by Bill Strickland

I don’t know what this story “means,” or why I wrote it, except that I am afraid of toasters, and the first line came to me whole and wouldn’t leave my head, beating like a drum, and I got interested in how I might be able to open a story with a mundane line then somehow infuse it with emotion. As soon as I finished this I knew exactly where I was going to send it: a tiny, tiny literary magazine called Onionhead. I don’t know, either, why I knew the editor would like it but he did, and published it in 1994.

Her hair is brown and long. Sometimes at night it gets caught between our bodies. My eyebrows are busy like a cartoon.

Sometimes she bites my shoulder not hard but soft. There are little teethmarks that go away.

Her hair breaks if she lays on it. She yells at it in the morning. I let the dog out and unplug the toaster because it might catch fire.

Once a lady stuck a fork in the toaster and killed a whole family. I told her and she leaned to watch the toast and burnt her hair. No electric ran into her head, so the fork story might be wrong.

Sometimes the dog barks and I let him in and sometimes it’s just time to let him in. One day he isn’t there.

“Mom,” I say. “Mom.”

Sometimes at night I get up to make sure the oven is off and on the way back I spin and spin until I can’t walk. If you spin and spin too much you fall down like if you stuck a fork in a toaster or went in the bathroom and saw your hair and fell in the corner and cried.

She meant hairs. “We don’t die from broken hearts,” she said when I asked about the crying. She smiled and her lips got thin. When she’s real close to my face her lip gets puffy and soft. Sometimes her inside mouth is thin and tight and sometimes it’s real big with no sides.

“Now the dog,” she says when I tell her. She shivers my back and puts me on the tub and bends down. Her hair is brown and long.