The loaf presented itself one ordinary Thursday morning. It was baking in the oven when I woke. Only a handful of seconds left on the timer as I peeked through the golden window to glimpse its proportions, perfect in every way.

I cooled it on a baking rack, already laid out on the counter, sliced two pieces and, as they steamed, covered them with thick strokes of cold, fresh butter. I took them upstairs to the bedroom where my son slept and roused him. We ate the bread together in bed, silently. As we chewed, I noted a faint handprint of flour ghosted on his pillow, which indeed was peculiar, yet somehow also seemed quite reasonable to me.

Had I been a better mother, I might have sprinted through the house, searching for the intruder who had made the bread, who had left behind the ghostly handprint. I might have sampled the bread before giving it to my son, to ensure it wasn’t poisoned or otherwise unsafe to eat. But, because I am drawn to whimsy, because I had become irrationally enamored in the presence of things like “perfection” and “beauty,” I assumed the loaf to be only and purely “good,” in the most essential and basic way, and, as such, did not panic or doubt its intentions for even a moment.

I did not tell my husband, after he arrived home the next day, of the peculiar arrival of the loaf. I only told him that I had started baking, that I had been compelled to do so out of some primal and unstoppable urge. He was used to this sort of thing and, I imagine, happy to see my urges put to productive use. I had made a dozen loaves in that one day between the loaf’s first arrival and my husband’s return home. None of them were as perfect at that first, though.

They sat all in a row on the table when he arrived home, but I told him I wasn’t satisfied with their presentation and planned to move them to the top of the piano, to juxtapose their practical, nourishing materiality with the piano’s silence, but we both agreed this seemed too conceptual and, moreover, that it was an idea not yet fully formed or thought through—that the loaves on the piano did not yet, put simply, mean enough—so I left them on the table for another night. I needed time to think.

The boy wanted to eat the loaves, but I reminded him we were still working on the first loaf, the original loaf, that there was plenty left from that loaf to eat, to not touch the twelve loaves.

If you don’t touch the loaves, I told him, in the morning, there might be a miracle. Both he and I did not know what this meant, though I didn’t reveal to him my lack of understanding. I spoke with certainty, as if I grasped the mysteries of, if not the universe, at the very least, bread.

In the morning, a miracle had indeed been visited upon the loaves, and instead of twelve loaves, the entire first floor of our home was covered with a layer of loaves: the floor, the tables and chairs, the counters, the piano, the mantle above the fireplace, the end tables, the coffee table. You get the picture.

Wow, my son said.

My husband was less impressed.

Look at all this goddamn bread, he said. And what happened to your hair?

Yes, my hair did seem to be entirely floured, dusted a pale white, as if I had gracefully aged years overnight. But I had no time to dwell on such things. I brushed the mysterious flour from my head and knew exactly what to do with the bread. I took to building a small house in the front yard—a playhouse my son called it—constructed of the loaves. As I explained to my son, birds would land on the house made of loaves and nibble away until the house became a misshapen, makeshift approximation of its former self.

I told my son that this could, perhaps, become a commentary on the meaning of home itself. What I was perhaps saying with this house made of loaves is that I wish for home not to be a place of protection but, rather, a location of nourishment.

Furthermore, we might name such an installation “House” while at the same time meditating on the fact that the “house” is something the birds eat and, thus, is an object they are using to construct their own feather-and-bone bodies. Could we draw a line connecting the idea of body and the idea of home? Might we be able to say something about the body being everyone’s first and only house?

In fact, I said to my son, I was your first house, my body. I guess we could even look at the loaf as a sort of analog for the female body at its most extreme, something to be devoured, consumed, transformed…

But can I play in it? the boy interrupted, bored by my conceptual tailspin.

Sure, I said. Why not? I didn’t have anything against play. In fact, it was exactly what I was trying to do by making “House.” Yes, my son could play with the bread I had made. I was, after all, his mother.

