Today I’m going to take a break from the book series kick I’ve been on and share something a little different. New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman is extremely prolific and well-known, specifically in the fantasy and sci-fi genres but surprisingly, all I previously knew about him was that he had written the delightfully creepy, Coraline. I mentioned to my husband that I needed to bring some new books into the rotation, as my son and I were starting to deplete our current reserves. He went on a story search and came back with something I wouldn’t have chosen myself but we thoroughly enjoyed.
Fortunately, The Milk is fantastical tale of one father’s quest to provide milk for his children’s breakfast. When the mother in the story leaves for a short trip, she leaves a long list of reminders for her family, including how many frozen meals had been prepared, the schedule for extracurricular activities, that the plumber is coming on Monday, which neighbors have a spare key to the house and… that the household is nearly out of milk and more would need to be picked up before the next morning.
Honestly, this book could have ended two pages in and I would have believed it implicitly. I’ve only left my home solo overnight on a handful of occasions but I can assure you, the very short role that the mother plays in this story is entirely believable. But this story isn’t about believability, not by a long short. In fact, Fortunately, The Milk thrives on the storyteller’s ability to weave an impossible yarn of why it is that he’s been kept away from home so long in what should have been a quick pop to the shop.
The morning after the mother’s departure begins like so many others that play out across the world each day. Dad comes downstairs and prompts the children to eat their cereal. But they can’t eat their cereal, there’s no milk. For a moment, it seems like he might suggest that they might eat something else but then he realizes that without milk, he won’t be able to have tea. Now that the dairy shortage has become personal, Dad sprints out to the corner store to pick some up.
The children wait and they wait. They assume that he must have run into someone he knows and has lost track of time while catching up. They wait so long that you start to wonder if they’ve missed the start of school when there’s a commotion at the front door and their father walks into the room. When questioned by the children as to what kept him away, he admits that after buying the milk and giving a short greeting to a neighbor, he became aware of a humming noise above his head. When he looked up, he saw a silver disc hovering in the air, which he was subsequently sucked into with a tractor beam. Fortunately, he had put the carton of milk in his pocket before finding himself onboard the mysterious craft.
He’s greeted by a group of green and grumpy folk who immediately insist that they be given control of the entire planet. When Dad refuses, they threaten to bring all of his enemies to the ship to make him miserable until he changes his mind. As he’s planning to tell the green guys that he doesn’t have any enemies, he spots an emergency exit. He lunges for the door just as one of the aliens yells that doing so will let the space-time continuum in. But it was too late for warnings, as the door had been opened and Dad was falling down, down, down.
Again, fortunately he was able to keep a tight grip on the milk, even as he plunged into the sea. Spotted by a gang of pirates, he’s hauled onto their ship and intimidated into joining the crew, lest he be killed. He is adamant that he cannot become a pirate, as he needs to bring milk back to his children for breakfast. Rather than be killed, he offers to walk the plank, mostly because in movies, this is the moment when protagonists are rescued. But surprisingly, Dad has to explain the concept of walking the plank, as these particular pirates have never heard of it!
It’s during this part of the story that Dad is rescued… by a stegosaurus piloting a hot air balloon! And I’m just going to leave it there because I’m only a quarter of the way through recapping this unbelievable yarn of a tale. There’s much more madness in the form of time machines, primitive people who follow a volcano god named Splod, vampires and a galactic police force that happen to be uniformed dinosaurs. You’re better off reading the actual book at this point!
How will the story end? Will the children believe their father? Is this a complete work of fiction or is it possible it really went down this way? But most importantly does the milk survive this epic journey and make it home in time for breakfast? You have to read Fortunately, The Milk to find out!