Management had nothing to do with it. Nor did the public relations people, the plant supervisors, or the rest of the R & D staff. No, the idea to build the mile-long hot dog–“Holmes” as we came to call it–was ours completely. From the first tortured sketches to the final prototype, the whole project was conceived, conducted, and ushered to its inevitable conclusion by myself and the four other processed meat technologists here at Weiner Tech.
You probably haven’t heard of Weiner Tech. Not many people outside of Elmo, Indiana–our headquarters–have. We’re the research and development arm of Carnico Food Products, and what we do is invent snack foods, or more specifically, meat-based snack foods. Fun-filled treats like Pork Puffs, Farmer Vinny’s Meat Log, Reduced Fat Schnitzel Stix, and our current taste sensation, Thrillbasa, a six-inch long Polish sausage rolled in a bowel-wringing crust of jalapeno flakes and Japanese wasabi sauce.
What can I say? It’s a bizarre gig. But someone has to do it. And that someone is me.
I’m Douglass C. Rupp, and my particular specialty is emulsions–heat coagulable proteins to be exact. Some guys know microprocessors, other guys know internal combustion engines, but for me, it’s lunch meat. Yup, for twenty years now I’ve racked my brain, contemplating such thrilling topics as protein ratios and metallocene catalyzed polyethylenes, and let me tell you, it gets old, real old. Once, when I was a young whippersnapper out of grad school, it was fun; even a simple pork salad amino configuration would thrill me, but now it’s just boondoggle–all of it.
Sure I make good money, but I want more. I want acclaim. Recognition, however slight, that what I do matters, that my talent is appreciated. That’s how this whole mile-long hot dog thing happened. I wanted to do something epic, something I could point to and say “I did that!”
God knows I have the experience. Four years at Purdue University’s Center for Bovine Research. A decade of lab-intensive training at Oscar Mayer’s state-of-the-art facility in Madison, Wisconsin. Stints at Hillshire Foods and Hy-Grade Farms, where among other things, I pioneered the use of myosin as a binding agent in both olive loaf and Cotto salami. I mean, I’m good–the best there is in this cockamamie business.
But no amount of technical know-how could have prepared me, or any of us, for the emotional tour-de-force of the mile-long hot dog. To this day I still marvel at how it happened, how for one, brief, glimmering moment, we towered, Titan-like, over the entire world of processed meat. Looking back, I can only conclude that it was Fate that brought us together, and that somehow, through some absurd destiny, the five of us had been assembled for one heroic, albeit doomed purpose–to build a frankfurter not one foot long, not three feet long, but five thousand, two hundred and eighty feet long.
It was Friday, at lunch, and the five of us–me, Bob Krentz, Chet Podgorski, Griff Dolan, and German wunderkind Heinrich von Mueller–were commiserating in the cafeteria, when the topic turned to sausages and thermosealable tubular casings. Not again, I thought, burying my head in a magazine.
“Nylon is the future,” said Krentz, settling into his chair, “it’s strong, resilient, and a fraction of the cost.”
“Bunk,” replied Dolan, “absolute bunk.”
“The Europeans are using it as we speak.”
“For what? Bangers? Some hideous Loire valley saussisson?” said Dolan, snickering under his breath.
“Doesn’t matter. It works for any meat product.”
“It is true,” said von Mueller, nodding eagerly, “I have seen it wit my own eyes.”
Dolan yanked off his wire rims. “You’re telling me,” he said, leaning over the table of plastic trays and balled-up napkins, “that a nylon casing would produce the same texture as a traditional animal-derived casing? Why,” he said, chortling, “that’s just impossible.”
“It depends on the moisture to protein ratio,” said Podgorski.
“And the size of the links,” I added.
“Size has nothing to do with it,” snapped Dolan.
Krentz laughed out loud, his belly flouncing under his shirt. “Ha. Size has everything to do with it, my friend,” he said, rather ominously.
The four of us watched, spellbound, as he made a crane out of his thumb and forefinger and hoisted a weenie out of a quagmire of baked beans. “Consider the foot-long, the lengthiest of all commercial frankfurters,” he said, wagging it provocatively, “why, you may ask, is it only a foot? Why not a yard? Or ten yards?”
“Or a mile,” I said, returning to the pages of Synthetic Meats Montly. “Hey, look. Hormel’s launching a Bouillon Bar.”
“What did you say?” said Krentz, his voice hushed, barely audible over the din of the cafeteria.
“Hormel’s got this new–”
“No. Before that.”
