EGGS

Their father was driving now, totally alive, plugged in, connected to the controls, the inner workings of his white milk truck, a model that you could drive while standing up, if you cared to or dispensing with the optional seat, just lock it up tight behind you and forget about it, as he was presently doing, being as close to absolute sync as a human could, to the wheels and the brakes, the bump and roll of the chassis, the idiosyncrasies of clutch and transmission, hidden workings and microscopic secrets of the engine itself, all thought and power residing in his eyes and powerful hands, muscles of his legs, not only controlling thousands of onrushing vehicle pounds, but also, in charge of the hundreds of delicate but dangerous pounds of ice and glass riding precariously behind him, in what seemed to be, a fretted steel cage, the purpose of which, was both to ice and protect the fragile dairy products he was presently hell bent on delivering to those early morning customers who would soon be expecting them, his truck going near top speed, when suddenly he's braking, down shifting hard, as he turns into a series of semi-rutted corkscrews, and then exploding out of the last curl, like an Italian race car driver, his heart pounding, his foot down hard on the pedal, waving and honking at those he knows passing by, as he continues, following that maze of back roads, the thousand and one rutted blacktops, dirt roads, even, that constitute his well researched, painstakingly collected Book of Shortcuts, which he faithfully followed each working day of his life, not only traversing but shattering the peaceful woods glens, swamps farmlands, and thickets of Long Island, in his somewhat mad but holy quest to deliver, not only on time, but clean and fresh, unblemished by any signs of spoilage or decay, the purest richest, creamiest products that the Borden’s’ Milk Company could possibly offer today's very demanding public, until finally, exploding out of a wedge shaped portion of Long Island's still thriving woodlands, he opens up his throttle, for he had long since removed the hated governor from his engine, and finds himself moving, as fast as he safely can, down one of the county's more well maintained, well traveled roads, hurtling past polo fields, farms horses barns, the occasional ranch house sitting pretty as picture in a field of buttercups, a porch bound dog mindlessly barking, then making a quick left and a fast right, and slowing safely down, he begins driving up one of his favorite gravel roads, some of them being more than a half a mile in length, towards one of his great houses, this one a brown gabled monster, splendid with horse barns, gate houses, servants quarters, gardens swimming pools, a pond to float the Queen Mary in, not to mention, tennis courts for the taking, the point being, that if you were the right person you could take all you wanted, and perhaps something extra, like sleeping with a pretty maid or two, who knew what went on down there, deep behind those massive walls, gates of iron, wood brass stone, damask steel, oil railroads, gold diamonds, equities etiquette, munitions and Italian paintings, what secret thoughts and activities transpired, what drunken lovelessness, lovely drunkenness, mad embraces, secret bribes and molestations, not to mention the occasional slash of violence, the threat of murder, or perhaps even its explicit rendering, though many who spoke to him claimed to know all, and some even more than that, and though not everyone forgave, most continued to go forward, doing what they did, taking solace in the knowledge that the rich will always be with us, and better it is, that I get a fat piece of them, than you, my friend, and thus he entered, an innocent of sorts, in Borden’s' cap and jacket, a metal basket in each hand, packed with the pure white products of the lands' docile animals, destined to be eaten by a host of American kings and ministers, barons and robbers, givers and takers, clerics with English accents, Mexican tennis players, luminaries of the horsey set, Whitneys Rockefellers Vanderbilts, lords and ladies of faraway duchies, and not to forget or ever underestimate, the many roving and foraging groups composed of the glowingly beautiful, insatiable children of the mighty, offering to one and all the succulent nourishment of his milk butter eggs, eggnog for the holidays, cottage cheese, Walker Gorden’s milk, their top line product, nothing finer or richer in the world, he liked to say, with a big fat glob of cream stuck on top, like a thick white cork, everybody knew him, the cooks the butlers, maids, the kids, some of the great people themselves calling him by name, farmers blacksmiths horse trainers, exercise boys, both black and white, waving at the milk truck with the smiling cow that went everywhere, its driver talking to everybody, laughing, passing remarks, flirting with the pretty Swedish Norwegian Irish maids, cajoling, breaking balls as he liked to say, laying small bets here and there, because he liked the action, the movement, the perpetual running of the race in the hopes of profit, partaking of the fantasies arising from the great steaming brain of the monster Equus himself, passed on by his minions, to all those and sundry hungry for the inside scoop, the news the lies, the rant and the bullshit, the mysterious brilliance of a trainer able to x ray the secret heart of a raging young animal, you had to be careful of course, knowing who to listen to, and especially, who to not, if you hoped to successfully conjure this afternoons' or the next days' or the following Saturday's equestrian riot, who to tip your ear