Steve Killian was my brother. I loved him. He was intelligent, humorous. Steve was a great friend. He loved his family. He would have done anything for his mother, Beth, and his two sisters Emily and Samantha. He was the kind of guy that would get up at 1:00 am and talk to his drunken friend about the problems with his wife. He did it hundred's of times for me.

I'm not Steve's real brother but I loved him like one. My name is Gene Burke. My brother Jack and I grew up with Steve. Jack and Steve are the same age. I am 18 month's younger.

I played Star Wars with him and Jack when it was still innocent in the US.

Steve had a compassionate heart. It was like he could feel what the person hurting felt.

He was also as big as a house. We called him 'Tiny.'

In the summer of 98, we went up to Arco Arena to see a Pearl Jam concert. He was uncomfortable around lots of people. We all knew it, but we dragged him along anyway. We all put in together and rented a van. We had an ice chest full beer.

Tiny drove while Jack, Jimmy and I drank till we were shit faced. We were all in our late 20's.

We acted like we were 16, but not Tiny. He was the responsible one. He climbed up to the highest row of seats.

He pulled a muscle climbing the steps.

Jimmy was my cousin and much younger than us, only 18. He wanted to go down to the mosh pit. Jack and I went with him.

Tiny was the only one that saw Pearl Jam that night. The rest of us got thrown out for fighting in the mosh pit during the warm-up band. Jack was so drunk he got lost in the parking lot and wandered around for two hours. Jimmy and I made it to the rental van okay but I puked beside the sliding door.

Tiny drove us home while we slept off the beer in the back.

It was a great time.

Tiny was the type of person to let a friend move in with him. Jack was having problems with his wife and stayed with Tiny for over a month. He was big-hearted.

He lost his father to a heart attack when he was 17. Emily was 12 and Sam was 10.

Beth, I called her Mrs. K, fell apart.

Not Tiny though, he made all the arrangements.

He graduated high school and got a job cutting meat at a local grocery store. Tiny liked his job and helping his family. He was the lifeboat for his family in troubled waters. Mrs. K went into a deep depression. She withdrew into her room for six-months. Tiny coaxed her out by telling Emmy and Sam not to wait on her hand and foot. It worked.

Tiny was a diplomat. He was always in the middle of disputes. He would solve Emmy and Sam's sisterhood arguments. He calmed Jack and I down when we were pissed at each other. He had a way of relating to a person and find a compromise.

Tiny had a problem though. He shouldered everything and never talked to anyone. He went into his first depression in 98. Just wouldn't come out of his room. He wouldn't call into work. Everyone around him kind of freaked about it. He got really bad headaches. He had an ulcer. His weight began to hurt him. Not bad but enough to realize it.

He got a lot of hassle from the Agency about a diagnosis on his medical certificate. He had to return to his doctor three different times. His doctor explained he didn't have to provide one.

Tiny just wanted it over with.

Tiny killed himself. I know why he did it. He could not put of with his life anymore. He was thirty-six years old. He was seeing a shrink.

Steve Killian was a Food Inspector for the Agency, a disgruntled Agency employee.

Steven was for some reason tormented. That I don't know why.

This is his journal, his journey.

January 31, 2004: Monday

I went to a therapist today. I have been very depressed lately. I needed the medication refill. Anxiety drives me crazy.

The counselor suggested I keep this journal. I always wanted to be an author, so I thought I would give it a try. That was about the only thing I got out of that meeting. He tried to take a hard line with me. I was ten steps ahead of him. I left his office feeling it was a waste of time, except for the journal. I liked that idea. I went straight to Wal-Mart bought one with a black leather binding.

February 1, 2004: Tuesday

I woke up at 2:00AM this morning. I don't sleep but a few hours a night. I dread going to work. I'm an Agency Food Inspector. I consider my job a useless one. I have to fight with my supervisor more about doing my job, than I do with the company. I feel disillusioned about how the Agency is trying to protect its citizens.

I have been working for the Agency for 10 years. I started in 1995.

I was so excited to start.

I had only been making $6.00 an hour working at a local meat shop. The starting inspector's wage began at $9:00 an hour. I remember the day I got the message I was hired. I actually jumped and shouted with the phone in my hand. The guy on the phone was named Tom. He laughed at me until I calmed down enough to listen to his instructions. He told me to report to an address in Sacramento, the government paid for the hotel. I stayed for three days attending the orientation.

