The Little Black Egg
by Kedrick Rue
I don’t care what they say
I’m gonna keep it anyway
I won’t let them stretch their necks
To see my little black egg with the little white specks
I first heard the song “The Little Black Egg” when I was five or six years old, and I remember thinking even at the time that it sounded like the sort of song a child might invent: There comes Mary, there comes Lee! I’ll bet what they want to see. Musically, the term “earworm” comes to mind. It’s a simple I-IV-V progression with a catchy opening riff, the kind of song that when heard at a young age never leaves your mind. But there’s also something beyond that which caused my young mind to gnaw at the song like a dog gnawing at a piece of bone, and that’s the central enigma of the Little Black Egg. Is that what the song’s really about? Is it really as simple as that?
Even though this song was only a minor hit, it stood out in stark relief among the other songs of the day: Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher; Up, Up and Away; All You Need is Love. Only Procol Harum and Jefferson Airplane reached the kind of absurd surrealism this song does. Its central enigma was particularly appealing to a child of my turn of mind, a child who insisted that fairies were real and who believed that if he tried hard enough he could move things with his mind. The Little Black Egg began to take on an occult significance, and more than once I was caught searching in the tree tops of Laurel Canyon, should I happen to find one.
Loath as I am to discuss personal matters in blog form or any other form, let me just say that there was a woman. She is the little black egg in this scenario, and I found her not in a tree, but in the folklore department of the liberal arts college I attended. At the time I felt fortunate, as if I had discovered something genuinely special, something I had to nurse and keep away from the other onlookers. But I came to feel that the egg possessed me, rather than I it, just as the singer of the song’s singular obsession with his find starts to feel increasingly pathological as the song progresses.
I am not, and have never been one of sunny disposition. But I appeared positively sunny compared to this woman. She was like the magnetic core of a dark star, pulling me ever deeper into her world.
At the time I was writing my thesis linking UFO abduction narratives with the fairy folklore of the British Isles, and she was finishing up her thesis on the folklore of La Cegua, a Central American phantom who is in many ways like the beautiful vanishing hitchhiker of American urban legend. Perhaps I should also mention that La Cegua, when picked up by a virile young man on a deserted road, turns into a phantom with the head of a putrefied horse as they drive along.
Too early in our relationship to do such a thing she and I took a trip to Costa Rica to search for La Cegua, and she became convinced that we would find her. This was the first indication that the endeavor might not be wholly academic.
I am not a man who shies away from dark topics. I inherited a collection of monkeys’ paws from my great-grandfather, and they still hold pride of place among other artifacts in my living room. I am not in the least squeamish about putrefied horseflesh, and I have also participated in a number of Dark Arts rituals from a fairly early age–a not uncommon thing in the neighborhood in which I grew up. But things began to get spooky. I found myself waiting late one night by the side of an empty road in Costa Rica waiting for La Cegua. While we waited, this woman started talking about how things were going badly with us. That she was going to need to leave me, and that things were rotten. It seemed an awfully colloquial word for her to use: rotten, and I asked her what she meant by it. She said that she was rotting, that she was dying. I thought perhaps she was experiencing what medical students experience, when they feel they have every symptom of every disease they study. Perhaps she thought she was La Cegua. Then I asked her if she had been to the doctor. If there was a tumor, or something she hadn’t told me. She said that it didn’t matter, because she was already dead. At the time, I thought she was trying to scare me, and it worked. I could feel La Cegua moving close in the darkness, breathing her rotten breath on me. The folly of the whole enterprise suddenly came to me, waiting out in the darkness of a foreign country, and for nothing more than lust. It became clear how easy it would be for someone to come by and rob us, or worse.
At some point, deep in the night, I saw a bright light approaching us. She stood right in the middle of the road, waiting for it, while I hid in the brush. It turned out to be a police car.
On the way home she was despondent, and I finally realized what was going on. I told her that I thought she should see a therapist, and she turned on me. We spent the rest of the flight home not talking. When I ran into her on campus the following week, she pretended I didn’t exist.
Eventually she got her degree and I got my degree, and we never saw each other again. But at some point she became my Little Black Egg, a curio that I pull out and admire from time to time for its dark beauty.