Dough, a dear, a female dear, a dear one, made out of dough. This was the bold conception of Istvan, the eerie Mitteleuropean baker whose pastry shop was hidden down an insalubrious alleyway in an insalubrious provincial town at the foot of a huge important mountain range. You will find it on most maps.

Lugubrious, insanitary, and topped by a pudding basin haircut, Istvan was beset by constant pangs. He longed for companionship. Alas, he was a stranger to that paradise of which the Brothers Johnson sang, the Land of Ladies. Though there were many women among his customers, they all hurried away as soon as they had bought their baked goods, alarmed and distressed by Istvan’s unbecoming personal appearance, his filthy manners, and his lack of charm.

So it was that he decided to make his longed-for dearest out of dough. Ignorant of women, he chose as his model a nun, specifically Maria in The Sound Of Music, played by Julie Andrews. Having prepared sufficient dough for a life-size nun, he kneaded and kneaded and moulded it into shape. When he was done, he placed it in a reclining position on the sofa in the back room of his pastry shop.

And so, for a while, his evenings were happy, happier than they had ever been. He would sit at one end of the sofa, his hand patting his dough companion gently, and he would talk to it, or sit in contented silence. He no longer felt alone. And “Maria” was unabashed by his lugubrious and insanitary person, did not look askance at his pudding basin haircut, and tolerated his filthy manners.

But Istvan grew dissatisfied. His pangs returned, more intense than ever, for he wished that his dough dear would do more than merely sprawl on the sofa. How much dearer she would be if she were a true companion, one who laughed and sang and helped out with the baking of pastries! If only she could be imbued, Frankenstein-fashion, with the spark of life!

And then one day into the pastry shop came a mysterious wizardy type of fellow, swathed in a black cape and wearing a pointy hat. He made purchase of some Mitteleuropean pastry delicacies, but before he swished his cape and strode away, Istvan dared to ask him if by any chance he knew of spells to bring to life a nun made out of dough. I do indeed, said the wizard.

A bargain was struck, and Istvan ushered the mysterious fellow into the back room. He stood over the dough nun on the sofa, slowly waving his arms in strangely significant passing movements, and babbling gibberish. Istvan looked on, goggle-eyed, which made his appearance even more unbecoming than usual. When he was finished, the wizardy man turned to Istvan and told him that the final stage of the spell, the part that would bring his dough dear to life, was to bake the dough in a pre-heated oven on 220ºC, 200ºC for fan-assisted ovens, or Gas Mark 7, for 40 minutes. And then he swept out of the back room, swishing his black cape, out of the front door and into the insalubrious alleyway in the insalubrious provincial town, in the shadow of an important mountain range, and Istvan never saw him again.

Barely able to contain his excitement, the eerie baker picked up his dough dear from the sofa and cradled her in his arms, then shoved her into the oven, which was already preheated, what with all the baking the baker did. For the next forty minutes, Istvan sat gazing at the hands of his Mitteleuropean cuckoo clock, ticktocking through the time with agonising slowness. At last the baking time elapsed. But just as Istvan was about to open the oven, the door swung open from inside. Of course! His dough dear was alive! Out she would step, into his arms!

But in the baking, the transformation was greater than Istvan could have imagined. It was not a living dough Julie Andrews that emerged from the oven. It was a living pastry Christopher Plummer! As it lumbered towards Istvan, it plucked from nowhere a guitar, and began to sing “Edelweiss”. The baker fell back upon his sofa, stricken with horror.

They found him there the next morning, his unbecoming features twisted in an awful rictus. Of the pastry Christopher Plummer, there was no sign, though some say that, on clear bright days when the air is still, he can be heard singing in the mountains that loom over the insalubrious provincial Mitteleuropean town.


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