Cracked

Today, she bought six dozen eggs and hard-boiled them twelve at a time in four separate pots on the stove, three to each. In ten minutes, the whites jellied and the yolk hardened. One year ago, Smith told her she needed to get her act together. That was after she filled the bathtub with Jell-O, to see what it’d feel like. Now she thinks, what a waste. She’s hungry and her tooth aches. She’s cold, the corner of her mouth bleeds; it looks like herpes, but she knows better. She hopes better anyway.

This time a year ago, Smith wiped red goop from behind her ears. Told her to squeeze her eyes shut and blow out her nose. Red snot everywhere. He helped her towel off and made sure the dog, Chester, stopped licking the clogged drain. Jell-O’s not good for dogs, he explained. Or bathtubs, but he didn’t mention that.

She considered cracking the eggs raw in the tub and climbing in. Egg yolk is supposedly wonderful for hair and her own looks straggled. But she remembered Chester and the choked drain and how the water wouldn’t go down all the way for months, not without returning first, shaded pink and smelling off—the rotten-sweet tang of garbage cans in summer filled to the brim with watermelon rinds, burst tangerines. She can’t stomach the punch of sulfur which is sure to come from eggs; she’s hungry. So.

It’s satisfying peeling them. They’re warm, supple. She bites into her first egg slowly, like kissing. The outside is smooth and moist like skin and she thinks of Smith, of his mouth on hers, his tongue forcing through and licking out Jell-O. Her tongue licks the ball of the egg, her teeth slice down. The uneaten half glares up from her palm like an eye. She licks her lips and catches a fresh spill of blood at the corner there, where the sore is.

9 Comments

  1. Janelle Greco

    I really loved this piece. So much to sink into here. The part about the garbage cans being “filled to the brim with watermelon rinds, burst tangerines,” really drew me in. Nice full circle with the ending coming back to the sore. I also enjoyed the imagery of having the narrator soak in Jell-O. I don’t have too much to say in terms of areas for improvement–I do wonder a bit more about Smith though. Maybe a bit more information about them might round the character out and add even some more layers to the story. Wow though. Really wonderful, lovely piece!

  2. Amy Barnes

    One of my favorite objects as imagery is the egg — so much in opportunity in a simple thing. You take that imagery and elevate it by complimenting it with other memorable descriptions and storytelling. There is a visceral nature in the story — the red goop, toothache, hunger, bleeding, rotten smell of garbage, the sensual nature of biting into the egg compared to her lover. The pacing and lyrical language here is lovely — moves the story along at just the right speed while immersing the reader. The title here also does heavy lifting leading into the flash body. While the story itself is quiet, there is emotion imbued throughout. I would love to see the first “she” with a defined name. For some reason, it feels like it would be nice to get the main character’s name because we know the other characters’ names but I’m not sure. Maybe try it with “she” against a name and see how it feels/sounds?

  3. Bud Smith

    “Today, she bought six dozen eggs and hard-boiled them twelve at a time in four separate pots on the stove, three to each. In ten minutes, the whites jellied and the yolk hardened. One year ago, Smith told her she needed to get her act together.” This is a great opening sequence of sentences, I love the surprise in the shift that begins … One year ago …

    This was marvelous too:

    “She considered cracking the eggs raw in the tub and climbing in. Egg yolk is supposedly wonderful for hair and her own looks straggled. But she remembered Chester and the choked drain and how the water wouldn’t go down all the way for months, not without returning first, shaded pink and smelling off—the rotten-sweet tang of garbage cans in summer filled to the brim with watermelon rinds, burst tangerines. She can’t stomach the punch of sulfur which is sure to come from eggs; she’s hungry. So.”

    I like some of the notes you got up above about rounding out the character of Smith a little more, I could also see you adding in some other descriptions of things like the house (I loved the idea of the bad plumbing, how else can you show us the house — leaky roof, shoddy electrical system, traffic noise–the yard is a cemetery? etc.) and I thought I’d like a beat or two more about the dog, Chester.

    I thought the story was visceral in its use of bodily function and the misuse of the fuel for said body, eggs and jello. Haunting imagery and just the right amount of dread in this. The sore–wow. This is sharp work with lots of surprise. “She bites into her first egg slowly, like kissing.”