Can I eat it? he added.

No, I said with a sigh, this bread is not for eating, at least not for people to eat. We can consider the birds eating the house an artistic act, but for you, it would be merely an act of survival. Remember the loaf inside? That one is for you to eat.

As I watched my son throw his small body to the ground, pound fists and feet against the grass, cry frustrated tears of infantile rage, the possibilities of the loaf, of bread itself, began to expand in my mind. There was, I imagined, so much that could be done.

That night, in bed, I began to visualize a field of bread. The corn and soybeans one would normally picture on rural expanses turned to smooth brown fields in my mind, an endless yeasty landscape. Though I didn’t understand the meaning of such a vista, this idea exhilarated me to the point of sleeplessness. I lay in bed beside my husband and considered the logistics of such a project. The impossibility of such a large-scale bread-making feat excited rather than discouraged me and, in the night, I rose from bed to sketch diagrams of the large brick oven I would need to construct in our back yard.

In the morning, the small house made of loaves was entirely gone, nothing left, as if it had never in the first place existed. None of us commented on the complete annihilation of this first project, but I admit I was disappointed I did not get the chance to see the artistic work of the birds. But where had it gone? And who or what had done away with it? At breakfast, I scrutinized my husband as he hunched over his steaming coffee, reading something on his phone. I walked closer and brushed stray crumbs from his shoulder.

What? he said.

Oh nothing, I said, determined not to let the bread come between us, though I had a horrible suspicion it would, despite my best intentions.

While my husband worked out of town and the boy watched endless cartoons, I set to work constructing the large brick oven in the backyard. As I hauled bricks from the driveway to the yard, my friendly neighbor inquired about the goals of my work.

I am interested in large-scale bread objects, I told my neighbor. I am interested in how far a person can push yeast.

Okay, she said, edging toward her front door and into the house as I waved smilingly and then went about my work.

As I worked to build the oven and, at the same time, continued my meditation on bread, I found I was not so much interested in representation but, rather, in the possibilities of spectacle that bread might afford. On the quotidian, domestic level, bread was quite lovely, was it not? The golden dome. The size and heft of a loaf, just right for cradling in arms as one might an infant. The chewy give of its body when pressed. But what might bread become in a grander conception? This question propelled me in my efforts to create the most astonishing loaf possible.

I set to work concocting big, huge, and enormous batches of dough. I added unconscionable amounts of yeast. I recruited my son to help with the kneading. After all, the risen dough approximated the buoyancy of a very large trampoline, and so we took to jumping there in the backyard in the enormous stainless-steel bowl. We trampled the puckered goo until it was significantly kneaded, and then we turned it out and into an enormous greased pan.

This pan is as big as a car, the child observed.

Almost, I said, proud of his comparative spatial abilities.

We heaved the pan into the oven, which rivaled the size of our garage. It was quite huge. And though the oven was huge and the bread within huge too, once we removed the loaf from the oven and turned it from the pan, we found it to be much larger than we first thought. So large, in fact, there was no way it could have been baked within the confines of the brick oven I’d built.

The golden dome of the loaf soared higher than the roof of the house. The arms of the trees stretched, as if animated by actual will, and brushed the crusty top with their leafy fingers.

Big, the boy said, head turned heavenward.

Weird, I said, also staring at the towering bread.

How’d you do that, the boy asked, turning to me.

I held my palms to him and wiggled my fingers as if to suggest magic. He squinted and frowned.

Soon after, I sent the boy to his grandparents’ house, trapped as I was within the throes of this new, all-consuming endeavor.

My husband returned home at week’s end, and I rushed to sweep up the infinite bits of bread crumbing every corner of the house and to camouflage as best as I could the enormous loaf in the back yard. As you might imagine, this was no easy feat. I connected many large, blue tarps and strung them from the trees, tossed them up and over the loaf, tied them down and tied them up. I succeeded in constructing a very slipshod sort of shelter but, in truth, it was not inconspicuous whatsoever. If anything, I had made it even more conspicuous.

