We recently published Alex Evans’ delightful “Saint Egg.”
Here, we ask him two questions about his story:
1) I love how this story is about growing up, about having to grow up, and the way children sometimes think it should happen. The lines “We’d decided teenagers don’t like glow in the dark stars. We’d decided teenagers don’t like a lot of things.” are so true to the growing-up experience — what else do you think these kids have given up that they maybe shouldn’t have?
Being a teenager is a rough time, point black. So often, young adults are just starting to figure out what excites them, and they hit high school only to feel as though liking anything at all is not cool. I can only speak to my own experience at an all boys’ high school, but I often like having emotions at all was a liability. I think teenagers often are craving some higher level of autonomy; they want to go where they want and do what they want when they want. This urge is often completely at odds with the hyper-regimented schedule of school, extracurriculars, jobs, and familial responsibilities. As a reaction to this, teens often seem to veer towards extremes in the few areas where they do have control, which is what I was hoping to capture in this story.
2) The ending is almost a refutation of the growing-up process when the kids decide to be “irresponsible” and kill the suffering eggs. I like that this moment is almost like the fulfillment of a pact between the children and the eggs. Did you ever consider not giving the eggs a voice in this story?
The honest answer is that before writing it, I never thought about the eggs speaking, and after writing the first of their repeated lines, I could not imagine the story without their dialogue. In writing this story, I was thinking a great deal about power and desire. So often, I’m drawn to writing characters who lack any form of agency, and this story was something of an attempt to address that directly and reframe the idea of agency.
In one sense, the eggs give voice to teenagers’ urge to destroy what small things they have power over, but by locating that voice of agency in the eggs rather than the students, my hope was to focus the narrative more on the relationship all of us have with the things we have power over. If Chekhov’s rifle is an invitation for a gun shot, then an egg is an invitation for a crack. So often, teenager rebellion is framed as an unstable teen pushing back against stable people, objects, or institutions. By having the eggs invite their own destruction, my hope was to try on a reframing of this narrative. Eggs are chosen for activities like this specifically because they are breakable—there is no possible end for these eggs that isn’t breakage, either at the hands of the students or in a trashcan when the exercise is over. If the school’s actual intent was to avoid breakage, they would give students bricks or something else less breakable.