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FICTION / Cracked / Richard Leise


It’s dark for the sun has stopped shining. The egg splits upon its seam, jellybeans rattling and spilling upon the sheet. Mallory can’t believe it. She calls in a loud voice, “Justin, I think I figured it out.” She falls back against her pillows. 

“I’m right here, you dope,” Justin pushes up from the floor. Eggs halve and clatter. “Mallory. Please,” he leans over the bed. “You’ve gotta quit shouting. You’re going to wake them.”  

Mallory is asleep; she hadn’t been fully awake. The plastic egg is on her belly. In a hand a jam jar full of Franzia. If it wasn’t Easter, Justin would leave it. Eventually she’d roll over, and the wine would spill, waking her, and she’d have to get up to put a towel on the sheet, she’d undress, she’d probably catch a foot and fall, she might or might not injure herself (they’d discover this in the morning), and, after climbing back into bed, there’d be a decent chance for sex. Justin shakes his head. Madeline and Abigail will be up in a couple hours. He needs the sleep. Justin removes the glass and sets it on her night stand. 

Now, Justin walks the block. All is calm, the stars are bright. It’s seventy degrees. This isn’t the worst neighborhood. The only house he’s concerned about he makes for first. Fearing some unknown reprisal, he can’t chance leaving these people out. Alternately, he doesn’t want to spook them. Along the way he demonstrably places eggs on the small squares of lawn fronting each property; at the roots of trees; against the bases of No Parking signs; and along metal fencing. The eggs are filled with money he’s collected since the start of Lent. Something like eighty dollars. Considering the number of step-this’s and that’s coming and going? The street, come any given day of the week, might fill with fifteen kids—Maddie and Abbie among them—playing some physical variation of a computer game. 

There’s the house. Last Saturday more people than the structure seemed capable of containing spilled from the door and onto the street. The fight was between the man and the woman Justin considers its principal tenants. In the twenty minutes it took police to arrive, the shouting and screaming woke the girls. Justin put them in his bedroom and turned up the TV. He went to his office. Mallory was nursing a hangover, but adrenaline kicked in. She motioned for him. They crouched by a window. It was difficult to make out much of the action, which made the implicit violence more visceral. The woman hit the man over the head with a beer bottle and spit in his face. The man told someone to get his gun. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. Like a tear drop a little boy slid from the porch and pulled at the man. Someone dragged the child inside. The twinkling crash of more breaking glass. No one moved. When the man punched the woman in the face, her nose exploding, Mallory went back to bed.  

Justin knows someone in that house is watching him. He nears. The place is blacked out, its windows covered with blankets. Bass disrupts the silence, makes thick thin textures, snares and kick drums in triple-time, offset by hi-hats similarly divided, completing the trap. He doesn’t want to appear anything other than casual. He places two eggs on their lawn. They disappear into the grass.  

Home, the front door locked, Justin gnaws on a carrot. He hides the girls’ Easter baskets. Justin places eggs inside every room—several contain clues as to the baskets’ whereabouts—before, out back, double-checking to make sure the privacy fence is locked, he arranges the rest, tossing the carrot near the gate. All is still and good. Tomorrow will largely be terrible, but the morning will be fun.  

A gunshot. Really? Justin locks the door, and makes for his office. He steps on an egg, the plastic shattering. Kneeling, peering through a space between the curtain, he hears another. Only it’s not gunfire; it’s the couple’s screen door slamming shut. The place has been dead since the fight. Cars still pull up, but they remain only long enough to clock. 

The man emerges pulling the woman. In the event of this event? Justin resolved to do nothing. When he was an undergrad he lived in Buffalo. Drunk, he’d sometimes stand in his kitchen and throw cheese out the window. Rats the size of raccoons knocked over garbage cans in mad dashes for the food. It was disgusting and amusing and Justin felt similarly the other night, in control of the action. Only he wasn’t in Buffalo any longer. He, as observer, played no part in the outcome. He’ll watch. But he won’t bare witness.     

The woman screams some stream of consciousness nonsense. The man shoves her free and makes for an egg, grabs it from the grass. He shakes it, smiling. Justin hears the change, rattling. It’s a good one, a Sacajawea. The man points to that spot where Justin planted the other. The woman drops her hands from her hips. She cusses when, shook, it doesn’t make a sound. The man laughs when she pops it open. A two-dollar bill.  

It’s like the man made a map. He takes the woman up and down the block, lets her find the others. They pocket the money, they drop the eggs like cigarette butts. In front of Justin’s house there are two eggs. Each contains a twenty. The woman knows Justin’s family; she wants to leave them for the girls. As they approach the house he flattens.  

There are many things which, if recorded, even the world itself could not contain the number of books written. 

He says, “Let’s just check them.”

Learning what they do? And Justin slides from his office on his belly. He’ll wait until morning. Easter is terrible when you’re older. People always give him something to look forward to.

Richard Leise recently accepted The Perry Morgan Fellowship in Creative Writing from Old Dominion University. While completing an MFA, he has a novel out on submission, and is completing a collection of short stories; his work has been accepted by several publications, and will run this spring.