When my husband glimpsed the loaf out the back window, he grunted enormously, then flung wide the door. He considered the bread in silence, lifted a corner of the tarp, walked around it once, then twice.

I’ll tell you what you need to do with this bread, he said, after much thought, pointing his finger in every direction. You’re going to take this bread and haul it right out of here. This is a, a natural disaster! We’ll have a herd of raccoons in here by midnight.

I certainly will not, I said curtly. The bread was the first dream I’d dreamt in years and I would not let anyone, not even my husband, force me to wake from such a splendor.

And so, after very little debate, I sent him to his parents’ house as well.

* * *

It’s true very few folks—even those who consider themselves artists or art historians— have ever heard of bread arts. In fact, the bread arts are so obscure the discipline is very nearly not a real thing at all, with but a handful of practitioners in its entire history. I myself didn’t know about the tradition within which I was working until I undertook a significant and extensive scholarly investigation to finally uncover an ancient artisanal tradition that dates back to biblical times.

Yot, the earliest known bread artist, was said to have crafted exquisite bread “stones,” as they came to be known. They were renowned for their beauty, the particular shades of tan and sage and rust that the crusts took on depending on the recipe, the way each perfectly smooth bread stone nestled within the palm of a hand and comforted the holder with near-magical calming qualities. People said the aroma, the give of the crust and its silken texture, the warmth of the bread—each quality contributed to the artistic genius of Yot’s creations.

There came to be a vast black-market trade in Yot’s bread stones in the region now known as the Middle East, for the stones were quickly outlawed by every king, by every government. They were called ungodly, for those who saw the true value of the stones did not eat them but collected them as you might paintings or sculptures and this, the holy men said, was idol worship. The kings felt threatened by the allure of the stones, felt their power would be usurped by Yot, foresaw a coming wave of mania that could overtake each and every one of them, and with these visions they cowered and then made royal demands.

Cut off her hands! one cried.

Blind her! another demanded.

Bring me her head! seemed to be the most common entreaty, though.

Yot worked for less than a year, around 10 B.C., before she was imprisoned and then, refusing to give up her craft, stoned to death.

Fast forward through the centuries, and you’ll find Zoya in the Ukraine who, while not a bread artist per se, rose to fame as a bread-based fortuneteller; as such, we might call her the first bread-based performance artist. In the early 19th century, she traveled the Ukrainian countryside to read the fates of young girls in various breads, pancakes, and pastries. When she arrived in remote hamlets, each unwed girl prepared and presented Zoya with a single pancake, in which Zoya would cipher the disfigured faces of their future bridegrooms, for whom they would one day make the very same pancakes. Eventually, she opened her own bakery where she taught girls how to control dough, to shape it as they wished and, as such, bake their own destinies into their own breads. For this, she was drowned in the Sula River in 1793.

Oh, I could go on—Roshni and her naan tents in the Indian highlands, the intricately breathtaking pretzel lacework of a nameless German woman in the 1600s, the extravagant panettone crowns of Milan, baked through with gems and then sculpted to opulent and wearable effect by Francesca Ricci—but I’ll stop here, for I’m certain you get the picture.

You may not know that the most beautiful and perfect creations of bread artistry now reside in the MoMA in a quiet corner of the bread arts wing. Of course, the square footage reserved for bread art is quite small, yet were I able to bring my loaf into the public consciousness, I felt there might be a renaissance in bread art and, I admit, this grand thought thrilled me immensely.

