Edward Hardy ~ Apology #9: Not About The Toaster

I’m typ­ing here because Larry the elec­tri­cian has just—and I know it’s Larry because can I see his lean beard­ed fig­ure through the upstairs office win­dow as he stands before the front door hold­ing that green cell phone, which near­ly glows in the length­en­ing shad­ows, and Larry is look­ing more worn than usu­al because it’s 5:30 in the evening and he’s on our thresh­old but he’s miss­ing his kids, or I bet he’s miss­ing his kids, because he told me that last time, and on Wednesdays Larry some­times brings home Happy Meals, as a treat, and some­times Larry just wants a Happy Meal him­self, but ours was a lit­tle add-on job, so he’d stop by his way home and I’m sure he’s think­ing: You can’t say no to the mon­ey, even if Lord knows it would be nice to have a chance to say “No to the mon­ey,” and while Larry can’t know the full scope of our prob­lem, just that it’s about an under cab­i­net halo­gen light, I’m cer­tain he’s hop­ing it’s sim­ply a bulb—a bulb would about what a per­son can han­dle at the end of a twelve hour day and I’m cer­tain­ly the kind of guy who would call in an elec­tri­cian for a blown bulb—so may­be Larry’s think­ing he get out of here quick and grab those Happy Meals with extra chick­en nuggets and every­body at home can zap them in the microwave, bags and all, and the kids can mix the bar­be­que and sweet and the sour sauces into a glis­ten­ing “con­coc­tion” and Larry can sit at the kitchen table and smile at his wife and con­cen­trate only on that, the paint­ing before him, but Larry doesn’t know that you and I have been fight­ing and that there is plen­ty to fix and he cer­tain­ly doesn’t know that yes­ter­day morn­ing you put a spoon in the toast­er try­ing to release that recal­ci­trant English muffin, which you would nev­er do under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, and that the spoon and the muffin both flew, along with an impres­sive array of cobalt blue sparks, which caused a vio­let, light­ning-tinged sec­ondary flame to emerge from both ends of the now-singed under cab­i­net fix­ture, fol­lowed by the dawn­ing real­iza­tion that had you not pulled your hand away a mil­lisec­ond before we could have been call­ing 911 and the lat­er dis­cov­ery that the twirling sil­ver-plat­ed spoon had shat­tered both the lens and the halo­gen bulb behind it, all of which allowed us to instant­ly for­get why we were fight­ing, though we know, because we’re us, that it was real­ly about the lack of atten­tion and the lack of men­tal space and the absolute lack of time to be our­selves, due to the sore truth of drudgery, which is that the track runs on and on forever until you end up aban­doned on some way­ward sid­ing, and the stress of those near­ly tee­ter­ing tow­ers of work, which inch high­er and high­er into the thin­ning clouds of fear before crowd­ing out all avail­able office light, and this fight, all because I for­got to get the half-and-half, or rather I for­got to put the half-and-half on the extend­ed gro­cery list, and that the half-and-half’s absence, that gap­ing, tru­ant hole in your dai­ly rit­u­al, your I-real­ly-need-THIS-cof­fee-which-will-allow-me-to-dri­ve-to-the-Park-and-Ride-lot-so-I-can-board-the-MBTA-com­muter line-and-reach-those-South-Station-stairs-which-lead-down-through-the-vapors-to-the-Red-Line-which-will-take-me-to-the-esca­la­tor-which-leads-to-the-sev­en-min­ute-and-twelve-sec­ond-walk-to-the-ele­va­tor-which-leads-to-the-small­er-than-it-used-to-be-office-where-I-will-throw-every­thing-down-with-a-con­vinc­ing-whomp-on-my-grey-steel-desk-before-the-meet­ing-which-will-already-be-in-pro­gress-where-fur­ther-cuts-will-be-announced morn­ing and because I can clear­ly see that this is a rela­tion­ship emer­gen­cy, and not sim­ply a fried under cab­i­net light with per­haps an ancil­lary prob­lem involv­ing the out­let that served our toast­er so well in the days before this dread­ful encoun­ter with the spoon, and because of this, and the need for a new toast­er, I have sold, on EBay, my 1964 Midnight Blue Rickenbacker with the Humbucker pick­ups, the gui­tar with the shim­mery oh-so-jan­g­ly tone, a tone that brings me, still, to my knees, and just now, as Larry’s fin­gers reach to curl around the knocker’s han­dle, with yet anoth­er left-hand­ed mouse click, I have con­firmed the pur­chase of two tick­ets to Amsterdam, where we may