I’d like my toaster back.

Submitted into Contest #153 in response to: Write a story about a character learning to stand up for themselves.... view prompt

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Drama Funny

Apartment wanted.

35-year-old male. Freelance journalist. 

Friendly, quiet, often away for work. 

No pets. Great references. Available to move now. Can pay in advance. 

When Bed, Bath, and Beyond killed me off like a daytime drama actress with cluster B personality traits, Ken moved in. 

Three suitcases, two plastic tubs, and a desk lamp went into the furnished room at the end of the hall. And just like that, Ken fit seamlessly into my life. True to his word, he was the ideal roommate. Amiable, discreet, did his washing on opposite days, and always left the toilet seat down.  

He was everything his brief ad promised, until April 12th. The memory of that day still a vivid, foghorn of a red flag. 

I flew out of bed just 4 hours after crawling into it. Waitressing day and night was just as kind to my feet as it did my sleep cycle. T-shirt and jeans having passed the sniff test, I grabbed my keys and made for the kitchen, saliva pooling at the promise of caffeine. 

Empty. Why was the coffee pot empty?

Cold. Sans green light. It wasn’t just empty; it was switched off.

Fatigue and one hell of a blister on my left heel had a knee-jerk reaction securely planted within the grey matter. I stormed for my roommate. Sprawled on the sofa, chugging a beer. My beer. Splinters of enamel coated my tongue.

“Ken, what happened to the coffee pot?”

“Oh, hey. Finally awake. Good for you.”

“The coffee pot, it’s empty and switched off. Have you noticed the timer set for 5pm every night?”

“Oh yeah,” he sucked on a tooth. “The smell’s been throwing off my REM cycles, so I pulled the plug.”

Pulled the plug? On my life source? Time of death 5:30pm, and now I was late for work.

“Right. I have to go. Plug it back in, please. It’s part of my routine and necessary for me to keep up with my shifts.” 

I turned to leave.

“Well, maybe you should put it in your room,” I paused, slowly turning to see Ken take another swig. “I mean, it’s my apartment...too.”

My dad used to joke that I’d apologize to a burglar for locking them out. He wasn’t wrong, and true to my people-pleasing nature, Ken received an apology, and the coffee machine relocated to my dresser.  

A week later, I woke to a sharp sensation at my fingertips, something like the teething of a juvenile vampire. The sight that greeted me had my soles slapping the floorboards all the way to Ken’s bedroom door.

“Did you let a cat into the apartment?” 

My voice was a pitch only dogs and banshees could detect.

Non-intelligible groans met me. 

Ken?

“Jesus Christ, it’s 2am.” 

I didn’t care. I repeated my question, a touch of stridor to my voice. 

“Did. You. Get. A. Cat?”

More mumbling through the door, then. 

Yes. What’s the problem? She’s pedigree.”

“I’m. Allergic,” I wheezed. “And. She. Bit. Me.”

“So? Stay away from her,”

If he said more, it was lost to tinnitus and my loud, sharp gasps of breath as I scrambled for my epi-pen. Holding the auto-injector against my thigh, I procrastinated my headstone. Death by dander. Mauled by pedigree.   

In hindsight, the coffee pot incident was undoubtedly my first clue. My roommate quickly became the stuff of nightmares, and he was never ‘often away for work.’ Within 24 hours, Dame Whiskerton had a companion, and I took myself to emergency. Ken flat-out refused to do away with the balls of grey fluff obstructing my airway, agreeing only to keep them locked away in his room.  

Two days later, discharged and packing enough Claritin to decongest an elephant, I unlocked my apartment door, or perhaps, an interdimensional portal to another reality. 

The acrid smell of fresh paint immediately burnt the lining of my nose. Artichoke green and eggshell colored the walls, once a breezy sort of blue trimmed in white. My old but sturdy 3-seater had been turned away from the window, a heavy black drape eliminating even the slightest ray of natural light. 

I spun on the spot, hoping for a hallucination or a break and enter of the redecorating kind. My gaze caught on the kitchen, and I stopped dead. It was gone. Buried beneath a teetering tower of rank dishes, the sink a murky pool of chunky water that had me choking back a gag. Every mug, plate, and piece of silverware I owned littered the benches, while pizza boxes and Chinese containers bridged the gaps. Empty drink bottles and food packages spilled from the bin like filth lava. 

I blinked in the chaos that had enveloped my kitchen, and then it hit me. Not a single personal possession of mine remained. Not my wire chicken egg holder, a housewarming gift from an eccentric aunt. Not the three-tier ceramic fruit bowl I’d bought at a yard sale years ago. Even my fridge magnets, each the reward of a lofty quest to overcrowded tourist attractions, gone. The entire apartment, in fact, had been stripped of my possessions. A fizzing sensation started behind my eyes while my fingers rapidly tapped the air. I spun for the hallway as my voice reached supersonic.  

“Ken!”

Mumbled curses followed unhurried footsteps. His door opened, and the worst roommate ever, stepped into the living room.

“You know, I’ve really enjoyed not having some neurotic woman scream at me day and night.”

My mouth hung wide while my eyes started to itch; maybe I’d add Jerks to my MedicAlert bracelet.

