The tires whispered to themselves, a sound of hissing rain.
Beads on a string, cars moved along the highway. Although early, the hard white sun valiantly tried to warm the frozen rolling landscape and burn away stringy remnants of clinging mist. With shrill squawks, a gaggle of yellow-crested cockatoos flew overhead and settled on massive eucalypt trees beside the freeway.
Mason adjusted his shades, switched stations to ABC FM Classic, and nodded solemnly to the hypnotic rhythm of Ravel’s Bolero. Not into heavy symphonies, he liked his music light and cheerful. Bolero’s enchanting tempo sent his mind along meandering memory paths. Opera made him wince, but in a quirky way, his heart sang to some of its music. His mom always tuned into 60s and 70s popular stuff, and he inherited her tastes for the oldies. Modern sharp, acid compositions immediately made him switch stations.
A silver hatchback roared past him. The decibels of its speakers rivaled an A380 taking off, guaranteed to blow out the driver’s eardrums. He shook his head, not understanding any of it.
A green signboard on the shoulder said Mt. Macedon exit, one kilometer. Bolero finished in a crescendo and the familiar ABC news break broke his reflective reverie. Mason reached with a stiff finger and switched off the radio. Peaceful silence descended, broken only by the soft engine hum.
He took the off-ramp onto Mt. Macedon Road and motored down the peaceful arterial. Sheets of white mist hung over low paddocks and the sun glinted between branches. Frost painted the grass with crystal on both sides of the road, and the air-conditioner whined a little louder to maintain the set temperature.
Before the hill that led into the small township, the local golf course clubhouse stood deserted, although he figured it would fill quickly with weekend warriors who sought to test their skill against the devilish white ball. Mason liked the small nine-hole course and played when he could tear himself away from the city. Preferably early in the morning during the week when he often had the place to himself.
He slowed to sixty, drove past a cluster of old-fashioned houses and stores, and turned right onto the narrow, sleepy Cheniston Road lined with bushy trees that provided shade and a feeling of tranquility. Cottages and larger, more modern houses nestled on mostly one-acre lots occupied by old-time residents and newly arrived retirees who sought to escape the city pressure cooker. Some owners used larger plots as do-it-yourself hobby farms or held them as investments.
Mason pulled up before a two-meter-high steel gate hung on local bluestone columns and gazed with nostalgia at the single-story sandstone dwelling. A chicken wire fence ran around the entire property and gave an uninterrupted view of gently rolling hills that fell away behind the house. He opened the gate expecting Cricket to come bounding toward him in welcome, tail held high. His dad did not particularly like cats and never had pets, a characteristic Mason shared. In a quirky way, Cricket nevertheless warmed to both of them and often rubbed himself against their legs as they sat on the veranda, purring loudly with satisfaction knowing he just left a bunch of hairs on their trousers. The black tomcat only a memory now.
He parked the car in front of the double garage and strode up broad sandstone steps to the solid wood doorway. He winced at the chill inside as he disabled the alarm, then busied himself to fire up the wood burner. Chore done, he went to the bathroom to wash up. In the kitchen, coffee percolator going, he checked the fridge. Apart from bread and milk, no need for a major shopping outing.
Buttery sunshine streamed through tall back veranda windows and made a bright pool on the polished redgum floor. A gaggle of white cockatoos in the yard pecked in the small vegetable garden. He always planted potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbages, and some herbs, preferring genuine flavor in vegetables he ate. Over the last three years, the garden had shrunk as his interest to maintain it diminished, and work commitments prevented him from coming up as often as he wanted. An idyllic weekend retreat, the property nevertheless required regular maintenance. He always cleaned during a visit, and a local man took care of mowing and trimming. It all mounted up when he added council rates and utility charges, and none of it tax deductible. More than once, he thought of selling, but could not bring himself to do it. He really ought to, though.
A mug of hot coffee in hand, Mason opened the ceiling-high sliding door and stepped into the enclosed veranda that had become warm from the sun. He pulled back a solid wood chair, back and seat made comfortable with tied-on cushions Grandma made, and placed the mug on the heavy table. The cockatoos looked up from their chore and went back to teasing the ground. His gaze drifted past the back fence toward patches of old-growth forest and rested on a distant horizon where the air became blurred. Melbourne lay somewhere over there. He could not see it, too far away, but he pictured its cluster of skyscrapers clawing upward. Another life, another existence.
