I was in a bar once in Santa Rosa, California, where I was staying at the rustic spa of my then-boyfriend’s extended family. The sort of place Annie Leibovitz went to to get away from it all. I know this because she was there, Annie Liebovitz, getting away from it all at the exact same time we were visiting.
The bar was in town, and we needed a bar because my boyfriend’s aunt – who forthwith will be referred to as “Alice” due to her uncanny resemblance to my youthful great-aunt Alice, down to her white-haired Julie Andrews haircut and upbeat, chirping voice; Aunt Alice who swam laps every day without fail, had not once drunk alcohol of any kind, and who became a Christian Science practitioner once she retired – needed a shot glass. There were none to be found on the premises of the rustic spa. Alice needed a shot glass because someone had told her about a bar trick involving two shot glasses and an egg. She was determined to try it out.
Alice brought her own egg to the bar because none of us knew if a bar could be expected to have one; we thought not. We did feel certain a bar was the right place in which to find shot glasses. Alice wouldn’t tell us what the bar trick was until we got there, but it was the sort of trick you’d get people to bet on: “If I do this impossible thing, will you buy my next drink?” That sort of thing.
The bar wouldn’t have been out of place in a ski resort town, its interior clean and light-colored, the bartop long, sleek, and dark. It had only just opened for the day and there were no customers. Some of the table chairs had yet to be turned upright onto the floor.
Two men were behind the bar. Alice said, “We’re not here to drink. There’s just a bar trick I want to try. Could I have two of the same kind of shot glass?”
The men looked both wry and skeptical. One flipped his bar towel over his shoulder and reached behind him. He set two shot glasses side by side in front of Alice. She climbed onto a barstool, so my then-boyfriend and I did the same. It was not my first time in a bar, but it was my first time sitting up at the bar on a barstool with shot glasses in front of me.
“Then there’s this.” Alice reached into her purse and brought out the egg. She eyed the two-gallon container of pickled eggs halfway down the bar from us. “We didn’t expect you to have any,” she said.
She placed the egg rounded-side down in one of the shot glasses, then eyed the barkeep. “Will you give me a dollar if I can move this egg from that shot glass to this one?”
“Uh, no,” the guy said.
“Oh, I forgot!” Alice said. She began again. “Will you give me a dollar if I can move this egg from that shot glass to this one without touching it?”
The barkeep looked only moderately more interested. I, on the other hand, was rapt. He narrowed his eyes. “You mean without touching it with your hands. You’ll probably roll it across to the other glass with your nose or something.”
“No. Without touching it with any part of my body.”
He paused. “Without any part?”
The barkeep punched a key on the till and the drawer shot open with a ding! He pulled out a one-dollar bill, tented it lengthwise, and held it out to Alice. Then he pulled it back. “And if you don’t do it?”
“Then I owe you a dollar, obviously,” Alice said. She reached out and snatched the bill from his hand and flattened it against the bar. “Okay, here goes. We’ll see if this works.”
Alice leaned above the egg, tightened her lips, and sent a sharp jet of air between the egg and the side of the shot glass. Nothing happened. She looked sideways at me. “Maybe I’m doing it wrong. This is what the book said to do.”
“What book?” my then-boyfriend asked.
“A book on bar tricks.” Alice leaned over again, positioned herself slightly more to the left of the egg, and blew once more.
The egg jittered momentarily like a jumping bean, then leaped up out of the glass and tipped over into the shot glass beside it.
“Ha!” Alice straightened up and beamed at us all.
“I’ve never seen that one,” the barkeep told his workmate.
Alice held the dollar out to him. “How many pickled eggs will this buy? I’ve worked up an appetite,” she said.