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"The Milk Really Is from Petaluma"
by Terry Bain
"The Milk Really Is from Petaluma"
     This mechanism here, the turning one, is an experiment. We've never had it turn this way before. It used to turn the other way, but in a circle, you know, it could only be turned in a circle. And this, this is the processor, this is what really makes it work, this is where we turn on the color or turn off the color. This is where things happen but don't happen. This is where the flying starts, where the words won't come, where you're naked.
     The power supply? It's universal power, it's solar power, it's gravitational pull, it's subatomic sucking, it's electrophonic choreography of music and luck. We use the funnel, or sometimes the hopper, or once in awhile, when nothing else is working, we use the crank, there, on the side, but not until nothing else is working. It's a final measure. It's our last resort, when everything else is cut off, or being used, at complete capacity, then we use the crank. We all get a turn. It's a lot of work.
     Like I said, we've tried a few new things lately, mostly because it's tedious to do the same things day after day, to never change. It's too predictable, you know? So we made a few modifications. Just ones we were absolutely sure wouldn't hurt anyone. That's not the point of change, right? We want new things but we don't want anyone to get hurt. So we try new things but we test them extensively first. There have been a few mistakes. We've lost a few. We're sorry for that, we really are, but mostly they're well-tested and very safe.
     Here's an example.
     Here's the first one out of production. Look at this baby. It's a blue one. You rarely see this color anymore. It has four sides, like the ones in Egypt, but without the top--not as pointy. It has a timer. It has six legs. It's an invertebrate. We love this one. It hasn't hurt anyone yet. I don't think it will. Ever. We just let it go, and go it does.
     This one over here is a personal favorite. That's why I'm showing it to you. Just to you. Don't tell anyone because it's not ready for public consumption just yet. We're testing. I picked the color--it imitates the color of the first one. I'm in love with the color. We call it absentminded blue. You see it sometimes in the afternoon on an autumn day with no clouds when you look into the eyes of your lover who is thinking of somebody else. When this one is ready I'll tell you. It'll be all yours. You can have the scoop.
     Of course there are also the same old methods, the same old products, the same old kinetics. Here we have The Positive Hallow Mechanism. If you haven't heard of it I'm not surprised. It's very very old and not exciting in any way. Most people ignore it, but it's a perfect example of what we've been doing for many millions of years. Watch as it does its thing. It's a perfect system, really, and we haven't found anything that works quite as well since coming up with this one. Oh, there was no single responsible individual. It was a group effort. That's the problem with today's efforts. They're all individual. Most of the new hires are so specialized they can't talk among themselves unless they're talking to someone else in their specialty. So there's no such thing as a group anymore, unless you mean a divisive one. Divisive has its place, of course, but it doesn't improve the mechanism. Not in my experience. See how smooth this is? You never see them this smooth anymore. This one . . . you wonder if it's for real. You wonder if it's computer generated. Of course nothing here is computer generated. It's all handmade, all one-of-a-kind, all happening as we speak. Don't worry. That will never change. No need to get in a lather about the new computers with the superegos and the wizards. They're mostly being used in government, and as you know this isn't a government body. We're entirely self-funded, and have been since the Previous Administration. We were forced to be, of course, having lost our funding, but our supporters have been very generous. We're lucky. We have a lot of supporters. We're very visible, of course, thanks to the media and our mothers.
     Well, we'd better move on. Please, have a seat. It's a long way up. You would think we would start there, at the top--I know I know--but that's all hype and bother. That's what you see on TV and in the movies and the photographs with the halos and the tortillas. That's not reality. I don't mean to criticize, but what do they base this stuff on? Experience? No. Just the product. Not the actual work. Just the result. And that's like saying a bottle of milk is from Petaluma because you tasted a glass of milk and it tasted Spike's front yard grass. (Spike is very well-known up here. Have you met him?)
     You'd better ride. Nobody walks. It's a long way. And once you get there, of course, don't look down for the life of you.


Terry Bain is a freelance writer and book designer. He lives in Spokane.


Zoetrope All-Story Extra
Prize Stories 1994: The O. Henry Awards

The Gettysburg Review

Northwest Boulevard

Links: http://www.zoetrope-stories.com/extra/issue8/imagine.html

Email: TerryBain@bigfoot.com

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