Entertainingly Evil

BAD TOASTER by Pam L. Wallace

“Does the toaster have to go to jail, Momma?”

“Wha-what?” I tried to blink away my tears.

“You said the toaster was bad. Does it have to go to jail?”

Four-year-old Sophie looked as upset as the day of her goldfish’s funeral. I knelt and took her in my arms. “Don’t cry, sweetie. It’s only a toaster!”

She pulled back to look in my face with the intent look that only a four-year-old could muster. “But you were crying.”

A week ago, a broken toaster would have been no more an irritation. Today, it’d been the straw that broke me. I swiped the tears from my face and attempted a smile. “Mommy was just being silly.”

“But—but, if the toaster’s broken, how can you make me cinnamon toast?”

I’d just bought the toaster the day before, and I didn’t have time today to exchange it. Damn Jason to hell for taking our old toaster—he knew Sophie refused to eat anything but cinnamon toast for breakfast. So typical, thinking of no one but himself.

I wanted to burst into tears and crawl back to bed. But I had Sophie, and she didn’t need to worry about bad toasters or mommies crying or daddies leaving. I hugged her again. “Mommy will make it the old-fashioned way. In the oven!”

Sophie frowned. Different was never better to a four-year-old. “Why don’t you go finish coloring your picture?” I said. “And I’ll make you an extra-special cinnamon toast!”

She looked doubtful until I opened the fridge and pulled out the whipped cream. Appealing to her sweet tooth always worked. She brightened and said, “K, Momma,” and skipped into the dining room where her crayons and markers waited.

I wished I could let go of things as easily as Sophie. Tears forgotten, defective toaster replaced, broken marriage mended. “Jason. Why?” I kicked the cupboard closed and gave in to my tears.

“Oh dear, don’t cry!”

I startled and turned around. Standing in my kitchen was a white-haired woman, as short as she was round, in a voluminous white robe with a hood.  I backed away, scanning the countertop for a sharp knife and trying to remember where I’d left the phone. “How’d you get in here?”

“Oh, you know, bibbidi-bobbidy-boo and all that.” She waved a drumstick—not of the chicken variety, but an honest-to-goodness, playing-the-drums stick, above her head in a circle. “Now, what’s your wish, my dear? Fix your broken marriage?”

Bibbidi-bobbidy? Like a fairy godmother? She did sort of look like she’d just stepped out of Sophie’s favorite princess movie. “Fix my….” How could a random crazy lady know that? Wait—someone was pulling my leg. “Who put you up to this? It was Joanna, wasn’t it?” My best buddy, trying to cheer me up. “Are you her grandmother? Aunt?” She shook her head, frowning. “Neighbor?”

“No, no. I’m your Fairy Godmother, dear. I’m here to fix your marriage, just like you wished last night.”

I guess I had said that very thing to Joanna last night during my sob session.

Well, I could play along. I’d probably get a much-needed laugh out of this later. “Well, you do look rather like a fairy godmother—except there’s no such thing.”

“You don’t think I’m real?”

The lady might not be a fairy godmother, but she was a veritable wizard of quick-changing emotions. In one second flat, she went from practically dancing with excitement to doom and gloom. “Well, you are carrying a drum stick instead of a wand,” I pointed out.

“What?” She peered at the drum stick. “Oh!”  She flipped it in the air, and in its place, a fizzing-bright sparkler appeared. “There it is!” She smiled a four-thousand megawatt grin. “Silly me!”

My mouth dropped open. Sleight-of-hand? Had to be, because there was no magic in this world.

“Now, are you ready?”

“For what?” My mind was fixated on that sparkler, trying to figure out how she’d made it appear. Up her sleeve, of course! That sleeve was big enough to hide a horse.

She sighed, clearly disappointed in me. “For me to fix your marriage.”

“Hmph. As in, wave your magic ‘wand’ there and all’s good?”

Her smile brightened another thousand megawatts, if that was possible. “Yes!”

I snorted. “I don’t think your wand is big enough.”

“You don’t believe, do you, dear?”

“In you being a fairy godmother, or in my marriage being fixable?”

“Either,” she said, all pouty-lips and puppy-dog eyes.

She’d get no sympathy from me. My armor was securely in place. “No, I don’t.”

“Let me prove it.” She waved her sparkler in a tight spiral and pointed it at the toaster. “Done!”

“Great. Thanks so much.” I smiled and nodded towards the door. “Now you can go. Tell Joanna thanks, and all’s well that toasts well.”

“Aren’t you going to try it?”

“What? The toaster?” She nodded. “Um, maybe later.” Through the doorway, I could see Sophie happily coloring away, oblivious to us. If she happened to see the old lady dressed as a fairy godmother, she’d want to keep her forever.

“Let me show you,” she said, waving her sparkler again. I swear, her feet floated several inches off the floor. The toaster popped up a perfectly-browned piece of toast.

My mouth fell open. Fairy Godmothers weren’t real. Wishes didn’t get granted. She couldn’t make Jason come back. Couldn’t put my life back together.

Could she?

“So, you’re saying you really are a fairy godmother, and you can make Jason come back?”

“Yes, dear!” Crazy-lady who might not be so crazy after all smiled brightly again.

Was it possible? A simple wave of the wand?

Wait. I’d wished for a husband who considered my feelings. An equal partner. Jason had always been selfish, always had that wandering eye. A magic wand–if there was such a thing—would have to change him into someone else. What good would that do? It wouldn’t be real—it’d be a dream.

“You know, twenty minutes ago, you’d have been a wish come true,” I said. “But, maybe I don’t need wishes after all.”

She blinked, her dazzling smile short-circuiting. “You’re saying no?”

I nodded. “I am. I should have said it a long time ago.”

“But—but, I can make it all better.”

I looked into the dining room at my little angel happily coloring away. Life wasn’t a fairy tale. Sophie and I would have our ups and downs, but we’d be okay. She needed a strong mommy, not one who took less than she deserved.

I steered the fairy godmother to the door. “Thanks for the offer, but Sophie and I will get along by ourselves just fine.”

I opened the door and shoved her through. “But hey, thanks for fixing the toaster.”

Pam Wallace lives and writes in Central California. Her stories have appeared in Shock Totem, Abyss & Apex, Journal of Unlikely Entomology, and Daily Science Fiction, among others.

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