The Rotten Egg
The rotten egg drama unfolded like rose bud on a spring day. Pity about those pesky aphids sucking its life out.
The Previous Week:
The previous week had been a rollercoaster ride for the O'Neill boys. In their house, good behavior was rewarded or not. Jack was an older daddy, and with years of experience came certain calmness. He didn't sweat the small stuff, and maintained a humorous outlook on the finer art of child rearing. Discarding the child psychology books given to him by well meaning friends, Jack did what he did best. If he wasn't sure of the rules, he simply made up his own. A skill he fine-tuned at Stargate Command when escaping irritable Jaffa on tree-infested planets.
Considered easy going and being a soft touch were vastly different though, and Daniel and Cameron quickly learned to differentiate. Manners were expected, and respect for themselves and each other demanded. Dealing with smart-ass children without compunction, Jack laid strong foundations.
The boys knew they could tell him anything, no matter how hideous, as along as it was the truth. Lying, tattling, teasing meant a one-way trip to an early bedtime. Good natured and loving, and providing Jack chose to ignore the odd catastrophe, the lessons were far and few between. Charming as men, Daniel and Cameron were charming as children.
Rewarded for their good behavior, Jack placed iridescent green stars on charts stuck proudly to the fridge door. If the children managed to earn seven stars in a row, then they could choose the family day treat. Pizza, bike riding, and fishing, were all hotly debated as the best treat imaginable. However, rules were rules, and the child that didn't earn enough stars didn't go. No discussion. With a regretful rub of a head, and a kiss on the cheek, the devastated child stayed behind with their sitter.
Jack was a man of his word, and though he hated to disappoint the children, there were clear boundaries. With good behavior came treats, but with poor behavior came consequences.
As far as the boys were concerned, the family rules were non-negotiable. Putting themselves in harm's way topped his list, and Jack wouldn't tolerate any foolishness. Leaving the yard on their new bicycles without telling their daddy earned smacked bottoms and no wheels for a week. Climbing on garden sheds and scuttling across its roof meant no dessert for a week. Logging onto highly inappropriate websites in the name of research meant no computer time for a spell. The rules were clear and unbendable.
Sneaking into Jack's old garden shed was another one of those non-negotiable family rules. It was his last bastion of peace and quiet, and strictly off limits to small children. It housed old cans of paints, various pesticides, and chemicals. The old fridge rattled and wheezed in the corner, its door bolted with a padlock. Tools of various designs were hung carefully on the shed wall, sharp and tantalizingly dangerous. Drinking a beer and fiddling with fishing lures, Jack would spend happy hours there, and to anyone who cared to ask, he would cheerfully admit that he truly loved this old shed. However, not as much as the well-being of his children.
If the shed became a problem, he would have removed it in a heartbeat and replaced with a shiny, new monster. On occasion, he would glance sadly at the old shed with its rickety blue doors, and hoped it wouldn't come to that.
Repeatedly, he sat down and calmly informed the boys that the shed was not to be used as a playroom. Jack didn't bother elaborating. He expected to be obeyed. The more he talked though, the more Cammie fell in love with the idea of a secret place. No foxhole could have been better planned. The shed was dark, quiet, and had the dubious charm of smelling like mice.
The other non-negotiable family rule was respecting tools of trade. Jack was still an Air Force general and working from home meant his home office was strictly off limits. His laptop was not to be used by sticky fingers other than his own, and so he didn't load the excellent children block programs. He expected the boys to so as they were told.
But, in the end, boys will be boys.
Edging towards the forbidden wooden doors, with the blue peeling paint, Cameron peered through the window with awe. This, he foolishly decided, was the best playroom of all. There were places for treasures that only he would know about, and he schemed to make it his own.
Daniel had enough smarts spinning around in his brain to remember how to navigate his way around various programs. The carefully loaded safe guards drove him to distraction, and disenabling them meant time facing the kitchen wall. Jack's laptop had no such irritating blocks, and therefore Daniel coveted the forbidden computer.
