photo of a chicken

You Have a Hen that Lays Opals by Tayler Karinen

They’re opal eggs. Shimmering ivory, glints of green, blue, pink, gold, flecks of color embedded in yolk-filled stone. You wait patiently till she leaves her roost to pick ground-scattered feed. Gingerly opening the coop door and shimmying inside, you catch the opal’s gleam in her nest. You pluck it quickly and drop it in your shirt pocket. 

Breakfast: 

When she laid her first opal, you soon discovered it wouldn’t crack like an egg. Not on the side of your mixing bowl, not on the edge of the counter, not on the neck of the kitchen faucet. Now, you have your hammer and chisel at the ready, ready for your morning-breakfast excavation. You do this egg cracking in the frying pan, picking out the bits of stone as it’s chipped away. You eat scrambled eggs in perpetuity, never careful enough to crack it open with the yolk still intact. 

Eggshells: 

Shards on the floor that leave impressions on the bottom of your feet. Shells on countertops, on shelves in the pantry, in the basin of the sink. You never have the heart to throw them away. 

Whites: 

These eggs fluff better than any you’ve ever seen. The ones your mother used to make were never this bouncy, this soft. Her scrambled eggs always looked hard, with flecks of dried egg crust from the pan mixed in. She used to scold you as you pushed the eggs around your plate with your fork. You’d take a bite to appease her, rolling small bites of egg rubber around your mouth with your tongue. You preferred the way your father made them, though your mother knew that you preferred your father to her in almost every category. You tried hard to not make this apparent, but it showed. 

Yolks: 

They’re the strangest hue of yellow you ever seen, gleaming like an oil slick on black pavement, iridescent swirls in the summer sun. You set the heat to low, careful to not let a single drop stick to your butter-painted pan. 

Hens: 

Your opal-laying hen looks like any other. She’s special, but you don’t name her. She won’t be this way forever. 

After Breakfast: 

“Fixing cars is about intuition,” your father would say, his head tucked under the hood and arm extended outward, beckoning you to bring him his socket wrench. He lived his life constantly working, his intuition humbled by luck’s unpredictability when the crops weren’t bountiful and his chicks wouldn’t hatch. 

Omelets: 

You try to make an omelet one morning and it tastes like vinegar. 

Your Mother: 

After your father died and you couldn’t bear to stay on the farm, you sought something bigger than chicken coops or rusted pickups. When you began to feel the thrum of the endless, city concrete pulse in your chest and confidence in your stride, your mother chided you for leaving.

Empty Houses: 

You never wanted their home or their chickens, but you can’t leave now.

For good luck: 

You tuck an eggshell in your pocket. 

Tayler Karinen lives in Saginaw, Michigan. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a MA in English Literature and Creative Writing. Her fiction has previously appeared in Hot Metal Bridge, The Roadrunner Review, and Cardinal Sins. One day, she hopes to pursue a MFA and publish a collection of flash fiction.

Lead image: “Red Chicken” (via Flickr user Stuart Richards)

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