Shit- I'm getting sick to my stomach. I leave for work in an hour.

February 2, 2004: Wednesday

I called in sick today. My stomach was an inferno. I just didn't feel like looking up 14,000 chicken asses for 8 hours.

The birds were bad yesterday. They had air sac (a pneumonia type of illness that fills the chest cavity) all through the inner-clavicular cavity. The birds were filler with fecal contamination because the automatic eviserator wasn't working right. It ripped the intestines all to hell and spread the bacteria from bird to bird. I tried to tell my supervisor, Dr. Harmon, 'the-inspectors all call him Dr. Ziggy because he is short and round bald with a huge nose.' He looked just like that cartoon character Ziggy.

He ignored me.

When Dr. Ziggy talked, his arms flapped bout like he wanted to fly.

I told him the company is running the birds too fast. They were running 80 bpm. (Birds Per Minute)

The company was legally required to only run the birds 70 bpm. And that was if they were perfect. No shit, no air sac, nothing.

Air sac was nasty, a puss all inside the chest cavity. If I couldn't look properly inside the chest cavity I couldn't see it. And if couldn't keep up I knew the vacuumer down the line couldn't get all the air sac. That was the Agency's decision to remove the puss from human food. A minimum wage person standing, looking in the birds with a gun-like vacuum at 70 bpm and expect to get all of the illness out of the birds.

It pisses me off when the FIIC's (Food Inspector In Charge) don't listen!

February 3, 2004: Thursday

I called the kill floor supervisor and asked him to the slow down the line speed.

He laughed at me.

He said, "You wouldn't know how fast the line was going if we did slow it down."

I looked at him with my mouth hung open. I had a stopwatch visibly hung around my neck.

I complained to Dr. Ziggy.

He said he didn't believe me. That didn't surprise me. He had been employed by the Agency for over 30 years. He was just collecting a paycheck.

It pissed me off about the disdain with which I was spoken to. I was only trying to do a good job, then my FIIC and the company employees just laugh at me. They acted as if I were stupid.

February 4, 2004: Friday

I felt useless and suicidal. I couldn't face going to work and be useless. I saw and reported violations. Not every night. Most of the time the birds were running good and I just stood there watching them flow past calling to salvage a carcass once in while. Those are the good days.

The bad days are pure hell. The plant is pissed at me; my co-workers are pissed at me. See sometimes we get to go home early. Oh! That just makes the inspectors day when we hear we are going home early. Especially if the company tells us at the beginning of the day, every one is happy and the time flows. It is really comical how Agency employees hate overtime. I mean, I have seen tantrums in the Agency office with a well dressed 50 year old woman stomping her feet about being relieved off her station two minutes late, screaming her head off and shaking her finger at the FIIC. Those times I feel sorry for the Doc's. Their job is just as tough as ours. Shit does slide down hill and the Agency is the mountain.

But it has been getting bad. Everyone is not speaking to me for getting the lines slowed down. Today, I slowed the lines down instead of running the usual 80 they ran 70bpm.

It caused us to work overtime.

I really feel like crap. My head aches from lack of sleep. I tried to take a walk but it felt like someone is watching me. I kept changing directions to make sure I wasn't being followed.

February 5, 2004: Saturday

Glorious relief from the pressure, I took a walk, got dizzy. I walk down the street in front of my house. It is exactly a mile long. I looked at the different houses. Several had those wooden signs that mooned you while gardening. They looked so redneck, but the town was peaceful, comfortable. I bent over with a sharp pain in my stomach. That happens sometimes. I'm going to have to make an appointment with my MD for that.

February 6, 2004: Sunday

I didn't get out of bed. Just lay there staring at the ceiling. I felt worthless and as if my life were going nowhere, like I had been destined for something profound but had fallen horribly short.

After 5:00pm that afternoon, Gene called and I felt better. I knew I needed to get out, have some fun.

I went over to Gene's house, we jammed in his garage. Gene loved playing drums. Jack played guitar and Jimmy was learning to play bass. I sang. I'm not really that good. I can carry a tune but my voice just isn't catchy.

