by: Aaron George

“Well makers lead the water where ever they like, Fletchers bend the arrow,
Carpenters bend a log of wood,
Good people fashion themselves.”
-Taken from the dhammanpadda

I first started to hear voices when I was almost twenty years old. I remember the exact day that it first happened because it was the day after my birthday, in February of 2001. I had just started at my new fast food job and I was standing in a room full of people. The floor had red tile and it was surrounded by nicotine-stained white walls; you could smoke indoors then. I was wearing a blue polo shirt and black slacks that didn’t fit right and I had on a special headset that let me hear these voices. I was the young man taking orders in a fast food drive-through.

The first voice I ever heard was that of a feeble-sounding old woman. Her voice grew to be my favorite, and for a while it was a sort of high point to my week, we got to know each other quite well. Her name was Angela and she told me that I reminded her of her son, Teddy, and that just like him, I should get into the movie business.

Aside from Angela there were other friendly voices: middle aged men with that tinge of cheap suit style business and a slight swagger in tone; SUV moms in such a hurry to feed the kids, do the laundry, and everything else they had to do in order to be able to read a bit later in the night; old black folks who called me names like “sonny” or “partner,” teenagers whose main concerns in life were whether or not such-and-such thought they were cute, or whether their car was cool enough or not.

These were some of the more friendly voices. I, in return, was friendly and did whatever it was they asked me to do. I was happier then; I had a girlfriend and we were madly in the sort of first love that would collapse without a thick wall built between the two lovers, and eventually always does when the try to take the wall down. I was doing well enough in school that I was sure to graduate when the time came. I had some close friends, not many friends, but they were all the better for it. Back then I remember that my life ambition was to one day build a skyscraper, something massive and eternal that could withstand anything. The plan was to attend college for architecture, most likely at Archdale University. But, this all took place before I woke up.

There were less friendly, ugly voices also. Voices stuffed with thick tongues and cumbersome cheeks, the voices of lonely drunks with slurred words and raspy, smoke-eaten throats. Voices of bitter old people with nothing better to do than harass me because their children became domesticated whores and suburban drug addicts. Voices of people in too big of a hurry to be even the slightest bit friendly. They were tragic and sorry voices, doing what they asked was always a chore and I hated listening to them.

Aside from some in the early days though, these voices were few enough that I could take them in stride. But after a year or so it was like someone opened the floodgates of the asshole river and they all cooperated to form a committee whose sole purpose was to piss me off and drive me insane. It was then that I developed a sort of hatred for them and the unbelievable stress that they nurtured and cultivated inside my head. But I don’t want to talk about them anymore.

I want to tell you about Bill. Bill was there in the early days. Bill wasn’t one of the voices, but I could talk to him about them, Bill understood. Bill was my boss at the fast food joint. Bill was forty two years old, divorced three times, and had one daughter whom I went to high school with but never talked to because she was “ugly,” and anyway, I was terrified of women back then. Bill’s teeth were decayed to a point that one of them was green; he liked to drink cheap beer and smoke cheap cigarettes. Bill was fantastic to me. An almost perfect mixture of pride and shame lived inside of him, always a bounce in his step and a sad humility in his voice. Bill drove a rusty car from nineteen ninety three, he hated it, but he refused to buy a new one.

My father died when I was four and I suppose Bill was the closest thing to a replacement I have ever had. The conversations Bill and I had were, I guess, typical to all conversations between a grown man and a growing kid, always advising, Bill was. I learned many things from Bill such as “if you ever drink beer out of a girl’s ass crack, make sure she showers first” and “if it’s your first time getting laid, beat off a couple of times before the girl comes over, you’ll last longer and impress the shit out of her.” Along with these little nuggets of wisdom I also learned a little bit about love from his stories about his ex-wives, or “Bitch numbers one, two, and three” as he called them. “That bitch tried to tell me that I love my mother more than I love her,” he once said. “Well Franklin, I looked her right in the eyes and I said, ‘you’re damn right I do! My mother never gave me herpes you fuckin’ cooz!’” and he laughed in a way that sounded like choking. I think the herpes came from Bitch number two.

Bill taught me a bit about patience also; “take it in stride” he would always say when I was down. Bill was a man whose whole life consisted of trying to make up for past mistakes, only to make them all over again.

Bill’s one problem, his real problem, the problem that he really, really needed to address was his weight. To say “Bill is fat” would have been like calling the ocean wet. He waddled instead of walked and he was almost constantly in pain. Most of the time when anyone saw Bill he was sitting down and out of breath, even talking was a chore for him sometimes. His pants alone could have clothed at least three small children from head to toe. Bill was not big-boned.

I never commented on Bill’s weight to his face or behind his back, in fact aside from a few snide comments from stupid people, Bill himself was the only one who ever talked about it. “You know, Franklin,” (Bill was the only person aside from teachers who took the time to say my full name) “my glands are all fucked up and my arteries are clogged like fuckin’ toilets,” or things more self-deprecating like: “and you know me, Franklin, I’m a fuckin’ fat ass…” I never knew quite how to react to these things when he said them. I see know that maybe I should have said something, after all Bill had been there for me many times. One time I thought my girlfriend was going to break up with me and Bill told me to “Get her before she gets you, then she’ll come running back my friend, guaranteed.” I didn’t think it would work, but it did.