As his thoughts tumbled, he imagined Gramps sitting on the other side of the table, old briar clenched between his teeth, bushy eyebrows drawn together in a frown. Mason lifted his mug in a salute.
“To you, Gramps,” he murmured, then grinned. If someone saw him right then, they’d be right to consider him ready for the padded wagon. No one could see him, of course, and he did not give a damn if somebody did.
A magpie swooped over the cockatoo gaggle and they immediately took flight, screeching as they wheeled toward a stand of eucalypt down the hill.
Perhaps he should latch on the trailer and drive off into the bush to look for fallen logs to top up his supply of firewood. Most easy to get at stuff had already been taken years ago, but lots still remained along lonely forest tracks. Physical work might clear his head and make him forget reality for a while. He took a sip of coffee and decided not to get sweaty. The back shed held enough chopped dry wood to last the winter, and two five-meter-long stacks would see him through at least four more years. Keep today’s visit focused and intellectual, he told himself.
As a teenager, he liked going into the forest with Gramps to cut logs and haul them back home. He enjoyed the forest smells —something different from the usual city smells—listen to the whisper of rustling leaves and the cradling comfort the woods engendered. When he started work and got a car, he’d drive up in casual gear and got friendly ribbing from Gramps for looking like a bum. Mason did not mind the japes.
“I’m in a white shirt, tie, and suit five days a week,” he’d retort. “On weekends, I don’t care if I look like a bum.”
Warm air drifted in from the lounge as the burner got into its stride. He relaxed and allowed himself to drift into retrospection, home chores be damned.
As a kid still in grade school, his mom or dad often dropped him off on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning to leave him with his grandparents for the weekend. Under looser discipline, Mason ran wild, free from constraints life in suburban South Yarra imposed. Alone or with several local youngsters he befriended, they roamed through nearby fields and patches of forest pretending to be explorers in African deeps, played war, or chased Indians. Cowboy games were always fun. They all liked to meander through tall corn as nobody could see them, and picked an occasional wild red poppy in their play. When ripe, Grandma would boil or barbecue the corn cobs, then smear them with golden butter.
He disappeared in the morning, showed up for lunch to stoke up with fuel, and be gone the rest of the day until weariness and hunger forced him home. Grandma tended to his scratches and scolded him when he got his clothes dirty, but the words held no sting, unlike what his mother said when she came to pick him up. Mason preferred to forget those moments and the occasional smacks on the rear end for his misdeeds.
The sun high in the sky, his reverie broke when a lone magpie swooped in front of him. Wings pulled up, it flared for a landing and began to inspect the lawn for available tidbits. Coffee mug in hand, he took a sip, firmly back in the real world. He imagined Gramps nod from across the table, puff out a cloud of aromatic smoke from his worn pipe, and smile indulgently in agreement.
“Ti banac,” he would say to emphasize a point, and habitually scratched the right side of his head. “Kako boa, boa,” he’d add philosophically, meaning what will be will be.
A somewhat phlegmatic and fatalistic attitude, but Gramps survived many turbulent years and experienced things Mason hardly found credible. When still alive, the old man simply did not give a crap what others said or thought, beyond the need to seek approval or acceptance from others. Mason admired that outlook and sought to emulate it, but the raw rub, he still wanted acceptance and approval from his parents, especially Dad. Why couldn’t the dick say just once, ‘Well done, son.’ Perhaps he had and Mason locked away that memory as it did not fit the mosaic how he regarded his father.
Mason recalled one fine weekend—he just turned eight—both on the back veranda, everybody else amusing themselves in the lounge, when the old man chuckled and began a story. Gramps had a bagful of them and found in his young grandson an avid listener. Mason recalled every word, of course, but still loved the stories and simply be with Milan. Each telling had a slight variation, but were otherwise in essence true. Mason never tried to correct Gramps on a point of inconsistency as the changes or additions often provided new detail.
Milan took a puff, smiled, and started one of his favorite after-war yarns, still picking up the pieces of his life after discharge from the army.
He and a friend, he began, hid in a cornfield once and watched a crabby, stingy man who did not have a kind bone in his scrawny body, guard a small peach tree. He wore a permanent scowl as he walked the streets and glared at anyone who greeted him. Children gave him a wide birth and tittered as he strode by. They threw small stones at him and scamper away with glee as he raged after them, fist held high.