Like the call of the wild, Cameron was inexplicably drawn towards the shed and Daniel to the laptop. Clumsy in their efforts to trick the canny General, they suffered the consequences with good grace. If his bike were confiscated, Cam played in the sandpit, ice cream off the menu, and Dan hoarded cookies. The cancellation of family day was the only punishment that caused them angst, and Jack played the card sparingly. He loved the outings with Sara or Carter in tow, and he wanted the boys to have a real sense of family. However, Jack O'Neill was nothing if not true to his word, and when he discovered Cam on the shed roof, trying to climb in, and Danny tapping away on his laptop, he canceled Sunday's treat and closed the discussion.
When Sunday morning dawned, the little boys looked out of their window and saw blue sky and sunshine. Glancing at each other, they wondered if their daddy had remembered their past indiscretions. Assured at the breakfast table that he hadn't lost his memory and pizza and the bike ride were still canceled, the boys were devastated.
Morosely tapping his boiled egg with his spoon, Cameron had a brilliant idea. This time, he swore to himself, his plan would be fail proof. Excusing himself and dragging Daniel by his arm, Cam pulled his brother into his room, his eyes flashing with mischief. "Danny," he breathed shiftily," remember my mission the other day? Egg? Rotten? Shed?" Resisting the urge to give his blank faced brother a noogie, he continued sweetly," Well, how about you help me get it and we'll use it to cause a diversion! You know a stink bomb!"
Daniel put down the yo-yo he'd been considering borrowing, and looked into Cameron's grinning face with disbelief. "What are you talking about? What mission? How will a stink bomb make Daddy change his mind about family day? We're grounded, end of discussion!" Rolling onto Cam's unmade bed, Danny's memory kicked in, and with eyes rounded, he said, "Oh, you mean Mrs. Grabowski's egg? The one you were supposed to throw away?"
"Remind me, and don't leave out the bits that will get us killed."
Taking a deep breath, Cameron went for gold and explained his brilliance again. But, this time, he had a more receptive audience.
Earlier that week, eager to earn extra pocket money, Cammie offered to cart groceries inside for their elderly neighbor. Chatting amiably and mooching toffees, he came upon a treasure better than all the jewels in the ground. Putting away the groceries, Mrs. Grabowski had dived into the back of the fridge, pulling out a shabby old egg carton. Opening the lid gingerly, and screwing up her face, she clucked her tongue at the one ancient egg still in it. Mumbling under her breath at such wastefulness, she asked Cam to throw the rotten egg in the garbage pails outside. "Oh, dear! Look at the expiration date! This egg is a real stinker! Into the garbage it goes.'
Suspicious at the sudden look of joy crossing Cam's freckled face, Mrs. Grabowski checked the expiration date once more and sighed. Narrowing her eyes, she rapped Cam's head with her arthritic knuckle and warned, "Now, don't you think of throwing that stinky ole egg at that cute brother of yours! Elderly and forgetful, she wandered upstairs and Cameron bolted outside, egg carton firmly in hand. The little boy politely left a scrawled note thanking her for the excellent toffee and flat soda. Tacked on the end of the letter, he had thoughtfully added he was owed one dollars and fifty cents. The fifty cents being for the week before.
Scooting into his backyard, stolen egg carton in hand, Cameron's heart pounded. This was a treasure of monumental value and it had literally fallen into his grubby little hands. The egg was too good to throw out, but the problem he faced was where to stash it. Thinking of the chaos he could cause with a well-aimed lob, he scanned the yard with an expert eye. "What to do, what to do," he agonized, when another gift fell into his lap.
His dad had just walked out of the shed, shed, fishing tackle in hand, and clearly distracted. A light bulb exploded in Cam's brain, and tracking his daddy safely into the garage, he waited for the perfect time to make his move. Lips beading with sweat, the little colonel bolted into the opened shed and quickly stashed the egg carton on the shelf next to the old fridge. Praying to the saint of covert operatives, Cam flattened himself and flew across the grass, up the back stairs and into the kitchen. Mission completed and successful.