I wanted to tell all the women who came before me—for each and every bread artist I was able to uncover was, indeed, a woman—that I thought her a hero, a true hero of bread, pioneering in her spirit and transgressive in her actions. To commit herself so fully to her avocation, to cultivate her obsessive focus, to bake and bake until she earned both the adoration and opprobrium of the public…it was astonishing. In fact, I saw myself as heir to this legacy and even theorized that the first loaf—the ideal loaf—which had arrived in my oven by magic or inheritance or metaphysical will, was indeed a sort of gift from my artistic predecessors. Were I able to bestow each and every one of these women with a national prize in artistic achievement, I certainly would, and found it a travesty that, to this day, they all remained but echoes in the cold, hard halls of artistic greatness.

* * *

When viewed in the right light—early in the morning, beneath the leafy tree boughs, as the sun crested the distant horizon, for instance—the loaf appeared as a holy object, impossible and miraculous, perfected in every way, blazing with some otherworldly glory that inspired viewers to thoughts of repentance and rebirth. Viewed, instead, in those moments just before sunset, the bread glowed as if still in a large, unknowable oven. Its possibilities seemed endless in that hour, that light. Perhaps the loaf could be used as a ship to sail to a heretofore undiscovered land? Perhaps the loaf could be hollowed out and transformed into a storybook cottage? Perhaps the loaf actually belonged to a very, very large woman who would arrive at any moment to claim it? I liked to look at the loaf and imagine the unimaginable. That, I felt, was its greatest achievement.

Word of the loaf, viewed in all sorts of lights, spread. You could say it “went viral,” though this sort of talk I find gauche. Nevertheless, I admit I was an internet sensation, with endless sites featuring the picture I had first posted on Instagram. I enjoyed most the theories as to the origin and construction of the loaf offered by various respected arts and culture publications. A national magazine even ran a photo feature and interview with me that showcased the great power of yeast and heat, the magic of my loaves and how they could appear or grow at whim, the philosophies of bread, the necessity of art.

They asked me what the loaf meant, and I told them I was trying to, if not obliterate, transform traditional roles.

We can view the loaf, I expounded, as a sort of traditional emblem of female domesticity, the ultimate emblem, in fact, of motherhood. It is a foodstuff that must be tended into existence, incubated even, and then baked until there is a warm body that is consumed by the family. By constructing this enormous loaf, I am taking traditional assumptions and turning them on their head. What happens when a loaf of bread is not meant to be eaten and is blown up, so to speak, into a spectacle instead? What does it mean for a woman to create an object associated with a flurry of assumptions, assumptions that are then undermined and actively thwarted? Might this be a gesture toward ultimately emancipating women and mothers from traditional expectations and roles?

While they welcomed my explanation, they became more interested in the mechanics of the loaf, I assume because these were easier to grasp, both literally and figuratively. The sacks of flour. The vats of yeast. The bricks and stones that composed my spectacular oven. My neat pile of logs that I used to fire it. The large mixing bowl and even larger hole I had dug in which to house it and create my various doughs.

How did the artist make such a thing? soon became the national topic of debate, with entire chat rooms devoted to the mechanics of yeast, the possibility of an enormous oven, the ways in which loaves could be combined. Certain conspiracy theories also emerged, that the loaf was not in fact made of dough but was instead an elaborate papier-mâché hoax. That the loaf was a visual illusion, a trick of perspective or Photoshop. That the loaf had been planted by the government to distract from more pressing, more important issues.

But certainly I felt the loaf was a pressing issue, that the conversations it would inspire about domesticity and labor, anger and silence, erasure and taking up space, nourishment and depravation, were not only pressing but imperative were we to progress as a society. I was dispirited to find, however, this was not the case. Far from it, in fact.

As the entire country marveled at my creation, pilgrims began to arrive from distant cities, walking for days on blistered and bloodied feet to see the loaf, which caused them to tremble and then fall to their knees. They cried and spoke in tongues. Many begged me for a bite, just one bite, as they were so hungry, they had traveled a great distance, and would I please, in my infinite benevolence, offer to them a single morsel as their redemptive communion?

I’m sorry, I said gently, as I might to my very own child, who I had been missing immensely and, paradoxically, whose absence I relished as I set about my work. But this bread is not to eat. You see, this bread is a statement…here I paused to think, considering my words carefully.

