Foilwiebun (ShoStoBloMo #3)
“What IS that?!”
“You’re gonna make me hork…”
Ben was used to comments like these by now. He’d been at Crepe Myrtle Elementary since kindergarten with most of these kids. Now that they were all in the fifth grade together, they knew everything about each other. And one of the things everyone knew was that Ben had weird lunches. You’d think that by now no one would pay any attention, but you’d be wrong.
Today’s lunch was actually pretty tame compared to some. A baggie containing one pickled peach, a shriveled blob of aluminum foil containing one cold hot dog in a wet bun, another baggie of spaghetti Os, and a chocolate mint leftover from a dinner at Johnny Rigatoni’s Family Style Ristorante.
Ben surveyed the table. It was as if he had just pulled a severed head from his lunch box. The kids were motionless, expressions of horror frozen on their faces. Jessica had a french fry half-way to her mouth, but she sat motionless, her mouth twisted in revulsion. Matthew’s eyes were squinting, as if the glare off the aluminum was scorching his retinas. Maisy’s face was pale, her nose wrinkled, her lips in a tiny o. Ben reached into one of the baggies and pulled out the pickled peach. It was soaking wet, dripping syrup and peach slime. It resembled a yellow-ish baby doll head one might have discovered at the bottom of a lake. He cocked his mouth to the side, leaned over the baggie, and with one hand holding the peach, he sucked off its flesh in three quick sucks, like a proficient zombie eating a fresh brain. He tossed the pit back into the bag and wiped his hands on his jeans. Mmmm. Pickled peaches were his favorite.
The disgusted looks continued around the table, but now that the initial shock and horror were over, everyone continued with their own lunches. Boring lunches, Ben noted. PB&J, chicken nuggets, even a salad. Nothing fun or interesting or tasty. Everyone else might as well be eating cardboard or paper dipped in ketchup.
Soon, the conversation turned to the afternoon’s field trip. The class would be going to the local grocery store to see some behind-the-scenes action in the bakery and meat department and warehouse. A few of the kids thought this was going to be boring and stupid, but Ben was pretty convinced it was going to be great. He tried explaining to them about the giant freezers they have – how you can walk into them and wander around, and how there are winter coats hanging at the entrance for the stockers who have to get all the milk and stuff in the right place.
Maisy seemed interested in the walk-in freezers, but everyone else was mostly wondering if they were going to get free samples of ice cream. Ben stopped his freezer filibuster (freezabuster?) and moved on to his hot dog. He peeled off the crumpled foil, like he was peeling a Terry Gilliam-inspired banana. Encased in the thin, greasy metal was a cold – but previously microwaved – wiener, doused in ketchup and encased in a damp bun. Similar in construction to a turducken, this foilwiebun was always wet when Ben uncovered it. He wasn’t sure why, but his best guess was that a combination of the abundant ketchup and the always unfortunate placement of the initially warm foilwiebun next to frozen juice pouch conspired together to cause the moistness. Ben didn’t mind, though. The hot dog still tasted good to him, though sometimes he had to compartmentalize taste vs. texture.
By now, lunch was almost over. Ben drank his spaghetti O’s quickly, then polished off his mint and was eagerly anticipating the bus ride to the grocery store. The lunch monitor gathered everyone together and marched them single-file outside where their teacher was waiting next to the bus.
Ben marched onto the bus, with Maisy behind him. He settled into a seat in the back, over one of the wheel humps. He liked sitting on the wheel humps, because it gave him a place to rest his feet. Maisy scooched in next to him and they watched the rest of the class file in and take their seats. Soon they were bouncing along the road, taking the short ride to Sacks-A-Lot, happily chattering about what might be in store for them all. So to speak.
It was only a ten-minute ride and soon the class was inside the cavernous supermarket, crowded around a friendly lady in a red shirt and black pants. “Welcome to Sacks-A-Lot!” she said with a smile that indicated maybe they were at Disney World instead. Everyone looked around. The lady was talking about amazing adventures and incredible events but nothing looked very amazing or incredible. It just looked like groceries.