“About the mile-long hot dog?”
And as soon as I uttered that fateful assemblage of words, I felt a spark, a tingle of wild, forbidden delight. The others felt it too, and when I looked up I was faced with a gallery of awestruck stares. For a tantalizing moment we gazed at each other, pondering the thought, before Krentz seized my arm.
“It’s, it’s fantastic!” he cried, gripping me, “A mile-long frankfurter! Why, just think of it!”
“It would feed the whole county,” said Podgorski, beaming.
“Is it possible? How would you–”
“We could do it,” screamed von Mueller, slamming down his fist, rattling the silverware, “the five of us, togedder, could bring it TO LIFE!”
I didn’t know what to say. Of course, the thought of a sausage of such staggering dimensions was beyond incredible, but somehow, despite our enthusiasm, I knew it wouldn’t happen. Carnico was in the midst of a huge new products blitz, from my own Chick-N-Chews to von Mueller’s WurstBurst–traditional German braunschweiger interspersed with refreshing mint flavor crystals–the five of us were swamped.
So as Krentz rambled on and Dolan whipped out his drawing pad, I let the thought dwindle. The mile-long hot dog was a pipe dream, wishful thinking. Douglass C. Rupp had more pragmatic concerns.
Over the next few weeks, it was nose-to-the-grindstone at Weiner Tech: a blur of test-tubes, fluids, and whirling centrifuges. The five of us barely had time for lunch, and all talk of the mile-long hot dog vanished. That is, until one night, when von Mueller came to me.
I was on Concourse C, heading to the nitrogen tunnel, when his unmistakeable voice cut the air.
I turned around, to see his slender figure slouched against the concrete.
“Yes, it is me,” he said, stepping lithely from the shadows.
“It’s midnight,” I said, shocked by his haggard, up-all-night appearance, “what are you doing here?”
He slid a pack of Export A’s from his denim shirt, tapped out a cigarette and nervously lit one up. “I want to talk to you,” he muttered.
“Yeah? About what?”
von Mueller took a drag and exhaled. “About the mile-long hot dog,” he said, wisps of grayish smoke mingling with his words.
“I’ve made some calculations.” Feverishly, he pulled a handful of napkins and other paper scraps from his pockets and thrust them under my nose. “Look, if the binding index can stay below .0024–”
“What about WurstBurst?” I said, backpedaling, a tad frightened by his enthusiasm. “Aren’t you in the final stages?”
He gazed at me for a pained moment before plucking the cigarette from his mouth and dropping it to the floor. “It will never work,” he said, grinding it out with his boot heel, “I know dat now.”
“But I thought–”
“Douglass!” he cried, rushing towards me, gripping my shoulders so hard that it hurt, “I want to do something big, something I can remember for the rest of my life! No one, and believe me when I say this,” he howled, hovering so close that I could smell the nicotine on his breath, “no one wants wurst!”
I stepped back, shocked by the sudden flare-up. von Mueller was an intense man and a brilliant scientist, but clearly, this mile-long hot dog idea had him obsessed.
“I don’t know, Heinrich,” I said, fingering my clipboard, “I’m awfully busy.”
“Please. We can’t do it without you.”
“What do you mean we?”
“I’m in too, Doug,” a voice announced, from one of the auxiliary tunnels. I squinted into the murk, before I made out the swollen profile of Podgorski, standing there with his hands in his pockets. “Um, we need someone to mix the emulsion,” he said, shuffling up to von Mueller.
“Krentz is designing the casing,” Podgorski whispered, looking furtively around, “Dolan’s doing color. All we need is you.”
“Carnico will never go for it,” I said, shaking my head, “and if we do it on our own, we could get fired.”
“That is a chance we have to take,” announced von Mueller, stepping boldy into the light, “we can do it, I know we can!”
I gazed into his pleading, ice-blue eyes, eyes watery with a sad, almost poetic longing, and I couldn’t help being struck by his courage, and at the same time, his vulnerability. Here was Bavaria’s leading meat technologist, a veritable Einstein in the field of wursts, pates and terrines, willing to risk it all in order to design a gargantuan frankfurter. Was he mad?
“I’ll think about it,” I said. “Okay?”
A look of relief crossed his face. “Okay, then.”
“Of course, should you refuse to help,” said Podgorski, “you’ll have to keep quiet about this.”
“Of course,” I said, turning for the nitrogen tunnel. But before I could travel another foot, von Mueller left me with these final parting words, words which to this day resound deep and poignant, echoing within the canyon of my soul.
