There's Nothing in This for Me, I Promise
by Rory Douglas
"You'll really pay me five?"
"Dollars? No games here--I don't want something you've arbitrarily named 'dollar.'"
"Okay you're on to me. You're too clever for your own good, you know. I was going to give you five five-dollar bills with stickers on them that said 'dollar.'"
"So I just drink the milk?"
"A whole gallon of whole milk?"
"In half an hour?"
"And you'll pay me five dollars?"
"Yes. Is this because you're worried I'll prank you?"
"No--I just want all these people to know what's going on."
"All what people?"
"I'm starting the timer."
"No, wait. Wait."
"That was just you. You made the noise, not the timer."
"You're on to me."
"Okay, what I was going to ask was what's in it for you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Aren't you afraid that I'll just drink half of the milk and run away? I could just steal your milk, you know. Or I could finish it, and then I would've stolen your milk and your five. Why would you risk that? What's in it for you?"
"A diversion from this desert island the two of us are stuck on."
"Are you being metaphoric? Literal? Serious? Sarcastic?"
"Yes. No, there's nothing in this for me. I promise. I'm starting the timer."
"I think the jug is leaking a little--will that be counted against me?"
"Of course not. I'm starting the timer."
"---. ---. ---."
"You've got 29 minutes."
"Look at that, a quarter way done, 29 minutes left. ---. ---. ---."
"What was that?"
"No, you said something about squid. That wasn't a cough. Did you put a squid in here? "
"You put a squid in here? Why would you do that? You are a forked animal."
"I didn't put a squid in the milk."
(Author to reader, #1: I tricked you! I was going to save it for a surprise ending, but I can't hold it in anymore: both of these characters are upper-class white males in their early twenties. They are standing in the yard of their college dorm--and the lack of dialog tags isn't a game, either. So I didn't really trick you: this story is exactly what it seems and this isn't a surprise ending. Please, don't mind me. Go on now.)
"Man, I can't ever tell with you. I can't tell if you're being serious or if you're being self-consciously postmodern. Or ironic."
"Minutes. Twenty-eight of them."
"---. ---. ---."
"---. ---. -"
"---. ---. ---."
"Just keep drinking. Just ignore me. Your mother, Andrea Johannes, mother of a one-week-old child, didn't lactate this milk."
"---. ---. ---."
"No, although Mrs. Johannes has been using formula for your newborn brother, she's just storing all that milk inside of her, with no outlet. That breast pump is still in its box. Good thing I got her a gift receipt--"
"Is it really?"
"Do you swear this isn't my Mom's milk?"
"Yeah, I'm just kidding."
(Author to reader, #2: Since I gained your trust with my sincerity in the first note, I can now let you in on the secret: although you've probably assumed that the characters in part two are the same as in part one, and not two Pegasi (the proper plural for "Pegasus") flying through an asteroid belt; you've probably also assumed that those ellipses (...) are the written symbol for someone chugging milk--well, guess what: your assumptions are correct. I'm not playing language games here, I promise.)
"... . ... . ... . ... . ... ."
"You know, it's all downhill from here. The first half is the hardest."
"You're probably right."
"Can I take off my shirt?"
"I don't see what difference it makes."
"Because after I finish this, I'm going to use your five bucks to get a tattoo of an udder on my chest."
"An utter tattoo? A tattoo that is verbally spoken? How does that even work? Or did you mean utter as in a complete, absolute tattoo?"
"No, neither--an udder, with a voiced alveolar plosive. Now quit distracting me with your language games."
"... . ... . ... ."
(An old Indian myth, as recollected from the author's childhood, apropos of milk and tribal tattoos: In the River there were many ducks. There was a famine in the land and the Indians wanted to catch the ducks. The Ducks were wise, but the Indians were wiser. The Indians dropped a pumpkin upriver and when it floated by, the ducks flew from the strange invader. "Better safe than sorry," the ducks thought. A second time the Indians dropped a pumpkin in, and this time the ducks only paddled to the edges of the river. "This is old Hat," the ducks thought. When the Pumpkin floated by the third time, the fearless ducks didn't bother to move. "We're onto this Ishmael," the ducks thought. Then the ducks were all killed and eaten by the Indian hiding inside the pumpkin. This is the story of how the ducks died.)
"I can't drink another drop."
"But you're most of the way done, and you still have fifteen minutes."
"I'll try. ... --I just threw up in my mouth. I can't do it."
"Come on. Just a little more and I'll give you the five."
"No. I can't. I'll upchuck."
"So you're going to get this far in and get no reward."
"I don't want your money anyways. The game's over."
"Okay, then I guess I should tell you the milk was leaking because I injected it with a syringe of estrogen. You're going to grow breasts."
"You are an insignificant wiener."
"You are a duck."
(Author to Reader, #3: You are not a duck.)
About the author:
Rory Douglas graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a degree in English, which he used to obtain his current position as a partner with the Starbucks corporation in Coronado, CA. You'd like him if you knew him, you really would.