We can think of this bread as a certain sort of body, not unlike the body of Christ. I’m sure you can understand that since you’ve come so far under such austere circumstances. And yes, traditionally, we eat the body of Christ, do we not, to signify that we are one with God?

It was here I saw I had taken a wrong turn, as the pilgrims’ eyes lit with hope toward sustenance, which I rushed to correct.

Yet I view this act as an archaic abomination in which worship, even love, becomes a sort of cannibalization. And so, with this remarkable body, I said, gesturing to the towering loaf, I ask that we instead learn to love and worship it in new ways, through new modes of interaction.

Most pilgrims wept at my explanation. Some grew visibly angry and threatened physical violence. One spat on my feet.

The loaf only gets bigger and yet you still give none away! one man screamed, at the depths of a blood sugar plunge. I soon learned to avoid the devout and only approach them if absolutely necessary.

I should have taken this as a warning, this explosive and surprising anger that arose at not being able to interact with the loaf in the traditional way, the entitlement that the public felt to my work, to consuming it, as if it were theirs to do with it what they wanted. I even thought back to my husband’s first reaction, that of anger and annoyance. Why should it have been this way? I pondered. Why indeed.

These angry pilgrims, however, were but a small selection of those who visited the loaf. More often, I chatted with families who drove in for the day to see my work. With bakers. With artists. With yeast enthusiasts. Though often—too often, in fact—I was confronted with the question: Can we taste it?

Calmly, time and time again, I explained that the bread was an artistic object, that it was not meant for consumption, that it was instead serving a more revolutionary function: to be apprehended rather than ingested. To some, I repeated my theory about the birds and calling the loaf “House.” To others, I reiterated by explanation of the body of Christ. And to be sure, there were many other interpretations, for this I found to be part of the practice of the loaf, this theorizing and meaning-making.

The loaf is America!

The loaf is a doorway into contemplation of the infinite!

The loaf’s resistance to meaning calls into question the very concept of meaning itself!

Most folks nodded thoughtfully, unconvinced yet willing to consider my interpretations. Perhaps they disagreed with what I had made, disagreed with its function, yet they did so respectfully.

Things started to change with the coming of the elderly, for they did come, in droves, propelled by their love of carbohydrates and free coffee, which I began to provide during normal business hours.

And while the old women may have been skeptical or even dubious, as we talked, as we strolled about the loaf and discussed it, as I offered them my theories about womanhood and transformation, their faces took on a new light. While most of them said nothing, I could see they comprehended my message and even liked it, though they would never admit such a thing.

A loaf as big as a house! I heard them whisper to each other on the far side of the loaf once I had left them. Imagine such a thing!

In dulcet murmurs, they began to confess their most private longings to one another in the shadow cast by the loaf: the urge to construct dresses and capes from wraps of sod planted with Queen Anne’s lace or violets. How beautiful it would be to can pinecones and flowers and arrange the jars in the root cellar to view during the darkest and coldest winter months. To carve their blocks of butter into figurines.

It was the old men who became more and more perturbed. Coffees in hand, they paced back and forth by the loaf, hungry. Some tried to charm me by flattering my baking abilities. Others scolded me as if I were a small child.

It was a red-faced octogenarian who began to shout at me that morning after I had explained he could not eat it. He was on his sixth cup of free coffee, and it slopped over the edge of his cup as he exerted his anger.

This bread serves no purpose! he yelled, gesturing toward the loaf, then me. What a selfish woman you are! What a horrible woman! To make such a thing and not share it? Not allow us even a little taste?

But I am sharing it, I tried to explain calmly. It’s here, for you to see.

The old man glared at me, then reached through the protective fencing and, straining toward my creation, plunged his withered fingers into the loaf. He ripped a fistful from its side, leaving a vulgar gash in the otherwise unperturbed expanse I had worked so hard to perfect.

