Los Angeles, Los Angeles
They kept asking me if I wanted it toasted. They cut the bread and laid it out. “Toasted?” the guy said. “No,” I said. “Toasted sandwiches do not work for me. Keep it soft.”
The guy unfolded the meat. He passed it to the next guy who asked me if I wanted it toasted. “No,” I said. “And besides, toasting at this point is impossible. At this point what you’d be doing is heating. You’d be heating the bread and the meat. One cannot toast bread that is covered.”
The guy did not mind that I didn’t want it toasted and he put some lettuce on. Sugway is a good place for people who like green peppers and black olives. The guy asked me if I wanted some of those. I said, “Those toppings might fit on a pizza but today I’m going to have a sandwich.” The guy passed the sandwich to his partner with the nozzles.
The guy had what seemed like dozens of nozzles. I indicated the two I would like and he said to me, “Toasted?” I said to him, “Two guys already asked me if I wanted my sandwich toasted. I declined when toasting was possible. I declined when toasting was impossible but still seemed like a partly reasonable question, and would’ve seemed like a more reasonable question had I had cheese on the thing, given that cheese, unlike meat, melts. I forgave the second guy for asking me because he was possibly asking out of habit, accustomed as he was to ‘toasting’ sandwiches with cheese. But you I cannot understand.”
The guy took off his plastic gloves and plastic bonnet and rounded the counter and poured low-cal Minute Maid lemonades for us each. He sat me down and said, “We didn’t always toast. For the better part of our history, toasting didn’t occur to us. Then Quigno’s came along and they toasted everything. They had to, you see. Our sandwiches were longer. We had every advantage save for toasting—it was our Achilles’ heal. Quigno’s put us in an awkward position. At first, we fought for who we were. We ran an ad campaign that said, ‘Sugway: The place that keeps its long bread soft.’ But that didn’t work. Everyone wanted toasted. Only old people wanted it soft. I don’t have to explain why.”
“Yes, you idiot. Soft teeth. But would you buy a sandwich at a restaurant for soft teeth only? I don’t think so, and the masses agreed. Our lines became shorter. We developed friction with what few able-mouthed customers remained. They’d ask us why we couldn’t buy a toaster. We said, ‘We don’t do that.’ Customers want extensive answers and we, unfortunately, could not provide even one. Being against toasters made no sense. We lost executive after executive. We bore witness to a seemingly endless series of ousters. We looked at our long bread and green peppers and we didn’t know what to do. Of course, this would change when we realized that long bread without mayo, cheese, or bacon was the key to health and longevity. Sometimes the greatest mysteries are staring you right in the nose. Sometimes they’re right next to the banana peppers, if you catch my drift.”
“I don’t catch your drift.”
“Damn you’re a fool. Eat five hundred long breads without mayo and see what happens. I dare you. It’s a common principle of health and longevity: limits. Limit yourself to Sugway and you will starve. Your calories will be lost. Your sandwiches will be invisible. You won’t have to brush your teeth before bed. You will acquire the body you believe you deserve. Your pecker will emerge from its cave behind the folds of your belly. You will become hung, my friend. You will become hung. This is what we found. We did the market research. Everyone became hung and we regained market share. We survived the pickle with toasting.”
I reached under the table. Yes, I had to agree with the man’s assessment. But still, a question remained.
“If everyone became hung, why did you cave on the toasting? Why did you get a toaster?”
“I respect you. You know what it feels like to have a sandwich stuck to the roof of your mouth. You don’t like when a toasted cuts at your gums. You’re a sensitive one.”
“Answer the question.”
“Long bread will only get you so far, my friend. Beyond that, you need other qualities. Like charm and forthrightness. Regard me, my friend. Regard me with my dozen nozzles of sauce. I apply sauce two hands at a time. At home, you probably use a knife and a jar. Regard me, my friend. Two-dozen nozzles without hesitation. Three-dozen nozzles. Long bread is not enough. I am a sprinkler system of sauce. I am the predator and you are the prey. Eat your sandwich and consider that. You’re hung but untoasted. Now go and eat your sandwich and starve.”
I felt somewhat baffled but the sandwich was pretty good and I had to agree that even if I personally did not like toasted there were very few reasonable explanations available for why not to keep a toaster on hand, given the world in which we live.
To read more from the Honest and Unbiased series, click here.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.