February 7, 2004: Monday

I feel good today. I let Dr. Ziggy have it after the shift was over. I told him he wasn't doing his job. Oh, he didn't like that at all. I told him I was going to fill out a speed memo and go over his head to Dr. Gault, the SFIIC, Supervisory Food Inspector In Charge. Speed memos are legal document forms we filled out for official communications. If we wanted to trade assignments or shifts, we had to fill out a speed memo. If we wanted to complain about the inaction of a supervisor, we filled out a speed memo. I didn't want to because I knew it would hurt my chances of promoting. The Agency didn't like it when you caused waves.

February 8, 2004: Tuesday

Dr. Ziggy stayed at the other plant, the whole shift. The company ran bad birds all day at 80 bpm, too. My head pounded like a jackhammer as I tried to do the best I could under the conditions. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to go home.

The off-line inspectors, FI-8's, gave us breaks every hour to break up the monotony of staring into over 2,000 birds an hour. 2,000 decisions an hour to try to protect the consumer. It is ridiculous. The most of the 8's don't do their job either, which is why they were promoted in the first place. They were marionettes for the bigwigs.

The Agency is a hilarious farce.

When I began my civil servant career as a Food Inspector, the Agency inspected sanitation of the entire plant before operation. It was called pre-op inspection. We checked pre-op throughout the plant from the beginning of the slaughter line to where the birds went into second processing. All the machines, the floors, the chillers.

Chillers were huge bathtubs that were refrigerated to cool the birds down so bacteria wouldn't grow.

Then about a year after I began my career, the Agency changed policy and only performed pre-op on three units per area. One area being the kill area, one being the evisceration area and the last being the chillers. If we found a unit not sanitized to our judgment we tagged the unit and expanded our inspection samples.

Some inspectors were thorough, and caused many hours of down time because the plant couldn't run without passing pre-op. Some inspectors were just in it to cause downtime and screw with plant management.

There were a few who just went out for the overtime and were back into the office five minutes after pre-op started.

Well the company had money to pay lobbyists to get laws passed, policies changed and now we might perform pre-op inspection once a week. Oh, the company has their own Quality Control inspectors perform pre-op but that is like letting the wolf guard your rabbits. If it is going to cause production down time, it doesn't exist. I have yet to see a QC actually cause downtime or even document any unsanitized equipment. It makes me sick when I hear on TV about how the Agency is trying their best to protect its civilians.

It also makes me furious.

February 9, 2004: Wednesday

I caught a plant employee taking uninspected birds and throwing the carcasses in the chiller. That is totally illegal but Dr. Ziggy said he didn't believe me.

My stomach hurt badly, I just wanted to punch him until he bawled lying at my feet. He verbally reprimanded me for leaving the line and following the employee to where he was chucking the birds out of inspector's sight.

I looked at him flabbergasted as he chastised me in the Agency Office. Then, a pompous jackass plant supervisor began yelling at him from behind me. I spun around ready to take a poke at him but I kept in control.

Damn my head hurts. I barely sleep at all. I'll fall over asleep and then be up two or three hours later. My patience is wearing thin at work. I just want to explode. But, I think I really just desire a night's rest.

February 10, 2004: Thursday

The birds were good and I didn't care how fast they streaked past me. My trimmer beside me was cute and we talked all night long. When the birds were healthy, talking to our inspector's helper made the night slip pass quickly. The trimmers were beside us to catch all the birds we called.

If we called contamination, they cut the viscera and hung it on the reprocessing line behind us. If we called cellulites, a rash like disease caused by overpopulation in the ranch houses, the trimmer cut the viscera and marked the bird down the back with their knife. Then hung it on the reprocessing line. Now here is another screw-up the Agency has allowed the industry to get away with.

Once we, line inspectors (FI-7s) determine a carcass unfit to pass for human consumption, it is either condemned or reprocessed.

After the bird leaves our sight it is never inspected again, period.

Now the Agency will tell you, 'Oh the company's QC inspects them or spot checks them' but that is a complete fabrication of Agency propaganda. Complete and utter BULLSHIT. I can't believe most of what the Agency tells the American public. If they do, I've got a plot of beachfront property on/in Uranus just waiting to be developed. Its supposed to be real beautiful and the value will just skyrocket.

