Jackson drops slices of white bread into each of the slots. He checks the dial to make sure it is pointed to medium before pressing the lever down. The toaster’s coils glow red, and he hovers his hand over the toaster’s top and waits for the heated air to rise.

On the inside, the bread, when they got it, was cold, soft, and limp. A bite would dissolve like paste inside his mouth.

While his bread toasts, Jackson tears off a paper towel and gets the butter and jam from the fridge. He lays it out on the counter and then remembers the butter knife.

This is just his third morning making toast for breakfast. Living alone in his new apartment for almost six months, the idea of having a toaster hadn’t occurred to him until he saw one sitting on the kitchen counter of his sister’s apartment. He bought one at Target after his next payday.

As soon as he had unpacked his new appliance, his mind wandered to ways he might use it as a weapon. Hefty, and held like a brick, it could easily knock a man out. And the cord, well, everyone knows how to use a cord to…take care of business. Those days were over, though, and he had cursed himself for going back there. His mother had been waiting for him at the gate, and the first thing she asked was a promise that this would be the last time. He promised.

The toaster dings. Jackson places his crisp, medium-browned toast on the paper towel to finish preparing his breakfast. Prison took a lot of things from him, besides his time.

Desiree Kannel is a writer and teacher from San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of Lucky John (2020) and The Delany Bennets, coming Oct. 5, 2023. Her short stories have appeared online and in print. When not writing, Desiree teaches creative writing to youth and adults through local community organizations. Her cat, Malcolm, lives with her.

Previous | Next