Table Twenty-Seven: Joseph Suglia

You are undertaking a pilgrimage through the city of Chicago, your mind recording every sight that you perceive. Much like a Parisian in the mid-nineteenth century who wanders through a city racked, wracked, and wrecked by revolution, you are traversing another city in upheaval, a Midwestern American city, taking snapshots with the camera in your mind.

One block from the Clark Street and North Avenue intersection, rivulets of milk are running toward your feet, lassoing your feet, dampening your shoes. Deluging milk, a deluge of milk. Is the milk curdling? No, the milk is not curdling. What is the source of the milk spill?

See the whitish residue on the overalls of the construction workers. See the firemen with their serpentine hoses, high-powered vacuum hoses that are sucking up the sloshing and slushing milk. The hoses are hooked on to a steel tanker.

The milk level is approximately one inch. The milk is thinning out, spreading out more or less evenly across the tarmac.

The milk is gushing and slushing and sloshing and spattering and splattering from a hole in the middle of a parking lot. Tributaries of milk issue from that milky source.

Creamy and fresh, the milk spills upward in an inverted waterfall, bursting out of the hole, spewing into the air and showering on to the waiting heads of the semi-naked men, women, and children who jerk back their necks, their mouths wide open, catching the falling drops of milk, the ambrosial fluid streaming into their gullets. The milk quickly loses its freshness yet never grows sulfurous.

What happened here? Someone must have creamed a dairy. Some tank, some steel udder, must have ruptured. Perhaps it is a divine lactate. All of the milk, spewing and spouting and surfacing, seems to be squirting from God’s udder.

But the milk is not squirting from God’s udder. The geyser is emanating from an abyss. There, in the middle of a parking lot, a parking lot untenanted by vehicles, there are five firefighters gripping their hoses, hoses that are sucking up the milk. Two police officers, each wearing brown overalls, are wading in the milk. Other police officers, surveying the area, are silently doing nothing. An old priest is watching the milk ripple in the breeze. He is expanding on the expanding pool of milk. Enlarging on the enlarging pool of milky milkiness.

A wizened firefighter stands in the inspissating pool, his eyes skimming the surface of the milk.

(To inspissate = to grow thicker.)

He approaches the milking hole, his arms akimbo and his face clenched. His subordinates, their faces milkily dripping, stare into the milky chasm. They know very well that their work is constantly being undone, constantly being reversed by the propulsive flow of milk.

The police officers stand idle, their uniforms stiff and uncreased, their darting eyes registering the spectacle.

And then there are the children. Children dancing in the spreading puddle of unrancid milk, the edge of the milk pudding puddle widening and streaming and seeping into the sewers. The street, which is blocked off on both sides, resembles a vast lactarium.

(A lactarium is an institution that collects milk.)

As you observe the cataract of milk spurting from the fissure in the parking lot and on to the lactifluous street, you think of summer’s days from your childhood when the firemen would open the valves of the hydrants and release propulsions of water on to the brown and white children. Bubbling, bobbing children.

(Lactifluous = flowing with milk.)

The children are playing in the milk, plashing and splashing about, their arms flapping like porpoise flippers, flopping about like slippery haddock squirming on the deck of a fishing schooner, squirmy and slickened with milk-grease. Happy, flapping children.

One of the firefighters crowbars open a sewer grate, while the others, pushing squeegees and brooms, brush and squeegee the milk into the sewer. One of the police officers remarks that the parking lot must be drained before the milk coagulates. If it is milk. Another ripostes—no, you idiot, of course, it’s not milk—and conjectures that there is no way it could possibly be milk, it must be impure water, water that takes on a milky hue—the entire city is built on a network of canals, conduits, and pumping stations, didn’t you know that, the water is simply impure effluent, nothing more, if it were milk it would have coagulated and rancidified by now, the Department of Water Management has been notified, the problem stems from the Jardine Purification Plant down by Navy Pier, some kind of malfunction, or maybe one duct intersected with another duct, one watercourse intersected with another watercourse, one for the waste and the other for the purified water, both mingled, which means that the water in everyone’s shower probably looks like milk right now, I hope no one is drinking or bathing in this sludge, lawsuits will be filed against the city for sure.

The lacteous flow never stops flowing out of the lactescent hole.

(Lacteous = milky. Lactescent = productive of milk.)

All around you is a creamworld of delights. Everything—the parking lot, the pavement, the street—is emulsified. Shrouded in creamy whiteness. The firefighters are struggling against eddies of unwarm milk. The children are playing in the unwarm milk.

You turn around and see a woman with red hair kneeling on the pavement. She clutches a black rosary in her hands. She is enshrouded in a blue dress and has green feline eyes. Her blue dress is bedraggled in the flood.

She responds to the milk—if that is what it is—with reverence.

The children respond to the milk—if that is what it is—with jubilation.

The firefighters respond to the milk—if that is what it is—with seriousness.

You recognize that the firefighters, the children, and the praying woman are drawn to the milky white substance that ceaselessly issues from the lactiferous center of the milky bower.

(Lactiferous = milk-forming / milk-conveying.)

Milk-streams, whitish milk-fish swimming in yellowing and putrid milk. Rising milk-levels are high now. Bubble and froth.

Spumy milk sauce everywhere. Flooded. The milk-flows flowing into everyone’s basement, clothing weighed down and soggy with milk, milky mist-spray, too much milkiness, too much creamy milkiness in the hair and pores, in the eyes, sloshing down the mouth and slushing into the digestive tract.

Someone cracked open the steel udder, the sterile tank. Ruptured gaskets. Leakage milk-streams trickling, brought to crisis. Milk-fish whitish turned rancid, drain the dairy before the milk coagulates. Who is the daemon, the troll of the dairy?

Smashing. Turning yellow and putrid. Gobbling up the cheesy cheese. Rising milk-levels are high now. Bubble and froth. Spumy milk sauce everywhere. Flooded. The milk-deluges flow into the break room, Styrofoam cups like buoys, five feet high in the production room, bedraggled clothing. Weighed down and sogged with milk, spraying milky mist, lacteous fluidification, there is too much milkiness, too much milkiness in the hair, in the pores, and rushing sloshingly into the cloaca, slushing into the colon. Everywhere, wading through the eddies of unwarm milk, lactogenic hole.

(Lactogenic = creative of milk.)

There is a troll in the dairy. Snapping the pipelines. The overflowing dairy.

Walk over the whitened film that crusts the tar. The crowd is swelling around the parking lot, a parking lot that is cordoned off by yellow police tape. See the milky milk-geyser spouting from the tar.

Everything overflows in your dairy.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia


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