Single Family Home on a One-Acre Lot by Michail Mulvey

     It was 1961 and I was fourteen. John Kennedy lived with his wife Jackie and their two kids in government housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I lived with my mother, step-father, and half-sister in city housing at 42 Merrell Avenue.

     With nothing to do one damp October night, I wandered the brick and concrete canyons of our housing project, kicking cans and banging on signs with a stick. I usually ran with a pack of kids from the projects, but my buddies had all gone home; it was cold, late, and a school night. Truth be told, I was avoiding my mother and step-father, who, when they weren’t drinking and arguing about some stupid shit, sat simmering in front of the TV, one beer away from another battle.

     Chilled through and bored, I was about to head home when I noticed a trailer, the rear end of an eighteen-wheel tractor trailer, just like the one my Uncle Bob drove. It was parked on Edison Street, a side street behind Building B. It caught my eye because it was out of place, sitting there in our neighborhood, a long way from any supermarket or department store.

     I walked over and checked it out, wondering who this trailer might belong to and what it was doing here, in this part of town. There were no markings on the side and no lock on the rear doors, so, curious, I opened them. They were heavy and made a creepy creaking sound. When I saw the contents of this trailer, I knew that some very stupid person had made one very big mistake.

     Before me were eggs. Cartons and cartons of eggs. There must have been a billion cartons, filling this trailer from front to rear, floor to ceiling, almost. For a minute I just stood there, staring at all these eggs left in a trailer on a dark side street.

     I reached up into the trailer and grabbed one of the cartons: ‘Grade A Extra Large’ it read. I opened the carton and took out an egg. I wondered if there was a baby chick in there, knowing there probably wasn’t, but remembering a TV show I’d seen one Sunday morning about chickens and other farm animals. But if there was a chick in there, he must have be cold and alone, even though he was sitting in a carton with eleven of his friends, all lined up in two neat rows.

     But, on the other hand, he’s safe inside that shell. I wondered, though, how he breathes in there. I cracked the egg open on the edge of the trailer. Just as I had suspected, there was no chick inside, just runny egg snot and a round yellow yolk.

     Eager to share my discovery, I ran back into our courtyard, a parking lot for the families that lived in buildings A, B and C. All together there were a total of nine, six-story apartment buildings in our city housing development, lettered A thru J—for some reason the city planners left out the letter ‘I’—twenty-four families per building, each having, on average, at least two kids, sometimes three or four. I made some quick calculations in my head: nine buildings, times twenty-four families each, times two, divided into a billion cartons of eggs. I wasn’t all that good at math, but even I knew the possibilities for mischief were infinite. With that many kids and all those eggs, we could cover half the city in runny egg snot and yellow yolk.

     But I would share my discovery with only a select few: Mickey, Georgie, and Robbie, my buddies.

     “Come see what I found,” I whispered to each when they came to their doors. Mickey complained he was in the middle of an episode of
Ozzie and Harriet.

     “Shut up and put your shoes on,” I told him.

     “I gotta watch my sisters,” said Georgie, whose mother worked the night shift at some factory in the south end. His two little sisters, Maria and Teresita, stood behind him at the door. Curiosity got the better of him, however, so he turned on cartoons—
The Jetsons—sat the two girls on the couch in front of the TV, gave them a bowl of M&M’s, and came anyway. Alone and bored, Robbie just grabbed his jacket and followed us.

     When they had all gathered at the rear of the trailer, I opened the doors and watched their faces.

     “Holy shit,” said Mickey, “look at all the friggin’ eggs!”

     Georgie reached out and gently touched one of the cartons. Robbie just stood there, mouth hanging open in disbelief. We looked at each other and smiled knowing smiles. We reached into the trailer, gathered as many cartons as we could hold in our arms and proceeded to look for targets.

     We started with the trailer, figuring anyone stupid enough to leave a whole trailer-load of eggs in our neighborhood deserved to have their property egged. We each tossed about a half dozen. Our arms warmed up, we turned and pegged the rear of Building B until some old guy opened one of the egged windows and yelled, “Hey, what the hell are you kids doin’? Dolores, call the cops!” We laughed and ran off.

