“Thank goodness mom wasn’t a hoarder. Sorting through all this crap is bad enough,” James said as he rummaged through a junk drawer in a large dresser.

James, his sister Jessie, and her friend Pete were getting the old house cleaned out to sell it. They moved mom to a nursing home six months earlier and the house had been sitting empty ever since. It was important to get rid of the house before winter set in with its higher utility bills and water pipe bursting risk. They needed to categorize everything in the home into divide-up, sell, or trash. Next, they would have a big yard sale and then get the house cleaned and on the market.

Jessie was going through things in her mother’s closet and found an unmarked cardboard box, long hidden under musty quilts and bedspreads. She got the partially crushed box down and upon removing the lid saw a carefully wrapped item.

“Hey, check this out, it looks important,” she said as she joined the others in her mother’s bedroom.

She set the box on the bed and lifted the paper-wrapped object out of the box. She carefully removed the protective paper and held up a ceramic cow. “I guess it’s a dud.”

“Yeah, but it must have had some kind of meaning so we probably should keep it,” James suggested.

“That’s a Brown Swiss,” Pete said. I grew up on a farm. I had to get up at 5:00 every morning to milk the cows and do other chores before hoofing it to a little schoolhouse.”

“I thought you said that you grew up in Santa Cruz, surfing and partying,” James said.

“I never said that,” Pete snapped. But I did spend time there and won a bunch of surfing tournaments. But that kind of cow has sweeter milk with a hint of chocolate. I’d drink it straight from the teats. Much better than Holsteins.”

James rolled his eyes and tried to get a forming image out of his mind. He glanced at Jessie who appeared impressed with the jerk. “So, what’s special about it? Let me see it, Jessie.”

James took the cow and rotated it around under a lamp’s bright light but could not find any markings. Then he shook it, listening for any rattling. “I guess we could start a pile of stuff to investigate further. Mom might remember it.”

“Mom doesn’t remember anything for more than a few minutes, but I guess we can try.” Jessie said as she started back towards the closet.

*        *        *

Several days later, James and Jessie visited their mother in the nursing home with a box of “what’s it” items. They talked to her about the nursing home’s food, birds outside her window, and her health. Finding her to be semi-coherent they decided to show her the stuff in the box. They went through the items one-by-one, showing her old plates, jewelry, cassette tapes, figurines, and other items. Their mother couldn’t remember ever seeing any of the items. Then they pulled out the cow. Their mother’s head jerked up recognizing it.

“Do you remember this cow?” Jessie asked.

“I don’t know. Is that a cow?”

“Yeah, it is mom, is there something special about it? We found it in the back of your closet.”

“Nobody is supposed to touch that.”

“What? Why is that?” Jessie asked.

“I don’t know.”

Their mother held out her hand, so Jessie gave her the cow. She looked at it and then her hands twisted the head loose from the body.

“Mom, did you know the head comes off?” James asked.

“Does it really?”

James reached towards the cow. “Let me see that, mom.”

He took the two parts and looked through the neck hole and into the cow’s body. “Oh my god,” he exclaimed as it fell from his hands towards the floor.