Short Fiction: Krispy Kreme and the Meaning of Life

Warren woke with the chickens.  It had been his habit since childhood when he actually was awakened by the sound of the neighbor’s rooster crowing.  Swinging his legs over the side of the bed he almost reached out to see if Betty was up, and then the persistent grief of her loss settled over him as it had done now for the past year.

Warren Krueger and Betty Peterson had been an item since he came back from the navy at 22.  He had been a Machinist’s Mate and part of the Auxiliary Group which was responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of basically every system outside the engine room of his ship.  In the process Warren had learned a lot about refrigeration systems.

They had met at a bowling alley.  Warren had gone with some friends from high school and Betty was at the shoe rental counter.  He was taken by her bubbly and a little sassy personality and they began dating.  About a year later he found a job with a Nor-Lake plant working in their commercial freezer plant.  The couple immediately began talking of marriage.  It should have been easy – they were both Lutheran – but he had grown up in the Wisconsin Synod, a conservative denomination of German derivation, and Betty had grown up in the American Lutheran Church, a more liberal group of predominately Norwegian heritage.

Warren’s church interpreted the bible differently than Betty’s and regarded the Papacy as the anti-Christ.  The real problem had to do with acceptance into any kind of fellowship of nonmembers with Wisconsin Synod members.  But they were determined to find a way.

They got married in the American Lutheran Church which later merged with the Lutheran Church in America, a Swedish heritage church to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  Warren’s parents mourned this decision to their death because they were convinced that Warren was doomed to perdition as a result.  They also mourned the fact that he worked in that “ice box plant” instead of joining his father and grandfather in their generations old German bakery.

Nevertheless, the Kruegers visited on holidays and watched their grandchildren grow up.

Betty was active on church committees and Warren joked that he was the church’s Volunteer Fixit Man.  He had a love of machines and could work on about anything mechanical.

From the beginning Warren loved cars and car racing.  At first he built drag racers, but then began restoring old cars.  When NASCAR became popular he followed the NASCAR races on television. 

He was proud to be employed by Nor-Lake which was a family business with a dedication to quality.

As he began thinking of retirement he and Betty talked about her view of their retirement years.  She saw them playing out in Wisconsin near the grand kids.  He saw them happening in some sunnier place near a NASCAR track.

They were at an impasse until two things happened; the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, and the acquisition a few years later of Nor-Lake by another food-service company, Standex.  The terrorist attacks brought home to them how short and uncertain life was, and the fact that Nor-lake’s new parent company was publicly owned made Warren worry about a lapse in standards of quality.

A decision about what to do next came when Warren was offered the option to move and work in a plant that made restaurant fryers or retire.  They bought a motorhome and Warren took three months of accrued vacation in advance of retirement.

Warren and Betty took a road trip, a really long road trip, from Madison, Wisconsin to Daytona Beach, Florida with a view toward fulfilling Warren’s dream.  They left Madison about the time the snow was melting and arrived in Daytona in July.  Florida was hot, sticky, flat and not very Lutheran, and they both discovered that they weren’t really attracted to the ocean.

Betty’s comment was, “It’s just a lot of sloshing water with squawking birds.”  So, they started back, disappointed and a little bit desperate.  Taking the back roads they came up U.S. 321 beginning in Savannah, Georgia up through South Carolina. 

When they crossed the state line into North Carolina it was a Saturday and Betty started looking for a Lutheran Church.  She was surprised to find a lot.  It seems that German Lutherans had settled in the Piedmont.  The following morning they made their way to Redeemer Lutheran and attended service.  It was small; not the center of life as it had been in Wisconsin, but she felt a connection.

They decided to look around Gaston County, for property.  They reasoned that the area was only 20 miles from Charlotte – there was a major NASCAR track just east of the city - and due to the closing of all of the textile mills in the area they found that they could find a small place that they could afford.

Eight months later, after selling the house in Madison and saying goodbye to family and friends, they moved.

There had been four good years and then they found that Betty had stage IV cancer.  The next few months were a downhill spiral of doctor visits, chemotherapy, and hospice care and pain management. 

The kids were surprised when they found that Warren didn’t plan to bury Betty near them.  He just couldn’t be that far away from his only love, and this had been the place they had been happiest.

 

Warren had been having indigestion for a couple of days.  He had been told to lose weight, but it was hard.  A stocky man, always, he was distinctly overweight now, and he loved sweets, especially pastries.  After moving to Gastonia he had discovered Krispy Kreme: doughnut heaven.

