The Egg in Twelve Scenes
by Theodora Goss
The egg was immaculate.
I made certain to keep the egg immaculate.
He could not fault me for being a bad housekeeper.
He said, I’m going to marry one of your sisters.
He said, I’m going to marry the other of your sisters.
I said, What happened to my first sister?
He said, I don’t know. Maybe she joined the circus.
My oldest sister was named Doris.
She resented this.
My father had named her.
Beware the wizard Fitcher, he had told us
when we were, respectively, three, five, and seven.
Doris was seven.
Why, what will he do to me? she asked.
She was always practical and curious,
a typical first-born, a brunette,
sometimes a bit too bossy.
My father answered, He will eat your heart.
My middle sister was named Eglantine.
My mother had given her that name,
together with her blessing.
She had golden hair, and hazel eyes,
and a laugh like water
falling over small stones.
She was the sensitive, artistic one.
It was no wonder
Fitcher came for her, after
My name was Mag
or Maggie, or Come-here-Margaret,
I was not the cause of my mother’s death,
they assured me. But I
I carried guilt like a seamed and
faded letter in my pocket.
When Fitcher came for me,
I said, What have you done with Eglantine?
He said, She left to go find herself.
Maybe in India, maybe in Indiana, who knows.
She could be anywhere.
I said, I didn’t know she was lost.
I said, I will not be like my sisters.
I will not run off to become an acrobat
or meditate on a yoga mat. Instead, I will be content.
I will learn to cook. Let’s start with breakfast:
how do you like your eggs?
But Fitcher was already gone.
I was talking to myself.
He said to keep the egg clean,
so I kept the egg clean by putting it on a shelf.
He said not to open the door
with the smallest key on the ring heavy
with all the keys, from cellar to butler’s pantry.
So I cut off my little finger and used the bone instead.
My mother could not read me fairy tales,
so I had to read them myself.
Doris had taught me to sew.
Carefully, I stitched them together again,
trying to remember which was her arm,
I’m not entirely sure I got it right,
because Doris has started painting,
and Eglantine is a much better seamstress.
When I was done, my sisters said,
Maggie, you know he’s coming back.
We need to get out of here double-quick.
So I put them in the basket
and covered them with feathers.
Where is the key? said Fitcher.
I showed him the key, unspotted
on its heavy ring.
Where is the egg? he said.
I showed him the egg, as white
as a lily. He smiled at me.
Good girl, Maggie, he said.
My name, I whispered, is Margaret.
Then I asked him to carry the basket
to my father’s house.
They say I am clever for saving my sisters.
They say Fitcher deserved what he got
when my sisters climbed out of the basket
and explained everything.
My father roared and lunged toward him.
Fitcher stepped back, tumbled down the porch steps,
and broke his head on the concrete,
like in a children’s rhyme.
The yoke spilled out.
They could not put him together again.
It was an accident, they said. Anyway,
that’s what he gets for being an evil wizard.
Your Maggie is a clever girl, they said.
I didn’t want the house.
The blood would never come out
of that floor.
But I took the insurance money.
After all, every girl
needs a nest egg.
Now I’m with the circus, wearing yellow tights
and a silver cape that looks like wings
when I spread my arms under the Big Top.
I always fancied myself
on the flying trapeze.
(The image is an illustration for “Fitcher’s Bird” by Arthur Rackham.)