In celebration of all things egg-shaped, here is a story about an Easter egg hunt. It is called Three Golden Eggs and it appears in my short story collection Breadcrumbs.
Primrose was a proud British village, thank you very much. Its allotments were ripe, the pub was named after Queen Victoria and there was plenty of bunting to go around for any occasion.
Of course, although they prided themselves on their Britishness, the residents of Primrose discounted anyone from outside England as true villagers. This was bad news for little Dougie MacDoogle and his father, Fraser MacDoogle. Dougie and his father were Scottish and that never seemed to go down too well with the other residents of Primrose.
This Scottishness might account for why the MacDoogles were given the most barren slot in the village allotment, why they always had to sit at the back of the village meetings and why their haggis pie finished last in the village Pie and Chutney Jamboree.
It also explains why Fraser had to sit by himself in the pub after a hard day of chicken farming. He therefore had no-one to play dominos with so he had to play against himself, which was no fun at all because it meant he always lost.
Primrose’s distaste for Scottishness was unknown to little Dougie although he did wonder why none of the other children were allowed to play with him.
Overall, the MacDoogles were a sad pair. Dougie was surrounded by children but had no friends, which is a very lonely place to be, and Fraser was a Scotsman surrounded by Englishmen which is an equally lonely place to be.
But not today!
Today was the Primrose Village Easter Egg Hunt and all village children were allowed to take part. Easter Sunday was a holy day and the upstanding, respectable, god-fearing Christians of Primrose were determined to open the egg-hunting to all, whether they liked it or not. Amen.
A lot of the politics were lost on young Dougie. He was just excited – or rather eggs-cited – about running around the village, basket in hand, feeling for once like he belonged. With all those other children running alongside him, he could pretend that he had a whole host of friends like other boys his age.
Of course, even that feeling was soon lost because, like all five year-olds on Easter morning, Dougie had one thing on his mind which overrode all other thoughts and feelings. That thing was chocolate.
* * *
The people of Primrose gathered in the Village Square, the children all gripping their baskets eagerly in their pudgy fists and the parents wondering why they were up so early on a Sunday morning. Dougie stood amongst them clutching a sporran instead of a basket, much to the disapproval of the other villagers. But his father said it would carry more eggs and provide them with a cushion so Dougie was happy to put up with the stares from the other children. In any case, most of the stares were soon drawn to the St George’s church clock which was close to striking ten.
Odelia Trapp-Austere, as First Councilwoman of Primrose, was honourable judge of the Easter Egg Hunt. Quite why an Easter Egg Hunt required a judge was something of a mystery to the villagers but it was tradition and Primrose, as a true English village, respected tradition at all costs. Besides, no-one intended to argue with Odelia Trapp-Austere.
Odelia presided over the gathered villagers like a vulture. There was no lecturn in the Village Square, much to Odelia’s disappointment, and she certainly wasn’t going to stand on the edge of the well like a hooligan so she had brought her own soapbox to stand on. Dougie noticed it was a fancy tassled foot stool.
‘Children!’ Odelia shrieked. ‘Revered Upchuck will ring the bells of St George’s momentarily. Remember the rules and boundaries stipulated in the information packs distributed –‘
The bells chimed prematurely much to the relief of the children and a fair few parents. Naturally the children behaved as you would expect children to behave on the brink of a chocolate hunt: they scattered. Odelia was far from happy about having her preamble interrupted and struggled to drown out the bells as she screeched a reminder that the children should keep off the grass.
At least Dougie, a well-behaved boy, checked with his father before he ran off.
‘Da, can I go now?’
‘Aye! What are ye still doing here? Get as many eggs as ye can carry!’
Dougie needed no further encouragement. He was off.
* * *
Dougie found himself on the outskirts of the village away from much of the excitement. Thirty minutes had passed and he still carried an empty sporran. The other children had gotten to most of the obvious hiding places first: the flowerbeds, the hanging baskets, the stables. When Dougie drew near any of those places, the children would chase him away. It had turned nasty very quickly.