I sprinted toward him and quite accidentally knocked him to the ground, then made haste to apologize and make sure I had not broken any of his old bones. Yet there he laid in the lawn, a smile upon his face, shoving his handful into his mouth, eyes closed, ecstatic.

Get out! I yelled, kicking him gently in the ribs, then turned to the rest of the patrons watching about the backyard.

I yelled again: Get out! All of you! The bread is not for eating! I didn’t make this for you. I made this for me. That you are allowed to view it is a privilege I can revoke at any moment! And I revoke it now!

I herded and pushed, and then locked the gate behind them as they protested in the driveway.

I admit everyone’s questioning had infuriated me nearly to the point of insanity, and after the old man’s defacement, I shouted innumerable impolite and hostile words at the crowd. It’s just that I had sacrificed so much for the loaf—time with my child, the patience of my husband. I had spent days, weeks, baking.

The loaf is a loaf! I wanted to say. That’s what it means! Please come up with other questions, please!

Why, there were so many questions they might have asked instead! Why do you like bread so much? How much flour was required for such a project? Is there a cinnamon swirl inside the loaf or any other sort of stuffing? Is making such a loaf in any way similar to creating a child within your body? Had you ever considered naming your child “Rye” or “Semolina” or “Multigrain”? Further, what other artists in the area of bread art do you admire? In what artistic tradition are you working? What do you hope to accomplish with your artful baking? I could go on, but you get my point. There are just so many more interesting questions to ask a mother, a wife, a daughter, a long-ago girl.

* * *

As all things do, news of the loaf turned. I assume it had something to do with my prohibition of loaf-eating despite the public’s unrelenting insistence. Add to that my angry outbursts, chronicled online now thanks to wayward cell phone recordings quickly uploaded to various social networking sites. No one likes an angry woman.

The local newspaper ran a series of op-eds, the first about how residential land was being used for unzoned activities, the second about the obsolescence of art, and the third about how a giant loaf of bread was immoral in a world where people were starving. Soon, national news outlets were reporting on “The Giant Loaf of The Midwest,” as it came to be known. They referred to me as “The Selfish Mother,” showing B-roll footage of the loaf and interviewing locals about their opinions.

I saw her once at the grocery store, a woman said into the camera. She was only buying flour! Not even a single banana in her cart. Her poor family!

I heard she has two art degrees, a man said, shaking his head and curling his lips. Disgusting.

Tabloids began to run doctored photos of my “starving child,” horrific images that showed the photographically altered boy desiccated and nearly dead on a grungy hospital bed. BREAD BREAD EVERYWHERE BUT NOT A CRUMB TO EAT one headline read. BOY STARVES ON BREAD BED another one said, ridiculously, showing some version of my son on a large loaf, his body skeletal.

Only the gluten-intolerant were still kind to me. They never asked to eat my installation. They were curious as to my methods. They commented on the beauty of the structure.

Have you ever considered working gluten-free? they inquired, edging toward that question I wished I could prohibit from ever being uttered again.

One gluten-free activist even defended me in the Times, penning an intelligent counterargument that pointed out that my bread-making, instead of making me a subpar mother, actually qualified me as a sort of Ideal Mother, “…one so skilled in wifely tasks she’s able to bake not just one regular loaf but an enormous, miracle-sized loaf.” She opined that I should be lauded as a modern-day Mary, yet I found the gluten-free activist’s argument problematic, for why must I exist in terms of my motherhood? Perhaps I might exist on a different plane, or even planes.

Congressional candidates were asked to respond to the controversy. What did they think about the Giant Loaf of the Midwest and the Selfish Mother who made it? Was she right to do what she did and make what she made? It was all rather silly, if you asked me, which no one did, until I was summoned to a hearing on Capitol Hill. The nature of my transgression remained mysterious to me. In fact, as many claimed, there had been no transgression to begin with. Yet still, I was obliged to face countless questions from wizened Senators, which all amounted to, But how does it taste? What does it mean?

