In which the narrator lays an egg, keeps it warm and royally fucks some guy up with a shovel.
The morning I laid the egg is just a blur to me. I say laid because it seems to be the best word for the situation. I have no idea how it came out of me, but it did. I imagine it growing in my belly, slowly gathering its features from my raw genetic material. But it doesn’t have my mother’s shell. It doesn’t have my own runny yolk.
I was not hatched from an egg. Neither were my parents. As far as I know, there are no birds in my family. Nor have I ever had any sort of intimate relationship with a bird.
And yet, I found myself one morning lying there with an egg.
The windows were undisturbed; I keep them covered with newspaper for fear of being seen by my neighbors. I don’t mind the sunlight. Or the streetlamps, in fact. But I don’t like the idea of people seeing me doing anything. It’s odd, sitting on your couch eating toast while being watched by the lady across the alley.
The newspaper is taped over the whole window; it isn’t tailored in any way. It’s lopsided and too large for the mass it’s expected to cover. The effect is a bit disorienting. If you were in my apartment and looked at my wall, you probably wouldn’t expect to see several pages of the July 14 New York Times unceremoniously duct taped there with grocery store brand adhesive. But, then again, I didn’t expect to look down and see an egg between my knees.
When I woke up, I had this odd sensation. My lower half felt more sensitive. Felt exposed. If you’re the sort of person who sleeps nude, you might not understand. Or perhaps you will. Maybe that’s why you do it. But, for my own reasons, I never do. It’s uncomfortable for me. I have a healthy sense of shame about my person. Only rarely does someone come into my apartment. And if that person comes in while I’m sleeping, that person will not find me without my clothes on.
And that person will never find me in any state of undress because people do not come into my apartment without me knowing about it. And I would never let anyone in while I was sleeping. I’m not the sort of guy who leaves a key under the mat so visitors can come as they please. I have a single key to my apartment on my chain. The only other copy is buried in a park six miles away. It is in an unmarked hole. And everything I just said about the whereabouts of my spare key is a lie because I don’t want you to know where my goddamned key is.
I have eight different locks on my door. Four are where you’d expect them to be. One on the door handle, one deadbolt, one sliding bolt and one chain lock. Then there are two deadbolts on the side where the hinges are, and another deadbolt at both the top and bottom of the door. Yes, you can install deadbolts wherever you want. There’s actually a ninth lock, but I’m not saying anything about it because you’re staying out of my fucking apartment.
When I woke up naked with an egg between my legs, I looked about frantically for my pants. I found them hooked on my left foot. Due to their lack of warmth, it seemed apparent they had been there for some time.
The windows were, as I said earlier, unmolested. The locks on the door were in place. My key was on the chain and the spare—my none of your fucking business key—was safe in its spot.
Logic seemed to point to me as the source of the egg.
I went back over to my bed and lifted up the blanket. There the egg sat. If it had eyes, I’d say it looked up at me hopefully, but, since it didn’t, I’ll say instead it looked at me speckled. It was a light blue with reddish speckles. Like I think a robin’s egg might look, only bigger. But I’m not aware of ever seeing a robin or its egg, so I have no real way of knowing.
In the bathroom, I dropped my pants and performed a quick inspection. Not only did I find no feathers; I found no evidence that anything large had been expelled from any orifice known to me. There was also no soreness or signs of blood loss, which seemed necessary to lay an egg of this magnitude.
So, while there was nothing to suggest I had laid the egg, I nevertheless felt it was mine. When you lay an egg, you’ll understand.
I went over to my closet and pulled out more blankets. I piled them on my bed and made a nest, then picked up the egg—a good three or four pounds—and placed it in the middle. I considered sitting on it, but also worried about breaking it. Mother birds seem to have softer bottoms. And I’m a father, not a mother.
I wrapped it up in my sweatshirt to keep it warm, careful not to jostle it about too much. I had no desire to scramble my egg.
Picking up my phone off the hanger on the kitchen wall, I dialed a 0. The operator tends to only be marginally more useful than a librarian. At the time, however, she seemed like the best resource.
