It was Jacob. He burned the toast. Everything was going fine. Every toaster popped out bagels and waffles and wheat, white and pumpernickel slices of the perfect color and texture. Every toaster except for Jacob’s.
They all had read holiday books about Honorable Habits and Peace Through Acceptance and quietly placed the slog to work on the First Monday Back on a dais in a little stained-glass chapel in their minds. But here was Jacob: Burnt-toast Jacob. Jacob, the Wrecker.
Now, because of him, they all had to deal with just another weekday touchstone, another reminder of any other day in a life of day-to-day routine.
Now they see the “N” is backwards on the company name cutout of the construction trailer.
Now they see the tattered old woman with the shopping cart.
Now they see the discarded Christmas tree, tossed out complete with bulbs, lights and red tinsel.
Now they see the janitor disassembling the nativity.
Now they see the long walk to the train before them, where the familiar irregularities in the sidewalk gather large pools of water.
Now they see each other – dozens of their own kind. They look about and they shudder.
They never see Jacob. They know him that morning. They know what he did. But Jacob never appears.
Jacob nestles into his desk chair with a cup of coffee and two pieces of toast, four-fifths of which remain after excising the burnt portions. He brings up Outlook, enters a few To’s and a few more CC’s and writes, in the body: “Not feeling well this morning. Taking a sick day.”
He clicks Send. He takes a bite of his breakfast.
“Damn,” says Jacob. “Still tastes burnt.”