Before shutting down for the night, Laptop asked Toaster and its friends to say a few words for the online journal it had created to chronicle their journey. Exactly what did home mean to them?
Radio piped up first.
“Home is where you can crank the sound all the way up to peel-the-paint loud and open every door in the whole house. Cause everyone wants to dance to the Master’s bee-bop-blastin’ tunes!”
Toaster chuckled. That happened a lot when Rob was little.
Lampy, who was close to retiring and about to lay his head on a mossy rock, added his two watts.
“Home is where every single light is plugged into the same circuit. Reading lamps, ceiling lamps, nightlights, wall sconces and even that loner hermit bulb inside the refrigerator all feel connected to each other. And it’s all for one purpose – to allow the Master to see when things are darkest. That’s home.”
Hearing this, the whole group made sounds of assent. Lampy contently reclined, the moss muting the hollow clunk of his head on the rock.
Blanky had been thinking about all of this for some time and felt ready to say something, but looked round at the group first to make sure he wasn’t interrupting. Toaster nodded that it was okay to speak. Blanky did, in a softly sincere way that evidenced experience, not speculation.
“A home has mom. And Vicks VapoRub. Cause when the Master gets a cold, his mom puts the Vicks on his chest and then lays me across it to warm him up. Without a mom and Vicks VapoRub, I couldn’t get the Master through his cold. You need a home for that.”
More sounds of assent all around. Blanky glanced at Toaster with an expression that asked, “Did I do good?” Toaster nodded with a smile that answered, “Very good indeed.”
Laptop eyed Kirby, who was fixing to sleep standing upright in the way vacuums often do.
“I don’t hear from you much,” the computer mused. “Guess you hold things in.”
“Course I do,” rumbled Kirby. “Unless my bag’s full.”
“Touché,” answered Laptop. “Pretend it’s full. Spill something.”
Kirby huffed. And for a moment it seemed like that was all he’d offer. Until, “Well… home is different from a building. In a building you suck up trash. In a home you’re inhaling bits of personality that shake loose and fall.”
Lampy raised his head. “Okay, I’m pretty bright, but I’m just not seeing it...”
Kirby continued. “At home, when you see a gum wrapper on the floor, you know it’s going to be cinnamon – Big Red – and it’s going to be folded into a little boat or hat or ninja star, because that’s what the Master does. And if you find a spearmint wrapper that means Aunt Marline is visiting and gave him a flavor he doesn’t even like because she can’t even remember. And there won’t be a little boat or hat or ninja star, just an itty-bitty squished up wad. Inside my bag there’s an archive of moments from Master’s life.”
Kirby carefully ran his plug across the surface of his bag till he felt something beneath. Then, with a purposeful tap he coughed a small object onto the ground – a little boat made from a folded cinnamon gum wrapper. The entire group leaned close, mesmerized by the ancient relic.
Kirby’s cord kept the treasure encircled. “I don’t talk about him much, but I don’t need to. It’s all inside.”
It was a magic moment, and a moment in which all eyes shifted from this unexpected symbol of home to the one who was leading them home now – Toaster. They were looking to Toaster for warmth and maybe for a reflection of their own feelings.
Toaster gave the simplest but deepest answer of all.
“Home is the only place in the whole world where you can see every member of the family reflected in your chrome at the same time. If that happens at least once a day, you know everything’s good.”
Everyone agreed with this wholeheartedly and Laptop added, “I’m taking this all down, please go on…”
Toaster paused, thinking itself mostly done – then glancing round at its tender dependents felt a phantom glow in its coils even though they weren’t plugged in. And happily for its companions, and for us, a few more warm and toasty thoughts popped up.
“Some say that home is a thing of the past. The reflection of a lost dream. But I believe that it will always be dear to us. Home means warmth. And warmth is my function. And so, to home I offer a toast. Wheat toast with butter and jam.”
“Toast with butter and jam!” everyone cheered. Outside they heard the beaver slap its tail on the water again, spooked by their noise. They all burst out laughing, which soon turned into yawns, which soon turned into snores – except for Laptop who was posting Toaster’s last comments on its blog. Being months out of date, the computer was intent on making what could be its final posts meaningful – possibly even worthy of likes and shares. This entry, it thought, measured up.
While it was spellchecking and double-checking that the thesaurus had been duly used for flourishes and flavor, the chirping of crickets and frogs echoed from beyond the stacked plastic igloo and night fully fell.
Signing off, Laptop was struck with a fundamentally chilling thought – imagining a world with no homepages. What a horrid future that would be! They had to succeed. They had to save it.