7 min read

Bad Ideas at Folly Dairy

The horrific stench that would irrevocably change all our lives that summer.

Previously: The dairy sword heist begins. Bat’s sewer pipe plan is aborted. Mina accidentally gets a faceful of homemade knockout spray. Bat steals a milkman’s uniform that doesn’t fit. Everything’s fine.

— 41 —

Batya drove the milk truck across the drawbridge and into the dairy and down a steep ramp to a loading dock. Two dozen identical Folly trucks were there, parked in a row, vacant. Bat thought they were in the clear but then a foreman by the freight elevator heaved himself out of a deeply worn wooden chair and waved her over to an open spot.

“Where’s Claudio?” he said through a dense ginger mustache. (Why couldn’t the milkman have had one of those? She probably had a mustache like that somewhere in her duffel bag.)

“Claudio,” she said, stretching out the syllables to buy some time. “Funny story.”

“Funny how.”

“Gosh, where to begin,” she said, mad at herself. She’d come up with an entire character profile for the mannequin but nothing for this. “Classic Claudio. He, uh, had a little incident. Asked me to cover for him.”

“And who are you?”

“Ah. Yes. The name I go by, what they call me is…Denise. My name is Denise. The niece. Claudio’s niece. Uncle Claudio, he—well, as you know, he’s allergic to fruit. All fruit. Every kind. Strawberries…you name it.”

“How about some identification, Miss Denise.”

Bat sighed. “Sure thing,” she said, rummaging through the bag and taking out Philippe’s head and spraying it in his face.

She thought of two million better stories as she dragged the foreman’s limp body around the truck and flung it into the back with his coworker.

“How’s this cool heist going?” Mina slurred, crawling out.

“You’ll be glad to know you’re still the best actor in the family,” Bat said, mentally running though the blueprint from the County Clerk’s office. She pointed to a set of doors next to the elevator. “That way.”

They hustled up a flight of stairs and Bat cracked open a door and saw they were on the mezzanine level, overlooking a vast indoor pasture. Rolling hills, white picket fences, a barn, a tree with a tire swing, a crick with a waterwheel, and a herd of fat happy cows.

This pasture and its adjoining suite of cattle sheds were completely contained within the building’s atrium, sealed off from the outside world. Which meant there was an odor.

The sisters stumbled back into the stairwell, their faces stretched into rictuses of disgust. It was thick and dense, this stench, a physical thing, an entity that assaulted their noses, yes, but it also clogged their sinuses and set up shop in the vitreous chambers behind their eyes and permeated the folds of their cerebral cortices, infecting their very thoughts—which cried out, This cannot be possible! This cannot be permitted!—and then suffocated their mortal souls, forever consigning them to an inferno woven from an infinite fractal of cow reek.

“Mother of clunge,” Mina wheezed.

They took a moment there on the landing, holding each other. “The Smell is our life now,” Bat said, tears rolling down her face. “I can’t remember a time before the Smell.”

“Do I look different to you?” Mina asked. “My innocence was taken from me this day.”

Bat wiped her eyes, gathered herself, took another peek at the atrium. “OK. Hold it together. Bottling is up on the third floor and the offices are on four. And we’ve got patrols there, and there, and over there.”

“Poor bastards,” Mina said. “Every day they have to clip on a tie and come guard the butthole factory.”

Bat took a big whiff. “I think I’m starting to like it.”

Bat decided the safest route to the fourth floor was the northern elevator. She ordered Mina to hit the call button while she camouflaged herself within a fake potted plant. The doors slid open and sure enough a security guard was in there but Mina did this unbelievable move where she instantly collapsed to the floor and kind of bent backward into herself and rolled behind the plant without being seen.

After the guard hurried—sprinted, really—to the men’s room, Bat seized her sister. “That was disgusting! How did you do it.”

“I don’t know, instinct took over.”

“It was like your bones skipped town.”

“I think between your knockout spray and the Smell, my body is devolving into some kind of primordial slime.”

“Keep it up and the Nice Job Award is all yours.”

Mina crossed her fingers—a little more sarcastically than Bat would’ve liked—and then they rode the elevator up to the offices. They weren’t what they expected. No rooms or walls or partitions, just a vast warren of private booths. The booths looked to be made of mahogany, maybe seven feet in all directions, a door built into one side, a little cupola up top for ventilation.

“Which one?” Mina whispered. The room was in half-darkness. It looked like the workforce had clocked out hours ago.