“We need you, Douglass. Be there for us.”
Now I’m not the sentimental type, but there was something sincere about von Mueller’s plea, something oddly touching. To see his dour, rational self so thoroughly entranced by such a fantastical concept made me ponder it myself, and for the next few days I couldn’t help contemplating whether or not I should join “Project Holmes,” as the whole undertaking had been so rakishly named.
At first the idea of a mile-long hot dog seemed ludicrous, but the more I thought about it, the more irresistible it became. von Mueller was right; we needed to do something big, something epic that would make the world notice our talents. We were brilliant researchers, geniuses, but we toiled in total obscurity. And for what? So pudgy middle Americans could cram their faces with fatty snack foods? It seemed hopelessly banal.
Sure, I was comfortable, compared to most people even well-off. I had an impressive ranch-style home in Elmo Estates, a peppy, fuel-efficient Honda Accord (with twin cupholders), a portfolio of burgeoning mutual funds, the whole middle class dream. But what was I doing with my life? Why was I here? It was a question I’d never really asked.
For years I’d focused on the task at hand, immersing myself in the quotidian, and now, suddenly, I was zooming back, examining things from afar, questioning every aspect of my life. Here I was, forty-six years old, newly divorced, afflicted with male pattern baldness, wearing Sans-A-Belt slacks to hide my advancing girth, trudging into a soulless job, day after stultifying day, on the fast track to old age, infirmary, and ultimately, a coffin.
Was it a mid-life crisis? Did I catch a whiff of mortality? I don’t know. But after that night in the tunnel, everything started to seem, well. . . boring.
Over the next week, the mile-long hot dog consumed me. It lingered behind every waking moment, hovered over each trivial conversation, its impossible length burned into my subconscious. I grew moody, distempered; I snapped at my assistants and stormed about the quad, the thought of its all-powerful size reducing my daily tasks to hapless insignifica.
Finally, one night, as I lay staring at the ceiling, it happened. I bolted upright, threw off the sheets and sprinted outside, where I stood naked on the porch, contemplating my entire existence. And there, as the milky moon cascaded down upon me, I capitulated. “Yes!” I screamed, to the boundless expanse of the universe, “I will do it! I will build the mile-long hot dog!”
Dogs barked; lights snapped on, but I cared not. I had made my decision. My life would not be in vain. I would do something. I, Douglass C. Rupp, with the aid of several highly-qualified colleagues, would construct a gigantic weenie.
von Mueller was ecstatic when I phoned him, as were the rest of the team, and the next night we toasted the project in the lab. “To Holmes!” we cried, clinking fifty milliliter beakers of Maker’s Mark together like giddy frat boys. “May he dwarf all other frankfurters with his prodigious size!”
After a few more rounds, we shook hands and took vows of secrecy. It felt criminal, plotting like that, but I couldn’t help thrilling at the subversive nature of it all. I guess all I needed was a bit of adventure.
And the mile-long hot dog was it.
Immediately, we set about figuring. We pecked calculators, hammered keyboards, held long, conspiring lunches in the cafeteria, and gradually, a plan began to coalesce.
Of course, designing a frankfurter of such otherworldly dimensions presented some unique problems. Should the casing be gas-permeable? Re-generated collagen? Synthetic? Dolan, of course, wanted natural, but was ruled out in favor of Krentz’s proposal, which was to house Holmes in a micro-thin sheath of cellulosic rubber. This had two principle advantages: it would bring added stability to Holmes’s hyper-long tubular structure, as well as protect him from any hungry admirers wishing to taste the world’s longest hot dog for themselves. (Although if we chose to render him edible at some point, the casing, theoretically, could be skinned away in a massive circumcision.)
Next von Mueller calculated the ingredients. He took the contents of an ordinary foot-long with an eighteen millimeter circumference and multiplied them by 5,280 to arrive at the exact, angstrom-sharp specifications:
Meat product 2,005,308.000790
Sodium Erythorbate 22,901.302090
Sodium Nitrite 18,003.450099
To one accustomed to the microscopic, the amounts were staggering, not to mention a bit discouraging. I mean, where were we going to find two million grams of “meat product?” At Food Barn? The rest of the ingredients we could procure easily. Carnico had endless chemical reserves, towering, aloof silos of salt and monoglyceride sulfate, but as independent researchers working without a corporate bankroll, we had a serious dilemma when it came to our principle ingredient: meat.