Anyway, hidden by tall corn, the smell of ripe peaches made Milan’s mouth water. The stingy man guarded the tree all night, shotgun in lap, nodding off occasionally. Too mean to offer any to his neighbors, he feared they might steal the precious fruit.
Milan and his friend had sneaked into tall corn before dawn broke and watched the old sod guard his tree. As the sun came up, golden light filled the open, rolling meadow and the world became a bright, cheerful place, perfect for some devilment.
The old coot stood, looked around warily, and hurried off for a quick breakfast, a familiar routine by now. With no idea when he would return, not wanting to be on the receiving end of a shotgun, Milan and his friend rushed to the peach tree and quickly sawed off two limbs heavy with fruit. The plunder slung over their shoulder, they disappeared into the corn and made for their hiding place.
Seconds later, they heard a frantic bellow of rage and a torrent of profanity. The old buzzard had returned and vented his outrage when he spied the damaged tree. Later that morning, a mighty uproar swept through town as the scandalized man sought to find who took his peaches. This generated a lot of local hilarity, everybody figuring the old coot had it coming to him. Nobody admitted anything, of course.
Milan and his friend gorged on delicious peaches, sharing some with neighbors who did not care where they came from. They simply nodded their thanks with a faint smile of understanding.
The tale finished, Mason laughed softly and shook his head, clearly picturing the outraged man rampaging through the town searching for the miscreants. He heard this story before, but it always generated a warm feeling of deserved justice.
The peach tree episode not the only tale Gramps had in his bag of adventures. Like the one when he and two friends caught a stray cat. They halved two walnuts, cleaned them out, and proceeded to fill the shells with tar. They stuck the shells to the cat’s paws and let it go. The poor thing tried to gnaw off the annoying shells as it clanged its way along the sidewalk to disappear under a fence. That one made Mason chuckle, although he felt sorry for the poor cat.
One of Gramps’ favorites was how, fresh after the grape harvest, he and three friends managed to break into a large barrel of new wine.
Several streets from Milan’s house, a neighbor stored four large barrels in a backyard barn. Not predisposed to share any of the old stock, he sold the stuff to local bars and supplied parties and wedding functions.
Milan and his friends often contemplated how to get at the wine. Come winter, the man would decant the barrels, move the wine to his cellar, and that would be it. After much debate and rejection of several ideas, they came up with what everybody agreed to be a devilishly cunning plan. They drove a nail into a long pole and filed the end to a point. They tied a rubber hose to the pole and left a meter or so to hang from the end to serve as their instrument of dark deed.
The barn clad with old boards, enough gaps existed to push the pole through to the closest barrel. With patience and determination, they drove the nail into a large cork that plugged the barrel and gradually worked it loose. The barrel open, they lowered the rubber hose and sucked until the young wine began to pour out. With no time to waste, they sampled their prize, nudging each other to be next. Head swimming, Milan suggested it would be far too dangerous to linger behind the barn where the old coot could catch them. Everybody clearly pictured the disastrous consequences that would follow. A hurried retreat to their homes produced several bottles and jugs to be filled and enjoyed at leisure. Plunder safely stored, they replaced the cork and gently tapped it down.
For some two weeks until the rubber hose could not reach farther into the barrel, Milan and his pals enjoyed a happy time.
When the man eventually came to inspect his barrels, he found one only half full. This naturally set off a cascade of accusations and arguments, everybody denying knowledge of the stolen wine. Some suggested the codger drank it himself and did not remember doing it, which generated nasty amusement. If the neighbors saw four youths wandering the streets looking slightly inebriated, no one said anything, figuring the stingy man deserved it.
Other stories Gramps told him were more serious.
Like kids everywhere, Milan reflected, he liked to listen to his own paternal grandfather regale him with tales of witches and strange goings on, assuring young Milan they were true, although Mason not sure whether they really were true. True or not, he found them entertaining. He remembered one Saturday evening…
Milan had a couple of shots of slivovitz and decided to open a door to his grandfather’s past steeped in mystic lore and dying days of feudalism. One poignant tale Milan’s grandfather told him sent goosebumps up his spine and left him sad, lost in a faraway memory.
