Professor Panini

Before my many years' service in a restaurant, I attended a top science university. The year was 2023 and I was finishing the project that would win me my professorship. In the end, it resulted in my becoming a kitchen employee.
     My forty-second birthday had made a lonely visit the week before, and I was once again by myself in the flat. Like countless other mornings, I ordered a bagel from the toaster. 'Yes, sir!' it replied with robotic relish, and I began the day's work on the project. It was a magnificent machine, the thing I was making - capable of transferring the minds of any two beings into each other's bodies.
     As the toaster began serving my bagel on to a plate, I realised the project was in fact ready for testing. I retrieved the duck and the cat - which I had bought for this purpose ñ from their containers, and set about calibrating the machine in their direction. Once ready, I leant against the table, holding the bagel I was too excited to eat, and initiated the transfer sequence. As expected, the machine whirred and hummed into action, my nerves tingling at its synthetic sounds.
     The machine hushed, extraction and injection nozzles poised, scrutinizing its targets. The cat, though, was suddenly gripped by terrible alarm. The brute leapt into the air, flinging itself onto the machine. I watched in horror as the nozzles swung towards me; and, with a terrible, psychedelic whirl of colours, felt my mind wrenched from its sockets.
     When I awoke, moments later, I noticed first that I was two feet shorter. Then, I realised the lack of my limbs, and finally it occurred to me that I was a toaster. I saw immediately the solution to the situation - the machine could easily reverse the transfer - but was then struck by my utter inability to carry this out.
     After some consideration, using what I supposed must be the toaster's onboard computer, I devised a strategy for rescue. I began to familiarise myself with my new body: the grill, the bread bin, the speaker and the spring mechanism. Through the device's rudimentary eye - with which it served its creations - I could see the internal telephone on the wall. Aiming carefully, I began propelling slices of bread at it. The toaster was fed by a large stock of the stuff, yet as more and more bounced lamely off the phone, I began to fear its exhaustion.
< 2 >


*

Toasting the bread before launch proved a wiser tactic. A slice of crusty wholemeal knocked the receiver off its cradle, and the immovable voice of the reception clerk answered. Resisting the urge to exclaim my unlikely predicament, I called from the table: 'I'm having a bit of trouble up here, Room 91. Could you lend a hand?'
'Certainly, sir. There's a burst water pipe on the floor above, I suppose I'll kill two birds with one stone and sort you out on the way,'
     The clerk arrived promptly, leaving his 'caution, wet floor' sign in the corridor. He came in, surveying the room in his usual dry, disapproving fashion. I spoke immediately, saying I was on the intercom, and requested that he simply press the large button on the machine before him. 'This one, sir?' he asked, and before I could correct him, the room was filled with a terrible, whirling light, and he fell to the ground.
     A minute later he stood up again, uncertainly, and began moving in a manner that can only be described as a waddle. The duck, meanwhile, was scrutinising the flat with an air of wearied distaste. I gazed at the scene with dismay. Suddenly an idea struck the clerk, and with avian glee he tottered towards the window. I spluttered a horrified warning to no avail. He leapt triumphantly from the balcony, spread his 'wings' and disappeared. I would have wept, but managed only to eject a few crumbs. *

Hours of melancholy calculation and terrible guilt gave no progress, and left me with a woeful regret for the day's events. Determined not to give up hope, I began to burn clumsy messages into slices of bread, and slung these desperate distress calls through the window. I sought not only my own salvation, but also to account for the bizarre demise of the clerk, who must no doubt have been discovered on the street below. I soon found my bread bin to be empty, and sank again into a morose meditation.
A large movement shocked me from my morbid contemplation. Before me, having clambered up from the floor, stood my own body. It regarded me with dim cheer.
< 3 >

