“Toast” by Isaac Blum (excerpt)

On a Saturday in mid-February, my little sister ran off with the toaster oven. I
awoke as I often do, craving toast, but when I went to the kitchen, there was no toaster
oven, just an empty space on the counter between the blender and the coffee maker.
A rectangle of crumbs marked its absence. Distressed, I pounded on my sister’s door,
demanding an explanation. There was no response. She too was gone.

Before Hannah left, we’d been a standard post-recession American family. Four
adults, four bachelor’s degrees, one full-time job, one toaster oven. Now we were down a
person, and sans toaster oven.

Not that Hannah had contributed much to the family equation. She’d returned from
college last spring with unpaid student loans, bags of dirty clothes, and a toaster oven.
She’d been home months, and had shown no interest in even applying for a job.

The toaster oven was actually a much more productive member of the household.
It worked diligently and efficiently, toasting bread, English muffins, and bagels. It could
reheat a slice of pizza in moments, and the pizza wouldn’t go all floppy like it would
in the microwave. It had pre-sets, whereby, with the push of a single button, such as
“Waffle,” the oven would select the correct toasting heat, angle, and duration for the
perfect waffle.

I returned from my sister’s empty room to the empty-feeling kitchen, and
I preheated the oven, the real one, the big one, for two slices of toast. As an
environmentally-conscious person, I did this anyway, but was conscious that it was bad
for the environment.

My mother entered the kitchen and saw what I was doing. “What are you heating
the oven for?” she asked. I had a slice of bread in each hand. “Toast?” she accused. She
sat down at the table and started to flip through the ‘Weekend’ section of the paper.
“Your evidence is circumstantial. What happened to Juan-Pablo?”

“Hannah took him to Dwayne’s. You would have seen that had you woken up before

The timing probably wasn’t a coincidence. I don’t think Hannah would have had
the guts to carry the toaster oven away right under my nose. I’d have seen her. She’d have
given me a sheepish grin and left it on the counter. It was just like Hannah to sneak off
with it in the night, or in the relatively early morning, as it were.

I must have made a face that indicated a sense of injustice, or at the very least,
disappointment, because my mother said, “Why? What’s it matter? It was her toaster

“Look where it’s left me,” I gesticulated with my bread. “And yeah, it was hers in a
technical sense. Her bed is technically hers, but she couldn’t take it with her if she left.”

“She did actually.” I put my bread in the oven, but one of the slices slipped through
the cracks in the oven grate and fell to the bottom. “Dwayne doesn’t have a bed just
yet for his new place, so Hannah brought hers over for them to use in the short term,

“Fuck!” In my rescue attempt, I’d burned my finger.

“That’s an interesting reaction,” she said, coming across the room to check on the
hand I was waving above my head, “I didn’t think you were going miss her that much.”

“I miss Juan-Pablo, that’s who I miss,” I replied, brandishing my reddened finger at her.


(Fall 2013)