At that time I figured that Bill would be alright. I didn’t realize that the strain on his heart from doing something like walking up a flight of stairs was comparable to me running for twenty minutes straight, I didn’t understand what it meant to have clogged arteries and high blood pressure.

The last words I heard Bill say were, “Alright, Franklin, let’s get the fuck outta here. Get everything cleaned up because I’m ready to go home.” He was talking about closing the store down for the night; he meant he wanted me to shut everything down, lock the windows, clean anything left to clean and wait for him to finish counting the money so that he could give me a ride home. Bill would often send everyone but me home early, I could do all the work, and it saved on labor. But as it turned out, Bill and I would go our separate ways that night.

Apparently the average hum of machines and lights in a fast food place is enough to muffle the sound of a three hundred or so pound man falling to the ground—at least muffle it to the point that the kid who’s busy locking the drive-through window up front has no clue that his boss, and friend, is dying.

I walked to the back of the store, probably thinking of ways to finally convince my girlfriend to have sex with me. He was lying on the floor next to the steel prep table with the last bits of life leavening his body in a heart attack.

At first I didn’t really know what was going on; it only took me half of a second to realize I was seeing him die. I called 911; they said, “We’ll be there soon.” I went to Bill’s side as though my sitting there was going to help. His face was sweaty and scowling, his forehead was wrinkling, his lips kept folding in on themselves and every few seconds he would grunt a bit. He didn’t look at me, then, after a bit, he just stopped. He was staring into death with wide eyes to show his struggle against the inevitable; and I was alone in the back of a fast food joint with a dead man near midnight.

For a moment before they got there I just sat looking at him, his body. The whole night was sort of surreal and I don’t really remember every detail. But the memories I do have are thick and almost physical. I remember Bill’s swollen nose, it was red, not only because he had just had a heart attack, but also from years of drinking. I remember that I could see bits of his pale, skinned stomach through the cracks of his red button-up shirt. I thought of closing his eyes but I didn’t…he was supposed to be breathing.

When they finally arrived it felt like it had been a long time but honestly I have no clue how long it was. It was good when they got there though; at some point I’d started thinking about all the dead animals in the building as food, then I looked at Bill, then I vomited in the corner. When the medics found me I was crying and sitting in a puddle of brown bubbly puke, my mouth tasted like sulfur and my eyes were cold with tears. The first medic I saw was a stoutly blond woman; her name was

Beth she said. She looked at Bill then told me to stand up and come up front with her, that she needed to talk to me. When we got up front I remember I offered her something to drink for some reason, then I got myself one, but I never drank it. We sat down in the lobby and two more medics came through the doors with a gurney—they were good looking guys, one had dark hair—the gurney squeaked as it rolled.

Beth began to ask me all sorts of questions: “when did he pass on?” (I wondered why she didn’t just say die) “How well did you know him?” “Did he ever mention anything about drug abuse?” I answered her as best as I could I think, honestly it’s not important, Bill is dead, that’s what matters.

I remember thinking “those damn ambulance lights.” Then I went home and went to sleep. I slept for a day straight through and I quit my job. I sat around my shitty apartment thinking.

If anyone would have ever asked Bill about his weight he would have probably said something along the lines of “It’s my glands,” or “I’m just a fat ass.” He would have said that “when I was a kid I was thinner than a fuckin’ toothpick.” He wouldn’t have said anything about being chronically lethargic, morbidly depressed and inclined to escapism. He wouldn’t have mentioned the fact that after his second wife left him he tried to commit suicide and failed, but never lost his urge to die. He might not have known all these things as clearly as I say them, but that is the truth.

Bill had worked in some form of fast food for more than twenty years. When he started, people working the grills at burger joints actually had to flip the burger, the orders didn’t pop up on computer screens throughout the entire store—and if a person didn’t get their food in sixty seconds, they didn’t call you a shit face. Bill had faith in fast food, “People have got to eat,” he would say. Unlike most fast-food employees though, Bill never really lost his taste for the stuff; they say that in some fast foods there are chemicals that are mildly addictive and after meeting Bill I believe this. Every day Bill ate at least one sandwich of some sort, he also ate a salad when they started serving them.

The sad truth is though that Bill ate for the wrong reasons. Like many Americans (me included to a point) and people not starving to death in some third world country, Bill predominantly ate for taste. Eating was not survival to Bill, eating was pleasure, he chose his meals based on what he was in the mood for and what would taste best. The difference about Bill was that he gave no thought to how his choices would affect him and the world around him, if he did think it through, he didn’t care. For Bill eating was the same as getting drunk or beating off.

