The Two-slice Toaster Move

🕔Sep 23, 2009

Mom’s pink cowboy boots clattered across the café to the booth where I was resting my head on the tabletop and luring an ant out from behind the napkin holder with crumbs of my apple pie. She wiggled around on the ripped vinyl seat and unfolded a map of Alberta and BC.

The man at the next booth stopped picking his teeth with his matchbook and put down his Western Producer just to stare at her. She had me blow on her cupped hands for luck. She said that’s what they did in Vegas. The sugar cube rolled across the map and came to rest over a town called Smithers in northern BC. I told her the province of BC looked like a shoeprint left in dog poo at the city park, but she chose to wave her arms in the air and jangle her bracelets to Billy Joel singing on the café radio.

Men turned to watch her and women squinted at her like they were looking across the fields for a chicken-eating coyote. On our way out I stole the waitress’s tip off a messy table and pushed the coins deep in my pocket among the sugar packets and little plastic containers of jam. I wished I had stolen some of the peanut butter but I didn’t know that we were going to move that afternoon.

Mom drove around Calgary, yelling goodbye to places and strangers. I yelled too. Goodbye garbage can, goodbye girl on her way to school, goodbye lonely man walking tiny dog, goodbye high-rise, goodbye city bus stop, goodbye overpass, goodbye home.

All the stuff from our one-bedroom was piled neatly on the big back seat of our station wagon. The clothes from our closet were still on their wire hangers, all tied together with my Ghost Busters pyjama pants. This time she even remembered the light bulbs and the toilet paper holder. In the very back of the car were three pillowcases stuffed with my books and toys, boxes of stuff from our kitchen cupboards, and the new silver two-slice toaster. My drawings, coloured pencils and Archie comics were packed in a milk crate by my feet.

I found her Expo 86 lighter wedged in the seat and she said it was a sign from our guardian angels: we were meant to move to BC. We stopped in Jasper, counted coins from her purple Crown Royal bag and bought gas, cigarettes, a box of milk, a bag of chips and some licorice pipes. I climbed over our stuff to retrieve the silver toaster.

I held that toaster on my lap until dark and made faces into it, watching the way my face grew and shrank, and wondered what would happen next. I remember every move in a different way. That move, from Calgary to Smithers, was our two-slice toaster move.

“The Two-Slice Toaster Move” won 3rd place in the 5th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest and was first published in Geist 73. To read more Geist postcard stories, visit