You have no items in your cart. Want to get some nice things?Go shopping
The egg splits on its seam, jellybeans rattling and spilling across the sheet. Mallory can’t believe it. She calls in a loud voice, “Honey, I think I figured it out.” She falls back into her pillows.
“Mallory, I’m right here.” Justin pushes up from the floor. Eggs halve and clatter. “Seriously. Please. You’ve got to quit shouting. You’re going to wake the kids.” He kneels beside their bed. “And you’re supposed to be putting the eggs together, not taking them apart.”
Mallory is asleep; she hadn’t been fully awake. Half of a plastic egg is on her belly. One hand is on her forehead, palm to ceiling, as if she fainted. In the other, a jam jar full of Franzia. A purple jellybean fell to the bottom of her glass, and tiny bubbles rise from the candy, popping atop the surface of the white wine. Her eyelids flutter.
If it weren’t Easter, Justin would leave the glass in her hand. Eventually, she’d roll over, and the wine would spill, waking her, and she’d force herself to get up and undress, to put a towel on their sheet, and she’d probably catch a foot and fall, she might or might not bump her head, or crack a rib (they’d discover the extent of her injuries in the morning) and, after climbing back into bed, there’d be a decent chance for sex.
But not tonight.
It’s already well past 11, and Madeline and Abigail will be awake – if he’s lucky – in five hours. He needs the sleep.
Justin takes the glass from her hand and sets it on her nightstand.
Justin walks outside, holding an Easter basket by its handle. It is dark, for the sun has stopped shining. All is calm, the stars are bright. It’s 70 degrees. This is not the worst neighbourhood, but there is not much to recommend, either. The only house he’s concerned about he makes for first. Fearing some unknown reprisal, he can’t chance leaving these people out. Alternately, he’s afraid of spooking them.
Along the way, he demonstrably places eggs on the small squares of neatly manicured lawns fronting each nearby property; at the roots of trees and against the bases of No Parking signs adjacent curb fronts; and along metal fencing. He filled the eggs with money he collected throughout Lent, something like $80 in loose change and assorted bills. Considering the number of step-this’s and step-thats who come and go? The street, come any given day of the week, fills with a dozen kids – Maddie and Abbie among them – playing some physical variation of a computer game. Tomorrow morning their block will be bustling.
The house. One of two on Constance Avenue (they squat, side by side, looking to passersby like a pair of ugly eyes) that is not owner-occupied. Last Saturday, more people than the structure seemed capable of containing spilled from the door and onto the street. The fight was between a man and a woman, a pair of drug dealers Justin considers the properties’ principal tenants.
In the 20 minutes it took police to arrive, the shouting and screaming woke the girls. Justin put them in his bedroom and turned up the TV. Mallory was nursing a hangover, but adrenaline kicked in. She motioned for him. He went to his office, and they crouched by a window. It was difficult to make out much of the action, which made the implicit violence more visceral. The woman hit the man over the head with a beer bottle; she spat in his face. The man pleaded with someone to get his gun. There was pushing and shoving. Like a teardrop, a little boy slid from the porch and pulled at the man. Someone dragged the child inside. The twinkling of more breaking glass littering the street. For one moment, no one moved. The world was still. When the man punched the woman in the face, her nose exploding, Mallory went back to bed.
Justin knows that someone in the house is watching him, but he doesn’t falter. The place is blacked out, its windows covered with blankets. Bass disrupts the silence, makes thick thin textures, and snares and kick drums in triple-time, offset by hi-hats similarly divided, complete the trap. He doesn’t want to appear anything other than casual. He places two Day-Glo eggs on their lawn. They sink into the overgrown grass.
Home, the front door locked, Justin gnaws on a baby carrot, drops what remains on the floor, and does the same with a celery stalk. He fills, and then hides, the girls’ Easter baskets, double-checking to ensure they received the same number of gifts. This, here, is a time Mallory will regret missing, a moment, 20 years from today, the girls away at graduate school, or married, she will not be able to look back upon and smile. But if Justin – like debt – accumulated the moments of their lives that his wife forfeited, he would be broken, bitter, and resent her, and because he doesn’t want this, he tries to understand what she’s going through, and he doesn’t want her to apologise because he knows that she is, in every sense of the word, sorry.