So here Dougie was, in the woods lining the perimeter of Primrose. Would the Egg-Hiding Committee – yes, Odelia had insisted such a committee was appointed – have hidden eggs all the way up here? Dougie crossed his fingers and toes in hope.
And that’s when he saw them: the three largest, sparkling, golden eggs that he had ever seen. Each one was the size of his head, barely concealed by the beanstalk patch where they lay.
‘Crivens!’ he cried, borrowing a phrase from his father. ‘The chocolate must be extra delicious for it to be wrapped in golden foil.’ Like many lonely children, Dougie often spoke to himself. ‘Look how big they are! They would fill my belly for hours!’
Dougie hoisted the first egg into his sporran. ‘Oof! Man, ye guys are heavy.’ Dougie was aware that some chocolate eggs had whole packets of sweets stored in their hollow centres. ‘You must have hundreds of sweets inside you!’
After much struggling – he was only five, bless him – he hoisted the three golden eggs into his sporran. There was just enough room, although his sporran suddenly became a lot more bulbous like an elephant’s head draped in tartan. He certainly wouldn’t be able to carry another egg, not even a mini-egg, so he began dragging his hoard back to the Village Square, like Santa carrying a sack full of toys.
* * *
Naturally, Dougie was the last child back to the Village Square. The people of Primrose had been sniggering and making mean comments about ‘the Scottish boy’ getting lost but they soon shut up when they saw Dougie’s heaving sporran and its gleaming contents. The crowd went silent. Fraser smiled proudly.
Dougie might have been perturbed by the envious, unblinking stare of every man, woman and child gathered in the Square, particularly the penetrating glare of Odelia Trapp-Austere, but he had more pressing issues to deal with.
‘Da! I found three huge eggs but I cannae unwrap the foil. It’s sealed too tight!’
Fraser MacDoogle hefted up one of the eggs and nearly swore. ‘Dougie! This is no chocolate egg. This is gold! All three of them are gold!’
The whole Square heard this exclamation and Odelia, First Councilwoman lest you forget, swooped down like a bird of prey. ‘Young boy, as Honourable Judge of the Primrose Easter Egg Hunt, I cannot allow you to keep the eggs.’
Both Scotsmen were dumbstruck. ‘Why not?’
‘The Egg-Hiding Committee did not hide these eggs therefore they are discounted from the hunt.’
Fraser put his hand on Dougie’s shoulder. ‘What does that matter? Dougie found the eggs, fair and square.’
‘Yes, on village property, I don’t doubt,’ Odelia said loudly and slowly, as was her custom when talking to the non-English. ‘That means the eggs belong to the village.’
‘Then who gets to keep the eggs?’ barked Shackleton Veneer, who owned the land where the village allotments were built. This made him the wealthiest man in Primrose.
Odelia curdled at the question but reined in her sharp tongue. ‘We must respect the democratic process,’ she announced. ‘We must have a village meeting.’ She whipped out the gavel which she always kept on her person and whacked it against the well. ‘To the Village Hall!’
Dougie and his father barely escaped the stampede.
* * *
Later, Dougie would remember the village meeting as very confusing indeed. The golden eggs – which had been his for such a short and wonderful period – were sat on the podium at the front of the Hall where Odelia presided, flailing gavel in hand. As always, Dougie and his father were relegated to the back of the Hall where the eggs appeared as just three twinkling specks of gold dust in the distance.
The meeting was incredibly noisy. Each villager was proclaiming their own right to the eggs, shouting over their fellow villagers. Meanwhile, the children were wailing because they had better places to be – namely in front of the TV eating their chocolate – but had been dragged to a boring meeting instead. All of this yelling and bawling and protestation was punctuated by whacks of Odelia’s gavel, adding to the chaos rather than instigating anything resembling order.
Village democracy, for the most part, was lost on the people of Primrose who were much more comfortable trimming their lawns and reciting the national anthem than engaging in political filibustering. Eventually, after a complicated foray of motions and counter-motions and speeches for, against and in abstention for the above, the dust settled and three people were left holding the eggs.
