a pleasant 110 degrees on the cement floor,
400 pound batteries flowing down my assembly
those rolls had dents and squeaked, creaked,
then ran so fast in parts, it was almost...almost
impossible not to brain yourself with those hunks.
the sweat went from armpit to groin on every
man, and as hard as they tried, no woman
could handle her hair from falling slow, frizzing
the hicks, dicks, chicks, and spics,
that was the form in which they addressed
one another. fondling eachother on break time
with stories about beer, and trips to the casino
where Trump or Ceasar might put a million
right in their lap. a million and they could quit.
a million and linda would even take steven
with her. bob would take as many women as
and they would laugh about queers and gossip
about sherri or cheri or sherry.
how she and her whole group of quality control
could bite it for ruffling about the acid vat.
didn't matter when a row of 100 being charged
started popping the rubber ties off and bolts
fell to the floor as victims in a line-up.
not to us. we had to tug, pull, squeeze and shove
the bastard 30-thou a piece tubs around the plant --
like bees out to attack for their queen on some
days, but more often we were the fat house fly
buzzing and drunk at the window, smacking
around in a last dance and looking for home.
but it sure mattered up front, far away from the
stink of our showers. a lead-soaked environmental
requirement, our blood checks weren't. aspirin
will make you feel better said Smiles-a-lot.
a million and you could sign out. go home.
all those who had cheated the SAT, not the SAT
of high school, but the piss test to get into
college--we had signed the contract. and the contract
bullied about discharge upon saying something
almost...almost like u. u. union, if i recall.
you say union and you'll sign out up front
where the weather is better, and the dicks were
truly dicks in white. white against blue.
everyone there was an alcoholic, coked, or on
a mission. my coked boss held two full time jobs
and stepped like he was about to fall over,
the way hospital gowns walk. bob hit on every
thing including an asian, and that was like a
man complaining about a blister where
everyone had scurvy. he set himself up for the
std discussion and people stopped washing
their hands when he came to the sink. the last
of the 70's gigolo, bob had suddenly gotten aids.
but i wasn't anything but ghostly, standing smoking
and reading in the corner, one ear on the latest
newsbreak, one eye on the word "puritan" from
Hawthorne. i was as wrong as a lily eating an
onion, and felt as guilty as Hathorne did before
changing his name with a simple "w"--
putting that "w" in feels like a simple apology
for the hung Witch. he didn't look at it like that.
escape from guilt holds no confessor without
no one forgives Salem, and the white-shirts
wouldn't step out of their paper memo's and
air conditioning if Buddha sat directly on sherry
or shery or cherry's face. and the biggest boom
whispered was that v.p. edwards was getting
clinched by her nails, was getting sucked by
her lips and was his whore. maybe it was true
because she wore blue, her lipstick was even
blue, but she was never anything but up front.
and most blues who went up front never came
home to the heat. she plunged in quick to yell,
jogged back up front to yell, and stayed
on v.p. edwards' laptop--gazing in awe at his
business degree, loving how she was special,
and Smiles-a-lot nurse had even given
her a wrist brace for carpal tunnel jack-offs.
There was a bucket of bandaids under 110
degrees outside her door which was permanently
locked. so many had scribbled epithet's such
as "bitch" and "cocksucker" that they'd painted
the seal shut. this was a hoot to Osha, and v.p.
edwards lost 40 thou of his bonus.
our planned pizza party was cancelled due to
sherry or cheri or shery's need to blow hard.
due to a wrist brace and a bucket.
Smiles-a-lot gave us stretching exercises.
a direct insult to those who had almost...almost
lost a limb or hand or burnt the fuck out of a
leg. she wouldn't touch blood let alone the lead
dust, but she sure had a nice dentist--and someone
had died last year of an abscessed tooth.
someone said there was a plaque up front. and
once i went up through the locked gate of hell
just to glance and ask the receptionist for a memo.
i'd forgotten my memo, but someone named Paul
had died from lack of a dentist plan. a trophy the
size of my face was on the wall, the president
was rarely seen but huffed at the same weight of
my beloved batteries. (and so the plaque was not
as large as it should have been) but my beloved
batteries were making me into a running back.