Milan’s paternal grandparents were born and lived in Kolarovec, some twenty kilometers west of Varazdin where they lived. As a youngster, he visited often, frolicked in open grassland with other kids, and swam in the nearby Drava. According to Milan, after some cajoling, usually on a lazy, warm afternoon, he got his grandfather into a talkative mood and the old man obliged with a tale.
A beautify maiden, the old man began as he puffed on his meerschaum pipe, rocking in a favorite rickety wooden chair, often frequented a nearby forest filled with all sorts of wildlife. Long, corn-colored hair fell to her slim waist. Large blue eyes sparkled with laughter and the joy of being alive. Youths from nearby villages came to court her, but the tall, willowy maid repulsed them all, much to the lament of the youths. Of course, this raised all sorts of gossip, and mothers wanting to have a son marry the maid speculated what might be wrong with her. Some even considered her a witch. When the women demanded to know why the maid never wed, her mother paid them no never mind, which only fueled further speculation. The maid ignored the gossip, barbed innuendos, and lived a carefree life, preferring the company of her forest friends.
No one knew where the maid went when she disappeared into the forest or what she did there, and those who followed her often got lost. She would sometimes come home with scratches on her long, supple legs and slim arms, and her parents would scold her. How can she hope to attract a boy looking like that, they would say. The scratches came from branches and shrubs, she explained cheerfully, eyes dancing with inner fire.
Milan’s grandfather said he loved to hunt, an old, battered rifle cradled in his arms. He would regularly bring home a hare, wild boar, or a deer, always welcomed at the farmhouse by his wife.
One sunny autumn afternoon, his worn Jager percussion rifle slung across the shoulder, a large leather rucksack to hold any game he might catch, he pecked his plump wife on the cheek and declared he would be back in time for dinner. His wife did not mind her husband’s wanderings, knowing he never left chores undone.
He took a familiar worn trail into the forest, and after some time, the warm sun flickering between old birch, oak, and poplar, he took a meandering track that led to a meadow with a small lake tucked against a hillside. He liked this place, one of his favorites, as animals would graze on the lush grass and came to drink, and generally managed to shoot something. Even when he did not, he enjoyed sitting at the forest edge, take an occasional swig of wine from a flask, and listen contentedly to the soft buzz of insects as swallows swooped low over the sleepy meadow.
Suddenly, a graceful doe emerged from the trees some forty meters on his right. She paused, lifted her graceful neck, sniffed the air, and slowly made her way toward the lake. Every now and then, she would pause and turn her head on lookout for possible danger. Satisfied, she strode through the tall grass with small, mincing steps.
Grandpa had never seen such a beautiful deer, and watched the doe in rapt fascination as she approached the lake. At possibly fifty kilos, she would provide welcomed fresh venison for the table. He picked up the rifle and aimed at the doe’s chest. A quick kill, the animal would not suffer. As he took up the trigger slack, the doe stopped, turned, and looked directly at him. Even from some 150 meters, he could see her large blue eyes, something most unusual. He took a deep breath, held it, and squeezed the trigger.
The sharp crack caused startled birds into flight, and two hares bounded into thickets across the meadow. Without a sound, the doe dropped to the ground. Milan’s grandfather raced through the grass to inspect his kill.
Chest heaving, he slowed and gaped in shock at what he saw, color draining from his face. He dropped the rifle and stared in startled wonder as the graceful doe turned into a naked young woman, her golden hair spilled across full breasts. Bright blood slowly oozed from a wound in the center of her chest. He thought she looked at him then, not with accusation, but resigned acceptance. Then the light faded from her eyes. As he stared at the village maid, her form shimmered, became transparent, and she faded. Gradually, the flattened grass rose where she had lain.
Milan’s grandfather said he felt his eyes sting and hot tears warmed his cheeks from deep loss and regret. He knelt beside the spot where the woman had been and sobbed, his heart tearing with pain. He begged forgiveness, knowing the forest had claimed the strange maid. Whether she heard him or not, he thought he saw her enchanting young face, eyes alive with laughter, rosy lips open in a broad smile. Perhaps she had forgiven him, because he felt the load of guilt roll off his chest and he rose with a lighter heart. He took a deep breath and let it out with a soft hiss as he wiped his face with a calloused hand.
