A Shaggy Dog Story’s Best for Winter: Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk

More dreary weather forecast for the Northeast this week…   Time for a tale to lift the spirits that’s completely unbelievable with illustrations to match, a pretty rousing collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell.

The “hero” is a dad (author Gaiman) who would rather hide behind his newspaper mornings until he’s had his tea than go out to get milk when there’s none left for the cereal.  Toastios and orange juice would be weird.  Dry would not be as bad as with orange juice, but it still unacceptable for breakfast.  He eventually comes home with the milk, with a long explanation for his lateness, which he insists on telling his son and daughter.

Green globby people who have too many eyes and tentacles and not enough fingers and toes sucked him up into their spaceship and demanded he sign over the planet to them for remodeling.  (No pictures of them because they are too scary with all the protoplasm dripping off their arms and big soft flabby bodies.)  When he refused, he ran for the exit, ignored the sign, opened the door and was sucked into the space continuum.

He landed in a pirate ship (the craft and its crew reappear in Pirate Stew).  He refused the pirate queen’s offer of a steady job because he has to get home and give his children breakfast (being a good father, he never forgets that this is his real mission for one moment during his very peculiar adventures).  Tottering on the plank, keeping an eye on the piranhas, milk in pocket, a rope ladder hit his shoulder.

He scrambles up and falls headfirst into the craft of his rescuer Professor Steg, a renowned inventor and scientist who happens to be a stegosaurus with a taste for time travel in her “Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier,” which any normal person would call a hot-air balloon.  Professor Steg fancies that she has a way with nomenclature, but in spite of  this peculiarity, she is a good sort and vows to get the dad and milk back to his time and place, which turns out to be a very roundabout journey.

After a very complicated transaction with the devotees of the Great God Splod, who needed sacrificial victims, dino scientist and dad stole the emerald eye from its monumental statue to improve the navigation system of the “Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier,”  which is an old cardboard box with jewels for buttons.

En route  to the present, the dinosaur and human are nearly wiwisected by wumpires before falling back into the clutches of the green globby people, who are ready to start replacing all trees with cleaner and more aesthetic plastic flamingos and clouds with scented candles.  To speed up the job, they have frozen time and decommissioned the navigation device of Professor Steg’s balloon.

All would have been lost (aka the Universe come to an end), if the Galactic Police had not barged in and arrested the green globby people. (this is the short explanation, because I didn’t understand the science behind setting off the destruction of the universe by letting the two cartons of milk touch.  And the pictures of the Galactic Police are more interesting).  Had you forgotten about the milk?

He does let the cartons of milk touch, but instead of the universe imploding, three bizarre dwarves that probably came out of Terry Pratchett’s noggin appear and dance with flower pots on their heads.  Now that everyone is out of danger, Professor Steg asks the Space Dinosaurs and the Galactic Police to regale her sterling human assistant ancient songs in six-part harmony like “How Do You Feel This Morning When You Know What You Did Last Night?” which he finds very beautiful.   Everyone has their pictures taken with the carton of milk and then Professor Steg drops the faithful dad and carton of milk  back home.

His son and daughter don’t believe a word of it.  Too highly educated for their own good.

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