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Thread: Toast

  1. #1
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    next door to the lady in the vinegar bottle
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    The following, originally posted on this site in June of 2009, popped up during a search for something else. It is a companion piece for another “vintage” (shall we say) piece which may be viewed here.


    by Aunt Shecky
    All Rights Reserved

    A time bomb -- that was the noise, an omen of disaster, ticking away. Although Alice had never been involved in direct combat, never a victim of a crime, she'd seen enough movies and TV episodes to know that’s exactly how it sounded whenever a device warned of its imminent explosion. And here it was, a dreadful click-click-clicking emanating from her toaster.

    The appliance was relatively new. Even though Alice remembered where she had stashed the store receipt, she wasn't sure if the refund policy would still be in effect. One thing she did know was that Burt would balk at having to exchange the thing, let alone shelling out for a new one. The Meachams had a history of bad luck with kitchen appliances: coffee makers whose toggle switches would loosen into a permanent Limbo between “off” and “on”; microwave ovens whose pristine white interior would flake off with each zapping, gradually revealing a most unappealing layer of rust; hot pots whose job description was simply to boil water could not do so without first uncontrollably weeping through the bottom and flooding the entire counter.

    Their last toaster was a tease. Deliberately lacking an old-fashioned lever, it had been vaunted as having a “one touch” feature. All the hungry consumer had to do was place two slices of bread vertically into the slots and the toaster would do the rest, “automatically.” That was the theory. In practice, the toaster would allow the twin slices to enter the appropriate slots, but it would not deign to let them drop into its depths of glowing coils. Eventually, the bread would slowly fall, but only when the toaster was damned good and ready, and only then with coaxing. “Tap it, Burt,” Alice advised. “Just use the knife handle and knock the side.” Reluctantly the bread would descend, but over the course of successive breakfasts it became necessary to increase the force, beginning with tapping and climaxing with out-and-out assault.

    Then came the apocalyptic morning when Alice awoke to the clamor of wailing and the gnashing of teeth. “I'll ‘tap’ it!” It was Burt’s voice, screaming expletives. “I'll tap it, all right, you no-good son of a —“ From the bedroom window she could see him swinging the cord while banging the toaster itself against the sturdy bark of their prized white oak in the backyard.
    And now its replacement could be added to their list of defective merchandise. Not only did this toaster make Alice nervous with its noise, it had a stubborn streak, refusing to accept the thickness of bagels or the melting frosting on a toaster pastry. The appliance had a penchant for reducing un croissant to a crumbly, sticky mess, but worst of all le machine adopted a laissez-faire attitude toward its raison d'etre. The quality of its work was erratic: no matter the setting or the amount of time the allotted for its operation, the two slices of bread would come out either pale as a cloistered nun or burnt like a soul in hell. “Jeez,” Alice muttered to herself, “America can put a man on the moon, but we can't get a decent piece of toast.”

    The clicking slowed down to a couple of half-hearted clicks as two toast impersonators slowly ascended to the top of the toaster. On the first slice, one side was burnt to a proverbial crisp, while the other was as white as it had been in the package, although its original sponginess had been replaced by a hard texture, like a stale piece of bread. Alice pitched that one straight into the garbage can, despite her life-long conviction that it was a sin to waste food. The second slice fared a little better – it could be loosely defined as being “toasted,” but unevenly; both sides blotched with black, brown, and white – like hybrid dairy cows.

    Alice threw it on a plate, but as she picked up her butter knife and the jar of marmalade, something caught her eye. She flicked her eyeglasses to the top of her head and squinted at the bread as a jeweler would appraise a gem. “Holy–! Burt! Get in here, Burt!”

    Characteristically Burt took his sweet time getting to the kitchen. I thought you were having a heart attack or sumpthin!” Since it wasn't an apparent emergency, he wiped his hands on Alice’s good dishtowel and poured himself a coffee before asking “Whatsamatter now?” Alice thrust the plate into his hands. “No thanks,” he said. “I've already had breakfast.”

    “I don't want you to eat it, I want you to look at it.”

    “It’s a piece of toast. So?”

    “Look at this.” She did a circular motion with her index finger outlining the section she wanted him to see. “See the brown spots and the black and the wavy lines? What does it look like to you?”

    “What are you, going all senile on me? I told you – it’s a lousy piece o’ toast.”

    Through gritted teeth she said, “Just take a second and look. Look real hard, Burt.”

    Burt grabbed his reading glasses out of the pocket of his old shirt and wiped the lenses on another one of Alice’s good dishtowels. He held the toast up in the air and turned it around.

    “Not that side. The other one!” she yelled. She grabbed the toast and did the circular pointing again. “Doesn't this part look like a face? And this is the long hair. Now tell me who that looks like.”

    “Hmm, “ he said, deep in scrutiny. Then he snapped his fingers. “Oh yeah! That dame we saw on TV in that movie the other night. What’s her name, Susan Hayward.”

    “That was Rita Hayworth. But she’s not who’s on the bread. It’s a man. See the beard?”

    “Let me see, now. Oh! I know! It’s that Beatle, the one that died a few years back.”

    Alice grabbed the piece of toast in such a rough and angry way that she almost crumbled the evidence. “It’s not George Harrison, you moron! This piece of toast – right here in my hand – contains the image of Our Lord!”

