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

© Copyright Stephen Evans © 2017 All Rights Reserved.

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The Gift Of Unexpected Time

My friend’s book club was cancelled last night. It was supposed to take place on a roof top inTel Aviv. But with rockets fired from Gaza hitting Tel Aviv, no one was willing to take the risk: a small price to pay in time of a new and unnecessary war. 

I asked my friend, the writer who runs it,  what she felt when she cancelled the book club. She had to think for a moment. So I explained that regardless of my positive attitude toward certain activities, I find myself happy and relieved when they are cancelled. She agreed, an unexpected time is always welcome even if we are not that busy.

 I view that free time as a special gift and treat it differently than normal time. Yet, often there is a price to pay for the cancellation and eventually I shall have to compensate for that free time by giving a make- up lesson, or arranging another appointment.

But my  friend commented that no matter how much money we lose by the cancellation the feeling of freedom is still present. She was right, when we lived in Texas I worked as a massage therapist for a chiropractor. I was a freelancer and was paid by appointments, so if people did not show up, even if they hadn’t given the necessary notification,  it was quite impossible to bill them. I remember that although I loved my job and realized that a missed appointment meant less money I felt happy that I was awarded extra 60 minutes just to sit, and think.

In Hebrew we often use the first part of the line from Proverbs 9, 17:  “Stolen waters are sweet (and bread eaten in secret is pleasant).” This unexpected free time always tastes much sweeter than a scheduled holiday. I remember how happy my whole family was, back when we lived in Iowa City, when school was cancelled on snow days.

I am trying to think of other, different examples when a cancellation did not bring about a sweet feeling of unexpected freedom.  What comes to mind is the recent cancellation of my friends’  visit to  Israel due to a sudden illness. 

Thus although I noted the unexpected free time, seven days to be exact,  that week was spent remembering and lamenting  all the different places that we didn’t visit. The truth was that I was worried about them and sad they they could not be here, especially as May is a great month to visit Israel.

It seems that an unexpected time is a desirable and sweet gift mostly when the cancelled activity is of a routine nature and not something special that we planned and really were looking forward to.

 And although it is unrelated, since I am speaking of cancellation I have to mention Red Room’s.  Here all the rules don’t apply:  Red Room was almost a routine activity, as I visited that site every day.  However, the cancellation of my future visits there,and the free time it will allow do not feel sweet, even not bitter sweet.  

I am sure that the Book of Proverbs could come up with a suitable line for that feeling as well.   

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