One week after Bill died I got a new job, this time at a burger joint that indicated royalty in its name. I was back in the drive-through, back in the headset, back with the voices. Many of them were the same voices that I had heard before; they would come on different days, less often, more frequently. Angela never showed up and that sort of saddened me, but in a way I was happy that she kept her intake of this shit to a minimum. Aside from that the only difference in this job from my last was the food. I had a few more overweight bosses and I made fifty cents less. This is when things started to change.

I decided to take a few more years off before starting school; “some time to get my head on straight” is what I called it then. I was still going to build that massive building one day, maybe right in downtown Archdale, but for now I needed a break from worrying about real life. My girlfriend didn’t. She didn’t want to wait for school and apparently, she didn’t feel like waiting until marriage to have sex anymore. She moved out of state and started college the next fall. I didn’t take this too well, and I basically long distance stalked her. I would call her up and cry and tell her we were meant to be together. One day I called her and when I asked how she was she said “I’m having sex.”

“What? Like right now?” I asked

“No, but often enough…his name is Ben and he’s twenty nine. Please stop calling me. I didn’t tell you before because I was afraid you would kill yourself or something.” Then she hung up on me.

After that I was too pissed off to care about her aside from a feeling of deep resentment. She became my “Bitch number one” I suppose.

Eventually I started getting new interests in life. I would go to the Archdale main library and study things like vegetarianism and veganism. I learned about a group of people that eat only when they get really hungry and weak, they eat for survival and nothing else. I learned about groups like PETA. I read books, visited websites. I wasn’t sure if I could ever stop eating meat but I wanted to.

I learned about things like factory farms and the negative effects they have on the planet and farmers. I saw videos on the internet of cows being slaughtered, live chickens being dipped into huge pots of boiling water and emerging with their feathers gone and in a state of shock. I saw pictures of veal calves and found out that they are never even allowed to walk so the meat stays tender. I learned figures on how much meat America alone consumes in one year and how long it takes for the land of factory farms to regain its fertility. I learned about the different grades of meat and what they mean.

After a while I decided that this was indeed the life for me, I stopped eating meat, I joined PETA I tried to educate people; I wanted to save the world and its animals from the endless and remorseless appetite of my country. I started to wake up.

The idea I had was a logical enough course of action: attack the monsters heart, just like it attacked Bill’s. I would be the lone fast food worker who cared, a crusader. I started printing things out at the library, ordering educational pamphlets and buttons that said things like “meat stinks” and I brought them with me to work. My new bosses were not like Bill though, they were all assholes. They yelled at employees and took their shitty jobs way too seriously. They did things like hold meetings and designate crew leaders, I was employee of the month once. Needless to say I had to sneak in my propaganda, aside from the buttons, those I would wear and I didn’t care if they saw them because we live in America and that is supposed to mean something. Every day I had pockets full of paper, pamphlets hidden in my boxer short waist band, I carried a backpack full of reserve supplies and every customer got something extra in their bag.

For most people I simply stuffed an article about vegetarianism in with their burger and said “have a nice day.” But for the assheads, people who talked down to me or yelled into the damn box, I had special things like pictures of dead cows and featherless chickens, page long descriptions of the places their food came from and the horrible conditions the animals lived in, caked in shit, surrounded by other animals who had died early of disease. If I ran out of supplies I simply talked to people, someone would order and then I would read to them from a nutrition facts sheet just how unhealthy what they’re about to feed their children is. I would remind them about things like heart attacks, high cholesterol and strokes.

Most people didn’t care. I would hand out my stuff and get no response. Some people were thankful, usually mothers, they’d say things like “wow that’s really bad, thanks for the heads up” then I wouldn’t see them for a while and when they did come back they always felt obligated to explain themselves, “no time to cook tonight you know, but I got the kids apples instead of fries” I would then explain to them that I didn’t mean to make them feel bad, they said I did anyways.

A lot of the time, though, people just got mad. With current gas prices it sounds insane that people would actually drive all the way back through my line just to flick me off and throw the picture or information at my face, only to drive off again. Now those sons a’ bitches are paying 4 dollars a gallon, but I’m in a nut house so, I don’t know who won in the end.

Either way I know it made me feel great, I was doing something, helping people, changing the world. I carried it beyond work and on my days off I would go to downtown Archdale and hand out pamphlets. It made me feel good the way that Agnes had made me feel good. Jesus knew what he was saying when he talked about helping others; it really does a good number on you.

I suppose now I have to get to the bad part of my story, the part that got my name and picture on T- shirts for high school kids. I asked my doctor if I could just skip this part. He reminded me that this is the whole reason I’m writing in the first place. When I told him that I think an accurate description was given by the media he said that they (doctors) “were looking to get inside my head,” he told me he thinks I’m “very smart and respectable.”

When I asked him why he wouldn’t just let me go if he thinks I’m so smart and respectable he gave a chuckle and told me not to joke, then our time was up, now I’m back in my room. I suppose they do trust me enough though because they gave me this typewriter and I could easily take it apart and use the little clackers to make a lockpick, or a shiv. I’m sitting here now, and I’m looking at a white cinder block wall, I have a desk, a bed, and this typewriter (until I’m done, then it’s going back in the closet that I can’t get to). I want to leave.

