Tell us about where this story came from.
For the last few years I’ve been thinking and writing about the themes of sports, games and memory. Tennessee Williams has written that “In memory everything seems to happen to music.” I’ve discovered that for me, in memory everything seems to happen in games (which doesn’t sound nearly as poetic).
I began writing “Egg Toss” after seeing a friend’s old family photographs. In this one picture she had, a bunch of kids in bathing suits are having an egg toss in the backyard. The image made me think about all of the elaborate games we’d play at birthday parties when I was a kid, how they were pleasurable and also fraught with subtext.
Was it important to you that this story to be told from the point of view of a boy? What lead you to Marky, rather than his sister or either of his parents?
Before I started “Egg Toss,” I’d already written longer stories from the father’s and the sister’s perspectives. This was the first story I wrote from Marky’s point of view. I wanted to begin to discover his take on things.
I love the final moment of this piece, the narrator’s desire to re-imagine events. What do you see as the role of memory in our lives?
This is a big question. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my own life memory and nostalgia, memory’s frequent co-conspirator, haunt me, keep me up at night, and make me want to write stories. I deeply admire Stuart Dybek for the way his stories acknowledge the power of memory while also interrogating its hold over us (What of clashing memories? Competing memories?).
I think that delving into memory can help us better understand the loss and beauty and love we have experienced and continue to experience. It can lead to empathy. Yet nostalgia can be dangerous, can trick us into a romanticized idea of what the past was actually like. You catch yourself thinking, “I miss the days when everything was wonderful, when we were happy.” My characters often know, on an intellectual level, that everything wasn’t wonderful, that the happiness was complicated. Yet they are still haunted and still struggle with their connection to the past, with the contrasting emotions certain people, places, and activities conjure up in them.
Beautiful answer! I have one last important question. Your story is loaded with wonderful sensory details — the slip’n slide, the flight of icing-smeared paper plates, and, of course, the egg toss. What’s one of your favorite summertime experiences that you remember from childhood?
As a kid I loved going to Jones Beach with my family. It’s about an hour and a half away from my home town — close enough for a day trip but far enough to feel like a break from ordinary life. We’d leave early in the morning, stop at a deli on the way for bagels and cream cheese and have breakfast on the beach. I’d collect shells with my sister and brother. We’d swim in the Atlantic together. If a wave was intimidating we’d all weigh in on how to react to it, calling out “over” or “under” just before it broke over us. Or that’s how I remember it.