i was as stupid as a post-game interview, and
my boss smiled and called me sweetie. my uniform
sagged just enough it was impossible to keep
the factory from knowing. i'd lost 20 pounds of fat,
and gained 20 extra muscle ripples, and no chick
had ever lasted at post seal before. i would never
lose my tits, no matter how hard i read hawthorne
on the breaks. i was smoking and eating and reading
and fucking myself all at the same time.
there was a great deal of sweat lost in showers and
i slept instead of thinking.
i was turning into a busy bee, feeding the 400 degree
twin oven's their children. a robot makes one year's
salary in there, as long as it almost...almost.
no accidents and no unions.
my feeder was across from me wearing heavy
gloves and watching the lava machine
spill out almost perfect square rods for
me to slam rubber over and fill with epoxy.
straps to hold me here and over, but using
them wouldn't allow you to hit quota. and hitting
quota was a promise for beer, a trip to the casino--
and just maybe you could sign out,
get out with a million in your lap
and almost...almost catch Trump or Ceasar.
the feeder had a name and he was the real thing.
the tremor was obvious, and Jim never said a
single thing to anyone; he never smiled to the
robot grasping his offering--and his flask sometimes
flew out of the boots he wore. a ha ha rumor about
him and his drunken fly window. maybe he was
my back was turned to the one green oven. i was
chipping caked glue off my hand like whittling a horse.
this night it was 120, and you wouldn't think such
a difference was anything less than another small
bruise. the highest squeal departed into the cacophony
and broke through as a sure sign that a machine
and if a machine was broken, then your ass would
see white-shirts and someone was gonna pay.
i put my head into the oven because idiots look at
the lips of a gun when they jam.
but it wasn't me that was gonna pay.
i must have screamed as a defense attorney does
when his cash blurts out its guilt, but it wasn't the
intercom calling in a terrorist alert. the kind of terror
that could only happen when someone falls into an acid
vat. this was a different horror, and not one a robot
could assess. it took almost...almost.
a decade for me to vault over the chest-high line.
Jim's glove was gone and a silver spray was slowing
to the trickle of a calmed faucet.
he was growing limp and larger at the same time,
and i didn't see anything but his arm bent the
wrong way. it should have been straight, but a bone
danced out and left the rest to look out for itself.
i don't know how long we were on the floor, i don't know
when i realized that a finger was missing, or that blood
wasn't just on one of us...it was creeping and crawling--
literally lapping and stalling against a piece of metal.
the robot couldn't possibly comprehend that the hands
were actually trying to stop the heartbeat timing,
1, 2, 3, 4 went the eruption from this hand.
all the while someone was holding the smiling bone
on the floor, and cupping Jim's head.
my boss had come in a steady gallop and that meant
I was gonna pay for this mess, someone was gonna
see the white-shirts, and v.p. edwards would be interrupted
from intercourse with sherry or sheri, possibly cheri.
it took a decade for the ambulance. in that time someone
who looked like me hit the red button. someone who talked
like me had grabbed every piece of soaking material.
people do that when a boy barfs beans on the bus.
and it stinks so bad, it smells so bad someone else will
at the inquisition, V.P. Edwards asked me what happened.
Sherri or Cheri...no, it was certainly Sherry opened a mini-
fridge full of Pepsi they kept hidden up front. Up front the
white-shirts circled around me the way children do
when a gull has a broken wing and is flapping, flapping,
flustered. Off my tracks died two batteries weighing in at
800 pounds and 60 thou. The one Jim broke his arm in and
lost a finger added another 400 and 30 thou.
It would have taken a robot 3 years to make up for this
accident. It would have taken Buddha to sit on Edwards' face
to stop his smirk and make Sherry stop gazing.
Smiles-a-lot was particularly pissed that the robot had
broken a finger in the process. The robot hadn't noticed it
had a finger...but apparently those cost someone else's salary.
