The door to her father’s house opened before Tiggy could raise the brass knocker.
“At last,” said her father. “You’re just in time to cook 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 turmeric to make it look like scrambled egg.
Tiggy picked up a saucepan. Filthy. She went to the sink and started to scrub.
“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 night as well wash these as well. They were clean enough for your mother but they won’t be good 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 veins ran red and blue tattoos across the unshaven surface. He breathed with difficulty, but she knew he angered with ease.
Tiggy looked for the end of the roll of paper towels she had bought on her last visit. When she found it, 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 brown egg with a large fissure 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 maggots that seethed along the line. She shuddered and the egg slipped from her fingers and dropped 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 egg individually into a saucer, inspected it, then poured 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 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 was a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period, the second, a breeding ground for mold, but the third might be salvageable …
“Don’t worry,” her father said. “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.”
When they were cooked to her father’s satisfaction, Tiggy scraped the dried-out eggs from now charred saucepan. They landed on her father’s plate with a harsh, unforgiving sound.
“Lovely,” he said, licking his lips. “Just like your mum’s.”