Luckily, Podgorski knew a supplier in Illinois, some guy he went to 4-H with in junior high. Vern Tubson was his name, and he dealt primarily in pork, but he had a truckload of frozen “cow parts” as he put it, that he wanted to unload: lips, tongue, connective tissue, pancreas, hell he’d even throw in some “mountain oysters” if we wanted. I found the idea of purchasing black market beef trimmings from someone named “Vern Tubson” dubious at best, but we had no choice. Podgorski swore the guy was USDA, so we did it. What else could we do?
So one freezing night, with the wind whistling through Carnico’s chain link fence, I found myself shivering on a loading dock, while Podgorski flagged a shabby, puke-green eighteen-wheeler with Yosemite Sam mud-flaps into the refrigeration bays. The brakes screeched to a halt, the back door trundled open, and as pot-bellied, manure-stained Vern Tubson watched bemusedly on, the five of us, using hand-trucks, unloaded pallet after freezing pallet. It was cruel, backbreaking work, and it wasn’t until six hours later, when the sun slid over the horizon in an orange smear, that we finished our task.
“What you boys want with all a that?” Tubson asked, as we sat drenched in sweat, catching our breath.
Dolan looked at him point-blank. “We’re making a hot dog,” he said.
“Well,” said Tubson, squirting a noxious plug of Red Man from his bewhiskered mouth, “must be some goddamn hot dog.”
The entire shipment cost forty-six hundred dollars, which we split five ways. Now it was up to Krentz to finish the last quarter-mile of casing, Dolan to figure the color indices–the amounts of nitrite and lactobacillus needed to give Holmes that rosy, cured-meat color–and we’d be ready to mix.
The last stages went by with the focus of a military operation. Seeing Holmes in his pre-hot dog state, packed in cellophane, infused us with desire, and like worker-drones we kept on, in a rabid push to the finish. We pilfered the last few ingredients, revised estimates, and soon, after checking and rechecking our calculations, we were ready to emulsify.
That night, working in the wee A.M. hours, we dumped the meat product, polyphosphates and other chemicals into one of Carnico’s massive 10,000 gallon stainless steel pressure cookers and anchored down the lid. And with the others hovering over my shoulder, I sat before the long console of blinking lights, took a deep breath, and flipped on the convection units.
For the next five hours I sat, rigid and alert, watching the endless rows of gauges and meters, adjusting the ingredient levels as only I know how. It was nerve-wracking and tedious–one misread protein configuration and the whole batch could be ruined, instantly–but I persevered, thinking of the glory that awaited me. And slowly, as the temperature rose, and as Krentz dabbed my sweaty forehead with a dove-white hanky, the raw materials broke down, their molecular structures binding together, emulsifying with the coagulants into a thick, gelatinous slurry.
By ten-thirty the mixture had reached consistency, and with a whoop of delight I flew up from my chair. It was done! All that remained was to let the slurry cool and we’d be ready to pump it into the casing.
After a round of backslaps, I took a much needed nap in my office, before heading to the lab to work on Chik-N-Chews and the other hopelessly mundane projects that occupied my day. But I didn’t care. Because in a matter of hours, that elusive entity we’d dreamed about for so long, that ludicrous, Brobdingnagian concept that had enthralled us from the minute I’d first uttered it, would pass from vague imaginings into the realm of glorious, mind-shocking reality.
At midnight, after the custodial crews had left, the five of us–clad in white jumpsuits, rubber surgical gloves and OSHA-approved safety glasses–met on the production floor of Hangar 119, near the towering, intestinal mass of the Frank-A-Matic processing machine. No one said a word; we gazed confidently into each other’s eyes, as the knowledge of what we were about to do slowly sank in.
“Alright,” said Krentz, pacing back and forth like a drill sergeant, “we’ll start in a ninety seconds. If anyone has to go to the bathroom, go now.”
“I’ll make it quick,” Podgorski said, unbuckling his Dockers and prancing off, a trifle ashamed, to the men’s room.
The rest of us got down to business. Krentz fitted the casing onto the dispersion valve; Dolan checked the feed lines, and von Mueller and I made a last few adjustments to the Frank-A-Matic.
Since Holmes was linkless the machine’s cam disks had to be recalibrated to perform continuously, instead of stopping at pre-determined intervals as in the ordinary weiner-birthing procedure. Hopefully, this adjustment would work. The Frank-A-Matic was the best automatic sausage production apparatus in the western hemisphere, but it was a bitchy, temperamental machine, and after our tinkering, there was no telling how it would perform.
