issue thirty-four

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(985 words)
Jon Fotch
Mother laid her egg for Christmas morning. There were hot biscuits, hash browns, juice, milk, and bacon. We bought the bacon, she didn't lay the bacon. We cooked so much bacon that greasy bacon smoke was in the air until afternoon. Her giant Christmas eggs are so moist, they steam up the windows in the kitchen. She laid a brown one this year. Special. Just for me. I asked for a brown egg back in July and she remembered.

We didn't have an official egg-weighing this year. Too busy with sister. But old man called it a "sixteen-pounder." About the size of those orange igloo coolers. I didn't sleep at all Christmas Eve because she was screaming and bashing around in the bathroom most of the day and all of the night. She likes to lay the Christmas breakfast egg alone. Sneaks upstairs to do it. Says the solitude makes it more lucky. Superstitious woman mother is. Also she has to clean the blood off the floor, not to mention wiping down the egg, which is our traditional breakfast, and then the boiling of it. Bloody floors are for poor people. Bloody eggs are for pagans. Mother doesn't like to be embarrassed.

Old man has bad breath. You can smell it across the table at breakfast. It smells like iodine looks. The way monkey blood stings after you crash your bike. Smells like battery acid is red. His iodine-looking breath was mixed with mother's egg as he yelled at brother for eating napkins. Brother dips them in the yolk and eats away at the corners of the special Christmas napkins mother keeps in the cupboard on the top shelf in the back. We have fewer each year on account of he eats them. Old man calls them "shitting napkins" when he tells brother to stop eating the shitting napkins.

Around the table are mother, old man, brother, sister and myself. Sister sits like an Apache. Sister looks like an eagle. Sister has a demon face. Sister tells everyone about her period cramps, and she says she has the "pussy stigmata." Everyone but old man knows what that means and laughs at her. Sister doesn't eat any of mother's egg. She is evil and spoiled and ungrateful. Mother laid the egg for the family. Special for Christmas morning breakfast. It steams on the tray and is delicious. Sister should eat the egg but she won't because she's at war with mother. Sister brings boys in the house too.

Two days before Christmas I went with mother to the grocery store for bacon. Mother is a nervous driver. She sits forward close to the wheel with her heavy glasses and coat and huge fragile belly and scans for danger. She only speaks at stoplights. She's saying old man is tired and rotten. She says he's rotten inside like an unplugged refrigerator. I listen to her and watch out the window. I'm thinking I need a haircut. Out the window women walk their dogs, and the dogs are wearing little coats. Out the window men are shoveling snow because they decided their boys are too slow at it, and now their boys stand there watching, and their ice breath comes out like train engines used to breathe in the night.

Mother says at the stoplight that all things change and die and are reborn as new interpretations of the old things they started out being. The steering wheel presses into her egg belly. It moves as she breathes and makes me think of large summer t-shirt breasts. The egg won't be long now. She says Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were co-opted mostly from Zoroastrianism, which, in turn, came from prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious traditions and on and on back to the beginning. She says everything gets twisted more tightly together the longer we go. Braided together like that fancy bread. She says that in a thousand years, the only way a goat will qualify as a halal meal will be if the goat was killed by an allied air strike. This is how things are taken up and incorporated. Merry Christmas. Allahu Akbar.

Christmas morning, after presents. After two pots of coffee down. Breakfast starts. There's a bleary-eyed pause and a feeling like a burial or the feeling a soldier has after the shooting stops and the collecting of the dead begins, after the presents are all discovered. Old man is picking up the wrapping paper. Bing Crosby is drunk and humping melekalikimaka. Brother and sister arrange piles of presents. Carefully delineated stacks of territories. Fortunes displayed. Fortresses built. Pajama war masters.

Breakfast preparation now. The egg comes out of the heavy industrial pot. Old man brought it home from some going-out-of-business factory auction or another. It covers all four burners on the stovetop and has fire stains up its sides like a cave ceiling. The bacon smokes. Juice glasses on the table like bishops. Homemade hash browns have irregular shapes like birthmarks on the platter. Fingers around their edges like jellyfish hair.

Old man, who is rotten inside and has bad breath and a bald head, shouts at brother about the shitting napkins and holds his fork above the egg. The fork, which is the most commonplace and remarkable of all the creations around us. We sit like swine among our trappings. The stacks of presents, every shape of ornament, buildings and cities that have to be jackhammered and drilled and pounded and torched into existence because they would rather not be, so we force them to be. Once there were no buildings. Then, in the dark, there was a flicker. Like butterfly dust on your fingers or the sound of a bullet past your ear. A blink. A bio-electrical flicker deep in the meat behind the eyes of a monkey. Thoughts became tangible things as if by magic. And now we have forks. And everything else.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, Jon Fotch. All rights reserved.