By Leslie Entsminger
Paul walked towards me –twitchier than usual–pulling at his collar and scratching his wrists. Grade Ten Literature had just let out and he signaled to me among the throng; meet me in the Latin room upstairs. We both knew it would be empty during lunch. Always furtive, Paul was, but it was that sly quality that had drawn me to him in the first place.
I opened the door to find him pacing in front of the window. He looked a mess with his tie undone and half his shirt out. “You’ll get a point,” I said.
“Like I care.” He raised a hand and ruffled his hair, agitated.
“Did you get a letter from your parents?” This was his usual source of anxiety.
He stopped and looked puzzled for a second. “No. They’re in Malaysia.”
I knew they never wrote Paul when they were abroad. I’d heard his mother say to him one visit day, “Stuff and nonsense, writing. Really Paulie, it’s silly when it takes so long to get through the post. We’ll just ring when we get back.” They were gone for eight weeks that time.
Paul turned to face me; his face a shocking color of white. “I’ve done it,” he said.
“Done what?” I said although I knew the answer.
“I’ve stolen it.”
‘It,’ was Headmaster Grimson’s famous Blue Whaling Plover egg. A tiny thing, speckled with beige and black, it was the glory of Grimson’s collection. I’d only seen it once; the day I came to the school after my parents died. He’d shown it to me as a sort of consolation prize I think. Paul had seen it too, but with the usual throng of boys that got to view it in Grade Eight before I arrived.
That egg and the others had become Paul’s new fixation. He’d say, “It’s not the fact that Grimson collects eggs that’s gotten to me. It’s the fact that all those birds lay those eggs expecting a hatchling –a chick. Those mothers were robbed of their children. It’s so unfair.” I’d laugh, watch him pace for a bit, and then convince him to join me in stealing cigarettes or other sundries from the teacher’s lockers after hours. We snagged a whole bottle of gin from Callifer’s locker once and he couldn’t say a thing although he knew who had done it.
Now, Paul stood in front of me opening his jacket. He drew the egg out, wrapped in his handkerchief and laid it on the nearest desk. He didn’t make a ceremony of unwrapping it and I was glad for that. The tiny egg glowed slightly in the light, surface gleaming like silk. Paul leaned close to examine it and then looked up at me with half a grin. “This’ll bugger that old pillager.”
Headmaster Grimson wasn’t evil; more of a doddering old prig. It was clear that he didn’t like Paul or me; no, Grimson preferred those hearty boys who were only interested in how many cherries they could get on their cricket bats. I think now that Paul despised him not just for his hobby of egg collecting but also because of what he saw as boring upper class roots.
Paul took up the egg and extended it out to me, on his palm as an offering. “You do it,” he said.
“Gladly.” I took the egg and in a sharp downward motion smashed it on the desk.
It didn’t shatter like one would expect. It crumpled in on itself in a sad way and the exquisitely fragile bones of a dead unhatched bird were exposed.
Paul went to his knees in front of the desk –tall enough that he still leant over the bones. I watched tears stream down his cheeks as he picked out one tiny remnant and held it. “She loved this little one,” he whispered, “I know it. I know it.”
Copyright 2014 Entsminger