wan­der the canal edges and gaze at bril­liant­ly col­ored house boats and rent bicy­cles that have tiny han­dle­bar bells and har­mo­nize with old Dutch peo­ple in the hazy cof­fee shops as we sip fresh squeezed orange juice from pint glass­es and dis­cuss, in depth, jazz pianists we have not yet encoun­tered, and know­ing that the lost Rickenbacker will pay for both Larry (what­ev­er he dis­cov­ers) and those tick­ets to Amsterdam and know­ing fur­ther from the phone call I picked up just min­utes before with your supe­ri­or Peter-the-less-than-great, as he is known to us, ask­ing if you were home yet but inform­ing , for some rea­son, that there would be anoth­er round of cuts in six weeks, which we both know is clear­ly Peter-speak, a warn­ing that you had bet­ter use your stored vaca­tion NOW, and as we dis­cussed, dur­ing one of the moments when we weren’t fight­ing and cer­tain­ly not hav­ing sex, that if the worst, employ­ment wise, did hap­pen that could expose us a dif­fer­ent realm of pos­si­bil­i­ty, an unex­pect­ed space in our lives that might be filled with joy and con­tent­ment, and this is just to say that I am sor­ry about the nev­er-pur­chased half-and-half, and that this is the moment for us to decide to cross the North Atlantic, to fly through the deep­en­ing evening and towards the stream­ing, pale coral sun­rise, to reset, reboot, rebuild and recon­se­crate and I nev­er played the Rick all that much any­way, and now that I have near­ly fin­ished this note before Larry’s hand has fin­ished lift­ing front door’s knock­er and given that he is about to let it fall with a resound­ing KLACK, which will be the clar­i­on call of one more over­worked, over­taxed per­son who real­ly wants to be home reheat­ing a Happy Meal with his kids, and though I need to type fan­tas­ti­cal­ly quick­ly here because Larry is still perched on front step, and his fin­gers are unfurling and a mere nanosec­ond into the future he will have just—knocked on our front door.
I’m typ­ing here because Larry the elec­tri­cian has just—and I know it’s Larry because can I see his lean beard­ed fig­ure through the upstairs office win­dow as he stands before the front door hold­ing that green cell phone, which near­ly glows in the length­en­ing shad­ows, and Larry is look­ing more worn than usu­al because it’s 5:30 in the evening and he’s on our thresh­old but he’s miss­ing his kids, or I bet he’s miss­ing his kids, because he told me that last time, and on Wednesdays Larry some­times brings home Happy Meals, as a treat, and some­times Larry just wants a Happy Meal him­self, but ours was a lit­tle add-on job, so he’d stop by his way home and I’m sure he’s think­ing: You can’t say no to the mon­ey, even if Lord knows it would be nice to have a chance to say “No to the mon­ey,” and while Larry can’t know the full scope of our prob­lem, just that it’s about an under cab­i­net halo­gen light, I’m cer­tain he’s hop­ing it’s sim­ply a bulb—a bulb would about what a per­son can han­dle at the end of a twelve hour day and I’m cer­tain­ly the kind of guy who would call in an elec­tri­cian for a blown bulb—so may­be Larry’s think­ing he can get out of here quick and grab those Happy Meals with extra chick­en nuggets and every­body at home can zap them in the microwave, bags and all, and the kids can mix the bar­be­que and sweet and the sour sauces into a glis­ten­ing “con­coc­tion” and Larry can sit at the kitchen table and smile at his wife and con­cen­trate only on that, the paint­ing before him, but Larry doesn’t know that you and I have been fight­ing and that there is plen­ty to fix and he cer­tain­ly doesn’t know that yes­ter­day morn­ing you put a spoon in the toast­er try­ing to release that recal­ci­trant English muffin, which you would nev­er do under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, and that the spoon and the muffin both flew, along with an impres­sive array of cobalt blue sparks, which caused a vio­let, light­ning-tinged sec­ondary flame to emerge from both ends of the now-singed under cab­i­net fix­ture, fol­lowed by the dawn­ing real­iza­tion that had you not pulled your hand away a mil­lisec­ond before we could have been call­ing 911 and the lat­er dis­cov­ery that the twirling sil­ver-plat­ed spoon had shat­tered both the lens and the halo­gen bulb behind it, all of which allowed us to instant­ly for­get why we were fight­ing, though we know, because