“Operator,” she answered. “How may I direct your call?”
“Hello,” I responded. “I have a situation and hope you can help me.”
“It’s like this: I laid an egg this morning, and I’m not sure what to do.”
“You laid an egg?”
“Like a chicken egg?”
“It’s most definitely not a chicken egg. It’s bigger. And I laid it, not a chicken. It’s a people egg, and I need to know what to do with it.”
“Is this a joke?” she asked, muffling her giggle, I imagine, with her chunky paw.
“Can you direct me to someone or not?”
“Uh, well, I would suggest calling a doctor. Or maybe the humane society.”
“Please connect me with the humane society.” I have a doctor and already know his number.
“Okay, hold please.”
The line rang. And rang. And rang. And fucking rang because the humane society, which I have since learned is the dog pound, doesn’t have an answering machine—which I wouldn’t have left a message on anyway—and doesn’t staff their goddamned establishment. Of course, they wouldn’t have known what to do with an egg. Dogs don’t lay eggs. I hung up the phone.
I walked over to my bed and uncovered the egg. It looked kind of like me, I think. As much as such a thing can look like a person. It looked like an introspective egg.
“What do I do with you?” I asked the egg.
The egg said nothing.
I reached my hands out and placed them on the shell. It was slightly cool to the touch. This alarmed me. I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a bunch of towels. I soaked them under the hot tap and brought them back to my bed. Wrapping them around the egg, I went in search of my space heater.
I found it in the bathroom, tucked behind the door. I carried it over to my bed and set it down. While I don’t own any chairs, I do own cereal boxes. I hate cereal. Won’t eat it. But I only buy things that are on sale, and cereal is always on sale. I was worried about putting the heater on the bed for fear of it catching fire. It looks like the sort of heater that would catch your bed on fire. And, while I wanted my egg warm, I did not want it to cook. So I went in the kitchen and gathered seven cereal boxes and one box of enriched macaroni product. I stacked them up and put the heater on top. I plugged it in; it whirred to life. After making sure the heat was aimed at my egg, I removed the wet towels and tossed them on the bathroom floor. The phone rang in the kitchen, so I headed for it, watching the egg over my shoulder as I left.
I picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey,” a voice said, sounding familiar and foreign at the same time, like when you record yourself speaking.
“Who is this?” I asked.
“Oh, give me a break. Who else would call you?”
“Lots of people call me. Who the fuck is this?” My hand felt clammy against the phone’s plastic casing.
“You laid an egg,” the voice said, the accompanying smirk almost audible through the earpiece.
“How do you—” I started.
“It’s not important. You just need to listen.”
“What the hell do you want?”
“Your interests are my interests. Pay attention.”
“Wait,” I said. “Who are you?”
“Shut the fuck up, Goddamnit,” he said, his impatience growing.
“How about you shut up? You call me, tell me to listen to you and admit you’ve been spying on me. Go fuck yourself with an ice pick!” I slammed down the phone.
Rattled by the conversation, I returned to the bedroom, sat down in front of my egg. This was too much. I had laid an egg, for fuck’s sake. How could I be expected to deal with telephone psychos and the very real issue in the middle of my bed? For lack of anything better to do, I reached out and touched it, feeling the shell with my fingers.
I didn’t experience any real tenderness toward it, more like a sense of responsibility. The egg was akin to a child, an unwilling, unknowing collection of matter, thrust into a nasty world. Imagine, for a moment, what it’s going to be like for whatever’s inside that egg. Even if it’s human, life is going to be hard. How do you explain to a kid that he was hatched from an egg? After they’re like ten, I mean. Before that, it doesn’t really matter what you say.
The phone rang. I stood up and walked into the kitchen. “Hello?” I grumbled.
“You should eat it.”
“You’re an asshole.” I hung up the phone.
Reluctantly, I left my apartment. I didn’t want to leave my egg. What if it hatched? But it was a risk I had to take. Call me negligent. I don’t know you, so I don’t care what you think of me. And, honestly, I wouldn’t care if I did know you.
