Once upon a time I had a bad friend. No, Erin was a good friend, loyal and full of useful information about things I had no idea about, and as honest as it was possible for a pathological liar to be. And her lies were never boring, which was also a recommendation to friendship, (though at the time I took them for truth, because I believed everything.) She was full of mischief. By nature generally skewing towards well behaved myself, she was the nine-year-old version of temptation.
We met at day camp. She lived a town or two over and her parents were divorced, which was strangely exotic. She had a bunch of older brothers and a few big dogs and a hardly there mother, who when she did appear seemed strained and was always out of sorts, and a mythological father who she talked about constantly. Oh, she was fun. My mother, who was not much for disliking nine year olds, yet sensing her feral nature, hated her on sight.
Once, in the summer, I was invited to sleepover at her father’s house. I had been to her mother’s house, the place where she mostly lived, many times. We had played box ball in the fenced-in yard and gone through her mother’s makeup bag, painting each other up like harridans, until her mother came home and we scurried out. But her father was more mysterious. He was a doctor, a musician, a sailor, the heir to an enormous fortune… He could ride horse and drove a Rolls… he was like a romantic hero. And possibly as fictional. An invitation to his house, I could tell, was the highest of honors. Looking back, I don’t think he liked little kids very much…
The house was an A frame, up in the woods in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. There were no bedrooms, which I thought was bizarre because I didn’t know any better, just a large open kitchen/living area and steps up to a loft, where her father had a large futon mattress on the floor.
He let me in through the screen door, and as the door slammed behind me, he assured my mother we would be well watched. Skepticism must have poured off my mother like sweat in the July humidity. But he was charming, with a thick beard and a winking smile, and she was charmed by him, there was that winking smile and my mother is human, and so she left with at least a bit of a smile herself and a warning for me to behave. As if I needed it! I always behaved.
Two other girls soon showed up, both camp friends too. I don’t remember much of what we did, except that as soon as the sun was down, Erin’s dad disappeared. Was he a werewolf? Or a vampire? Had he gone to where the wild things were?
We were on our own. We would have stuffed ourselves silly, but there wasn’t much food, other than a frozen pizza that we ate every bit of. We watched scary movies and told ghost stories and made a mighty rumpus that no grownups could hear. We giggled about sex, which Erin knew much more about than the rest of us, and told us stories about things she imagined she had seen…
Late, late, late, late when the crickets had ceased their comforting song and the frogs lay quiet in the trees, we lay in our sleeping bags, awake and restless. Erin made a suggestion.
“Let’s go out… There’s a farm down the road.”
We other three looked at each other. Out? Into the night? Hadn’t we just told ghost stories about all the terrible things that happened to girls and boys in the deepest of the dark?
One by one, the other two shrugged and put their shoes on. So did I. At least out in the dark, I’d be with my friends. Staying alone in the house, more a shack really, with its cracked plank walls and dark corners, would be a thousand times more terrifying.
We tramped out the door, into the woods, our shoes loose under our nightclothes, pine needles aromatically crunching underfoot. It was the witching hour and we were strangers outside in the dark. Creatures buzzed our hair and brushed past our faces, pulling us this way and that. We waved our arms to evaporate the coils of insect soldiers headed wickedly towards us. The air was damply chill and we moved quickly and quietly, as if to hold ourselves in. Like Robin Wood and Wart marching to Castle Chariot through the Forest Suavage, we were silent, or were in my memory.
The pines loomed above us, at first frightening, witch kings of Westchester County, and then, as we became used to the light and the dark (we had no flashlights), they morphed, becoming comforting and close. We were witches now too, enchanted by the rhythm of the night. The things that moved with us in the dark before were no longer there to hurt us; we were now of them, brushing them back, moving with them as allies.
The woods ended and the large field that spread before us felt like freedom, the sky light at the very edges.
The grass was high as we slid under the wooden fence and we were wet with dew but didn’t care. Erin stopped suddenly and squatted down. We gathered around her. She held up a leaf, upon which sat a frog so tiny it seemed like it must have come from a fairy story. For a long moment it sat frozen, before leaping away. We laughed as we watched it hop,hop, hop through the glisten, watched it until it disappeared into the greenery.
