Today, and for the next three Saturdays up until Christmas, we want you to sit down and put your feet up and read some fun fiction by our own Pen-Pushing Pisky, Romeo Kennedy. Today's tale has a spooky supernatural twist but is guaranteed Lactose Free...
It was the final straw.
Mr Poldeen arrived, once again, at his local shop only to find that they had no milk, no butter and certainly no cheese.
He had to hand it to the local “convenience” shop though, they always had an excuse ready and waiting. They ranged from the implausible to absolutely absurd,
“The refrigerator has blown up,” “Sorry sir, but only the bottles arrived ... Minus the milk,”
“You won’t believe this, Mr Poldeen, but the milk was on its way and then a herd of bandit cows intercepted them, and turns out that they decided that they wanted it back.”
And, of course the most simple but albeit frustrating situation, “Sorry sir, but we have just run out.”
So, in the midst of one of Mr Poldeen’s long winded ranting conversations with the elderly but albeit rather nosey neighbour, Mrs Treloar, she gave a most sensible suggestion ...
“Why don’t you just get it delivered? That’s how I do it.”
Now, dear reader, it would be fair to say that Mr Poldeen was quite partial to a rant. And that would be putting it mildly.
His favorite subject of which to rant about was the past, and despite being born in the late fifties, Mr Poldeen was that curious sort of British citizen that had become somewhat afflicted with the preposterous notion that he had lived through WW2.
If one was to be a fly-on-the-wall during his rants, and they would hear such phrases as, “That’s how we did it in the war,” and his personal favorite,
“We had nothing like that during the blitz”
Furthermore, dear reader, if one was to witness one of these innumerable rants, they would hear other such choice phrases as, “We had it better in my day,” which also clashed with, “Things were tougher back then.”
What a capital idea going back to the old ways, he thought, and none of this faffing around, with online nonsense, and that poor excuse for a local shop.
Now, it wasn’t to say that Mr Poldeen was shocked at this revelation of a solution to his milk problem, it was more like that Ah sound, you know, like when you discover that the two pence coin in your pocket is actually a ten pence or you realize that your glasses were on your head the whole time you were looking for them.
A peculiar thought suddenly occurred to Mr Poldeen not long after he said cheerio to Mrs Treloar, whatever actually happened to the milkman?
Obviously there was more than one, it wasn’t as if there a daily dairy equivalent to Santa Claus, but thinking on it he hadn’t heard that familiar whirr of a milk-float ... Since he was a child?
Yes, of course, it had to be then. He distinctly remembered his parents leaving the empty bottles out at night with the money just in top.
Of course, when he was in school (oh, so many years ago) the milkman (or men), were at the center of some rather salaciously ribald gossip in the schoolyard, regarding people’s parentage.
He remembered that the whole class was held in detention due to someone graffiti-ing “A Conspiracy of Milkmen” in bright red letters in the boys’ bathroom.
Turned out it was the English teacher.
He would do as his parents did, thanks to the spare business card that Mrs Treloar had given him.
On a bright blue card it was written:
He blinked and squinted his eyes, but sure enough that was definitely his name on the business card that his neighbour had just handed him.
Why on earth did Mrs Treloar have a business card with his name? Did she have one for all the neighbours?
Mrs Treloar was nothing if not efficient at snooping at those whom lived near to her. Maybe she wanted to help the community after seeing their displeasure with the local shop.
When James Poldeen arrived home he attached the business card to the fridge along with the pizza menu’s and other takeaway minutiae.
“Milk & Beyond The Impossible?” He said out loud. What on earth does that mean? He thought, surely not thinking it to be taken literally.
No, that would of course be preposterous. It probably meant things like bread and orange juice.
Even so, it was really overdoing things in the hyperbole department.
Nevertheless, he picked up the phone and then suddenly noticed that there was no number on the card. This was slowly becoming more of a hassle than he cared for.
He decided to phone Mrs Treloar and see if she had the number. She wasn’t in so he left a message on her answer-phone.
He never received a reply, but that next morning he heard the distinct sound of milk bottles clinking as they were placed on his doorstep.
Surely not! He thought, there was no way they could possibly know his milk preference or how much he requires.
