On the Importance of Toasters

An excerpt from


Paula and Iris are drinking ‘coffee’ in the office kitchen.

“We’re giving them a toaster”, Paula says.

Iris spins away, spilling her vanilla mint cappuccino.

“What?” Paula asks.

Iris turns back, tears in her eyes, unable to speak.

“What is it?” Paula asks.

Iris breathes deeply, shakes her head, then breathes deeply again.

“I'm sorry. It's just that. I’ve often thought that. If Stan and I had had the right toaster, our marriage might have been saved.”

Paula moves closer.

“What makes you think that?”

Iris wipes her eyes.

“Stan used to get up in the middle of the night and make toast. The toaster we had would leave crumbs on the counter and he would never clean them up. So every morning for seven years, I would get up and clean up the crumbs on the counter. And every morning I would complain about the crumbs, and we’d start to fight and finally he left.”

Paula sighs.

“Did he take the toaster?”

Iris shakes her head.

“I gave it away. Too many memories.”

Paula sits back. She entwines her middle finger around a cheese doodle. Tiny doodle grains fall to her palm, forming images on her hand, pictographs in an incomprehensible junk food idiom. Possibly a ring. Or a circus. Or an octopus. She gazes at the inscrutable figures, wondering at their meaning. Doodle grains. Toast crumbs. There is a significance, a serendipitous collusion of metaphor, that she can’t quite grasp. She knows a marriage depends on it. But whose?

“We gave you that toaster, didn’t we?” she says finally.

Iris rallies, and comforts Paula.

“I don’t blame you,” Iris says. “If it hadn’t been the toaster, it would have been some other appliance.”

Paula and Iris hug. The other employees in the kitchen leave silently and quickly.

“I'm so sorry,” Paula says. “We didn't know.”

Iris sighs.

“Neither did we,” she says. “Neither did we.”



© Copyright Stephen Evans © 2017 All Rights Reserved.

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What I Think About While I Drink Coffee

There isn't nothing. There is  only not something.

Or as Yoda would put it:

Nothing there isn't. Only Not Something there is.

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Coffee shops

Darkness and lightness battle in my personal journal. I've decided to share something from neutral ground. 

It’s interesting and troubling discovering how much my coffee shop routine meant to me. Since my regular coffee shop, The Beanery, close, I’ve researched and ranked coffee shops and have realized all of the factors that make a coffee shop work for me. It’s easier to find and replace a beer joint. We have many of each in Ashland. We have only five grocery stores and two movie theaters, but we have playhouses, restaurants, wineries, pubs, book stores, and coffee shops aplenty. We’re lucky to be so rich in that regard.

My number one coffee shop was The Beanery, of course, fondly shortened to ‘The Bean’. Sort of dinghy and worn, the ambiance was perfect for this struggling writer. Just a mile away, it was an easy walk and the Mexican Mocha remains cherished.

My second preferred coffee shop was the Siskiyou Blvd Starbucks. Another hundred yards down from The Bean, I wasn’t fond of its coffee but the distance was a comfortable walk and the work space was very good. Unfortunately, it closed this spring.

I’ve discovered a coffee shop’s work space element is important. It’s about having a table or counter for the computer, and a chair. Space and privacy add points. I learned that at Case. They roast their coffee there. It tends toward American preference, lighter, thinner, with a less robust flavor and a sort of wine component to my taste buds. The work space, alas, was anemic. Small tables and few of them, shoulder to shoulder, a cold and noisy modern place. Case was just one and a quarter mile away so it stretched out the time required to get there and write like crazy a little more but that work space….

I discovered the same with Rogue Valley Roasting. Two miles away, Roasting is an old house converted into a business. It reminded me of a newer, cleaner Beanery. The coffee was likewise weaker tasting than the Beanery coffee but the work space seemed acceptable. ‘Seemed’ is key. I was perplexed to discover I couldn’t write as proficiently and artfully as I had at other places. I realized over the course of a week that the tables there were lower than normal. I slouched down in the chairs to find a comfortable working position and ended up aggravating an old sciatic nerve inflammation.

So off I went. Down the road was a new place, Pony Espresso. Not just a new business, but a new building. I walked in there with low expectations. Lo, there was a Beanery barista behind the counter. They served Allan Bros coffee, which was The Beanery’s coffee of choice. They even sold me the same Mexican mocha. Well….but for a dollar more…well…. The work space wasn’t large but it was clean, modern and comfortable. However, it’s 2.4 miles from the house, a sweaty hike in this heat wave, and then the walk back home a few hours later, in the jaws of the heat. Still, it was the best writing session and coffee I’ve had since The Bean’s demise.

Today, I veered off to the Boulevard. Two miles away, it’s a newer offering in Ashland’s coffee land. The owners set out to create a coffee shop environment like a living room. Well, a living room doesn’t work well for me when I’m writing. The coffee was okay. They use Noble’s coffee, which is a fine locally produced coffee, but it’s brewed to that strange American preference, and I don’t seem to like the American preference. Besides that, connecting to the Internet was irksome. The Internet is a luxury, not necessary for writing like crazy, but it’s convenient for taking a break or doing a quick burst of research on minor information. Not being able to connect after four tries was annoying.

The search continues. I’ve been to Bloomsburys a few times. Its positives and negatives are familiar. The downtown Starbucks is a small, crowded place more appropriate for reading a book than writing one while the southern Starbucks is in the Albertson’s. It’s okay but I’m seeking an ideal. See, The Bean has me spoiled.

Mix is an interesting possibility. It has the work space. I haven’t sampled its coffee drinks yet. Of course, it is 2.8 miles from home…. And the Water Street Café, across the street from Mix, is only opened nine months of the year. All of its seating is outdoors. Then there is Paradise Café. A new place on the town’s south end, it’s but a mile from home. Specializing and serving only gluten free baked goods, I’m not sure how long it will last. It was empty on my two exploratory visits.

I always knew what to expect at the Bean. I made friends there. It was a good brisk walk no matter what weather I faced and a place where writing like crazy was easy. I was spoiled. If I combined the best of all places, I would not end up with The Beanery. I’d take pieces of several to create a new favorite. Then do it, people suggest, start a business. No, I did that. Owning cafes, restaurants or coffee shops, isn’t in my aspirations.

Now I have my coffee, a chair and table. Time to write like crazy, one more time, and see if the Boulevard is the new place for me.  Just between us writers, I’m already leaning toward Pony Espresso. I’ll just need to make the time to walk there and back, or I’ll take up biking again. I do enjoy walking, though.



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The Square Root

Remember, the square root of an XNOM2 is two shots of espresso.  Otherwise, it's just a NOM2, with just two shots of espresso.  A NOM2 by other names is a Beanery, or a non-fat organic Mexican mocha.

It's the fuel by which I write.  The key to knowing your fuel is understanding what your muse likes.  Others' muses chose wine, beer and tea.  Some swear by hard liquor to entice their muse into their company, a little weed, perhaps, or develop stratagems of walking, music, solitude, reading or socializing.  Whatever the muse needs, the muse gets. 

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