by Andrea Koohi

I’ve read it twice—there’s no mistake. The will says that the toaster has been left to both of us. Says it must not be sold and should remain in the family.

“She must have been joking,” Julie says.

“When did Mom ever joke?” I ask.

The toaster is easily 30 years old. It has a dirty, thinning cord, and chipped yellow paint with sticky brown stains. In the center of the lever is a thumb-sized indent from the thousands of times our mother pressed it.

I remember the toaster from when we were kids. It had only two slots, so breakfast for our family required three presses. First press for Dad, who ate two slices, second for us, and third for Mom. While we sat at the table licking warm peanut butter off our toast, she’d lean against the counter and wait for her slice as it browned alone. She’d smoke her cigarette and stare at the appliance as though she saw through it, as though its inner workings made her sad. No one ever asked her what she was thinking.

Years later, only two presses were needed for breakfast, since Dad had left. By then we’d stopped licking the peanut butter and instead took proper bites, small and slow, while we kept our gaze turned away from his seat. And soon after that, only one press was needed, since Mom had no appetite for toast anymore. She sat with us instead, stirring tea in her mug and staring at the waves as they teased the brim.

I get up from the table where the documents are spread, and pick up the toaster, already unplugged.

“Do you think she ever used it after we left?”

“Probably,” says Julie as I bring it to the table. “She was never one to keep things she didn’t have use for.”

I turn the toaster in my hands, and we spot it together: a pink sticky note taped to the bottom.

If you’re seeing this, I’m toast, says a handwritten note.  

I throw my hand to my mouth, and we shift in our seats. We can’t decide if it’s okay to laugh—if she had wanted us to laugh. We’ve never known what she wanted at all. We stare at the toaster and wait to be told.