Unless of course, Mrs Treloar had once again informed them of this. Or it was a mistake. Had to be the latter didn’t it. Had to be.
With a level of trepidation he creaked open the front door, and sure enough, there was one bottle of whole milk, for his cereal, and one bottle of semi-skimmed for his coffee and tea.
As he knelt down he heard that memorable sound of a milk-float whirring away.
Wearing his faded red slippers and plaid dressing-gown he chased the milkfloat down the street.
A middle-aged man running across Fairfield Road chasing a milk wagon that had as much speed as an early Sunday morning drunk returning home from a rather eventful bender-
It was not a scene that would be replicated in any way shape or form in a Hollywood action movie-
Breathless and sweating he caught up to the milk-float, and his eyes glanced over the same writing as was written on the business card.
The milkman noticed Mr Poldeen, stopping the vehicle and got out to the face his now quite fatigued customer,
“Is everything all right sir?”
It took James a few seconds to catch a little breath, enough to string a sentence together at least,
“...Y-yes ... I just ... Wanted to know, how you knew? There was no number on ... The card.”
The milkman smiled,
“It is our business to know what all of our customers require, and it is our business to provide our customers with the best possible service.”
Mr Poldeen didn’t know what to say in reply, and as he tried to think of a counter argument, the milkman smiled, doffed his blue hat and returned to his rounds.
It was only when the float was halfway down the hill did James think of what to say,
“But I didn’t even know what I needed!”
This was perplexing indeed. And as all good people know perplexing situations need simple things like a sit down and a large mug of tea.
Mr Poldeen spent most of the day hypothesizing why the M&BtI company knew what he wanted before he did.
Then there was the business card with his name already on it.
He retrieved it from the fridge and examined it. Maybe it was bugged? Hidden camera perhaps?
This was not how he remembered the old days of milkmen and fresh dairy products on your doorstep in the morning.
Seemed like nowadays the future had to always sneak up on the past and pounce with their apps and digital ... Everything.
In that moment, staring at the piece of blue card, James Poldeen was angry.
He was angry with how things changed and the future. What ever happened to the weights and measurements that were overly complicated, old money that made no sense, and a world where not everything was on an app.
“Things are not what they used to be.” He said to no one in particular and then waving the small blue card around he let out a somewhat rather foolish outburst.
“Well, God! I hope you’re happy with the future and all the changes!”
The very next morning he awoke to that familiar sound of glass bottles clinking on the step.
Not wanting to make a further fool of himself and chase the milkman down again he reluctantly accepted the bottle of whole and the semi-skimmed.
Although this morning his milk came with a note.
Dear Mr Poldeen,
We send our sincere apologies as God could not make it today,
However she has instructed us to forward her reply to you.
Dear Mr James Poldeen of Fairfield,
Yes, I am happy, but myself and all other Gods of the universe all agree that there is always more to be done especially on Earth.
Many thanks for your question as to my wellbeing though.
I hope you yourself are well also ... Actually, what am I even saying, I already know the answer to that.
(Yes, that God.)
P.S Make sure you take your washing off the line later. It’s going to be a wet one
James peeled his glasses off his face forgetting to shut his mouth.
Of course, if anyone were passing and peered through the window at that precise moment, with their keen eyes they would have noticed that Mr Poldeen of Fairfield Road had a face that resembled something akin to a very angry jar of strawberry jam.
“How dare they!” He yelled.
Someone must have been listening to him, and he knew exactly who the culprit was.
That bloody milk company, he thought.
He knew of course what to do. It was the best plan of attack in these sorts of situations.
Oh yes, they would rue the day Mrs Treloar ever passed him their business card. He would make them pay for this most heinous intrusion on his private life. It was time for ...
A stern letter.
Yes, the biro was out and the paper primed and ready to face the wrath of Mr Poldeen’s angry pen.
A stern letter was like polite napalm, in that it would cause a sort of pinkish outrage if administered properly.
As far as he was concerned, nothing could beat good old fashioned pen and paper.
He smiled, as his pen scratched across the fresh white paper.
Looking around Mr Poldeen’s home anyone with a keen eye would notice the absence of modernity.
No computer, no wi-fi, no smart phone. So there would be major consequences if the so-called future had somehow infiltrated his space and bugged his house in the guise of a milk delivery company.
