Third Place, Cleaver 2022 Flash Competition
“The Egg” is a story of conjugal love gone rotten. In this frightening study of betrayal, the author’s fine use of startling and original metaphor is something that knocked me out. Reading this story, I imagined staring into the raccoon’s terrible, crazy eyes. I couldn’t get the image of the egg-sucking animal out of my head. And though the plot might be familiar, this writer treats us to a fresh engagement with the subject through a horrific outside-the-body vulnerability that I have rarely read in such a compact flash. It is in the tiniest creepiest details that the heart of this story lives. —Meg Pokrass, Contest Judge
The raccoons are at it again, shuffling under the deck with their bandit faces and jailbird tails. Wanting. They think I don’t hear them, but I do. A snuffle. A scrape. An I’ll-knock-this-over-before-you-run-me-off skittering below the wooden boards. They’re after the robin’s nest tucked in a niche under the floorboards.
In the daylight, I hoist everything out from beneath the deck.
Why bother? Jay says, hands on his hips while I wash the items, stack, and rearrange them.
I pull out a split hose, a broken hockey stick to soldier limp tomato plants, a half-empty propane tank, two mismatched lawn chairs, and a storage box full of nothing.
They’ll find a way, Jay says.
The mother robin squawks and flaps from its treetop perch as I clomp under the porch, shuffling items, putting sticks inside the box, shoring up nooks and crannies because I don’t want raccoons living under there. They’re pests. Scroungers. Scoundrels and cheats. They’ll damage the foundation. Chew the wood. Keep me up all night with their rooting and rummaging.
Jay goes back into the house and I’m glad of it.
On top of the storage box, a tiny half shell, blue as Peyto Lake in Banff where we honeymooned, rolls off the lid onto the ground. Craning my neck, I glimpse three newly hatched birds, tiny as tulips, mouths hinged open, and the gentle curve of one unhatched egg dotted with brown freckles.
3 a.m. I push aside our let-nothing-come-between-us mound of blankets. The mattress dips on either side—our separate weight imprinting the foam. I pull up the blankets to mask the distorted shape and creep past the study. Jay sits at his desk, his pale features ghostly blue. A flash of skin flickers across the screen—an arm, maybe a leg—and he pivots the laptop shut.
Can’t sleep, he says, and I murmur something about raccoons.
I prowl the perimeter of the house, waiting for the onslaught. I’m armed with two high-beam flashlights and a bicycle horn because the rascals only stare at me when I clap or stomp my feet. They act like I’m invisible. No different than a tree or a stone.
Curled on the wicker loveseat on the porch, I rouse with every shuffle, every pattering of feet. I shine my light. Blow my horn. Yellow spills over the horizon and I check the silent blue egg in the nest. The baby birds’ mouths stretch wide in perpetual need. Wanting. Wanting. Wanting.
Beady eyes peer around the broken pot. It’s not afraid. It scuffles across the gravel, curls a dexterous paw around the smooth, speckled egg, and scoops it from the nest like plucking a berry from a vine.
I blow my horn and the raccoon pops the egg into its mouth and chews, mouth dripping stringy albumen and yolk as it watches me.
Dawn Miller’s most recent work appears in SmokeLong Quarterly, Fractured Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Typehouse, Jellyfish Review, Guernica Edition’s This Will Only Take a Minute anthology, and The Maine Review, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives and writes in Picton, Ontario, Canada. Connect at www.dawnmillerwriter.com and on Twitter @DawnFMiller1. Dawn Miller’s flash fiction piece “The Egg” is Third Prize winner of Cleaver’s 2022 flash fiction contest judged by Meg Pokrass.
Cover Design by Karen Rile