4 min read

A Pool of Milk

I mean, aren’t we all imprisoned by the thing we’re paid to produce?

Previously: The sisters manage to reclaim the extremely sharp sword and try to escape Folly Dairy, but instead end up in the milking-room-slash-gulag of Donna the Magic Cow. Batya uses the sword to free the poor animal, who goes on what I presume is a kill-crazy rampage.

— 43 —

Five minutes later, Batya was handcuffed to a milking machine, Mina to a conveyor belt. One of the Folly guards kept an eye on them while the rest chased after Donna.

“Question, boss,” Mina said.

“Yes?” the guard said.

“Not you. Her. The big girl in charge.”

“What,” Bat muttered, sitting in a pool of milk that was steadily getting deeper, her cuffed wrist dangling painfully above her head.

“Just curious where that sword got to. Lost track of it in all the hubbub.”

Bat’s arm, her hand, her soul—the scabrous remains of it, anyway—they all missed the furious touch of the Harmattan. It was my destiny to wield it, she thought, as did everyone else throughout history who’d wielded it. “Went flying through that wall,” she said. “I assume it’s now slicing through the entire goddamn planet.”

“Hm,” Mina said, and Bat was almost impressed by how she was able to pack a lifetime’s worth of condescension into that one tiny word. “So what’s your plan now?”

“Go to dairy jail, I guess.”

“Yeah, for starters,” the guard said, climbing up on a teetering stack of crates to get away from the rising milk. “I bet you get the chair for attempted assassination of Donna.”

“I freed Donna,” Bat said, giving the guard such an intensely poisonous look that he actually flinched.

“Well, that’s the important thing,” Mina said. “I mean, I don’t remember the cow being part of your plan, but the whole thing was very complicated. I was probably too stupid to understand it.”

“Got that right.”

“But I am pretty sure getting the sword was in there somewhere. Getting the sword and getting two thousand dollars. Not…dropping the sword and not getting two thousand dollars.”

“It was an accident you bimbo.”

“I suppose that’s the problem when a plan has a hundred steps,” Mina mused. “There’s a hundred chances for an accident to happen.”

“So what was your genius plan, genius?”

“Talk to him.”

“Talk to who?”

“Talk to our mark. He knew the sword was in his head. He knew he was going to do something he’d regret. His courtesan knew it, too. You think he was really coming back to that nasty booth again? No way.”

“What, we just had to say hey bucko give us that sword of yours?

“That’s right. If we sat him down, poured some drinks in him, said the right words? That would’ve been it. He would’ve thanked us.”

“Lemme guess, you had all the right words.”

“Of course. This was a therapy job, not a heist. Which you would know if you knew anything about running an outfit. But you don’t.”

“I know one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I know everyone here would be a lot happier if you just shut that huge gaping hole in the middle of your fuckin ugly face.”

“Whoa whoa,” the guard said. “Language, ladies, there’s no need for that.”

“Don’t mind her,” Mina said. “She’s lashing out because she’s embarrassed. She tried to be a big shot and it didn’t work. It’s unfortunate because now no one’s ever going to hire us again, but she insisted and I was nice and supported her dreams.”

Bat glared at her from under the brim of her milkman cap. “It doesn’t matter. I wasn’t ever gonna work with you again anyway.”

“Oh really. What were you going to do? Go solo?”

“Sure why not. Dump the dead weight. Do my own thing without getting bullied by you. Sounds good to me.”

“Do your own thing? What…thing? You don’t have a thing. You’re a flunky. You’re muscle.”

“Keep talking, stupid, see what happens.”

“You’re an animal that’s good at hurting people and that’s it.”

Bat lurched toward her sister, straining as far as her cuffed hand would let her.

“See?” Mina said. “Good thing you’re on that leash.”

Bat sat back down in the milk. She laughed a little.

“What’s so hilarious,” Mina said.

“What’s hilarious is you’re gonna have to go back to working for someone else. You’re gonna have to take orders and eat shit. You won’t have anyone to boss around or blame everything on because I’ll be gone, just like Mom and Pop are gone, who could not wait to be gone from you. You’ll be nobody. Nothing. And you’ll be all alone. Except for the Itch—”

“Batya! You promised—”

“The Itch whispering at you all night long. And I won’t be there to tell her to shut up. And I won’t be there to stop her from making you do your bad things to yourself. And I won’t be there to clean up the mess so you can pretend you never did it. So you can pretend everything is just fine inside that sick broken head of yours.”

Mina stared back at her, unblinking. Then she smiled and nodded.

A deafening moo echoed through the building and Donna came back through the hole and hobbled toward the rear of the factory, lost, disoriented. The guard sprinted after her. Mina took the opportunity to wriggle her lockpicks out from her damp sleeve. She held one in her free hand, the other in her mouth, and went to work on the handcuff until it clicked open.

“Have fun in dairy jail,” she said, getting up, throwing her picks into the milk. “That’s where you belong. In a cage.”

And then she climbed over the rubble and was gone.

Bat shrieked something but who can say what it was, buried amid the shouts of security guards and the roar of spraying milk and the mournful lowing of Donna the Magic Cow as she collapsed onto her side, her flank riddled with tranquilizer darts.


This has been Chapter 43 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

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