Science Fiction


She was so excited when she brought it home, Reba, the Smart Toaster. The appliance can be programmed to start toasting at any time you wanted and have the toast done by whatever time you needed. It also can be programmed with a smartphone. All that is needed is to load a loaf of bread into the compartment, record what time the toast should be done, and the machine does all the rest. It's perfect for helping make breakfast for the family in the morning.

Marsha opened the box and looked at her new purchase. Reba was her favorite color, pink. It matched all the other appliances in her kitchen, making it the perfect toaster. Marsha sighed deeply. Reba was about the size of a milk crate with a drawer on the backside for the bread and a control panel on the front. There were four slots on the top for the toast to come out when it was done.

Todd walked over to look at his wife's purchase. “Have you read the instructions yet?” he asked as he eyed the control panel.

“Not yet”, Marsha replied as she opened and closed the bread bin.

“Make sure there's antivirus software on it,” Todd suggested, “you never know with these things.”

Marsha turned to look at her 40-year-old husband. “it's brand new!” she exclaimed, “what kind of virus could be on it?” Todd shook his head. “You never know.”

“Well, I'm ready to try it out. Let's put it on the counter by the microwave and plug it in,” Marsha said eagerly as she gathered the machine up.

“Did you read the manual yet?” asked Todd again.

Marsha turned to her husband angrily. “Not yet. I'll get to that later.” Todd picked up the manual and sat down on one of the 4 kitchen chairs. They were pink, too, just like everything else in the kitchen. Reminded Todd of cotton candy. He began to read the manual.

Meanwhile, Marsha placed Reba, the Smart Toaster, on the counter, removed all of the plastic from the components, then plugged it in. “Did you take out the plastic inside the bread slots?” asked Todd. “Yes”, Marsha replied. Todd nodded and continued to read.

The control panel lit up when plugged in. The LED lights were green in color, with each button glowing with the light. “The manual says you need to do a self-clean on the machine before you use it, as well as perform a reset,” said Todd. “How do you self-clean?” asked Marsha as she read the buttons. There was one marked “self-clean” so she pushed it. A tiny spark came from the button just as she pushed it, like static electricity. She jumped back, startled. A soft whirring noise came from the Smart Toaster.

While Reba was cleaning itself, Marsha downloaded the Smart Toaster Application to her smartphone. “The manual says only one phone in the household can have the App” pointed out Todd while the process was in motion. “Good thing I don't do the cooking around here,” he added. Marsha smiled.

Once the app was downloaded, Marsha opened the software on her phone. The programming was pretty intuitive so Martha didn't take long to figure out how to create a command to make the morning toast. “Try setting one up for now,” suggested Todd. “OK,” Marsha replied. “But let's wait until the self-cleaning is done first.” Before long the toaster was done and a “ready” light flashed on the control panel. Marsha took a loaf of bread out of her pantry, removed it from its plastic bag, and placed it into the back bin of the toaster. She then programmed into the app a test run to toast 1 piece of bread right now. She pushed start on the app and Reba began to hum. A minute later a warm, lightly brown piece of toast popped out of the top of the machine. Todd grabbed it and inspected it. “Perfect” he whispered, “the color is consistent with no burn marks anywhere.” Marsha smiled.

The next morning Marsha got up to start breakfast for the family. She had programmed Reba to have 4 pieces of toast ready by 7:30 am. Meanwhile, she worked on the eggs. Everyone preferred his or her eggs a different way, as well as their toast, and sometimes Marsha would make mistakes. She hoped the toaster would fix this.

Marsha had Greg's eggs sunny side up and the toast then popped out of the toaster as a light brown. She plated the three items for him and placed them at his place on the table. Next, the over-easy eggs were ready for Barb, as well as the darker brown toast. She plated those just as the two children came down the stairs.

Greg was a freshman in High School and his sister Barb was in 8th grade. They both grabbed their food and ate it quickly while their mom finished with the scrambled eggs for their dad and herself. Their toast then popped out just as the eggs were finished. Todd wandered into the kitchen at about the same time as she placed his food at the table. He grabbed his coffee mug and poured himself a cup of coffee, then smiled at Marsha as he sat down and ate. Finally, a breakfast that went as it should!