As I’ve said many times before, this loaf isn’t for eating, I answered into a microphone positioned on the table before me, after which a chorus of gasps sucked nearly every last ounce of air from the room.

And further, I testified, I see the loaf as a democratizing force within American society. I not only accept but encourage the general public to project onto the loaf whatever meaning they desire, for this is part of its function. There are no rules for the loaf, other than it cannot be eaten, for I am exploring new ways of existing as a woman in the contemporary age. Were I to allow it to be consumed, I would view this as an unfortunate step backward to regressive times in which bread could only be viewed as food and not as art.

Anarchy! I heard rise from the audience.

Are you some sort of socialist? the very oldest Senator wheezed from his perch in a weathered leather chair. Are you some sort of dirty socialist?!

Back home, in the wake of the hearing, I had an idea that I wanted to make a bread balloon in the tradition of pita or naan. It wasn’t such an impossible idea, I told myself. I went about my research of yeast and chemistry, of the reactions needed to create significant air bubbles within significant breads, but ultimately I could not muster the whimsy or joy to follow through with such a project, distracted as I was by the protesters still lingering outside my door. Their shouts distracted me and instead I took to bed, to sleep and to think.

I just don’t think you should be so political, my husband said over the phone later that day, calling from his parents’ home.

As you will recall, I said calmly, all I did was bake a loaf of bread.

Ah, he said, trailing off into an extended silence. Well, then. You’re right, I guess. But… He hesitated.

I braced myself.

He continued: But perhaps you might try making a loaf to eat. It would just make everyone so happy.

An extended silence followed, broken by my husband, who inquired, Can I come home yet?

As you might imagine, I ended the call immediately.

* * *

I was interested in what might happen to the loaf when placed in different locations. I was interested in dough additives which might complicate one’s experience of a loaf. I was interested in the structural possibilities of dough. I was interested in the ways the air pockets within bread might be utilized artistically. I was interested in bread as dwelling, bread as weapon, bread as landscape, bread as fashion. I was interested in bread’s caloric possibilities. I was interested in bread beds, despite the tabloids’ nasty exploitation of this idea. I was interested in loaves as shoes. Might one be able to control a loaf via remote control? Might a loaf one day serve as a companion object for infants and the elderly?

Let me repeat: I was not interested in how the bread tasted. I was not interested in its ability to feed or nourish. I was not interested in any of the traditional roles. Instead, I was simply compelled by all the ways in which bread could be interesting other than the customary ways. But what are the customary ways? you may ask, and that would be a very good question indeed.

It was finally suggested that what was so admired about the loaf was its sheer existence, the feat of such a thing, the work of it. Simply looking on the loaf was in and of itself an enjoyable experience and shouldn’t that really be enough? People relished talking about the loaf while strolling by the river or sitting around drinking beer. It represented a moment of pleasant unreality set against a brutal backdrop of hyperrealism. Parents told their children bedtime stories about the giant loaf, and children drew pictures in crooked crayon strokes. It even gave folks something to be angry about and, in their quietest moments, they loved the loaf for that, too, because there was so much rage—boundless rage—in every corner of the country. To have something as innocuous and wholesome as a loaf of bread on which to project such anger was a true blessing.

This all happened many years ago, when you were still a small boy. It was a different time, clogged with rage and bread. A flatbed truck eventually hauled the stale loaf to the ocean some years after its creation, where it was unceremoniously launched on a very short voyage before becoming waterlogged and disintegrating. Critics and fans often ask when I’ll make another loaf, but I tell them that making the first one annihilated my need to ever make another one. What I’m saying is that I made the loaf for myself. I have been saying this, and fear I will continue to, for years.

Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder, the author of Nightbitch (Doubleday), is a founding editor of draft: the journal of process. She lives in Iowa City.