When I was six, I lived next door to Jude and Justin in a sleepy but central neighborhood in Boulder, Co. The brothers weren’t allowed in my house, but sometimes their large and boisterous family would invite me into theirs, which was always an exciting thing: to get to play INSIDE. It was the early 80’s and children were still expected to run around outside from morning ‘til the streetlights turned on.
Their cluttered house stored so much stuff and people, I never knew where to look first. Every space occupied something. Toys lay scattered on the kitchen floor. Heaps of laundry piles dotted the living room like small fabric volcanos. Babies in droopy diapers ran around sniffling and sticky-fingered, while their mom and dad yelled and laughed, laughed and yelled.
One sunny day I wandered over to Jude and Justin’s to see if they wanted to play. Their house stood eerily quiet that afternoon. The porch slanted at an odd angle. The whiff of poverty normally hidden hung more noticeably over the barren yard without the frenetic bodies there to obscure it. I climbed up the steps to knock on the door anyway. Maybe they were all asleep on some giant family bed, like the Walton’s. No one answered. I tried the knob, and it clicked open.
A person doesn’t just walk into another person’s house. I knew that. But I figured, hey, I’m no stranger. If they’re napping, I could say I’m merely looking for them, which I was. And no one ever told me I wasn’t welcome there when the family was gone, so…
The chaos inside absent Jude and Justin’s family was like a movie set without its characters. Like walking in on the aftermath of an alien abduction. All the blinds were drawn, and the air was cold. I stood in the middle of the kitchen, shifting from one foot to the other. Now that I was in, I wasn’t sure what to do.
I’d visited during breakfast before and watched as Jude and Justin’s dad cooked scrambled eggs, bacon, and buttered white toast. Now, I peered into the cavernous refrigerator. Tubs of unidentifiable foods were stacked next to vegetables in various stages of decay. A plated stick of butter lay atop an inordinate amount of eggs. An idea popped into my head: I’d make scrambled eggs.
I pulled out the butter and set it on the counter, grabbed a dirty knife from the sink and chopped off a corner to put in my mouth. The mixture of salt and fat tasted horrible on its own. Not like when slathered on a piece of white toast. I looked around. No bread. I went back into the fridge for the eggs, grabbing about five or six.
I randomly opened cupboards until I finally found the cast iron pan I’d seen their dad use. I placed it on the gas stove and stood back. Now that I had committed to the task and had my items assembled, I felt pretty confident I could remember how to make the eggs.
It involved a lot of stirring, I recalled, so I searched drawers for a fork and pushed the whole stick of butter into the pan. I turned the stove knob closest to me up to two.
Standing on tiptoes afforded a better view of what might be happening on the stove top. So far, nothing was happening. I cracked six eggs into the pan and stirred, mushing down the butter as best I could. The eggs coalesced into an orangish, gloopy soup, while chunks of butter floated on top.
It wasn’t cooking. I turned the knob as far to the right as it would go. A loud clacking sound filled the kitchen, surprising me into dropping the fork into the slime. I quickly turned the knob back to two and fished the fork out, getting sticky egg all over the stove, the counter, and my hands.
Suddenly, things weren’t feeling so good. Eggshells peppered the entire area, including the floor. The fork was already gluing itself to the counter. And the damn eggs in the damn pan sat there, uncooked, accusing me.
Why the heck had I thought I could get away with this, making scrambled eggs at all, much less in someone else’s house? I wasn’t even allowed in there! The entire kitchen exuded incriminating evidence. I was gonna get caught. The adults would want to know why and I wouldn’t have an answer.
What I needed to do was clean up the crime scene, hide the evidence. I grabbed a dirty sponge from the sink and halfheartedly scrubbed the stove top. My chest tightened, and the sponge fell to the ground. I slowly stepped away from the stove, panting.
I took three more steps backward. Slowed my breath down. The egg-filled pan didn’t really look that out-of-place compared to the rest of the kitchen. In fact, it fit right in.
There’s nothing saying they didn’t leave those eggs there on the stove, I decided, walking toward the door. It’s possible that they left them there, and didn’t care to clean up their mess. Look at the rest of the house. What a pigsty.
I stepped on the porch, considering. No one would ever think that a person came in, made eggs, and left. Because who would do that? It didn’t make any sense.
No sense at all, I decided, locking the door behind me.
Check out this daily prompt: egg