February 3, 2017 Leave a comment
[[ Prompt: Magical realism – the book described this as putting something magical into an everyday situation. ]]
Eggs, butter, spinach, tin foil.
I repeated the list aloud like a mantra as traffic crawled along the highway. Eggs, butter, spinach, tin foil. Normally I’d have written it down, but it was only on the drive home that I’d remembered the meet-up tomorrow — the one I’d volunteered to bring snacks for. There wouldn’t be time to go out in the morning, so I needed to pick up a few things tonight on the way home. And it was only four things: eggs, butter, spinach, tin foil. I could remember four things. The sun was setting, setting the sky to gold and every car to a bright pinpoint of light. I fumbled in the console for my sunglasses. Eggs, butter, spinach, tin foil.
Traffic was especially slow, in addition to being Friday, it was also a holiday weekend. I exhaled a sigh of relief when I finally saw my exit sign. Eggs, butter, spinach, tin foil, I reminded myself. Pulling up to the light in front of the grocery store, I saw the intersection was clogged with cars. An accident, maybe, but it was going to make my quick trip to the grocery not-so-quick. I groaned. I just wanted to get home and get out of my work shoes. I remembered the little convenience store at the end of my block. Sure, it was more expensive, but they were sure to have at least the eggs and butter. Maybe I could improvise the rest. The parking lot at the convenience store was empty save for the owner’s car. It was something of a welcome sight after all that traffic on the highway. Eggs, butter, spinach, tin foil, I recited in my head, walking through the double doors with their struggling bell.
I grabbed a carton of butter from the refrigerated section and looked for eggs. They were out. Of course they were. I opened the case anyway, hoping maybe — yes! There was a little carton hiding behind the soy milk. I sneaked a peek inside just to be certain they were intact. The eggs were a dark green in color, nearly black, but the size of regular chicken eggs. Maybe some kind of wild fowl or something. But eggs were eggs, they were sure to work just fine and I was certain no one would know the difference. The convenience store didn’t have spinach, but I also grabbed a box of tin foil from the shelf before checking out. The little old lady at the register gave me a curious look, but said nothing other than “credit or debit”. In hindsight, I wonder why that was.
When I finally arrived at home, I tossed the eggs on the counter and shucked off my shoes. I went into my room to change into a t-shirt and pajama pants, the official uniform of the weekend. I saw that I had some new e-mails, and checked those too. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes. Maybe ten. When I returned to the kitchen, the egg carton was open. I was sure that I’d latched the little tabs. Flipping up the lid, I saw that one of the eggs had a crack running along its entire length. Had I thrown them into the back seat too roughly? I guess so. It didn’t matter though, I only needed four for the recipe. I fished the cracked egg out of the carton and was about to toss it into the trash when it squirmed. That’s the best word I can think of. I’m not too ashamed to admit that I shrieked, and dropped it on the floor. I crouched down to get a better look, nudging the eggshell with a wary finger. Something slithered out from it. A snake, I thought at first, but I could see little legs. I grew up around all sorts of little critters, so I wasn’t too fazed by a lizard. It was more the fact that it had just crawled out of my egg carton than anything else. I got a glass from the cupboard and corralled the hatchling into it for a better look. Its wide mouth opened as it peeped in protest. It almost looked like an alligator, but that was impossible, wasn’t it? The little body was covered in bony bumps running all along its sides and down the tail. There were several little bumps on its head and around the eyes. Taking the cup with me, I went to my computer and typed in “baby alligator” in the search box. It was similar, but not quite right. The nose was the wrong shape, and the tail wasn’t vertically flattened like the alligator’s. Okay, maybe a crocodile. I typed in every kind of lizard I could think of, but none of them seemed to match the little thing I had in my apartment.
It peeped again. It sure didn’t seem dangerous. Even if it was an alligator, right now it was only a few inches long. I took out some leftover takeout from the fridge and emptied the carton out onto a plate. My little hatchling sniffed at it for a few moments before trying it. I was glad I hadn’t gotten the spicy. A thought dawned on me and I went over to look at the other eggs. Sure enough, two more of them had cracks. Was I going to have six of these things? I didn’t have that much take-out. What’s more, I wasn’t allowed to have pets in my apartment. The nosy neighbor lady would be sure to notice if I was feeding six lizards. That’s assuming they didn’t make any noise, either. I pulled up the number for animal control on my phone and typed it in. My finger hovered over the “call” button. What was I going to say? I have a bunch of alligators in my house? They’d think it was a prank call. Maybe I could sell them to a pet store. If they were alligators, they might be worth something. Of course they’d want to know where I’d got them from. I didn’t want to get the store owners in trouble either.
I heard a riot of peeping from the kitchen. The two other eggs had hatched, and already joined their sibling at the plate of leftovers. I could see now some subtle color differences among the hatchlings. The first one was green and black, but one of the new ones had a reddish tint to it, and the other was paler, more of a forest green. I’d never heard of a reddish alligator, but then as I said I’m not exactly an expert. I wasn’t going to get my recipe done at this rate, but I also didn’t want to leave these little guys alone in my apartment. Who knows how much trouble they could cause. What’s more, there were three more that hadn’t hatched yet. I opted for pizza tonight, I wouldn’t have to go out and who knows, maybe alligators like pizza as well.
The little guys had devoured the entire plate of food already. Smears of sauce still clung around their lizardy mouths. I scooped them up and set them into the bathtub where I ran the tap to rinse them off. They seemed to like it, peeping and chirring as the tub filled. They were cute little guys. I’d have to get some pictures of them. I dug my phone out of my purse, and snapped a few pictures of them swimming around in the bathtub. Did I want to post the pictures? I hesitated, but I was pretty sure my nosy neighbor and my landlord weren’t among my online followers. I didn’t know what to tag them as, so I left it blank. I uploaded the pictures and got a towel out to dry my little guys off.
I hadn’t even made it back to the kitchen when my phone started to vibrate. Who was calling me? I set the towel full of baby alligators down on the couch and checked my notifications. They were comments on the picture I’d just posted. People asking if it was fake, where I’d got them, so on. I’d never had one of my photos get so many comments, and so fast.
Are those dragons? One of them read.
No way, I said, looking back at the babies clamoring on the towel. I heard more peeping from the kitchen.