The Corn Dog Continuum

by Sue Eller

Note: this story is based on a real life experience. However, reality became bogged down in a vat of grease and frittered itself away.

Stuck in a crack in space-time, fate doomed me to slave in a corn dog factory for infinity.

My name is Geraldine, and after weeks of searching for gainful employment, I finally found my niche. Or so I thought. Desperation, hunger, and a desire to continue to sleep indoors clouded my vision and visited me with the delusion that the phrase “factory worker” described the ideal dream job. I mean, how hard could it be to make corn dogs?

How little I knew.

I rolled into work my first day about five minutes early. My supervisor gave me a timecard and showed me how to operate the time clock. We waited as the incessant ticks brought us closer to the hour. When the minute hand moved to the proper mark, and a loud whistle emanated from somewhere in the back of the factory, I inserted my timecard, and the machine stamped 0800 in the designated box.

Next stop: the locker room, where another stranger handed me a grease-stained coverall and a mesh cap. (Health department standard protective gear.) A pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves to protect my hands from the hot grease and rubber covers for my shoes completed the dorky chic look.

Thus outfitted, I entered a doorway into the bowels of the factory. My supervisor had to shout to be heard over the clanking machines, even though she stood right beside me. She pointed to handles with hooks on the ends, joined together by a sturdy iron crossbar. A hinge attached a second bar with perpendicular slots to the rest of the assembly. I grasped one of the handles of the oversized, inverted “U” in each hand and wondered briefly what function the hooks served.

As I watched, one of the workers skewered hot dogs with long wooden sticks and passed them to the next guy, who opened the long bar at the base of the U and placed a wooden stick in each of the eight depressions. He clamped it shut with a snap, and a conveyer belt carried the bars to the next station, which was my assigned place.

My job was to dip each bar full of hot dogs in a vat of batter directly in front of me and hook it on another conveyor belt, which carried the contraption through a long trough bubbling with hot grease. At the other end, a worker would unhook the bar and release the dogs onto another conveyor belt which whisked them away to parts unknown. Slick operation, wouldn’t you think? Prophetic words. Literally.

After a brief demonstration, I grasped both handles of the bar, dunked the dogs in the batter, swirled them around, pulled them out and hooked the handles on the continuously moving belt. I watched as it traversed the narrow vat of grease, bubbling and popping on its merry way to the other side.

“You didn’t get them covered well enough,” the boss lady shouted at me. She demonstrated one more time and watched me until she was satisfied. The crack in space-time widened, and I stepped into it as I took my station in front of the vat of batter and the trough of grease.

Enthusiastic, I grabbed the handles of the bar to my right, dipped and swirled the suspended dogs in the batter and sent them on their frying way. Before she left, the boss gave me instructions on timing the grease submersion step.

“If you get them too close together, the guy at the other end won’t be able to get them off and empty them. But if you get them too far apart, it slows production down. Keep a steady pace, and don’t mess up the battering part.” She shook her head and walked away. I was determined to disprove her low opinion of my abilities.

It didn’t take me long to develop a rhythm. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t dip too soon or the batter will slide off the hot dogs before they dive into the deep fryer. Be precise and get a good swirl on each dog. Every bar is a work of art. The Corn Dog Continuum sucked out my brain and threatened to hold it captive for eternity. Every trip through the vat fried more brain cells.

Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. I looked around for a clock and found none. Almost got out of the rhythm with that move. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

The crack in time was closing in around me. Grease saturated every pore of my face and pooled at the tip of my nose. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

I reached up and rubbed against an itch on my cheek. I left more grease on my face than I rubbed off. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

Each completed task sucked me further into the void of fryer grease. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

No music. No conversation. Both were impossible because of the clatter of the many machines. Nothing could penetrate the monotony. Not even my thoughts. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

My eyes stared out through a coating of cooking oil, and my eyelashes stuck together. The aroma of rancid grease permeated my nasal passages. The rack of bars loaded with future corn dogs clanked each time my co-worker hung another at my station. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

In my light-headed state of mind, I envisioned each molecule of oxygen coated in a droplet of grease. Unable to breathe, I fell into a time vortex from which there was no escape. I almost dropped the next bar. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

A thin layer of grease covered my gloves and made grasping the bars more difficult. I had to concentrate and grip hard to keep from dropping them. My hands and forearms and back ached. Grasp. Dip. Swirl. Lift. Hook. Turn to my right and pick up another bar. Don’t get behind. Keep up, but don’t hook them too close together.

Suddenly all was silent. The conveyor belts had come to a halt. I turned to my right to retrieve another bar and found none in the queue. I watched as the last of my handiwork was unhooked and processed. As I wondered what was happening, a loud whistle sounded, and all the workers trudged like a group of automatons toward the lunchroom.

I turned to follow them and slid across the greasy floor like an ice skater on a foul-smelling rink. Cautiously I picked my way to the lunch area and through it into the locker room. I shed the coverall, mesh hat, rubber gloves, and shoe protectors, and left them lying on the floor. I never looked back as I walked out the front door and climbed into the safety of my car. I had escaped the crack in space-time and ended my career as a factory worker.

I will never eat another corn dog.

About Sue Eller

Mystery and sci-fi author
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