milk truck

(towards pigeon, a future project)

Sean Conforti

1 (Alternate Version)

My mother, crying, frustrated, told me once that when she was a child in Scotland she was hit by a car. In my mind, it was the milk truck, though this is wrong. She was four; she doesn’t remember. It affected the way she processed language.

In Frank Herbert’s Dune, Paul Atreides drinks the Water of Life —a poison— and becomes prescient and aware of his entire genetic memory. A messianic figure called the Kwisatz Haderach. Herbert likely got the term from the Kabbala, where קְפִיצַת הַדֶּרֶךְ means literally “The Leap of the Way”; the Talmudic root, “to clench” or “to contract”. The “fast travel” function standard in contemporary video games. Once you reach and reveal a place, you can travel back to it instantaneously.

So long as you’re not under attack.

“You hate language, don’t you?” he said to me, standing before a replica of Raphael’s School of Athens.

Following the accident, my mother was in a coma for a day. Before the injury, a talkative girl. Afterwards, quiet.


As a child, I was a liar. As a student, I wrote with British syntax. I became an actor, briefly.

“You would be almost charming, if you didn’t swear so much” a fellow chorus member says to me.

“You have a goatee,” I say to him in my head.

I explain to friends that each of us is several different persons, patterns themselves for a particular audience or market, adapts, code switches, networks. They (men) think this means they receive the most honest expression; they (academics) of course present a unified identity before all eyes. It is only others who are fragmentary.

There are pictures of me everywhere in the house where my mother and father live. I have sent photos of those photos many times to people I’ve dated. “Embarrassing” I say; “They love you!”  they say. The backyard of my childhood home connected to yards on either side, and they to others all open laterally through five gardens.

Each yard the child of that ideal yard which, in the golden eras, indexed for the middle class its myth of domestic freedom. Each yard which, unbordered, made for the best games of tag.

Our own ravine.


In the winter, we throw snowballs at cars from behind snow piles heaped on the verge. They continue along the avenue, unphased by the attack.

Occasionally, however, we hit the car of a Business Man.

Never one to let the barbarity of children outdo him, the Business Man exits his vehicle, pulls an M16A2E3 assault rifle, and fires it into the snowbanks.

But this is our territory.

The bullets pok pok pok around us, hitting only snow.

The soundtrack kicks in: Ancient Ambient Arabic Middle Eastern Female Vocal Acapella 4 Hours. Syllables that sound like they could be words from Dog Latin, or Arabic, or Gaelic, or Sanskrit. She has blonde hair and blue eyes.

We launch more snowballs, and then disappear down the pathway between two houses, into the crystalline abyss.

The Business Man, in his sharkskin suit and duck boots unsuited to the terrain, is unable to follow. He stomps to the front porch rifle in hand, up the stairs, almost slipping on the final step, and slams his fat fist on the door.

He explains that radicals just launched a terrorist attack against him outside of this house and escaped into the back yard. Something needs to be Done.

My father apologizes to the Business Man. He assures him it will be taken care of. It won’t happen again.

“See that it doesn’t,” the Business Man says.

Later, my father lectures me sternly. After, he places his hand on my shoulder, and smirks: “But that guy was taking it a bit seriously,” he says. We laugh and shake our heads at the violent anxiety of certain people of certain standings.


They say that we can no longer farm the commons. The villages don’t have enough food. The land is more valuable now, they say . They’ve put hedges around all the fields in the parish.

My family has lived here for nigh on four hundred years.

They say there is paying work in the cities. I follow the walking paths now, towards York. They say there are many manufactories there. There are others, on the roads, from other villages.

We speak of empty fields, empty villages.


“I just ate a fig, I was hungry, I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” I say, cool water lapping at my ankles.

“It’s hard to explain,” he says, and I ask how.

The sun is different overhead. Not just light, anymore. It touches in a new way.

“Enlighten me, Adam,” I say.

He paces on the bank of the river, frustrated and stuttering. Explaining that they were special.

They were special figs.

“They– Eve they bestow upon whomever eats them the knowledge of good and evil. He says that’s why we’re suddenly so bashful. That’s why we made clothes, don’t you see?”

“I can’t believe you’re going to let him blame me for eating, Adam. And that it made us too self-aware.”

He sighs, and looks at his feet. He looks beaten.

“God has sent the Cherubim,” he says. “To escort us from the Garden.”

The Cherubim are Angels, mesmerizing polygonal creatures whose bodies consist of indiscernible shapes and thousands of eyes and wings.

“They have a flaming sword,” he says.

From above, the sound of wings, and so many blinking eyes.


The gardens were never the same after Paul (the horticulturist, not the Apostle) died.

There are fences now. In several places.

To combat this, I mark my body with old and new symbols, certain that in the right combination, they will instill in me the power to stop milk trucks, turn fences into treehouses, kill angels, and raise the dead.

“That’s a capital-B Belief,” says a friend. We talk over text. We’ve never met in person.

“Better than the other ones,” I say.

“True,” they say.