Coy’s brothers spit-sealed the pact: to steal an egg from the conservation wilds behind the townhouses to shut up those Florida girls with jump ropes and cigarettes, girls who had called them all “chicken shits” at the bus-stop, as in “You Ohio chicken shits couldn’t find no gator egg with two eyes and a third one between your butt.” They let Coy tag along because he had matches—one box of Ohio Blue tips, a memento from home Coy’d kept since the move south. His hands stayed dry.
After dinner, the brothers pierced the green curtain. Stevie macheted brush with a mower blade. Lysander threw his penknife at anoles. Coy trailed carrying matches and a potato sack he’d won racing a county fair barker who’d blessed it with hick magic at the snake handling show.
“This sack ain’t just for sliding down chutes,” the barker’d said.
Darkness. The brothers drew matches: longs hunt eggs; short stays and makes fire. Coy held the nub.
“Why me?” he asked.
“We’re practically natives,” Lysander said.
“Gators’ll smell the Ohio in you,” Stevie said.
Alone, Coy wasted matches on a dead live oak trunk until above the clouds rolled, flashed, boomed. His brothers paled. Coy spotted streaks of them bolting past, running north toward home’s glow, their blue heads sparking the night brush with screams. But Coy crawled in the sack, said the words the barker had told him, felt the shell growing white, hot, and small around him.
At dawn before the bus, the two brothers doubled back. They found the egg still hot in a ring of burnt burlap. Stevie picked up one last match from the ground. He lit it, and then held it to the shell in Lysander’s hand. Inside, the shadow of their brother’s tail curled to an O.