He cradled the worn rifle and wearily made his way toward the forest and home, feeling the years heavy on his shoulders. For a long time afterward, the villagers often talked about the strange young maid and what could have happened to her. A search of the forest revealed an ankle-long green dress the maid used to wear, neatly draped across a low branch. Some said she ran away with a youth from another village, but nobody knew for certain.
Mouth clamped on a pipe, Milan’s grandfather declared roughly that he never went hunting again, and his old rifle remained mounted above the fireplace. On long winter days, he would sit before the flickering flames and stare at the gun. His wife often asked why he never hunted, sensing something unusual must have happened on that autumn day, but he refused to say.
Deep in thought, Milan told Mason how he listened to his grandfather talk about the maid, picturing clearly what transpired. The tale made Mason ponder whether there might be something to the old tale.
According to Milan, his grandmother also used to spin yarns about witches and strange happenings in Kolarovec and nearby villages around Zagorje. Milan said he often sat beside her as she slowly rocked back and forth in her own squeaking rocking chair, eyes dreamy, lost in a time that no longer existed. Wearing a wry smile, Milan told Mason he wondered from time to time if Grandma’s fanciful fairytales were invented for his entertainment or those things actually happened. Grandma left that for him to decide, he said. Real or not, Milan listened as she opened a magical world from an enchanted time. In a reflective mood, he told Mason some light faded in the world when people stopped believing in magic.
On one visit, she told him a story he found amusing and puzzling, not sure if Grandma was pulling his leg. Anyway, she started by saying that on one hot, steamy summer’s night, Grandma began, a powerful, handsome youth from nearby Lovrečan could not sleep and went down to Drava for a refreshing swim. As he broke through the thicket along the bank, he spotted four naked maidens dancing around a cairn of stones. The full moon made it seem like day. The youth froze in his tracks and stared mesmerized at the beautiful women, unable to move.
Suddenly, they stopped dancing and turned as one to look at him. Something in their dark eyes broke the youth’s stare. He turned and ran back toward the village. Behind him, he heard soft footfalls and knew the girls were after him. Gasping for breath, lungs burning, he ran faster, knowing something bad would happen if they caught him. Before he could reach his house, they did catch him. One by one, they rode him and left him senseless by the roadside. In the morning, an old woman going to the local store found him and demanded he tell her what happened. Reluctantly, intensely embarrassed, he told her. Instead of laughing at him, or dismissing the story as a product of a drunken imagination, she revealed in a rasping voice that the four maids were sisters who lived in Babinec, and everybody suspected they were witches. She also said he should never go to Drava after midnight or they would possess him.
That night, despite the warning, afraid but excited, the youth went to the Drava and spied on the dancing girls. This time, he did not run when they dashed toward him. They rode him, smiling all the time, whispering soothing words, and left him at the water’s edge.
The next day, something screamed inside him never go to the Drava again, feeling the women were somehow draining him of something, but he could not help himself. They had clearly enchanted him, captivating him with their beauty and bodies.
For seven nights, he went to the river where the maidens rode him. Each morning, he felt older, depleted of energy, hair graying, muscles wasting. On the eighth morning, wandering children found an old, shriveled man by the river. No one knew him or how he came to be there. The youth’s distraught mother claimed him to be her son, recognizing the clothing he wore, but the villagers did not believe her and scoffed her. They all knew her son to be a vigorous youth of twenty-two years.
Two days later, someone said the four sisters left Babinec and moved to Cestica. The mother always insisted they bewitched her son, but no one could prove anything against the sisters. The villagers laughed at her, saying her son probably ran off with some maid and never returned. One year to the day after her son’s disappearance, a neighbor found her dead in her bedroom, a wooden stake driven through her heart.
More than once, Milan’s grandmother told a story of a wandering old woman and a rich miser. A small detail here and there would change in the telling, but the story remained true, and she always started the tale in the same way. That is how Milan told it to Mason.
One blustery evening with soft drizzle coming down, the old woman, a crooked cane held in a gnarled hand, stooped after carrying a lifetime of burdens, hobbled toward an iron-wrought gate. Dressed in black, a dark scarf covered a surprisingly youthful face. She opened the creaking gate and made her way along the gravel roadway toward a stately mansion. Bright light came from tall windows. Gray smoke drifted up from two red brick chimneys, instantly whipped away by a frigid wind. The old woman clutched her meager garments tight around her chest and shuddered from a sudden chill spasm that raced through her. She ambled to the grand entrance guarded by four white columns that held up a wide portico. Enticing smells of roasting meat and hot chicken soup drifted toward her and her stomach rumbled in anticipation.
