In Fiction class on Tuesday we were given a finger-nimbling exercise. We were to look at this painting by Vermeer, an 18th century Dutch artist, and describe it. We were to write a paragraph that stayed focused within the painting, and would make the image come alive for the reader.
I stared at it for a long time. I felt bored. The painting was too static. Who cares what’s going on in it? Well, my job it to make the reader care. But if I don’t care, how the hell could I make the reader care?
A dam burst. The following nonsense poured forth. I had no control over it.
She pours the milk. The milk is cold. The milk is from cats. Cat milk. It is to feed the other cats. Lots of rats these days in Holland, all infected with the plague. She concentrates on her pouring; cat milk is a precious commodity, and she knows that any spilled drop would call down the wrath of her master. She pours the cat milk into a pan on the table because if she tried to pour it on the floor it would summon all the cats of my house and where would she be then?! She would be drowning in cats, which, by any measure, is not a good way to drown.
Her manner of dress is quite sassy for a milk maid. I like the way her skirt bunches up when she sits down. Her puce-colored blouse is a bit revealing, given her more traditional profession. It suggests that her master expects her to deliver a bit more than milk.
She’s not my regular milkman. This sounds like the plotline of a twisted pr0n0.
Sometimes I eat bread. It is crusty and good. The cats sometimes jump on the table and eat the bread too, but it doesn’t taste like rat or pigeon or cat milk so they never eat much.
Not so many rats outside the city. That’s where they built the cat farms. The need for cats in the city had grown so great that the average cat owner was unable to keep the city supplied, so the king stepped in and developed an agri-business plan that moved all cat productions to the country.
My wicker baskets hang on the wall, filled with today’s paperwork. Life as a bureaucrat is exhausting, but at least I’m lucky enough to always find work. I am fortunate that I can afford so many cats and so much cat milk. The commoners aren’t so lucky. I glance out the window as a cart stacked high with dead rumbles past. The plague is a poor man’s disease.
These days the daught commers aren’t able to find work. They envisioned a world where people would have pigeon roosts in their houses and every time you needed to buy something you could just send out a pigeon with a little note tied to its leg. The pigeon would fly to its business, place the order, and soon a person would deliver the goods right to your door.
Well, the daught commers didn’t expect the rat explosion, which resulted in the cat explosion, which decimated the pigeon delivery infrastructure.