Some may consider me pessimistic and cynical but I began this job with the outlook I was doing a public service not collecting a paycheck and sticking to The Ostrich Syndrome (Sticking my head in the sand and hoping I wasn't noticed)!

February 11, 2004: Friday

I called in sick today. My stomach was on fire all night and I had major diarrhea. I just couldn't bring myself to get out of bed to even eat, just run to the bathroom when the cramps hit. I had this overwhelming feeling like I didn't want to talk to anybody. Someone knocked on the door and I wouldn't answer it.

Fuck em!

In the brilliant words of Bobby Brown-It's my prerogative!

February 12, 2004: Saturday

I only slept one hour and I feel like a zombie. The phone rang incessantly, a beacon of annoyance from my family or a fuckin telemarketer. I heard the mailman insert my mail into the mailbox outside my door. I wouldn't even step outside the door to get it. I didn't want anyone to see me. I don't know what is wrong with me. I make good money at least for the town I live in. I'm lonely but if I just would get out and go somewhere I might meet someone.

February 13, 2004: Sunday

I had a terrifying nightmare. I woke up screaming. It was just a man with short blonde hair continuously knocking at my door. I look out the peephole and see a man that looks strangely like a clean cut Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana. He is wearing a black suit with no tie. I find this weird because I don't even like Nirvana's music and what was even weirder was that he was a cleaned up Kurt Cobain. I screamed at him to go away. I finally got a bat and chased him off my property. That is all I remember of the nightmare but I awoke screaming and kicking. I got up and drank a huge glass of iced tea. My house was dark but my eyes hurt as if I had just stepped out of complete darkness into incandescent sunlight. God my head hurts so bad I can hardly write.

February 14, 2004: Monday

I really wanted to call in sick but decided against it. Not on a Monday. If any Agency employee called in on a Monday or Friday they were considered lazy and wanting a three day weekend. It didn't matter if your mother had just died, or you had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor the size of a Honeydew melon, you just weren't believed by your immediate supervisor or your co-workers.

I felt the dread take root in my heart as I started my car. The roots spread through my whole body like snakes crawling through grass. I felt so sick to my stomach. I didn't want to face all the eyes staring at me. I didn't feel capable of performing my duties as an inspector properly.

I shook as if I were horrified when I parked my car.

I felt like bawling when I entered the office. The other inspectors sat at three circular tables when I walked in. They were talking and quieted immediately when they noticed it was me. I saw the uncomfortable glances as I strolled to the bathroom.

Inside the bathroom, I opened my locker and took off my San Francisco ball cap. I took out the plain white hard hat. All inspectors were required to wear hard hats. It really sucks because they are about seven pounds and pull at your neck as you try to inspect the chickens flying by on the u-shaped shackles. My hairnet was inside of the hardhat and I heard the whispers as I put it on over my hair.

Fuck em!

They just don't care what is going on. Bunch of ostrich assholes.

February 15, 2004: Tuesday

I had the nightmare again. Only it went further this time. Kurt had actually had the audacity to break a window and try to unlock it. I jerked his arm through and cut him but there was no blood. That's when I woke up.

I went to the therapist again. He gave this line about how a man in his fifties wasn't strong enough to face responsibilities. The man was alcoholic; he just went out and drank until he passed out. He kept asking if I was drinking. I needed to talk about my childhood or my problems at work but he wanted to know if I was a drunk. I just answered his questions.

I drove straight to liquor store.

Here's to you counselor!

February 16, 2004: Wednesday

I wrote to Dr. Gault about the plant's continued non-compliance about the line speeds and dumping uninspected birds into the chiller. I repeatedly requested Dr. Ziggy to please do something about it but he wouldn't comply.

About a ½ hour after the shift began, I timed the line.

It was running about 79 bpm.

The birds were in terrible condition. There were so many different pathological circumstances; I couldn't keep up without stopping the line every six birds.

Of course, the floor supervisor complained to Dr. Ziggy sitting in front of his computer playing solitaire. He promptly marched out and told me to stop harassing management. I was told not to stop the line anymore. I told him he couldn't order me to quit stopping the line and put it into writing. He did. He handed it to me at the end of the shift.

I was appalled and furious. All I wanted to do was a good job and here he was writing me up for it.

Why couldn't I be an ostrich?

February 17, 2004: Thursday

I handed the 'Zigster' my reply to his speed memo and my letter to Dr. Gault about his ineptitude. He didn't like it but stayed away from me the whole shift.

