Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Dirty Dozen

It all started with a phone call…

“Michael, it’s Mommy – I just wanted to let you know I’m going to be a little late. They need me to stay at work until…”


“Don’t worry, I’ll still be home in time to color the eggs. I just thought you might want to get started without me. Where’s Bobby?”

“In the driveway, working on his car.”

“Okay. Well, when he comes in, tell him I said to help you and Joe get set up. I already boiled the eggs – they’re in the refrigerator – so he just has to take out all the eggs and mix up the dye for you guys. Tell him the Paas kit is in the hall closet, and the vinegar is on the shelf going downstairs. Oh, and make sure he spreads out newspaper, that stuff stains! Daddy might get home before me, and you know how he feels about messes!”

“Alright. When will you be home?”

“As soon as I can, Honey! Make sure you save me a few!”

I hung up the phone and went to tell my oldest brother, Bobby, the news.

He was none to happy to be dragged out from under his prized Shelby, but realizing the quickest way to get back to working on it was to do as Mom said, followed me back into the house.

“Mom said she boiled all the eggs in the refrigerator, so you just need to take them out and make the dye,” I told him. “I’ll go get the kit and find Joe.”

I fetched the kit from the closet, making sure to pop out all the circles before finding my younger brother, since he always got to do it, and went back to the kitchen.

“Does it say to use hot water or cold water,” Bobby asked, taking the box from my hand. “What the…? You poked out all the holes already? How am I supposed to read the directions?”

“I’m ‘sposed to poke out the holes!” Joe complained. “That’s my job!”

“Well, you can make the ring holders,” I conceded, offering something I could never do without ripping anyway.

“Those are stupid! They never stand up…”

“Just shut up, the both of ya!” Bobby ordered. “Spread out some newspaper and get the mugs. Where’s the vinegar,” he asked, pronouncing it like my aunt, who had a way of making it sound like a racial slur.

“Going downstairs,” I replied, pushing a chair over to the cabinet to fetch the soup mugs we (only) used for coloring eggs, while Joe counted out the tablespoons and covered the table with the morning paper.

After much measuring, stirring, spilling, and sniffling from the acrid spell of the vinegar, we were finally ready to color. 

“Man, that’s a lot of eggs,” Bobby observed, noting the six dozen sitting on the table. “Don’t we normally only do five?”

He was right.  We traditionally did a dozen each, my mother’s way to ensure that there was no arguing amongst her five boys over who got to color more eggs.  As we (they) got older, and it became more of a job for just Joe and me, we, for some reason, still stuck with the five dozen rule.

“I don’t know,” I said, stalling as I replayed the phone conversation in my head for clues. “She said she boiled all the eggs in the refrigerator…”

“Whatever,” Bobby said, using the waxy white crayon to write his annual, “Eat Me!” message on an egg and dropping it in the dye. “I’ll be in the driveway if you need me.”

The second he left, Joe and I lunged across the table to gather up our three dozen eggs, both fighting for the full ones.

“Not fair,” Joe whined, after winding up with the carton missing the egg Bobby did. “Gimme one!”

“No, then you’d have more than me! Plus, Mommy said to save her some, so we can’t do them all anyway.”

“Well then I get the Dunker,” he proclaimed, grabbing the wire egg dipper and bending it into shape.

Take it, I thought to myself, the eggs never stay on that stupid thing anyway.

We managed to color the majority of eggs without incident. As our other brothers, Richard and Johnny, passed through, either coming home from work or heading out for the evening, they’d stop and color a few eggs, so that by the time our mom got home, there were only about a half a dozen left.

“Wow!” she exclaimed over our efforts. “These look beautiful. Looks like you didn’t need me after all!”

But of course we did, as she was the only one who could draw the bunnies and chicks on the eggs – which she proceeded to do without our encouragement.  

As she placed the last of the eggs into the carton to dry, a strange look appeared on her face. I watched her head nod as she counted the cartons to herself.



“What did you do?” she asked, racing the refrigerator, where as she suspected, ALL the eggs were missing.

“You colored ALL the eggs? We always do five!  I bought an extra dozen for breakfast.  I only boiled the five – the other was still raw!”