we’re us, that it was real­ly about the lack of atten­tion and the lack of men­tal space and the absolute lack of time to be our­selves, due to the sore truth of drudgery, which is that the track runs on and on forever until you end up aban­doned on some way­ward sid­ing, and the stress of those near­ly tee­ter­ing tow­ers of work, which inch high­er and high­er into the thin­ning clouds of fear before crowd­ing out all avail­able office light, and this fight, all because I for­got to get the half-and-half, or rather I for­got to put the half-and-half on the extend­ed gro­cery list, and that the half-and-half’s absence, that gap­ing, tru­ant hole in your dai­ly rit­u­al, your I-real­ly-need-THIS-cof­fee-which-will-allow-me-to-dri­ve-to-the-Park-and-Ride-lot-so-I-can-board-the-MBTA-com­muter line-and-reach-those-South-Station-stairs-which-lead-down-through-the-vapors-to-the-Red-Line-which-will-take-me-to-the-esca­la­tor-which-leads-to-the-sev­en-min­ute-and-twelve-sec­ond-walk-to-the-ele­va­tor-which-leads-to-the-small­er-than-it-used-to-be-office-where-I-will-throw-every­thing-down-with-a-con­vinc­ing-whomp-on-my-grey-steel-desk-before-the-meet­ing-which-will-already-be-in-pro­gress-where-fur­ther-cuts-will-be-announced morn­ing and because I can clear­ly see that this is a rela­tion­ship emer­gen­cy, and not sim­ply a fried under cab­i­net light with per­haps an ancil­lary prob­lem involv­ing the out­let that served our toast­er so well in the days before this dread­ful encoun­ter with the spoon, and because of this, and the need for a new toast­er, I have sold, on EBay, my 1964 Midnight Blue Rickenbacker with the Humbucker pick­ups, the gui­tar with the shim­mery oh-so-jan­g­ly tone, a tone that brings me, still, to my knees, and just now, as Larry’s fin­gers reach to curl around the knocker’s han­dle, with yet anoth­er left-hand­ed mouse click, I have con­firmed the pur­chase of two tick­ets to Amsterdam, where we may wan­der the canal edges and gaze at bril­liant­ly col­ored house boats and rent bicy­cles that have tiny han­dle­bar bells and har­mo­nize with old Dutch peo­ple in the hazy cof­fee shops as we sip fresh squeezed orange juice from pint glass­es and dis­cuss, in depth, jazz pianists we have not yet encoun­tered, and know­ing that the lost Rickenbacker will pay for both Larry (what­ev­er he dis­cov­ers) and those tick­ets to Amsterdam and know­ing fur­ther from the phone call I picked up just min­utes before with your supe­ri­or Peter-the-less-than-great, as he is known to us, ask­ing if you were home yet but inform­ing me, for some rea­son, that there would be anoth­er round of cuts in six weeks, which we both know is clear­ly Peter-speak, a warn­ing that you had bet­ter use your stored vaca­tion NOW, and as we dis­cussed, dur­ing one of the moments when we weren’t fight­ing and cer­tain­ly not hav­ing sex, that if the worst, employ­ment wise, did hap­pen that could expose us a dif­fer­ent realm of pos­si­bil­i­ty, an unex­pect­ed space in our lives that might be filled with joy and con­tent­ment, and this is just to say that I am sor­ry about the nev­er-pur­chased half-and-half, and that this is the moment for us to decide to cross the North Atlantic, to fly through the deep­en­ing evening and towards the stream­ing, pale coral sun­rise, to reset, reboot, rebuild and recon­se­crate and I nev­er played the Rick all that much any­way, and now that I have near­ly fin­ished this note before Larry’s hand has fin­ished lift­ing front door’s knock­er and given that he is about to let it fall with a resound­ing KLACK, which will be the clar­i­on call of one more over­worked, over­taxed per­son who real­ly wants to be home reheat­ing a Happy Meal with his kids, and though I need to type fan­tas­ti­cal­ly quick­ly here because Larry is still perched on our front step, and his fin­gers are unfurling and a mere nanosec­ond into the future he will have just—knocked on our front door.

~

Edward Hardy is the author of two nov­els, Keeper and Kid (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press) and Geyser Life (Bridge Works). His short fic­tion has appeared in Ploughshares, GQ, Witness, The New England Review, Boulevard, Epoch and many oth­er mag­a­zi­nes. He has won three fic­tion fel­low­ships from the Rhode Island State Council On The Arts, he teach­es in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown and lives in Cranston, Rhode Island.