Milk Carton Universe (Chapter Three)

RETURNING HOME, Max ignored the three cats napping on a basket of clean clothes in the living room and went directly to the kitchen. 

“It has to be a joke,” he reasoned with himself. “A strangely coordinated and bizarre joke. Or maybe it’s a generational thing which could be why  it went way over my head. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.” 

Max pulled open the refrigerator and bent to look inside. 

“Well, they win,” he grumped. “Just watch, they’ll all come clean at next week’s bingo and everybody ‘ll have a good laugh. Especially Grandma Neta. Geez, I won’t hear the end of it.” 

Max shuffled items on the shelves in search. 

“Regardless. If the carton is still in here, it needs to be thrown out anyway…”

Indeed the forgotten soy milk carton was tucked away in the back on a lower shelf. He squatted low and fairly crawled inside to reach it. 

The carton, swollen like a puffer fish, had aged far beyond any of the dates printed anywhere on the container and certainly had not been consumed within the recommended 7 to 10 days after opening. 

Withdrawing the carton, Max considered it.. 

Does spoiled soy milk give off a stench similar to old milk? 

He wondered if a stomach-turning puff of sourness would belch into his face if he turned the cap. Or, would the scent more closely resemble a slightly sweeter version of a devastatingly unique aromatic assail characteristic of the most pungent cheeses? 

Max had always finished soymilk before it expired. This situation was foreign to him.

“I don’t know,” he muttered with genuine curiosity. 

Scrutinizing the carton’s labels, Max straightened and turned his back to the fridge, letting its fridge door float shut behind him. He found nothing untoward about the dates on the container, granted there were two contradictory dates that were slightly faded, one of which seemed to be without a clear purpose. 

“I’ll throw it away right after…” 

Curious, but with every intention of discarding it thereafter, Max gripped the blue screw top cap and poised his arm to twist it to the left. 



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