By the time Sally died, it was too late for Jack to become a better husband and too late to make amends. Car crashes come suddenly, without any warning, and can be as unforgiving as the wife of a cheating husband who feels no remorse. Jack was alone, five days after the accident, sitting in his kitchen eating breakfast and checking for the fourth time to make sure he’d turned the stove off. He had overcooked scrambled eggs and the toast he’d made looked more like burned charcoal than anything fit for human consumption, but he’d eaten most of it anyway, spitting out the darkest of the black, crumbling pieces into the sink (after chewing them until the taste was unbearable). Those buttery, black bits were now stuck to the greasy aluminum pots and pans that lined Jack’s sink and would be onerous to get off.
Jack regretted all of the fights and the times he and Sally hadn’t talked. The blame games. No need to do the hard work to improve their marriage, he had thought, because they’d be sleeping in the same bed when night came. Good sex was a great healer. But a car crash can be an even more powerful thing and in the midst of all of their fighting and cold-shouldering, Sally had learned about Jack’s affair and was heading over to the other woman’s house when she ignored the stop sign and drove right through it.
After breakfast, Jack rhythmically scrubbed his hands for a fourth time, each time using the same amount of soap, the rough side of a sponge, and washing each finger individually from pinky to thumb. He looked again to make sure the stove was turned off. “You can’t be too careful,” Jack mumbled to himself, and then said to no one he’d ever believed in, “heavenly father, forgive me for my sins.”
It was too late now for Jack (and for Sally) for all of the unspoken words still left in Jack’s throat, and he hadn’t even had time to apologize for the affair. Jack’s throat, tongue and mouth were bone dry. He planned to stop the affair going forward (if you can even call hookups after your wife has already passed away an affair) and remembered for the first time in years how his eyes had glazed over the first time he kissed Sally, like the eyes of a man in a trance. Jack was a helpless, love-sick puppy then, but he later became too familiar with Sally, too accustomed to her face, and when she died, she was like an unappreciated flower until the first hard snow fell.
Soon, the kids would be coming home for the funeral and they would need Jack to be strong. He frantically scrubbed his hands once again (using the same amount of soap and the same coarse sponge), rhythmically washing his fingers from pinky to thumb. Would the kids find out about his affair and would they ever forgive him for killing their mother? Jack feared he would be dead to them soon. While thinking about that and a lot more, Jack forcefully lost the contents of his stomach, by then a thick, dark liquid filled with what looked like coffee grounds. His vomit settled into the sink, slowly oozing around and into the greasy pots and pans, and mingled with the wet, buttery, black bits of burned toast. Jack stared at it all for a while. His kids would be coming home soon. Jack was thinking he never should have let Sally get into her car given the emotional state she was in. “Heavenly father, forgive me for my sins,” Jack said to the kitchen walls, while gathering up his soap and sponge to again wash his slowly bleeding hands.
Image by Dmitry Mitin from Pixabay
6 thoughts on “Burned Toast by Gil Hoy”
Glad to see this up today. Though brief, it is so well done and beautifully conveys a deeper meaning.
TY Leila, much appreciated!
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There is a bit of depth to this and there is a lot left with the reader.
Excellent use of the said enhancing the unsaid!!
Great to see you on the site today.
Maybe we have all experienced wishing for a do over. I know I have. A true portrayal of the human condition.
Beautifully observed writing. I think this is a great example of describing actions which convey emotion so well.
Also, and this is very indulgent of me (apologies), but I couldn’t help thinking of the first story of mine Literally Stories published for me – which also features sudden bereavement and cooking eggs.