     We headed for Building F, peppering the rear of buildings D and E along the way—just for shits and giggles, as my Uncle Bob would say. We searched for one particular window on the fourth floor of Building F, the bedroom window of a girl named Margaret—we called her Large Marge—who some of us knew to be a tease. To fourteen year-old boys, that was a capital offense. We weren’t sure which window belonged to Marge, so we egged about a half dozen on her floor. Robbie would have loved to egg Marge herself, covering her with yolk, but he didn’t have the nerve to call her out. Large Marge would have kicked his ass.

     We left the projects and headed for Stillwater Avenue, up the hill from Building G and around the corner. Stillwater was a boundary of sorts between an old Italian neighborhood—a mix of old single family homes on tiny lots and triple-deckers—and the upper middle-class suburbs of the west side. The projects were the rotten meat in a sandwich made with two slices of angry white bread: Wops and WASP’s.

     We stopped across the street from Tony’s Grocery. Tony didn’t like us kids from the projects and kept a close eye on us whenever we dropped in for a cold soda on a warm day. One afternoon he came up to us as we stood around his magazine rack. Hands on hips, he told us some punks had broken in the night before, heisted some soda, candy, and comics, and tried to pry open the register. By the look on his face, we were his number one suspects. Tony snatched the Spiderman comic out of Robbie’s hand and told us all to take a hike.

     It was late, so Tony’s was closed, but a faint glow from the milk cooler acted as a kind of night light. It also illuminated the contents of the cooler which included milk, eggs, and cheese: an omelet.

     “How do ya want your eggs, shithead?” yelled Robbie as he hurled an egg at Tony’s store-front window. “Hope you like ‘em scrambled.”

     “Breakfast is served,” yelled Mickey, aiming for Tony’s door.

     “Take that, asshole!” yelled Georgie firing egg after egg. Georgie hated Tony as much as Tony hated us. Tony threw Georgie – whose real name was Jorge – out of his store one Saturday afternoon, complaining Georgie was spending too much time hanging around the magazine rack—Georgie later confessed to me that Tony caught him trying to cop a peek at Miss April’s jugs.

     Each of us emptied the contents of at least one carton, then stood and admired our work. Yolk ran down Tony’s window in rivulets. Shell fragments and yolk littered the sidewalk in front of his store. We knew we’d probably be at the top of Tony’s list of suspects the next day, but we didn’t give a rat’s furry fart. “Boy, is he gonna be pissed,” laughed Georgie.

     Satisfied, we jogged up Stillwater Avenue, joking and tossing eggs along the way. We egged Lupinacci’s Liquors, a STOP sign, signs that said NO PARKING, a traffic light—and each other. I took an egg in the side of the head, Mickey took one in the crotch, Robbie ducked, Georgie took one in the back.

     We hung a right at the light, heading back to the projects. Up to the roof of Building J we flew, passing the elevator, taking the stairs two at a time. The door to the roof was locked but Mickey pried it open with a knife. Below us lay Merrell Avenue.

     We let several cars pass by, then rose up and pegged about a half dozen. Anyone looking up into the night sky would have thought it was raining eggs. Most cars just slowed and honked their horns in anger, but one stopped. The driver got out, looked around and yelled, “I’ll get you little bastards!”

     He was looking around, however, not up, so he had no clue where the eggs came from. He yelled something else, but we couldn’t make out his words; we were down, hugging the roof, giggling, our faces pressed into the cold tar and peastone. We waited until we heard him speed off—burning rubber all the way to the traffic light at the end of the street—before peering over the edge. The street below was covered in egg yolk and shell fragments. Slimy egg white glistened in the street light. Empty egg cartons littered the roof of Building J.

     Out of ammo, we took the stairs back down to the street and headed for the trailer— watching for any egged cars that may have circled back hoping to catch ‘the little bastards.’ Each of us collected a couple more cartons of eggs. Not as many as before, though, just enough to egg the rest of our world.