After a few last turns of the caliper, though, it was ready. Podgorski returned from the men’s room, zipped up his fly, and we took our places on the production floor.
“Ready?” cried von Mueller, climbing into the operator’s seat, strapping the leather safety harness around his chest.
The four of us gave the thumbs up, and a second later, with a puff of steam and a whirling, gurgling clanking, the Frank-A-Matic rumbled to life. It trembled, shaking violently in its housings, rattling around, as von Mueller brought it up to speed. Then, once the cacophony turned to a smooth, efficient humming, he seized the controls.
“Okay!” he screamed, lowering his goggles, “let’s make ze motherfucker!”
Dolan cranked on the valves. Krentz secured the casing, and split-second later, as I watched in utter amazement, a tube of pink, ballooning meat shot out of the Frank-A-Matic, filled the rubber sheath, and soared majestically into the air.
“Holy shit!” I cried.
“Grab it!” yelled Krentz.
Before I could move, another thirty feet spilled out of the machine. I stood dumbfounded, alternate waves of horror and joy rippling through my body, and as more of Holmes torpedoed by, thrashing over the floor, I realized what had happened.
The Frank-A-Matic’s dispersion rate was set at ten feet per minute, but somehow, the sensitive gauges had realigned themselves, and now the exit speed was twenty times as fast!
Krentz and I sprinted after him, but Holmes kept on. Already his tip was a hundred yards away, nosing menacingly across the tile, snaking and slithering and sidewinding along, every second bringing him closer and closer to Podgorski, who stood at the opposite end of the hangar, examining his fingernails.
“Podgorski! Look out!” I screamed.
Immediately he looked up, to see Holmes rocketing towards him. At the sight of the rampaging weenie, his eyes widened, his jaw dropped in a rictus of shock, and he stood rooted to the floor, unable to move. Then, mercifully, some survival instinct kicked in and he snapped into action, lowering his squat form into a wrestler’s crouch, bracing for the impact.
The pink blur barreled over the tile, picking up speed; Podgorski waited, tensed, ready to spring, and right when the angry whip of undulating hot dog came upon him, Chet made a wild, flying leap, hurling his two-hundred and forty pounds atop the super-sausage and pinning it to the floor.
His progress impeded, Holmes bunched into a seething, writhing mass. Podgorski clamped his hands around him like he was wrestling an anaconda, rolling frantically around, squeezing until his face turned beet-red, but the frankfurter–thanks to another boffo emulsifying job by yours truly–was too strong. Krentz and I dove in, and the meat piled up, spiraling back and forth, dipping, soaring, knotting around, growing thicker by the second, until we were completely ensnared.
“I can’t breathe!”
“von Mueller!” I yelled, a section of weiner slithering over my eyes, “for god-sakes. . . SHUT IT. . . OFF!”
For a terrifying moment we lay trapped, with Holmes pinching round, growing tighter and tighter; I felt my breath wither away, my lungs cave in, and right when I was about to lose consciousness, von Mueller hit the kill switch.
It took over an hour for Dolan and von Mueller to extricate us, and we spent the rest of the morning unraveling Holmes and stretching him up and down the hangar, laying him on a series of lightweight aluminum trestles and air-blasting off the detritus. Dolan and I comforted Podgorski, who was badly shaken, while von Mueller set the Frank-A-Matic to a more manageable speed. Finally, at four a.m., the line started up again.
We produced the last half-mile without incident, averaging a sedate twelve feet per minute. All memories of the narrowly-averted tragedy vanished, and as the Frank-A-Matic chugged smoothly along, guided by von Mueller’s steady hand, Holmes wound around the room, elongating into a labyrinth of glistening, reconstituted beef.
Finally, at seven A.M., with a rheumatic cough, the last foot spit out of the machine. Krentz tied off the casing and we carried Holmes to the trestles, where the five of us stood, proud as fathers, drinking up the whole magnificent sight of him.
“There it is,” said Dolan, a wry smile creasing his thin face, “the world’s longest hot dog.”
It took a moment, but slowly, as I followed each twist and turn of Holmes’s incredible length, as I admired inch after glorious inch, the magnitude of our accomplishment melted into my being, and a hot wash of crystalline tears streamed down my face.
“We did it, Heinrich,” I said, clenching him in a bear-hug.
“Yes, Douglass,” he cried, his lip quivering with emotion, “we vill be famous now, all of us.”
