How to Hatch a Starling Egg
Elizabeth Green

You find a starling egg on the ground before work. It is sky blue, a perfect oval, just sitting there in the mulch. You lift it into your palm and realize you are stepping into a world you don't understand, because you are going to nurse this egg and hatch it, and you are scared. But you don't listen to the voice inside your head telling you that you don't have time for this, you have no maternal skills and most likely the egg is dead or unfertilized if it was left abandoned like that. You believe that nature is fallible and that the egg's mother may have made a terrible mistake. You believe that it was fate to have found the egg.

You cut a paper coffee cup in half, shove some tissues inside and place the egg within it: a temporary cradle for when you get sick of holding the egg in your hand. Heat and moisture are important, the Internet says. One hundred degrees and moist. The Internet also says you must turn the egg several times a day. You are game for this because it's only been a few hours since you first found it on the street. You like the task. The act of caring makes you feel relevant in nature's great mysterious cycle. You try to remember the last time you did anything for anyone and come up with cleaning out the litter box for your cats. You hold the egg tighter.

You call your dad who knows a lot about nature and stuff. He tells you that it looks like a starling egg and that starlings make great pets, even though they are wild. They are very trainable, he says. You imagine the starling flying above you as you walk to work. Sitting on your shoulder as you cross the street and waiting in the trees with its friends until you get off work. And then at home, it can live in the mulberry tree outside your door, and from the window you can wave to it and it will sing to you. You will name it Star or Ling, but not Starling as that would be too predictable.

From the Internet you learn that when birds hatch they need a brooder box with a warming light, and they need to be fed sixteen hours a day for two weeks. You imagine buying worms at the hardware store and crushing them in a bowl. You will also have to find ants and crush them too because a healthy chick needs variety. It sounds right, anyway. This level of care will require missing work, and you have no vacation days left. You imagine what can happen to you that would allow you to miss work for two weeks. You think about maybe getting clipped by a bus, or staging a mugging where you get hurt but not too badly—only enough that you have to miss work.

Your friend tells you about candling. She is at your desk, excited that you can know for sure if the egg is really fertilized or not. She has a heavy-duty flashlight in her hand and together you walk to the women's bathroom, sneak into the shower room and close the door. It's so dark in there, just the two of you. Maybe three, depending. She tells you to hold the egg up so you do. She shines the light right on it. You are supposed to see veins, blood, a circular shape inside, depending on how far along the egg is. But there is nothing. Just pale blue nothingness. You look for a long time, hoping that maybe you missed something.    

You leave the shower room and the brightness of the bathroom makes you blink.

"What do I do with the egg?" you ask.

"You can eat it."

You don't like that idea, even though you love eating eggs. Just not this egg. This egg was a friend you never got to know, and as a rule you don't eat your friends.

You say, "I think I'll have a funeral."

You hate to admit it, but you are relieved. Besides, you didn't have it in you to sit with a hatchling for two weeks, feeding the gaping mouth crushed up worms every ten minutes for sixteen hours a day. You worry that this sense of relief makes you selfish. You're not sure if you dislike yourself more now because of this decision.

At home you put the egg in your window box and let it sit there for a few days next to the basil before you get around to burying it by the mulberry tree. Just before the burial you say a few words for the egg, even though there isn't even a body inside. There is a reason eggs are left behind. There is a reason you just have cats. You and the egg understand this. You gather the soil in your hand and cover the blue.

Elizabeth Green lives in Philadelphia. She has work in or coming from Hobart, Spork, Necessary Fiction and others.

Read her postcard.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of GoDiNo.

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