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"Daddy," Stephen said, his voice starting to break on the other end of the line. He was only three and a half years old but the pain in his voice was unmistakable and pure, the way it always tends to be with children of a young age. "My cereal... milk... I need milk..."
I knew then that this was a serious matter. I'd been there before myself. A victim of an unfortunate circumstance decades prior where the last bit of Cinnamon Toast Crunch I had poured myself had been tainted by the last bit of milk we had left in the house. Milk that had turned nearly three days prior. I realized it after the second spoonful, tasting what seemed to me like a mixture of old, sharp cheese and cinnamon toast.
It didn't help matters either to picture myself pouring the last of the milk into my coffee that morning without a second thought. I was usually good about things like that, leaving enough of something in particular for those still in the house when I left for work every morning. But that morning, the call of milk for my coffee was too great.
I gripped the phone tightly, the work in front of me long forgotten. I knew I'd have to make a stop at the supermarket on the way home. How much time did I have to wipe away the grief from his undeniably broken heart? I figured I had about an hour, maybe fifty minutes if I left right then and there.
"I'll get you your milk, Stephen." I said. "I'll get you your milk. You can count on it."
I heard him sniffle once or twice before he handed the phone back to my wife. I knew what she was going to say just as much as I had already known what it was that I had to do.
I had to make things right.
I stepped off the subway nearly two hours later. A normal day would've guaranteed no more than an hour long ride to get home but I didn't take the blizzard we had just been socked with into account. I spent at least twenty minutes at Times Square with another forty minutes added to the ride at 96th Street. The veins in my temple were throbbing as I walked into the supermarket, flurries of snow falling from my hair and shoulders. The place was a disaster. I saw two women to my left fighting over a length of kielbasa, venom spitting from their mouths in hushed tones. I uttered a silent prayer, hoping I wouldn't find the same sort of scene in the dairy section. I turned into the cool air of the dairy aisle and stopped in my tracks when I saw that there was no milk left.
Up until then, I'd never experienced those moments you see in the movies, the ones where all the sound goes out, replaced by only a thudding heartbeat and a high pitched tone that sounds like someone just flatlined in the ER, another recently departed poor soul in a history of departed poor souls. But right then I did. I knew I'd be able to go to a local bodega and get a gallon of milk there but there was something in that moment that defeated me. Old memories flared up and for a moment, strange yet almost comforting in its familiarity, I could taste the rancid, sour sweet taste of dead milk in the back of my throat. The image of me dropping to my knees and screaming up at the ceiling filled my mind and seemed to be in my immediate future when a flash of movement from the rear of the store caught my eye, stopping all train of thought.
A flash of white color.
I started moving through the aisle, pushing past an old man trying to make sense of the day's offerings in the circular. The man I saw emerge from the back of the supermarket was wearing a white butcher's coat, stained with long dried blood from the day's work. I felt a sense of disappointment, believing that I'd fallen victim to my own hopes, that is, until I looked down. He was pushing a hand truck, loaded with crates of fresh Tuscan milk stacked on top of one another.
Sound rushed back into my world, the sound of my heartbeat retreating to the back of the auditorium that was my everyday world. I didn't exactly storm over to him but my footsteps thudded on the ground, footsteps of a man with a mission.
I yanked a gallon out of the crate by the handle, feeling the ice cold milk inside greet me with its coolness. I knew what it would taste like because I'd had it before, not just once but many times over the course of my life. It was the perfect thing to add to a bowl of cereal and better yet, it was still fresh with at least another week and a half to go before it would turn. More than enough time to get home to my son so he could have his cereal in the proper fashion. With good old fashioned, vitamin D laced milk.
"Thank you," I said to the man in the white coat, patting him on the back and ending it with a hearty squeeze of the shoulder. "Thank you." He stood there, not really knowing what to say for a moment before beginning to restock the milk section. He never took his eyes from me but I think he knew. He knew that there was more at stake here than what it looked like. The milk wasn't for me and he knew that. Maybe he had a boy of his own, maybe not. But he knew.
On the way home, I felt a sense of relief. I'd gotten Stephen his milk and the people at Tuscan would be happy to know that they helped a little boy get the smile on his face back. I smiled.
Above, the snow continued to fall from the sky. Somewhere a dog barked and somewhere else a car horn tooted away. It all sounded like music to my cold ears.
Well this is one if the best tablets I've ever meet. It works like a charm almost all the time. Sometimes there may be some issues with "The Library" app, which I think is Asus fault. I suggest to turn wifi off if you don't use it, cause it takes almost 70% of battery