

“Seventeen!” Toona bellowed. “Seventeen dollars at nine-oh-four and twenty-eight seconds!” He laughed heartily.

Dot sighed. “I’m actually glad tomorrow is Monday,” she said. “The school week should be easier. I’ll just do the bakery on weekends.”

Zoyla stared at her phone. “Rest up. Next weekend should be a busy one. There’s even a group on Greennit trying to buy your stock. I know you don’t have stock, but I’m considering starting an exchange anyway.”

Dot lowered her forehead to the table. “I don’t know if I can do this again.”

“No wonder. Most successful business owners would have hired more help at this point. I’m amazed you made it through the day.”

“I mean…I guess I could hire some people. Then it wouldn’t be as hard.”

“You’d be amazed. I hardly know what goes on in most of the D&Z companies anymore. Having people to take care of things is amazing.”

Dot thought and sighed. She was almost too tired to think.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I started this because I really like to bake. After a day like today, I don’t know that I ever want to bake again.”

“Oh. Better hire help, then, or you’ll have trouble next weekend.”

“I think this might have been a mistake. I like baking, especially with my mom, but I don’t think I want to do it every day or even every weekend for a frenzied mob. I guess I’m in too deep at this point to quit, though.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Zoyla replied. “Online culture is amazing. I may have seemed capable before, but lately I’ve discovered how to do things even I don’t fully understand. If you don’t want to continue with this business, just give the word.”

Dot nodded. “I think I should sleep on it.”

“Good idea. If you decide you just want the mob to be less frenzied, let me know.”

“Okay. Thanks, Zoyla.”

“Of course.”

They wrapped up and left. Zoyla calculated the route to her house, and Dot walked the rest of the way to hers. She went to bed and eventually fell into a deep sleep.

The next day, she went to school. She was tired but muddled through. That afternoon, she arrived again at her room and saw Zoyla sitting in her chair, waiting expectantly.

“So?” Zoyla said. “Whatcha thinkin’?”

“I think…” Dot said, and Zoyla leaned forward a bit. “I think I don’t want to run a bakery. It isn’t how I imagined it. I’m worried it will destroy my love of baking. Baking should be relaxing, you know? Even when my mom and I argue in the kitchen, it’s comfortable. I hate doing it for random people. I just want to do it when I feel like it.”

Zoyla nodded. “I totally understand. Doing something for money can take the joy out of it. Back when I was more involved in what my companies did, I was really scrounging for hobbies. I’ll get this taken care of.”

They hung out for a little while, and then Dot had dinner with her family. When she came back to her room, Zoyla was still there.

“Okay, all done,” Zoyla said.

“Done?” exclaimed Dot. “How?”

“Once I put word out that your bakery was going out of business and elaborated a bit on the plight of small businesses in our corporate-dominated world, my memers started an internet frenzy for me. Thousands of people shared their memories of the delicious baked goods they had eaten there.”

“Thousands? I didn’t serve thousands of people yesterday.”

“I know. It’s amazing what social media can do. In fairness, I posted some of the stories myself just to get the ball rolling. Anyway, a group of investors put together a fund and bought the bakery. I sold it. Hope you don’t mind.”

“Um…it’s fine. I did tell you to take care of it. How much did we get?”

“About seven times what it’s worth. I felt a little bad for them, but when they asked me what a good price was, I couldn’t resist. So that’s that. How do you feel?”

“Relieved and a little sad.”

“Understandable. Well, I’d better be going. See you.”

There was a flash, then, and Dot averted her eyes. When she looked again, Zoyla was still standing there. She calmly walked to Dot’s door and went out.

The rest of Dot’s week was calm. By the end of the week, she was feeling much more rested. On Friday, while Dot was relaxing in her room after dinner, her mom knocked on her door.

“Hey,” her mom said, “I was thinking tomorrow I’d try that new recipe for pumpkin bread. Want to help me out?”

Dot grinned. “You know it,” she said.