For the sky was a now a pale grey-blue and daylight was nearly upon us. Ahead, past a herd of cows that swung their heads at us, our friends too, was a small barn surrounded by a wire fence.
Erin reached through the chicken wire and unlatched the gate and in a minute we were inside. Maybe there was a horse, tied up for a night in the stall. Maybe not. There were old tools and lots of hay and once our eyes adjusted there were also chickens roosting.
Erin reached under one of them, which merely blinked at her, and frowned.
“Come on…” She grimaced and approached another. It feinted at her arm.
I understood in an instant. I found a chicken too, mine docile, and reached under. The egg was warm in hand, and dirty. Soon we had four and deemed that enough. We snuck back out, each cradling our egg, which we rolled in dew to clean them off. None of us spoke, and we creeped on tip toe. We were ghosts.
As rosy-fingered dawn painted the sky behind us, we triumphantly marched across the meadow and back through the woods. The tall grass was lit by a thousand watery diamonds as the sun caught it, and our footsteps were lit green, yellow, pink.
Brave now, and wild ourselves, the woods held no fear and we raced through them back to the house. As we tumbled into the house, we did not notice the dark figure on the couch.
Glaring he stood up and took Erin by the arm. The triumph and the spell fell away, and us other three stood huddled together, watching and trying not to as he spoke to her quietly, harshly. Her freckled face was damp with tears.
He turned back to us, and we stood frozen. He looked like an angry bear.
But he merely took the eggs from us.
“It’s stealing you know…” he told us. I didn’t. It had never crossed my mind. We had been characters in a fairy tale, ensorcelled by the night. Stealing? No. Well, maybe… but from some evil person, surely? From the faery queen Morgan Le Fay herself, probably? Because surely the Old Folk had a farm in Armonk. But likely not. Likely just a farmer. Who would have four less eggs for his own breakfast now…
“Well, it’s not like there’s anything to do about it now.” He cracked the eggs into a bowl and made us scrambled eggs. We were famished and they tasted wonderful. And I couldn’t wait to go home, to my familiar good place, where I would no longer be part of the magical night woods and meadows… where I could lie in my clean sheets and sleep and when I woke, read about fairies and spells in the pages of my favorite books. The enchantment was broken.
Now that we are over the cholesterol fear of the 80s, we can all agree that, like mice for cats, eggs are perfect food for people, can we not?
The great thing is these days, that anyone can have farm fresh eggs too, which are so vastly superior to factory eggs the are nearly different things. You will find the difference startling. Good farm eggs, like wine, have terroir, and I like to support a farmer that is giving his chickens some kind of nice quality of life. Those eggs really do taste better and they make me sleep better too, and they haven’t been spray washed, so they last a month.
I’ve made classically French style scrambled eggs, the kind you do on low heat, and they are lovely for a special occasion. But here is what I do every weekend, and we love them.
3-4 farmer’s market eggs
A dash of milk (roughly two tablespoons, maybe more, maybe less.)
Crack the eggs into a bowl and mix together with a fork, so the whites and yolks are fairly well blended. Add the milk, and mix some more, until it’s all creamy yellow. Don’t worry if there are patches of white or yolk still, though…
Heat a pan on medium heat and add a pat of butter. (I highly recommend the non-stick Scanpan for this. Scanpans are glazed, that is heated, not to stick; they do not have a chemical sprayed on them, and so are healthy for you, and you can use a metal spatula on them, and they are worth every penny. ) When the butter stops fizzing, slowly pour the egg into the pan. With a silicon spoon, move the eggs around in the pan as they set, so the wet parts hit the pan. Once the eggs really start to set, you can even turn the heat off and continue stirring, until they are as hard or soft as you like.
Serve with salt and pepper and whatever else you like. They will be pale yellow like the light at dawn, or rich yellow like midday in summer, and they will taste wonderful, a fairy tale of the mundane.