I suppose it was bound to happen one day, you piss with people long enough… Like I said earlier most of the people who got angry at me either cussed at me or threw things at me, I insulted them and they reacted in a reasonable enough manner. All it takes it one wrong move to change things.

One day I was in my usual position at the drive through, blue and yellow shirt wrinkle free, black slacks ironed that morning, and a button that said “Unhappy Meal” and had a picture of a clown holding a blood-soaked fast food bag, gleaming in the midday sun on the side of my stupid black hat. It had been sort of slow that day so I was in a relaxed mood. I hadn’t been to the library in a while so I didn’t have any supplies, but that was o.k., I had my mouth.

I was sweeping the floor and trying to get things done because it was around 8 o’clock and even crusaders like to get home early. My headset beeped (witch if you have ever worked in fast food you know how annoying and shrill that sound is). “Great” I thought “another son of a bitch who wants a super burger.” I pushed the little red button that puts my voice in the box.

“Hi,” I said “welcome to —– —- what can I get for you?”

“Hello?!?” came my response.

“Hello,” I said. “What can I get for you?”

“Oh yeah. .gimee aaaaaaaa super burgerrrrr aaand aaa diet soda,” he said.

“You know that diet soda won’t help at all with that super burger,” I said. “There’s over 400 calories in just one burger.”

“Yeah, OK, gimme a fuckin super burger,” he said.

“Alright,” I said, “just tryin’ to help”

“Yep, fuck off,” he said and then he pulled around.

Now was the little “fuck off” really necessary? Well I thought he took it too far, “tell me to fuck off eh?” I thought. I went and grabbed a bag to put his stupid sandwich in and waited for the grill guy to send it down the little chute. “I should wipe my ass with this bag” I thought as the burger plopped in front of me, when I picked it up I burnt my finger on the heating coil and said, “Shit.”

When I got to the window I was greeted by a man who was probably in his early 40s. He was driving a truck that probably got about three miles to the gallon and when I opened the window he said “What did you call me?”

“Nothin’ man,” I said.

“Yeah right,” he said “Just gimme some fuckin’ ketchup.”

I closed the window and he started to say something but I just walked away, there was ketchup in my area but I didn’t want to be near this guy any more than I had to. “What a prick,” I whispered to myself as I walked towards the little container up front that held the packets of ketchup. I dropped a few in, and with spontaneity not common for me I plucked the pin from my hat and tossed it into the bag.

I walked back to the window and handed him his food. “Thanks,” I said and he drove off, then he parked; assholes always park to make sure you didn’t mess up their order. I forgot about the guy honestly, I went back to sweeping my floor and I was ready to go the hell home.

A few minutes later I started talking to Rob, the skinny black kid who was working front counter that day, we were both saying we were ready to leave. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the light reflect on the doors the way it always did whenever someone walked in. Ron sighed a bit and I headed back to my area.

Next thing I know the guy from the truck is standing up front yelling at Rob. Like I told you earlier my new bosses were no Bill Cromers, my current boss was a younger woman with dark hair and a penchant for being lazy. I knew she wouldn’t do anything, so I walked over to the counter ready for a confrontation.

The guy looked right at me and said, “You! You little asshole! What? You think this is funny?” and he held up the pin.

“Yeah,” I said, “actually I do.” This is one of those situations where, looking back, I can think of thousands of better things to have said.

“Oh really!” he said “You like fuckin’ with people? I’m fuckin’ bleeding now you little shit, I’ve got blood all over my truck and now I’m gonna kick your ass.”

“Dude? You’re bleeding?” I asked (it wouldn’t occur to me until after I woke up from the ass kicking that I had forgotten to close the pin, causing this sorry guy to stab himself). “What the hell did you do?”

He grabbed my shirt front with his bloody left hand. I looked at Rob, his eyes were wide. The guy punched me in the cheek. This was my first time ever being punched so I didn’t really know what happened at first, it didn’t hurt right away but it confused me, it would hurt later on. I was only standing up because he was holding me and he hit me again and spit on my face, then he dropped me, then he left.

I was only out for a minute or so I’m told and when I awoke I saw the panicked face of my dark-haired and lazy boss bending over me and asking me if I was okay. I stood up and she took me to the office to try and do first aid, only there wasn’t really anything to “aid,” his second punch hit my temple so I wasn’t bleeding at all.

After I told my boss what had happened and what I had been doing for about six months with the pamphlets she said she had to fire me, she wasn’t very nice about doing it, either. “Get the hell out of my store,” she said. I left and walked home jobless and with a headache.

This is about the time I started giving up. I started to hate most things and I stopped hanging out with my friends, human contact just sort of bothered me, all my friends had good jobs and were engaged, I didn’t have those things. I knew I was never going to build a fucking skyscraper; I would never even go to school and the idea of success as I had previously conceived it sickened me. My life was going to consist of working jobs I hated for money that didn’t pay the bills, and if I got lucky I would get married a few times, have a kid, and die of a heart attack in the back of some fast food place of the future where people were hardly even needed to run the place because.