  4. Taylor Grieshober

    Wow, Sam! This flash RULES. It’s so sexy and dirty and gross and good. Moments I especially like were the call-back to the jello in paragraphs 2 and 3, and the line “She bites into her first egg slowly, like kissing.” There are so many surprising details here. I had to re-read here and there to get what was going on but that’s the case with a lot of flash I think–it punches you and you don’t always know what hit you.
    I think part of that is because at first I read “red goop” to mean blood for some reason, even though Jell-O was mentioned before that. An easy fix would be to put the fact that it’s red in the opener, but also maybe you wanted it to feel a little ambiguous? Maybe I watch too much body horror to not assume it’s blood she’s sneezing out.

    I could actually, like, tase this line: “But she remembered Chester and the choked drain and how the water wouldn’t go down all the way for months, not without returning first, shaded pink and smelling off—the rotten-sweet tang of garbage cans in summer filled to the brim with watermelon rinds, burst tangerines.”
    So sharp and pungent!

    I found myself wondering what happened to Chester (lol). I assumed Smith took off and took the dog with him but there’s something so violent and strange here, and there’s a lot of attention to Chester licking the drain so I wondered if he maybe died?
    I’m going back and forth on whether I want to know more about the narrator’s strange ailment. On the one hand, this feels so polished as it is, I’d hate to request more but on the other, I am curious.

  5. K Chiucarello

    God yes, the numbers already bringing me IN! The movement in the food here is so gd rich. I can taste, I can feel, I can smell absolutely everything you have set out. In particular the warm summer garbage places me right back in City mode. I know that this workshop is supposed to be more flash but I truly hope that this expands. I’m incredibly interested in learning more about the Smith character and I would love to see this take the direction of X leaves and then Y becomes wildly immersed in some obsessive fetish that is loosely tied to X. For me, I could even forego the mention(s) of the sore. I know that there are connotations in the title that loop back around to the sore, but I think the eggs cracking, the narrator cracking are both fleshed out where the sore could possibly go.The strongest parts of this are (clearly and very obviously) your food direction and the interpersonal relationships between a) the narrator and the food and/or b) the narrator and Smith. Last, I love the pull in of Chester. It rounds out this wholesome (perhaps externally) image of the narrator while the story just spirals into untamed desire and yearning. Cannot wait to see what this grows to.

  6. Kevin Sterne

    “That was after she filled the bathtub with Jell-O, to see what it’d feel like. Now she thinks, what a waste. ” I keep going back to these two lines. They’re full of so much potential and life off the page, an implied scene. Just really excellent.
    This is so odd, there’s an almost creepy unease. This character is stuck in my head.

    Agree with everyone about Smith, flesh them out a bit more, the character feels a bit hollow.
    Instead of a years gap, what about a few months? Is these a pattern of behavior?
    I like the intimacy at the end.
    I do wonder if telling this in first person would bring us even closer, make it even more intimate. Kind of a wild suggestion.

    i think this is really close, i’m awed by this

  7. Jacob Schrodt

    Wow, what a stunning and visceral story. The narrator’s obsessive behaviors are so satisfyingly bizarre. I love the image–the possibility–of filling the tub with eggs. I did find myself wondering if the jello bath (along with the boiling of six dozen eggs in the present) was enough to answer why Smith had told her “she needed to get her act together.” Is there a little more we can learn about her behaviors while she was with Smith? This may not be necessary—just a thought. Again, fantastic work.

  8. Neil Clark

    Oh I love the visceral details in this one – the blood, the snot, the egg, the jell-o.

    And this imagery – “She bites into her first egg slowly, like kissing.” is just perfect, then the way you bring all the viscera back into the last paragraph is great.

    Maybe there’s space to tell us a hint more about Smith’s character, but not too much more would be needed.

    Great piece!

  9. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Samantha, Perfect as is, nailed it for flash. First sentence, great hook, you had me, and it looks like from others, you had them too. So I don’t think for a super short piece it needs anything. That said, well, there is a world here to explore. That sore, hmm, from Smith, or why Smith left? The odors throughout the piece come across, the sweet, ucky smells of jello not gone, the sulphur of the eggs, imagined if she rolled in raw eggs in the tub. What else about the house. Why is she alone in it? Hers? Parents– dead, deserted, or … desserted (ha). Has she had earlier obsessions; how did they develop? This could be a long, short story, or an extended development of body/ food obsessions, novel length. Love this piece! Thank you.

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