The door to her father’s house opened before Tiggy could raise the brass knocker.
“Oh, great,” said her father. “You’re just in time to cook me breakfast. Come in. Come in,” He stood aside to let her pass and she pecked a kiss at his cheek as she hurried by, overnight bag in the hand closer to him. Tiggy held her breath as she went. She knew the smell emanating from her father would be as ripe as it was during her last visit, if not worse.
“I’ll make you breakfast in a moment, dad. I’ll just take these upstairs first.”
When she came down, her post-drive ablutions completed, she went straight to the kitchen. Her father sat at the breakfast table, restless fingers playing the piano of the table top in arrhythmic Morse Code messages.
“At last,” her father muttered. “Where have you been?”
“Just tidying up, dad,” Tiggy smiled. “You know it’s a long drive.”
“I want scrambled eggs. On toast. Make them like your mother used to.”
Tiggy thought of the dry overcooked eggs her mother used to scrape out of the burnt to a crisp saucepan and sighed. Her almost-liquid, cordon bleu divinity was the real thing. Scrambled eggs, indeed. And so much salt. More like bacalao, dried salt cod with a little bit of yellow to imitate an egg.
Tiggy picked up a saucepan for the eggs. Filthy. She went to the sink and started to scrub it.
“You don’t need to do that,” her father said. “It’s clean.”
“It’ll be cleaner when I’ve finished, dad. Don’t you worry.”
“Here,” her father handed her some plates. “You might as well wash these as well. They won’t be clean enough for you.”
Greasy films layered the plates where yesterday’s bacon had solidified. Hard lumps of egg stuck to the cracks that road-mapped the plates’ surface.
“I’ll look after it, dad. You sit down and rest. I’m home now.”
“At last,” Tiggy’s father grunted.
Tiggy took in her father’s face. He had put on weight and red veins ran red and blue tattoos across the unshaven surface. He breathed with difficulty, but she knew he angered with ease. She also knew she must tread with care.
Tiggy looked for and found the end of a roll of paper towels, the same one she had bought on her last visit, and she dried saucepan, plates, and cutlery, putting the saucepan on the stove and laying cutlery and plates neatly in a space she created on the cluttered table. Her father pushed his setting aside and struggled to his feet.
“Here, let me help you.”
“That’d be great, dad. You do the toast, I’ll get the eggs,” Tiggy walked to the fridge, searched in vain for some butter, and carefully selected three large brown eggs.
Her father followed her to the fridge.
“Here, use up this cracked one,” he handed her a white egg with a large crack that mapped a thin contour from big end to little end.
Tiggy reached for the egg. She grasped it and felt the cold icy creep of the army of white camouflaged maggots that seethed along the crack. She shuddered and the egg slipped from her fingers, dropping to the kitchen’s flagstone floor where it shattered. A rich, ripe stench arose and ghosted through the air to tickle Tiggy’s nostrils. Her stomach heaved.
Having washed her hands, she cracked each of the three eggs individually into a saucer, checked each one, then put it into the saucepan. Next, she took a wooden spoon from the drawer and started to blend the eggs.
Meanwhile, her father sat back down at the table, toast forgotten, and recommenced his Morse Code save my soul messages.
Tiggy opened one cupboard, then another, in search of bread. Finally, she found the remains of a sliced loaf in a dark corner and brought it out into the light. The first slice she extracted from the bag reminded her of a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period. Lots of penicillin, but toast for scrambled eggs?
“I know,” her father said. “I’ve eaten it before. Just scrape the blue stuff off. It’ll be fine. I eat it all the time.”
“You can’t eat that,” Tiggy threw the bread in the garbage. “I’ll just serve you the eggs on the plate.”
Tiggy scraped the burnt, dry eggs onto her father’s plate.
“Lovely,” he said. “Just like your mum’s.”