I took a new job, this time at the big one, the mother of all fast food and home to the famous clown. It took me less than a week to get the job. I decided to work the grill and avoid dealing with customers. Looking back I should have been amazed I got the damn job, but the thing about those places is that they don’t check references often. I was just glad to be away from people, “Fuck ‘em” I thought. I would make their food and collect my pay and have my real life somewhere else, this was just money.

I started to stay up later every night and sleep in every day until about 2:30 p.m. I would only shave about once a week (if that) and I never did any laundry. My work uniforms as well as my everyday clothes were caked with stains and stunk as a result. I started drinking. Every night after work I sat around getting fucked up and feeling sorry for myself.

I was 20 years old, my girl had left, my best friend was dead, and I had no future. Instead of going out and dealing with these problems in a reasonable manner, I buried myself in escape and spent my time getting as lost as I possibly could.

At some point during this time I discovered self-mutilation. I cut myself profusely. Mostly in the bathtub, with a razor. I loved the way it looked, blood streaming down my arms and into the water, the way a gash like a canyon slowly coming back together would form build bridges of scar tissue. Cutting myself was relaxing and at the same time invigorating. Nothing makes someone feel alive the way that seeing a few inches into their own skin does, the tissue that doesn’t bleed right away but instead slowly builds from a few tiny red dots at the center of the wound. My doctor tells me that the reason I enjoyed it so much is because it forced dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline into my brain. “When your body gets injured, these are the natural responses to help you cope with the pain,” he said. I asked him if he thought that pain was real and he said that, “Though the human mind can block out pain by rationalizing it away as a simple feeling, the problem with what you did Frank is that you were seeking out that pain deliberately,” which is why I wasn’t content with just scratching the surface, but actually had to see my flesh peel away from itself. I guess I can see his point but honestly I just like to bleed.

Most people who cut themselves for reasons other than the person they are dating don’t really go around showing it off or advertise the fact that they are masochists, in fact usually it’s better off if no one knows at all, and that can cause some problems. The majority of my cutting was on my arms, I had tried all over but the arms just felt best. Place a blade on your upper arm, push in just a bit, and with a tiny flick of the wrist you have a nice little football shaped ditch with lovely white tissue inside. It’s simple and quick. The problem started when I ran out of room on my upper arms and had to start cutting my forearms, which meant wearing long sleeves to work.

The coldest day that summer was seventy five degrees and I had to walk forty five minutes to work every day. Most days I was hungover and it’s amazing that I didn’t pass out from dehydration somewhere in the middle of Commerce Avenue. At least once a week my boss would ask me why I was wearing long sleeves and I would give some shitty excuse about being sick.

My new boss’ name was Jason, I didn’t mind the guy or his damned annoying girlfriend who always hung around the store, her name was Clara. Honestly I hardly even noticed people anymore, people and their stupid dreams just got me pissed off. I didn’t want to hear about how someone was gonna be the first person to start a commercial space travel business and change the world once they got out of college.

My basic day consisted of charring meat and making sandwiches. If you have ever worked in fast food you know that it is stressful as all hell and that you only have about thirty seconds to make the orders before the little timer starts blinking and the person bagging orders starts looking at you funny and giving impatient sighs, if you’re really slow the manager will come and help you out, reminding you all the while just how shitty your existence is because you need help to make fast food.

One day I was really busy, my computer screens were full and nothing in my area was stocked because the fucker who had worked in the morning found it easier to be lazy and go home than to refill my ketchup. Eventually Jason came over and started to help me.

“I can handle this,” I said.

“Just toast buns man,” he said. Looking back Jason was an okay guy, and it really is a shame what happened to him, but that’s another story.

I started to drop buns and Jason started to make sandwiches, he was pretty fast and it only took him a minute to run out of meat in the nasty plastic trays that fill up with grease and never get cleaned. “I got the buns,” he said. “Just drop me some meat.”

So I started to cook some burgers, I was wearing a long-sleeved blue cotton shirt that day and the sleeve seam was rubbing against one of my scabs. Eventually the rubbing led to peeling and my scab fell off and down to my wrist. I felt it there and then I looked at the meat. On the edge of one of the little patties was a charred piece of something, maybe meat, I don’t know. This gave me an idea. I scooped that run of meat off of the grill and gave them to Jason, then I got eight more patties from the little freezer and took the scab from my sleeve, it was sort of big so before I closed the clamshell I tossed it onto the grill and grabbed the grill scraper, then I cut off the tiniest piece I could and scraped the rest into the grease trough that hung from the side of the grill, then I took my spatula and carefully placed the tiny bit of dried blood on top of one of the patties and closed the clamshell.

As the meat cooked I started to think about what would happen if I got caught. I could be arrested, I could go to jail, I could get raped in the ass. Then I started to think about what would happen if I didn’t get caught.

