Happy Pawn 1: The Microwave

Jeanette sighed as she put the hamster into the microwave.  She was great at handling kids, but she wasn’t good with pets.  She warned Kevin of this, but he insisted she was the only person he trusted enough to hamster-sit.  Poor Mr. Nibbles never had a chance.

Jeanette pressed the reheat button followed by the preset selection for pizza.  The turntable began its slow spin, and the magnetron hummed.  “All right, you blob of fuzz,” she muttered.

After only two seconds, the hamster’s back legs began to twitch.  By the time the microwave dinged to signal the “food” was ready, the hamster was back on his feet with his tiny nose wiggling.  Jeanette opened the door and removed Mr. Nibbles.

“There.”  She ran her thumb down the rodent’s back.  “No one has to know you were dead but me.”

Jeanette slipped Mr. Nibbles into his cage.  As she watched, the hamster stretched his neck up and suckled at the water bottle.  “Does death make you thirsty?” she asked of him.  “Hmm, maybe it’s the radiation.”

Jeanette moved the cage to the sliver of mattress that passed for her dorm room bed.  Three more hours.  If Mr. Nibbles could make it that long, Kevin’s parents would come get him, and she would be in the clear.

Jeanette sat next to the cage and smirked at the LG microwave.  She agreed that life was good, but maybe the company took their slogan a little too seriously.  Of course, Jeanette didn’t believe that anyone else had a microwave that could reanimate the dead when set to reheat pizza.  So many people ate pizza and reheated pizza that she surely would’ve heard about it by now or at least seen it posted on Facebook. No, Jeanette was certain that she was the only person who owned such a microwave.

The first time she selected reheat pizza and the anchovies gasped, flipped, and flopped right there on the cheese, she puked in her tiny wastebasket and then ran to Happy Pawn.  The old guy who owned the place listened to her ravings with a bland look on his face.  Once she ran out of steam, he said, “All sales are final.  It’s your microwave now.  If there’s something wrong with it, it’s your problem.”  At his shrewd look, Jeanette swallowed down the bile in her throat and asked, “Well, uh, do you have the owner’s manual?”  He did not.

Until fate decided it was time for Mr. Nibbles to go to Hamster Heaven, Jeanette had avoided the reheat pizza setting.  She wrinkled her nose, thinking she used the microwave to nuke a frozen burrito only an hour before using it to resurrect Kevin’s furry friend.  Well, she sanitized it.

The microwave wasn’t the only thing Jeanette purchased from Happy Pawn, but as far as she knew, her portable radio and mini-fridge didn’t have super powers.  They were normal, crappy hand-me-downs.  And that old man…it was almost as if he knew the microwave wasn’t just a microwave.  Jeanette went back to the shop several times, but any time she brought up the microwave, he reminded her of store policy and then ignored her.

Jeanette watched Mr. Nibbles climb onto his wheel and begin a brisk workout.  “Don’t over-do it,” she warned.  “I don’t want to have to put you back in there.”

While she waited for Kevin’s parents to come and reclaim the hamster, Jeanette sat at her desk and reviewed her notes for a History exam.  What kind of professor gives a test the Monday after spring break? thought Jeanette.  The asshole kind, that’s who.

An hour later, Adrian returned, clothes and hair in the usual disarray, more make-up under her eyes than on them.  “Have a good weekend?” Jeanette teased her roommate.

Adrian grumbled something unintelligible and then said, “Can I have something?”

Jeanette waved a hand at the mini-fridge.  “Sure, if you think you can hold anything down.”

Adrian jerked open the fridge, rifled around inside it, and came away with half of a steak sandwich.

“I guess you feel like challenging yourself,” Jeanette said.

Adrian put the sandwich in the microwave and punched a few buttons.  While the sandwich heated, she flopped onto her bed and began the arduous task of removing her boots.  When the microwave dinged, she dragged herself over to it, opened the door, and screamed.

The sandwich belched chunks of white American cheese, green peppers, and reanimated beef.  Adrian screamed again, tripped over her own feet, and sat down hard.

Jeanette swiveled in her chair in time to watch Adrian backpedal away from the microwave.  “Ah hell.  You used ‘reheat pizza.’”

Jeanette stood, intending to put the poor sandwich out of its misery, but Adrian’s adrenaline made her act faster.  She scrambled up from the floor, kicked the microwave door shut, and snatched the machine from the rickety TV cabinet Jeanette used as a pantry.  A wild yank pulled the plug free from the outlet, and with two more steps, Adrian hurled the microwave and its contents out their fourth floor window.

“Holy crap!”  Jeanette dropped her book and hurried over to join Adrian.  “My microwave.”

The girls stood at the window and looked down on the wreckage of plastic and metal.  The sandwich, having been cushioned inside the microwave, survived the fall and now made a last ditch effort to escape.  Adrian gripped Jeanette’s arm as the steak crawled out of the bun and across the concrete sidewalk.

“It’s…it’s alive,” Adrian said.

“Yeah.”

“What should we—”

Abruptly, Adrian stopped speaking, for a crow chose that moment to swoop down and deliver a deathblow to the steak.  The bird cawed twice, skewered some of the meat, and flew up into the oak tree just outside the girls’ window.  It tilted its head and then pecked at its kill.

Adrian groaned.  “I’m going to be sick.”

“Yeah,” Jeanette agreed.

****

The girls did not speak of the microwave or the sandwich.  The next year, they moved to different dorms and got new roommates.  Eventually, Jeanette went back to Happy Pawn and got another crappy hand-me-down microwave – one that barely heated food, much less reanimated it.  The old man never asked what happened to the other microwave, and she never mentioned it to him again.

The year after that, Mr. Nibbles died of old age.

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