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