With his heart still pounding, Cam wanted to boast about his brilliance, and raced upstairs to find his brother. Throwing himself onto the bed, he told Danny all about his latest mission. Looking up from his comic and shaking his head, Danny cried, "Are you nuts? You left a rotten egg in a hot shed? Why?" Huffing with exasperation, Daniel wanted his peace and quiet, and he muttered, "Go away! I don't want to know."
Disinterested, Danny only half listened to Cameron's boasting and instantly forgot all about it.
Now, with Sunday being so perfect, and the taste of pizza on his mind, Daniel threw caution to the wind. A small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, he thought about the bad egg festering in the shed a little more. Scooting up to his brother and throwing his arm around his shoulder, he demanded to know more of Cam's plan. "Now, this had better be good." Scowling, the memory of the green stamp caper always caused his ears to redden.
"It's really quite simple, Daniel," the little fly-boy said pompously. "The egg is rotten right?" Nudging his brother sharply in the ribs demanding an answer, Danny winced, and moving away, nodded his head. Satisfied he had a captured audience; Cam explained that if they left the egg in a paper bag by the front door, and their dad trod on it, then the stink would be practically fatal. "See! How can this fail?" he urged, "its simple military tactics. Stink bombs, claymores, what's the difference?" Folding his arms over his chest, a smug look settled on his face, he added, "Your job will be to make sure Dad wears flip-flops, so the egg squishes between his toes!"
Shaking his head, irritated that he'd even thought the plan would be better than appalling; Daniel began to hear familiar warning bells clanging in his brain. "I don't know, Cam, how are you going to get into the shed? There's a padlock on it, don't forget. Flip-flops? Why would Daddy be wearing flip-flops?" The best plan in the world appeared flawed, and Danny wished he'd never listened.
Cameron sensed a cooling of the troops, and wrapping his arm around Daniel's shoulder, allowing his fingers to dig into the soft flesh, he hissed, "All for one and one for all, Dan. I can't think of everything, and I'm doing the dangerous bit! Just hide his shoes, easy!" His voice taking on a slightly threatening tone and not wanting to be wrestled to the floor, Daniel nodded his head albeit reluctantly.
In the kitchen, Jack began to stack the dishes and put away the milk. Gazing through the window, he sighed with regret. The day would have been perfect for a ride in the park, followed by pizza at the kid's favorite restaurant. Sending Dan and Cam upstairs to do their chores, he rubbed his eyes tiredly. It had been a long week, and their disobedience had irritated him. The computer and the shed were off limits, and now, they all had to spend a perfect summer's day inside.
He'd spoken to Sara already and canceled the day's treat, and with a disappointed sigh, she'd promised to contact Giuseppes. Walking into the family room and grabbing the remote, he muttered, "Knuckle heads, why can't you leave the shed and that damn computer alone." Opening his beer, he knew where he'd rather spend the day. The thought of missing the family outing with Sara hurt him as much as it hurt the boys.
In a brief moment of insanity, the boys had believed that this plan was the answer to the enforced Sunday boredom. Going into the shed to retrieve the egg would be fraught with dangers, and parental indignation loomed as a direct possibility. However, the egg needed retrieving and a scheme was schemed. Despite being sent to straighten their rooms, Danny snuck into Cam's room, and lay on his bed eating cookies, and brainstorming.
An obedient and well-mannered little boy, Daniel tried his best to remain trouble free and keep his ice cream bowl full. Cameron tried his best to stay out of trouble by wriggling out of retribution. Living by a different scale of what constituted good behavior, the boys never agreed on much. The more Cam tried to coerce Dan into his way of thinking, the more convoluted the plan became. Lowering his voice, his eyes darting shiftily towards the shut door, Cameron explained the foolproof plan again, as if to a simpleton. All their daddy needed to do was lose a million brain cells. He would answer the doorbell, and step on the bad egg. The egg would crack, permeate the living room and force them to beat a tactical retreat.
