VIOLA - Years ago in Copper Harbor, Michigan, Dane and I discovered the tiniest cabin, hidden behind a worn-out house with a front yard full of junk. The one-room cabin consisted of a bed and a kitchen area. There was a closet-sized bathroom with a stand-up coffin shower and a sit-down-cautiously toilet. The best part was a screened-in porch facing the lake. Or maybe the best part was that the cabin was clean!
We liked it so much, we started returning every year. When we’d arrive at the cabin, we’d rearrange the furniture before unpacking. We’d drag the two-person wooden table and chairs into the screen porch. I’d then divide the porch rail into two sections: his and hers. Dane and I are both rock collectors, and the rail that ran around the inside of the porch was perfect for displaying our vacation finds. Dividing it prevented later arguments regarding which rock was whose.
Our days spent in Copper Harbor rarely varied. Mornings, I’d lie in bed and read while Dane fixed breakfast. The first morning of our first visit, the smell of burnt toast started penetrating my tranquility. Dane swore and said, “I can’t even turn my back on that toaster for a second.” I glanced up to see him pinching at the toast in the toaster, shaking his fingers and blowing on them, and trying again to snatch the pitch-black slices out. He tossed them on the counter like they were on fire, still shaking his head and saying, “That damn toaster!”
Regardless of how breakfast turned out, the day would continue with a short bike ride into town where we stopped at Jamsen's Fish Market & Bakery for Dane to enjoy a good cup of coffee and to share a thimbleberry baked good. We’d sit at the picnic table, located even closer to the lake than our cabin was, and soak in the view.
Later, we’d ride our bikes back to the cabin, hop in the car, and drive to one of the many hiking trails for a long walk, followed by rock collecting on one of the many beaches. Back at the cabin, we’d unload our finds and marvel over each other’s rocks. Dane would warn me not to mess with his designated area of the porch railing.
The same toast-burning episode played out every morning, as reliably as the sun rising: Dane swearing thathecan’t even turn his back on the toaster for a second, the smell of burnt toast permeating the tiny cabin, and me lying in bed, with my eyes rolled up somewhere in my hairline, thinking, How hard could it be?
One morning, before Dane woke, I wrote a note and attached it to the toaster: Don’t even think of turning your back on me.It didn’t help.
The toaster became our nemesis—and not just at the Copper Harbor cabin. Occasionally, when Dane spends the night at my house, he’ll make us breakfast. Breakfast for Dane always involves toast. Making toast still often involves Dane waving his scorched fingers over blackened toast strewn hastily onto the countertop.
I didn’t get it. How can making toast be that hard? I’d asked this question countless times and still hadn't received a satisfactory answer. Dane blamed the toaster. When I pointed out that it was every single toaster he’d ever used, he merely looked at the current toaster and shook his head, mystified.
I’m not a huge bread eater, but when Dane makes breakfast, I indulge. When Dane isn’t around and I’m having eggs for dinner, I also occasionally indulge.
Recently, I did just that. I put bread in the toaster, started my eggs, and—whoa, what was that smell? Burnt toast. The dial on the toaster was turned all the way to dark! When I called Dane and told him I’d discovered why he’s burned every piece of toast he’s ever toasted, he replied, “I like it burnt.”
“Whaaat?” I practically screeched into the phone as I felt my hair turning gray and falling out.
“I like it burnt—just not reallyburnt.”And therein lies the challenge and the answer.