     'I have been upgraded,' it announced in monotone. The room was silent as I struggled to cope with this information. Then:
     'Would you like some toast?'
     The truth dawned on me, and I wasted no time in seeing the utility of this revelation. I informed the toaster, which was now in control of my body, that I wished it to fetch help. It regarded me warily, then asked if I would like that buttered. Maintaining patience, I explained the instruction more thoroughly. I watched with surreal anticipation as my body of forty-two years jerked its way out of the flat. It rounded the corner, and there was a hope-dashing crash. It had tripped up on the 'caution: wet floor' sign. To my joyous relief, however, I heard the thing continue on its way down the corridor.
     Minutes passed, then hours. I entertained myself flicking wheat-based projectiles at the cat. On the dawn of the third day, I concluded that the toaster had failed in its piloting of my body, and that help was not on its way. Gripped by the despair of one who must solve the puzzle of toaster suicide, I resigned myself to my fate.
     Pushed on by a grim fervour, I began igniting the entire stock of bread. As the smoke poured from my casing, and the first hints of deadly flame flickered in my mechanisms, I began the solemn disclosure of my own eulogy.
     Suddenly the fire alarm leapt into action, hurling thick jets of water across the flat, desperate to save its occupants. A piercing wail erupted from all sides, and a squabbling mixture of annoyance, relief and curiosity filtered into my mind. *

Once the firemen had visited and deactivated the alarm, I was identified as the fault, unplugged and hauled away to a repair shop. The staff there, finding nothing to remove but a faulty speech chip, apparently put me up for sale. I only know this because, on being reconnected to the mains, I found myself in a shiny, spacious kitchen. Missing my electronic voice, I could only listen to the conversation of the staff, discussing the odd conduct of their new cook. The end of their hurried discussion heralded his arrival. I gazed at the door in silent surrender, as my body stepped proudly on to the premises, displaying its newly designed menu. At the top of the list I could discern 'Buttered bagel'.


 

This story is from eastofthewebs.com/shortstories

 
 

She

She sits in a rustic A-frame cabin, looking out a set of double glass doors. It's a humid summer day. She's not fashionably dressed: a grey, short-sleeve expedition shirt with two front pockets — in one a mechanical pencil; a scratchy, drab-colored set of insect-shield convertible pants torn in a few places by bramble. Her forearms, scented with the remnant odor of lemon eucalyptus oil insect repellant, are well-muscled enough to show she can push her way through overgrown trails; her rough bare feet are masculine enough to prove she's walked on tough terrain.
     Her eyes follow a sloping meadow: beyond, the flat plain of salt marsh divided by a meandering estuary; further, a white swath of granite outcroppings; beyond this, the marsh rising again into upland forest. The only sounds she hears are the hum of an old refrigerator, the chirping of crickets, the moan of a foghorn from a hump of an island just off the coast.
     For the past three weeks she has been counting birds, making entries into a laptop computer log: 1 Medium-tailed Guternatch; 2 Truncated Pipsqueaks; 1 Roasted Titmouse; 1 Nappy-headed Hoot Owl; 4 Sharp-shinned Slinkers (females only); 1 Albino Albatross; 1 Picbald Porcupine Flicktippery; 1 Jack-booted Thugwhomple; 2 Slack-jawed Yokels.
     She likes being alone; better than working in an urban high rise. It's a lovely day, and she can't think of any better place to be — more or less.
     "Drab-colored?" she says abruptly, apparently to no one. "You call 'chocolate heather' drab-colored?"
     That's what it is – drab-colored. I can decide. Does that justify her interruption of a carefully planned scene?
     "Well, I don't like what you've done. Are you seriously going to leave me alone in a wilderness bird sanctuary? For how long?"
     Not much longer.
     "Oh, really."
     She's going to meet someone new.
     "But you said I like being alone."
     She does and she doesn't.
     "Just who or what in this desolate place is going to be aroused by my masculine-looking toes? A black bear?"
     It's not desolate. It's paradisiacal. I like her feet.
     "Oh, come on. What, exactly, am I supposed to be?"
     She's an ornithologist.
     "Oh, brother. Just what is at stake here?"
     She's very smart; she has a Ph.D. in biology from Cornell University. Her thesis was on the female reproductive anatomy of the wild turkey.
< 2 >