to, not to mention an extra bottle or two of Walker Gorden's, if you wanted the lowdown on what, if any, jockeys bought, horses doped, races fixed, what unknown filly currently tearing her training stats to pieces, what Arabian potentate, with a stallion descended from heaven, now making his way towards them, where the smart money was going to roost at Bellmont Aqueduct, Saratoga Roosevelt, the Derby Preakness, you name it or just for the hell of it, as he sometimes did, buy a couple of tickets for the Irish Sweepstakes, trusting to God and his inscrutabilities, because there's always lots of money for the lucky, he knows, and Luck Is All, Sayeth The Lord God Of Luck, for without Me you will be nothing more than a maimed animal mindlessly twitching with ticks and fear, trapped in an endless wood, the hunters approaching, and you don't even have to be Irish born to win, he's often been told, that even an Italian prick like him could qualify, if he's lucky, and he says kiss my ass, laughing and passing a bottle around with some of the boys in the barn, or later hoisting a brimfilled glass or two in the kitchen, celebrating one of the holidays, the all powerful butler filling it with master's best, not Schenleys or Seargams, like at home, here's to you Rick you old pain in the ass, cognac scotch bourbon, burning sweetly, going down smoothly, warming what needs to be warm, here's to you and your family, good luck good luck good luck, my friend, and then he's done and gone and out alone, once again, singing in his truck, as he liked to do, as loud as he could above the engine, a nice timbre to his voice, lyrics to whatever melody was running through his head, the old songs, through the early morning light, the blaze of the afternoon, darkening days of rain or snow, the old songs, it didn't matter, winter or summer, you had to go on driving and delivering what was needed, what was wanted, because there's no use complaining, now is there or chance of a turnaround in mid-raging stream, you'd probably drown, the important thing, is going forward and delivering the goods, because that's how he and his family lived, wasn't it, from what they paid him to do, which was to go endlessly onward, forward, delivering the goods, it wasn't easy, though, when you stopped and thought about it, which he didn't much like to do, but whether there was thought or not, it made no difference, for the feelings were still there, dug deep, a handful of fish hooks embedded in his breath, so rising each morning at four, his Schick electric razor roaring, staring himself down in the bathroom mirror, eyes drilling deep, ready to jump start the engine, if it was too cold or unwilling to cooperate, willing it to go forward, to carry that great weight, this recalcitrance inside him, like a living animal, able to close hard upon him at will, teeth jaws, claws fastening, locking onto his vitals, determined sooner or later to take him down, he knew, but somehow, he felt that he was the tougher, and would remain that way, continuing to outfight it, doing whatever it took to keep it at bay, though never to destroy it, he knew, and this he learned, as he did most things, the hard way, growing up, the only way that I can ever learn anything, he said, the hard way, driving forward now, charged with the morning's anger, challenge, a knife blade heated white in the flame of past days, appropriate for massive self surgery, if necessary, or to annihilate whatever fears, demons ghosts rising to assault him, driving through the sheer blinds of light, plummets of darkness and disorder, winter snow and summer heat, watery slogs, torrents of storms thrown by powerful Long Island hurricanes, fields of dirt and pebbles, swirling salt water filling every nook and cranny, sheets steeled by the power of the wind, wrapping your body, face eyes breath, like a mummy, power lines down, a young woman, baby in arms, face badly cut, he's driving to the emergency room, its an island of course, you must remember, an island, an island, and around it the sea, forever, but you must also remember, at the same time, to stay organized, eternally organized, no matter what the circumstances, vigilant and dedicated in your pursuit of monetary and inventorial accuracy, for without it, though all you do is good in itself, and completely honorable, and worthy though it may be, at the same time, could be rendered meaningless, bogus, suspicious by those in charge, which would not be wise position for one of our route salesmen to find himself in, I assure you, but still he sang, a nice timbre to his voice, alone and singing above the sound of the engine, the bone-bursting work, the endless herding of the mind-numbing numbers, adding and subtracting multiplying and dividing, his eighth grade education coming in handy, recording changes in prices inventory orders, constant vigilance constantly enforced, the watchword he watches by, lives by, who owes what, paid what, who canceled what, who who who, writing each who carefully down with very sharp pencils each day, in his big grey cloth covered ledger, because any mistake would most certainly come out of his pocket, so important each who who did, and each who who did not, and each who who keeps constantly changing his order, running months late on a bill, or possibly, God forbid, cheating, and one early starved winter morning, with the trees looking as if they had been sketched by an imbecile, and the sky belted with vast rips and streaks, dark poundings, like great bruises left over from some ferocious midnight battle royal, as he sometimes called such violent explosions, he saw an owl, sitting on a nearby branch, soberly