A thought occurred to him, was it the government? Were they on to him?
Was it regarding the time that he purposely scratched that expensive car with his keys or the time he didn’t return tat overdue library book? In his defense though that car had been blocking his driveway and that book was terrible.
No, he was letting his imagination get the better of him.
Before Mr Poldeen went to bed that evening, he left the stern letter in the top of one of the empty milk bottles, grinning to himself, and in the other was a small slip of paper, which stated
“No Milk Today” in capital letters. With red pen.
Oh yes, on his journey up the stairs that night, he was sure that the M&BtI Co were going to have a pretty bad day tomorrow. After all, it was their own fault, they should never have crossed old Mr Poldeen.
“And if a strongly worded letter doesn’t sort them out, I will eat my hat!” He bellowed on the way to bed.
The next morning Mr Poldeen woke not to sound of milk bottles clinking on his doorstep but the cheery sound of birds singing.
Walking to the kitchen Mr Poldeen certainly had a spring in his step.
Yes, he felt better today. All that silliness yesterday was very unlike him indeed.
As he collected the paper (which yet again had been ripped by the paperboy jamming it into the letterbox. However this did this not sway his mood), He opened the front door, just to make sure that the M&BtI Co. had taken his letter.
Looking at the front doorstep, he could clearly see that, yes indeed the empties had been taken, but a white envelop remained (This eventuality, did not so much sway his mood but rather tilted it.)
Picking it up from the ground, it looked like it was the exact same letter, and those eavesdropping bastards were going to just ignore him. How dare they! He thought.
However, when closely inspected, he saw that is was addressed to him.
He could feel his blood pressure returning to some semblance of normal.
“That was unbelievably quick” He said, as he shut the door walked through the corridor to the kitchen and sat down at the table.
He tore open the envelop knowing that this reply was only going to be a receipt of his letter of complaint.
But as he unfolded the crisp paper, he could see that this was far more than a simple acknowledgement letter.
Dear Mr Poldeen,
We are sorry to hear that you are unsatisfied with our provided service.
(Bite, bite, rip, chew, chew, chew, swallow.)
We can assure you that we are not in the business of causing upset to our valued customers, but rest assured we will do our very best to rectify this situation posthaste.
As an apology we at Milk & Beyond the Impossible have enclosed a voucher entitling you to your next order of milk for free.
Thank you for continuing to use our company
Have a good day
And enjoy your breakfast.
(Bite, bite, rip, chew, chew, chew, swallow.)
CEO Mr P. A. Steurize.
“Poppycock!” Said Mr Poldeen.
What a load of nonsense. This by far does not get to the crux of the issue. This is just poor taste. It is appeasement by a large corporation that believes in spying on the populace.
He would of course go further. This was not the last they would hear his name.
Staring at the letter he said,
“You’ve more chance of finding a talking, forgetful elephant than me letting this drop this matter.”
Discarding the letter on the kitchen table next to the half eaten hat, he paused.
Hang on ... Was that? Yes, it was unmistakable. Heartburn.
Must have been the hat he had eaten for breakfast. Anyway, he needed to think on how he would need to proceed with this situation he was entangled with.
This was all Mrs Treloar’s fault of course. Why couldn’t she have suggested a much more reputable company to deliver his milk?
No, the next thing sensible thing to do was to contact his M.P and inform him of the current battle he was up against and if that didn’t work he would go to the press.
He could see it now all the headlines on the national newspapers would be discussing the scandal of the impropriety of M&BtI Co and he would be lauded as a hero of the people for bringing it to their attention. Perhaps then milk delivery could go back to being normal, good, and proper. And that was just for starters.
But for the time being he wasn’t going to let those free vouchers go to waste. That would just be rude.
The next morning there was no delivery.
He had clearly left the first of his vouchers out in the empty bottles the previous evening. But there they still stood, with the voucher rolled inside the top.
“Milk and Beyond the Impossible! Preposterous!” he said, “Can’t even bring me my milk when I WANT IT!”
He slammed his fist on the kitchen table.
“Beyond the impossible. More like, being damned impossible.
"How difficult is it to deliver a man his milk in the morning! It’s not as if I’m asking for much. Beyond the imposs-”
Mr Poldeen stopped in his mid-rant tracks when the doorbell rang.
