The message hung there, behind the screen saver, a mountain landscape I had never seen, ski slopes slithery like the eggs folding over the rim, threatening to inch across the work surface like snakes scuttling for shelter. The flames burned bright blue, tinged with yellow. I cracked another shell and made the frying pan dance in my hands. I looked around at the plate piled high with fried eggs. The empty wine bottle lurked, greasy and dusty, a fading burgundy label curling at the edges, a reminder of another habit I'd kicked, like caring. The computer was flickering a haze of fluttering pixels, calling for attention or simply searching for life beyond my gaze.
My uniform hung listless on the door, truncheon entwined around the belt. The cat curled on the kitchen table and sighed with a gentle whistle while the white of an egg stared me in the eyes. I’d gouged out the yoke like I did as a child, when the person paid to look after me didn't. I felt something sticky dribble down my chin. I broke three more into the frying pan and watched hot oil spatter. They were piling up nicely. Grease spat. I rescued a floppy blob and watched it slither into line. With my back turned, its companion curled into an ugly mess, crisp and burnt around the edges, another failure like my ex-wife, the child I never saw, so many fleeting loves fluttering like birds crashing against the window. The French singer Mistinguett said a kiss could be a comma, a question, or exclamation mark. I was no Chevalier: my emotions were all full stops. No one ever adopted me. I’d learned to live alone. I didn’t need much. The cat stirred. Its tail flickered against the screen then curled into a purr as the image danced and beamed into focus. I edged another egg up along the side of the pan, turned it over on its stomach, then changed my mind and flipped it back: sunny side up for this one, a bright, yellow, full stop staring me in the eye. The email said I had a sister, a family I’d never heard of. I’d spent my life on edge, waiting to be wanted. I cracked another eggshell, fragile, sticky, and full of slippery colour. My brain sizzled and spattered as my gaze wandered in search of a can of tuna. I’d feed the cat, and then decide what to do with the eggs. A sister, a reminder I had no past, was all I needed as the alarm went off and told me to go to work. I shrugged into the uniform and headed off down dark streets to an empty warehouse in need of security. I left the laptop plugged in, still connected, sending signals out into space as the eggs solidified into hard, ugly ducklings. I wondered if I’d remembered to turn off the gas.
E. F. S. Byrne works in education and writes when his teenage kids allow it. He blogs a regular micro flash story. Links to this and over fifth published pieces can be found at efsbyrne.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @efsbyrne.