birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Spilled Milk

I spilled a gallon of raw milk in my mother’s car.

I don’t think I need to write more, really. It pretty much speaks for itself.

But I’ll tell this story anyway. When I was little, maybe 10 or 11, we used to buy milk from this guy named George Atkins who kept a few cows. You’d drive out to his house, leave a clean milk pail on the table in the garage (with your name written on it in nail polish so people knew whose was whose), put a dollar in the old peanut can nailed to the wall, write your name on the list, and then get your fresh gallon of milk out of one of the two fridges that were next to the table.

We picked up milk twice a week and it was not my favorite chore because someone (and it wasn’t going to be my Mom, because she was driving) had to hold the milk pail the whole way home to keep it from spilling. And then when we got home someone had to take a ladle and skim the cream off the top and put it in a jar and then decant the milk into plastic pitchers so they’d fit in the fridge.

It was all kind of a pain.

One day we pulled into our driveway (which was at the end of a fairly long, winding dirt driveway which was itself at the end of a mile long dirt road) and I thought that the car had completely stopped, so I let go of the pail. But the car had not stopped, and the milk spilled everywhere.

The car always smelled after that. It didn’t matter too much because the car was really old so we didn’t hang onto it for very long. It was my Mom’s cousin Jay’s wife Jan’s old car from college, and Jay and Jan gave it to my mother because they heard we needed an extra car (which we did, when my Mom started working again she and my Dad both needed their own cars.) Eventually the car died and someone came and towed it away for a hundred dollars. I can’t remember whether they paid us a hundred dollars for the car or we paid them a hundred dollars to take it away, but either way it was gone.

So that was that, no more stinky old Buick.

My mother never got over me spilling the milk. She didn’t do much crying, but she did a lot of sighing and making pointed remarks. I still feel pretty bad about it.

The Shower