Ben was eager to get to the walk-in freezers. When the lady finally mentioned how they would end their tour in the storage freezer, Ben nudged Maisy and smiled. She returned his look with a kind of half-smile. He saw Matthew and Jessica giggle at the exchange.
For the next thirty minutes or so, they got to learn about bagging strategies and why sugar cereal is always stocked at the eye-level of kids. They saw how the bakery makes cakes and loaves of bread every single day. They learned how the butcher makes ground beef. Then finally, it was time for the freezer.
Ben wondered if they would find a row of small winter coats for all of the kids, and was disappointed when the Sacks-A-Lot lady said they would just pop into the freezer quickly and pop out again before anyone got too cold. He singled out Matthew and Jessica in the group and gave them both thumbs up signs. He was rewarded with rolled eyes, but he could see that they looked at least a little bit excited. Maisy was rolling herself onto the balls of her feet like she does when she’s waiting to be chosen for a team in PE, so he knew Maisy was anticipating something fun.
They all eagerly faced the big metal door leading into one of the storage freezers. The Sacks-A-Lot lady greeted a man named Bill who stood outside the door. He had a huge mustache – like a shaggy sofa parked under his nose. He was wearing a blue puffy vest over his red Sacks-A-Lot shirt. Bill turned and heaved open the lock on the freezer door. It swung open and the kids gasped.
Billowing clouds of cold air rolled over them, looking like Halloween fog. When it cleared, they could see a long hallway beyond the door leading into the freezing room. Bill asked that the students line up behind him in single file. He led them into the freezer, with the Sacks-A-Lot lady following the last of the group. They moved a little way into the freezer and he pointed out various shelves of frozen groceries and talked about how many turkeys they sell every Thanksgiving.
Ben glanced down one of the small aisles in the freezer and noticed a huge, gleaming, yellow bag. He ducked out of line to quickly see what in the world was in the bag. But on his way over there, his attention was grabbed by something shiny on the floor. It was wedged between two shelves and had a layer of frost on it. Even with the layer of frost, though, Ben could see what it was.
A foilwiebun! How could that be?!
He reached down and picked it up. He heard Bill say something about ice cream and all the kids cheered. There was a light tap on Ben’s shoulder and he jumped. Maisy was there, looking at him quizzically. Without saying anything, he showed her the foilwiebun. She made a face.
Soon, other kids gathered around, too. On their way out of the freezer they had seen Maisy’s orange hair standing out amongst the frosty items, and they’d wandered down the aisle to see what was going on. The Sacks-A-Lot lady said, “Come along now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s go get our ice cream!” But the kids didn’t seem to hear her. They were moving in closer to Ben as he started unwrapping the frozen foilwiebun. Someone asked if he had brought it with him. He shook his head. Someone else asked if his dad worked for the Sacks-A-Lot (because no one had ever seen a foilwiebun anywhere except Ben’s lunch, and it was common knowledge that Ben’s dad was the crazy person responsible for packing the food oddities). Ben shook his head. His dad worked at the newspaper.
It was difficult to unwrap the frozen foil. It broke off in pieces. Ben dropped them, littering his shoes with foilwiebun glitter. As he removed more and more of the foil, he began to realize this was most definitely not what he thought it was. And when he removed the biggest piece of foil he felt his iron stomach give an unfamiliar lurch. The Sacks-A-Lot lady’s Disney World smile disappeared from her face like someone had flipped a switch. There was a collective gasp as each of the children unconsciously took a step back from Ben.
“Gross, Ben! Put that away!”
“What IS that?!”
“You’re gonna make me hork…”
Bill pushed through the crowd, his mustache quivering in the cold. “What’s going on here folks? I thought we were going to taste some ice cr——” he stopped mid-sentence and dropped the freezer keys on the concrete floor.
Ben held up the foil-wrapped finger encased in a hot dog bun.
“A foilfingbun,” he said quietly. “Gross.”
Maisy smiled and gave him a thumbs up.