Finally and against his better judgment, the little diplomat agreed to act as a decoy and scout. Rolling his eyes and agreeing to breaking his leg if need be, he listened to his role again. He needed to do whatever it took to ensure Cam had enough time to slip into the locked shed, grab the egg and get out again. Cam would then plant the egg on the doorstep and Daniel had to make sure Jack wore his flip-flops and not boots.
"So, Birdbrain, you expect me to hide all of daddy's shoes where?"
"Your job, soldier, don't get caught by the insurgents."
Resigned to another disaster, Danny trailed miserably after his brother, crept through the kitchen and outside into the beautiful, Sunday afternoon. Trying for one last piece of sanity, he begged, "Cameron, listen to me, this will never work! Come on, let's go back upstairs, Daddy will play with us after the game, we just hafta to clean our rooms."
"Nope, its pizza and sunshine for me."
Heaving a great sigh and expecting the worst, Daniel reluctantly took point.
In a fever of excitement, Cameron scuttled towards the shed with high hopes.
Bravado leaving him and good sense taking over, Daniel watched as his brother edged closer and closer to the forbidden shed doors. The summer breeze ruffled his hair, and shutting his eyes, Danny spread his arms out as though he could catch the wind and fly away. It was the perfect summer's day to go bike riding, but he knew their naughtiness during the week had put the kibosh on that. Cupping his mouth with his hand, he urged his reckless brother to think before he acted. Somewhat of a new concept for the little colonel. "Cam! Come back! Daddy will kill you!" he cried, but the small flyboy wasn't listening.
With a mental shrug, the little archeologist renewed his efforts to capture his brother's attention. "Cam-er-rron-nn," he called with a child's staged whisper, "Daddy said we aren't allowed in there without a grown-up!" Despite Danny's hands flapping in the air with frustration, Cameron would never take the good advice, no matter how sound. So he did what came naturally, he ignored his brother. Cameron's nature was as reckless as Daniel's was cautious. Glancing at the back door and expecting the worst, Daniel's face paled uncomfortably.
The shed doors were old, slightly warped, and padlocked shut. Unless Jack opened the doors, Cam had no hope of going through them. He looked at the roof and knew the window around the back was small enough to squeeze through, but getting out again would be a problem. Uncomfortable images of being stuck half in and half out of the tiny window flitted through his consciousness, but all too briefly. Sighing, he knew climbing the roof was his only hope of retrieving the egg. Getting onto the roof posed no problem for the adventurous child; Jack had deliberately built their fort in the sturdy branches of the elm and it branches shaded the shed. It was just a hop, skip and a jump from the fort, to the branch, to the roof.
Cam ran to the elm, and panting slightly, grabbed the fort ladder tightly. "Come on," he muttered, "I have to get that egg!" Turning around and pinning Daniel with a desperate stare, he smiled hopefully and made a thumbs up sign.
Climbing the ladder as quickly as he dared, occasionally glancing over his shoulder, Cam jumped into the fort and smiled with pleasure. Looking around, he groaned, and palmed his forehead with his hand. "Doh! Why didn't I just stash the egg here?" Lamenting his lack of foresight, he leaned over the railing, edged onto his favorite branch and scooted along it carefully. Taking a measured jump, the little colonel arrived on the roof of the shed unscathed as usual.
"Okay," he muttered, "all I need to do is get through that window, get the egg and then climb back out again." Gulping, he looked at the tiny window and patting his belly, wished he hadn't eaten the second slice of toast. "Right, here goes." Pushing, wriggling, groaning, and painfully scraping his hip, Cam finally made it through the window and jumped onto the workbench. "Whoa, that hurt!" Giving his hip a rueful rub, he blinked quickly.
Shards of sunlight distorted the musty smelling little shed, and Cameron's eyes took a while to adjust to the light. Dust particles flew into the air, and sneezing several times, he ran his sleeve under his nose, and sniffed. It was far darker than he remembered, and standing on the workbench, Cam scanned his surroundings. Bending his knees and landing with a heavy thud, he picked his way across the crowded floor. He wrinkled his nose with disgust as he peeled cobwebs from his jersey. "Eww," he shuddered, "Hope I don't get eaten by a tarantula."
