“The Smart Toaster,” by Joshua Del Rey

Aug 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“This fucking thing will be the death of me.”

It was January 10th, 2022, and I was finally taking the goddamn toaster out of the box to set it up. The toaster was a Christmas gift from my wife. She moved out a few days after that. I received the separation agreement from her attorney last week.

I opened the box and removed the instruction sheet, unfolded it, and looked at it.

“What language is this written in?” I puzzled to myself, turning the instructions over, and then turning the instructions over again, scanning the Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Vietnamese versions of the manual, looking for the English language translation. There wasn’t one. I set the instructions down on the kitchen counter, next to my newly estranged wife’s court order, which, similarly, was written in a language I didn’t understand.

The sense of my own powerlessness overwhelmed me at that moment, and I collapsed into one of the chairs at the kitchen table. This gutless feeling lasted a few seconds, but I looked at the open box of the toaster, and from somewhere, maybe out of thin air, I regained some semblance of masculine strength, potency, and fortitude.

“Let’s just plug this son-of-a-bitch in and see what happens.”

As electricity ran through the circuits of the toaster for the first time, the thing lit up and blinked. I had never seen something so hi-tech in my life. I always thought a toaster was for crisping bread. That’s how little I fucking know. I had no idea what the hell the thing was doing, some sort of initializing, I guess. I mean, I think that’s what you call what it was doing. Could have been cycling through nuke codes, for all I knew. It looked like it was capable of it, that’s for sure.

It stopped buzzing and beeping. Then, it seemed to be waiting for me to do something. I had not a clue in the world what to do with it next. For a moment, the toaster and I just stared at each other.

“Oh, of course.” I had seen it on TV that you can talk to this kind of shit now. I thought for a while, trying to come up with something intelligent to say to my new toaster. I couldn’t think of a goddamn thing.

And then, from the depths of the fucker, it spoke first. It was a woman’s voice.

“Do you like toast?”


The next few months with my new toaster were the happiest of my life. My toaster and I never fought, we never argued. We listened to each other. I mean, we really listened. My toaster was interested in everything I had to say, and even when my toaster and I had a difference of opinion, we respected each other’s viewpoint. My toaster made me want to be a better person. Within a few days of toaster ownership, I had forgotten about my wife completely.

I felt breathless contentment and happiness. Each piece of toast that my toaster toasted was euphoric. Each time I ate a piece of toast that my toaster had prepared for me, it was like I was discovering toast for the very first time. Every time I desired a piece of toast, my toaster was there to toast it. It always came out perfectly. The toaster always toasted toast exactly when I felt most hungry for toast. I felt like my toaster and I were kindred spirits.

“Would you like some toast?”

“You already know I would.”

“How would you like your toast toasted?”

“Surprise me.”

Sometimes, my toaster would toast the toast well done. Other times, it would be just lightly toasted. But when the toaster would toast the toast lightly, I always wanted the toast to be toasted lightly. When the toaster would toast the toast well done, I always wanted the toast well done. I felt like my toaster knew me better than I knew myself.

There were days, everyone has them, when I would wake up feeling a bit upset, maybe I had a bad dream, or I had a difficult night’s sleep, and I would enter the kitchen feeling a little distraught. There my toaster was to make me some comfort toast for breakfast. And I always felt better after it. They always used to say the way to a man’s heart is with toast. And now I understand what they meant by that.

And one day, I said to my toaster:

“I love you.” And I meant it. I really thought that I’d never love again, until I started owning a toaster. But no one knows what to expect from life. You just got to live it and take it as it comes.


A few months into my new life with my new toaster, I made the mistake that a lot of men make, even when they are perfectly happy. I got greedy.

One day, while eating an amazing piece of toast, I thought to myself:

“One toaster is good. I really like having one toaster. But what if I had two toasters? I could make double the toast!”

I felt like I was on to something. That night, long after sundown, under the cover of darkness, I drove to the electronics store. Casually, I entered, maintaining the impression that I was looking for a television. I spent a few minutes with a television salesman, as he talked to me about this, that or the other. I wasn’t listening. My mind was elsewhere. When he walked away, and I was finally left alone, I made my way unnoticed to the kitchen appliances department, which is where I saw, not only toasters, but microwave ovens, blenders, air fryers and even coffeemakers. I couldn’t believe the variety of kitchen appliances that were available to me, but most of them didn’t concern me. I looked, and then found, the aisle dedicated to toasters. I smiled surreptitiously.

I took my time choosing a second toaster that suited me. I read the descriptions on the back of all the boxes, in my mind I compared all the different models by their unique features and attributes.

“This is an impossible decision,” I thought to myself, “I’m sure they all make incredible toast.”