Usually, an antacid relieved his reflux, but yesterday it hadn’t seemed to do that.  He thought, “I’ll go to Krispy Kreme, get a couple of doughnuts and some milk.  The milk should give me relief.”

The Krispy Kreme store made doughnuts on the premises, and you could watch them being made; even pick them off the conveyer as the came by.  He had never gotten there when they were being made, but today when he drove up the Hot Light was on signaling that the Original Glazed Doughnuts were available.

You could smell the delicious aroma of fresh glazed delicacies when he walked in.  Turning at the register he saw the doughnuts coming.  An army of light brown miracles was turning the corner and advancing directly  toward him down the conveyer belt.  They drew closer and then turned past him to a point where they disappeared again.

Warren’s indigestion seemed worse, but he was mesmerized.  The army of doughnuts was like the human race. Moving through life; you were born, moved down the conveyer belt of life, and then disappeared into the grave.  The individual glazes might be different, but inside was the same delicious goody; each perfect in its own way. And then the indigestion turned to crushing chest pain.

Warren was thinking that soon he would be joining Betty at the end of the conveyer belt of life and he was filled with unutterable joy and peace as the doughnuts grew dim, the walls disappeared and then closed in completely as he fell to the floor.

His last thought was “Going to heaven at the Krispy Kreme checkout. I wonder if they have fresh doughnuts in heaven."

Views: 175

Comment by mary gravitt on April 27, 2018 at 1:04pm

krispy Kreme is also my image of heaven too.  But I don't think Betty would share Warren's dream.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 27, 2018 at 1:24pm

I get this because I've eaten Krispy Kremes coming off the line

Comment by Rodney Roe on April 27, 2018 at 2:06pm

Nothing to compare.

Comment by Rodney Roe on April 27, 2018 at 2:08pm

Thanks, Mary. Maybe not.

Comment by Anna Herrington on April 28, 2018 at 7:54am

You're a good writer, Rodney, enjoyed reading a few times over for all the details.... and interesting the details you chose. Then the layers in this (I'm gleaning layers out of this, anyway, meant, or I'm imagining them myself) topped with the Krispy Kreme irony at the end.... 

Really good.

And as for Krispy Kremes.... dang what is it in those things that makes one crave them like .... what I imagine (somewhat) a heavy drug craving is like? I've imagined having a box of KKs shipped overnight out here, even, although I've avoided them for at least forty years... and still the spontaneous craving for a classic glazed Krispy Kreme will come washing over me now and then. Almost scary.

(and they probably even sell them out here by now but just not in the grocery stores I go to... which is probably best. I'm not going down drooling over the stuff taking me down...  : ) )

Comment by Maui Surfer on April 28, 2018 at 7:58am

A not so still life. You took me to the green of Wisconsin, and the grey and to some not so scenic grey water off Daytona. Martin Luther's schism isn't discussed enough, not like Sunni and Shia are constantly, but, perhaps it is the same heaven for all of them in the end, perhaps one might see the one they could not live without again; perhaps our life-force energy simply returns into space-time.

Bravo

Comment by Steel Breeze on April 28, 2018 at 8:08am

i dont eat any sweets but,R&L anyway....

Comment by Ron Powell on April 28, 2018 at 8:30am

 "I wonder if they have fresh doughnuts in heaven."

I don't know about the doughnuts...

However, if they don't have St Louis style spare ribs, I ain't goin'.

Comment by J.P. Hart on April 28, 2018 at 9:04am

Like a hole in one!

Donuts make my brown eyes blue?

Where was I? O! Krispy Kreme, Keno and Jagermeister - mister twister! Out of doors it was 118 degrees Fahrenheit.  And then the sun rose.

Bound to git me lots'o lean, mean, Krispy Kreme!

Comment by J.P. Hart on April 28, 2018 at 10:05am

Enjoyers herewith ought next read Dylan Thomas' 'One Warm Saturday'.

The the final phrase of the classic short story: " . . . suffered and lost."
O swell! Let me mea culpa/mulligan either the title or the last phrase. I'd scurried for the precise quote whilst 'And death shall have no dominion' echoes all things audio; perchance all this powder sugar on my mustache has seized the devil's hind quarter of my hippocampus. One never knows, what with all this: "...sun is cold and rain is hot..." and to be fair-minded, Rodney, I read this at 3:00 in the morning on mine phone, you know, bottoms up! & years ago, how's it go? The angels show you a film of your life, at the gates of heaven on a trapdoor. You decide. I know I'll be sportin' my Jimmie Hendrix mauve-toned nostalgia T; possibly humbly asking, '...was that good? Was that good for everybody??'

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