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A Day In The Life Of A Donut Store

By g. martinez cabrera

The Morning Rush

The warmth of the room is accompanied by the smell of oil and butter, sugar and flour, and we have no problem with that. We also like the fact that any time we go up to the counter, Mr. Singh reminds us that with every donut, he can throw in a cup of coffee for only 50 cents more. He says this with pride. He is a proud man, so even though he’s just an employee, he speaks as if the shop were his own.

It can’t be easy for him. The morning commuters are mostly not in the mood for anything more than the minimal exchange: “coffee, what? No, a little sugar, but no cream. Thanks.” And on gray days, which for eight months pretty much means every morning here, these early-to-work, early-to-the-local-happy-hour-types are equally as gray. I know that Mr. Singh takes their sadness as a personal defeat. He tries very hard to keep the place clean, but he’s an old man, and he misses things. He usually leaves fingerprints on the counter, and we can tell that some people are annoyed that he takes money and handles their donuts without ever washing his hands. They are not always pleasant to the man.

We don’t blame them. We used to work like them, but we’re retired now. I guess we miss it: the routine, the hustle and bustle. We used to come here on our way to work, my wife and I. Mr. Singh didn’t work here then but every thing else was the same: the rows of glazed Old Fashioneds, the chocolate crullers, the éclairs with custard oozing out, and the sensitive jellies that bled at the slightest squeeze by other jellies pushing to make room on the tray. People used to sit at the tables that line the wall as you walk in. But nowadays, nobody seems to want to sit down. I guess we don’t mind it. We always get a table, and after the rush, we usually sit with Mr. Singh while he plays music from his country.


Convenience in the Afternoon

I fucking love those donuts though I hate fucking camel-man. I don't care if I can get a coffee for 50 cents. Maybe this fuck in his turban has to feed his nine kids, but it’s not like he’s making commission on the coffee—or then again maybe he is. These guys are always connected. They don’t just sell oil. Now, it’s like they fucking own everything. Like this store. When I was a kid, man, it was owned by a nice family. I don’t remember their names, but they were American. I remember the daughter. Man she used to give me a boner.

During the day, they would clean the place after the morning rush, making sure that the donuts were stacked on the tray, nice and neat. But this guy, when I get here in the afternoon after the breakfast rush, he’s just sitting around drinking his fucking 50-cent coffee and playing some weird music. Aside from some old guy who always sits in the corner and talks about him and his wife (I’ve never seen her)and a homeless guy who should get a fucking job, there’s not one customer in the place, and this fat ass doesn’t do anything to make the place look decent. Maybe in India, or wherever the guy’s from, a donut store can be empty, and there can be napkins on the floor, and the bathroom can smell like piss, but this ain’t a third world country. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so close to work, I’d be buying my donuts somewhere else. But that’s the way these turbaned fuckers operate. They make it so that their gasoline stations and their donut shops are the only convenient ones around. They’re taking over America, one 50-cent cup of coffee at a time.


While the Rest of Us Sleep

I don’t love sitting here waiting all night for some guy to pay me 50 bucks so I can pretend like I care about him. But it’s warm in here, and the nice Indian guy and his son don’t make me pay for refills. I like watching them—especially the son. I don’t want to fuck him or anything, but I like watching him make the donuts and then fry them. He’s not like his father. He doesn’t wear the towel around his head, and he doesn’t have a beard, but he’s got his father’s eyes—they’re kind-looking. Sometimes I’m not around the whole night. A guy comes in and gives me a look. I know the drill. But I don’t want the son to see me, and I don’t want to start making deals in their shop. Sometimes there’s cops in here and you gotta be careful.

They sit in groups of four around the small tables. I think it’s kind of funny when the fat ones have to inhale in order to get up from the small chairs. They never talk to me—don’t even look my way. They usually make jokes and laugh about something, and the loud laughs are only interrupted by the pounding sound that the son makes in order to flatten out the dough he’s working on in the back.

I don’t think he likes cops. He seems to pound harder when they’re around. The cops know what’s going on of course. They know the son doesn’t care for them, but they don’t give a shit. They also know why I’m there, but they’re on break, and what do they care if I’m trying to make a buck. Some of them give me a look too, even a couple butch types, and if it wasn’t for their partners, they’d be taking me somewhere else as well.

Anyway, when some guy comes in, and he’s not in need of munchies after smoking pot or some late night wacko in need of a sweet fix, I get up and stand outside, and if I guessed right, and this guy who just told the son he was buying donuts for his wife or girlfriend is interested, then we talk and make a deal. If I’m lucky, we just go down the block to the park. Then I can go back to the shop.

By then, there’s usually no one left. The cops have gone, and the potheads are sleeping it off. The father has also gone home to sleep a few hours before he comes back in the morning. So it’s just me alone with the son, listening to music I’ve never heard before, watching him pull donuts out of the hot oil. And on cold nights, like tonight, when the glass gets all steamy, I feel like I’m in a dream where everything smells sweet and fresh, where my friend and I talk about whatever, or maybe we just sit there, him on his stool on the other side of the counter, me on this hard seat in the corner, waiting for the sky to light up, and for the time when we will each go to sleep in our own beds and dream about any place other than this donut shop.


g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his girlfriend and her cat. He holds degrees from Columbia and Harvard and has had essays published in The Columbia Observer,The Flypster, and other online publications. His short fiction was featured on the public radio show Voices and appears in the August edition of The Externalist. Currently, he is a Culture Intern at the San Francisco Bay Guardian and working on a novel about a family dealing with an autistic child. He blogs at

He does not, for the record, smoke cigars and, contrary to common belief, is not a grumpy old man.

Image: Soir Blue by Edward Hopper, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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