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My Big Plan

There's an art to making a scrambled egg sandwich. Even more, there's an art to enjoying an egg sandwich, and if you can manage that, you can own the world. Count yourself lucky.

I'll tell you how.

Pour a golden drop of virgin olive oil in a clean pan. That's the most expensive ingredient. A little goes a long way.

Half the town? They're out chasing moneyed thrills. They're standing in long lines, blowing good cash, ordering high-end drinks, paying as much for a glass as they would for a bottle while they wait for a table smaller than any table they'd allow in their own place. They're spending their lifetime earning money, pouring it out.

But you.

Stay home, money in your pocket. If you buy anything, buy a pencil. Buy a book. Underline sentences that lift your heart, make your guts sing. Maybe there's one that pushes tears to your eyes for no reason you can remember.

But you want to speak back to it.

Make a scrambled egg sandwich and get your writing done. That's the big deal: write your book. Time and money go further when you don't leave the house.Time and money go further when you don't leave the house.

It's spring. In Portland plum trees are in bloom and the urban chickens are laying eggs in every backyard, same as chickens did during the Great Depression, same as they've always done. There's archeological evidence of Neanderthals cracking eggs, eggshell debris in the middens.

Ancient Greeks made a cake with eggs as a sacrifice to the gods.

You can be that god for yourself.

If you're lucky you've got a neighbor, a friend, a relative — somebody who will slide a hand under a bird's warm body, maybe reach into a nest while the chickens are out, and lift a pale green, grey, or brown sterile egg and pass it over the fence or bring it to the front door.

Maybe you'll wake up from a sweaty nap, find a paper bag on the front porch, a mystery. A bomb? A mistake. Except it's from a friend; it's not a mistake, and inside the bag you'll find an egg carton reused so many times the ink-stamped expiration date is for a year past, and inside there's a dozen eggs, each one still flecked with bits of grass, bits of the world, letting you know it's real. It's not GMO. It's not Monsanto, knocking on your door.

Crack however many you want into a bowl. Hell, crack them all! If you're up for it.

What's that? You say cholesterol?

Shrug it off. Experts offer conflicting information. The man I listen to says there's nothing in an egg that'll kill you. That egg yolk is good for your hair and brain. The problem, he says, is blood sugar spikes. That'll trash your heart. Don't let your sugar spike. I visualize holding mine steady.

Booze will spike your blood sugar, same as straight-up sugar will.

But if it makes you feel better you can negotiate with the eggs, with yourself, to split the difference: one yolk to two whites. The extra yolk goes down the drain, a sacrifice to the drain gods now.

Or it goes in the microwave, a quick jolt, a treat for the dog.

Chop an onion, drawing slash marks one direction, than the other, until the cuts intersect and onion falls like plum tree petals, like loose teeth, like chicken feathers. Put chopped onion in the pan, with the hot olive oil.

It's aromatic, isn't it?

True, I've been that neighbor down the hall, a dive apartment, the scent of frying onions seeping under the door. You've been there too, I think. Maybe you have. If you haven't, that's your loss.

There's a Bukowski story called "The Devil Was Hot." A man finds the devil trapped in a cage in a carnival. He gets the devil out, takes him home. Bukowski writes:

I fried him a bacon and egg sandwich for starters and we sat down with Flo.

"Your friend is a handsome looking devil," she told me.

"He claims to be the devil," I said.

"Been a long time," he said, "since I had me a hunk of good woman."

As a woman and an author, the world seems full of prescribed femaleness — what women are supposed to be: shopping, arguing, doing their hair. Sitting at the table like Flo, having sex with the Devil (that comes next in the story). I find more of myself in Bukowski, that stained T-shirt and a cheap meal. I find myself in John Fante, Bukowski's source of inspiration.

I've been that writer, always hopeful, underpaid, shuffling in my small rooms, cracking a beer, eating a fried egg sandwich, keys clicking late at night in the near silence of work on a computer.

Bukowski said, "We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."

I wish death would tremble more, before taking any of us.I wish death would tremble more, before taking any of us.

Another writer, Peter Christopher, once said that everything good that ever came his way came because of writing. I think of him when I think the same for myself.

Use a fork, to scramble your eggs in a chipped china bowl. If you'd rather, keep the eggs whole, yolks intact. Either way, once your frying onions grow soft — soft as a drunk man's dick, I'll say, just to jab Bukowski in the ribs, wherever his spirit is now, wherever his drunken body rests — pour the eggs on top of the onions. Let it cook. Drop two pieces of bread in the toaster. Set the toaster for light, or set it for dark, however you like your toast. I'm open-minded on those things.

It's the Dijon that sells the sandwich.

Spread Dijon on one side of one piece of toast.

The sandwich is warm, it's cheap, it's yours. Saving money is a writer's best bet toward security in the early years, and maybe always. Everybody talks about the new economy. When they say this, they mean money is hard to come by. Jobs end unexpectedly. Sources of funding dry up. I think, when was there ever any economy besides a difficult one? Somehow I missed it.

But I can type. I can cook, and I can read. I've gotten two books out into the world, Clown Girl and The Stud Book, and racked up a good stack of short stories, a few essays. Mostly, I've been in conversation — body, mind, and spirit — with kick-ass writers. I love them. Life is rich, and in this way, it's mine.

More from Monica Drake on PowellsBooks.Blog:

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Monica Drake is the author of Clown Girl, winner of an Eric Hoffer Award and an "IPPY" (Independent Publishers Award), and The Stud Book. She has an MFA from the University of Arizona and is currently a faculty member at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where she is department chair of the newly launched BFA in Writing, a program that blends visual and written arts.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Stud Book
    Used Hardcover $9.50
  2. Clown Girl: A Novel
    Used Trade Paper $5.95
  3. South of No North; Stories of the... Used Trade Paper $9.50

Monica Drake is the author of The Stud Book

4 Responses to "My Big Plan"

    Vanessa Nix Anthony April 19th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Have I told you lately how much I love you Ms. M? I dont think anyone ever made an egg sandwich sound so delectable and earth shatteringly important, but my heart knows these words, echoed, carried up from that place just up under my ribs, where those kind of things like to stick. But it's more than the sandwich, though the sandwich is perfection. Your truth, every smart writer's truth, lies in its simplicity. I kept nodding along with you. You are cracking eggs and toasting bread, spreading Djion with my hand -- with all of our hands. Thank you for the conversations. Please never stop.

    Stephilius April 20th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    God, that was beautiful, Monica! That's all there is to say....

    Monica April 22nd, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you, Vanessa Nix Anthony and Stephilius! You are both fabulous and kind. All best, M

    Levi G April 23rd, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    This is beautiful. Sometimes I despair that some of the artists I know seem to complain constantly about their lives, how they aren't famous or rich enough, pretty enough, et cetera. I wonder how they don't revel in the fact that they don't have to work a day job any more, or even if they do, how the opportunity to make art and be listened to doesn't fill them with celebrating. Things are hard when I am broke, but I also find it is when I am most productive, when I am forced to struggle and make a sandwich into a banquet. It is when I draw and write the hardest, because I want to make something better than my little life. Reading this piece gives me hope, makes me happy (and hungry), and reminds me why I am a fan of Monica Drake. Thank you for your words.

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