“Who could that be?” He said out loud, whilst trying to use the who’s-behind-the-door-telepathy as is the proper British thing do when one’s door bell and or telephone is ringing, before coming to the sensible conclusion and actually taking a look for one’s self, which eventually Mr Poldeen did.
It was the milk.
At least, it was the milk but with an added extra, which by now dear reader, you have probably already guessed what it is. You clever lot.
There the milkman stood with one pint of whole and one pint of semi-skimmed, and stood next to the elephant was the milkman. Or rather, stood next to the milkman was an elephant.
“Apologies sir, we forgot about your house” said the elephant, looking rather smart in its M&BtI uniform.
“Yes, apologies. My colleague here forgot to load the milk on the float on this fine morn.” Said the milkman. Not the elephant milkman. The oth- Oh you get the picture.
Mr Poldeen scouted for any hint that someone was watching. That this was all one big prank. Was there a television crew filming his reaction? He wasn’t sure.
Taking the milk with caution, he nodded a thank-you to the milkman and the milkman’s large mammalian assistant, who doffed his smart blue cap at Mr Poldeen. A very polite elephant indeed, thought Mr Poldeen.
As he shut the door, Mr James Poldeen, pinched his self. Surely he had eaten something that had made him feel ... Out of sorts. Did he really just have an elephant apologize for being forgetful to him?
After much pondering, Mr James Poldeen had now really had enough. They were making a mockery of him and his lifestyle. He was beyond certain that he was the subject of a ... Modernized candid camera show.
Yes, that had to be it. There was no company called M&BtI there couldn’t be. They were having a joke at his expense.
Well, that was it. This had gone beyond stern letters. Oh yes indeed, there would be no more of that.
It was time for ... An irate phone-call. In which one demands to speak to anyone higher than the person they are talking to in order to get crosser and crosser, whilst waiting on hold and listening to popular music of the top 40 charts.
He would have to ring direct inquiries of course but that didn’t matter. It was desperate times in the Poldeen house. Desperate times indeed.
There was no problem getting the number for M&BtI.
The phone rang and went straight to the next infuriating hurdle. The automated system.
“Thank you for calling M&BtI. Your call is important to us. Please press One for more information. Press two for customer service. Press three if you are interested in upgrading to our celestial dairy range. Press four if you want to find out more about our products across all dimensions, and Press five if there is a problem with your order.”
Mr Poldeen thought on it for a few moments, before choosing option two.
“You have selected ... Option two. Is this correct?” It said,
And Mr Poldeen said “yes” more loudly than was necessary.
“Please be advised that all calls are recorded by the ethereal spirits of the Farlands and are written on the eaves of the annals of time past, present, and future ... You are... first and a half. In the queue. Your call is important to us.”
Then came the overly cheery popular music from the top 40 charts. Finally a voice on the other end spoke in a robotic tone.
“Hello. Thank you for calling Milk & Beyond the Impossible, where we go beyond the impossible to achieve a satisfactory service for all of our customers. My name Is Kal21 how can I help you today?
Great another automated system, thought Mr Poldeen.
“Yes ... Hello. I would like to make a complaint please.”
There was silence on the line for a few moments as if the machine on the other end was searching through the algorithms for the correct response to this.
“I’m sorry to hear that sir. Can I ask what the nature of your complaint is?”
Mr Poldeen then went on to complain at how he believed that the M&BtI Co had been spying on him and were making a mockery of him and how it was never like this in the old days. His rant was quite detailed about this latter point, which is not a surprise, and even included a few expletive words that shouldn’t be heard when one is in polite company.
Then Kal21 responded,
“Sir, I can assure you. No is making a mockery of you at M&BtI. We truly go the extra mile to bring you your daily dairy and anything else that you require to the highest standard. You are a valued customer.”
At this response Mr Poldeen shook his head in disgust.
“No, you are intruding on my privacy leaving ridiculous notes, and having your staff dress up as large mammals to mock me.”
More silence. Did he have them against the ropes, so to speak? He smirked to himself.
“Just let me look at your order history sir... It says here that you have ordered a deity but one was not available at the time so we managed to get you a replacement product. Is this what you are upset about sir?”
