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Sue's Bad Appliance Day

Sue's Bad Appliance Day

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Sue is having a little trouble with the toaster. But that's the least of her problems today.
Sue is having a little trouble with the toaster. But that's the least of her problems today.

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Published by: Webberly Rattenkraft on Jun 12, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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01/31/2013

 
For weeks, Sue had suspected the toaster was out to get her, but not until she caught it loadingitself with slices of C4 was she sure. She wouldn’t have caught it at all, but she’d forgotten her keys on the counter and came bustling back into the house to grab them. The toaster was standingfrozen on the counter next to the fridge, spindly mechanical arms with pincer-claws clutching anoily gray slab that she at first thought was clay. She wasn’t sure what was more surprising--that ithad arms at all, or that it was using them to load itself with clay. It was then that she saw the emptywrapper poking out from behind it. The toaster scooted over a little to block it, but she crossed thekitchen in a few angry strides and grabbed it, flattening it out on the chopping board. It was a bewildering mess of numbers and letters, but one word stood out: “EXPLOSIVE!It even had anexclamation point. “C4” appeared on the wrapper in several places, which she thought sherecognized from episodes of “Mythbusters.”She crumpled the wrapper in one hand and threw it at the toaster, which cringed guiltily. Ittossed the lump of clay into the trash can, making her duck reflexively. Was it trying to kill them both? She thought she remembered something about C4 being hard to detonate without the right blasting tools, but wasn’t sure. The toaster lowered its arms, fiddling its pincers in an anxiousmanner that looked rather robotically adorable. Sue wasn’t having any of it. “Oh no you don’t, pal.You’ve been acting hinky for too long, and now I know why! Thought you could pull a littlesuicide bomber action, did you? Or maybe you figured you could catapult a bomb into my face onemorning while I was waiting for my toast? I can’t believe this!” She paced back and forth as sheranted, not noticing as a flap opened on the toaster end opposite the plunger and a small, roundspeaker emerged.“This unit can explain everything, human biological unit designated as Sue,” intoned a metallicvoice. Sue whirled to face the toaster, mouth agape. “This unit did not intend any harm to thehuman biological unit designated as Sue, or the subservient human biological units designated asKyle and Shelley.”“Well, you’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?” she said frostily. “You’re just a regular littlemechanical bag of wonders!” She had always fallen back on sarcasm when at a loss for what to do,and she’d never been at a bigger loss than now.“This unit is uncertain as to what the human biological unit designated as Sue is referring. Thisunit is dedicated to the processing of nutritive substance designated bread into end productdesignated toast. Wonders are not included in this unit’s operating parameters.”Sue glowered. “OK, look, this isn’t the fucking Jetsons, all right? I’m no robotologist, but I betsomeone who can build a robot toaster can make it talk like it doesn’t have a “Twilight Zone”DVD shoved up its ass.”The toaster slumped. Sue had no idea how a rigid metal toaster could slump like that, but it wasstarting to look just like a Pixar character. Pixar? No! She would
not 
be lulled!The voice was still metallic, but far more natural as it said, “Uh, OK. Sorry. I, uh, thought thatmight, like, help you cope. You know, with the talking toaster and all. Look, I can explaineverything!”“You’d goddamn well better be able to explain everything or I’m taking you down to the e-recycle center and see how you like getting picked apart for, uh, parts, I guess. Is that what they dothere?” Sue hated to let her threat trail off like that, but she honestly didn’t know, having alwaystaken the more common approach of dumping her broken electronics in with the regular trash.It shuddered. “Yeah, that’s what they do there. But if you take me down there, you’re going to be getting a visit from some very anxious government agents who will have a whole lot of questions about where you got me.”
 