From the refrigerator he removes the dozen hardboiled eggs he dyed with the girls before bed. They are organic, and it’s difficult to brighten brown shells, but they had fun, the girls using white crayons to draw thick, waxy hearts and flowers on the sides of their eggs before dipping them in mugs containing concentrated primary colours. Cool, but dry, he combines the eggs with 40 or so of the plastic variety, hiding them atop bookshelves and inside sneakers – several of the plastic eggs containing clues as to the whereabouts of the girls’ Easter baskets – too tired to make note of where he’s hiding what, let alone to pen a list. The girls will argue, and Mallory will complain, but it’ll do. He carries what remains through the darkened kitchen.
Out back, double-checking to make sure he locked the privacy fence, he hides the rest of the plastic eggs, tossing another, much larger carrot, near the gate. All is still and good. Tomorrow will largely be terrible – they have to travel a couple of hours to see Mallory’s family – but the morning will be fun.
There is a gunshot. Justin hurries inside, locks the backdoor, kicks off his sandals, and makes for his office. He steps on an egg, the plastic shattering and cutting his foot, the jellybeans unmistakably malleable. Upstairs, kneeling, peering through a space between the curtains, he hears another shot. Only it is not gunfire. It’s the couple’s – the drug dealer’s – screen door slamming open against their house’s siding.
The man pulls the woman down the steps.
In the event of this particular event?
Justin resolved to do nothing. When he was an undergrad, he lived in Buffalo. Drunk, he sometimes stood at his kitchen window and tossed cheese towards a bay of garbage bins. The slices, like orange Frisbees, arced to the earth, and rats, big as raccoons, rocked the bins in mad dashes for the food. It was disgusting, and fascinating, sort of like the other night, when, as if somehow capable of inciting, or controlling the action, Justin, from his window, willed no particular outcome. Only he wasn’t in Buffalo any longer. He, as observer, played no part in anything. He will watch. But he will not bear witness.
The woman shouts a blast of gibberish. The man shoves her free and makes for an egg, grabbing it from the grass. He shakes it, smiling. Justin hears the change rattling. It’s a good one, a few Sacajaweas. The man points to the spot where Justin planted the other. The woman drops her hands from her hips. She cusses when, shook, the egg doesn’t make a sound. The man laughs when she pops it open. A $2 bill.
It’s as though the man made a map. He takes the woman up and down the street, lets her find the others. They pocket the money, dropping the eggs like cigarette butts. Smiling, their faces bright beneath the moonlight, the man and the woman seem happy.
In front of Justin’s house there are two pink eggs. Each contains a 20. The woman knows Justin’s family. She has children, and the kids play together; she wants to leave the eggs alone.
The man says, “Let’s just check them.”
As they approach his house, Justin (somewhat dramatically, he thinks) flattens against the floor. For a moment, he can no longer hear what they are saying. Learning what they do? As they approach, Justin crawls from his office on his belly, sliding into bed; he’ll wait until morning.
It’s not a big deal.
If the eggs are open, he will distract the girls, slip outside, and replace the money. There are many things which, if recorded, even the world itself could not contain the number of books written.
If so? Let this be one of them.
Mallory is talking in her sleep. She is dreaming, and what she pictures isn’t pretty. Justin adjusts her pillows, waits until she’s no longer agitated, and then gets comfortable, staring at the ceiling, listening for sounds of the couple, and waiting for sleep.
Between what’s real and what he invents, people always give him something to do. This makes life interesting, and easier (For Justin hates boredom.) And there are his girls. Like him – only much, much differently – they believe in everything. At some point tomorrow they’ll spy the eggs in the front yard, and they’ll be delighted. They will scramble to slip on sneakers and, still in their pyjamas, scour the street, running from one point to another, picking up the discarded eggs and leaving them in place, certain that the next flash of colour will have yet to be discovered.
Disappointed? Of course. But only because they slept past six o’clock and other kids beat them to the eggs. But still – $20! Each! And when they come inside they’ll turn on the television and, eyes bright, sit on their knees, staring at everything, waiting for their mommy to enter the living room, face puffy, holding a cup of coffee, affecting happiness, lowering herself to the floor, and assuming her role in the family.