“Bobby did it!” I automatically exclaimed, once again replaying the phone conversation in my head. She did say all the eggs, right?

But poor Bobby got blamed anyway, since, as my mom said, he should have known better than to listen to a six-year old.

“Plus,” she added. “We always do FIVE dozen! You better figure out a way to fix this before your father gets home. If he finds out, he’ll throw them all out.”

With grease still on his hands, Bobby set about the task of separating the raw from the cooked. Using a complex system of spinning, shaking, floating them in water, and something he called “candling,” he soon had a dozen eggs divided from the pack. And just in time, as the garage door opening signaled my father’s arrival home from work.

“Oh, you did them all without me?” he asked, with feigned sadness, kissing my mother hello while accepting the martini she held out.

“Oh, we did them all, alright” I chirped, drawing a warning look from my mother.

“They look good,” he noted. “Did you remember to do the Dollar Eggs?”

“We did a did three Dollar Eggs…and a FIVE Dollar Egg!” Joe responded, prematurely announcing our plans to weasel more money from the Easter Bunny.

“A five dollar egg?” our dad repeated, with an arched eyebrow. “The Easter Bunny better hide that one real good!”

We all laughed, and eventually went to bed, secure in the knowledge that the Easter Bunny would come and hide the eggs we had colored - which thanks to Bobby, were all hard-boiled. Or so we thought. But give the poor guy credit: his unorthodox methods did manage to identify nine of the twelve raw eggs.

We awoke the next morning and instantly set about the task of finding the eggs, blissfully unaware of the three messy landmines hiding among them. Fueled by jellybeans and hopped up on chocolate, we searched the house as our parents slept, and by 9:00, all but the Five Dollar egg were found. Had we thought to check the trash, we might have found the discarded shell of a late-night snack my dad enjoyed that just so happened to be the former five-dollar egg.

But that was the last egg he got to enjoy that year, for as (bad) luck would have it, he managed to “find” all three raw ones!

The First Egg was found just before church. Dressed in his Sunday best, and taking advantage of a quiet few minutes as my brothers and I got ready, he got out the salt shaker, selected an egg from the basket, and proceeded to crack it.

As for what happened next, let’s just say church was not the first place we heard “JESUS CHRIST!” that morning. In fact, I’m pretty sure our neighbors heard it too.

“What the hell?” he muttered, pawing at the yellow egg running down the front of his white shirt. “How the…? Who the…? Sonofabitch!”

He left to change, and confront my mother, who deftly explained that it must not have cooked all the way through.

“All the way through?” my dad challenged. “Look at my shirt – it was completely raw!”

“It must have been on top. The ones on the bottom cook faster…”

“On top? What difference should that make? They were all IN the water, weren’t they?”

Never one to lie, my mom simply nodded, as technically they all were in the water with the dye – she just left out the part that some never made it into the boiling water.

Egg Number Two was found the next morning, this time while my dad was driving to work. Running late, he grabbed the salt shaker and a few eggs from the fridge as he headed out the door. A few minutes later, he hungrily cracked one on his knee at a red light.

I wasn’t there to hear it, but I’m sure “SONOFABITCH!” was uttered. Loudly.

He was still mad when he got home that night, and didn’t seem all too accepting of my mother’s explanation that, in his rush, he must have taken a raw egg on mistake.

“A raw one? It was BLUE!” he hollered, stomping off to change out of his egg-encrusted pants. “Bright blue with yellow chicken stickers on it!”

The Third Egg didn’t turn up until two weeks later, when after deciding that the eggs had sat in the refrigerator long enough, it was time to throw them away. He unceremoniously dumped the half-full basket into the trash, when he saw one break open, spilling its guts.

As did my mom, who when confronted a third time, only now with indisputable evidence, finally fessed up and said, “Bobby did it!”

Dedicated to the memory of my brother, Robert L. Wood, who, when all was said and done, turned out to be a pretty good egg


  1. Funny story, Mike. Happy Easter and R.I.P. Bobby!

  2. This post is awesome! It's one of my favorite stories you've written. So perfectly hilarious--I LOVE it.

  3. Easter is still my favorite holiday and Daddy always made it fun for us!!!! And yes, we had an "Eat Me" egg every year too