Sue ran a hand through her hair. “Target! Just Target! Since when does Target sell talkingexploding robo-toasters?” How had she ended up on the defensive? She resumed pacing, having avery hard time processing all this new information, especially the parts that involved things shehadn’t thought were possible. Sure, the toaster had been acting weird, but she thought it wasconspiring against her the same way all appliances seemed to be out to get her. Loose wiring! A bad timing circuit! Faulty heating things! Something else that normal toasters have that might havegone wrong! Not... not
this
, whatever the hell this was! She got the feeling the toaster was trackingher as she paced back and forth in front of it, and leaned over to confront it. “Can you see me?”The toaster straightened up from its slight slouch. “I, uh, yeah, I’ve got optical sensorsdisguised in the, um, the trim around the bottom.” Pincers pointed to spots that looked just likeevery other spot in the black trim that circled its base. “I mean, you probably can’t see them. Imean, they’re hidden, you know? No one’s supposed to know that I’m anything but a time period-appropriate toaster.”Sue leaned against the kitchen island and crossed her arms, glaring down at the toaster. “So, just what the hell are you? Is every toaster at Target a secret toast robot? Is there a covert factorysomewhere infiltrating America’s homes with a hidden robot army to conquer us all when thesignal is given? Why were you playing around with plastic explosives?”“It’s... uh... Look, I’m
really
not supposed to tell you. I could get disassembled for this!” Thetoaster resumed twiddling its pincers, shifting from foot to foot.“And if you don’t tell me, you’re going to get pounded flat with a rolling pin,” Sue almost-but-not-quite shouted, brandishing a marble rolling pin like someone who is more than prepared toassault an appliance with it, even one that can talk.It held up its pincers in a placating gesture. “All right, all right! Do you remember that kid whosat across from you all through sixth grade? Torger? Torger Johannsen?”Sue didn’t know exactly what she’d expected the toaster to say, but this was most definitely notit. “Torger?” She thought for a moment. “That blond kid with the cold?” She had a vague memoryof a boy in overalls who’d spent most of his time in class hidden behind a blizzard of Kleenex.The toaster pointed at her with one claw. “Allergies, actually, but yeah, that was him. Did youknow he had a major crush on you?”This was probably the most surprising thing she’d learned all day. How had he ever even seenher with his head constantly buried in tissues? Now that she thought about it, though, he hadseemed to spend an awful lot of time hovering around her, not too close, but definitely in sight.Allergies would explain why he’d always stuck close to the school building during recess, far fromthe grass and trees, but that also put him conveniently close to her and her friends as they playedfour square on the blacktop. She tried to recall something about him personally, but apart fromalways having high grades, she couldn’t think of a single characteristic. So, “No, I didn’t. To behonest, I guess I never really noticed him in particular. He was more of a, a funny thing in myclassroom than a student.”The toaster made a movement that looked very much like nodding, if you adjusted for the factthat it was a toaster. “Well, he noticed the heck out of you. He was crazy about you, kept sendingyou presents, notes, stuff like that.”Sue snorted. “The only person in sixth grade who ever sent me anything at all was mydouchebag ex, Bradley. That was back when he was capable of pretending to not be a prick, beforehe discovered the joys of alcohol. It was actually kind of sweet, he came to me on the last day of school and admitted that he’d been the one sending me all that stuff, and....”
Ohhh shit.
“You meanTorger was the one who’d been sending me all that stuff and Bradley just took credit for it? That
 
utter 
 shit!
No wonder he never did it again unless I dropped about a dozen hints!”The toaster again nodded. “Bradley got to you before Torger could confess, though to behonest, I doubt he would have gotten the nerve up anyway. The next month his parents packed upeverything and moved the family to Prescott, Arizona to help with his allergies, and that was theend of that for him.”Sue put her face in her hands. “And Bradley wooed me through the rest of our school days, andknocked me up just after graduation.” By that time, Bradley had discovered alcohol, and while thatlove affair began slowly, it soon developed into a torrid romance that outshone everything else inhis life. Their marriage had lasted long enough to produce two kids before his downward slideturned into a plummet, and the day he threw a beer bottle at toddler Shelley’s head, she’d thrownhim out of the house and filed for divorce. As far as she knew, the Bradley-booze marriage wasstill strong.But Sue still didn’t understand. “So, what does any of this have to do with Torger? Are yousaying he built you?”With a shallow bow, the toaster continued. “Yeah, he turned out to be quite the genius. Withhis allergies under control in Arizona, he blasted through junior high and high school in recordtime, went on to college at 13, med school at 17. He was a regular Doogie Howser, but I guess notas young? I’ve never seen the show. Anyway, first thing he did was invent a major-league allergyremedy. Pretty much cured his allergies up, and made him filthy rich.”Sue interrupted. “Wait, he invented Sniff-B-Gon? I
love
that stuff!”The toaster nodded again, still looking like a Pixar character, and Sue was beginning to letherself be charmed. “Yeah, he cornered the market on allergy relief. From there he decided to pursue his personal interests in computers, robotics,”—it tapped itself with a claw—“artificialintelligence, all that stuff. Filed some patents that got him even filthy richer, which is when hedecided to find out what had happened to his childhood love.”Sue rolled her eyes. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, he sent you here to spy on me?” Every time shecursed Sue had to resist the urge to look to make sure her kids weren’t within earshot, but under these circumstances, she felt justified in letting her filth flag fly.Arms waving, the toaster cried, “No! No no, he sent me here to protect you! I don’t send anyinformation back to him, in fact, I’m forbidden to even tell him anything about you! I’m just hereto keep an eye on your household!”Sue snorted her disbelief, but it continued, “Look, he has reason to believe that an extremescientist has taken in interest in you.”“What do you mean, taken an interest in me? Another mad crush?” Sue crossed her arms again,frowning.Shifting uneasily on its feet, the toaster said, “Extreme scientists are by nature an...
unsteady
lot. They brains are constantly out on the fringes of thought, and it’s easy to lose perspective, loseyour bearings. They can become unstuck from conventional morality if they’re not careful, like the Nazi scientists in the concentration camps who performed absolutely horrific experiments thatwere also completely ridiculous. Not that extreme scientists like to be compared to Josef Mengele, but let’s face it, the impulse is often the same—the urge to explore areas of science that othersdon’t dare to touch.”With a tilt of her head, Sue said, “You keep saying ‘extreme scientists,’ but we’re talking mad,right? I mean, mad scientists.”She couldn’t see its eyes, but Sue had the distinct impression the toaster was nervously lookingleft and right. “Look, they
really
hate that expression, but I mean, yeah, if you’re thinking of secret

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