The Bread Man walked among the animals of the forest, enjoying the fresh air and sunlight.
Just then, he saw a rabbit, leaning against a tree.
“What’s wrong, Rabbit?” The Bread Man asked.
“I have been hunting for berries and nuts to eat, but this time of year, there aren’t enough,” Rabbit said. “And I am hungry.”
“Oh, poor rabbit,” said the Bread Man. “Let me give you something to eat.” The Bread Man broke off his big toe, which was made of a sweet roll, and gave it to the Rabbit.
“Thank you so much, Bread Man!” the Rabbit cried happily as he took the roll and started eating.
“You’re welcome, Rabbit,” said the Bread Man, as he walked on.
Next, he came to a turtle who was lying on a rock.
“How are you today, Turtle?” the Bread Man said.
“I am not well,” Turtle said.
“Oh, why not?” the Bread Man asked.
“I have been looking for pond weed to snack on all day, but I seem to have eaten it all. Now I am starving.”
“Poor Turtle,” the Bread Man said. “Here, let me give you something to eat.”
The Bread Man broke off his other big toe (also a sweet roll) and gave it to the Turtle.
“Thank you, Bread Man!” Turtle said happily as he started munching on the roll.
The Bread Man kept walking, and came upon a Hedgehog mother holding two babies and crying.
“Why are you crying, Hedgehog Mother?” The Bread Man asked.
“My babies and I are hungry, and we have nothing to eat,” the Hedgehog Mother replied.
“Oh dear,” said the Bread Man. “Let me give you something to eat.” He broke off all of his fingers (which were made of pretzels) and gave them to the Hedgehog and her babies. They thanked the Bread Man and ran off to eat their pretzels.
A little while later, the Bread Man came across a flock of birds, hanging listlessly in the trees.
“Oh! Sorry, didn’t notice you there,” the Bread Man said, as he bumped into one of the birds on the lower branches.
“That’s okay,” the bird said, as the Bread Man started to walk away. “Are you not going to ask what is wrong with us?”
“Is something wrong with you?” said the Bread Man.
“Yes,” said the bird, “We have been searching all day and don’t have anything to eat.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said the Bread Man.
There was a silence, and then the bird said, “Aren’t you going to offer us something to eat? Some of us saw you feeding Turtle and Rabbit and Hedgehog and her children earlier.”
The Bread Man sighed. “Very well,” he said, and he broke off one arm, which was made of French bread, and gave it to the flock of birds.
“Is that all?” said one bird. “After all, there are quite a few of us.”
The Bread Man broke off an ear (which was made of a cinnamon roll) and handed it over as well.
“Thank you very much,” the birds said politely, as they fell on the food.
A little while later, The Bread Man came to a small knoll, and a groundhog poked his head up.
“Hello, Bread Man!” the Groundhog said, looking happy to see him. Bread Man brightened. Someone was glad to see him!
“Hello, Hedgehog!” Bread Man said, waving with the arm he had left.
“How are you today?” Groundhog asked.
The Bread Man was surprised. No one had yet asked how he was. “I am very well, thank you,” he said to Groundhog, standing at a slant so that Groung hog could not see his missing arm and ear. “How are you?”
“Well, now that you ask,” Groundhog said, contemplatively, “I am a bit hungry. Do you have anything to eat?”
The Bread Man looked down at his missing body parts. “Not really,” he said.
“But aren’t you the Bread Man?” Groundhog asked, and his voice took on a whining tone. “I thought you would have something for me and my family. We have been trouble finding food under the ground.”
Bread Man looked down. Well, perhaps he could still hop on one foot. He broke off his right foot, which was made of a sourdough loaf, and gave it to the Groundhog.
“Thank you very much,” said the Groundhog, disappearing back into his hole as soon as he had gotten his paws on the sourdough loaf.
“I hope I make it through this forest without meeting anyone else,” The Bread Man muttered under his breath as he hopped forward on one leg.
Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Not long after he had left the Groundhog, the Bread Man came across a family of field mice who scampered to meet him.
“It’s Bread Man! It’s Bread Man!” they squeaked excitedly. Bread Man was afraid to ask why they were so happpy to see him.
Sure enough, as soon as they arrived, the biggest field mouse squeaked, “Bread Man, we are hungry, will you feed us?”
“Well, you see,” the Bread Man started, “I’ve already given most of myself to the Rabbit, and the Hedgehog, and the Turtle, and the Groundhog, and…”
“We don’t care! We’re hungry, we’re hungry!” the mice squeaked angrily.
“Well, perhaps I could spare another elbow…” the Bread Man said.
“We don’t want a measly elbow!” the field mice shrilled. “We’re too hungry!”
“Then what do you want?” the Bread Man asked, exasperated. “I don’t have anything else to give!”
“Yes you do!” the field mice insisted, and before the Bread Man could resist, the mice fell upon him and ate not only the elbow (which was made of garlic knots), but his entire arm, his remaining leg, and most of his torso as well (which was made of whole grain loaves).
They ignored Bread Man’s cries and ate until they were filled, and only then did the field mice dart away.
The Bread Man lay in the middle of the field, unable to sit up, feeling empty. A tear rolled down his face. “Why, oh why did I even offer to give anyone any bread in the first place?” he berated himself.
Just then, a shadow fell over him.
Bread Man looked up. It was a man, holding a large basket full of all kinds of fresh-baked breads: cinnamon rolls and garlic knots and French bread, and multigrain loaves, and more.
“Hello, Deliveryman,” he said.
“Deliveryman?” The Bread Man said, confused. “I’m not Deliveryman. I am the Bread Man.”
“No you’re not,” the man with the basket said. “I am.” He gestured at the basket full of warm bread.
“But…but…” the Bread Man (who was not the Bread Man) sputtered.
“You were supposed to come to my house to pick up bread to feed my friends in the Forest, remember?” the Real Bread Man said. “I baked all of their favorites. But when you took too long to arrive, I decided to come out and find you.”
The Bread-Man-Who-Was-Not-the-Real-Bread-Man thought back to what he was doing in the Forest in the first place. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “I was supposed to come straight to your house and then bring the bread to the hungry Forest residents.”
“Why didn’t you come straight to my house, then?” the Real Bread Man asked gently.
“I…I don’t know,” the Not-Bread-Man admitted, another tear rolling from his face. “I guess I forgot what I was supposed to do.”
Then he looked at the basket of bread in the Real Bread Man’s arms, and then down at his broken and half-eaten body. “Will you fix me?”
The Real Bread Man smiled and knelt beside his Deliveryman. “Of course,” he said. “I made extra.”
Then he started taking bread out of his basket and replacing all of the Deliveryman’s broken and missing pieces.
“There,” the Bread Man said when he was done. “All finished.”
The Deliveryman stood up, smiling. “Thank you, Bread Man,” he said.
The Bread Man handed him the basket with the remaining bread. “Here you are,” he said. “Remember to deliver these to all of my friends in the Forest. It has been a hard winter and many are starving.”
“Don’t I know it!” the Deliveryman said, laughing. The Bread Man laughed along with him.
“And when you run out,” the Bread Man said, putting a hand on the Deliveryman’s shoulder, “Remember to come back to me for more.”
“I will,” the Deliveryman promised. And then off he went to deliver the bread.