Tag Archives: Mediocre Company

“Mediocre Company” – Fiction by Michael Seymour Blake

Eggs in an Egg Crate - Mary Pratt, 1975
Eggs in an Egg Crate – Mary Pratt, 1975

In the spirit of the Halloween season, we present “Mediocre Company,” Michael Seymour Blake‘s uniquely disturbing haunted house story from our Fall 2016 issue.

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IT STARTS WITH EGGS.

A few weeks after buying the house, a little two bedroom in suburban Long Island, my husband Marc and I feel like we’re starting to take control of our lives. We spend most of our time setting the place up, settling in, dealing with all the inconveniences of owning an older home. Our savings deplete faster than we’d planned, but we find a way to stay afloat.

Then, there’s the eggs.

Marc has always been in charge of cooking eggs because I can never get them quite right. Eggs are trickier than you’d think. Weekday mornings, he scrambles us some for breakfast, then we go about our business.

One morning, Marc’s eggs come out hard and rubbery. “Sorry, hon,” he says. I tell him he’s losing his touch and he fakes getting angry with me.

But the next morning, it happens again.

Marc says it could be the stove. The stove came with the house so who knows how old it is or how it’s been treated. He opens it up and looks around as if he knows how to fix a stove or even tell if it needs fixing. “Weird,” he says, “everything looks fine.”

The following day, Marc wakes up early and starts preparing breakfast. By the time I get to the table, there’s a mountain of eggs stacked on one of our biggest plates. Marc tells me they’re all bad. We eat the next batch he prepares. Rubbery eggs. Tasteless eggs. Not Marc-made eggs. We load them down with salt, but it doesn’t help much.

That night, I prepare some pasta for dinner. The noodles come out sticky, stiff and undercooked. If anything, I left the noodles boiling for too long. I forget about things like that. But no, they’re undercooked.

“Goddamn stove,” Marc says, throwing a crumpled napkin at it.

We have Marc’s dad’s pal, Ted, over to check it out. Ted knows about things like fixing stoves. He unscrews stuff, opens other stuff, nods.

“Seems perfectly fine,” he says, turning the burner on and off.

We make some small talk. He asks me how my yoga classes are going.

“I almost had a full class last week, seven people. If that keeps up, one day I’ll be able to make it a full-time job.”

Ted says, “Wouldn’t that be great.”

“And my YouTube channel is starting to take off,” Marc says.

Marc had been uploading videos of himself singing popular TV theme songs on YouTube. His last one received 150 likes. He wants to go pro someday.

“Lots of people get their start on the internet these days,” Ted says, washing his pudgy hands, “you guys are too cool.”

The stove continues to under/overcook things, but other little problems begin to arise and distract us. One morning, I can’t find my left shoe. I thought I’d left them under the bed because I wanted to wear them for work. Black velvet pumps that are crisscrossed at the vamp. Love those pumps. I ask Marc, but he’s busy trying to figure out how one end of his work pants suddenly became slightly higher than the other.

I look under the bed, in the closet, under the sofa. I look in cabinets, trash bins, the front porch.

The shoe is gone.

“Aren’t you gonna be late,” Marc asks, fishing a tape measure out of the junk drawer.

I grunt in response, checking the refrigerator and freezer.

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