By Jennifer Lai
I’m babysitting my nephew Blake while his parents hash it out at couples therapy.
Today, Blake owns an egg store—aptly named: Blake’s Egg Store (of course)—an infant car seat that’s laid dormant atop a cardboard box in the garage for the last six months.
“Do you wanna buy a dinosaur egg?” Blake says. He sweeps a hand across the empty carriage that I’m supposed to imagine is full of giant prehistoric thingies, spherical or oval-shaped or perhaps elongated and pointy, but all I see is a grimy pink pacifier and I wonder if he notices it too.
“Of course,” I say, and he says, “five cents.”
I place a flat washer into his palm, then settle onto a metal shop stool next to my brother’s workbench.
The garage smells of rubber and sawdust and gasoline, but Blake insisted we play here because it’s no-man’s-land. Whatever that means.
Cassie and I never had kids. After our divorce, she accused me of never understanding her. Since then, I’ve tried hard to understand my nephew before he becomes too hard to understand.
Blake scoops air from his egg store then cups his hands in front of him and tip toes my way, making exaggerated steps with his Velcro Spiderman shoes to avoid the numerous dark red spots on the cement.
Perhaps he thinks the spots are oil or grease.
I don’t tell him it’s dried paint, from when his father and I painted his sister’s crib after learning they were finally going to have the girl they always wanted. And how the color, ironically, presaged the mood of the forthcoming months.
Maybe Blake already knows this. Maybe his parents already had ‘the talk’.
Instead, I say, “Careful.”
Blake furrows his brows. “I got it.”
He places the imaginary egg on my lap, and I use my pretend knife and my pretend fork and pretend to nosh it down. According to Cassie, it’s my only God-given talent: pretending.
“Nom, nom, nom.” I smack my lips for effect.
“Wait!” There’s alarm in his voice. “You’re not supposed to eat it.”
After a pause, he continues, “it’s the last dinosaur egg on Earth,” accentuating the word last in a way that spikes my curiosity.
I clear my throat. “There’s no more dinosaurs?”
“They’re dead,” he says flatly, his face impassive.
“Dead?” I repeat, more for myself.
He shrugs, staring past me.
It’s his body language that makes me contemplate my next words. “If this is the last egg— “I pause. “What should we do with it?”
He blinks his chestnut eyes and studies me skeptically, as if debating whether I really don’t know the answer. “Bury it in the backyard,” he finally says.
From my lap he scoops the imaginary egg, then places it in the infant seat. When his tiny arms wrap around the base, I hurry over, grasp the handle, and lift. It’s much too heavy for him to carry alone.
Jennifer Lai has work in Star 82 Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, Bureau of Complaint, and elsewhere. Originally from Hawaii, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest.