Each House a Law Unto Itself
Kevin Wilson

“The breakfast habit is of antique origin.”
-Olive Green, What to Have for Breakfast

The primeval man awakens from uneasy dreams, cave drawings of dinosaurs and gore, and allows his woman to slumber without interruption. He travels into the unsteady regions of a landscape with which he is still unfamiliar. The path is devious and he looks for any animal with enough meat to be shredded by his rock-like teeth. He steals a boulder of a dinosaur egg and rolls it back home. His woman awakens, unencumbered by dreams, and she uses her fists to make fissures in the egg. The fetus spills out of the shell and the two humans tear it apart. It is enough energy to keep them alive, the human race perpetuated.

My first wife’s family were long-time disciples of Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey. In the early 1900’s, Dewey had scientifically devised the No-Breakfast Plan, in addition to The Fasting Cure. She laughed whenever she saw me eat a grapefruit or a slice of toast before I headed to the university. “Wasteful,” she would say. “The body has untold deposits of energy still stored from dinner.” At night, as she rocked our first and only child to sleep, she would sing a lullabye of Dr. Brewer’s teachings. “There is death in the air we breathe, death in the water we drink, death in the food we eat. We walk, we walk, we walk in the valley of the shadow of death until our hearts, they cease to beat.” Before the sun rose, while my wife and child still slept, I would sneak into the kitchen, prepare steak and eggs, and eat them in the pitch black dark of my house, satisfying my hunger, my uneasy dreams having already depleted the energy my wife assured me that dinner had provided.

For a brief period after my divorce, by a fairly complicated royal lineage heretofore unknown to me, I became the king of a small island between Canada and Greenland. For breakfast, they fed me things I had never encountered, the methods of preparation absurd. But I missed my wife, even though I hated her, and my toddler, and so I performed my kingly duties, which meant eating breakfasts so large and so complicated that they lasted, with breaks, until sundown. The local delicacy was bloaters on toast, slathered with moose jaw jelly. The bloaters, dried herrings, were harvested just off the shore of the island and a good number of the island’s moose population, as plentiful as deer in North America, were daily butchered, the jaw simmered until it liquefied and gelatin added to the mixture. It tasted like the ocean had been poured over a forest. The eggs were delicately opened with a tiny needle and then liqueurs and creams and the most potent strands of spice were blown into the microscopic hole. When they were served, I would shake the egg until it was blended and then crack the raw yolk into my mouth, the contents so rich and so magical that a baby chick instantly formed in my stomach and chirped for the entirety of the day. That I gained no weight from these feasts was a testament to the magic of the island. I would have stayed forever if someone of a more deserving lineage, thought to be deceased, hadn’t been found and brought to replace me. Depressed and lonely, living in an apartment in Seward, Illinois, I tried to replicate the recipe for the eggs and was instantly made so sick that I was paralyzed for two days.

I took on a roommate, a man several years my senior, an adventurer who had been credited with the discovery of several new species of four-legged beasts. We became intimate for a brief time and then decided against its continuation. He would make simple but delicious dinners, cod balls and deviled drum sticks and collared tongue and various stewed greens. He always prepared more than we could consume in one sitting and so, when the morning arrived, we would simply continue the dinner of the previous night. It was an interesting way to connect the previous day to the current one, as if the hours of sleep had not occurred. Often, we continued our conversations without any acknowledgment that a new day had arrived. It was a necessary defense against the world, my life still unformed and raw. By the time my roommate left for another adventure, a search for a wishing stone that would leave him crushed by a falling tree, I had regained some kind of balance to my life.

For the last twenty-seven years of my life, through one more failed marriage and the one that is still going strong, I have eaten the same breakfast without interruption. It requires a slice of toast or an English muffin or some sliced form of starch. It is then covered with an egg of various prepared forms (scrambled, fried, poached, sometimes raw). I then swallow a spoonful of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and then cleanse my palate with a thimble of vinegar. The world, I have learned, is less mysterious than I had hoped. What is left to me is habit. To begin the day with a prayer and this simple meal allows me to briefly touch the past and the future, to feel that my life force is limitless. If there is something that remains the same, I can access all moments of my life without restriction. I will live forever and breakfast will always be the moment, still fuzzy from the dreams that are simply old memories from a period in my life so foreign to me that I cannot accurately remember them, that I sit down and prepare myself for what will come next, the unceasing restrictions that will not keep me from what I deserve.

Kevin Wilson is the author of a story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, and a novel, The Family Fang. He lives in Sewanee, TN, and teaches at the University of the South.