Consistency of Milk
a true story about my father


Brooklyn, NY 1933

Gray.  Bread-loaf sized cobblestones, hard-cold.  Horseshoes spark the granite, sharp-loud.  Horses manure the soiled spaces between, seeding green.  Muscular jumps, a boy steals rides on the Third Avenue trolley, back and forth.  Escapes down dirt-paved alleys, stumbling over large-frozen pocks. Searches city-seared ground, forgotten coins nothing.  Absent father.  Memories of moving at night, quietly hurried.  Don't say anything to anyone.  Unsettled.  Unknown.  Innumerable school desks carved, initials JET gouged with tight-fist frown.  Friend-faces only.  (Home mother's trembling hands at empty coal stove.  Stale-crust bread.  Stain-empty milk bottle.  Wintry rooms.  Sister reads; stiff hands turn dreams.)  From mud-hard alleys, return to the avenue.  Scent of donuts at red-gold Woolworth's chased out.  Filches a sandwich from the Owl's Head Tavern lunch counter.  Mahogany dark, stank-stale beer.  Whiskey-men self-blinded, curse shouts.


Treadwell, NY 1933

Green.  Quiet-lush meadow grass.  Cows lull.  Hills roll silent distance below hovering crows. Yellow-silk bamboo corn stalks wind-listen.  Church windows and horse sheds shadowed by storm clouds.  Big black-jug Catskill Mountains.  Past a blue fly banging against the screen door.  Rasping cicadas sound the heat.  Prepared for the day a marble-green pocket knife solid against his pocket thigh.  Errand first, skips barefoot, past the Harness shop to Barlow's General Store.  Eight cents in a glass bottle to fetch milk, whistles the early morning light.  Coins spin musically against the glass but a quick hard pop the bottle breaks eight cents scattered.  Nickel lost.  Quick toe-poking scan.  Mr. Carson, long-sleeve white-collar stern, sentinels the post office.  Watch the glass shards in those bare feet.  Cigar moves back to lips. Frightened to Uncle Rudy's garage across the street.  Hammering out like a roaring brook the town's first fire-truck, smiles a replacement nickel, and a bottle of fresh milk.


Treadwell, NY 1995

Gold.  A man vein-thinned with age strains vision in search of bits, tangents on the map.  Floppy-hound bunk-mate, soft-worn jeans and linen shirt, sugary-buttered warm-soft bread.  Hungry-thirst for the milky thickness of life's youth. White lights up then dims. Twinkling-alive childhood stretching memory / ambiguous future.  Life's parts curl and dust.  Oil lamps and crank engines.  Horse drays logging across echoing-wide wilderness.  Splintery hunks of green wood burn yellow-bright the summer's dusking twilight. Still now.  Whole history scene-dense.  Church prays quietly, differently diffident. At Barlow's, three buildings joined in creative destruction.  Wearied mother buried, sister's debilitated diabetic blindness.  Where the nickel disappeared in 1933 now a nickel.  Miraculous coincident Archetype of recovery: Nietzsche's amor fati.  Destiny not for the coin but to recall in still-unfolding fullness of time the consistency of milk. No accidents a life carved with deliberation: wife and grown children.  Through loss, is one invited to possess self?


words: Gregory F. Tague, New York (website)
image: Swati Nair, India (birdy's world)

another understanding of who he was: Dying Hard


BluePrintReview - issue 20 - The Missing Part