The boy found the egg in the back yard, where the fencepost ran into the dirt and blades of grass. It was tiny. He pinched it up and it had a softness to it, like warm plastic, or something made with sugar. He carefully rolled it into the palm of his hand, holding it out like an offering, and he made his way back to the house and up the stairs to his bedroom. He put it in a wooden box in his top drawer. He didn’t forget about it.
That night at the dinner table he was looking at a bean pierced on the end of his fork. It glistened with a translucent oiliness.
“I want a microscope,” he said.
“I want a new car,” said his mother. “What do you want a microscope for?”
“Dunno,” he said. He twisted the bean so he could see the other side, where it had a long seam that might’ve looked like a valley. “Just do.”
“I’ll add it to the list,” she said. “Anything else you want?”
“Just a microscope. I really want one.”
“Well, save your pennies then.”
“I don’t have any pennies,” he said. “How much is one anyway?”
“A microscope? Well… I honestly have no idea. Why don’t you ask Dad.”
The boy shrugged. After a while he raised the bean up and bit a small, measured part of it off between his front teeth.
The boy did not save up any pennies. He spent his money on bright green sweets wrapped in thin plastic, packets of cards filled with images of beasts and heroes, and cheap guns that broke after pulling too hard on their triggers. But he didn’t forget about the microscope.
On the morning of his birthday he woke up early and padded with bleary eyes downstairs to the kitchen. He could smell bacon cooking and there was a glass of orange juice waiting for him, which he gulped down quickly. There was nobody around so he sat quietly at the table until he heard his Dad coming up behind him.
“Hey mister,” his father said. “Happy birthday!”
He planted a big box wrapped with spaceship paper on the table in front of him.
“Don’t open that! Wait for your mother. I have to get this bacon. Don’t open it yet!”
When the bacon and eggs and toast were ready and the three of them were sitting around the table he tore off the wrapping greedily.
“It’s laser tag,” said his dad. “It’s a good one.”
“Like Phantom Zone?”
“Yeah, like the place we went for Benny’s birthday. It’s got four sets in there so you can have a big game.”
The boy opened the box and slid out the foam-packed contents onto the table, expertly picking out the Japanese batteries and placing them in the handles of the guns.
“Don’t make a mess. Why don’t you wait until later for that? Happy birthday, sweety,” said his mother, leaning over the table to give him his card.
“We can play in a bit,” said the boy’s father. “Have your breakfast and we can play.”
After they’d eaten the boy took the set up to his room, where he put in the rest of the batteries and fired a gun to hear its tinny sound effect. After a while he thought about the microscope. He kicked the plastic guns and the strap-covered receivers under his desk and hid under his bed to cry.
“He was upset, Steve.”
“He wasn’t. It’s just the attention and all that. You know how he gets sometimes.”
“He gets like that when he’s upset.”
“Well? What should we do about it? What do you want me to do about it?”
“It’s his birthday. You should get him that microscope.”
“He can’t have everything. He needs to learn that sometime. Anyway it’s too late.”
“Go in the morning, early. We’ll say we forgot it upstairs.”
“Jesus, you really… Where do I even get a bloody…? Alright, I’ll go. I’ll go.”
“He was really upset, Steve.”
In the morning the boy’s father parked his car in an empty lot and waited by the shuttered entrance to the department store. When it opened he checked the toy section, and then the sporting goods section, and finally found a staff member who suggested he’d have to look elsewhere. He was told there was a place in a nearby suburb which was dedicated to that kind of scientific equipment.
“Christ, I don’t have time to go all the way over there. I have to work today.”
“Sorry,” the staff member said. “We don’t really keep any of that stuff.”
The optics store was clean and everything was presented under glass. There were a lot of telescopes posed in the window. Steve waited at the counter for a couple of minutes before a grey-haired man appeared from the rear office.
“I just need a microscope for my son,” he said. “Do you have anything on special?”
“I suppose I do,” he said. “It’s not really for a child, I’m afraid, it’s more-”
“Don’t worry about that.”
“There’s this,” he said, sliding open a cabinet. “It’s refurbished, so I can’t offer you a box, but I’ve got the original manual. American make.”
“Oh it’s an excellent unit, sturdy. Stereoscopic, see? It’s not cheap, you understand.” The man turned over a label to show Steve the discounted price.
“God,” said Steve. “Alright, alright. Have you got a bag for it, at least? Something I can carry it in?”
“Hey buddy,” said Steve. “Close your eyes. I’ve got something for you.”
The boy sat up in his bed, then put his hands over his face. He felt something heavy pull at the sheets between his legs. When he looked the big microscope was sitting in front of him, shiny with black enamel that was chipped in places.
“Read this,” said his father, passing him the fat manual. “It tells you about how to work the slides. The man calibrated it – it works great!”
“What’s it for?” asked the boy.
“It’s for your mother and I being idiots. It’s for your birthday. But I have to go. Careful with it, okay?”
When the microscope was finally arranged on his quickly-tidied desk, the boy got the wooden box from his top drawer. He carefully took out army men and a colourful, dead butterfly and a lost tooth, caked with blood, to find the tiny white egg in a bottom corner. He placed the egg under the eyes of the scope and stood on his chair to see into it.
The egg was enormous, and came up at him like he could wrap his hands around it. In the crater where the egg had opened the edges were warped inward, as if it had melted in on itself after a scorching blast. A faint orange outline showed where some vile liquid had dried around this cusp, and inside it patterns like ancient amoebae were just visible against the bright white shell. It was enormous, and it looked like the tall egg of a dinosaur. But not an ordinary dinosaur, some kind unknown to science which the boy had discovered. Something feathered and violent and big, and colourful and fast and hidden in the dense jungle where it lived.