As you might expect, the eggs went to three members of the Village Council, who knew the subtleties of village democracy only too well.
The first egg went to Shackleton Veneer, mostly because he had the lungs of a foghorn and no-one else could get a word in edgeways until Shack was appeased. He was a fearsome, mustachioed man who could have passed for a circus strong man twenty years ago. Nowadays, he was a little greyer and a lot richer, due to having a monopoly over the land where the allotments were built. That, too, accounted for why he had received an egg. In a village such as Primrose, the allotment is sacred and that made Shackleton Veneer their landlord.
The second egg went to Reverend Upchuck, a portly man with a face like the inside of a salami. ‘What better use for a golden egg than a donation to St George’s Church,’ he had suggested meekly. ‘After all, this is a holy day and we are true god-fearing English folk, are we not?’ The crowd had vehemently concurred that they were indeed true, god-fearing English folk and naturally agreed that the Reverend should take the second egg.
And, of course, the third egg went to Odelia Trapp-Austere, as the most feared person in the village, beating both Shackleton Veneer and God Himself to first place. ‘As duly-elected First Councilwoman, I will respectfully accept the remaining egg and ensure it serves to benefit the Primrose community. It will be put to the best possible use as I deem it.’
There was no mention of what Odelia deemed the best possible use but nobody wanted to ask in case she whacked the gavel again, specifically on their knees.
As for Dougie, the finer details of village politics were a mystery to him. All he knew was that his eggs had been taken from him and he was going home with an empty sporran. Worst of all, it was Easter Sunday and he had not had a single mouthful of chocolate. He began to cry and not even a piggyback from his father could cheer him up.
* * *
Fraser MacDoogle, heartbroken for his son and ashamed at not faring better in the village debate, suggested they spend the afternoon looking for eggs.
‘There must be some still out there,’ he had said. ‘The other wee children could not have found them all.’
Dougie, like all Scotsmen, was a little trooper and never stayed defeated for long.
‘Aye, maybe,’ he said, wiping his eyes.
‘Definitely!’ said Fraser and the men set off to the woods.
Fraser suggested they start looking where Dougie had found the golden eggs so Dougie took his father’s hand and led the way to the beanstalk patch.
When they got there, they found no eggs but a very confused young man scratching his head. He had the lithe frame and sun-darkened skin of a climber.
‘Mister, are ye okay?’ Dougie asked.
‘No,’ the man said. ‘Have you seen three golden eggs?’
‘Aye! I found three eggs this morning,’ Dougie said. ‘I’m very sorry. We were doing an Easter Egg Hunt and I didn’t know they belonged to someone.’
The young man grabbed Dougie by the shoulders. ‘Where are they now?’
‘Whoa, hands off my son, pal,’ Fraser intervened. ‘If these eggs are so important, why did you stash them at the foot of a tree?’
‘My partner and I left them here whilst we doubled-back to hide our tracks.’
‘Hide your tracks?’
‘Yes, we’re on the run.’
‘So, ye stole the eggs?’
‘No, no, the eggs belong to my partner.’
‘Then why are ye being chased?’
‘Because... I stole my partner too.’
Dougie and Fraser exchanged a glance. ‘You kidnapped someone?’ Fraser asked.
‘Well, they were keeping her prisoner so technically it was more of a rescue attempt.’
‘They? Who are these people?’
‘Big, scary people,’ the young man said. ‘But look – we covered our tracks so don’t worry about them. Right now we need to get those eggs back. Whoever has them is in danger.’
‘In danger from what? The people chasing you?’
‘No, my partner is the dangerous one. If she finds them first – Come on, we need to move quickly.’ He turned to Dougie. ‘I’m sorry I grabbed your shoulders earlier. My name is Jack. You can trust me. Now who has the first egg?’
TO BE CONTINUED...
Sorry to leave you hanging! You can read the conclusion to this tale in my short story collection Breadcrumbs.