It was opening day. Phil stopped in for breakfast at Maurice’s steakhouse. Corned beef hash. And coffee, of course. Coffee and whiskey were the only drinks that Maurice served. But he always said that it was important to diversify.
“It’s important to diversify, Phil,” he was saying now. “Steak and eggs. Bacon and eggs. Even tomato and eggs.”
“You know that’s not my style,” said Phil.
Maurice shook his head, wiping at a glass. The same glasses were used for both beverages. “You don’t even like eggs.”
“Can’t stand ‘em,” Phil agreed.
Maurice just kept wiping. “I don’t get you, Phil.”
“But you like me,” Phil said, pushing back his plate.
It was true. Everyone liked Phil. It was why he had so many friends.
“What time are you opening?” Maurice called as Phil walked through the swinging door.
“As soon as the signs are in place,” Phil called back, tapping his nose.
Whistling, he walked along Gristle Road toward the fens. It was a beautiful day. Rays of sun could even be seen through the mist.
“Morning, Phil,” croaked old Mr. Anche, from where he hunched in the doorway, sandwiched between his brothers.
Phil tipped his cap and walked on.
“Big day, Phil,” Judith called, leaning out of her window above the underpass.
Phil just grinned and waved.
Phil was happy to see all his friends, and happy to walk through his town on such a fine morning. But he was happiest of all when he got to the edge of the fens and saw it. Just a dark little hollow between a dry cleaners and a boarded-up strip club. But it was all his, thanks to a few strings pulled by a few friends.
And the signs were in place. Buddies of Hector Robinson’s had made them from driftwood in the night and left them stacked just inside the door. In bright green paint, they read:
Phil loosened his tie and set to work, whistling. He dusted the shelves. He hung the signs from their hooks. He unpacked the crates and crates of eggs.
Phil knew he didn’t need to diversify. Phil’s Eggs was perfect. It didn’t need Easter eggs, or chocolate eggs, or eggs with toys in them, or wooden eggs, or magical eggs, or decorative eggs. Phil’s Eggs was a simple shop, for friends who liked a good, simple meal. Chicken eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs, and cow eggs. That was all he needed.
He’d had the idea about a week ago, and now it was finally opening day. Phil could move fast when he wanted to. He always had friends ready to do a favor for him, just like he was always ready to do a favor for them.
Phil got to the last crate, which was small and damp-looking, and smelled of sea water. When Phil touched the wood, his fingers nearly sank into it.
A rotten batch? Carefully, Phil wrenched the boards off with his claws, one by one.
A single egg sat inside, on a nest of old newspapers. It was black, but not the black of rotten eggs. The black of a movie screen before the picture starts.
Phil took off his hat and leaned close to the egg. It was about the size of his hand, and had a smooth matte texture. “Hello there,” Phil whispered. “What are you?”
Carefully, he laid one finger on the side of the egg. He felt the delicate material of the eggshell, and below it, faint and irregular, a heartbeat.
by Hannah Baker