Krentz popped open a magnum of Dom Perignon and we passed it around, taking victory swigs and sniffling with joy. Cries of “Yes!” and “Ya-hoo!” echoed throughout the hangar as Dolan and I high-fived, leaping like spastics. Only Podgorski remained stoic and reserved, staring at Holmes with a glazed look in his eye, the memory of the frank-attack still fresh in his mind.
So that’s how it happened, how “Holmes,” the mile-long hot dog, came into existence. All in all, considering how limited in funds we were, it was an amazing accomplishment, and to this day, whenever my mind drifts back to that special time, I feel a deep, glowing satisfaction. But only for an instant–then, the sad realization of what ultimately occurred creeps into me, replacing my happiness with a curdling disgust.
What tragic event usurped my joy? Let me tell you, let me relate it in all of its infuriating detail. . .
That morning, as we celebrated on the production floor, as our coworkers and bosses and the rest of the research and development staff showered us with accolades and gazed in astonishment at our magnificent Mona Lisa of meat, as we beamed with pride and posed for pictures, standing arm-in-arm, like conquerors, some jealous little kill-joy–God knows who–was already at work, conspiring against us, thumbing through that accursed book, reaching that hateful page. . .
I was standing amid a cluster of black, dangling microphones, relating every phase of our odyssey to the fawning media, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a book passing from hand to hand. I ignored it, but gradually, as more people took it up, an eerie hush fell over the crowd.
And right as I was about to sneak off with Sunny Greenfield, a reporter from WMAQ-TV, Chicago for a private, one-on-one interview, von Mueller staggered out of the crowd, holding a thick, dog-eared paperback with a trembling hand.
“Heinrich?” I said, shocked at his blank, somnambulistic expression, “for God sakes, what’s wrong?”
“This,” he croaked, handing over the book.
I scanned the page, and my heart slammed into my gut as I read the insane, spirit-crushing words:
The longest continuous sausage was one of 28.77 miles, made by M&M Meat Shops in partnership with J.M. Schneider Inc. in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada on April 28-29, 1995.
I was stunned, flabbergasted, aghast. At first, I thought it was a joke, some sick, vile prank, then I flipped over the book and saw its title: The Guinness Book of World Records, 47th Edition, 1998.
For a long, spellbound moment I stood, staring into space, as the scene around me passed to a mad hallucinatory swirl. “No,” I said, in a dying whisper, “no, no, no, no, no. . .”
Yes, that’s what happened–right at the summit of our bliss, right at our moment of triumph, it all came crumbling down. Holmes, our pride and joy, our dream, was dead, kaput, finished, nothing more than a pathetic little cocktail frank compared to the mammoth Canadian sausage. It was unbelievable, a total mind-fuck.
The papers had a field day. “Meat Mishap at Weiner Tech” said the Fort Wayne Sentinel, while the Indianapolis Star cried “Mega-Weenie Goes Limp In Frankfurter Farce.” With all the negative publicity, the Carnico brass hit the roof, and the five of us were severely reprimanded for conducting “unauthorized research.” Of course, if we’d succeeded, they would have worshipped us, erected goddamn statues, but that’s beside the point.
So, in the end, the mile-long hot dog went the way of Fulton’s Folly and the Edsel, becoming another colossal, well-intentioned failure in the annals of American history. For a few months it remained, gathering dust in a forgotten warehouse, a monument to thwarted ambition, but eventually, due to its white elephant status Carnico chose to dispose of it, reeling its entire length onto wooden electrical cable wheels and hauling it, via flatbed, to the incinerator.
And there, on a gloomy, overcast day, with the maintenance crews gaping in disbelief, five grown men stood with hands clasped, with tears of despair raining down their collective faces, paying their last, heartfelt respects to Holmes, the mile-long hot dog. The flames whooped and soared, and just like that, in an inferno of hissing, sputtering sadness, it was over.
But more than just a colossal frankfurter died that day. Part of me died, too; and as I stared deep and hard at that swirling conflagration, as my dream went up in so much smoke, I knew that I, Douglass C. Rupp, senior meat technologist at Weiner Tech, was doomed.
Doomed to hover over the same Petri-Dishes of protein; doomed to create bland, tasteless snackables like Baloney Ponies and I Can’t Believe It’s Mutton! Doomed to spend the rest of my earthly days in a lab coat, with only my memories to sustain me.
But I tried. God knows I tried.
And sometimes, that’s all you can do.
-first published in The Brownstone Review