“The egg’s the thing,” the old woman said. She sat in the same place every day, at the corner of Main and Second. She had a seemingly bottomless box of oatmeal that she ate from, as she muttered quietly to herself as if trying to figure something out. Sometimes she scattered a few grains of oatmeal on the walk and the pigeons and crows strutted around her cooing and cawing. Occasionally someone walking past could make out something she said. Usually what they made out was something about an egg. She had appeared on the street corner one April morning, settled in a nest of rags, and muttering to herself and whoever stopped might pause to hear what she had to say. She, of course, had fallen under the watchful eyes of Great City and its downtown vagrancy removal decree.
The first person to tell her to “Move it along, sweetheart,” was Officer Jerry Jordan. She didn’t listen, so Jerry being Jerry and decrees being decrees, he called in assistance. Jerry and his assistance hauled her off and dumped her in front of the Public Aid Kitchen where she was no longer a problem for downtown real estate offices and banks and other LLCs.
It may not be significant that by 9AM, Jerry was running a fever and had to go home to sleep it off. And in fact, nobody thought it was significant. In fact, nobody thought it was significant for about a week and a half. By that time the “egg lady” as she had become known, had been hauled from her perch at Second and Main four or five more times; and each of those times some minor disaster had happened to someone who had “moved her along.” Officer Dunsmore’s dog, Old Pete, was killed by a coyote that proved to be rabid; Lane Osborn daughter caught pneumonia had to be hospitalized on oxygen and anti-biotics; and Jerry, after hauling the egg lady off a third time dropped one of his Glock Nines, which against all probability of fire arms safety and protocol, discharged, sending a round whistling through the courthouse and resulting in Jerry’s being put on paid leave for five days.
It was at about this time that gossip, logic, and superstition conjoined to suggest that perhaps moving the egg lady along was not really necessary. Even Jerry, when he was permitted back on duty, avoided going near Second and Main, because Jerry being Jerry and decrees being decrees, he would have to do something. And even Jerry was smart enough to understand doing something probably was not going to be in his personal self-interest—city fathers, bankers and real estate brokers be damned.
Of course complaints continued to come in to the city fathers for a while. But that soon stopped as the gossip, logic, and superstition mill began to feed the minds of merchants, bankers, real estate brokers and downtown lawyers.
First, Ginny Tombrow notice that after she lodged a particularly virulent complaint that included the words “bird shit,” one of her more lucrative rentals in an up-scale part of town became a raven roost. The renters complained, then broke the lease on grounds of failure to upkeep. And she had to rent to the Greenbults, who managed to trash every property they rented. After Oliver Janislaw made a complaint, he noticed that the statue of his father, who had founded the bank, was coated in pigeon shit. He had it cleaned but within a day or two it was coated in the slimy stuff again. And then there were Billy Turner’s chicks. He had a whole pallet of them ready for sale, all dyed various colors for the Easter trade. Then he told Mayor Ira Barns, that if he did not get rid of the eyesore in front of his grocery store—meaning the egg lady—Ira’s political career was over. The next morning when Billy opened up, he found the orange, blue, and green chicks had escaped their pallet. They were peeping and cheeping and shitting all over the lettuce and tomatoes and almost everything else.
So it was, the egg lady nested at the corner of Second and Main, pecking at her box of oatmeal and muttering about eggs. I believe she is still there today with the pigeons, robins, and ravens strutting around her.