“Daddy! Daddy look! I found another one!”
Lisa ran up to me, holding the white and pink printed egg. I laughed and held the basket forward. “Good job, pumpkin! That makes how many now?”
For a few seconds, Lisa counted up each one before she straightened herself and beamed.
“Six! I found six!”
“That’s right! That’s my smart girl!”
And there were still dozens more it appeared.
Ever since I was a kid, our church has done an egg hunt. Some years it would be lucky if there was five or six little ones popping about searching for egg shaped goodies, but this year there was decently large group. I think there was around maybe fifteen or twenty kids, all under the age of eight, running around the church green. Eggs were positively everywhere this year, from plain sight on the green to hidden in the garden that was donated as according to Ms. Louis’ will. She’d always appreciated the love of God through nature, and a garden was the best she could do.
Lisa trotted across the grass, her eyes scanning the ground. She squealed as she ran forward, picking up another one, only to have it snatched from her hands by another boy.
Oh boy. Bruno. The older boy grinned as he raised the egg up high, Lisa’s joyful expression falling. “Mommy! Daddy! I got one!” He squealed, about to run off.
Not on my watch. I ran forward and stopped the tyke, holding out my hand. “Bruno, that’s not yours. You know it’s not yours, that’s Lisa’s.”
Bruno stomped his foot and started to scream, his round cheeks turning red. I saw Arnold Short walk forward, laughing nervously. “It’s okay, son, you can have that one! I’m sure Lisa won’t mind sharing!” Short said.
I took a deep breath to prevent myself from snapping at a clearly clueless parent. “Bruno, that’s Lisa’s egg. You took it without asking. How about you give it back and ask to share?”
“NO!” Bruno howled, stomping again before throwing himself to the ground.
Lisa backed away before giving me a sour look. I could just read her mind- ‘Maybe it’s not worth it.’ And I agreed. With a sigh, I took Lisa’s hand and we kept walking, finding another egg only a few paces away, this one polka dotted green and pink. Lisa’s favorite color combination.
Not saying that I didn’t mind having a ton of kids participating in the egg hunt this year, but the more kids there was, the higher odds that there’d be parents like Short. Unable to scold their perfect child, and they must always have what they want.
I just did my best to avoid Bruno and his nervous father. I knew any second Bruno could have another tantrum.
“Daddy! Look! Up there!”
Lisa pointed upwards and I saw one in the crook of a tree. I grabbed it and ran my thumb over the toy. Typically every year we had these plastic eggs, but this year we’d had these fluffy toy eggs donated to us. They were honestly adorable, if not a tad bit smelly.
I added the egg to the basket. “Well, Lisa, I think it’s about time we have potluck with everyone else.” I could see the other parents start to head back to the church. I’d likely missed the pastor calling everyone back, given the distance we’d walk. “How about we return the eggs with everyone else’s and have some lasagna?”
Lisa gasped before she jumped for joy. “Lasagna! Lasagna! Lasagna!” She chanted, holding up her hands. “Lemme return the basket, please daddy! Let me return the basket!”
I chuckled before I handed the basket to Lisa. “Careful not to drop it,” I cautioned her.
Lisa nodded seriously before we started walking back to the church.
We’d almost reached the potluck tables when we came across another commotion in front of the church doors. Thanks to Bruno.
“No! My eggs! They’re mine!” He screamed, clutching the basket to his chest.
Pastor Jensen had knelt down to Bruno’s height, his eyes looking very tired behind his bifocal glasses. “We’re going to share these eggs, so it’s fair for everyone, Bruno. Don’t you want to share?” He asked.
Short cleared his throat and smiled nervously. “Pastor, he did find these eggs, surely the other children will understand?” He said with a slight stammer.
Unlike me however, Pastor Jensen wasn’t going to be a doormat. He stood back up and stared Short down. “Absolutely not. Every other child is sharing their eggs. Bruno can do the same. Bruno, please hand me the basket.” He extended his hand.
Bruno was a child who had never been told no in his entire life. At the very idea of being told that he had to share his eggs, he started behaving like a wild animal. Shrieking at the top of his lungs like some monkey, he jumped up and down as he clutched the egg basket to his chest. A crowd started to gather, and Short looked ready to melt into the ground. Jensen hardly seemed bothered, only holding out his hand.
“Bruno. Give me the basket.”
Overwhelmed with anger, Bruno lifted the basket above his head and pitched it.
The eggs collided with the wall with a wet smash.
That made me pause. The basket slid down the wall, leaving a trail of clear ooze behind it. It flopped on the ground and the smashed eggs rolled about.
I was frozen. They were just toys. Right?
Some of them were limp, soggy pieces of fluff now. But then one of the eggs twitched. I recognized from its patterns it was the one that Lisa had picked up first before Bruno had taken it. Clumsily, it came apart, before it stood on three pairs of legs.
Pastor Jensen’s lips parted in shock. He knelt down to the critter’s level. The clear liquid spilling from its hide started to blur the bright colors, revealing a dark plush fur.
The critter stumbled about clumsily, like a baby deer on shaky legs. Its stubby head nudged at the motionless body of another one of its kind. It didn’t move.
Bruno broke the shocked silence by running forward, his chubby hands reaching forward. “Mine!” He crowed, attempting to grab the creature.
With a flash of movement the creature latched onto the child’s hand, and where his thumb, ring, and middle used to be was now bleeding stumps.
Bruno screamed in agonizing pain.
Instant panic. Short screamed along with his son, trying to drag him away from the creature intent on taking more than just a few fingers. The ones that weren’t killed by being smashed into bricks were now getting up too, stumbling and making a raspy squeaking sound.
When Lisa started to wail, I yanked her off the ground and started running.
Where the baskets originally were was nothing but pieces of straw and plastic. The fuzzy adorable eggs from earlier were nowhere to be seen, but I could see flashes of small things running through the grass.
I missed the one running behind me and it latched right onto my calf.
I screamed in pain as I fell to the ground, feeling its sharp teeth cut right through my skin and muscle. Lisa continued to scream in horror as I yelled, swearing at the top of my lungs before I finally managed to grab the creature and rip it off, tossing it across the parking lot. I swear I could make out a little ribbon tied to its leg as it sailed away.
I picked Lisa back up and ran for my car, ignoring the screams erupting from the church. I had to get out of here. Had to get help. Had to get Lisa to safety. I threw her into the passenger side seat as I got in, not even bothering to buckle up.
“I know pumpkin, I know, we’ll be going-“
“DADDY! IT’S HATCHED!”
My heart dropped. I looked over at my daughter, who was staring down at her lap. Her rapidly reddening pocket twitched a few times. Lisa began to cry as a furry head dyed green and pink poked out.
“I’m sorry daddy… I didn’t want Bruno to have it.”