Workman's comp. would've been close to me saying u.u.
union...and my hungover boss let the Up Front Parade of White
badger us and shake their heads...and Sherry got Pepsi's out
for all of them, never offering one to the robot or to boss. 15
minutes before lunch, my coked up loving boss Chuck snapped
and, "you couldn't possibly know how you'd react in an
The meeting was over and the other shift's hated me, and
Chuck laughed and laughed and laughed when I said that the
white-shirts hadn't offered ME a pepsi. My shift fell in around
me and begged for details the robot didn't remember. the
robot wouldn't recall. and the robot couldn't relay how it
felt when Jim almost...almost. seven months later, i had read
Hawthorne everday lost and the bills were done and i was
tired of being the chick "who laid Jim" ha. ha. so the robot
signed out. signed off without Ceasar or Trump.
and because Jim wasn't back, the monsterous machine was
sitting for something almost...almost. still. and because Chuck
was high and happy to see me win a million. and because
many had lost a finger, a toe, broken a leg, and always
burnt the fuck out of something. and because they would still
return and tell beer stories. and because i asked my boss.
chuck told me. Jim once had a wife and two daughters. One
daughter was in the driveway, in an idling monsterous car, and
maybe possibly his wife named sheri or sherry was in the house.
the other daughter was playing outside. there was some sound
and to a robot it probably sounded like a squeal, when the one
baby daughter put the car in reverse and ran the other one
over. popped and cracked her small pretty head. i don't recall
if my boss said it quite like that.
but Jim's daughter was dead, and the other was lost in the
custody battle, and Sherry took off and left him with nothing
because something went the wrong way, like a bone. something
wasn't supposed to collapse and bleed. and it wasn't an almost...
almost. so the flask was a good idea...like pain medication is a
good idea for cancer.
so i was leaving the building, and Chuck let me up Front (of
White) because they weren't home at 3 a.m. and i took every
pepsi i could get out of the mini-fridge. on my way out to the
parking lot, every pocket loaded with a can, even under my
armpits in my coat--and hawthorne in my hand. i put one can
where Jim would have been parked. the shift rattled in the dark,
inviting a robot to the only bar open at 7 a.m. "thanks but
maybe later" and i almost...almost.
suddenly there was a squeal so loud i lifted butter. or hands
or hawthorne to my ears. someone was coming in late. someone
was gonna pay. the camaro was gonna pay for being late, and
the time-clock doesn't lie. the pepsi cans that had frozen my pits
tumbled down the parking lot like running backs. i started tossing
others in the random row reserved for the elite, where Sherry
parked her blue shirt and blue lips now. where Smiles-a-lot
occasionally rammed stretching exercise and a bucket of band-
aids on hicks, dicks, chicks, and spics.
the robot started to smile on one corner of its cracked lips. and i
threw pepsi everywhere that the white-shirts would notice.
i thought i heard a coked-up man who worked two full time jobs
chuckling, and thought the chuckling was almost...almost. well.
it was my former boss, Chuck.
the robot took its first vacation in two years and sat in underwear
watching commercials. the robot that had thrown 800 pounds
to the ground to leap over rolling pins on a table began to think
about Hawthorne instead of read Hawthorne. it picked up "The
Scarlet Letter" and headed for the post office. before it left, it
put an index card on top of it, taped it down so Sherry could
never lick it, squeeze it, or fuck it off. and on the index card,
a beautifully disgusting blood-red "A" was scrawled.
I posted the book with a full smile for the first time in years.
I thought about Jim and hoped he was somewhere without tremor,
drinking whatever he wanted, watching whatever he wanted with
one good hand. Jacking off with his one good hand. Driving with
his one good hand. And rich as a mother fucker who just robbed
Trump. Maybe he'd die or be miserable anyway...
but Jim was able to sign out...he got out from under 120 degrees.
now he had a new chance. and it was his choice. there was no
one to tell him not to say u.u. union and no bucket for a broken
arm and lost finger. and even more i wasn't his heroine, i was
damn lucky Jim stuck his hand in a machine...and there wasn't
anything "almost" about it. i saw a torn off finger and a bone
sticking out of skin. and i did whatever it is that some people do
every single day.
I posted "The Scarlet Letter" to Vice President ----Edwards.
and now sometimes i wish i was working in a factory.
okay....that is not a poem. but the epic poem that i'd written before was much, much better. (meaning i hit 4th grade!!!) this is a story...and it wasn't before. so now i have to either tear it around, or tear it down.
it's certainly not as good as what chao did...
and chao, disregard everything i said above.
you've got me thinking about my father, and not the factory.
this is all your fault, fucker.