It was the best pastry shop in the world.
That’s what everybody said, at least.
When Sarah walked in the door, the smell of it washed over her, the smell of happiness itself. The cinnamon rolls smelled like sunshine, the scones smelled like a field of flowers, and the muffins smelled like love.
It all seemed a bit overpriced. If Sarah hadn’t just finished lunch, she certainly would have been tempted to buy more, but she settled on ordering only a blueberry muffin. It didn’t look like any ordinary muffin. It was decorated to be perfect, like something that could only be in a dream.
When she looked for a table, she realized just how crowded the pastry shop was. Was it always this crowded? All around her, people were eating pastry after pastry, from the scones to the cakes to the pies. Sometimes Sarah’s friends joked that this place put addictive chemicals in their food. Judging by the smiles on everybody’s faces, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the rumors were true.
Sarah had to wait for somebody to leave before she could get a little table to herself. She took the wrapping off of the blueberry muffin and took a single, small bite.
Damn. That’s a really good muffin.
It was made with the richest blueberries, and it was the perfect texture. It crumbled in her mouth, creating an immaculate distribution of flavor. As Sarah let the muffin move through her mouth, she looked at the list of awards hung on the wall. Best in county. Best in state. Best in country, for eighteen years straight. And Sarah understood why. This muffin had simply nothing wrong with it.
If she hadn’t just eaten lunch, she would have devoured the muffin in seconds. Instead, she devoured half of it. Then she leaned back in her chair, feeling too full to go on. The flavor? Perfect. The decoration? Perfect. The texture? Perfect. The warm feeling that filled Sarah’s entire body? Exquisite.
But she was too full to finish, so she wrapped up the remaining half of her muffin and started walking towards the trash.
“What are you doing?”
Sarah looked up. A customer was eyeing her hungrily. “What?” she asked, stunned.
The customer stared at her. “Are you throwing that muffin away?”
“Well… yeah. I’m too full to finish it.”
“You’re what?” the customer glared, leaning forward. “How can you be too full to finish?”
Sarah felt a little frightened. “I just… I’m too full. You can have the rest of it if you want.”
But the customer was staring in disbelief. And as Sarah looked around, she realized that the entire pastry shop was watching her. The girl that had been working the register had come around the counter and was walking towards her. “You aren’t finishing that?”
“No, I’m… I could. I could finish it now, if you really want me to.” Everybody was scaring her. Sarah wanted nothing more than to run for the door.
A hush had fallen over the room. People were muttering to each other. Some of the customers had gotten onto their phones and were staring at her with wide eyes.
“You have to finish,” the cashier told her. “How could you not?”
“I’m just too full!” Sarah insisted, though if it was such a big deal, she really could finish it. She wasn’t that full.
“Do you not like it?” the cashier pressed.
“I do like it! I like it a lot!”
“Then finish it!” she insisted angrily.
The door to the pastry shop opened, and a policeman walked in. “What’s going on in here?”
The customers were all trying to talk at once. “She won’t finish her muffin!” “This woman is insane!” “She wanted to throw it away!” “I can’t believe this!” “Somebody stop her!”
The cop marched up to Sarah, an uncertainty on his face. His eyes wandered down to the half-eaten muffin clutched in her hand, just a few inches from the trash. “You aren’t going to finish that muffin?” he asked her sternly.
“Well… I…” Sarah stammered. She was trembling all over. “If it’s such a big deal, I could eat it…”
“But you wanted to throw it away…” the cop said slowly.
“I just… I was… I felt kind of full… So I… So I…”
The cop put a hand on her shoulder, and she twitched violently. “Have a seat,” he said. “Come on. Let’s sit down and talk about this. I don’t want you to do anything crazy.”
Still shaking, Sarah was guided back to her table. The cop sat across from her. “Look at all of these,” he said, pointing at the awards lining the wall. “These pastries are simply the best that there is. You understand that, right?”
Sarah looked at the blueberry muffin that laid in her hands. “Yes, I do. I do understand that. I didn’t think… I was only…”
“So you see,” the cop went on, “you can’t just start eating a muffin and not finish it here. It’s a waste of a perfectly good pastry. To not finish one of these muffins is… Well, it’s simply inhuman. I can’t believe what I’m seeing, to tell the truth.”
Sarah lifted the muffin. “I can finish it. I’ll do it. Please, don’t arrest me or anything.”
“And here’s the thing that I can’t understand,” the cop folded his arms. “You feel like you have to finish it, but you don’t want to. Why would you not want to?”
“Because… Because I thought that I was too full. But I’ll finish it! I promise!”
Two more cops came in the door. “We heard what was going on,” one of them said. “I’ve never gotten a call like this one.”
Sarah looked out the window and saw that police cars were lining the sidewalk. This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be real.
One of the cops that had entered was shaking her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe that you would try to waste a perfectly good muffin. You disgust me,” she spat.
“I’m sorry!” Sarah squealed. “Just let me eat the muffin! I’ll do it!” She lifted the muffin to her mouth, though her body was still trembling uncontrollably from fear.
“It’s too late for that,” a cop disagreed. “You don’t want to eat it. That’s the real problem. It’s a perfect muffin! Have you ever seen a blueberry muffin that looked so delicious?”
“I’ve had one before,” another cop commented. “It tastes like heaven. Throwing it in the trash is a crime against nature! This is out of our hands. We’ve contacted the FBI, and we’ve got people on the phone with the President of the United States as we speak. Nobody is sure how to handle this. We never thought that such a thing was possible.”
And more police cars were pulling onto the road outside. And more cops were walking into the pastry shop. This was it. Sarah was finished. She was probably going to jail for life. How could she have messed up so badly? How could she have done this to herself?
She still had one hope.
She stuffed the remainder of the blueberry muffin into her mouth.
And as she chewed, as she tasted, and she swallowed, she realized how wrong she had been. This muffin was perfect. This muffin was happiness itself. How had she not seen it before?
“I’m sorry,” one of the cops said, grabbing her by the arm. “It’s too late for you. If you turned down the muffin once, we can’t ever trust you again. You’re coming with us.”
“No! No!” Sarah shrieked as they pulled her out of the pastry shop, the taste of that wonderful blueberry muffin still clinging to her lips. “I’ll eat another! I’ll eat them all! I’ll eat anything you give me!”
Sarah spent twenty years in the Food-Related Penitentiary & Rehabilitation Center. During her stay, she learned to appreciate food, and to never be wasteful when the food was uncannily delicious.
After she was released, Sarah went back to that pastry shop every day, and she never wasted a crumb.