'The Breakfast' by Jim Mentink
Jackie carried two eggs from the refrigerator to the kitchen counter where she cracked them into a large bowl. “They’re pasture raised,” she said. “Free range. The chickens eat bugs and naturally occurring seeds, I guess.”
She took a whisk and started beating the eggs, slowly adding a few tablespoons of water.
“Did I ever tell you,” she said, “the water makes the eggs frothy?”
The eggshells sat glistening on her counter as she worked adding a pinch of salt and pepper.
“I always used to use milk. Two percent if you want to know the truth,” Jackie said. “But then I tried this way. Now, you ask Carmen, and she won’t do this. She won’t even eat an egg to save her life. She’s a vegan.” Saying it like Carmen was a Satan worshipper. Jackie shook her head. “Won’t use any kind of oil, either. To fry? Claims it helps her veins or something, I guess.”
Jackie had preheated her iron pan on the gas stove and now poured the mixture into it, listened to the satisfying sizzle of the wet eggs striking the hot surface. As the eggs began to curdle, she busy agitated them with a wooden spatula.
“The secret to fluffy scrambleds is to keep them moving, you know. Jenny’s moving. Not sure if I told you that already.” She set the spatula on the oven surface and put her hands on her hips. “Jenny didn’t like Tulsa. Thinks Memphis might be more her style. Ribs and blues music, I guess.”
Jackie chuckled then, waved a dismissive hand toward the middle of the kitchen, then returned to scrambling.
“I’m going to be a juror in this summer’s art fair! That’s in July, you know. Second annual.”
She was silent for most of a minute before adding, “Last year there were a couple thousand people, I suppose. I was just a guest then, but Vivian—oh, you must know her! —she asked me, Vivian did, to be a juror about a month ago. She’s head of the committee.”
She looked toward the middle of the kitchen, nodding. “She knows I know about art. I have eleven credits, you know. I’ll finish my degree one day.”
The scrambled eggs cooked quickly, and she lifted them onto a translucent blue plate. “They’re so fluffy. I suppose you still like them over easy. My god, nobody even eats them that way anymore.”
She moved to the table, shuffled to the wooden drainboard, and selected a fork, then returned to the table where she sat down on the unoccupied walnut chair.
Jackie said, “Everybody’s worried about bacteria. You can’t eat runny eggs, they think.” She giggled. “No matter. I like them scrambled, anyway. I guess there’s something curd-like, something honest about them.”
She blew on a forkful and ate them.
“Do I want orange juice?” she said. “Seems quicker than coffee.”
She stood up, using her hands to boost her, the placemat bumping the full vase in the middle of the table. The water ran across the surface and on the lap of her breakfast companion, but Jackie didn’t notice as her back was turned.
“I like fresh squeezed, of course. But I’m out of oranges,” Jackie said.
She removed a plastic bottle of orange juice, which had a missing lid, from the refrigerator and poured a few ounces into an empty glass.
She turned and saw the overturned vase, the water running onto her dead husband’s lap, the lily laying on the table near his clean plate, the dripping onto the floor.
Her mouth opened in shock.
“Oh, now…that will stain the floor,” Jackie said. “I better clean that up.”
She grabbed her floor sponge and walked toward the table. “Guess my eggs will be cold.”
Jackie began sopping up the spilled water.
“Your sister keeps calling. Wants to stay in touch, I guess. But I just don’t like her.”
Copyright. Jim Mentink.
Jim Mentink’s publication history includes short fiction with Bending Genres, Pangyrus Literary Magazine, and New World Writing. He was also a runner-up in the Eliza So 'Finish Your Book' fellowship and named an Honorable Mention in the Literary Taxidermy Short Story Contest. Additionally, he had the privilege of being invited to workshop at the Writers in Paradise conference in 2019, and was granted art residencies with Hewnoaks (2015) and Wildacres (2019)--all on the merit of his fiction. Jim is a current member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.