The Electric Toaster Support Group

18 Nov

In which I completely ignore all the homework I’m behind on, and write a good ol’ fashioned short story dedicated to Miss Katherine Fritz of the fantastic “I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog,” who came up with this title.

“It just… pops out at me! Every time! I can never expect it!” Sadie dropped her head into her hands, stifling a sob. Around her, the group nodded knowingly. One member reached out and patted Sadie on the back. She looked up, and there were tears streaming down her cheeks. “I never know when it’s going to happen! I look for patterns, try to anticipate the time, but it’s never the same. I can’t handle all this anxiety, every single day!”

“I burned myself yesterday,” another group member mumbled. He’d pulled his hood up over his head and had his hands stuffed deep into his sweatshirt pockets. Now, he pulled them out to let the group oggle his bandages.

From a chair far away in the circle, a small, flighty voice peeped up. “Why’d you do it, Howard?”

Howard shrugged. “Didn’t really mean to. I just… needed to know when it would be over. I had to get that control back.”

“Well,” a woman’s deep, husky voice slid into the conversation, “Mary and I, we’ve started bringing… implements, if you know what I mean, into our daily routine. Makes it easier to, uh, get things out, without having to worry about putting yourself in too much danger. More structure, more distance.”

The group was silent for a while.

“I don’t know,” the flighty voice again, now a little less tepid, “seems like you’re just trying to ignore the problem, by removing yourself from it. Doesn’t require any physical action on your part. Almost like you’re putting up a wall.”

There was whispering and head nodding and murmuring and head shaking at that. The group leader looked up from her clipboard, finally noticing the din that warned her group might break out of control.

“Celia,” she cut in, “that was some very good insight – if it had been about your experience. Let’s all focus on talking about our own feelings, and not telling other people out theirs, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Celia piped timidly. She grasped the edges of her chair with both hands and slid herself as far back as she could go.

The husky-voiced woman stared at her. “You haven’t even been able to do it at all, have you?” she asked. “At least, not recently. Look at you, all pale and trembling. When was the last time you were actually able to go all the way through, satisfy yourself?”

Celia burst out into tears. “All right!” she wailed. “I admit it! It’s been a year! I just… I couldn’t take it, the waiting and the uncertainty. And sometimes it comes out too hot and then I get all grossed out. I tried adding oils and all that stuff, but nothing helped! By the end, I was so nervous, I just fell apart!”

More sounds came out of Celia’s mouth, but they’d devolved into noises that were more animal than human. The group sat silently on their folding chairs, most of them looking at their hands or feet, some of them displaying a nervous tick or two that only got worse with the increasing tension. But the husky-voiced woman, she got out of her chair, completely ignoring the disapproving look the group leader shot her, and crossed the room to kneel by Celia. She wrapped her arms around the smaller woman.

“Hey honey, it’s going to be okay. I know it’s hard. Why, before Mary and I started our new approach, I could barely take all the build up too. It just takes practice, and finding what works for you. Electric toasters, they don’t have to be so scary.”

Celia sniffled and dragged a mealy tissue from her coat pocket. She blew her nose loudly. “But it’s so hard!” she cried. “You never know when your toast is going to be done, not really! And then it just shoots out, sometimes even lands on the floor if you haven’t calibrated the springs right! And Howard’s right, sometimes, it’s too much! I used to burn myself so often, trying to pull the toast out before it was really done. And even if I managed to get through the toasting alright, the toaster was always there, on the counter, staring at me. And I knew the toast came from it. Butter, olive oil – nothing made it friendlier!” She collapsed back over her knees. “I just don’t know what to do!”

The husky-voiced woman was silent.

The group leader checked her watch. “Well, that’s all for now. I think we’ve had a very productive session today.” The room stirred with the sound of feet shuffling and chair legs scraping against the floor as people started preparing to leave, even as Celia still sobbed under the ministrations of the husky-voiced woman. The group leader seemed unconcerned. “Please remember,” she continued, checking something off on her clipboard, “everything we discuss in the electric toaster support group is confidential. This is a safe, private place for people to move beyond their fears and learn to enjoy toast again. Good luck with breakfast, everyone. I’ll see you all next week.”

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