Elissa Ely

An ovoid act of faith


Someone had parked a wad of pale blue gum on the dome of the trash can: typical thoughtlessness, or provocation, or maybe libertarianism. Throwing it into the can would have taken much less effort than securing it on top. Now the gum was softening, and was going to require some ugly scraping from Maintenance.

We’ve circumnavigated this reservoir loop with one dog or another for many years. In that time, there have been a few changes, not all for the better: For one, the dogs are mandated to wear leashes; for another, if you don’t have a resident sticker, the city will gratefully ticket your car in their parking lot. Hammers are coming down all around. On the bright side, a series of trash cans has been placed along the route.

Ducklings were in the water, and the dog was giddy in the heat of late spring when we walked past the can. It was one of those small metal fortresses with a push hole on the side. There was the gum on top. We slowed down, the better to feel bitter. This was a mean thing, not to be looked at.


But we looked anyway, twice.

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That wad of gum was not a wad of gum.

It was an egg the color of washed sky, with one crack along the side. It had fallen from some nest whose location was not apparent. Someone had found it before dog paws and bicycle tires could, and had lifted it onto the center of the trashcan, where it couldn’t roll off. Sun shone above, metal warmed below, and together they created a natural incubator. The operation had required deliberation, delicacy, and optimism.

We tiptoed past with the dog. This was our misunderstanding. The egg might hatch or might not — nesting season was over, and that liberty bell crack looked ominous —but it had been relocated with intention. Here it was, this oval act of faith.

Elissa Ely is a psychiatrist.