The family was soon on their way to school and work, leaving Marsha alone to clean up her kitchen. She was so happy, her breakfast went as planned without any complaints from her family! “Great job, Reba”, Marsha whispered. Marsha hummed as she worked, putting dishes in the dishwasher and wiping things down. She then left the kitchen to go do some laundry.

The laundry room in the ranch house they live in was located just off of the garage door, near the kitchen. As Marsha worked in the laundry, she began to smell smoke. Was she imagining it? If there was a fire, the fire alarms would go off, right? She hurried into the kitchen to see if she had left anything turned on. Just as she walked into the kitchen the fire alarm began to sound. She looked at everything, trying to figure out what was smoking, but the smoke dissipated quickly and the alarm stopped ringing. She opened a window to flush the smoke out, but nothing appeared amiss. She sighed, then headed back to the laundry room.

At lunchtime, Marsha decided to make herself a BLT. She liked her toast to be medium brown. She programmed the toaster at the machine, then started on the bacon. When that was done, she glanced at Reba and wondered why her slices were not up. After putting the bacon on a rack to drain, she walked over to the toaster. Just as she approached it, two very burnt pieces of toast popped up. “Now that is strange,” she whispered. Marsha programmed the machine again, this time from her phone. The setting she put the toast to was light brown. She pressed the start button, then went to cut the tomatoes.

When the tomatoes were done, the toast still hadn't popped up. Just when Marsha walked over to Reba, two very burnt pieces of toast popped up. Marsha was a little upset. Why was it working fine in the morning but burning everything now? She programmed the machine one more time, this time setting it to lightly toasted. This time she kept an eye on the machine.

Surprisingly, her toast came out on time, at the original medium brown setting. Marsha shrugged it off, made her sandwich, and ate her lunch.

When Todd came home from work, he smelled the burnt pieces of toast Marsha had thrown out. She was working at the stove making chili when he came home. “Marsha, what happened?” he asked as he kissed her on the cheek. Marsha turned down the stove and turned to face her husband. “I think I might have made a mistake with the toaster. It burnt 4 pieces of bread when I was trying to make a BLT. Either that or it's broken.” Todd shook his head. “Did you read the manual?” he asked gently. “No,” she replied sheepishly. “Maybe I should do that.” Todd nodded. “I'll go get it for you.” Todd left the room. Marsha glanced over at Reba and she could have sworn the LED lights were red for a second.

The next morning, breakfast went as well as it had the day before. All of the pieces of toast were done on time and in the correct color. Marsha sighed, she must have done something wrong when programming the toast for the BLT. After everyone had left, she cleaned up the kitchen, then left to start vacuuming the house.

At noon Marsha decided to make a tuna sandwich on toast. She programmed the toaster from her phone to make two very lightly colored pieces of toast while she got out the tuna can and other materials. Just as the day before, the toast came out burnt. This happened 4 times. Marsha gave up and made the sandwich on regular bread. Then she looked around for the manual. Todd had put it on the counter near the bread machine. Marsha could not find it there. Marsha looked at Reba and thought she saw the LED lights glow red for a second. Startled, she looked at it closer, but the LED lights remained green, Confused, Marsha decided to search the rest of the kitchen. Still not finding it, she went to look for it in the living room.

The children came home from school just as Marsha was digging through the garbage looking for the manual. Greg walked over to the machine and started pushing buttons on the control panel. “Stop!” Marsha cried, running towards her son. “Why?” he asked, puzzled by his mom's strange reaction. “I think it's broken,” she said, “and I can't find the manual to troubleshoot it.” Greg's toast popped out of the toaster. He reached over and grabbed the piece of bread and inspected it. “Looks like it's working now,” he said as he spread some butter on toast. “Thank goodness,” his mom replied. She was still confused and now getting worried. She was sure the manual would have the answers she needed, but she still couldn't find it. She decided to wait until Todd got home to figure it out. Meanwhile, it was time to start supper.

