When the egg popped out of her vagina, the woman recalled their old chicken, Little Red, who’d lay one egg every two days, and how she had dropped one of Little Red’s eggs on the ground, its bright golden, paprika-enriched yolk spilling over her Velcro sneakers. She had wanted to be helpful to her grandparents—surprise them with one less chore before they dropped her off at daycare—not expecting the egg to be covered in poop when she reached her hand into the coup. Grandpa gave her a beating, although not for long, a victim to her teary face. Still, she cried, heart heavy with guilt which could only be lessened if grandpa reassured her that it was fine to lose an egg. But eggs were expensive and grandpa never lied, so the guilt continued to plague her as she went to daycare and was forced to memorize a song on the recorder to receive lunch, which she could never finish eating in time so she never got to play with the Play-Doh before the kids were called back for nap time and all in all it was not a great day.
It was about the size of a duck egg, heavier and larger than a chicken egg, a nice firm fit in her palm, a robust shell that held up under the firm pressure of her fingers. She wiped off the trail of blood from the ivory shell, without blemishes or bumps or cracks, and placed it on her windowsill under the sun, cushioning it with scarves she never wore—the type that made you look more ethereal than warm, more hazard to whimsical tree branches than ripple. She drew the curtains before staggering to the bathroom, trailing droplets of blood, stomach suddenly cramping, a bit nauseous and tired.
She cursed as she failed to rip a square of toilet paper along the perforation and tore off an arm’s length of Charmin to wipe the blood running down her leg. Water dripped like a metronome from the faucet into the dusty bathtub. Today seemed like a day to indulge, she figured as she twisted the faucet to the end and water crashed out onto the porcelain, steam covering the mirror.
As she submerged her body in water, she rested her hand on her flat stomach, echoing like a hollow gorge. She closed her eyes. What would he say when he found out she had laid an egg? Not that she’d tell her husband anything. What bad timing for the egg to pop out just three days after she’d peed on the pink strip and announced they’d finally have a child. She’d leave the gynecologist to tell them that she was no longer pregnant, a bundle of cells lost before you could call it human. Could she even be sure she was no longer pregnant? It was only intuition, although, as grandma had said, don’t underestimate a mother’s instinct.
She lifted herself out of the tub, legs clumsy like she hadn’t used them in weeks, body heavy like it was trying to drag her back into the hot water.
If only grandpa hadn’t died so suddenly, if only he hadn’t been so frugal despite the money her parents and aunts and uncles sent every month, if only he hadn’t woken up at four am to fill up the hot water billed slightly less during off-hours, falling without anyone but a half-awake grandma to get him to the emergency room. It was just a fall, but it seemed to shatter him, his head and body leaking water, building and losing pressure in all the wrong places, an eighty-eight-year-old engine finally sputtering to a halt. Well, you’d better stay alive for a long time so you can take care of our children, she had told her parents to comfort them, a promise she’d thought over for hours while pacing back and forth in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to screech, after which she’d still been thinking about until water spilled onto the ground and burned her foot.
She wrapped a towel under her arms and fished for the old cleaning sponge behind the mirror cabinet. She rinsed it under the faucet and squeezed on a coin-sized dollop of detergent, letting the water form small bubbles. Then she got on her knees, one hand holding the towel up, the other scrubbing at red stains she trailed from the bed to bathroom. Best vanish any sources of worry before her husband got home.
We’re at the age where people are starting to die, she had told him.
Don’t remind me, he replied.
After she finished scrubbing, her knees imprinted with carpet marks, she sat in front of the egg, trying to figure out if she should throw it away or wait for it to do something, like hatch because that’s what eggs were supposed to do, right?
It was the longest she’d ever spent sitting and staring since college when she’d been subjected to two-hour-long lectures from professors who hadn’t rehearsed their presentations and acted surprised every time they hit the clicker and saw the next slide. Just as the dimming sun tempted her to lay her head on the sill, she spotted the faintest of cracks—barely even a crack, just a line slightly longer than a splinter. It grew so slowly she first thought it was a stray eyelash. But the longer it got, the faster it grew, like roots stretching across the egg, accelerating to her heartbeat, trying to both hold it in place and assure its destruction. A piece of shell fell off. Several more followed until it shattered, a pile of chipped ivory chunks she’d toss into the soil later as compost.
There was nothing, like the egg’s heaviness had been sucked dry the moment it was exposed to the atmosphere.
What a relief, she thought as she gathered pieces of shell stuck to the carpet.