“Free bread!” the sign said. I noticed it as I was walking through the grocery store in a small town somewhere in the Midwest. I figured it was a “buy one, get one free” deal or something, so I took a closer look.

“Free bread! No purchase necessary! No purchase POSSIBLE! Just take one of these loaves to the front cashier and ask if you can have it for free. No strings!”

That seemed too good to be true. I’m by no means an expert on bread, but this looked like the most expensive loaf of bread that I had ever seen. I picked it up, and it was far heavier than any loaf of bread I had ever held. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess.

I took the loaf up to the cashier. “Hi, the sign said I could have this loaf of bread if I ask if I can have it for free? Is that true? Why would you possibly do that?”

The cashier, a bubbly young blonde girl, smiled very wide.

“Yes, absolutely! That bread was made by Joshua Fide, the greatest baker in the world. He travels to Paris and Milan and Shanghai to teach the best bakers how to make bread. But he’s originally from right here in town, and his very first job was as a bag boy in this very grocery store! Because he loves us so much, he comes back fairly frequently and bakes us a batch of Sola Loaves. The yeast used is a special strain that only Joshua has access to. These loaves are so valuable, Saudi princes would sell their entire fortunes just to get a bite.”

“Then why are you just giving them away?”

“Well, you see, any price that we put on them would be an insult to Josh. This bread is worth more than diamonds or gold. How would you feel if someone offered you fifty cents to sleep with your wife? You’d be insulted, right? That’s how Josh feels when people try to buy the bread. So instead, Josh just wants us to give them away as a gift from him to whoever wants it.”

“Is that seriously it?”

“Well, mostly. If you ask for the bread, it’s definitely 100 percent yours; you can just walk out the store. But Josh would really appreciate it if you bought some other stuff, to support the store that he loves. You totally don’t have to, but Josh (and the store) would appreciate it.”

“Alright, I think I can do that. So, can I have this bread for free?” She nods and hands me the bread with a smile. I put it in my bag and am about to walk away, when—

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

That wasn’t me. That was a somewhat overweight woman who smelled vaguely of cheese who I hadn’t noticed eavesdropping on my conversation with the cashier.

The large woman continued: “I find it insulting that this ‘Joshua’ person thinks I can’t afford his stupid bread! Look, I have three carts full of groceries that I’m about to buy! I should get one free for supporting the store this much!”

The cashier was still smiling, but her eyes seemed to lose a bit of their sparkle. “Ma’am, you could have 300 grocery carts full, and it wouldn’t be nearly enough to offset the cost of one slice of bread. If you want the bread, just ask for it for free. That’s it.”

“That’s dumb. If I have to ask for it, it’s not really free, is it?”

“Ma’am, if you don’t have to pay, it’s free.”

Those two continued arguing like that for as long as I was in the store. I ended up getting some sandwich meat and mustard to go with the loaf. I paid for the groceries and left. When I got home, I tried a nibble of the loaf. By far the best bread I’d ever had. That little nibble filled me up and satisfied me completely, like I’d never been full before.

It’s been 40 years now, and I’m still not even one tenth of the way through the loaf. The bread really is miraculous!

As far as I know, the woman who wanted to buy or trade for the loaf ended up leaving the store without it. Her loss. Now I’m going to have this delicious bread for the rest of my days, while she spends eternity in the blazing furnace of Hell, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


“6:35” was a runner-up in Terror House’s Easter Submission Contest. To read the winning stories, click here.