How to Boil an Egg
layer of eggs in the pan, and cover with cold water.
A perfectly boiled egg is
a certainty, if you follow a few simple steps. You will never have
runny yolks. No green rings will form separating the fragile yolks
from their protective whites. They wonít fracture in the pan,
spilling their innards, making what was intended as a quick meal
into an industrial accident. Never undercooked nor overdone. Always
Youíll never have to
worry about these things, my love.
Yes, Daddy, Jael said.
Does Mommy know this, too?
Scrunched up, furrowed
brow, black hair spilling over her cheeks.
Of course, sweetie. I
love your mommy, and want to take away her burdens, too.
Contented again, she held
her Spongebob doll tight, rubbing the side of its square, yellow
Next, a dash of salt. This will help make them easier to peel, as
will the cold water.
Itís not just breaking a
shoelace, or slipping on an icy sidewalk, or getting mustard on your
shirt before an interview. People are uncertain, too.
Things you regret saying,
doing. Being sarcastic, condescending, to your mother before you
think, a mother whoís old, poor, filled with all the worldís
uncertainties, who could use some kindness from someone whoís
supposed to be certain to deliver.
The last day of my visit:
What? I asked Mama.
Just wondering what
Gotta get these back to
the students tomorrow, I said, waving the twenty-one ungraded
essays, eyes on the computer monitor.
Belize. On the culture.
Thatís in Mexico?
Seriously, Mom? How old
Just curious. Thatís all.
And she turned away,
walking gingerly down the stairs, the pain in her hips a constant,
dull rhythmic ache.
Not a boiled egg, though.
It wonít stain a shirt. Or a motherís heart.
Put it on
the stove, high heat.
Were you mean to mommy?
Eyebrows raised, large,
brown eyes suspicious.
I gave her head a playful
rub, smiled sadly.
Thoughtless, mostly. She
took me to a nice restaurant, Italian place by the seashore. Wanted
to give me a treat. I had had a toothache all day and was very
irritable. She said something to me in passing, poking fun at how I
couldnít read the menu because it was in Italian. Then another joke
Thatís it. Weíre done
here, I said. Got up and left.
Patience. I needed
patience. Doesnít seem like a big deal, though, right? An apology
later, and itís over. But itís never over, Jael. The moments stay,
haunt you late at night, little things collectively ripping into
your conscience, spilling into all your tomorrows.
Tiny bubbles circle
the eggs, shoot up.
Look, Jael. Right when it
starts to boil, cover it, and turn off the heat. Youíre never really
boiling the eggs. Thatís just something people say. Now, we wait for
How come people say
boiling when they donít mean it?
People say things all the
time they donít mean.
Like I hate you.
Iíll stop drinking.
I wish you were dead.
I wish I were dead.
Jael squeezed Spongebob
tighter, her mouth moistening the smooth felt, her caramel hands
white at the knuckles.
Now, after ten
minutes, hereís the trick: take your pan full of eggs, and run them
under cold water until the water in the pan isnít warm anymore. Let
Theyíre ready. Want to
help peel them, sugar?
The white of her knuckles
dissipated. I gently brushed back her dark hair. Gazed up at me,
smiled. She had her motherís nose, I noticed for the hundredth time,
but my lips, my smile.
Her image blurred, and I
reached for her arm, my hand grasping, closing down on nothing. She
No, itís not like that.
Iíll go back, run down
the stairs. I was wrong, Mama. Wrong to say those awful things, to
hurt you. Iíll take you there, to Belize. Make you laugh. Tell you
youíre beautiful and smart and kind. Make your heart glow.
My wife, too.
She wasnít your wife.
Only could have been. But you kept fucking up, didnít you? Know who
else could have been? Jael.
Canít be like that. My
life half over. Alone.
Got your mistakes.
Theyíre always good company, right? Even Mamaís not real anymore.
How long did she last after that visit? Three weeks. No sir, unless
you count being planted in the ground as real, sheís as imaginary as
No, not like that. Iíll
go back. Do it again.
Weíll all have a picnic, giggling, joking, all the happiness in the
world served up in emerald greens of fescue, soft beach sand, azure
blue waters, cotton candy clouds. Our happy family.
Everythingís hazy, the
square porcelain tiles of the kitchen counter warped. The vertical
edges of the stove bending, everything twisting, merging in a
cesspool of metal and wood. Whiskey bottle half-full, pulled to my
lips, the amber liquid igniting. In the cool water, a handful of
oval-shaped certainties. One egg smashed against the grainy cedar
cabinet, another hurled at the table, another at the fridge.
Clean smacks. Exploding
But no runny yolks.
Copyright © 2013 Mike Hancock
Mike Hancock is a former wilderness guide and commercial
spent seven years guiding
hunters and campers in Montana, Idaho,
Wyoming and New Mexico.
Prior to that he was a deckhand for two
seasons aboard a factory
trawler in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Now living
in Wewoka, Oklahoma, he is
an Adjunct Professor of English and a
freelance writer. He holds a
B.A. in English Literature and a M.F.A.
in Creative Writing from
Southern New Hampshire University. His
fiction has appeared in
multiple literary journals, and London's Ether