“I am not neurotic, Ken. I’ve spent the last two days hospitalized because of your damn cats. You told me you had no pets!”

He lent into the wall a picture of calm. 

“Whats this about? You’ve had it out for the cats since the beginning.”

I threw my arms wide. 

“I’m allergic. And where is my stuff?”

“In your room. I didn’t think you were coming back.” he shrugged. 

“You didn’t think I was coming back? It’s been two days, and you’ve repainted the living room!”

“Well, I live here too, and I prefer the walls, Matte Sage.”

I blinked at my roommate, my once perfect, sedate, toilet-seat lowering roommate. 

“The cats go.”

“Listen, Darlin-” 

“Do not call me pet names, Ken. I find it extremely condescending, especially in the grey-area setting that this relationship has entered.”

“Grey-area? I thought we were roommates?”

Roommates? Roommates live by a code of mutual respect and harmony. You’re like a termite, eating up my sanctuary and shitting out toxic mud.”

“Well, if you don’t like it, darling. There’s the door.”

Ken tipped the glass neck of my craft beer to the now Matte Sage trimmed doorway, and my bravado immediately relocated like my wire chicken egg holder. Would Ken, kick me out? 

The thought trailed my footsteps like an ominous plume as I retreated to my room, my Ken-free oasis. But, like the kitchen, my bedroom had metamorphosized. 

I thought myself a fairly minimalistic person. Purging junk drawers every so often, delivering myself a hard dose of reality for the clothes I ‘might wear again someday’, re-gifting Aunt Nelly’s ugly-as-sin thrift store holiday presents. So, surveying the extent of my every worldly possession crammed into an already minuscule and wildly overpriced space, I did the most sensible, mature thing I could. I went to sleep.

The following day, I was restless and red-eyed from the Claritin, or perhaps Dame Whiskerton’s pal, curled up between a pile of old resumes and my mother’s doily of a wedding dress, waiting patiently for me to dole out a life sentence. Resolved to exist independently of Ken, the crappiest roommate ever, I poured a cup of dresser-coffee and braved the kitchen. As the warm, toasty notes of my breakfast dampened volatile paint fumes, I lent against my magnet-bare refrigerator and considered Ken. Stuff-touching, beer-thieving, redecorating, Ken. Apartment stealing, Ken? 

Wafts of paint fumes added kindling to my crisis, and I blinked my unrecognizable apartment back into focus. Not paint fumes. Something acrid, something…burning. Black smoke billowed from the toaster as two squares of solid charcoal ejected themselves, and tears of stifled frustration and doormatery splattered against piles of pizza boxes.

Ken, had changed the toaster settings. Ken, was a monster. The proverbial camels-back, had shattered.

I didn’t confront Ken, nor did I say goodbye. Oh no. I paid an exuberant figure to have two heavy-footed goliaths pack my belongings at 2am, both of whom were tipped with a fluffy grey feline. I left the toaster.

I found a small dusty loft up-town. The sort I’d always wanted to live in but worried I was lacking the prerequisite hipster quality and creeper plants.

I’d settled in for my Saturday night perusal of the rental ads, the rim of my second cup of tea warming my bottom lip, when I found it.

Roommate wanted

35-year-old male

Quiet, friendly. Freelance journalist.

Room available now. Rent in advance required.

I promptly replied to the public forum.

Ken Read is a 35-year-old narcissist and bully.

He enjoys redecorating without permission, relieving your personal items of their post, and adjusting tried and true levels of toastiness. 

If he’s a freelance journalist, good luck finding anything he’s ever written.

When you move in, God rest your soul; I’d like my toaster back.

July 08, 2022 03:58

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7 comments

05:07 Jul 15, 2022

I really like the free writing style of this story. Like a long winded rant with a plot, it kept me engaged and it felt unique. With this style of writing though, you have to watch for run-on sentences. There were more than a few. There were also a couple things that stood out. ---When Bed, Bath, and Beyond killed me off like a daytime drama actress with cluster B personality traits, Ken moved in. --- I dont know what the first part means, and its a tough choppy, read for the beginning of the story. ---Waitressing day and night was just a...

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Susanne Perry
17:04 Jul 13, 2022

Great story filled with realistic detail that made me cringe. Loved the ending.

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Kat. L Haywood
23:10 Jul 13, 2022

Thanks Susanne.

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Michał Przywara
20:45 Jul 11, 2022

Heh, the story is both funny and infuriating :) But I think there's also a great foundation here for horror. Maybe not Stephen King ghost horror, but more the everyday kind. You get a pleasant person who gradually steals your residence, and maybe moves on to steal more like your identity, your life, etc. Heck, it almost happened in the story, with the allergic reaction and hospital trip.

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Kat. L Haywood
23:12 Jul 13, 2022

Thanks, Michael. I'd just watched 'Worst Roommate Ever' on Netflix before the inspo struck. It could definitely have taken a turn into horror.

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Wendy M
17:35 Jul 11, 2022

That's the way to do it. Revenge is a dish best served cold! Very enjoyable.

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Kat. L Haywood
23:13 Jul 13, 2022

Thanks, Wendy. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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