The Popcorn Factory – Lauren Scharhag

It took me thirteen years to get my bachelor’s degree,

stringing together nonconsecutive semesters

at the community college, taking nine credits here,

three there, the occasional online course,

sharing books with my husband whenever I could

so we only had to pay for one set.

 

The year he got sick was my first year

at the four-year university.

I had to withdraw so I could get a second job,

an evening and weekend gig at a factory

that made gourmet popcorn.

I took orders over the phone and filed invoices,

and while needing a second job was not magical,

and the drab office with its worn carpet

and battered old filing cabinets

and antiquated timeclock

was not magical,

the factory was.

 

The owner let us grab plastic cups and dip them

into batches of freshly-made popcorn

 

caramel cheese butter cinnamon

 

gold orange yellow red

 

like autumn leaves.

 

We’d eat it at our desks while it was still hot,

color and fragrance conferring cheer on office drudgery,

salty spicy sweet on my tongue

 

a momentary escape,

a glimpse into a life without bitter seasons,

without hospitals or illness or the need

for second jobs.

 

Now, many years later, I still love to drive

past the factory, hoping to catch those aromas,

to be transported again, tastebuds tingling,

to a place beyond worry and circumstance.

I buy a tin for us and

we share.

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Lauren Scharhag (she/her) is an associate editor for GLEAM: Journal of the Cadralor, and the author of thirteen books, including Requiem for a Robot Dog (Cajun Mutt Press) and Languages, First and Last (Cyberwit Press). Her work has appeared in over 150 literary venues around the world. Recent honors include the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize and multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives in Kansas City, MO. To learn more about her work, visit: www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com.