    “Wha–?” Burt looked down. He shrugged and said, “Okey-dokey, Alice. If you say so."

    “I don't just say so. I know so!” Still miffed, she grabbed various boxes of food wrap from the cabinet. First she ripped a square of plastic film and carefully wrapped up the piece of toast. She wrapped that in a slightly-larger piece of Cut-Rite waxed paper, then some aluminum foil. Finally she put the square inside a quart-sized freezer bag, which she zipped tight with a vengeance. “I'm going to take this around and show it to the neighbors. Let him who has eyes to see, o ye of little faith,” she said.

    A moment after she'd slammed the screen door, Burt re-opened it and yelled after her: “Hey, Alice! Don't forget – it’s just a piece O’ toast.”

    A few hours later, when Burt was returning home from the True Value down on 9J, he was taken aback by the unfamiliar vehicles parked in front of his house, in his driveway, and right smack on the same lawn he'd spent the majority of a scorching afternoon mowing. He hoped the grass would survive the weight of that heavy white van, equipped with numerous antennae and what looked like a satellite dish on its roof. It was hard for him to find a place to park his own pickup in his very own neighborhood. “Doesn't this beat all!” he muttered, and the sight of these strangers congregating at his home filled him with such irritated confusion that he left the paper bag containing his purchases – a crescent wrench and a roll of three-quarter inch duct tape – on the front seat.

    Burt had taken scarcely a step up the stoop when out of nowhere a microphone materialized a millimeter under his nose. He tried to side-step his way around to the front door, but somebody was blocking his way – the same person who was holding the microphone: a dressed-to-the-nines blonde with her face all painted like a beauty pageant contestant. “Mr. Meacham?” she chirped. “Katie Sawyer, Channel 43 News. Here we are at 734 Old Purgatory Road where a woman claims to have found a miraculous discovery right at her breakfast table. A kitchen miracle, as it were. Tell me, Sir, how did your wife discover the piece of toast?”

    Burt’s expression changed to the same one he had the other day when he went down to the basement and found a squirrel sitting atop the furnace. “Same place everybody finds toast -- from a toaster.”

    “And did you see right away how special this piece of toast was? How much religious signifi–sig-importance do you attach to this revelation? This miracle?”

    “It’s not a relic – it’s just a piece o’ toast. Now if you'll pardon me –“

    “Mr. Meacham, do you take this as a heavenly sign that we should change our ways, is this God’s way of trying to tell us something? What’s your opinion of gay marriage?”

    “Gay marriage? What has that got to do with –“

    “Do you think that same sex people can get married or only opposites?”

    Finally, the front door: salvation! “What do those folks want to get married for?” he muttered. “Haven't they suffered enough?”

    In the Meachams’ living room, a full-scale press conference was already in progress. The center of attention was Alice, in her best dress , with her mug glowing more brightly than the huge hot lights above her. One by one she fielded the reporters’ theological queries, some of which would've stumped the most astute Jesuit scholar.

    “All right, that’s enough. Everybody out!” Burt tried to shout, but someone shouted louder: “Quiet! We're taping here!”

    Somebody tapped him on the shoulder. “Mr. Meacham, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Ronald Freen, pastor of the Second Reformed United Church up on Route 4?” Uh-oh, a minister. Burt hoped Alice had remembered to hide the empty beer cans. “I was speaking to your lovely wife, and she and I both agreed that I should take the holy object –“

    “The holy toast?”

    “– back to the rectory with me, for safekeeping. Would that be all right with you?”

    “Sure, fine, anything to get these people outa here.” Burt said.

    Reverend Freen lifted his eyes heavenward in a brief prayer of thanksgiving, along with one of petition that whatever bounty might come from the miraculous discovery, his church would get a cut. He was thinking of his son over at the University who might have to repeat another costly semester. Also, he made a mental note that upon returning to his office, to make sure to “save” the sermon he was writing before logging on to eBay.

    It was a bit longer than fifteen minutes but only a couple of days for Alice’s sudden fame to fade, and for the toaster to be dispatched to the landfill, despite any additional signs and wonders the appliance may have yet to reveal. A few evenings later the Meachams were watching an old movie on TV when Alice shrieked, “Burt!” just as he was about to doze off in his recliner.

    “What? What is it?”

    “Burt! Look over on that wall. Look at the shape that’s forming there! It looks like a picture of something. A face.”

    Without a word, Burt headed for the front door. “Where are you going? You've got to investigate this!” Alice demanded.

    “I already have, and I know what it is. I'm going down to the store to get a caulking gun. The upstairs toilet is leaking again.”

    After that night, there were no more signs and wonders in or around the Meacham household, and no miracles, except for the possibility that somewhere in the Divine Milieu an entity might have happened to turn around, look down, and laugh.

  2. #2
    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    May 2009
    Gold Country
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    Delightful post.

    File under who'dathunk:

    • pareidolia (going with the grilled cheese theme

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor STATELY

    who am I but a stitch in time
    what if I were to bare my soul
    would you see me origami


  3. #3
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    San Diego Calif.
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    OMG OMG was this funny. I laughed aloud and nearly had a fit. Had to take me off in an ambulance. You never write enough. You're depriving the masses.

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