M. Thompson

Illustration of a Stove

The stove is off. I know the stove is off because burner one is off klik, burner two is off klik, burner three is off klik, burner four is off klik. And so the stove is off. So I can rest easy. Today, there’s no need to worry. When, just yesterday, I passed by an appliance store, I peeked into the window. On display were three large stoves made of glossy black and white metal, arranged in a row with oven doors opened. Dummy cookware sat uncovered along the top burners and accompanying each appliance were tall white mannequins, with curled-up wigs and long, narrow necks, white paper skin and the backs of their dresses crisscrossed by tightly drawn apron straps. Three plastic women multiplied by four stove burners divided by three oven doors minus one. They faced away from the window, each bent badly at the waist and peering into the black opening of their glossy metal counterparts. I saw this and thought, “Can I remember checking my stove this morning?” I had to answer, “No.” I wasn’t sure if, when I left the stove on or off and, in fact, the more I thought about it, the more I could imagine a thrown-open oven door, all knobs cranked to HI, the hollow clucking of gas pumping through pipes as someone popping their tongue off the roof of their mouth. Cluck-Cluck-Cluck-Cluck. What would I have been cooking? Potatoes? Was I boiling potatoes? I remember setting a timer. No. Not peeled potatoes. I was cooking a carton of eggs. It was a carton of golf balls. I had a half-dozen golf balls hard-boiling in a pot and when the water wouldn’t boil I moved them to the microwave, as I was so sick of waiting. At night, I know the microwave is off because I pull the plug before bedtime. That makes it true, and this is true, too: One night, after having a hard time believing that my stove was really off, I wrenched it away from the wall and dragged it across the floor of my one-room apartment. A black rubber cable trailed along behind us, a silver metal snake grew out of the wall. And that’s how I knew my stove was off. Because when we made it past the piles around my work table, into what I guess would be my bedroom, the black rubber cable ripped away from its socket and the silver metal snake also ruptured clear with a kind of sputtering ffssss as it recoiled into the kitchen, writhing loudly about on the linoleum, my stove placed safely at the foot of my bed, its oven door shut and all four knobs turned off. I slept easy that night. I remember falling asleep. Because burner one was off klik, burner two was off klik, burner three was off klik, and burner four was off klik.

Matt Thompson lives in Brooklyn and studies at New York University. His fiction, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in places like Unsaid, Everyday Genius, The Collagist, elimae, Monkeybicycle, and Spork, among others. He is concerned primarily with running long distances. www.m-thompson.net