     Figuring we should probably work another area, though, we left the projects and jogged one block north to Broad Street, a busy thoroughfare on the west side, a mostly suburban part of town, a part of town on which the city had dumped a city housing project … filled with little bastards like us.

     Halfway up the block, Mickey yelled, “Watch out,” and jumped into the bushes, pulling Robbie along with him. Georgie and me followed. A police car drove by.

     “Maybe we should head back,” whispered Robbie, a nervous edge to his voice.

     “He didn’t have his siren or flashing lights on,” said Mickey. “So he’s probably just patrolling his beat …”

     “Looking for little bastards like us,” I said, chuckling.

     Checking up and down the street first, we climbed out of the hedge and continued on.

     We knew we’d find a better make of car on Broad Street. Newer cars. Expensive cars filled with guys who wore suits and ties. Cars filled with couples who lived in homes on multi-acre estates farther west or north of Merrell Avenue. Homes filled with people who played bridge and drank Martinis. Our fathers carried lunch pails to work and drank Ballantine Ale.

     I was hoping the owner of that upscale shop owner on Bedford Street who chased us out of his store thinking we might heist a pair of socks or a tie would drive by—like I’d even wear a tie. Or the skinny, hawk-eyed old bitch in the school cafeteria who thought we might stick a sandwich down our pants; or the librarians who kept an eye on us thinking we might steal a book or something. Yeah, right, a book.

     We hid behind the hedges of a house, laid out our cartons of eggs, and waited for the first Cadillac or Lincoln or Chrysler New Yorker that came our way. We let the Chevys and Fords pass by, unmolested.

     A Cadillac Coupe de Ville came into view. “They’re probably on their way home from Bloomingdales,” I whispered.

     “Or they just picked out a new sofa at Silberman’s,” said Mickey.

     “Or a new Caddy … ” said Georgie, his voice trailing off.

     Hunkered down on the cool, damp lawn, we waited until the Caddy got within range, then rose as one and pummeled it, firing volley after volley, aiming for the windshield and driver’s side window, hoping it was open, even a little. The driver slammed on the brakes, got out and charged toward us, shaking his fist and yelling. “I’m gonna kill you, you little …”

     Before he could finish his sentence, though, an egg caught right in the forehead. His head jerked back from the hit, then he just stood there, dazed, egg running down his face onto his shirt. Another egg hit him square in the chest, ruining his tie, no doubt. Another hit him in the knee.

     Despite his threat, we didn’t run. Not this time. We stood our ground and egged him and his fancy friggin’ suit real good. Our arms were like windmills, hurling eggs as fast as we could get them out of the carton. Arms flailing, the driver tried to bat away the eggs, but in no time he was covered in yolk from head to toe, almost.

     “Fuck you,” yelled Mickey, whose father was out of work.

     “Yeah, fuck you, asshole,” said Robbie, whose mother, a waitress, worked the four to midnight shift at some shit-hole restaurant on South Atlantic Street.

     Georgie yelled something in Spanish. Probably a swear.

     In my anger, I grabbed one egg so hard it broke in my hand.

     From inside the car, a woman screamed, “For God’s sake, Ralph, get back in the car! Get back in the car before they kill you!” In his fury, Georgie stepped over the hedge and stood on the sidewalk, heaving egg after egg with all his might. He was a big, easy-going kid who smiled and joked a lot, but tonight he was one pissed-off Puerto Rican.

     Realizing he was outnumbered, the man in the fancy suit—now covered in yolk—shook his fist at us one last time, tried to bat away one last egg—missed and took it in the head—then quickly retreated to his car, shouting something at his wife as he got back in. He sped away, his wipers working to clear the egg off his windshield.

     We were sweaty and winded, our labored breath visible in the cool night air. Robbie wiped his nose on his sleeve. I wiped my hands on my pants. Georgie stood on the sidewalk, empty egg carton in one hand, egg in the other, hoping the driver would turn around and come back. But the Coup de Ville disappeared around a bend.