Here is the basic idea of what I chose to do. Ever eat a burger and bite into something that you weren’t quite sure what it was? You probably didn’t call the police, at least I didn’t, I just tossed it aside and finished my burger. When the clamshell popped I could barely distinguish my blood from the chopped flesh of some poor cow. I handed the meat to Jason, he didn’t notice. Thus began my go at violent activism. If no one wanted to be sensible then I would make them sick.

I just wanted to help people become healthy. It’s a sad fact that though we live in a country where we are lucky enough to pick and choose what we eat in a sensible manner, most of us go for taste over health and therefore take advantage of the good fortune we have. Not only do these places ruin our lives but also the lives of animals and the planet.

A recent study shows that nearly 25% of American teenagers that live in poverty are obese. A similar study shows that many fast food companies have designed their advertising to target minority youth. There is a reason they started putting black people in the commercials and it isn’t racial tolerance. Why does a restaurant need to celebrate black history month anyway? There is also a reason that those burgers are only one dollar and it isn’t to save you money.

If I sound like a prick then just be glad you didn’t eat any of my food…hopefully.

After that first scab I hung low for a while, lots of ideas came to me in this time, ways of doing things that would be wholly unnoticed until either a.) someone got sick or b.) I decided to come clean.

The whole hope was to sicken the general public to the point that they didn’t want to eat this shit that was just killing them anyways. I was just going to nudge people in the right direction.

First I started saving my scabs. Being the cutter I was I got them all the time, and when I picked one a new one would grow in the very same spot. This can be done multiple times to the same wound and it prolongs healing and scar tissue from forming. My first batch took me about two weeks to harvest, and from that I had quite a few. The ones that came from forearms had tiny hairs in them that I had to carefully remove as I went. I cut each scab into tiny little slivers using a razor blade and put them all in a plastic baggy that I would carry in my pocket at work.

The first batch lasted about month. After a while they grew sort of brittle so before I put them on the meat I had to toss them into a little pool of hot grease somewhere on the grill to loosen them up. I was very sparse and I rationed as best as I could but trust me, when you have a pocket full of scabs and a grill full of burgers that only remind you of how disappointed you are in your species, it’s hard to ration. I can’t say I condone hurting people but I can say it was damn fun fucking up their food. Usually I put down about three scabs a week, but by the time I took the final scab from the bag and put it on a burger I had much bigger dreams.

I had used dried blood; why not use regular, liquid blood? At the place I was working the ketchup that comes on your sandwiches is put there by a sort of gun—it looks like a funnel with a handle on the side and when you squeeze the handle ketchup shoots through the five tiny holes at the bottom and onto your burger (which may or may not have had a scab on it). The ketchup is put into the gun from a big plastic pouch of the shit, so between pouch and burger all sorts of things can happen.

All I had to do was save just a little bit of blood from my scab harvesting and general cutting. You might not enjoy it like I did, but if you take a handful of minutes out of life to try it’s not that difficult to bleed a full baby food jar’s worth of blood. The problem came with portability, stick a baby food jar in your pocket and you’ll see that it’s not exactly hidden.

The solution I came up with first was to go to the local free health clinic and tell that I was a diabetic but couldn’t afford needles, but I realized that they would probably test me to make sure I really was diabetic and not just some junky, so I had to think of something else. Then one night I went to Main Street in downtown Archdale and after meeting a few new people I was able to get a syringe for ten bucks. The price seemed sort of high but I needed it. It was a small needle and only held about four units of blood, which was good because I didn’t want too much.

I sterilized the thing as best as I could by dipping the tip in boiling water, then in rubbing alcohol, then back in boiling water, I wasn’t going to stick myself with it but I also didn’t want to give people STDs; they were already eating my blood and that’s enough to satisfy me. Once I had the needle I was set and every time I refilled the ketchup I added one unit of blood and mixed it up.

Next came the onions.

As you may have guessed by their shitty flavor, the onions that come on the burgers at this place aren’t cut fresh daily. Actually they are dehydrated at first and only become those tiny flavorless things no one likes after they have soaked in an unclean tub full of lukewarm water for about two hours. Before they are soaked the onions sort of look like uncooked white rice, they are tiny white ovals that are dusty and crunchy, they have a similar color to toenails. Now with this I had to be a bit more creative. The scabs burned beyond recognition on the grill, the blood dissipated past taste and texture in the ketchup, but my toenails weren’t going to soften up or absorb the onion taste after soaking for a few hours, they would remain obvious toenails.

First I let my toenails grow really long, then when I cut them and had the quarter moon-shaped pieces, I cut those sort of like I did the scabs, into tiny slivers, then I cut the slivers from the side, like you may butterfly cut a piece of meat. It was very tedious but one clipping gave me all the toenails I ever used. Every time I made onions I would place a pinch of toenails in and mix it up.

So let’s say you were just one of those really unlucky people and you came though the drive-through. You may have gotten and burger with a scab cooked into it, blood in your ketchup, and that one onion that didn’t re-hydrate may have actually been a toenail.

The people who designed the mayonnaise packaging at this place are blindly genius. The mayonnaise comes in tubes much like caulk that is used in construction and it shot from a very similar type of gun.

