Tom knew almost nothing about how refrigerators worked and Sylvia reminded him of that fact. He sat on the green linoleum floor next to the unplugged compressor. Before him were spread the tools of his mission: one flat-head screwdriver, a hammer, a wrench, a grey stained cloth, and an ashtray. Sylvia stood by the kitchen counter looking through a sales catalog of new, colorful kitchen appliances that had the names of women and Sylvia read out-loud the ones she didn’t like.
‘Who would call a toaster Big Betty?’
At times she’d cluck her tongue. At other times she just smoked and excitedly read aloud the elaborate description of one in particular, only to finish with the actual cost of a new stove, or blender, or freezer unit, and then she would toss the catalog down in disgust, for a moment, long enough to stare at Tom’s lack of handy work, till she picked it up again.
Their current new old apartment had been advertised as fully furnished. “It even comes with a refrigerator,” Sylvia had read to him from the newspaper. As scratched his chin and stared into the black belly of the unplugged metal beast before him, Tom thought, it should have read ‘refrigerator comes with an apartment’.
It was almost Christmas and their small freezer had a large turkey that needed to wait a few more days. The recipe for cooking the bird hung from a magnet on the freezer door. Sylvia was breaking with tradition this year and wanted to surprise Tom’s parents who were driving in from out of state and her parents who were driving in from across town. She wanted this first visit to be a combination house warming, Christmas dinner, and announcement of their expected baby. She had found a new modern recipe in an Asian cookbook at the library. The recipe called for canned pineapples, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and other ingredients that Tom thought wholly unrelated to the season. They had even bought a color television on credit to watch the parade. Sylvia wanted the dinner to be special, to be perfect, and so Tom picked up a screwdriver and poked again at the compressor unit. He had to save the twelve pound turkey from melting into a catastrophe.