sour milk

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mort and Mel -- Part 1

Once in a land, not too far from your own, there lived two friends. One may even venture to say the best of friends. Their names -- Mort and Mel. Mort was the town milkman and Mel was the town butcher, the meatman if you will. But long before the first udder was tugged, long before the first cow mooed dumbly as it fell to the ground unaware of the cylindrical shaped lead that had been propelled into its skull, Mort and Mel were kids. They grew up together and had almost everything in common; they shared the same sand buckets, in the same sandbox none the less. They shared the same U.N. Moe action figures.[i] They went to the same school, and coincidentally ended up more times than not in the same class. They could not be separated. They were like Bonnie and Clyde, Jonathon and David, Adolph and Benito, Rodgers and Hammerstein, well maybe they really weren’t like any of these … but the issue persists … they were great friends whose names were seemingly inseparable. Things didn’t change much through high school, and then came the fateful day when they graduated. Mel and Mort decided to go into business together. They bought a ranch. Actually they were given a ranch. You see Mort had an uncle that was had a large farm, mostly for sheep. Mort’s uncle had long since moved on but remembered the boys’ affinity for animals and agriculture and left them the old farm and all the accompanying land as a graduation present. And he also left them just enough money to purchase 4 cows and the necessary bull. Things were lovely at the beginning … certainly not easy, but lovely none the less. It’s no easy task building a herd of cows that will be able to turn a profit quickly, but Mort and Mel were a team … the best of teams, and in just a few short years they had become the town’s single source for milk and meat. Mel opened up his own butcher shop in the small downtown, while Mort continued to deliver milk the old fashioned way, day by day, door to door. Mort and Mel -- everyone loved them. They were the lifeline of the town. They frolicked down the street, hand in hand, tossing meat and spraying milk to anyone in need (figuratively speaking of course). And this figurative frolicking continued for many a year as the town grew and grew. It seemed like things couldn’t be any better.

But one day something happened. No one is sure how, and no one is sure when, but it happened – that’s the important thing. Business began to slow. It may be attributed to the town population slowly decreasing as the younger generations moved off to find their fortune in the larger metropolitan areas. Or it may be attributed to the town’s peoples’ new found love of supplementing their diets with prepackaged carbs. A few even attributed it to the few, but increasing, imports of goat meat and goat milk from one of the major cities to the East. But no matter what the reason – business was slightly off for Mort and Mel. Mel remained constant reminding Mort that they were safe. People always need milk and meat for a balanced healthy lifestyle; without them the town would surely perish. Mort wasn’t fully convinced though and began to take cost cutting measures. Mort chose to not feed his cows as much, and this ultimately led to a smaller daily output of milk per cow. Mort remedied this problem by watering down the milk ever so slightly, so little that not even the most avid milk connoisseur would have been able to notice the difference. Mort also made choice to not restock supplies as promptly as usual. As his funds and orders declined things like glass bottles simply seemed like a last priority. But one day Mort’s cost cutting came back to bite him – he had ran out of the proper number of glass bottles. He made an erroneous step in a pile of cow dung and slipped with two entire crates of milk bottles that went crashing to the ground. His brain raced as he tried to figure out what to do. He only had enough milk bottles for 80% of his customers. He couldn’t afford to miss deliveries. Mort suddenly remembered a large stockpile of green glass bottles that had mistakenly been delivered in lieu of his usual order of clear bottles a couple years back. Mort had stored the bottles away in his attic vowing to never use the bottles. For one, the bottles would only hold about half as much milk as the usual milk bottles. The bottles had a useless elongated neck that took away a large part of the functional space. But more than anything Mort couldn’t stand how the green tint on the glass discolored the appearance of the milk and concealed the beautiful pure white that Mort had grown to love over the years. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Mort began bottling the precious milk in the odd shaped green bottles with a tear rolling down his face. He couldn’t believe that he had made the grave error of having too few extra bottles. He could only hope that he wouldn’t ostracize his entire clientele with such a blasphemous practice. The thought crossed his mind that he could just postpone his deliveries a day, but the oddly shaped green glass bottles with their slender long necks would have to do. Mort set out to make his rounds. He had placed the green bottles under the crates of clear bottles in hopes that they might not be discovered until the last possible moment.

The first delivery was to be Ms. Baker. Mort approached the door, vowing to call off all deliveries at the first sign of trouble. He rang the bell. Ms. Baker opened the door wearing a little more eyeliner than usual and prepared to methodically hand him his due payment when something caught her eye. She spotted the green bottles. Mort was mortified as he followed her gaze to the green bottles glistening in the sunshine. Mort hastily took the money and thanked Ms. Baker as he made his way back to the cart hoping to escape. But it was too late. “What are those green bottles?” she asked. “Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.” Mort retorted. “Are those bottles of milk?” Ms. Baker inquired with a sense of urgent curiosity. There was no sense in concealing his crime anymore. The time had come for Mort to confess his sin. With his face downcast Mort replied, “Yes …”. But before he had a chance to apologize, Ms. Baker said, “They’re absolutely gorgeous”. Mort was dumbfounded. “I’ll take two,” she said. Mort didn’t know what to say. So he said nothing as he rearranged the milk crates to get to the bottom crate of green bottles. He pulled out two bottles prepared to offer a lower price for the smaller amount of milk, but before he could Ms. Baker had already handed him the money for two additional bottles of milk and had been whisked away inside by pure ecstasy. Oddly enough much of the day continued with the same results that had just ensued at Ms. Bakers. People were enamored with Mort’s green milk bottles. “Stunning”, “Genius”, “Innovative”, “Phenomenal”, “Progressive”, and “Contemporary” were just a handful of the compliments that people paid Mort’s hideous green bottles. Mort returned home not really sure about what to think. But one thing was for sure, those green bottles would change how Mort did business forever.

[i] U.N. Moe action figures were the diplomatic equivalent to G.I. Joe. Although Mort and Mel’s families had numerous ancestors in the military, they were fairly non-violent people. However, the occasional heated adolescent discussion would arise over whom would get the female representative from Burma, but it would always end in a peaceful round of rock, paper, scissors.