This is the final installment of the four series regarding the Vanderlip escapade… In the previous episodes the members of our group—Ron, Bob, Scott, and myself—had trespassed the mysterious property, only to discover a huge egg. I took it upon myself to hatch the egg to determine what odd species it might belong to. I soon found that hatching an egg was much more difficult than cracking one for breakfast and that the results were not nearly as satisfying…
Torrance, California | 1970’s
An hour into our experiment, Scott and I waited impatiently. The oven temperature was a constant one hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit now. I imagined the magic moment soon when the egg cracked open. It would be exciting to learn the species of the bird. Could I raise it as a pet?
<feature photo courtesy h2ocare.com
“Hey, they’re starting up an over-the-line game at Sepulveda Elementary,” Scott said, peering out the living room window toward the rear of the house.
From my living room one could look out the rear picture window, through a large Century cactus, down the alleyway beside the Roth’s house, and see the elementary schoolyard that had well-equipped baseball diamonds (I had gone to school there). “You think we could go play a few ballgames while the egg keeps warm?” I said to Scott.
“Sure, it’s not going anywhere. We’ll be back in an hour or so.”
Playing over-the-line sure beat staring at the egg for the next hour. “Let’s go.”
Going Over-the-Line with the Egg Experiment
Scott and I returned to my house in good spirits. Our over-the-line baseball quartet had prevailed. We were gone for two and a half hours and were anxious to see if the egg had hatched yet.
I shoved the key in the front door lock and turned the handle. The door swept open and the stench hit me like a foul ball to the nose off a Sandy Koufax fastball.
“Oh shit! Scott said.
I raced into the kitchen. The oven door stood wide open. Particles of egg were pasted across the refrigerator door and cabinets. The heat must have been too high. The egg had burst. The smell was so rancid it caused me to gag. Scott ran outside to the backyard. I quickly came to the conclusion that I had discovered a rotten egg. Otherwise, why wouldn’t the mother hen or whatever she was called have been around?
How was I going to clean this up before mom returned?
Scott, complaining of nausea and with no skin in the game, left the cleanup job to me after the first hour. Meanwhile, I opened every window and door in the house. Late in the afternoon we usually got a breeze off the ocean, from a couple of miles away.
As I cleaned the kitchen, I noticed that the odor had not dissipated. I had merely gotten used to it. My explanation to mom began to take form as a school science project… We were studying incubation periods for different types of birds… I decided to test the teacher’s theory that hatching occurred quicker in warmer climates… I found the egg near the beach…
It might just work… Yeah, right.
At ten o’clock at night, I got a call. Mom said that they were going to stay overnight and would return tomorrow around noon. I had gotten a short reprieve.
The Day of Reckoning
The next morning I did a final airing-out, opening all the windows and doors again. Before I left for baseball practice I sprayed the entire interior of the house with mom’s Glade air freshener before I locked up.
My mind wasn’t into the ballgame. I made a critical error on a grounder to third base that should have been routine. The guys chided me after Scott had spilled the beans about the burst egg. I told them that my parents wouldn’t return until noon today. “Boy are you in hot water when your mom returns,” Ron said, wearing a big smile. He knew about my mom’s temper.
“I wouldn’t wanna be in your shoes for any amount of money,” Bob added.
I drove home slowly. I stopped at Jack-in-the-Box for my last meal—an onion ring topped cheeseburger. About halfway home I decided I needed to visit the barber. For some reason, Mom always praised me when I got a haircut.
I drove by the house first. The garage door was open with the car parked inside. All the doors and windows of the house were open—a bad sign. On the second drive by I gave up and drove into the driveway.
Mom was standing in the doorway. A suitcase sat next to her. Behind her, dad shook his head and gave me that “Boy did you mess up” look. Mom’s eyes were riveted on mine, accompanied by an expression that I could only describe as dismally disappointed.”What happened here?” she said.
“You see, we had this experiment at school—”
“We tried to hatch a… an ostrich egg in the oven.”
Mom’s expression transformed from angry to incredulous. I thought I saw a brief grin on dad’s face, but that didn’t factor into matters related to the interior of our house. Mom glanced behind at dad, gazed at the floor and then addressed me again. “Well, we’re staying over at my sister’s house until the odor goes away,” Mom said with a certain amount of finality to her words.
That was a relief. I got sick just thinking about staying the night here.
Mom began wringing her hands together, a really bad sign. She bit her lip above a protruding jaw. “I’m leaving before I do or say something that I’ll regret later,” she said. “When you’ve properly cleaned the kitchen and the odor is gone, then give us a call… and not until then.”
Dad picked up the suitcase and said, “I thought you were more mature than this,” before he headed out to the car.
Mom’s final note struck home. “The house is your responsibility while we’re gone,” she said, and paused to let it all sink in before she added, “Don’t let me down.”
“I’m sorry, mom,” I said.
“You should be.” Her face reddened. “Of all the hair-brain ideas…”
She turned and left without the usual goodbye hug.
That night I slept in my sleeping bag in the backyard. The next day, Monday, I ditched school and spent all day cleaning the kitchen with some special cleanser that mom had left out. I continued to air the house out and by Wednesday the odor had sufficiently diminished. I called mom before school and told her that they could return the next day.
I bought flowers and left a note on the table beside them before I headed to school on Thursday morning. Over the past few days, I had had plenty of time to think things over. The main lesson learned became clear. In the future, I wouldn’t be so keen to jeopardize myself or my family just to impress my friends. Peer pressure… Wow, I thought it was just some textbook term that you had to remember for the social studies class test.