The Wild Muffin


    There’s a very small cinderblock building near my house that is cursed. Commercially cursed, that is. A growing number of occupants have come and gone in the last ten years: barbecue joint, tax preparer, lunch caterer, shoe repair…the list goes on--all doomed to failure, victims of the apparent curse.
    The latest tenant, perhaps unaware of the location’s dismal history, perhaps scornful of the notion that real estate can fall prey to Beelzebub’s machinations, perhaps mindful of past flameouts yet intrepid in spite of them, has opened a shop known as The Wild Muffin.
    I’ve been wanting to try the place for a few weeks now. I’m all for supporting the little guy wanting to cop a few REMs of the American Dream, plus I’m generally on board with a good muffin, be it wild or tame. The thing that sealed the deal, however, was the neon sign in the window glowing “Gluten Free”. My wife gets severe heebie-jeebies from even a nodding acquaintance with gluten, so today I decided, before the curse claimed its latest victim, to check out the goods.
    I’d stopped to fill the gas tank at the Exxon station next door and figured I had just enough time to cross forty feet of blacktop, score a couple of wild ones, and get back just as the automatic shutoff valve on the pump was kicking in. Upon entering, I was greeted by a friendly, attractive, thirtyish woman of some indeterminate swarthy extraction, perhaps Lebanese, perhaps not. She struck me as the owner. I was waited on by the only other person in the place, an older woman with a thick accent—perhaps Lebanese, perhaps not. The fictional story in my mind pegs her as Aunt Babushka, recently transplanted from the old country and eager to work in America hawking muffins.
    The entire menu fits on an 8” x 12” chalkboard propped on the counter. Muffins…$3 Cookies…$2.50. All the edibles were individually saran-wrapped so I picked one of each for Aunt Babushka to ring up for me. She holds up the muffin, turns to owner/niece and asks, “Is this a muffin?” “Yes”, niece says. Then comes the follow-up question: “How much is it?”
    Any hope that The Wild Muffin will be the enterprise that finally makes a go of it and breaks the curse starts to wane. As I’m paying my $5.50, the nice owner-lady invites me to come back and enjoy the table and chairs that she usually puts out in front of the place for her patrons. I picture sitting in triple-digit weather on the baking blacktop uncluttered by nary a shrub, undistracted by wi-fi access, smelling the noxious fumes from the too-close gas station. Six or seven smart-assed responses suggest themselves, but I eschew them, smile, and say “Okay” in a possibly believable tone.
    A short walk back to my refueled car, then home to collect the brownie points (in this case: muffin points) from my wife for bringing her bakery treats. She’s mildly impressed, but rather than unceremoniously tearing into the goodies forthwith, like I and most guys would, she pores over the small print on the label searching for its gluten-free bona fides.
    “This is not gluten-free”, she proclaims. Not a crumb of my offering will be passing her lips any time soon. At that point I unceremoniously tear into the goodies, like most guys would, only to discover that they’re hard, dry, & tasteless…puck-like.
    I give The Wild Muffin six months, tops.


© 2017 Tom Manche