No one knew her in the village, her age, where she came from, or where she went. She would appear, and just as mysteriously, vanish. Kindly people fed her and sometimes gave her a bed. She did not mind where she slept. Before a warm hearth or barn beside cows who sent their warm breath on her and occasionally nuzzled her. The old woman appreciated the kindness extended her and always thanked everyone profusely. Some said, and it could be simple idle village gossip, those who helped her had a change of fortune in their lives. They either became happier, their luck turned, or found lost love. Just talk, Grandma would rumble thoughtfully as she rocked, pipe stuck between stained teeth.
Anyway, the old woman stopped in front of the elaborately carved door and twice banged the iron clacker shaped like a lion’s head. Footsteps sounded inside and the door soundlessly opened. She saw an elderly man wearing a butler’s regalia and warm air wafted around her from inside. Yellow light danced from candles mounted in a crystal chandelier hung from a dark wooden ceiling crossed with heavy black beams.
Breath laboring, she asked for shelter from the inclement weather outside. A rough voice demanded who stood at the door. The butler winced and declared that an old woman wanted shelter for the night.
A middle-aged man in maroon trousers and evening jacket appeared and glared at her. The butler politely stepped back. Everyone in the area knew the miserly, mean, self-centered coot who lived in the stately home. The selfish thing would not give anybody the time of day or a moldy crust of bread, preferring to throw it to the hogs. Nobody loved him, and he regarded the villagers with equal scorn.
One look at the old woman and the man’s mouth curved up in a sneer.
“Begone, you old hag. I have no time for you. Find work and you’ll have shelter. I’m tired of all your kind, wanting everything for nothing. Begone, I say!”
The woman studied him, then slowly straightened. “I hope you found everything in your life and are enjoying the rewards of your labors, sour sir,” she declared in a surprisingly strong voice. “May lightning strike your grave if you do not mend your ways.”
With that, back bent, she slowly walked toward the gate as the heavy door slammed shut behind her.
Nobody knew what happened to the old woman or where she went. Tales filtered from nearby villages who claimed to have seen her and benefited by showing her kindness.
The miserable rich man never changed, becoming even meaner, and turned into a recluse. Shaking their heads, people often prayed for some misfortune to overtake him.
Grandma always paused at that point, gray aromatic smoke rising slowly from her pipe as she rocked back and forth. A darker cloud of smoke would shoot from her mouth as she puffed. Although Milan knew what happened next, he always asked.
Three years later, Grandma said in a soft growl, the miserly rich man took ill and suddenly died, to the delight of nearby villagers. The funeral procession had only a handful of mourners, mainly household staff. They came because they genuinely cared, or more likely, Grandma would add with a dry cackle, they celebrated the old coot’s demise.
As the procession neared the cemetery, dark clouds gathered overhead. The priest looked up and scowled, urging the procession to hurry. When they reached the gravesite, two men waited to lower the polished, carved casket into the ground. By then, it became quite dark and a rumble of ominous thunder marched across the sky.
The priest became frantic, demanding the casket be lowered immediately, not bothering with the usual prayers. Hardly in the ground, the priest shouted to everyone to stand back. Seconds later, a bolt of light crashed into the open grave and the air trembled from the sharp crack that followed. Everybody looked at each other in wonder, then slowly approached the smoking grave. They peered into the hole and gaped at the shattered, empty casket inside. The devil had claimed his own, they whispered solemnly and nodded wisely. As quickly as the clouds gathered, they scattered and warm sunshine bathed the countryside, dispelling the feeling of evil in the air.
Milan said that he once asked his grandma if she ever met the old woman. After some time, lost in contemplation, he said she shook her head and denied ever meeting her. The way she said it, though, prompted Milan to think otherwise, certain that more lay behind the story than Grandma would say, and he chose to believe their paths had crossed, as Grandma and her family always enjoyed a good life, health, and a modicum of prosperity.
Milan paused in his telling and fell silent, no doubt beset with images of the old woman and the strange happenings that seemed to follow her.
Mug empty, Mason got up and walked into the kitchen for a refill. He ought to clean up and get milk and bread, he mused. After he had his coffee…