Todd arrived home and smelled the burnt toast again. He decided not to say anything while his wife completed cooking the meal. After it was served and eaten, Todd helped Marsha clean off the table. “What happened? Did you burn the toast again?” Marsha looked at him with a panicked look on her face. “Yes, it happened again and this time I tried to find the manual to troubleshoot the problem but I couldn't find it.” “I put it right over there,” Todd said, pointing at the bread machine. It wasn't there.

“I don't know who moved it,” Marsha replied, “but I am really getting irritated with this machine. I am thinking of returning it tomorrow.”

“You can look on the internet for the manual,” Todd said soothingly. “I am not sure I'd get rid of Reba so fast. I've been enjoying our breakfasts these last few mornings and I'm glad you purchased it.” He put his arm around his wife and kissed her cheek. “I'll download it for you this evening.”

“OK,” Marsha smiled at her husband.

For the third morning in a row, the Smart Toaster performed its duty to the letter. Marsha was beginning to think everything was fine. After cleaning up the kitchen, Marsha went into the dining room to read the manual Todd had downloaded for her the night before. When she clicked on the file to open it, her antivirus software popped up with a message saying there was a virus and the file was deleted. Marsha knew Todd had read the manual file to make sure it was the correct one, so she was confused again. Marsha then attempted to connect to the manufacturer's web page, but her internet went down and she was unable to access it. Frustrated, Marsha stormed into the kitchen.

Just as she walked through the doorway into the kitchen, a flaming piece of toast flew past her head. Marsha jumped, then turned to look at the toast. Before it could set a drape on fire, Marsha put out the flames. Determined, Marsha turned to the kitchen. As she walked towards Reba, she grabbed a tray she used when she had a dinner party and kept on a table near the door. As she walked into the kitchen, she closed the door between the kitchen and the dining room. Holding the tray near her face, she looked at Reba.

The Smart Toaster's LED lights were definitely red, and as soon as she entered the kitchen, it launched 4 flaming pieces of bread at her. She deflected them with the tray, then focused on the machine. 4 more pieces of flaming bread sailed through the air, and Marsha pushed those off as well. She inched closer to Reba, trying to figure out what to do next.

The kitchen island was between Marsha and the counter on which Reba was sitting. Marsha judged if she used the island as a barrier, she could get closer to the machine and unplug it. Her other option was to exit the house and enter it from the back door, which was directly to the right of Reba. Something told Marsha she wouldn't be quick enough to go around the island so she bolted out the kitchen door. She threw her phone onto the sofa, then left out the front door. She ran to the back, opened the door quietly, and managed to unplug Reba, the Smart Toaster, before it noticed she was there. Marsha sighed deeply when she saw the red LED lights go out.

Marsha started to clean up the charred bread from around the kitchen. As she was doing this, Todd returned home. He was a little surprised when he saw the state of the kitchen and ran over to his wife, who was kneeling next to something black. “What happened?” he exclaimed. Marsha turned to her husband. “Reba, the Smart Toaster, attacked me, throwing flaming bread at me. It only stopped when I unplugged it,” Marsha sobbed. Todd wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed her forehead. “Oh darling,” he whispered. Marsha straightened up and told him the whole story as he helped her clean up the kitchen.

When the kitchen was cleaned up, Todd walked his wife to the living room. He gently set her down on the sofa. “You are right, that machine has got to go,” he said gently. “I'll take it back right now.” Marsha smiled. “Thank you for being understanding.” Within minutes Reba, the pink Smart Toaster, was back in its original box and Todd was driving it away.

February 25, 2021 23:35

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Laila A
01:25 Mar 05, 2021

This is wonderful. I really liked the vocabulary used in the story. Keep it up!


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Keya J.
05:52 Jul 29, 2021

Ok, I'll be honest. When I read the prompt, I was like how the hell can you even write a story on this! But then I read your story and it caught my eyes wide open! Wow, Ruth, really amazing work. I liked the way you described the toaster and carved each detail so beautifully. Keep writing!


Ruth Smith
13:39 Jul 30, 2021

Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed the story.


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RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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