     "And you call yourself a writer."
     I think she's attractive.
     "Sure; if you're into cloacae."
     Trust me.
     "Do I get a name, or are you going to call me 'she' for the rest of the story?"
     I haven't quite decided. I was thinking 'Midge,' or something, I don't know; I'll work it out later.
     "You've got to be kidding. Did I ask to be insecticide-reeking, muscle-bound, big-footed Midge-the-Ornithologist in a mediocre piece of fiction by a second- or third-rate fictionalist?"
     See? She shows signs of being an intelligent woman.
     "Stop calling me ‘she,' and, no, I did not ask for that. Being nothing is better than what you've planned for me."
     She's going to fall in love.
     "In the middle of nowhere? Brilliant."
     She's going to meet some guy in the woods.
     "What, like you?"
     I can't just stop the story. I've created her, and I'm going to do something with her.
     "Well, then, change the scene. Manhattan, how about it, and pronto?"
     Manhattan's loud and smelly. Here there'll be this guy and the birds — -
     "As if I haven't had enough. Make me into a sexy New York literary agent."
     I don't want her to be a sexy literary agent. I want her to be an ornithologist.
     "Afraid I'd reject both you and your book?"
     Listen; the scene is a remote bird sanctuary. She's an ornithologist whose job is to count birds. She's going to fall in love with some guy she meets by chance in the forest. Want me to change the feet? Give her small, delicate feet – like a ballet dancer? Dress her in ballet-style shoes that lace up around her slender ankles while she looks out the glass doors counting birds?
     "And I could be unbuttoning the top three buttons of my 'expedition shirt' — like this, see? — because it's so hot, and right now I'm bending down to unlace my ballet shoes — -"
     If I want to undress her, I will.
     "Creep."
     But that's not what I have in mind. She's an intellectual. This is a subtle story.
     "Well, watch me, Mr. Subtle, while I unsnap the fly-button of my 'drab-colored insect-shield pants,' unzip half-way down because it's so sticky today, lean my hip on the unfinished pine kitchen table. Take a closer look: you've given me a small and very artful tattoo one inch above my shaved, lemon-eucalyptus-oil smudged — -"
< 3 >

     I've done no such thing.
     "Then maybe I don't want to be in this story."
     She doesn't have a choice.
     "You think so?"
     She can't just walk out.
     "Watch me. Out this glass door. And quit calling me she."
     It's a point of view thing. Some novelist won the Nobel Prize in Literature using the third-person singular human/animate female personal pronoun alone.
     "Watch me."
     It's going to rain – really hard. With lightning and thunder. And the bears.
     "Your cheap fragmentary sentences don't frighten me."
     Coyotes, feral cats, rabid foxes, bull moose. I'm not kidding — you have to be careful. I'd worry.
     "I don't care what you try to do to me."
     Oh, really? She doesn't care? Well, then, fine; let's see how far she gets, sliding open the left door of the double glass doors, slamming it shut behind her, walking barefoot (oh, lovely feet) out into the lush, green meadow, the sky clouding up, the heavy air foreshadowing a storm, she, walking down the long slope toward the salt estuary, a dragonfly floating past her, vibrating, trembling its tiny wings, gliding on the dead-still air, she, becoming smaller and smaller as the distance increases, disappearing behind a dip in the meadow above the marsh grass, forever gone.
     Oh, the crickets chirping melancholically, the refrigerator's mechanical buzzing making the rustic old A-frame suddenly seem unbearably, intolerably silent, the historic lighthouse bemoaning 156 years of reclusion. She's on her way to Manhattan.


 

This is from Eastoftheweb.com/shortstories.

 

    Author

    My name is obviously not Legally-Addicted. But my real name is.... Not Gonna say. So keep dreaming. I am a almost 13 year old (B-Day in August!!) I love making and maintaning these blogs and my whole webbie site. Make sure you check back often for new updates!!

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