Robert’s Mother was a firm believer in home remedies. Turpentine for cuts and scrapes, lemon tea for the common cold, and good old-fashioned character building for a stiff upper lip. The most common cure in the Conrad household, though, was milk. Warm milk at night, a big glassful in the morning, and milk and cookies after school. If Robert came to his mother with any concern, he could be certain he’d barely open his mouth before she’d say: “Care for a glass of milk, Robert?”
In he’d walk, sweaty from baseball practice: “Mother, I’ve got a black eye.”
“Oh no, dear. Get yourself some nice cool milk.”
After rough-housing at church: “Mother, the buttons on my suit-coat have come loose.”
“Tsk, tsk, Robert. Go get some milk.”
Trudging in from a rough day at school: “Mom, all the kids make fun of me,”
“That’s nice, dear. Run along and have some milk.”
Nowadays, Robert just gets himself a glass of milk and considers it a conversation with his mother.
“Mother, I’m failing English. If I don’t pass, I might not graduate.”
“Dear, Mother’s busy right now. Why don’t you go get yourself a nice glass of milk. That’ll cheer you up, mm?”
Robert suddenly felt very angry. He wanted to punch a wall, he wanted to hurl the hallway lamp right at his Mother’s head. But then he was shocked, and a little ashamed at his violent thoughts. He couldn’t imagine hurting his Mother, or why he’d want to do so.
He uncurled his fists, resolutely ignoring the little indents in his palms left from his nails. He walked to the refrigerator and got out the milk jug. He walked woodenly over to the cupboard, and got himself a glass. A glass with a checkered rim, and grapes done in glaze down the side. The glasses that his Mother so loved, and took three hours picking out at the local Sears.
Robert poured himself a glass, watching the milk fill up past the grapes, up to the checkered lines, and up to the rim of the glass. He felt giddy, and a little sick. He had poured too much. The glass would be unwieldy to hold and his mother would not have approved. He lifted the glass to his lips, white-knuckled fingers aching with strength as the milk ran down his palms.
Then he hurled the glass at a wall.