Hayden's Ferry Review

Symphony of Breakfast Things

Make sure to head over to the Blog to read our interview with Dinika and watch her Original Film that accompanies this piece

   BY: Dinika Amaral


     The glass was mad at the milk for making it sweat. The milk was mad at the glass for keeping it cold. The table wanted very badly to scratch the place where a ring had been formed by the sweat from the cold milk in the cold-keeping glass. 

     The table jiggled to relieve its itch and almost overturned the glass. The breakfast things resented this as, unlike the table, they had no individualism and were not free. Recalling the soon to unfold morning carnage, the table felt sorry and stilled itself. The breakfast things only had a vague inkling of the carnage. Like they vaguely knew their sole purpose was to serve the family. 

     The table’s urge to relieve its itch was erased from the plateau of consciousness. Plateaus of consciousness were raised between various things on various occasions. The morning plateau occurred when breakfast was served and ended before the carnage, but it did not extend to all areas of the table’s sentience. The attributes of private sentience and memory was what made the table more free and more of an individual. But still, it couldn’t insert or remove thoughts from plateaus at will. Nor could it predict the raising of a plateau -- they sometimes skipped breakfast, lunch, or dinner. However, they all, without exception, disappeared when the family appeared.

     When raised and operating the plateaus of consciousness were like scrolls, the scroll of a symphony conducting as well as recording the breakfast things.

     A plate ceramic, white, “Made in China,” one of six, in the family for over five years and not a chip in any. In the hierarchy of sentience, above the breakfast things, and below the table. The plate acquired sentience when streaked with food and lost it when Mother did the dishes, but retained all memories of stainings. The plate would be happiest unused, dry and inanimate within the dark of the cupboard. It hated breakfast, lunch -- any meal for that matter. 

     “Lighten up,” appeared on the plateau. 

     The plate was not amused, but a slight tremor went through breakfast -- a sunny side up egg, a dry piece of toast and a strip of bacon. The glass and the milk also jiggled, stopping just in time to avoid a spill. “Who was that by?” inquired the plate, curtly. 

     Hoping it would forget, an argument shouldn’t be the last experience of breakfast, the table kept silent. The plateau inscribed “table” below its comment. The table gave a jolt, spilling two drops of milk and bringing the plate close to its edge. All the breakfast things empathized with the plate. The table considered a different approach, using what interested them most -- the family. Perhaps, it could share a story about the nicks and doodles of the children, or the stains and discolorations in the varnish where Father tried to darken the teak. The table liked to go on about the family. Except at night when a plateau among the furniture and the trimmings of the kitchen was raised and, onto this consciousness, wind through the curtains blew stories from faraway places. Then, even the table held its peace and absorbed songs from the great outside. 

     “Big deal,” thought the plate. The family had also stained and scratched it. 

     The table understood that bullyingly using the family wasn’t going to distract them. 

     “Bullyingly is no adverb,” appeared from no breakfast thing; plateaus of consciousness tended to care about grammar.  “Adverbs come from adjectives not from nouns.”

     The table was struck dumb. Did this mean that it was like the breakfast things? Terrified, it waited for other private thoughts, that it couldn’t seem to stop having, to be revealed. 

     The sunny side up egg, impressed the plate had won against the almighty table, missed the calcium carbonate shell that had protected it during embryogenesis. A big word embryogenesis -- thirteen letters, two words conjoined, a word found in medical dictionaries. The egg knew it came first precisely because it knew words like embryogenesis, albumin, oviduct -- far more important than cluck cluck or cock-a-doodle-doo.  

     From embryogenesis to their shell-cracking transformation into scrambled, omelet, sunny side up, or damned Benedict, all eggs shared a plateau of consciousness. The sunny side up egg missed its calcium carbonate shell precisely for this reason. Communing with the others would have ensured a universal reverberative pleasure in the victory of a wee plate over a giant table.

     In the shell it had been divided, yet united -- one egg of many. Now, as one egg alone, it was divided into yellow and white. It began to dawn on the sunny side up egg that this divided yet united state also extended to humans, who existed in a state of binary opposition. In this state, happiness was only known because of sadness, fat because of thin, good because of evil. 

     This sort of thought had never been had by any of the breakfast things, including the table. “This egg has gone meta,” appeared on the plateau from the table. An involuntary tremor chortled through the breakfast things. In it, the tiff between the table and the plate got resolved. 

     But one member of the symphony remained dissonantly still. The egg kept a steady yellow eye inward. It had gone so meta, it couldn’t stop. It ruminated on whether yellow was positive and white negative or vice versa. It vacillated between liking its yolk as runny, spherical and suspended as one of few visible single cells in nature; or, its yolk as flat and ripe like a boil.

     The yolk half agreed and half didn’t. Flat and congealed was worse than being constricted by a shell. Reveling in its freedom, the yolk turned to solicit the opinion of the white. 

     The white of the egg was dead. It was still, chewy and dead. Constricted by the white, the yolk realized it wasn’t free after all. It wondered if the dead white meant the yolk was the entire egg. Could an egg be an egg without the white?

      “It has protein,” divulged the piece of toast. “The white will be consumed. But, the yellow, while actually an excellent source of Vitamin E, has acquired a bad name, so . . . ”

      “Ick,” interrupted the plate, dreading staining yellow.

      “A gerund clause,” noted the plateau. 

