Storyglossia Issue 43, April 2011.

Fright X

by Robert Swartwood


Oddly enough, she was put in mind of Salvador Dali. That one painting of his, the one with the two fried eggs on the plate and the third egg hanging from a string, gravity stretching the white toward the plate so it was almost touching the other eggs. She remembered the colors—the dull yellow of the sky, the dark orange of the yolks—and she remembered how the plate had been placed on a step, or what looked like a step, and how there was a large carrot propped up along the step on two prongs, like a rifle in a rack, and she remembered reading somewhere how Dali was using the painting to represent his memories before his birth, how he was the egg hanging from a string . . . or maybe that was wrong, maybe the egg symbolized something else. She never was very good at interpreting pieces of art. Even during college, when she took those electives, she tried her best to go unnoticed during discussions because she feared she'd look too foolish.

Why she was thinking about this now, she didn't know. Maybe it was because eggs had been the very last thing she'd prepared for him. Fried eggs, just as he liked them, and he'd made his own toast, pulling the strawberry jam out of the refrigerator but then having trouble with the Smucker's jar like he always did, using one of those red rubber grips to get the lid off. He'd eaten in silence, playing with his cell phone, and when he'd finished he placed his dishes in the sink and kissed her on the cheek and left for school and four days had passed until this very moment.

Again she thought about Dali and his painting, and she remembered in one of her classes, the teacher giving an anecdote about the artist. How during an interview he was talking about his piece of fried eggs without a plate and because of Dali's heavy accent the interviewer thought Dali was saying "fright x" when it was in actuality "fried eggs." And she thought that summed up perfectly what lay before her right now, a new kind of art form, this artist using a knife instead of a brush but still creating something unique, personal, his very own (though of course she wasn't allowed to see what was beneath the sheet, not where the skin was torn and ragged and pieced apart).

This, she thought, was something that could sit in one of those modern art museums right beside Dali's surrealist depiction of his memories. Fright X, this piece could be called, because surely, somewhere in what was left of his stomach, those fried eggs were still there. They had to be. And because they were that meant a piece of her was there too.

The detective and coroner stood motionless beside her. They hadn't made a sound. Not in the minutes that had passed while she should have been mourning her loss but was instead thinking of Dali, of carrots and eggs and yellow skies.

"Yes," she finally whispered. "That's him. That's my son."

Copyright©2011 Robert Swartwood

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