watching him, and when it flew off, its wings chilled him like no winter ever could, but since he had little time in his life to contemplate wings of any kind, he climbed back into his truck, and began driving full speed into the maw of the great oncoming engulfing summer, its heat and smells, fields fertilizer horseshit, the great wet black rug of spongy earth, everywhere underfoot, exploding with aromatic plenitude, after the spring torrents had coursed through it, the Nile overflowing, with the hot days now methodically burying their fire deeper and deeper, gradually inflaming the entire underworld, each minutely rooted entity, stoking its crazed molecular fires, until that day, second, moment arrives, when all things secretive, rooted and hidden, decide to accept their fate, and begin slowly, at first, doggedly moving towards the light, as difficult as water trying to climb a wall, but growing in tenacity, confidence, luck, until finally, with a great sense of abandon, akin to divine madness, they begin rapidly traveling through the darkness, skywards, towards the outstretched hands of the thankful farmers, who, with their fragile dreams suddenly made flesh, and strewn before them like fantastic tapestries, begin encouraging, their beguiling, though, often benighted milkman, to take what he wished home to his family, tomatoes carrots, potatoes eggplants, potatoes, help yourself, Westbury Hempstead Mineola, Manhassett Oyster Bay, help yourself, giant black Angus cattle, lolling great bulls, massive ebony monoliths, strewn across green fields of grass, so smooth and unblemished that he often thought of shooting a little pool there, such sensitive monsters, too big for his house, his world, his children, watching as he drove down Guinea Neck Road, a name he often laughed about, knowing now, that it didn't have anything to do with making fun of Italians, referring as it did to a kind of chicken, though when he first heard it, of course he thought otherwise, squash and corn, corn corn, great heads of lettuce, royal white crowned cauliflower, bunches of purple rubied beets, help yourself, and rhubarb stalks, red and greenish brown and shiny, a spring tonic, he liked to say, good for young and old alike, an armload thrown into a large pot cooked thick and syrupy then sweetened with sugar, your face suddenly tanging up grimacing, the back of your neck shoulders spine shivering ecstatically with each spoon bite, grrrrrrr, and pumpkins in the fall, pumpkins pumpkins huge or midsized or small like babies' heads, becoming pies, others singled out for Jack O'lanterns, to frighten and overpower the night and its denizens, with their fiery eyes, cruel mouths, flaming nostrils, help yourself help yourself, which most times he was glad to do, packing his great brown Bordens' cardboard boxes full of bulging treasure, then home in the evening, along with the eggs and milk cheese, and once a pair of fierce live lobsters, sitting smartly on top a pond of ice, daring one and all to accept their challenge, but he was not happy, the family was of course, as these damp and wondrously bulging boxes were placed upon the kitchen floor for everyone to examine, look at, poke around in, sometimes jumping back in surprise, for instance, discovering two medium sized box turtles staring up at you, not to eat, but to repatriate to the backyard, as pets for the kids, but he was not happy, Elsie the very smiling Cow was very happy, though, and secure in the knowledge of the greatness and purity of the products she delivered to the world, but she was only a cow, knowing only what she was told by her masters, but he was a man, knowing more of the world than some, and one thing clearly, that he was not happy, and even when surrounded by sights he thought beautiful, a double rainbow straddling the great South Bay, even that could not alter his lonely knowledge, nor could a school of bluefish attacking a fishing boat, with everyone laughing wildly, their lines exploding, running and diving every which-away, twisting the circle, curving the square, the once straight line into a vast underwater abracadabra, composed of men and fish, bait lines hooks, blood joy terror and confusion, with some of the more daring and acrobatic warriors, now taking to the air, leaping, pirouetting, then diving back down hard into the ancient green gloom, their home, God's salt factory, unwilling participants trapped in a terrible game, blazing bloody water, electric eyes powered by fear, the immense struggle needed to dislodge, twist away from, break free of, spit out that sliver of steel, yoking them to the air, the sky, their death, they knew, above, but few escaped, the bulk now beginning to appear on deck, in numbers brightly torn from the sea, a great onslaught, gang of wild eyed bandits, desperadoes buccaneers, furiously trying to overpower, outwit outfight, the outnumbered fishermen, a last ditch show of savagery, as brave as any battle pitched, bluefish everywhere, flying through the air, slapping at your face, head arms shirt, hordes deck-dancing around your ankles, surrounding this boy, his son, nine year old, James, trying valiantly to corral a large six seven pounder, holding it down with his sneaker, bending over, yanking at the hook dug deep in its mouth, but be careful, son, the bluefish bites, being equipped with sharply dangerous teeth, this succulent oily scatterbrained fish is as ferocious as anything that swims, and would like very much like to take a piece of your finger for itself, this miniature Moby Dick, twitching with hatred for the hand that's killing it, but soon you're going home triumphant, the raging bluefish reduced to