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
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.