THE CAT FARM   
Writings

Burgers

“Know where them burgers come from?”

He was startled by the ragged old man’s question as he waited for his order at the corner fast food stand. He had barely noticed the crumpled figure, drunk in shambles by the light pole as he walked up, and was surprised now that it was not only animate, but speaking to him. “Why me?” he thought. “Why do these people always pick me for their mad ramblings?” He pretended not to hear.

“Hey! Know where them burgers come from?”

Jesus. “Make that to go,” he called through the small counter window. He picked up a free real estate magazine from a scattered stack on the corner of the counter, and pretended to read.

“I’ll tell you where they…”

He lost it and turned on his tormentor.  “Why are you talking to me? I don’t care where you think the burgers come from. I don’t care what you think about anything. Get away from me. Leave me alone.”

“You should know. I do.” And the ragged old man shambled back to the curb by the light pole.

“Order up!” came the call from the stand. The man took his bag, paid and hurried away.

When the customer had gone, the cook looked out from the kitchen and gave a scolding look to the crumpled figure on the curb. The old man returned the look with defiance.

“I know where them burgers come from,” he snarled.

“I don’t care where they come from, but I’ll tell you where you’re going to go if you don’t get the hell away from here,” the cook replied. “Now beat it.”

The old man rose with effort and shuffled away.

There was a knock at the back door to the stand, and the cook opened it to find a man with a clipboard standing behind a delivery truck with the rear rollup door open.

“Got your meat here,” he said. “Four boxes of burger patties. Sign here.”

The cook took the clipboard, signed the form and returned it to the deliveryman.

“Tell me,” the cook asked. “Do you get people asking you a lot of questions about where these burgers come from? I mean, obviously from cows, but where exactly do they come from?”

“Beats me man. They just load me up at the warehouse and I deliver ‘em. What do you care? You sell ‘em to the customers. The customers eat ‘em. You’re still in business, so they must be o.k.”

“Yeah. Sure. Never mind. I’ll see you next week.”

The deliveryman stacked the boxes of burger patties inside the rear door of the stand, closed the rollup door, got in his truck and drove away.

______________________________________________________

Back at the warehouse at the end of his day, the deliveryman sat on the dock talking to a friend who worked one of the forklifts that loaded the trucks.

“Had a customer asking me today where the burgers come from,” he said.

“What did you tell him?” his friend asked.

“I told him I had no idea, and why would he care anyway?”

“What I hear, he wouldn’t want to know. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard stories about the goings on out at the slaughter  house. I’m thinking it must be pretty scary.”

The deliveryman shrugged. “I guess I don’t want to know either. Gotta  go. See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah man. See you.”

After the deliveryman had gone, the forklift operator headed for the time clock and punched out. As he left through the back door of the warehouse and started for his car, he saw one of the big trucks from the processing plant getting ready to leave. On a whim, he walked up and hailed the driver.

“Hey man, what’s it like working out at the plant. Must be pretty scary, huh?”

“I don’t know,” the driver said. “I guess it’s not all that bad. You get used to it. You should come out some day and see for yourself.”

“Yeah, maybe I will.” But he knew he never would.

_________________________________________________________

The smell at the packing plant was overpowering to anyone not used to it, but he had been around it all his life. Even now, walking with the others down the crowded aisle, the smell and the shuffling and moaning didn’t really affect him. He just moved along with everyone else like he always had, as the aisle narrowed and they were pressed closer and closer together heading toward the big open door of the plant. When the aisle narrowed to where only one of them could pass through at a time, he felt relieved. At least he wasn’t being jostled and pushed along. He was thinking things were getting better, when he looked up and saw a ragged old man sitting on the fence, lowering a large powered nail gun to his forehead.


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