When I first stepped on I never thought it would be forever. Or,
what felt like forever. Or what felt like a career in Faustian flaws
and grime. But it has this tricky, mad undertow I didn’t understand
at first. One of many roads to nowhere in this world, which come
disguised as runways to higher tomorrows. The gimmick got me.

Winking bulbs, screaming vents. You need specialized footwear here.
You need to wash workwear in a separate load due to its villainous
grease. Senior members will ruthlessly remind. You must learn how
to resorb the body’s complaints, fashion stout leather insides out
of soft tissue. And end of shift rewards? You convince yourself that

cold enough liquor is nearly worth it. Changing out of your soiled
shirt and pants, endorphins tingling pyrotechnics under egged skin,
you tear a cigarette to pieces with such fiendish lungs…Years pass
like that. Too easily. How? In hindsight, it was a slick amphetamine
wash of a dream that landed me here. Reposed atop an overturned

milk crate. Years into what I’d thought was going to be a small matter
of getting by until fame and fortune hit. They never tell you the other
outcomes. Not the far more plausible, heinous results of randomness.
I do a roll-call of all the other cooks in the world: Ricky, Fin, Justino,
Petra, Mickey, Ana, Faustino, Toni, Juan, Jose, Alex, Hen-dog, Mel-dog,

et cetera. The last of a dwindling breed. Half-dead, sweaty reckoners.
We press on. Against the peripheral threat of a spiritual mutiny.
Against the brevity of each day and its gathering boil. Against and away
from all the damned blood-flecked edges. Then Ricky pops round, goonish
grin on him, to ask me, “How many holes is too many in a pair of shorts?”

Photo by Erik van Dijk on Unsplash

Malcolm Halsey-Milhaupt

Malcolm Halsey-Milhaupt is a cook and poet working out of St. Paul, Minnesota.