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Mrs. Pritchett liked to bathe her children in milk.

She preferred to do it Friday mornings, right before her young


ones left for school.

Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Pritchett’s new neighbor, was not aware of


this activity. Weeks had already gone by since she’d moved in.
The only odd thing she had noticed about the Pritchett’s house
was the collection of ugly petunias that adorned the front lawn.

One fine Friday morning, a cold breeze made its way inside Mrs.
Patterson bedroom. It caressed her uncovered body, and slowly
started to head north, until it reached her face. Once the bitter air
spread and dispersed through her forehead, it came back
together and made its way down to her meaty lips, like a snake
slithering towards its prey.

The, she woke. Now, fully lucid, she felt the coldness leave her
lips and reach down towards her navel. This made her body rattle
a bit. She gasped. Mrs. Patterson winced.

She tried to go back to sleep.

She then heard a peculiar sound: it was a loud slish-sloshing


noise, much like the sound of a heavy liquid moving to and fro in
a container. This was followed by infantile-like happy screams.

She made nothing of it, until she heard the same set of noises
again.

She resolved to ignore the racket and enjoy her God-given right
to stay in bed. She fought like hell to defend that right. She
twisted and turned in place, hoping that her futile jerking and
pulling would make all the unpleasantness go away.

Then she heard a shrill scream. Mrs. Patterson lost her breath.
She exhaled once she heard a child’s giggle. This combination of
sounds confused her.

She leapt from her pillow-ridden king size bed and rushed to her
window. She squinted her eyes and moved them from side-to-
side, trying to find the source of those god-awful noises. She
visually probed her neighbor’s house from window to window. She
started with the small one by the front door, until she got to the
one on the far right side of the red brick house, on the second
floor.

She sensed a bit of movement there, in the back of the room.


Then she saw a small head stick out of nowhere. It was a small
longhaired girl, drenched in white liquid. Then coming into view,
at the little girl’s side, was big Mrs. Pritchett, wearing a spotted
black apron over her loose morning bed robe. Then another small
girl appeared. This one was more vigorous than the first. She ran
around and refused to hold still.

Shortly after catching up to the small girl, the mother bound both
of them with her large, strong hands. She began to signal her two
daughters to hold still, while she emptied buckets of pure white
milk on their heads. After five minutes of this, she hoisted up the
two girls, one by one, out of what seemed like a large claw foot
tub.

Then she dried them. Mrs. Patterson was in awe of her neighbor’s
strange activity. As she watched, she felt like a peeping tom of
sorts.

The pitter-patter sound of creamy calcium-rich droplets falling off


the children’s drenched towels, and onto the smooth hardwood
floor, enticed Mrs. Patterson to watch closer.

She leaned her old saggy arms on her splintered mahogany


windowsill. Curiosity was now her warden, and Mrs. Patterson her
prisoner. She had to see more. She opened her window and
placed her head outside, to get a clearer sense of the spectacle’s
sight and sound. She watched the white creamy liquid being
dried off the children, and fantasized of leaving her lonely room,
to join her neighbor’s blissful morning ritual.

Mrs. Patterson began to wander off and float to a younger


yesterday, where milk baths of her own were definitely a
possibility. Then she scowled instinctively, as if to say, never! This
self-reproach softly broke her daydream into pieces. She came to
and found herself still looking through her next-door neighbor’s
window. They were gone.
As soon as she tried to find the two girls and their mother, she
heard the Pritchett’s front door creak open. Mama Pritchett was
shoving her children affectionately to go on and leave for school.
The two small girls left in a hesitant rush, barely making it to the
large yellow bus that had already waited a bit too long for them.

Mrs. Patterson grimaced and left the window. She stood in her
room in silence. She was trying to decide what to do with her
newly acquired information.

She called her friends.

She told them to get ready for an early brunch. The plan was laid
out: they’d meet in three hours, at Mildred Quilty’s house, the
biggest and grandest place there was for gossiping.

Mrs. Patterson was soon conversing about the mega-lumpish Mrs.


Pritchett and her queer milk-bath ritual.

Her two best friends, Mrs. Primrose and Mrs. Quilty, shifted their
large behinds back and forth in their lawn chairs as they listened
to their confidant. They took their hot cups of primrose herbal tea
with both hands, and leaned their elbows in towards their
stomachs. This position indicated to Mrs. Patterson that her
curious friends were ready to hear more, more and more of the
wonders she had to tell.

Far away from these three women, was Mrs. Pritchett, shifting
flour with soda and salt, getting ready to bake her signature
chocolate cake. She stopped to think of her daughters, and
smiled. They’d be home in a few hours, and she’d be there to
receive them with open arms.

And then Mrs. Pritchett went to get the eggs. She cracked one
open, and thought of Mrs. Patterson’s round head. Then she
cracked another egg, and she thought of her neighbor’s little
round body. She smiled to herself as beat the eggs and formed a
yellowish pulp.

Unbeknownst to Mrs. Patterson, a cake was now being prepared


in her honor.
As she sipped her tea and gossiped with friends, her neighbor,
“Witch” Pritchett, as Mrs. Patterson’s friends now called her
unusual neighbor, was busy preparing a scrumptious pastry for
her. You see, Mrs. Patterson had been caught in her
eavesdropping act the moment she stuck her head outside her
bedroom window.

This was now a reality. Both women would meet soon, and the
milk bath would be discussed. But there was more to the milk
bath than the bath itself.

There was the preparation for it, for starters. Mrs. Pritchett would
wake up so early to prepare that strange bath that even her pet
rooster would hiss at her when she’d pass him by and wake him
with her heavy, grunting steps. He’d strut around the roost, and
raise his feathers in a flurry, to show how irked it was that her
master had woken first. She would pass the proud animal and
arrive to the backdoor barn and grab the bucket hanging from a
hook. Then she’d touch the barn’s red wood for luck.

There was also the milking uniform. This was made up of two
things: a tough leather apron and some black rubber boots. With
these things on, she’d hike up the grassy knoll that rear-ended
her home, to head to work. Her large shadow would blanket over
her pretty cottage, and Mrs. Pritchett liked this. It made her
realize that everything somehow always looked quite right from
up there. There, at the top off the grassy knoll, she’d spot a
quaint three-legged stool that’d been in her family for years, and
with this, she’d support her callous behind to comfortably milk
the grazing cows.

She would come back with a full a full two gallons of milk, a
bucket in one hand, and one in the other. Soon, these would be
emptied into the family tub.

The children awake, the milk in its place, and their grand mother
ready to bathe.

This was it.

That was every Friday morning. Right now it was Friday evening,
and Mrs. Pritchett was now standing in front of her neighbor’s
front door, holding a cake with both hands.

She knocked the door.

Mrs. Patterson opened the door with a smile. This soon faded.

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Patterson. She gripped a washing cloth she
had in right hand.

“I’ve brought a cake,” said Mrs. Pritchett.

“So you have.”

“I believe we have not met, dear neighbor,” said Mrs. Pritchett,


“My name is Winifred Pritchett.”

“Lillian Patterson,” replied Mrs. Patterson.

“I bathe my children in milk every Friday morning before school,”


Mrs. Pritchett announced.

“My husband had two belly buttons,” Mrs. Patterson retorted


bluntly.

Both women stood still in silence.

An unprecedented sense of lightness suddenly surfaced in both


women, and they both began to laugh.

“Come in, come in,” said Mrs. Patterson, as she wiped a small
tear from her eye.

As Mrs. Pritchett wiped her feet to enter her new neighbor’s


home, she thought of how nice it was going to be to have a new
friend.