Next came the shake mix. It hit me pretty quickly what my best option was. I have to say that changing the shake mix became my new favorite job. Anytime Jason would ask someone else to do it I would quickly say “oh hey don’t worry, I got it. Just let me go use the restroom real quick. Then I would go to the restroom, peel off my white latex gloves, get a handful of liquid soap and go to work. If you have ever beaten off at work then you know that aside from the little extra rush of doing something so depraved it’s really not all that satisfying. You sit there and work your tool and forget whether or not you locked the door, but you always do. People knock, just hearing other people going about their normal day while you defile yourself like some sort of zoo monkey, it all gets sort of awkward. Add to that the fact that you have a time limit and an agenda and the climax is only sort-of good.

When I was ready to discharge I made sure and got it all in one of the gloves I had just taken off, then I would maneuver it into one of the gloves fingers so that I had a sort of mini condom, if you like. I would tear the finger from the rest of the glove and twist the opening closed, then I would pinch it with my first two fingers and hold it in my fist, next I would stick my fist in my pocket and be sure not to squeeze too hard. I simply walked out of the bathroom with an air that made people think I didn’t have semen in my pocket.

This is where things got tricky. I would then have to go in the walk-in cooler and grab a bag of shake mix with my free hand, which isn’t easy because bags of liquid are awkward as all fuck. Once I got it to the shake machine I had to remove the cap and hoist the thing above my head and into the shake machine which was almost a foot taller than me. At some point I always had to use both hands, all the while clutching my little pouch of what could have been future Franklin Jaffes. I can only imagine the trauma I might have caused to some pimply sixteen year old if my fingers had slipped and suddenly there was something thicker than shake mix on the floor. Once the bag was empty though all I had to do was block my other, smaller, bag with the bigger shake mix bag and dump my little guys in, the machine itself would handle all the mixing and concealing.

This whole process could actually be omitted on nights when no one had to refill the shake machine, they always emptied the mix into big steel buckets at the end of the night and put those in the walk in, all I had to do was walk in and make my deposit.

There were other, smaller things I did as well. Sometimes they would get really busy up front and ask me to help box up fries. I would go to the fry dump and gleek all over the things. Gleeking is almost like spitting but it isn’t as messy and it’s harder to see, basically you’re milking a saliva gland and it shoots out of your mouth in about three or four tiny little droplets. It’s not exactly spit because it hasn’t swished around your mouth, but it isn’t really spring water either. Sometimes I had to change the ketchup in the lobby pumps. I usually just used blood, but if I was all out, or just felt lazy I would spit in those a few times and mix it all up.

These are all things that were never noticed. I went on for a good year doing these things and after a few months I stopped even being afraid of getting caught.

The main goal with all this was to build up some room for worry. It’s better to find a scab in your food then it is to one day learn that the past however many burgers you have eaten may or may not have contained not only scabs, but also blood and toenails, and if you have gotten a shake in the past year it may have possibly contained semen. Even if you never even got poisoned food you would never be able to know that for sure. I probably could have gone on forever doing all these things, the key was that I was doing just enough that no one would notice. If I had given someone a little bag of blood when they asked for ketchup I would have screwed myself and probably gotten punched again, but mix a bit in, just a bit, and no one ever knows. Then one day they will find out what is happening, and their own head will cause the real terror.

Eventually though I had to do something bigger, I had to come clean and I had to make my statement known to the world. This would be my exit from normal society and my entrance into second-rate legendary. I had to do some thinking.

You could say it came to me in a flash of inspiration, bang!, and there it was. It would be the ultimate sacrifice for my cause, a simply perfect ending to my unknown actions. It would be loud; it would finally give me chance to speak on a mass level. It would give me the voice I wished I had.

First I had to mentally prepare myself for what I was going to do. I started trying to meditate. I would turn off all the lights in my room and in the dark I tried to detach my spirit from my body. I had no clue what the hell I was doing but after about a week or two I could stick a red-hot paper clip in my armpit and only sort of tear up.

Next I had to prepare myself with the necessary tools. I went to one of the mega-stores that sell mid-quality products at reduced prices and put small business in jeopardy. I purchased a brand-new machete, I was sort of surprised they sold them, but they also sell guns so I guess it makes sense. Then I bought some gauze and some electrical tape, I also got a 24 pack of the beer that Bill used to drink. I was ready.

The night after I went shopping, back at my apartment, I opened the first beer and got ready for what I was about to do. I wish that I could tell you that throughout everything I have been doubtless and steadfast but honestly I wasn’t anywhere near that. Many times I thought about quitting, there was always this little voice that told me that everything I was doing was insignificant and stupid, it was louder than ever on this night.

However, it didn’t take long for the beer to kick in and all my doubts to be ignored in favor of a numbed excitement. I went into my tiny bathroom; the floor was some shitty tile that they probably didn’t even bother to change after I moved out. The walls were all white and there was a dirty, cracked sink. I set the machete, the gauze, and my beer on the floor, then I sat on the floor with my legs crossed. I took a few deep breaths, then I brought out my right foot and removed my sock.

