Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 8
The Frankenstein Diaries
by Matt Rotundo
The Angel's Touch
by Dennis Danvers
Accounting for Dragons
by Eric James Stone
End Time
by Scott Emerson Bull
by Stephanie Dray
Horus Ascending
by Aliette de Bodard
From the Ender Saga
Ender in Flight
by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
Laws and Sausages
by David Lubar
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

Laws and Sausages
    by David Lubar
Laws and Sausages
Artwork by Lance Card

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 word, too.

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. Wretch.

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 walking.

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 went.

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 swallowed.

"Another?" my mother asked.

"Yes, please," I said. I closed my eyes and took a large bite.

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