Today, it’s a short story, that may or may not be fiction!
I do not recall exactly, and that is my hallmark, but it was a Saturday evening, and I had made up mind to finish my assignment meant for submission Monday, before I hit the party circuit, which was and still is on my bucket list. (It will remain thereto until I am called upon to kick it!). The best place to complete it I thought, was the college library and that is where I headed around 5 pm. This thought would give me at least 3 hours to complete it – until 8 – before it was shut down by the petite librarian the only staff member on duty, being a Saturday.
There were about a half dozen students in the library. I took a seat before a desktop at the far end of the large hall. I took it because it was obscured by the mid hall shelves – and I could spy on my fellow student Amy unobserved. Amy had taken a similar seat on the opposite side of the hall with the same intention I hoped! We were in the same class, but hardly interacted as it just the beginning of the academic year, though I did fancy my prospects with this alluring co-student as the year progressed.
Today I was determined not to be distracted by the chic chick (that is what we called them in those days) on the far side of the hall and focus on the topic of my assignment- a combined Psychology and English Assignment, – “What did the chicken think when she saw her egg being fried?” (I was a Psychology major, and English was a compulsory subject). The answer was simple – the chicken is not allowed to see its egg being fried (this I was certain of, having seen my mom fry them), but the assignment was to be a minimum of seven hundred words and a maximum of 1000. My brain felt like that fried egg, sunny side up!
Now, either I could chicken out and take a beating on my Internal assessment, or deep dive into my mind to get into the chicken’s! I was no chicken when it came to challenges, decided I would get into its brain to see how it thinks – do the whole empathy bit – though it was rather small, and I would not fit in. An easier assignment would be, the chicken or the egg – which came first? But it was too late for that, the chicken had already arrived!
I had at that moment no clue as to how to begin the assignment let alone conclude it but a picture of the chickens at home came to me vividly – they way they struggled before laying their eggs and the sound of their cluck after it; the way they watched with detached attachment as my mom picked up the eggs for breakfast. And of course, the aroma of frying eggs and the taste afterword! It was heavenly when combined with cheese. I was beginning to feel hungry just thinking of it. Damn the chicken. Why should I care what the chicken thinks I thought? Well, there are marks to score, that is why.
The class was usually given multiple assignments by a draw of lots to avoid the college students’ favourite method of completing assignments – cut, copy paste, and this is what I picked. I had no idea what my fellow student had picked but from her expression which I kept observing from the corner of my eye, it did seem that a spoiled egg had spilled all over her!
Time was passing and I had yet to begin. Suddenly I saw the lights go out and a big bang. Startled I looked up. It was all suddenly dark, not completely dark – there was still twilight streaking in through the tall windows around me. Hello, I shouted, Ma’am are you there? What happened? No answer. Then a female voice piped up, “Maam? Maam?” Amy, was she still here? Her voice growing louder by the Ma’am. Still no answer. I looked down at my glowing watch – it was 6 PM. I moved quickly toward the door, the aroma of fried eggs still in my nostrils. I was joined at the door by Amy. We tried the door – it was locked. We banged on the door to no avail. Mobile phones were not allowed inside the library and so both of us were not packing mobiles. We looked at each other in her dismay and then together rushed over to the Librarian’s Desk – there was an intercom there. But it was not working. “Holy Chicken, what do we do now? Totally fried”, we thought simultaneously.
“Let us put on the lights, someone may see them and come looking for us”, Amy suggested fear writ large on her face; I agreed with her assessment. After the lights came on, I asked her about her assignment – and to my surprise we found common ground; this discovery could spur conversation I thought.
“Why don’t we finish our assignment I asked? Yes, why not,” she said, cutely, I thought.
“I cannot think like a chicken, my brain is not that small – can you?” Not waiting for her answer, I said, “I’ll type, you tell me what you think!” And so, we came to sit side by side in front of a desktop, the chicken, and the farmer!
She began, “I am not the touchy-feely kind, though I love being hugged after I lay an egg. And when you pick it up gently, I am touched, as much as when you touch me and hold me! But then you take my egg and go without so much as a backward glance at me and inside I feel empty. A big void just like when the egg pops out of me. That’s somewhat ok, but what do you do with my egg? I begged you to tell me, to let me see, and yet you do not allow me too. Are you guilty of doing something you should not do? Like throw it away or break it? Or put it among others, so that it is indistinguishable, a stranger among strangers? I am strong you know, extraordinarily strong. I just want to see, if you care for it as much as I was relieved, when I got rid of it. Not that I am emotionally attached to it, but you are to me, I can feel it in the way you hold me, but is it the same with my egg, a part of me? You have no answer, you just walk away, egg in hand and that hurts.
Then one day, I found out what you did… I climbed up on to the windowsill, and watched as you took my egg in your hand, my egg? It was no longer mine, was it? And held it above a hot pan, and broke it, with the edge of a knife, a knife – will it be used to cut me later? I was surprised. I felt nothing, just a kind of numbness, the kind, I had after it popped out of me. No pain when it fell into the sizzling pan and the aroma started to emerge. Nothing. And when I saw you eat it, I felt glad. I had fed you as you had fed me. We were even. But one day, you would let your hunger overtake you when I could no longer feed you with my eggs? You would kill me.”
Amy started crying at that point. She was chickening out. I stopped typing and took her hand in mine gently and offered her my handkerchief. Thank God, I had not used it! She took it and wiped her tears.
“Do not worry I will not,” I said. “I would rather have you for breakfast than for dinner”.
The moment I said it, I knew I had made a mistake – She withdrew her hand from mine just as the lights came on.
To our surprise, more than hour had passed and the security guard had come to investigate the lights in the library
But, the good thing is we had finished our assignment, and I knew what the chicken thought of me! And I’ll keep thinking about it for the rest of the week. You too!
Until Next week…