February 22, 2009

Milk

I originally wrote this to submit to Constructive Criticism, but I missed the deadline. Darn busy schedule! However, I'm posting it anyway.

Milk

The five-year-old hates having to trail along on the housewife's errands. Today, at least, she has her cousin whose mother needed a break. Usually the girlchild enjoys the rewards that come from being good; the extra cookie from the baker, the Junior Mints her mother buys for her when they reach the checkout aisle. Today as they walk through aisles of produce and meat and dairy she feeds off of her cousin's incorrigible attitude. Mom thinks her daughter can be left in front of the milk fridge for two minutes, miscalculates her niece's side effects. At the top of the fridge are glass bottles, filled with organic-free-range-hormone-free whole milk. The glass is shapely and transparent, more attractive to the children than the discount milk in translucent plastic. The girlchild will ask her mother to buy it. The cousin will open the fridge door. “Climbu up an d get it for her, so she doesn't have to when she gets back.” “I'm not tall enough to reach.” “That's why you climb.” “I don't know how.” “Don't be scared, I'll go with you.” They both need to pull on the door to open it. They begin to climb the shelves, and the door swings back into place, squishing them against the cold containers. They are not strong enough to pull themselves up more than halfway. Their childish fingers falter and they let go, but not before pulling a shelf of milk down with them. They're heavy enough to take two more shelves with them on the way down. Cartons explode on the floor and milk spreads through the aisle. The children fall on their backs and their heads bounce against the wet tiles. They know that they are in trouble, and the fear of their punishment overrides the pain. The girlchild starts to cry and as if on cue, her mother appears, along with the employee discharged to clean up the mess. Although clearly in pain the children receive no sympathy. They are pulled up and not even brushed off before they are dragged through the store. The mother pays for the groceries and the sixteen gallons of spilled milk. She does not acknowledge the children's cries. The children are pulled into the car and buckled in; they stop crying and know better than to speak. The cousin is dropped off at home; the girlchild is made to wait in the car. The adults converse and her cousin disappears into the house. The mother gets back in the car and they drive home; the gilrchild wants to wet herself, knowing what is in store. Finally home, her mother is still too furious to speak. She takes her daughter to the bedroom and pulls a belt from her husband's dresser drawer. “You'll never see your cousin again.” The spanking begins.

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