Chapter One: The Wacky Muffin
An old woman, sitting on a bench in front of a bagel store, accidentally dropped a muffin from a black plastic bag onto the sidewalk. This neighborhood was full of cafes, restaurants, bars, banks, chain drug stores, clothing boutiques, pet day-care centers, and nail spas. But no shoemakers, dry cleaners, supermarkets, barbershops, or thrift shops!
The woman, who did not look poor, stooped to pick up the muffin, barely preventing a second one from sliding from her bag. As she stooped, the fallen muffin began to speak.
"Wait!" it said, in a gravelly voice. It was a golden brown corn muffin, big and round, with cracks on top that resembled facial features (like the man in the moon). "What are you doing? Don't you realize what's on these sidewalks? Don't you know anything about germs?"
"Heavens!" exclaimed the round and pleasant-looking gray-haired woman, who was wearing glasses with plastic frames, a gray woolen coat, and shiny, new-looking orange and green running shoes. "A talking muffin!" And closing the bag, she began nervously to brush off the muffin.
"Who do you think you're fooling?" it asked, trying not to laugh, because the brushing tickled. "You know you're not really getting the dirt off. And you don't even look poor."
The old woman became angry. "Mind your own business, you nosey ... baked good!" And she raised the muffin to her mouth.
But, before she could take a bite, it stopped her in her tracks. "Go ahead," it said. "Enjoy your filthy muffin!"
This rude remark caused the woman to drop the muffin again. Leaving it on the sidewalk, she carefully pulled a second one from the bag, took a big bite, stood up, and hurried off.
But the new muffin was dry, and so (thanks to the first one's rude comment) was her mouth. So she put it back in the bag and walked on toward her apartment, two blocks south, where she intended to toast and eat the rest of her muffin, with raspberry jam, a nice cup of tea -- and no more insults.
"My goodness!" she thought, as she wove her way past big cracks in the sidewalk, people who were text messaging, and Sunday morning baby carriages and dog walkers. "It's getting so a person can't even enjoy the simple pleasures. Life has become so difficult."
Meanwhile, the clever muffin wasted no time. Before it could attract the attentions of any of its natural enemies -- bugs, pigeons, rats, squirrels, hungry homeless humans -- it folded in its legs, flipped onto an edge and, like a skillful skateboarder, using its arms for balance, rolled north along the sidewalk toward its home, the little muffin room. This was a room behind the lobby of a famous old apartment house known locally as "The Bakery Building."
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