Essen – the German infinitive of the verb for the act of eating and noun for food.

Before you eat that hamburger that was once inside an animal pumped full of steroids when it lived confined knee-deep in its own piss-soaked shit so bloated from genetically modified corn feed that it couldn’t move without a CAT fork lift, think about the fact that the bun it is now sitting in on your plate is most likely made out of potassium bromate, banned in Europe, Canada and China because it causes kidney damage, cancer and can break down your nervous system. But it only costs a dollar, so you can easily feed your family on a budget.


I used to have a friend who poisoned the air when she spoke. Flowers wilted in her presence, certainty turned to doubt and disappointment. She was glass-half-empty and poured what was left over the people around her.


Raising fish in farms like cattle, instead of harvesting them from the ocean or streams where they swim free, saturates them with so many cancer-causing chemicals that scientists say not to eat farmed seafood more than three times per year, if you must.


I work in a place where rumors race on the breezes of the air conditioning, seeping through the vents. Some of what’s said is based in truth, other things are products of old guard insecurities.


So chicken might sound pretty good right about now, if you can ignore that it was probably fed arsenic so that its flesh would appear pretty-in-pinker and fresher, even though it is fuchsia and old. If you eat enough, your embalmer will probably comment on how rosy and well-preserved you look too on their table.


Money is a funny thing. Some people like my dad and his wife have lots of it but claim they’re on a budget. But they wouldn’t know what living without manicures, massages, golf and hair cuts was… much less how the two of them could survive without 10,000 square feet and three luxury automobiles. They tow the line of the Fox and spew garbage about people who have bad investments on their plates.


It sounds safe to be vegetarian. No animal issues to deal with, no guilt for their lack of well-being, no contribution to the suffering that is their lives. So grab a bowl of Lucky Charms and fill it up with meat-free, friendly, smiling cereal glistening there in the plastic like captured little rainbows. But before you take a magically delicious bite, you should know those blue moons and red balloons (and all the rest) are dyed with petroleum-based compounds, relatives to the gas that drives your car and the asphalt you drive it on. Bring on the hyperactive, nerve-depleting, brain tumors.


My uncle was famous in our family for his sweet polyester pants. When he died, we had him cremated and sprinkled his ashes off a cliff in Utah aiming for the river down below to carry him to sea. His cremains blew with the mountain breeze. My mouth was open and downwind, unfortunately. Just like Olestra, the FDA-approved food additive also known as sucrose polyester, the side effects of ingestion included gastrointestinal irritation, anal leakage, and stench of sulfury gas emissions, a smell that’s not forgettable.


Wash it all down with a tall, cool glass of brominated vegetable oil, probably known better to you as Mountain Dew. It’s made with the same chemical used to prevent carpet fires. So if you ever run into that situation, you’ll be equipped. But not if you live in one of a hundred countries (the United States not included). In those countries, their drinks won’t retard the hypothetical blaze under your feet. That ingredient’s banned over there for fucking over the thyroid in every way possible. But here in corporate why-do-you-all-think-you-deserve-healthcare-America, we want you to be prepared, toxic or not.


*Essen was originally published in the Narrow Chimney Anthology, vol. 1 as “Toxic.”


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