Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

THE 13th EGG

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

THE 13th EGG

Article excerpt

September 1946

EVERETT HAD NO IDEA how long his parents had been standing outside his bedroom door. He hadn't heard them knock or try the knob, hadn't heard them call out. But by the time he opened the door his father was kneeling at the lock with a screwdriver in his teeth. His mother stood just behind, clutching her elbows.

His father removed the screwdriver from his mouth. "Well?" he said.

"Well what?" said Everett.

"You didn't hear us out here?" said his mother.

His father stood, joints popping. "We've been pounding on your door for five minutes."

"I'm sorry," said Everett. "I must have had the record playing too loud."

"What record?" his mother said.

The question confused Everett. The record playing: "Travelin' Light" by Johnny Mercer. But then the hiss and thump of the needle became audible to him, and he saw that his old tabletop had finished playing some time ago.

"I guess I was distracted," he said.

"Distracted." His father turned and shot his mother a look. "Well whatever you were doing, you ought to put on some clothes. It's almost one o'clock."

Everett looked down and saw that he was wearing only a loose robe. He closed the collar and tightened the belt, trying hard to concentrate.

"Are you sure you're all right, honey?" said his mother.

Everett presented a smile. "I'm great."

"You don't have to be great, yet," said his father. "You've been home a month. You can be anything you want."

"Okay."

"Ewy," said his mother, "if you're feeling up to it, we have something we want to show you."

"Right now?" said Everett.

"No, next week," said his father. "Yes, now. How are your marks?"

"Still there."

"Are you using your ointment?" said his mother.

He told her he was. Everett could feel himself coming back; the sensation was like being poured slowly into his own body, his feet and legs taking on weight, his chest filling.

"Well, we'll just have to wait and see on that one," said his father. "Now put on some clothes."

"Right," said Everett. "Will do." He went to close the door, but his father blocked it with his foot.

"No more locks."

"At least for now, okay?" said his mother.

"Okeydokey," said Everett, gently closing the door. As he dressed, he was careful to avoid the mirror; he was feeling a bit better now, sharper, but he knew that the sight of his bare skin would distract him again, draw him back into his thoughts. Once his body was covered-letterman sweater on, trousers belted-he afforded himself a quick peek, and there he was, himself again: an average-looking nineteen-year-old. A little thin, a bit lanky, but broad enough in the shoulders to hide it. He smiled, inspecting his teeth, poking at the muscles of his face. After a moment of hesitation, he leaned closer to the mirror and opened his mouth wide, sticking out his tongue. Cautiously, he peered down into his throat.

"Ev?" his father called from downstairs.

"Coming," Everett said.

He found his parents waiting for him in the backyard. On the grass in front of them lay a steel pod, nearly six feet long.

"Well," said his father, "what do you think?"

Everett's first thought was that the object was a bomb. His parents had lost their minds and somehow purchased a 10,000-pound cookie. They stood over the thing, smiling, waiting a reaction.

His father knocked on the steel hull with his knuckles. "I thought we could work on it together."

"Like a hobby," said his mother, rubbing his father's shoulder.

Confused, Everett examined the steel hulk more closely. He saw that, in fact, it wasn't a bomb, but a fuel tank from a light fighter airplane. He'd served on a destroyer, not a carrier, but he'd seen enough fighters up close to recognize a belly-tank. The thing had come from a P-51 or 36, he figured, and then the picture suddenly became clear to him: his father wanted to construct a race car together. …

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