Nora opened the kitchen door and looked through the rain pouring off her roof and out to the street. The milk truck's tail lights were rounding the corner, headed for Maple Avenue, and beyond, now. She looked down and found two quarts of milk and something she had never ordered before, eggs! The milkman left her a note two weeks before, Mrs. Pink, my brother is selling eggs now. $1.50 per dozen. His hens are reliable brown egg layers, and while many of the ladies prefer white eggs from the Food Star nowadays, I remember you mentioning that you missed the freckles on the brown eggs. I can bring you one dozen per week if like.
Nora left a note with her empty bottles the following Monday letting the Milkman know that she would very much like the eggs. She signed the note Nora, and not Mrs. Pink, and this daring informality pleased her.
"Mother?" Nora, bent to pick up the carton of eggs and her two bottles of milk, and tried to ignore her daughter calling for her. "Mother!" She placed the bottles on the kitchen table and opened the egg carton. The eggs were the color of coffee with cream and the freckles satisfied Nora, something about the eggs told her all was right with the world. Her daughter appeared in the doorway, her hair was wet and she was wearing a black cardigan sweetheart sweater with very tight dark Levis rolled up in cuffs that sat just above her bare ankles, "Mother!" she said for the third time, this time very quickly, very impatiently, so quickly, that the vowels were obliterated, only the consonants came out.
"Yes, Natalie, what is it?
"Did you see the milkman?"
"No, I rarely see him, you know that Natalie. Where are your shoes?"
"I can only find one. I think the dog took the other, so its probably in the yard. I thought you saw the milkman every week Mother, you talk about him like you are practically engaged."
"Oh shut up. Would you look at these eggs? Aren't they marvelous."
"They look like eggs mother, I don't know if I could describe them as marvelous. Mother!"
"How am I going to go to school with only one shoe?"
"You can't get eggs like this in the store anymore . . . "
"Shoes? Mother, pleeeease?"
"Natalie, you are practically a grown woman, if you can't keep the dog from burying your shoes in the garden, then, well, there isn't any hope for you. Go upstairs, take a pair of my sneakers out of my closet, but I want them at the end of the day."
"yes Natalie, what is it?"
"I think you should seduce the Milkman."
"You're not getting any younger, you know."
"What would your father say if he heard you talk like that?"
"Father would agree because he's dead and gone."
"You're late for school."
"Fine, if you won't seduce the Milkman, I will."
"You will not!"
"You know I could."
"You're a just a child."
"You just said I was practically a woman."
The week went by slowly, Nora couldn't stop thinking about her daughter's suggestion. She had been alone for so long, she didn't even know whether she was attractive anymore. And the thought of her child leaning in the kitchen doorway making love with her eyes to the milkman was more than she could stand. What could Natalie possibly know about the art of seduction? Her experience was rather limited . . . or was it? She did find Natalie kissing the neighbor boy behind the garden shed last month, in the dark, in her pajamas and bare feet. Natalie never liked to wear shoes and this said something about the way Nora had handled her, she hadn't completely civilized her daughter. A man in the house would have solved that, Nora was sure of it, if Natalie's father hadn't died, the child would wear shoes and lower her voice.
Monday morning came and Nora woke early, very early, what seemed like hours before the milkman would walk up her driveway, with her eggs and two quarts of milk. He would be wearing his bleached white coveralls, he would be slender, and cool, like a tall glass of milk. Nora brushed her dirty blond hair and put it up and then took it down and then put it up again. She couldn't decide what was more becoming. She pulled on stockings, black lace panties, garters, and a matching bra, these had been neatly sitting in her dresser since her Frank had died. Frank bought her lingerie all the time, so often, that Nora sometimes wondered if he might like the lingerie for himself.
She slipped a gray shift on and deftly zipped it up the back, a skill she had learned since Frank was gone. She started to put her feet in a pair of very high heels, the ones she wore for the funeral, but she decided they were too obvious, and she opted for a pair of lower pumps, more daytime, more understated. She swiped lipstick across her ample bottom lip and puckered, then checked the mirror. Nora didn't mind what she saw in the mirror, it was the best she had seen in a while.
When she passed Natalie's room on her way down the hall, Nora saw the door was ajar and the light was on. Natalie was never up this early. Nora pushed the door open and found Natalie standing in front of her closet wearing what looked like an old satin nightgown set Frank had given Nora before Natalie was born, "Natalie! Where did you get that? Take it off immediately."
"That's what I'm hoping the milkman says." Natalie turned and coquettishly cocked her hip toward her mother.
"Young lady, go back to bed. You won't embarrass me."
"I don't have to embarrass you, you can do that all by yourself Mother. Look at you!"
"I'm going to shut this door now Natalie, go back to bed."
Nora stood by the sink as the coffee percolator burbled in the dim light. The sun was just coming up the street and she waited patiently for the milk truck to follow it. She poured her coffee and decided to take it black with no sugar, this made her feel stronger somehow. She watched Mr. Stanley warming up his car across the street, he was scraping the first frost of the year off his windshield as the exhaust from his car billowed and made its own weather in his driveway, like thunder would erupt from his garage door at any moment, followed by lightning and a summer shower. But just as Nora imagined the little storm overtaking her neighbor, the scene was obscured by the milk truck. It parked neatly and Nora saw the figure of the milkman disappear into the back of the truck to get her milk. She went to the kitchen door and opened it, she wondered what she would say. She panicked for a moment and then decided to invite him in for coffee, yes, invite him in for coffee . . .
"Natalie! Go back to bed!" Natalie was standing in the kitchen, still wearing the silk gown, now with no robe, her pale skin flickering in the kitchen light.
"I won't. I want to watch you seduce the Milkman."
"Natalie, I'm warning you." Nora turned away from her daughter and saw the milkman exiting the truck and heading up the driveway. Only, it wasn't her usual milkman, it appeared to be a milkmaid! Instead of the lanky milkman, here came a young brunette wearing a white canvas dress, a parody of sorts, Nora thought, the girl's hips swung and she looked more like a nurse than a girl delivering milk. "Good morning Mrs. Pink!"
"Oh, good morning . . . where?"
"Jim? Oh he's taken another route, but don't worry, he gave me your eggs!" The girl hopped onto the steps and handed Nora the carton of eggs and put the milk bottles at her feet. Natalie stood close behind her mother putting her chin on her shoulder, and Nora was surprised at how tall her daughter had become.