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Laura, Toucan Editrice

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Piece of the Week, Milk, Shawn Sullivan

So, when we read this piece, we realized this appeared to be an accurate depiction of Toucan staff meetings. Therefore, we had to share it with you so you knew what you were getting into.

The summer issue is getting put together slowly. Hopefully it will be online on time, but it comes out a day late or so, you won't get your digital pitchforks in the air, would you? Please say you won't.

Also, apologies for not being amusing last week in our POW post. It just seemed more important to get the work up there rather than think of something clever to say. And if you're wondering why this post is so damn early, well, the Editrices are both romantically preoccupied yet again. Sigh. We need a single intern, just so we can keep to our schedules for everything. But it's OK, because we love you all.

Sam is sitting in his office and putting the finishing touches on his presentation when Peter comes into the room and eases into the chair next to his desk.


by Shawn P. Sullivan

“How’s the Sweckman account coming along?” Sam asks.

“Getting there,” Peter replies. “Tobey’s riding me pretty hard about it.”

Sam smiles and snorts. He knows how Tobey can be and is glad he works in a different department.

“You’ll finish it,” Sam says. “You almost always do.”

Peter shifts in his seat, looks down at the floor and concentrates. A few moments pass, and he decides to speak.

“Sam, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for a couple of days now, but I’ve been putting it off.”

Sam glances at Peter, takes off his glasses and leans back in his swivel chair.

“Shoot, buddy,” he says.

After a slight pause, Peter turns to Sam and asks, “Do you like milk?”

Sam meets Peter’s gaze. “Milk?”

“Yes. Milk.”

“Well . . .” Sam stalls, thinks a bit, and decides how to phrase his answer. “I do. Yes.”

Peter nods. “We’re talking about a cup of milk here. Or a glass.”


Peter processes this exchange and keeps his face unreadable, almost solemn.

“So you’re saying you sit there, say, on your couch at home, and enjoy a glass of milk.”

“Well, no, I won’t do that. I like my milk cold. If I were to sit there on my couch and nurse it, it’d get warm. I don’t like that.”

“So how do you drink it?”

“I tend to pour myself a glass and finish it quickly. Maybe even just stand there in the kitchen and drink it.”

“I see.”

“Sometimes, if my wife’s not around, I’ll just drink it out of the carton,” Sam says. “But that’s only if my wife’s not around.”

Peter nods. The clock ticks on the wall. Outside, an old man in red-and-black-checkered flannel carries a bag of groceries past the office window.

Sam goes with the silence but decides to break it after thirty seconds or so.

“You know what I really like?” he asks. “I like a glass of milk with cake. A piece of cake, with a scoop of ice cream off to the side. It has to be in a bowl, though, because I don’t like it when the ice cream slides around on a plate. I like to eat cake, and then afterwards I need something to wash it down. Milk’s good for that.”

Peter frowns and rearranges himself in his chair. “You’re getting off topic. That’s not what we’re talking about. The subject is milk. Just milk.”

Sam nods to convey an understanding.

“What kind of milk do you prefer?” Peter asks.

“Oh, maybe it’s the kid in me, but I like chocolate milk,” Sam answers. “Strawberry’s nice once in a while. But yeah, chocolate.”

“But you’re complicating the issue.”

“I like two percent, then,” Sam replies, chastened. “There’s a good balance there. Whole is too thick, and skim is too watered down. You?”

Peter ignores the question. “What about the expiration date?” he asks.

“What about it?”

“Do you take it literally? Or will you drink the milk if a few days have passed?”

Sam considers this. “I can give it maybe two days. Three, tops. I’ll smell it first, and then make a decision.”

“So you don’t push it?” Peter asks.

“No. I think the expiration date’s there for a reason.”

Peter smiles, faintly. He raps the top of Sam’s desk a few times in a gesture meant to suggest, “Time to get back to work.” He gets up from his seat, and walks to the door.
“Thanks,” he tells Sam.

“No problem,” Sam says.

As Peter turns and walks down the hall back to his desk, Sam calls out and wishes him luck with the Sweckman account.

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