White Like Milk
By Justina Bombard
Mother! Mother! That is all I hear now. He is three. I want him to sit with his playthings and not go near mother, not ask for mother, not want mother. Mother, mother, mother. Always mother. I pick him up, put him in bed, give him a cup of milk. I sit out on the step, shake my head, and make it so I cannot hear. But I can hear him. I always hear him.
Mother sad? Yes, mother sad. I do not like to be "mother."
I do something bad? No, I did something bad. I gave up my mind to be milk. If I had a mind to give up, that is.
Mother want to play with toy? No! I do not want to "play with toy!" Do you know the man who made you with me? He…oh did he think I was a toy! A fox is what he was. He came to call and did trick after trick, and down I fell. And then he went away and did not come back. I could not stand tall, I did not have the will to do the thing I should have; I should not have listened to them: Dear, you should not get rid of that little bump. He--it--is your new little one. I looked at the little bump and saw shame. I look down now and see that things are not as they were. I am not me.
Mother want to play a game? No, you go play. But I do not want to have to run when I hear a "thump," I want it to be the cat. I had a cat then, when I had the bump. She would run and jump all over the house. She had a dish of milk--that I did not like to look at because it made me think of what I would give to the new thing--and would make the tip of her tail move from here to there to tell me she saw the cake in my hand. One day, it was a day the bump was very big, I bent to give the cat a bite of cake, and then I was wet and oh oh oh I sank and made the call, for I could not stand and had no one near. And then the bump was gone and one was two. I looked at him and made to run, but I could not. I gave up. I became "mother."
Can we read a book? He will call as if I am hard to find. As if I am not always in the house, as if I have something in my day that is not him. Yes, we can read a book. We can always read a book. We do always read a book. If we do not, you will not go to bed. And mother wants you to go to bed.
Can we have cake? He always asks--he will say he saw Sally eat it and will ask and ask. But we do not eat cake. I will not make cake. I see cake, and I think I will fall and have to hold on to something. It is not how it should be, I know. But I cannot eat cake. No, we cannot have cake.
Can we play in the sun? The sun. I do like the sun. But I do not like the sun with him. I do not like him in my sun. It is not my sun, I know, it is his sun, too, but when I have to hold his hand and ask him not to run, I cannot think about the sun shine. But I take him with me in the sun so that I can take him to my mother's. And then I sit, head in hands, and wish I could make things go back to the way they were.
I think these things with shame as I sit out in the cold to be away from him. The day is sunny, but it is cold. It is always cold, now. My back is to the house, but I do not look at anything but my hands. They are white. Like milk. White and they shake. Did they shake before I had him? I hear a call. I go in and shut out the cold sun. I walk down the hall and see him in bed with his cup and wish I could get rid of the strings that make me "mother." I pick him up and sit with him. His hands are pink.
I stand up with him. I tell him we will go out in the sun. I take him to mother's. I do not think I will come back. But, that said, I am milk now. Milk cannot think.
is a university student who dreams of writing for an audience wider than her highly intelligent cats, as she is far more interested in people and displaying the dark corners that hide in each of them.