Words & illustration by Naomi Frances
It all started on a bright February day about 15 years ago. My brother Charlie and I were sitting in the kitchen, idly chatting away the morning over a cup of tea, everyone else had gone out. The doorbell rang and when I went to the door there was no one there but a wrapped loaf of bread lay on the red tiled step, the tissue rustling slightly in the breeze. As I picked it up I felt the newly baked warmth on my fingers.
‘Where’d that come from?’ said Charlie
‘Dunno, found it on the step’ I replied, shrugging my shoulders, ‘Smells nice though.’
The next morning, the same thing happened again.
I assumed that mum had arranged a bread delivery, it wasn’t until later that I realised that no bakery would deliver on a Sunday, and why did they leave the bread on the step?
The bread kept coming, day after day, and although it always smelled delicious, Charlie would never let any of us eat it.
Three months or so passed until I was home again, and I had seen Charlie very little in that time. So it was a shock to see him pale and thin, sucking on a roll up at the kitchen table.
‘Good God, what on earth is wrong with you?’ I gasped, shock making me abrupt.
He glanced over his shoulder, then back at me and mumbled ‘Nothing, nothing’s wrong, nothing.’
Later that weekend, Charlie was brought home by a couple of friendly policemen.
‘Found this one, tied to a lamp post, covered in solid bread dough! Reeked of booze ‘e did, reeked!’ laughed one.
‘Lads and their japes eh?’ laughed the other.
Charlie laughed along with them, but the laughter didn’t reach his eyes and although he did reek of alcohol, I had never seen him more sober.
Over the next few months Charlie’s behaviour became more erratic; he worked impossibly long hours, and never seemed to eat.
I heard later that he had borrowed large amounts of money from ‘The Bakers’ a notorious Suffolk gang. It was a calculated risk, his business was growing fast, tourism was good and the banks had refused to lend him any money. I think he felt that he had no choice. No one could have foreseen the explosion at Sizewell B nuclear power station, that left Leiston a battered shell and our part of Suffolk a no go area for tourists. People moved away in their thousands and Charlie’s fledgling joinery business failed. He couldn’t keep up his repayments and The Bakers had reminded him, in their own sinister way, that there was no escape.
Charlie hasn’t eaten bread since, you can’t even talk to him about toast, and he will travel miles out of his way to avoid passing a bakery. He never did tell me how he got away from them, but something in him changed and The Bakers are to blame.