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Flash Fiction: Toastmaster

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here's a piece for this week's Three Word Wednesday. Be sure to drop by Three Word Wednesday for more fun.

Ren moved stealthily through the shadows, his feet making no noise on the linoleum as he passed the refrigerator. He didn't pause to open the door and help himself to a snack like he would've when he was new at this. A case of food poisoning and a close call with a homeowner had taught him to stick with the business at hand. He approached the counter and gazed upon the object of his desire.

Dome-shaped and aluminum, with a few fingerprints marring the sides and a dusting of crumbs on top. Closer investigation brought a smile to Ren's face. This was no cheap knock-off or even a high-priced Farberware copy; this was an original, even to the cloth-covered cord. With the reverence due such a fine old specimen, he unplugged it and wiped it with a moist dish towel before putting it in a canvas bag. He was heading to the open window, his mission nearly accomplished, when a voice stopped him.

"Young man."

Ren yelped in surprise.

"I don't believe I gave you permission to take my toaster."

He turned around slowly, so as not to startle her, and sized the woman up. White hair, pink terry bathrobe, fuzzy slippers. She looked harmless, but one could never tell. Those bulging pockets could contain more than cough drops and wadded tissues, and she might've once been Annie Oakley for all he knew, so he made sure to speak slowly, in polite tones.

"What toaster, ma'am?"

She gave a condescending smile. The one I watched you put in your bag."

"This bag?" He made a show of opening it. "You're right. There is a toaster in here." He knew what he should do next—put it back, apologize profusely, then get the hell out in case she had already called the cops. One didn't come across beauties like this every day, though.

The woman frowned in confusion. "Of all the things you could take, why would you want an old toaster?"

Ren had no answer for that. He didn't even like toast.

"It may just be a chunk of metal to you, son, but for me, that toaster represents memories. It was a wedding gift from my best friend, gone now, bless her soul. I made toast for my children's breakfasts with that appliance. My little one, Sammy, never was quite right in the head, but hot toast and honey could always put a smile on his face. And when my husband was in his final illness, hardly able to keep a thing down, a poached egg on toast always set well."

Ren shuffled his feet. He really should put the toaster back on the counter.

"It doesn't get much use these days." The woman sighed. "Doctor says bread is bad for me, so maybe it would be best if you had it after all."

Ren had been looking at the floor, but now he snapped his head up.

"Go on, take it. You were willing to go to a lot of trouble for my little toaster, so it must be important to you. Enjoy it."

For a moment Ren wondered if she was going to let him leave through the front door, but from the way she stood, it was clear she had conceded as much as she intended. Ren slung the bag over his shoulder and scooted gracelessly out the window.

When he got to his apartment, uneasy and oddly disheartened, he took his prize into the spare bedroom where he set it on the floor amid a jumble of Sunbeams, Toastmasters, General Electrics and Black & Deckers that represented years of toaster-stealing efforts. He gazed at the new addition, waiting for the surge of pride that usually accompanied such an acquisition, but felt only a nagging regret, like he had dome something dishonorable, even though this was the only toaster he had ever had permission to take.

What kind of weirdo gets nostalgic over a toaster? What could be so special about a bunch of metal components put together by underpaid factory drones? A toaster is an object, nothing more. Crazy old lady.

He grabbed a beer from the fridge and went into the living room, mulling over what had happened and wondering if he should take up a new hobby. Perhaps toaster-stealing had run its course and now was a good time to change direction. He sat down, punched the TV remote and wondered how many people had sentimental attachments to their blenders.


LeiffyV said...

Very well done, often the memories attached to an item are surprising. Maybe this is why I can't bring myself to get rid of half my stuff! Great work on this, thanks for sharing with us!

January 13, 2011 at 7:35 AM
Thom Gabrukiewicz said...

I. Love. This. So sharp, so full of wit and silliness. Great read.

January 13, 2011 at 12:20 PM
Old Egg said...

You have to admire those sneaker collectors that will stop at nothing to get a valued item!

I am glad you led us down the path a bit before revealing the truth. It was a quirky fun piece and demonstrates your writing versatility. Great piece.

January 13, 2011 at 3:33 PM
Alice Audrey said...

LOL! I love that last line.

January 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM
Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Ha. Ren's got a conscience after all!

February 2, 2011 at 5:00 PM

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