Laws and Sausages
by David Lubar
My dad likes to say there are two things people should never see being made --
laws and sausages. I guess that means it can get pretty ugly when people are
making laws, like in congress or at the school board. Dad took me to a school
board meeting once, when they were fighting about whether to keep a certain book
in the library. Let me tell you -- it got pretty ugly. These parents who had never
even read the book were shouting about how bad it was because it had a word in it
that I hear on the school bus all the time. Heck, I've heard a lot of parents use that
But this isn't about laws. See, most of the time when Dad shares that quote, it's
right before we eat sausages. That got me thinking. What do they put in those
things? With a whole piece of meat like a steak or spare ribs, I know exactly what
it was before it got sliced up and wrapped in plastic. Even with hamburger, you
can sort of see that it started out as meat. But sausages? Who knows. I guess it
doesn't matter. Whatever is in there, they taste good -- that's for sure.
I didn't think I'd ever get a chance to find out. But then our class took a field trip
to the Wexler Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts. Yawn. Huge yawn. Arty-crafty-yawn. When I got off the bus, I noticed that the Wexler Museum was right
next door to Philo's Phantastic Sausages.
Bingo. Or maybe I should say, how phortunate.
I ducked out of the line when we went into the museum. That was easy to do
because we were with Mr. Exmire and Ms. Grunbalther, and they were always
flirting with each other. Which reminds me of a third thing nobody should ever see
being made -- Exmire and Grunbalther making meaningful glances at each other.
So while these two fine adults educators were leading my eager classmates into a
hall filled with painted crockery, ceramic tea pots, and fascinating textiles, I
ducked around the other side of the bus and slunk off toward Philo's Phantastic
Sausages in search of wisdom and enlightenment.
Philo's was in an old two-story building made of red bricks. There weren't any
windows. I walked around back and spotted a couple of those big metal doors
where they load trucks. But they were shut. I found another door in front. I've
learned that it's not hard to walk into any place if I pretend I belong there. I
figured that if I ran into anyone, I'd just say, "Got a message for Dad," and keep
Luck was with me. When I went in, there wasn't anybody up front. I guess there
aren't a lot of people who'd stroll in and buy a ton of sausage, so they didn't need
a receptionist. The area was pretty small, but there was a door at the back of the
room. It led to a hallway that ended at a flight of stairs. I climbed up the stairs,
pushed open the door at the top, and stepped onto a small metal walkway high
above the factory floor.
Cold air washed over me and I shivered.
Below me, a half dozen workers dressed in white butcher's coats were unloading
large bins with shovels and tossing the contents onto a conveyor belt.
What I saw made my stomach lurch like it wanted to leap out of my body. Who
would have believed it? They were shoveling the worst stuff imaginable out of the
bins. This was truly gross. The belt was loaded with broccoli, cauliflower,
asparagus, and brussels sprouts. Cabbages and lettuce rolled off the shovels, along
with eggplants and artichokes.
"No way. . ." I whispered. This couldn't be the whole process. I knew there was
more to sausages than a bunch of vegetables. I couldn't imagine any possible way
that vegetables could be made to taste that good. The catwalk ran all the way
around the room to a door on the opposite wall. I had to see where the conveyor
I stepped into the next room. The belt stopped just a few feet past the entrance. It
delivered its load of vegetables into the wide-open mouth of a huge creature. The
animal -- if that's what it was -- filled the length of the room. It was lying on the
floor like a giant worm, with a gaping mouth at one end. From its sides drooped
dozens of short legs that looked almost like flippers. It had no eyes.
It swallowed all that the conveyor belt could offer. The sound of its chewing was
louder than the crash of waves during a tropical storm, and definitely as wet. I
watched as the creature ate and swelled, until it's bloated body rose to just below
the height of the catwalk, reaching a beam that ran across the room beneath my
feet. A large, red switch jutted from below the center of the beam. I held my breath
as the taught gray flesh pressed against the button.
A bell rang. I could barely hear it above the chomping. Dozens of workers, dressed
in white butcher's coats, rushed into the room, each one carrying a long metal
tube. One end of the tubes was pointed. Clear, floppy tendrils trailed from the
other end. I realized the tendrils were sausage casings.
A second bell rang. All at once, like sailors harpooning a whale, the men thrust
their tubes deep into the body of the creature. I suspect it might not even have
noticed. It certainly didn't care enough to stop chewing. At each wound,
something rushed out from within, filling the casings. In a moment, the men had
harvested their sausages, and the creature had shrunk down to a size which, though
still huge, was no longer swollen to the bursting point.
I'd seen enough. More than enough. My mind tried to chew what I'd just
witnessed, but couldn't seem to swallow it. I went back to the stairs and raced out
of the building. The class was just returning to the bus. As I blended in with the
crowd and took my seat, I envied them their afternoon spent viewing arts and
crafts that wouldn't haunt their dreams.
That night, my mother made sausages for dinner. I stared at my plate. There it lay,
amidst the potatoes and onions and peppers -- a large, meaty sausage, stuffed to
bursting inside it's transparent wrapper. I closed my eyes and vowed that I would
never eat it. In my mind, I saw the factory again, with that creature eating
endlessly. I heard the sound of it chewing and saw the men thrusting their tubes
into its swollen sides.
Chewing. Swallowing. Mindlessly chewing whatever it was fed.
Warmth flooded my mouth. I opened my eyes. To my horror, I saw a sausage on
my fork. The severed, open end dripped an amber-colored grease. In my mouth, I
could taste the remains of the hunk I had mindlessly bitten, chewed, and
"Another?" my mother asked.
"Yes, please," I said. I closed my eyes and took a large bite.