“The one with a magic sword in it,” Bat said. “Does it smell even worse in here?”

“I think they’re piping in fake pine scent to cover up the shit?”

Bat flapped her billowy stolen shirt in a vain attempt to air out her personal space and the binder clips went flying. “There are a lot of bad ideas at Folly Dairy,” she said, getting a closer look at one of the booths. “At least they have names on the doors.”

They wended through the room, feeling like they were walking a cemetery, glancing at name after name. Bat was about to complain about them not being in alphabetical order when Mina touched her lightly on her (aching, bruised) shoulder. She put a finger to her lips, then her ear.

Bat listened, heard nothing, then heard a rhythmic sound coming from somewhere. They padded toward it, pinpointing the noise to a booth in the center of the labyrinth. Bat checked the nameplate and sure enough: FRICO 197G. They silently took position kitty-corner from the booth and hunkered down. The thudding continued. With her left hand, Bat made a ring with her index finger and thumb, into which she repeatedly thrust the index finger of her right hand. Mina nodded.

Eventually, the sound stopped and all was silent except the humming of heavy machinery on the floor below, and some distant mooing. Then the booth’s door swung open, spilling lamplight out into the murky office. A man in a herringbone suit stepped out and leaned against the jamb. From inside, someone said, “You feel it too, yes?”

“Yeah,” the man said.

Bat realized this was Mason from White Clinic, recognizing his husky voice from the wiretap. And that was Kiepper Frico back in the booth. She started getting those voyeur tingles.

“And how does it feel?” Kiepper said, almost inaudible.


“Bad?” Kiepper said, sounding disappointed. “Bad how.”

Mason lit a cigarette, looked at it, then looked at nothing. “I was a bully when I was a boy. Mostly I just said mean things, I knew the mean things to say that would make kids cry. It was easy. And I told myself it was something they needed to hear. I was doing them a favor, making fun of their parents getting a divorce or whatever. Toughening them up. It was just words, who cares. But one time there was this kid, Jackie or…Jeff, I don’t know, he was nice to me, nice to everyone. We were on the ladder of the slide, waiting our turn, and as he climbed up to the top he lost his balance for a second. And I decided to push him. I didn’t even decide it, really, I just shoved him and he fell. He had to go to the hospital. He had a clavicle fracture and an ulnar shaft fracture. I don’t remember his name or what he looked like but I remember those words, the names of the injuries. And I remember what it felt like when I did it, when I gave him those fractures.”

“You liked it.”


Bat didn’t move but felt a surge of empathy clench her guts.

“But it wasn’t just that,” Mason said. “It was that I was supposed to do it. It was the right thing to do.”

Yeah, Bat thought. Yes.

Then Kiepper came up behind Mason in the doorway. “And you liked that as well.”

Mason glanced back at him, then flicked his cigarette off into the darkness. “No,” he said. “I didn’t like it at all.”

Kiepper glowered. “Again tomorrow?”

“It’s your money.” Mason turned and gave him a perfunctory kiss, then disappeared into the maze.

Kiepper returned to his booth. It sounded like he was gathering up scraps of paper and zipping them up in a bag. This was followed by—according to Bat’s guesstimate—six minutes of silence. Finally, she heard him say: “He will like it.” Then: “He will like you.”

He switched off a light, exited the booth, slung a bag over his shoulder, closed the door, locked it, walked toward the elevator. The sisters gave him ten minutes. While they waited, Mina picked up Mason’s discarded cigarette, which had almost hit her in the face, and took a few puffs.

“Clear,” Bat said. “Move, and watch your six.”

“You are so embarrassing,” Mina said, crouching down by the booth door and going to work with her lockpicks. Thirty seconds later, a nice smooth click.

“I order you to teach me how to do that,” Bat said.

“With those meathooks?” Mina said, opening the door. She cringed. “Mm, now it smells like cow and pine and fucking.”

Bat elbowed past her and scoped out the cubicle: a little desk, a little chair, a telephone with more than the usual number of dials, slots for ingoing and outgoing messages. And on the wall opposite the door, hanging from a hook, was a black scimitar. “Hey look it’s two thousand bucks,” she said, taking down the sword and hefting it.

“Is it heavy?” Mina said.

“No. But the handle’s hot.”


“All righty, Phase IV of the plan begins now. Let’s book.”

They started for the freight elevator. Bat tripped over a little wrinkle in the carpet and dropped the sword. It sliced right through the floor and vanished.

“Um,” Bat said.


This has been Chapter 41 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

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