“No, no, no. I am upset because my privacy has not respected by yourselves.”
“It also says here that you ordered your own hat for breakfast? Is this what you are upset about sir?”
Mr Poldeen felt his blood rise. He never would do such a thing as this. They were going too far now.
“Now, hang on a minute.”
Kal21 should have realized by now that the phrase “Now, hang on a minute.” Meant that Mr Poldeen was reaching higher levels of indignation and outrage. Enough was enough it was time to climb the ladder of personnel.
“I’d like to speak to your supervisor please.” He said with a curt tongue.
“Of course, Mr Poldeen. Please hold.”
Another top 40 hit. And a few minutes later another voice on the line.
“Hello, Mr James Poldeen?”
This voice sounded nothing like the last, but was soothing, and quite melodic almost as if it had a quality to lure passing sailors at sea
“Yes, this is he.”
“My name is Adrina and my colleague informs me that you are not satisfied with your recent orders. Perhaps I can help you resolve this situation.” The supervisor said in a voice that was indeed melodic but carried an incongruous hint of calming lament and quite possibly a portent of doom.
“No. No. No! It is nothing to do with my order. It is to do with the Milk & Beyond the Impossible Co taking advantage of me, and my privacy and making a fool out of me.”
That silence again.
“I’m sorry to hear that sir. It says here that you have a written a letter of which we have made a response along with complimentary vouchers. Is this not to your satisfaction, sir?”
Mr Poldeen was now standing in his kitchen rubbing his pate with his free hand.
“No! For goodness sake. You bloody people. You think complimentary vouchers balm the slight that you have made against me? You are more foolish than I thought. You are listening to my private conversations and mock me. How is that providing a good service. How? All I WANT is to order my milk and have my privacy respected. Now, what are you going to do about it?”
There was silence for a minute or so ... Then ...
Mr Poldeen managed to restrain himself from flinging the phone across the kitchen. It looked like he was about to go higher with the personnel. When they eventually took him off hold he was going to ask for the manager. However he needn’t have bothered because yet another voice sounded on the other end of the phone. A voice that sounded like a recording of a roaring bear being played backwards
“Mr Poldeen, This Is Häxentooth Soulgargler, from regional management,
It seems that you are not happy with your recent orders. Tell me are you using the order system correctly. Many first time customers seem to have problems with our operating system. Would you like me to send you a pamphlet on how to order your M&BtI products?”
“No. For bloody hell's sake. You’re taking the piss now. Listen here you. I WILL NOT! Be made a fool. You have pissed me around for too long, I don’t want a bloody pamphlet.”
“No need for bad language Mr Poldeen.” Häxentooth said, “It’s quite simple really. The blue card is how you place your order, you simply speak your order into the card and then it will be logged onto our system. Perhaps if you are struggling with this, you would like to download our ordering app? It’s now even easier to order our best and your favourite products. At the touch of a button.”
That was it. Mr Poldeen had really had it! His face was a burning red, as he screamed down the phone.
“I DON’T WANT YOUR APPS. I WANT THINGS HOW THEY WERE BEFORE. I DON’T WANT CHANGE. I DON’T WANT MODERN CLAPTRAP! I JUST WANT MY BLOODY MILK ORDER IN A TIMELY AND ORDERLY FASHION ... THINGS WERE BETTER BACK IN THE OLD DAYS. I WANT, ... I WANT! ... TO LIVE IN THE BLOODY PAST!”
“Absolutely sir.” Replied the unsettling voice of Häxentooth Soulgargler,
“Thank-you for calling M&BtI. We hope you have a bright and dairy day.”
By jove, he did it. He really did it.
Mr James Poldeen did it. He showed those piss-taking buggers what for.
He felt as light as a feather, and free as a bird. A weight had been lifted. He would of course just go back to the way things were before. But that was okay.
A celebration was in order, yes indeed. A cup of tea and a slice of cake.
He wasn’t even angry at old gossiping Mrs Treloar anymore. Mr Poldeen had won. Against all odds.
That evening he went to bed feeling very pleased with himself and a knowing that he wouldn’t have to deal with any of this nonsense in the morning.
Mrs Treloar walked up the path of her neighbour’s house the very next morning.
She was a concerned neighbor after all.