I think I spent about a half hour or so just staring at my foot, breathing deep, psyching myself out. Finally I reached for my machete. The handle as well as the blade were flat black, there was a line of silver along the newly sharpened edge and I ran my thumb across it. I spread my toes apart as best as I could and then I lined up five times, really slowly. I brought the knife above my head and hung it there for a moment; then I swung.

I missed by about three inches to the right and the knife was now deeply imbedded into the plastic tile. “Well at least I know it’s sharp” I said quietly as I pulled the knife from the floor. I brought the knife back up above my head and lined up a few more times. I remember thinking “it doesn’t do anything anyways, except look weird.” Then I swung, then my whole lower leg felt like it was on fire and I screamed for just a second. The huge blade of the machete was stuck in the bone of my pinky toe like an axe gets jammed in a log; I could feel it, the bone pinching the knife. I rocked the knife up and down a few times and after making some unpleasant rubbing sounds it came loose.

Then I swung again, only in my haste and panic I hit the top of my foot, I was able to check my swing a bit so I didn’t cut any tendons but the new gash only added to my panic, and the mess of blood on the floor.

Next I brought the knife up a little lower and I swung weaker, my aim was good and I hit my first cut, but I didn’t make any progress aside from hurting, the blade was sticking, I wasn’t going to get anywhere hacking. I started pounding on the blade with the bottom of my fist, trying to bang it through the bone. Then my fist started to bleed so I grabbed ahold of both ends of the knife and shifted all my weight onto it, rocking it back and forth.

I had stopped screaming but I was still crying and making panicky sounds. Then I heard a thick crunching sound, it reverberated in the floor and it sounded similar to the way snow does when it packs underfoot. I rocked a few more times and my severed pinky toe rolled a few inches away from my foot. I hunched over exhausted and crying. I couldn’t do anything but lay there for a minute. Next I took my sock and started trying to soak up some of the blood. I took the gauze and tried to wrap my whole foot as best as I could, blood was everywhere. When I had my nine toed foot covered in bloody gauze I took the electrical tape and started wrapping my foot in that, the first few layers were too wet with blood to stick but eventually it took. My foot was now a massive ball of gauze and tape and I wondered how I going to get my shoe back on, then I passed out.

I woke up the next day and I felt worse than I ever had before and ever have since. My head ached, my mouth, eyes and nose were dry, I was nauseated and I had dried blood all over me. The blood was thick like syrup all over the floor. At first I just made some noises along the lines of crying, my toe was an inch or so away from my nose. I put it in my pocket. Then I stood up and stumbled a bit, I grabbed my bloody ass sock and went into my room to get dressed for work. I wiped myself off with a wet t-shirt and put on my dirty ass uniform. My shoe barely fit and I had to take out the laces.

All that day I was more stumbling everywhere than I was deliberately walking; it was winter time and I slipped on the ice a few times on my way to the store. When I got there everyone asked about my foot, I said I fell down the stairs and I looked at them for minute, they didn’t elaborate on the question.

Since it was winter time we were serving soup, that day we had vegetable soup and broccoli cheese soup, I put my toe in the broccoli cheese. At first that was all I was going to do but after an hour or so I felt like I had to puke, so I did, right into the other soup. After a few hours an enraged person came in holding a cup of soup, it was hell. The guy was yelling and saying he was going to sue, my manager was trying to calm him down but I guess the poor guy actually chewed the toe a couple of times, when it didn’t taste at all right he pulled it from his mouth, luckily he had parked to eat or he probably would have wrecked his car. I just stood there half conscious, listening to the man yell and my poor boss panic. At some point I decided it was time to end it all and I took the bloody sock from my pocket, I tossed it up front and it landed on the counter, no one said anything. The guy with the soup threw it on my boss and said “this place is fucked” then he walked out.

My manager was a little more than pissed off buy all this and he ended up hitting me a few times after the guy left, I was too weak to do anything but lay there as he kicked my ass, I loved everything at that moment.

I was fired, arrested, and then sent to the hospital. That guy who chewed on my toe did sue and he won a whole lot of money. When I tried to tell the judge why I had done these things he decided I was insane and sentenced me to live in a psych house. In court I talked for hours about my beliefs and opinions, I tried to spread the word, but the T.V. channels only aired clips that made me look stupid and cruel. People did hear though and eventually I was national news, high-schoolers loved me, rock bands openly stated in interviews that they agreed with my causes. Other people started doing the same sort of stuff. Every other week or so for a while it seemed a new incident popped up someone poisoning fast food. I felt I had accomplished something bigger than myself.

You may have noticed over the past year or so that fast-food places are advertising health. They have new salads and commercials that show people being active; they have promotions that say it’s good to be healthy. I can only watch the commercials so I don’t know if they have really changed, but I do know this: whether you’ve ever heard of what I did or not, I feel I played a part in those changes. And now I’m writing this hoping to be let out, I don’t disagree with the things I did and I love the results, if that makes me crazy then I don’t want to be sane.

Stay healthy.

—Franklin Jaffe.