Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Milton's Hydrophilic Symphony

Milton sat on cushions on a wide window ledge, his fingers pressed against the cool glass. He could feel the tiny tremors of the rain sliding down the sheet glass. It drummed on the roof of his mansion and spilled out of the mouths of gargoyles like lies out of the mouths of the doctors who'd promised that he'd get his sight back.

The doorbell rang. Milton got up and glided between tables, chairs and other obstacles with the grace of a ninja in his own home, until he got to the door and opened it up. He heard the water dripping off of the delivery man onto the rubberized carpet of the mudroom.

"Good afternoon, Henry," Milton said, "sorry to hear that you had to come through the rain." He knew it was Henry because the house sat in an old lakebed, and the road into and out of the property became slick with mud in the lightest drizzle. Henry owned an all-wheel drive truck.

"That's quite alright," Henry said, "I know how glad you are to get these deliveries!" He passed a moist package to Milton.

"And this is one I'm most excited about! Do you have a moment to stay and have a cup of coffee? Tea?"

A roll of thunder hit the house, rattling the windows.

"Sure!" Henry said. "Coffee, if you have it. I know that you've told me that you like the rain, but I don't know why."

Milton led the way to the kitchen, and Henry sat down at the table while Milton put a kettle on the stove.

"Have you ever considered moving out of this house? It's so bleak. So drab. Not to insult your decorative taste! I know I'm just your deliveryman but I worry about the effects of living in this sort of environment."

"That's sweet," Milton said, "but this house is only bleak if you can see. If you can hear then it's quite alive."


"Close your eyes," Milton said.

Henry did. At first, he heard a cacophony, like when he'd wake up from a nap and his eyes would be unfocused, but then his hearing began to sharpen. He heard the hiss of the gas stove, different than the hiss of the water in the kettle. The rain drummed in one long monotonous sheet until he could pick out the location of the rain, and the different sounds. Here's the cymbal on the tin roof of the porch off of the kitchen, there's the tomtom of the rain hitting the glass ceiling of the conservatory around the corner. After a moment, he could pick out the gurgle of rain somewhere in the house.

The clatter of Milton pouring the coffee broke the spell, and Henry opened his eyes.

"So that's why you like the rain," Henry said.

"Not quite," Milton said.

Henry took a sip of coffee and burned his lips. "Ouch. Why is it, then?"

Milton seemed to ignore him as he sat down and unwrapped the package. A steel pipe, only a few inches long and equipped with threads at one end, rolled out onto the table. Milton quickly felt it all over, relaxed and sighed. "I think it's almost finished."

"What is?" Henry asked. He'd once re-done the plumbing in his house that had prevented him from flushing the toilet for three days, and when he'd finally completed the job and could take a dump in the privacy of his own home again, he hadn't been as excited as Milton looked.

"I'll show you," Milton said. He got up and led the way to a door that hung crooked on its hinges. Behind the door was a set of creaky wooden stairs that led into the darkness. "I think that there's a flashlight on a shelf. I had the electrical in the basement removed years ago, since it was dangerous."

Henry picked up the flashlight and shone the beam into the basement. Milton flew down the steps in haste. Henry soon understood why the electrical was dangerous. The basement was flooded with several feet of water. A web of ropes of different materials hung like a web over the water, and arrays of pipes stuck out of the water like snorkels. A raft sat at the foot of the stairs.

"Wait here," Milton said. He climbed into the raft, ran his fingers across the ropes, and began to pull himself along to a particular pipe, where he screwed the new pipe section in and then dragged himself over to a small platform in the middle of the basement, where all the ropes terminated.

"I think it'll be better if you close your eyes," Milton said. He began to tug on the ropes, which ran through pulleys and caused small hammers to hit the pipes. Some pipes chimed, some rumbled, others rang like clear bells on a winter morning and others shuddered like the thunder outside. Notes grew to chords and chords blossomed into melodies and waxed and waned. Henry wasn't sure how long he stood there and how long Milton played the pipes, but when he came to he discovered that his face was wet and Milton was holding out a handkerchief for him.

"Thanks for the deliveries," Milton said.

The Moral: personal growth is worth structural damage

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