by Lucy Ives
Once, there lived a mother. This mother was not particularly young, but she wasn’t old, either. The mother had a child who was female and this concerned her. The reason she was concerned was that young girls and young women were not, as the mother thought to herself, able to tell the difference between an egg and an egg yolk.
Now, this might seem like a strange concern, but for the mother this made perfect sense. An egg is a thing, the mother thought. Meanwhile, the yolk is just a part of it. It was important to score the egg and the yolk appropriately. Because the egg is whole, it should receive three points. A yolk, being merely a part, could receive only a single point. One should hold these values in one’s heart. A yolk exists, but it does not really matter. What matters is the whole.
The mother knew that her daughter was not growing in such a way so as to be able to perceive the all-important difference between an egg and an egg yolk. Her daughter probably thought that an egg and an egg yolk were roughly the same sort of thing, if not identical.
The mother was a good mother and because of this she planned to correct her child. “Child,” said the mother, “there is something I would like you to do.”
“What is that?” asked the little girl.
“I would like you to leave this house and stay here, both at the same time.”
The little girl thought for a moment. “But if I leave this house, how can I also stay in it?”
“I didn’t say being human was going to be easy,” the mother told her, opening a cabinet. “Would you like a snack?”
“No, thank you,” said the little girl. “It can be hard for me to think and digest simultaneously.”
The mother closed the cabinet. “That’s very prudent of you. I can tell you are not going to let me down.”
The little girl smiled at her mother and went quietly away. She knew from experience that it was essential to behave as if everything her mother said was intelligible and corresponded to the innate format of the phenomenal world, as well as to what famous people said. The little girl went to her room and closed the door.
The girl thought. One solution, of course, was to kill herself. It was quite possible that her mother was a dualist and that therefore a physical death and resultant spiritual liberation might satisfy the demand. However, as a result of killing herself the little girl would be dead, and the little girl felt that she probably did not want to die, at least, not just yet. The little girl needed another solution.
And so she thought. And she thought and thought some more.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the little girl arrived at a plan. It is difficult to explain, by the way, how the little girl knew what she knew. It had to do with having a mirror—for the little girl had a mirror in her room. In the mirror, the little girl had seen something. She had seen her reflection and also she had seen something else. The little girl spoke to her reflection. She liked that after she was done speaking she could observe as an attentive look came over her face. In these moments, she could change her mind.
The little girl turned away. Her room was full of scraps and objects her mother considered refuse. The little girl gathered these scraps and objects and sat in a chair and tinkered through the night.
In the morning, the little girl was finished. She climbed out the window.
In the little girl’s bed, there was a new little girl. This new little girl was identical to the old little girl in every way, except that she was not human. The new little girl was composed of refuse and she was a doll, but no one would be able to tell the difference between her and the old little girl.
The old little girl—who was, in truth, the little girl—went far away, and the doll stayed to live with her mother.
Life for the little girl far away was not easy, but she did not die. The little girl grew and became strong, and now she was a girl, and after some years she returned to her home, where her mother lived with the doll.
The girl crouched at the kitchen window and looked in.
The doll, which had also grown, was seated at the kitchen table with its back to the window. The girl’s mother was at the sink and she was cracking eggs.
“What’s the difference between an egg and an egg yolk?” the mother asked the doll. The mother did not seem very happy. The mother was impeccably dressed, but there was a grayish cast to her face, a sheen of sweat. A twinkling hair had escaped from her chignon.
The mother sniffed the air and the girl at the window ducked down.
The girl could hear a soft creaking as the doll shook its head. There came a chopping, as the mother cut up one of the doll’s hands.
“Oh no,” said the mother to the doll, “you don’t look very well!”
The girl went away and came back the next day.
The girl was hoping to catch the doll alone so that she could speak to it and apologize to it for bringing it into this difficult world. The girl was thinking that perhaps she would also explain to the doll, once and for all, the difference between an egg and an egg yolk.
However, when the girl arrived at the kitchen window, her mother was there again. Something extreme seemed to have happened during the night. The mother was busy, very absorbed gluing the doll back together.
The girl began to leave and as she left, in her thoughts, she criticized her mother. “She takes so much trouble,” the girl thought, “and for no reason at all. If she wants that stupid doll to know the difference between an egg and an egg yolk, why doesn’t she just tell it?”
As the girl made her way quietly down the street, she paused to gaze at her reflection in the window of a parked car. “I’ve somehow always known,” she thought, “that there is a difference.” ■
Lucy Ives is most recently the author of the novel Loudermilk: Or, The Real Poet; Or, The Origin of the World (2019), the hybrid photobook The Poetics (2019), with photographs by Matthew Connors, and a collection of short stories, Cosmogony (Soft Skull Press, 2021). She is also editor of The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had to Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader (2020). She writes regularly on contemporary art and literature for Art in America and frieze, among other publications.
Thumbnail: Filippino Lippi, Tondo Corsini