     “Let’s egg Mr. Cleary’s house,” I said, having no idea where he lived. Mr. Cleary was a much-hated math teacher who’d once slapped my cousin, Donnie, across the face for some smart-assed remark Donnie’d allegedly made in class.

     “Let’s go to my mother’s restaurant and egg the owner,” said Robbie, who’d told us the bald-headed old pervert wouldn’t leave his mother alone.

     “Let’s go egg the crap out of the club house at Hubbard Heights,” said Mickey who’d once told us about some old duffer who’d given him the up and down at the caddy shack one Sunday morning last summer before picking the kid
without the stained shirt and the scruffy US Keds.

     But we were out of ammo. Empty egg cartons littered the lawn of this house on Broad Street, this comfy, single-family home with a porch, neatly trimmed hedges and a two-car garage, sitting on a tidy, manicured lot. The porch light was on but the garage was empty and the front parlor was dark. Nobody was home, it seemed.

     We walked one block east and took a right on Shelburne Road, heading back to Edison Street and the trailer. Checking to see if we were being followed, I turned and looked back up Shelburne. Single-family homes, all with two-car garages, all sitting on tidy, manicured lots, lined either side. Almost identical in shape and color. Like…

     “I hear sirens,” said Mickey, looking back in the direction of Broad Street. “Maybe we should call it a night,”

     “Yeah, maybe we should,” said Robbie, rubbing his hands together, trying to warm them in the cool night air.

     “I gotta go check on my sisters,” said Georgie, looking up as the night mist turned to a slow drizzle.

     Mickey was probably right. Why push our luck. Besides, we were spent, our arms were heavy, it was late and a school night. “Yeah, that’s enough,” I said to myself, looking back up Shelburne Road.

     We stood in the street, smiling, sweaty and yolk-stained. Robbie’s jacket was ripped, Georgie’s pants were grass-stained and muddy—“My mother’s gonna kill me,” he said—and I had egg in my hair. Mickey held a shoe in one hand and a carton of eggs in the other.

     “Breakfast,” he said, holding up the carton.

     We had made a counter-clockwise journey, egging just about everything along the way, ending our night back where it began, on Edison Street, behind Building B. The trailer stood there, filled with eggs from front to rear, floor to ceiling, waiting. But it was time to head home.

     “See ya,” said Mickey with a smirk on his dirty face as he turned and headed back to apartment C-12.

     “Yeah, tomorrow,” I called back, watching him limp away, still holding one shoe and a carton of eggs.

     Georgie smiled, punched me playfully in the chest, turned and left, hoping his two sisters had stayed put in front of the TV.

     Robbie just waved and ambled off, back to apartment B-14, where he would turn on the TV and wait up for his mother.

     I looked up, wondering if this drizzle would turn to rain and wash away evidence of our night’s activities. Part of me hoped it wouldn’t. I looked over at the trailer and wondered if it would still be there tomorrow after school.

     I took the elevator up to apartment A-63, slipped in and quietly passed by the living room where my mother and stepfather watched TV. I headed straight for the bathroom, eased the door shut, locked it and tossed my egg-stained clothes in the hamper.

     I filled the bathtub and climbed in. I washed dried yolk out of my hair, then leaned back and lay in the warm, soapy water, soaking, my head resting on the back edge of the white tub. I closed my eyes. A loud knock at the bathroom door and a, “Where have you been?” sent me sliding under, my head and face completely below the surface. The rapping on the door was muffled now, my mother’s voice a distant, almost inaudible mumble. Immersed in the warm water, listening to the beating of my heart, I wondered how long I could hold my breath.



About the Author:
Mike Mulvey is old, teaches English, has an MFA, and has been published in twenty or so lit mags and journals, print and electronic, in the US and the UK, some of which you've probably never heard of and a couple that are now defunct. But he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize last year by The Umbrella Factory Magazine.