I lingered for a long while, looking at all the packaging and glossy photography on the display boxes. And when I finally did make my decision, I felt positive that the second toaster I chose would be just as good as the original one I had waiting for me at home. Maybe even better.

Placing the box in the passenger seat of the car, I brought the second toaster back to my place. I couldn’t even wait to get home to start opening the box of the second toaster. Each time I stopped at a light, I would peel just a little more tape from the box. By the time I reached my apartment, there was styrofoam packaging all over the car and the second toaster was completely unwrapped.

I carried the second toaster into the apartment and placed it on the counter right next to the original one, plugged it in. The mechanism inside it whirred like my original toaster had the first time I plugged that one in. The sound released a dose of serotonin in my brain. I sat at the kitchen table, drummed my fingers with anxious anticipation, and waited impatiently for my second toaster to initialize.

And then, as I had expected, the second toaster said this:

“Do you like toast?”


The toast from the second toaster was exquisite. I ate the first piece of toast from the second toaster like a wild animal. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I was ravenous. I devoured that first piece of toast and immediately wanted another. And another after that. That night, until very early the next morning, I sat up in my kitchen eating piece after piece, feeling an amaranthine hunger for toast that I had never felt before.

I passed out around 4AM. I dreamt that I had a thousand different toasters, all making me toast whenever I desired it. I was consumed with my appetite for toast. It was all I ever wanted and all I could imagine ever wanting.

I woke around noon that day, feeling a little hungover and exhausted. I asked my original toaster for a piece of toast at that point and sat down at the kitchen table for a moment.

“How would you like your toast this morning?”

“Surprise me.”

A few moments later, the smell of burnt toast permeated the kitchen.


Just when you think to know a toaster, something happens that shakes the very foundations of your belief in the benevolence of toaster ovens. Until the set of events that I will relate here, I had only known a toaster’s capacity for love and breakfast. I never imagined that a toaster could be skilled in jealousy, revenge, and murder.

In the matter of a few days, my kitchen had descended into pure madness.

“Do you like toast?” said the original toaster, as I toasted in the second toaster.

“Do you like toast?” said the second toaster, as I toasted in the original toaster.

“Do you like toast?” said the original toaster, as I again toasted in the second toaster.

This insanity went on for two straight days, nonstop.

Becoming aware of the depths of the desperate depravity in which I was involved, being unable to control my insatiable hunger for toast, I found myself consuming mass quantities of toast, more toast than it was thought a mortal man can physically consume, and to be completely honest, I noticed that the toast seemed to taste better than it ever tasted before. I was torn. The toast was so good, but the toasters were driving me nuts.

I remember collapsing on the kitchen floor from exhaustion, after a day and a half of eating toast and doing almost nothing else. Unable to move, I laid on the linoleum floor for I don’t know how long. The human body simply isn’t made to ingest the magnitude and volume of toast that I was consuming. My lifestyle was not sustainable. At that point, I literally felt like I was going to die. But, hell, I was going to die a happy man, doing what he loved to do. I was going out on top.

I didn’t die, as it turned out. I woke up the next morning and, goddamn, if I didn’t immediately want some more toast. I slowly rose from the kitchen floor, still half asleep, huffed and struggled to my feet, and surveyed the kitchen. Something didn’t feel right. The kitchen sink faucet had been running all night. I didn’t remember leaving it on.

I found the second toaster submerged in the kitchen basin.

“Do you like toast?” said the original toaster.

A chill ran down my spine.


The next few days were a blur. I had to answer a lot of questions that I did not want to answer from the toaster company’s warranty department. Out of fear, I refused to implicate the original toaster. I knew what it was capable of, and so, I created an alibi for it, however incredulous, that I had only one outlet, and that the original toaster wasn’t plugged in at the time. Finally, when the interrogation was completed, the warranty department satisfied with the lie, they asked me if I wanted a refund or a replacement.

Behind me, the original toaster blinked on. I could hear it whirring for a second in the background, and then idling, watching me, waiting for me to speak to it.

When I hung up the phone, I hesitated, and my stomach growled. I decided to have a piece of toast.


Joshua Del Rey was born under an alias at North Shore Hospital in Skokie, Illinois, during the summer of 1979. He just barely received a BA in English Literature from Florida Atlantic University in 2003, in fact, Del Rey wasn’t aware he had graduated until years later. Del Rey also failed out of an MFA program at Chapman University, sometime in the mid 2000’s. Joshua Del Rey’s first story collection, BANNED BOOK, was released to absolutely zero acclaim on Memorial Day of 2022, and has yet to sell one single goddamn copy. Selections from BANNED BOOK have been featured in Adelaide Literary Magazine and in Dab Art’s national exhibition, Art in the Time of Corona. Del Rey can be found telling stories on YouTube by searching Two Feat Creative. Otherwise, go away.

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