never written absurdist fiction before, mostly because it violates much of
what I believe in as a fiction writer. Absurdist fiction is often full of
unexplained silliness, there simply for its own sake, without any rhyme or
reason. The protagonists are often just watching the story happening, not
participating in it or helping cause the resolution. The protagonists
don't generally grow or change in some fundamental way. And in fact, some
absurdist fiction is just that--absurd, and nothing more. All that being
said, it might be fun to read, but doesn't really go anywhere or
accomplish anything (to paraphrase Mark Twain).
I found an absurdist magazine named Bust
Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, and thought I'd give it a try.
So I wrote "Paternal Instincts," taking an absurdist idea and trying to
build a strong protagonist who participates in the story and all of that.
I submitted it, and it was promptly rejected. The rejecter said I had
strong storytelling skills, but that this story was a bit too conventional
for his readers' tastes.
tell you that the story is about a man whose wife starts laying eggs. Big
eggs, one of which eventually hatches into something not quite human, but
her beloved child nonetheless. It sure seemed absurd to me! But absurdist
fiction is new to me, so who was I to argue? Plus, it's his magazine; I
I should note that I continue to be
intrigued by the absurdist style of the stories in Bust Down the Door
and Eat All the Chickens, and later submitted another story that that
magazine's editor also said was good, but reminded him more of
conventional horror. The story was about two people out for a rural drive;
they turn down a road that suddenly becomes a glowing white road in a
black void. The accelerator is magically stuck, the brakes are
inexplicably out, and the road is getting narrower. Over the edge is a
red-glowing abyss. That was about as absurd as I could envision, and still
stay with real characters. It didn't seem like horror to me. But he
thought so. I have begun to realize that my idea of "absurd" and "surreal"
is not accurate as regards the Bust Down folks. But I'm still
trying! That's part of the art of writing short fiction: not only writing
good, clean prose with creative, original ideas, but finding magazines
whose editors see your stuff as what they like, prefer, and are looking
Anyway, I sent this story on to a new
magazine called Morpheus Tales, and MT accepted it to run it
its first issue. One man's "wildly absurd" is another man's "not absurd
by David M. Fitzpatrick
Bethany complained of lower
abdominal pain for a week, and I tried to be the helpful husband.
But when she told me it was likely just a rough case of menstrual
cramps, I backed off. I’m old-fashioned that way, I guess. I had
suggested that she’d been eating too many eggs recently, and they
weren’t agreeing with her. It was a reasonable guess; the woman ate
a dozen eggs every day. Fried, scrambled, poached, boiled, you name
it. It had been a kick of hers recently. But it was just Mother
Nature paying her usual visit, she said. That was all. But Mother
Nature, she could be a lot stranger than a monthly period when she
wanted to be. She’s a crazy bitch, all right.
On the morning of the eighth day of
her ongoing discomfort, without a single drop of blood yet to be
shed, Bethany got out of bed and immediately started howling in
pain. We’d enjoyed some late-night lovemaking that had left us both
naked, so at first I enjoyed the sight of my poor wife squatting
naked on the bedroom floor. Luckily, common decency came over me in
the midst of her agonized wailing. Besides, Jinx, her beloved cat,
came running in to see what was wrong, and he started yowling like
crazy along with her.
Then it all happened pretty fast.
One minute she was squatting and screaming, and Jinx was meowing at
the top of his feline lungs, and suddenly I could see the white head
poking out of her. I knew in all the commotion she couldn’t be
pregnant—mostly because she didn’t look like it, but also because
she’d had her tubes tied after our third child had been born twenty
years ago. But there it was, the round top of what had to be a
baby’s head, coming out of her.
And just like that, it plopped onto
the bedroom carpet and we looked at it, utterly astonished. It was
white and smooth, ovoid and covered in goo, and Mother Nature was
really showing off.
My wife had just laid an egg.
It was as unexpected as laying an
egg could be to two humans. But here it was, in defiance of all that
was sensible. The egg was the size of a Nerf football—plenty big
enough to explain Bethany’s wailing while passing it.
“It’s all those eggs you’ve been eating, just like I said,” I told
her. “I mean, I hardly expected this, but you know it’s got to be
“I know,” she said as Jinx circled
the egg, circled it again, ears back and nose twitching as he
examined the gooey oddity. “I just love eggs, Jim.”
We went straight to the doctor,
taking the egg with us. Bethany had that maternal instinct,
something the likes of which I could never imagine having, because
she somehow knew she had to keep it warm, and she wasn’t really
built to sit on it. Then again, she wasn’t really built to lay it,
either, yet she had. Anyway, she packed it in blankets and dug an
old wicker basket out of the basement for a makeshift bassinet.
The doctor was amazed, and after
careful questioning learned of Bethany’s recent over-consumption of
eggs. He certainly had never heard of such a thing leading to the
laying of eggs, and in fact few modern mammals were even capable of
it. Bethany sure didn’t resemble an echidna or platypus, but the
proof was there. Personally, I suspect the doctor thought we were
putting him on, but he humored us anyway, doing an ultrasound.
That led to the quick diagnosis
that Bethany had laid an unfertilized egg. Given our sex the night
before the laying, it looked like we’d dodged a bullet. Who knows
what would have eventually hatched if my little swimmers had done
We took the egg home, and Bethany
was silent and brooding as I drove. I figured it was just normal,
considering she’d laid an egg that morning, so I thought nothing of
it. It was late morning by the time we got home, and I was starving.
“Let’s fry up that egg,” I
suggested, and Bethany looked at me kind of funny.
“But it’s sort of our child,” she
said through a quivering lip and slightly squinted eye.
“Of course it’s not. You heard the
She thought about it, but decided
it made sense, so we got out our biggest pan and broke that monster
open. It was just like any other egg, only bigger. We may as well
have cooked two dozen eggs at once. It sizzled happily away, and of
course Jinx was there, nuzzling our legs and purring up a storm. For
the record, breakfast was absolutely delicious and extremely
filling. I had mine with salsa, and Bethany peppered hers and added
a little ketchup. Of course, we fed Jinx a hefty share of the dish;
heck, even we couldn’t eat all those eggs alone, and besides, he was
practically one of the family. We’d had that tiger-striped furball
for a good fifteen years, and we never left him out of anything.
When Bethany and I were done, with
Jinx still munching away from his cat bowl on the floor, I said,
“Honey, you make the best eggs around!”
We laughed at my double entendre,
but I had the feeling there was something about the whole situation
that was unsettling to Bethany—that her laughter was partly a front
for how she really felt. After ten years of marriage, though, I knew
better than to press for details. She’d tell me when she was ready,
however long it would take.
She was ready that night, when we
got into bed. I was puffing my pillow while she got comfortable
beside me and said, “Jim… I’m feeling a little sad about today.”
I gave her my complete and
undivided attention, of course. “Why, hon?”
And just like that, she burst into
tears. It took some work to tenderly question her through her
blubbering, but eventually she was able to tell me: “I want our
“But, sweetheart… we ate our
baby,” I said in as soothing a tone as I could. “Besides, there
really wasn’t any baby. The egg wasn’t fertilized.”
“I know,” she said amidst sniffles.
“I just can’t help but think about what could have been..."
* * * * * *
Another egg is in their future, this
one fertilized. But parenthood isn't going to be quite as wonderful as
To read the whole story, order
Morpheus Tales #1.