      The plate thought about how egg whites were its kind of breakfast thing. The plate only wanted to hold white things, therefore avoiding staining. 

     “Another gerund clause,” noted the plateau.  “With a racist agenda.”                      

      Ignoring them all, the toast continued its rant. It lamented the recent crackdown on carbohydrates that hurt its comrades -- other toasts, pasta, rice, potatoes. It complained about having to wait for the carnage, during which it lost consciousness, only to awaken in the garbage.  

     “Stripped bare by the curse of plenty,” ventured the strip of bacon, hoping for a topic shift. Also tiring of the toast’s enraged raving, the breakfast things wondered after the family.      

     An oil bubble on the strip of bacon caught the attention of the toast as it burst. The toast became obsessed with being not dry. Butter, honey, or jam, anything would do. It was convinced that if it were not dry, like the strip of bacon, then it would not wake up in the garbage bin. 

     “Bacon isn’t “not dry” it’s greasy,” noted the plate. If it could have, the breakfast plateau would have beamed at the plate. The toast ignored the two of them and thought, nostalgically, of being untoasted. As a slice in a loaf it was moist and didn’t need any butter, jam, or honey.

     “Atkins!” snapped the strip of bacon. “Is the problem, not a lack of moistness.”

      Feeling sorry for its outburst -- it wasn’t easy for pig flesh to hold together fat that only wanted to melt and run away -- the bacon started to drip.  Its drippings made for the toast until they were blocked by the white of the egg. That half dead half alive egg, half bubbling with intelligence half not, that white prison of the egg put an end to that greasy idea of a good turn. 

       While the grease abandoned the idea of helping the toast, it didn’t want to waste its momentum, so it moved toward the edge of the plate deciding to drip onto the table. The plate gave a jump. The not exactly colorless grease wanted to do what? “How can any self-respecting plate allow it? Otherwise what good is it having a plate?”

      Carnage be damned, thought the table, it couldn’t stand back dumbly awaiting greasing.  “Gerunds be damned!” This jab was passed by over the breakfast plateau, which had finally settled into its role as conductor directing and reporting, but never making actual music.

     The table and the plate inclined. Those sharing the task of holding united against the rest. The race for a symphony of their own became a battle between two sides of the breakfast things.

      The grease began to slide back. The bacon strip’s muscles, those fibrous red streaks of pig flesh resisted, but they were overcome by the pleas of the toast and the desire not to offend the bacon strip’s fatty parts. “Flesh and fat can unite as yellow and white never can,” appeared from the bacon, as its muscles eventually relented and discharged more grease. 

      Suddenly the yolk understood that, as the only alive part of the egg, whatever it did, the whole egg did. The yolk did a small flip. The yolk did a medium flip. The yolk did a big flip. The egg moved. With the newly cleared path, the grease could reach the toast. It rushed, desperate to do so before the table and the plate changed their inclinations. 

        Now, the action of the table and the plate had shaken loose the glass of milk. The water from that cold ring of sweat dribbled toward a corner of the table. The plate urged the table to ignore the water and focus on the grease drawing closer to the toast. The table, badly wanting to relieve the itch of that irritating trail of condensation, was unaffected by the stressed-out look of the usually deadpan plate. The race looked finished when the table had an epiphany.  It could relieve the trailing water itch after preventing the grease from adding to its itching problem. 

      “Here’s how to finish the job!” the plateau reported on behalf of the table. 

       Much later, at night, every individual thought of the table would bleed onto the plateau of consciousness raised in the kitchen. The table would suspect it as retribution for having teased the grammarian of a breakfast plateau. At first, intimidated by the total loss of privacy, the table would be silent. Then, in a burst, the story of the breakfast things racing for a symphony of their own would surge forth and inundate the plateau. The doubts of the wind would be erased by the corroboration of the garbaged toast.  However, that was later.  Right then, the plate and the table were about to incline the other way and stop the grease’s advance once and for all, when Kripal tipped over the glass of milk, and wet them all, ruining everything. 

      Mother caught the glass and refilled it with cold milk. Taking a fresh plate from the cabinet, she placed a slice of bread, untoasted, on it. She lit the burner under the frying pan. As she wiped the tabletop, a hair from her scalp broke loose and fell onto the table. It gently bounced and then lay still. But not completely still. As Mother and Kripal moved about the kitchen, it shifted and resettled, brushing each time against the surface of the table. 

       They were out of bacon, so Mother took two eggs. As she cracked them on the edge of the frying pan, a few drops of albumin dripped onto the stovetop. The pair of yellow eyes frying in there blinked at her, perhaps surprised by the sudden light or by the heat. She stabbed them with the spatula. She churned and flipped, never allowing them respite from the scramble. 

       Kripal fished the bacon out from under the garbaged toast. While waiting, he played with it on the tabletop, flipping it backward and forward and sideways. Then, standing on the chair, he dragged it along the nearest edge like a snake. The table screamed and screamed, but without a plateau of consciousness its cacophony went unrecorded. Like it wasn’t really happening. 

Dinika Amaral was raised in Bombay, India. She has an M.A. and M.F.A from New York University. She has published in The Times of IndiaThe Golden Handcuffs ReviewGuernica, the Denver Quarterly, and The Iowa Review (winner of the Tim McGinnis award and Pushcart nominee). Her work is also forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review . She serves as a writing coach at New York University’s Stern School of Business and at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business.