Bumping into sharp edged boxes with a squeal. Running into sticky cobwebs with a squawk, nerves took its toll on the small boy. Coughing, he felt his head swimming, and he wished he had listened to his brother after all. Squinting in the darkness, he forced himself to stretch out his arm and pat the shelf. "Yuk," he cringed, as his hand touched something soft," where is it? Where did I put that dumb box?" Finally coming across the carton and almost crying with relief, Cam opened it carefully and caressed the top of the bad egg with a dirty fingertip. "Oh, I hope you are worth it, Mr. Stinker, I've gone to a lot of trouble for you." Closing the carton and then tucking it under his jersey, he made his way across the floor. Cam looked up at the high bench and blinked quickly with shock. The bench was far too high for a little boy to climb, and time was at a premium. "Oh, no! What else could go wrong?" he cried.
Whirling around, his eyes still not adjusted to the darkness, Cam felt a moment of blind panic. If he couldn't get onto the bench, then he couldn't get through the window. If he couldn't get through the window then he would remain trapped forever in his daddy's stinky shed, with a stinky egg. Tears stinging his eyes, nerves overwhelming him, Cam sunk to the floor and running his sleeve under his nose, sniffed with self-pity. He was doomed, and probably destined to be tarantula supper. Placing the carton on the ground and holding his head in his hands, Cameron began to cry. He wanted to be rescued and he wanted his daddy.
Out in the sunshine, the stress of waiting to be caught had become too much for the little archeologist, and with a final backward glance, he went AWOL. Creeping through the kitchen on his tiptoes, Danny slipped up the stairs, and scampered under his bed. Heaving a sigh of relief, and feeling a tiny stab of guilt for abandoning his post, Daniel hoped he'd be safe from parental retribution. Flashlight on, cookies at the ready, he opened his new comic book, oblivious to the drama that was unfolding in their backyard shed.
The game hadn't held Jack's interest for very long and daydreaming, he decided to get up and work in his shed for a while. There were fishing lures he wanted to fix, and he toyed with the idea of changing the fishing line on the boys' rods. Switching the TV off, and strolling through the kitchen, Jack jumped down the back stairs. The warm weather always made his joints feel better, and looking forward to tinkering with his fishing kit, Jack loped towards his garden shed. In a much happier mood, he decided to play basketball with the boys after he'd checked their rooms. Whistling off-key, Jack ran his hand along the top of the doorframe, and grabbing the key, unlocked the padlock.
Pulling the peeling, warped doors open and letting the daylight explode through; Jack stopped in his tracks, and stared with his mouth slight ajar. His tear stained, dejected child sat cross-legged on the dirty floor, and with his bottom lip trembling, waved a grubby little hand at him. A cobweb in his hair, dirt and tears tracking down his face, Cameron was the picture of abject misery and dejection. Folding his arms and tapping his foot, Jack enquired through gritted teeth, "Cameron, need a hand?" Reaching his hand out and pulling the frantically head-shaking child to his feet, the littlest egg rustler made his ignoble exit tucked under his daddy's arm like a football. Egg carton left on the floor of the shed for further investigation, Jack strode towards the house. Irritation oozing with every step.
The egg was discovered, and thrown into the trash. Biological warfare was to be avoided if possible he confided to the hysterically laughing Sara. It could have been very nasty, he complained to the poker-faced Colonel Carter. Leave me alone, he huffed to the unimpressed Jaffa.
Daniel, the fink, O'Neill, attempted to deny all knowledge of the egg caper. Forced into a confession by a single arched eyebrow, he held his head high, and followed his parent's pointed finger to the beige colored corner of the kitchen. There he sat with dignity.
Cameron, the last one is a rotten egg O'Neill's interrogation was thorough. Money returned to elderly neighbor by way of compensation, he spent the next week confined to quarters.