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Monday, November 10, 2003

 

Making Toast With: Haley Joel Osment



When Haley Joel Osment arrives in my kitchen wearing a sailor suit, I have no idea why. I know only one thing: he's here to make toast with me. I immediately take him to the pantry where he selects a loaf of five-grain. I have a theory about the kind of person that makes toast with five-grain; in fact I have theories about any kind of bread you might select for making toast. For now I will say only that five-grain toasters are trying to prove something. As I am momentarily lost in my own thoughts about what precisely the coal-eyed, child actor/cinematic prodigy is trying to prove, he tosses the loaf at my chest, shaking me from my cogitation, and helps himself to a seat at the kitchen table.

"First things first," he says, jerking a finger toward the aft living room, where his mother sits poring over the latest Lucky magazine. "If you even mention the name Kevin Spacey, she'll pull me out of here so fast these saddle shoes will leave scorch marks on your floor." The mention of his "Pay It Forward" co-star momentarily darkens his preternaturally rosy complexion. It brightens again when I assure him that my agenda includes only toast and conversation that doesn't involve Kevin Spacey.

"No Spacey!" he yells into the other room, then hops off of his chair to shut the door to the kitchen. "OK, she won't bother us."

I gesture toward the bread, inviting him to fill my four-slice Williams Sonoma Brownmaster with his chosen five-grain. He ignores my offer and instead pulls a pack of menthol Marlboros from somewhere inside the recesses of his sailor suit.

"What?" He asks with a tone of confrontation. "Oh, the sailor get-up. Here's the deal: Mom thinks that it's absolutely crucial that I don't miss out on my childhood," He lights his cigarette on my eight-burner Viking range and inhales all the way to his knee socks. "She thinks kids are supposed to wear sailor suits once in a while, so I wear the fu--- oh yeah, kids don't swear either. Keep the one with the control of the trust happy, you get me?" He jams a knowing, painfully sharp elbow into my ribs a couple of times.

Despite my repeated nonverbal cues that he should be preparing the slices of five-grain bread that I've arrayed in front of him for toasting, he goes on puffing. I make something of a show out of collecting the toast and placing it in the Brownmaster, exhaling loudly as I press the lever on the toaster.

He stubs out a cigarette halfway through, the second time he's done it. I'd ignored the first time because I was hovering over the toasting bread, but this time he sees reads the curiosity in my furrowed brow.

"It seems so sad to burn something down so fast, you know? Why not put it out when there's something left?" I forget about the toast for an instant as I'm drawn in by the minty sting of menthol in my nose, the wisps of smoke rising up around the kitchen table, smoke that seems to seep directly from those anthracite eyes. But I'm jarred back to the task at hand by the sound of finished toast rattling to life in the chambers of the Brownmaster.

I set a plate of perfectly browned five-grain in front of him, along with a range of jams, marmalades, and butter. I've found that a celerity subject's selection of spreads is just as instructive as the type of bread for toasting.

He frowns. "Sorry, guy. Mom would freak, but I can't do the carbs just now. Let's pretend that I ate some, I'll have a few more drags on this butt, and I'll split?" He's giving me the look that he gave the parents in "A.I." just before they abandoned him in the woods. I can't deny his request. He tears the middle out of two of the slices, leaving only the husks of crust on his plate, and throws the bread in the trash. "In case she checks," he explains.

I nod. He stubs out his cigarette, again halfway through, and freshens his breath with a blast of Binaca. He opens the kitchen door and shouts back loudly, "Bye, Mr. Bunsen! Thanks for the awesome toast!" I watch as he enthusiastically grabs his mother's arm and skips towards the front of the compound, where my door-answering girl has already prepared for their exit. I wave feebly as they disappear.

I look down at the toast on my own plate, so complete next to Haley's discarded crusts, his half-smoked cigarettes.

I've never been a five-grain guy. I dump my slices into the trash bin, twists of menthol lingering in the kitchen air like question marks.

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Every so often, Bunsen invites interesting guests into his home to sup on toast and spreads. He writes about these encounters in Making Toast With:, our newest feature.




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This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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