Corn Dogs in the Sky
A small-town sci-fi adventure
The next couple days go by in a daze of corn dog-fuelled frenzy. The fart bag test is a success. Kayte and me exchange a few forced pleasantries. More pasty, lanky men in pastel-coloured bowler hats and suits are spotted around town.
I don't know where in the world these factory owners are from. Norway, maybe? Sweden? Wherever it is, it sure breeds some strange-looking dudes. I'm guessing the matching outfits are something to do with branding and marketing.
It's all anyone can talk about at school. The strange men, the corn dog hunt, the carnival, the prize, and the weirdest thing of all...just up the road from school, where this overgrown patch of unused land used to be, a factory has suddenly appeared. THE corn dog factory. Overnight! They must've had it premade somewhere. Dropped it in place as the town slept.
The building is a storm-grey rectangular monstrosity, dotted with tinted windows. A cheesy corn dog logo—another happy yellow fellow in shades—hangs above the main door with the company's name and tagline in bold yellow letters:
COSMIC CORN DOGS INC.
It's early Friday evening and I'm buzzing like a jackhammer for Operation Corn Dog to commence. Dad's got his resume typed-up on the laptop, ready for Mom to double-check before he prints it off at the library tomorrow. And he's bought corn dogs for dinner, to get us in the zone for this weekend. Even better, Mom's home early-ish from work and we're all eating together, at a normal time for once.
I don't remember when we were last this happy, or when we last ate corn dogs. They're not much to look at but boy do they taste good. Fried doughy goodness wrapped around a juicy wiener...whoever invented these deserves a medal. Maybe the Nobel Peace Prize. I dunk mine in the mustard bowl and get chomping. Mmmm. Poor Zoey is stuck with orange mush tonight. She doesn't know what she's missing.
Mom and Dad share their last can of beer, evenly divided into small plastic cups. My blue cup is filled with milk. Glug-glug-glug. Or was. Now it's empty.
"So, ask me anything about hot air balloons," I challenge my parents, waving the stick of my half-eaten corn dog. "See if you can catch me out, I dare you."
"Oooh," says Mom and dips her corn dog into the ketchup bowl.
Ralph makes a slobbering slapping sound under the table. He's licking his butt again. I nudge him with my socked foot to knock it off (no more bare feet at the dinner table for me). He growls.
"Gurgle blur dawg," says Zoey, kicking her chubby legs under the tray of her highchair. She really needs to work on distinguishing her nose from her mouth. It's like eating dinner with a mush-faced piglet.
"Now there's a challenge," says Dad, and pulls an exaggerated thinking face. "Okay, I've got one. Who flew in a hot air balloon first?"
"If you're talking tethered, as in tied to the ground so you don't float off into space, then the question isn't who but what..."
"No, I mean, what do you mean, what?"
I blink repeatedly at him. Did that even make sense? "Meaning it wasn't a person at all. It was actually a sheep, a duck and a rooster."
"What?!" they both reply at once.
"Why didn't the duck fly away?" asks Mom.
"I guess it was strapped in somehow."
"And why a mammal and two poultry? Why not three different kinds of animals?" asks Dad.
"I have absolutely no idea."
"Hah!" says Dad as he aims his corn dog at me. "I got you."
"No you didn't! That's got nothing to do with hot air balloons. That one doesn't count."
Dad narrows his eyes. "Hmmm. Alright then. So who—or what—flew untethered first?"
"Now it's a who. Two whos."
"Was it an owl?" asks Dad.
"Dad." I scold him with my eyes but can't help smiling.
"Sorry. Go on." Dad drops the corn dog stick on his plate and crosses his arms over his ever-growing belly.
"Well, the king at the time—this was all happening in 1783, by-the-way, near Paris—he wanted to use two criminals to test out the balloon. I guess he figured they were expendable. But the guy who helped get those animals off the ground, a scientist teacher called...let's just call him De Rozier since the rest of his name is ridiculously long and French...he said to the king, 'Heck no, this is a job for someone smart and important. Someone like...me.' And the king said, 'Well, if you insist.' So De Rozier was the first pilot to fly untethered, him and this other guy with white girly hair. Some rich, officer dude."
Mom and Dad's eyes are bugging out by the time I finish my spiel.
"How far did they fly?" asks Mom.
"About five and a half miles in, like, twenty-five minutes."
"I'm impressed," she says, sharing a moment of surprised pride with Dad. "So what happened to that De Rozier guy?"
"Well, just after the hot air balloon was invented, the hydrogen gas balloon came along. This one went even higher and further, and eventually made it right over the English Channel. De Rozier, he didn't want the hydrogen pilot stealing his thunder. He designed a hybrid balloon that used hydrogen and heat, so he could fly over the English Channel. He got up there with his buddy, Pierre, about a mile high, when the wind changed direction. They blew completely the wrong way and then the balloon suddenly deflated. And then SPLAT." I smack my hands together.
Mom and Dad lean back in their chairs.
"This is what happens when you don't have TV," says Dad.
"You won't be going that high if you win, though, right?" asks Mom.
"I doubt it." I wish.
"Well, I think you've earned yourself another corn dog," says Mom, and passes me the last one on the serving plate. "Congratulations."
"If only you put this much effort into your schoolwork," says Dad.
That's my cue to leave. I stab the corn dog into the mustard bowl, jump up and start clearing the table. Stick-end of the corn dog hanging out my mouth.
As they're all snuggling into the sofa for a movie, I retreat to my room to prepare for tomorrow's hunt. Check everything is working and ready to go. Give myself a hearty pep talk. Then I set my alarm clock for 8:00 AM and end the day counting corn dogs leaping over sheep, ducks and roosters, until I fall asleep.
Carrie Martin Writes ©2014-2019