|Elizabeth H. Hopkinson
If I told you I was obsessed with the milkman, you’d probably either say, “Milkman? What milkman?” or assume I was some sort of sad cliché. Well, I’m not. I mean, I might be a housewife of a sort (the sort that involves as little housework as possible) but I have lots of hobbies, my own website and a part-time job at Cineworld. And absolutely no saggy bits, thank you very much. And, yes, there are still milkmen around in the twenty-first century. Most are even quite normal. Mine isn’t. Well, you know I wouldn’t be telling you this otherwise.
The thing is, have you any idea how hard it is to get hold of organic milk? Some busybody shoves their trolley in front of you at the supermarket, nabs a couple of cartons, and that’s it for the rest of the week. So I was thrilled when I saw this notice in a little shop: Organic milk delivered to your home. Special introductory offer. Ask at the counter for details. Fair enough, it was a bookshop. And a pretty weird bookshop too. I go there sometimes. Chap who owns it is a sort of aging hippy with purple bits in his beard, and he sells all this stuff like crystals and dodgy statues with the books, but he’s very nice. Its’ called Túatha Dé Danann. Should have been a bit of a give away, I suppose, but I hadn’t had my café latte that morning and, anyway, you don’t always expect the unexpected, do you? Not in Halifax.
So, I go up to the counter and say,
“I was just wondering about this organic milk. You know, on the notice.”
And he takes down my details and says, “Starting on Monday. That be all right for you?”
And I say, “Fine.”
And walk out of the shop feeling rather pleased with myself actually. I was thinking, a pint a day of that and we’ll be sorted. No more cow hormones for me, thank you.
This is why I was a bit annoyed on Monday morning when I looked out and nothing had come. I know milkmen, postmen and what-have-you seem to come at all hours these days, but I thought, I’m paying for a special service here. I should at least have something to put on my Special K. So I peeped out of the door just to make certain and there, next to the geranium, was this tiny bottle of milk, about two inches tall. It’s a good job Rick was already out of the house because I could just have imagined his response. (“What in the name of sanity is this?”) I had a taste of it. That half emptied the bottle to start with. It had a nice flavour. Unusual. I couldn’t place it at all. The trouble was, I still had to pop to the Lateshop for a couple of cartons of semi-skimmed, which kind of defeated the object. So I wrote a little note on a post-it, nineteen extra pints please, and stuck it on the flowerpot next to the empty before I went to bed.
The same time next morning, there it was - a dinky little milk crate with twenty two- inch milk bottles in it. So now I’m starting to think, is this some kind of joke? Because, let’s face it, what sort of milkman leaves you with pintas quite frankly best suited to a dolls’ tea party for two days in a row? I didn’t even see him come and I was up quite early that morning. (I had my Pilates class at the gym). I made some discreet inquiries and it turns out no one had seen or heard a milk float coming. Not even Mrs Higgins next door, and she’s virtually got radar.
By Wednesday I was thinking, I’ve absolutely got to meet this guy. Of course, it could have been a woman. Would have made sense with the cute little bottles and everything, but you’d expect her to be more practical than that, wouldn’t you? Anyway, the milk was tasting better than ever and made a gorgeous hot chocolate, and I could have sworn those gold tops were actually made of gold. Hadn’t quite got around to showing Rick yet. (He’s not that observant). I suppose that was a bit naughty of me but sometimes you need to have your little secrets. I just wished I knew who on earth he was.
I found out sooner than I expected. One o clock on Thursday morning to be exact. I’d been working the late shift at the cinema, and I came through the garden gate to see this tiny little fellow with antennae and butterfly wings picking up a crate of empties. It definitely was a fellow as well. He was dressed a bit strangely, in tights and a sort of leaf tunic with little boots, but he had a great figure. Seriously hot in fact. Yes, I know fantasy epics are in vogue at the moment, but I’m not making this one up. He took one look at me and flew off down the street, with me running after him. Exactly how I expected to catch him, I’ve no idea. I gave chase as far as this little bit of woods at the back of our house, but it was a bit dark and I wasn’t really at my best at that hour. Still, I had sight of him. He sort of half-ran, half-flew across the grass, stepped inside a ring of mushrooms, and disappeared. Now call me a cliché.
If you think this is going to end like the Elves and the Shoemaker, with me making him a little suit of clothes and never seeing him again, forget it. There’s no way I would kit out that pint-sized Adonis (pardon the pun) in some sort of miniature Benny Hill outfit. To be honest, my main thought was about payday. I can’t say it had been discussed that clearly back at Túatha Dé Danann. And now that I’d seen who was bringing the milk, I was wondering, what’s he going to expect for payment? Gold pieces? My first-born child? I don’t suppose they take MasterCard in Otherworld or wherever he buzzed off to.
Still, I was kind of looking forward to it. It’s not every day that you get to chat to one of the -- what shall we call them? Good People. So Sunday morning the doorbell rings and I go to answer it, and there’s the aging hippy chap from the bookshop.
“I’ve come for your milk money,” he says. “Eleven pound fifty.”
Well, I’m a bit cheesed about this. I’m thinking, I haven’t got my good clothes and my face on at this time in the morning to talk to you. So I say, “Where’s the milkman?”
And he says, “It’s just me, love. The milk business, it’s just a little extra thing we run from the shop.”
And I say, “Don’t fob me off, shop guy. You know who I mean. The milkman. Little chap. Wings. Antennae.”
So he knows I’ve rumbled him. And he kind of winks and says, “Oh, you mean Polypody.”
Polypody. Of all the ridiculous names.
“Yeah, that’s the one,” I say. “I want to deal direct with him. If you don’t mind.”
So Aging Hippy strokes his beard a bit and thinks and says, “I’ll tell him you were asking.”
OK. So now we’re back to Monday and I still haven’t met the milkman. And I’m starting to have all these strange thoughts like, where is he getting this milk from anyway? I mean, it could have come from anything, from Pharaoh’s lean kine to the cow that jumped over the moon. And I think, it had better not be knocked off. Anyhow, I’m just in the middle of baking my fimo jewellery when I hear the doorbell going and, when I go out, there he is, sitting cross-legged on the window box, wings fluttering in the wind. As large as life. Well – you know what I mean.
“Morning!” he says. “Just a courtesy call. Happy with the service so far?”
“Fine,” I say. “Lovely milk. Do you get it locally?”
“Green Maiden of the Lake. Do you know her? Keeps a herd of white cattle that rise out of the water at sundown.”
“Er, not really,” I say.
I reckon I’d better ask him about the bill while he’s here. So I say, “How much do I owe you, exactly?”
And he says, “Eleven pound fifty. Didn’t Gabriel tell you?”
“Oh, come on!” I say. “What could you lot possibly want English money for?”
“To exchange for children’s teeth. Don’t you know anything?” he says.
And I say, “You’ve got to be joking.”
Evidently not. Children’s teeth are apparently a very valuable commodity on the Other Side. They have this sort of gizmo that turns them into… Well, he tried to explain it to me, but he says it’s really more the sort of thing you have to see to understand.
“And in case you didn’t know,” he says, handing me a business card, “milk is very good for the teeth. So spread the word.”
And that’s my milkman. Polypody. Small on stature; big on business sense. And a Grade A butt. Rick still doesn’t know. I told him it’s some hippy woman milkman who thinks dinky bottles are cute. Little secrets, eh? I see him every week when he comes to collect the money and we have a bit of a chat. I say, “You’ll have to invite me over some time and show me this children’s teeth thingy. Thursday afternoons are good for me.”
He says he’ll think about it.