Old Dogs

SALMONELLA


the time
had come
to renounce
my education
my experience
as well
as my pride
and relegate myself
to the more menial
and downtrodden
forms
of employment
available to someone
of my greatly
diminished
social stature

I had
become
practicably
unemployable

if I
were able
to reenter
the workforce
it would have to be
in some pedestrian position
one having
few requirements
or responsibilities

so my
want ad search
was restricted
to laborer
janitor
assembler
dishwasher
but even washing dishes
required the possession
of a food handlers permit
complicating
the most elemental
of occupations

resigned
I ventured down
to the health department
to insanely subject myself
to the four hour course
and subsequent exam

by the look
of most
fast food employees
I guessed
that the process
couldn't be too taxing
probably just
the basic precautions
and techniques
to prevent poisoning
an unsuspecting
public

my suspicions
proved correct
keep hot foods hot
cold foods cold
dishes clean
and attempt
to limit the amount
of bodily products
introduced
into
any meal

bring on
the test
I was
ready

I noticed
the guy
ahead of me
taking notes
during the dissertation

he looked
about my age
(older than most there)
so it seemed
strange
that he would bother
with the effort
since even
the kid to my left
no more than sixteen or so
dozed through the presentation
apparently unconcerned
about missing
any salient point

oh well
everyone
had their
method

they gave us
a fifteen minute break
between class and quiz
and when I came back
to reclaim my seat
the note-taker
was holding
court

"yep
a friend of mine
who's got his permit
told me
that you could
use notes
during the
exam"

I shook
my head
as seven
or eight teenagers
crowded around him
all non note-taking types
apparently
and all growing
noticeably anxious
before scurrying
for paper
to copy the wisdom
of their newfound
culinary sage

the instructor
reentered the room
and the frantic finished
with their cribbing endeavor
now looking confident
as the kid
next to me
barely made his seat
as our leader stood
to deliver his papers
and his oft
repeated
spiel

"no writing
on the exams
mark only
the answer sheet
you'll have thirty minutes
no looking around
no talking
and
NO NOTES
good luck
begin"

some
in the crowd
blanched visibly
and all turned
to eye
their former
elder statesman
who merely
shrugged his shoulders
as he began
to consider
the first question

I was finished
in a few minutes
just slightly after
my young
lecture neighbor
and I followed him
to the classroom door
where the tests
were graded
and we entered
into the outer office
to pay our fee
and collect
our permit
ID

as
we were leaving
we both glanced
into the still
crowded room
where the sweating group
continued to labor
over their
chore

"assholes
it's all
so much
bullshit"

we exchanged
a look
of shared disgust
and headed for
the exit

of course
he was right
and later
back at the hotel
as I neglected to heat
some leftover pizza
to the proper temperature
as I cut my permit
into small strips
and swept them
from counter
to trash

I popped
my last cold beer
and thumbed through
the classified section
once again

GRAVEDIGGERS WANTED

I wondered
if an exam
was required