a heap of brainless tailless filets, packed in ice and locked in the trunk, later to be stacked in the freezer, good for many Fridays, but even, with all this joyful sea-madness, this plenitude arrayed around him, he was not happy, the fish being only a distraction, as were the raspberries, those huge bushes of wild raspberries, found on the sides of country roads, monuments, it seemed, to the zany humor and reckless fecundity, sweet good nature of nature, so very often willing to cater to our needs, prickly with heat, buzzing delicate with a sweet redness, jewels, easily squashed, then staining the squasher's hands, hungrily you lick your red-running fingers clean, then begin picking getting, putting taking, stuffing all you can get your hands on into pails, buckets jars cans, your mothers' outstretched apron, a baseball cap, even, not wanting to leave a single berry behind, if possible, but to have them all, later at home in huge bowls with cream or ice cream, all of which made him smile, for a little while, anyway, the greedy joy of children, but even that could not change for long, what had been cast in darkness so long inside him, that shambling fortress of pain and discontent, take eggs for instance, the thousands that he had already delivered, not to mention, those numberless dozens multiplied by the dozens yet to come, his future lot to carry, this fierce rooster, turned ever loving hen, guarding their mysterious fragility, admiring their eccentric versatility, not only to be eaten alone, in one of the basic variations we never tire of, but also, their mysterious ability to enhance enrich, change, and utterly transform the nature of countless foods and dishes, a full list of their miraculous incarnations extending to all the peoples of the world, its chefs, great and humble, laboring in every imaginable circumstance and condition, from five star restaurant to blazing campfire, their accomplishments, beyond human calculation, some of which did not escape him, nor did the fact that these objects, now nesting neatly, safely, in their cardboard cells, were forever being hijacked by men like him, determined to detour them from their primary purpose, which was, of course, the bringing forth of life itself, from the most humble chicken, beak breaking into the blue void, to the great roarers and earth-shakers, the towering dinosaurs themselves, their football sized eggs found in the Gobi Desert, he once read, each egg being non parareil, acting as the embryonic creature's fort cradle, home crucible, simulacrum of its mother's womb, its only heaven, how many did this rough man and his ever-gentle wife carefully hold, while decorating them with colors and stickons, turning their simple white or henhouse brown plainness into Easter's flower-lovely colors when the children were young, sometimes pasting money on them, his innovation and homage to capitalism, a quarter a nickel a dime, a dollar or two, when he was flush, then hiding them around the house, to wait quietly for morning to arrive, with the delighted youngsters leaping from their beds, like little cats, twisting and squealing, darting and turning, trying to out-feint and outfox the other, the fastest the smartest, gets the money, takes the egg, and suddenly the first pulsing shock of exposed color flames, on top a bookshelf, inside a shoe slipper, between the cushions of the couch, behind the drapes, in the corners of a closet, purple green, red pink, bright orange, lavender, mysterious objects, lovely thoughts incarnate with spring, nestled in a vase of white flowers, symbolic of the life to come, if that was your direction or the eternal rebirth of Christ, if you were a believer, the shocking incongruity of it all, though, always expected, never ceasing to seize and amaze, and since they were hard boiled, the very best part would be eating them later when you were hungry, as they so often were, right after breakfast, a good time for rabbit eggs, it seemed, with their father demonstrating his egg smashing technique, smacking each object down firmly on the table, but not hard enough to punish, then rolling it around a few times, until the shell weakens, cracking and wrinkling into a separate skin, easily peeled off, and there it is now, naked, magically transformed from its semi-watery state into a solid object, whole and entire, softly resilient to the feeling of your hand, eminently bouncable, still you manage to resist the urge to throw it down hard on the floor or just heave against the wall to see what happens, instead each one is dosed with a spray of salt, then quickly turned mouthwards, heavenwards and devoured, but still it was not enough, and he was not happy, even if all the eggs in the world, ever born and yet to come, were colored and decorated, some even festooned with money, then heaped into a great rainbow mountain and set in front of his house, still it would not be enough, and he would not be happy.

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Note# EGGS is a story without a beginning or an end. What it is, is a middle. An endless middle. It is based on my father and his job driving a Borden’s milk truck on Long Island in the late 40’s and 50’s. It was a much different place than it is today. More rural, woodsy, in places, laced with dirt roads and dotted with vegetable farms, fields of Black Angus cattle, and polo fields. The very rich still lived there, the Whitneys and Vanderbilts, and their friends. Polo was a favorite past-time. The story is written in an impressionistic, somewhat surreal style in one long sentence. As Ford Madox Ford said, “life does not narrate, but makes impressions on our brains.”