Hardly Noticeable

Friday, October 28, 2005

Roy G. Biv

“It might be,” my grandfather said. I was on the phone in the kitchen and had already told him about the details. He said he was sad to hear about my garden, but that next summer I could come up to his house and he’d let me help him out in the cornfields and let me have a spot near the barn to plant some strawberries.
“But how can I know? If the mom was alive, how does she know?” I asked. I was trying to keep my voice low so that my parents wouldn’t know I was on the phone, but I was so excited it was difficult.
“Oh for pity’s sake, Gabriel, I don’t know the answer to that. But, you can figure it out if you hold it up to a light in a dark room,” he said.
“How do I do that?”
“You have to figure that out. You’re getting to be a big kid now, and you need to think for yourself.” I knew that he was smiling on the other end, for he’d been telling me that since I spent the summer at my grandparents’ house before kindergarten.
“But what do I do if it’s alive? How do I take care of it?” I asked. I heard my mom open the back door and come back inside. She walked back to her bedroom and I heard the TV click on.
“Just help it incubate. Look the word up if you don’t know what it means. I-n-c-u-b-a-t-e. You need some sort of box and a desk lamp,” he replied.
“But what if I can’t do it?”
“Gabriel, you’re whining. Stop it. If you can’t do it, call me back. But hurry, for heaven’s sake. The egg needs to stay warm,” he said and hung up. He never said goodbye.

I opened the junk drawer in the kitchen. Even though we’d only lived here two months, our junk drawer was already cluttered with unnecessary odds and ends. I was able to find a book of matches and a birthday candle among the broken headphones, dead batteries and anonymous keys. Tramping along the shag carpeting toward the bathroom, I heard laughter coming from my mother’s TV. After I had pulled the egg out of my pocket I lit a candle and turned off the light. The egg temporarily blocked out the match’s light, but as I adjusted to the darkness I saw in the silhouette the outline of a baby chicken, pink in its black universe.
In the entryway closet I found an old lamp and a cardboard box. After I looked up the word ‘incubate,’ I tried to remember television shows where I’d seen people take care of eggs. Most of the images I could recall were of people attempting to throw eggs across the room without them breaking, however. I couldn’t figure out why I needed it, since heat was what I needed, not light. I thought of calling my grandfather, but although he had said I could, I was already well-trained in the Midwestern art of never asking for more than one favor per day. Instead of thinking about it, I set the box on the bureau in my room. I found a styrofoam cup in the kitchen and cut it in half. The top cylinder I threw away, but I put the pared-down base in the bottom of the box. The lamp had a flexible, snakelike neck that I could bend down into the box, but its bulb was burnt out. I scoured the house for a package of bulbs, but there were none to be found. Undeterred, I pillaged the kitchen for one of its bulbs and replaced it with the dead one. I grabbed the bulb, and it was hot. The reason for needing the light clicked, and I was proud that I had figured it out on my own. Having done all of that, I put the rose petals in the styrofoam cup, then the egg, then turned on the lamp.


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