As I moved along, I wondered if anyone on this street had ever laid an egg. Had anyone in the world? Had anyone here killed anyone? It’s probably more likely. On a big enough scale, everything is less weird than something else. It’s more probable for me to have laid and egg than for me to have laid a perfect twelve-inch replica of the Statue of Liberty. Which, in itself, is a thousand times more likely than laying a perfect functioning replica of Ivan Raimi.
But no one here had laid an egg. It’s lonely knowing you’re the only one living your life. When there’s no one to commiserate with, there’s no one who can possibly understand you. Even the guy who spawned the mini Lady Liberty has no idea what it’s like to lay an egg.
I fished about forty-five dollars out of the fountain in front of the bank. Not enough to cover the bills, but enough to postpone termination of services. Especially when you talk about your new baby and the effect it’s having on your finances. You can do this a lot because the electric company has no idea how many kids you have.
When I returned home to check on the egg, there was a message on the answering machine.
“Salt, pepper and chives. Add a little cream to make it nice and fluffy and eat the goddamn thing. You must destroy it. All of you—”
I pressed the delete button and walked into my bedroom. The egg was still there. I turned the egg on its axis, so that the other side could get some heat. It seemed content, that egg.
Leaving my apartment again, I headed downtown. I hit the fountain on Broadway and Fourth. Sixteen dollars and seventy-five cents.
I walked along the street absentmindedly, watching cars drive by.
After a few blocks, I turned around. Sure, a part of me wanted to forget everything, to clear my head, but there were things to be dealt with, decisions to be made.
* * *
When the elevator didn’t immediately respond to the call button, I took the stairs. They’re not properly maintained. Half of the bulbs are burned out, and the ones that function don’t really compensate. The walls are coated with cheap, dark wallpaper that only soaks up more light.
I almost didn’t see him. He was leaning against a wall, crouched down in one of the darker corners on the third floor landing. The hair on the back of my neck pricked up.
“Hey,” I said, letting him know I knew he was there. He said nothing, but stretched to his full height. He was at least as tall as me, perhaps more so. And he carried a shovel.
I quickened my pace, keeping my eyes on the stairs in front of me, certain now that I was going to get mugged in my own building. His steps were muffled by the thick layer of carpet, a stark contrast to my own on the barren stairs.
I stopped ascending and listened. His steps quickened and got louder. He was coming at me. I turned to face him and braced myself for the attack. Do I even have my wallet on me? I wondered.
Then something tripped him. He fell to a heap on the floor.
The shovel clanged as the head of it broke free from his grasp and hit the stairs. Quickly, I seized the tool and leveled the motherfucking playing field.
He scrambled to his feet. I stepped back and hit him in the face with the shovel. Blood spurted from his ruptured lips, starbursting all over dollar store wallpaper. He fell to the floor, clutching his face, muffling his screams. Turning on his side, he wriggled like snake with a broken spine. His legs kicked frantically, and he rolled around the hallway, adding his own contribution to the dirt and cat urine already residing in the carpet. I walked over to him and dropped the shovel on his writhing body. There was a soft clank as the handle collided with something in his pocket, and a slight rustling as several quarters fell out.
“Where’d you get those?” I demanded, picking up the shovel. He murmured something incoherent. I raised the shovel over my head and brought it down on his left knee. “Where’d you get those quarters?” I kicked him in the ribs. “You’re gonna steal from me, you son of a bitch? Those are my fucking quarters!” I raised the shovel again and brought it down on his chest. Then again, this time swinging it like a golf club. The edge of it caught him in the arm and ripped a gash in his flesh.
“Get a job, you piece of shit,” I said.
Crouching, I picked up the quarters. Six of them. One dollar and fifty cents. I walked down the hallway towards the stairwell. Turning back, I held the shovel like a spear and flung it at the motionless body. It hit the carpet a few feet in front of him. The end of the handle bumped his leg gently.
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