The Egg sat inconspicuously enough in the sitting room, a decorative piece practically camouflaged in the corner, a mere accent to a painting by an artist the host had long forgotten.
Guests uninitiated to the art of antiques gave little regard to its unobtrusive placement. People came and went as the priceless artifact gathered dust.
Year after year, the Egg disappeared into the background: unnoticed, unacknowledged, unappreciated. Until one night, a gentleman of an indiscriminate age sat alone, recoiled from the party one swizzle too deep into depression.
It was his custom to remove himself from social gatherings once his cloud set in, brought on by the spirit and years of practice. In his early days, he would try and mask his grey color. Eventually, he grew weary of the inevitable questions that would follow: what’s the matter? Are you alright? You look as if something is troubling you?
He could never explain to the inquirer that nothing was the matter, that he wasn’t drunk (although, sometimes he was), and he would be fine once the melancholy passed. It was on this fateful evening that he had found a guard against his pain, a shield he had picked up from a magazine or a blog or some indistinct article that had now molded into the abyss. And while the source had dissolved into nothingness, the point remained: name your pain.
If you can name something, you can control it. And so he had. And so he did. And while it did not lessen the sinking feeling of guilt, it provided him a safety net of sorts, softening his landing.
Now, he found himself, alone, in the sitting room of the vast Southern home. His hosts were gracious and warm, a pair of high school sweethearts that had grown into a success. While their budget had grown, their tastes had not.
The house was a hodgepodge of Southern living, the sort of tasteful collage of ideas that represented impulse and magazine ads. Everything looked right. The couch matched the carpet, matched the coffee table, matched the paintings. Unweathered books adorned the shelves, carefully crafted magazines littered the tables, but the entire setting was devoid of personality.
Still, no one seemed to mind, that is, except our hero. He found himself transfixed on this one decorative piece.
Did they know what they possessed?
It must be a fake.
He looked around to make sure no one was watching him and made his way to the Egg. At first, he dared not touch it. If it were real, the mere pressure of his hand could destroy the delicate porcelain, the thinnest layer of bone China and calcium phosphate.
The artisan had crafted the Egg to be admired, never handled. Part of the mystique of the antique was that it had to be carried from a ring at the top, which balanced the pressure evenly throughout the piece.
His face reflected back in the ivory between the delicate brushstrokes of blue. A scene of no importance played out along the equator, families moving about a small English countryside. Yet, hidden within the portrait was a series of puzzles that would rival the greatest alchemist’s codex.
Letters that transformed into mountains, symbols that morphed into faces, and accents that held untold treasures.
And yet, here was this masterpiece of myth in a sawgrass McMansion, owned by a pair of day-trippers who couldn’t distinguish between Monet and Manet.
His palms were sweaty, his shirt drenched. The house was cooled to a frigid degree, but his heart raced at the sight of the Egg.
Lust filled his heart. He had to have the Egg. They were not worthy of such art, which only served to accentuate a reprinted painting from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
At first, he thought he could undersell the couple, explain that he loved the antique, and had always wanted one. Offer them a substantial amount, far more than they paid for it at whatever roadside store they had picked it up from by accident, but far less than the items worth.
But what if he gave away his intention? What if he revealed the Egg’s real value? Far worse than the item sitting on this undeserving mantle would be this couple rushing to Antiques Roadshow and becoming overnight celebrities, the finders of the Lost LaRue.
No. For that, he would not stand. So he decided, in the moment, to steal the Egg. His hosts would not even notice it missing. It would not take any excellent planning, no heist worthy of Hollywood. He would simply walk out the front door with the Egg suspended from a hook.
“Edgar!” shrieked a voice behind a hand on his shoulder.
In his fantasy, he had lost all track of time. The voice pierced his dream like a bullet through glass. He turned to face the gracious face of his host, a fair featured woman of thirty.
“What are you doing here?”
Had she suspected? What right had she to ask such an invasive question.
“The party has moved outside.”
Relief plummeted through his body. She suspected nothing. She merely wished him to return to the others. A lie soaked in truth slipped from his mouth and put the host at ease. She offered to refill his drink and then said she would return him to the party.
He smiled and allowed her to take his glass, and as she walked from the room, his gaze returned to...the stone?
Where the lost LaRue had once stood, a Faberge egg of the most delicate race, was a crude mass-produced mantle topper.
What trick is this?
He looked around desperate to find a thief in his midst. Perhaps his host had distracted him, noticing his lustful gaze on her priceless artifact.
No, sank his mind. There never was a LaRue.
A hollow smile returned to his face as his host guided him back to the party. As they walked out the French doors, wine in hand, he cast one look back towards the Egg. For a blink, it was a LaRue again, an adventure thrusting him forward, casting him as a great cat burglar. In the next, the Egg dissolved into cold, hard plaster: reality.
Brock D. Vickers
This is the beginning of a new part of life: a habit: an idea: a routine to dig at what makes a man great.