Is the smoke detector working?

whole milk

On the kitchen counter, next to a blunted pencil, there’s a small notebook. This notebook’s spine is much taller than the few pieces of paper that remain attached to it. On it, every day, the members of my family write whatever the want from the supermarket. Every morning, someone rips a page off it, and heads to the supermarket.

We go to the supermarket almost everyday because it’s very close by, and we can get the day’s lunch fresh from it. Some special items require the longer trip to O Carballino, or even Vigo.


What I find interesting about the little notebook is that the first item to ever be on the list is “whole milk” but no one drinks whole milk in this household.

My father, bless his lactose intolerant gut, gave up on it decades ago. My sisters and I, obsessed with keeping our weight, qualm our cafe con leche needs with soy milk. My little brother, due to his health issues, is also on a strict no sugar, no fats diet.

The idea of the notebook came from my father, but I suspect that it isn’t a matter of true community as much as a measure of control about who buys what. If we’re being wasteful, or unhealthy.

My grandparents used to do the groceries, but ever since my grandmother became sick, it has been impossible to get my grandfather to do it correctly. Instead my father, my sisters, and I take turns going to the shops and back.


Our uncle is spending a few days with us, as his house is having some important maintenance being done to it. But he got a surgery a few months ago, so that he could lose weight. Not sure he’s the one searching for milk.

We had ignored the requests for whole milk thus far, and even joked about it on the lunch table. but I thought about it one day, and chose to buy the damn thing the next time I went to the supermarket.


The supermarket attendant, our neighbor, opens at 9AM. I made myself welcome at the supermarket at 8:58AM, the curtains over the refrigerators were still in place, and some of the lights were turned off. He was caught of guard by me, but didn’t bother. I returned, three minutes later, with a carton of milk. He scanned the thing, looking at me strange. “Is that it?” he said. Wondering why I was even awake so early in the morning. “yeah” I answered.

I got the damn milk.

My car was parked up the road, but I chose to go down the road, Avenue Francisco Gill Zamora, named after a dead mayor. The locals, welcoming the morning alongside a cup of coffee at the local café stare at me. I’m wearing a mix-mash of clothes. Sweatpants and a shirt, sneakers, but no coat. there are three coffee shops and four banks between the supermarket and the “residential” part of Avion.


The huge walls protecting the houses are an unwelcoming sight, a few meters of sidewalk feel like an eternity, there aren’t any cool facades or even trees shading the concrete sidewalk from the intense summer heat.

I can’t blame them. People stare at me, and if I lived here I would appreciate some privacy. Boredom breeds an array of feelings on normal humans, but it seems like these ones become gossipy. They want to know what type of walls your house has, what model year your car is. They want to know if you have hair implants, and what your waistline is. Naturally, these walls prop up to protect what little anonymity the homeowners do have.


When I arrived to the local school, I walked towards it expecting the door to be unlocked. But it wasn’t that way. The gym’s driveway was open however. To think this little town of 1000 has a huge school, and a massive gym feels strange. I don’t know what they use it for. I can’t think of any children that live the entire year here.

The milk carton began feeling lukewarm, as opposed to chill, like it was when I left the supermarket.


I can hear my steps make an echo as I head back to the exit. I walked up the road. This time people had began crowding up the bar next to the school. Again, everyone stared at me as I walked up the road in the summer heat, holding a carton of milk.

This time there’s nothing past the supermarket and the mechanic’s shop. Only city hall. The well kept Citroen C6 has always been there. Years on end. It probably belongs to the mayor.


When I opened my car the cabin felt just like the carton of milk; lukewarm, as if a few minutes more of sun exposure would’ve made it uncomfortably hot. The car started without a struggle.

Luckily, my way home is mostly country roads. I had already parked in a way that would let me leave town immediately, no u-turns. Then I arrived at San Vicente. There used to be a dance hall, and a bar here. It has been abandoned for years. My grandfather used to play poker here, with the locals. Now he also has to enter the town in order to play Poker.


When I got home, I left the milk carton atop the kitchen counter, next to the notebook. Like some sort of joke I guess. I forgot about it, the rest of the day was kind of irrelevant.

I heard strange noises that woke me up. Perhaps my sisters were sneaking in after a party. I don’t care about it anymore. I just leave my car keys on the counter, knowing they will take the car. Sometimes they fill up the tank as a bribe, not that I notice since they drive more than I do these days.


I stood up, and opened the door. I saw the kitchen light on, and my grandmother sitting inside the kitchen with a glass of milk. It was so quiet could hear the lights buzzing. She had left the refrigerator door open.

I stared quietly for a few seconds, a cold rush went up and down my spine the entire time. I felt uncertain as to what to do. Should I take her back to bed? Should I take the whole milk away from her? Should I just let her do as she apparently wish? I’m scared of this situation.


I noticed more noise. I sprinted back to my room, looking at the hall from the open door; my grandfather walked towards his wife. I closed the door, and headed back to bed.

She never mentioned the milk again. No one did really.

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