And all that ranting and raving coming from Mr James Poldeen’s house yesterday was enough to be concerned about.
So much so that it even required a few phone calls around the village just to see if anyone had the scoop on what was going on next door.
“Honestly, Sylvia,” She said to her friend over the telephone, and not just any telephone at that, a top of the range smartphone with all the bits and pieces to keep Mrs Treloar informed and up to date with all goings on.
“It sounded like he was murdering some poor bugger in there. I had a good mind to call the police. Anyhow, I’ll leave you get on. I’m ringing the doorbell now..Ta-ta.” Pressing the doorbell, she waited on the step.
No milk today, she thought, as she looked down at the step noticing the absence of a wet step from perspiring bottles delivered that morning.
After waiting a few minutes on the step and with no answer, she did the next best thing which was try to see if she could take a peep through any of the downstairs windows.
You know, just to be on the safe side.
Moving round to the back of the house, she held onto the back door handle, you know, for balance.
And would you believe it, dear reader?
The door was unlocked and just like that clicked open.
“Hello?” She shouted, “The door was open. Mr Poldeen? Are you home? Is everything alright?”
With her keen eyes, she looked around the kitchen. Which of course she knew to be the hub of all Mr Poldeen’s daily activities. And noticed that there was yesterday’s paper opened and also a mug of cold tea and a slice of cake.
She looked by the front door, and saw that his shoes were still there too.
It was like that story, the Mary Celeste.
A flick through the phonebook to call a few of his friends and family was unfruitful too.
How perplexing, where could he have gone?
There was nothing for it, she would have to call the police and inform them of this immediately.
With nothing more to do Mrs Treloar took the spare key off the rack and locked Mr Poldeen’s house before she herself returned home to think more on it all. Or to put it another way, making sure that social media knew what was going on as well.
At around lunchtime on that very same day, an email was sent to Mrs Treloar from the Milk & Beyond the Impossible Company.
It read ...
Dear Valued Customer,
We regret to inform you that we will be having difficulty in processing your upcoming orders over the next few days due to a technological system failure.
We are not overly sure to when this might occur but we know that it might put some delay in regards to your orders over the next few weeks.
We ask for your patience, and we aim to rectify this situation as quickly as possible.
As of now, we at M&BtI Co are asking for a service recall for Time Travel orders due to a slight technical hitch
We regret to inform you that in the future this order will not be possible to request and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Rest assured, your service will continue to be most satisfactory and our aim is to always go beyond the impossible for you.
CEO. Mr P. A. Steurize
Mrs Treloar took off her reading glasses, and sipped at her tea.
“I wonder...” She said.
Could this all be coincidence? Of course not. A curious and inquiring mind such as old Mrs Treloar didn’t believe in coincidences. There could only be one solution.
With a click of the keyboard she was online surfing the web looking for any sort of hint as to the whereabouts of her neighbour.
She typed the name and searched all sorts of Genealogical sites and census records. It took the best part of a few days work, all the while keeping social media up to date with her research and findings so far, even receiving a helping hand from people all round the world via internet.
“Marvelous invention,” She muttered to herself.
Then she came across something in the records she had been searching through.
A local newspaper report with a very familiar name along with a detailed entry of this person’s crime and sentence...
Dated 1780 Ad
James Lanwegh Poldeen who so listed his residence as Number IV FaireField
Which to this amendment the magistrate, a Mr Morragh, Reminded the accused that no so such place exists.
For the Crime of stealing One cow for milking belonging to a one Jack Polgurris currently residing in the parish of St Holmans
James Lanwegh Poldeen was set in the pillory and pelted with rotten eggs before being removed and incarcerated in Bodmin Gaol.
The accused party had a further IX years added to his sentence after flying into what could only be described as a fit of burning rage at the mere sight of a passing Horse and Cart with the inscription
“Ye Milke & Beyonde the Impossible”
Fancy that, thought Mrs Treloar, as she updated her status to the world on what she had discovered, and within seconds of it going online was replied by plenty of shocked face emojis.
After Mrs Treloar finished updating the digital masses on her social media apps, she moved on to her blog and wrote the title for that day’s entry as ‘No Milk Today.’
It was, dear reader, the obvious and only choice.
Follow Romeo on Twitter @RomeoRites