6th Annual Members’ Writing Contest & Reading
JUST BUFFALO LITERARY CENTER
February 6, 2014
“Paleo was the most googled diet of two thousand thirteen. Did you hear that show on NPR?”
Claire tends to a pan of sizzling bacon as Dean ponders a crossword puzzle.
“I’m all for more bacon and eggs.”
She removes items from the refrigerator and imagines curried egg salad and Fritatta made from the Alice Waters cookbook. He fiddles with the radio antenna to ease the static and turns it off.
“What is an odorous residue—seven words ending in V-I-A-L?”
Claire never liked crossword puzzles, but likes helping him while doing other things.
“Stench? Of course not.”
“No. E-F-F-L-U-V-I-A-L. That’s it. There was an effluvial quality in the Army Navy store my Dad took me to as a young boy. I still remember that smell of men—a mix of gunsmoke, tobacco, and gasoline.”
Dean has a habit of reading out loud to Claire from the newspaper, books, magazines, or food labels. The ongoing journey into all this information is both enjoyable and draining. “Skinny paper this week–listen to my horoscope. ‘You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world? It’s all the people who never find out what it is they want to do or what it is they are good at or who they can be. Take heed if that description applies to you even a little bit, Libra.’ No, Mr. Astrology. The real tragedy is not getting paid to do what you are good at. Otherwise, maybe it’s best not to know in the first place. Some will never be paid for any work at all. Don’t get me started.”
The growing income gaps is one of their pet gripes and frequent topics of conversation—all roads seem to lead back there. Claire moves about the galley kitchen of the loft like a dancer. She leaps from stove to sink to fridge and back again. Listening to him read from the other side of the oak table, she lifts an egg from the green foam dozen pack. Dean has moved on to the local news page and recites:
“Here comes the egg-breaker, the entrepreneur. His job is to crack the handout paradigm.”
Claire grabs a paper towel.
“Crack it with ‘Basic Income Guarantee.’ Everybody gets $1500 at the start of the month—like in the Monopoly game. Wait…Did you just say egg-breaker?”
“Yeah, talk’in about the richest guy in Buffalo.”
“What is an Egg-breaker?”
“Somebody willing to take a risk.”
“Look at this, Dean. I broke an egg just as you said the word egg-breaker.”
He put down paper and glances under the table at the blob of yellow with white chips of shell on the wood floor.
“What are the chances of that?”
Claire mops up the mess with a paper towel and cracks another into the bowl. “I can’t remember the last time I did that. The egg slipped out of my hand just as you said egg-breaker.”
She dishes out the sautéed cabbage, crisp bacon, and scrambled eggs.
“Here’s your caveman food. Too bad the only things that we hunt and gather are found at AmVet’s or Goodwill.”
Dean places his palms together as if to pray and offers up their usual grace.
Claire could not let go of this egg-breaking moment. She would have to unravel all the possible threads of meaning and synchronicity.
“If our lives were woven into a movie, we would see ourselves in flashback scenes as two strangers circling the same territory of Manhattan during the 1980s…sitting on the steps of The Met, drinking Rolling Rock at Puffy’s, eating blintzes at Kiev. The scenes would dial forward through your time in Texas and my time in Colorado to arrive at our unlikely alignment in Buffalo. The flashbacks would always return to this table with shots of snow flying across the window in the background. What do you think about the title, Sixty-Something?”
He pushed aside his plate to flip open the android notepad.
“Okay, Melanie Mayron. The title makes me nostalgic for Thirty-Something. Two wives and five kids later—way too much to slog through before winding up in this moment.”Claire wonders about the precise motives for doing anything. She loved the beauty and light of Colorado–the exact reasons for moving back to Buffalo have become vague. Back then, she suspected that she was literally dying, a perception that has proven to be mistaken. More likely, the particular arrangement of the life she found herself in had lost relevance.
“We say someone ‘winds up’ somewhere. Is it wind up like a toy or old watch that simply ticks out the minutes? After all, there is cause and effect. We act and the universe responds. Somebody actually brought you here, Dean, and you stayed. I brought myself back to a place I had no intention of ever returning to.”
Dean looks up from the screen and grabs the crossword puzzle.
“Help me get this last one. What is destiny—four letters ending in an E?”
Claire carries plates to the sink.
“FATE–synchronicity’s lazy cousin. When you believe that life is either predetermined or random, happy coincidence is nothing more than serendipity. Synchronicity is a play of energies—thought, intuition, intention, and action. Look at us. Our lives moved in parallel lines until they crossed and overlapped. Then I broke an egg and entanglement ensued.”
Dean shook his head as he gets up to pour more coffee into their yellow mugs.
“Hmmm. You broke an egg?“
“I invited you over for dinner.”
“Well, that was pretty unexpected.“
“You see, cause and effect.”
“Highly effective…and I am still here.”