My stomach shot shards of pain throughout my abdomen. My head throbbed like an alien egg thing about to spring something nasty from it.

The kill floor supervisor and plant manager stood behind me watching what I did for over an hour. They wrote down every time I stopped the line. I knew they were trying to build a case of harassment but I didn't care anymore.

I knew I was right.

They had a lead person come up on the line. He stood beside my trimmer and pulled off the birds I marked for vacuum. They hung them on a rack and disappeared with it around behind where I couldn't see it.

Oh well I knew my job.

February 18, 2004: Friday

I went ahead and called in sick even though it is Friday. I just don't care anymore. Let them think what they want to. Dr. Ziggy asked me what was my problem. I told him my stomach was killing me and I was throwing up. Which was true but I did that every night. He said we were going to have to talk when I returned. I told him whatever Doc and hung up on him.

Fuckin pissant.

I fell asleep on the couch and had the nightmare again. This time Kurt had broke into the back door and was actually inside the house. I jumped up and chased him around. Through every room, he ran as I tried to catch up to him and pound the breath from his lungs. He escaped the way he came in before I could tear him a new ass. I woke up on the floor with my back door standing wide open. That freaked me out.

February 19, 2004: Saturday

My sister, Sam called. She wanted three hundred dollars to help her and my mother to buy a house. Fuck! I couldn't afford three hundred dollars just to throw away to them. I knew I'd never see it again.

But it killed me to tell her no. My stomach started sending knives through nerves into my brain. I ate four Maalox and lay down in my blackened bedroom. I tried to slip into unconsciousness for three hours.

I was always Dad to them. They have even given me a couple of Father's Day cards.

I'm proud of those.

It was hard to be the big brother and father at the same time. Especially when the money was scare. I always tried to have Mom and the girls at least their favorite birthday cake, though. I helped buy the designer clothes that were popular during their high school years. Mom couldn't afford nothing but K-Mart and Wal-Mart clothes.

After I turned 19, I began to worry about my mother. In the last six months, she had gone into her room and wouldn't come out. My sisters and I waited, on her hand and foot.

We prepared her meals.

We delivered her drinks.

We catered to any whim that might involve her leaving that damn room.

Emmy and I would wipe her, after she shit. She was so big she couldn't do it herself. She was 5'6" tall, but, weighed four hundred pounds. She had folds, of fat and skin.

She was deeply depressed. She wouldn't take a shower, for weeks at a time. Her body odor could permeate through two rooms of our house. All three of us, kids, would constantly complain to her.

She ignored us making excuses like, "I'm in the middle of my programs." She loved those soap operas. Shows like, 'Young and the Restless' took her away, from her personal misery, to another world.

She walked, with, an old, brown wooden cane. It was shaped, like a Christmas candy cane. She used it, because, she, frequently, lost her balance. When she fell, "shit" got broken. It never left her side.

Emmy was born five years after me. She and I were often at odds with each other. I had been working at a meat shop for about a month. I closed the meat shop. I worked eleven in the morning to nine at night. After work, sometimes, I hung out, over at Gene's house. We had a garage band. We would play and drink. There were some nights I wouldn't go to bed until two or three in the morning. Even if I didn't go over there, I would stay up and watch TV. I didn't have to wake up until ten in the morning, so that was my usual routine.

Mom loved to have coffee every morning. When she started to refuse to leave her room, she began asking, then, demanding Emmy to fix her coffee every morning. Emmy was not a morning person. She wouldn't willingly get out of bed until after eleven o'clock.

The day before was a Sunday. That night, I went over to Gene's house to practice our music. We drank a lot of beer. I had a hangover, Monday morning. Mom started in on Emmy at six that morning.


Mom was an extremely loud woman. We could hear her throughout our house as if she were right next to us.


Her voice ripped through my head like a chainsaw.

I thought, 'Oh, not this morning Mom.'

My head throbbed like it was inside of a base drum and the drummer was playing "Inna Godda Da Vidda."


She screamed from her chair in her bedroom. Mom rarely left her chair. When she did, it was only to shower or go to the bathroom.

I tried to get Emmy up myself.

"Emmy, please get up and get Mom some coffee."

I thought, 'maybe she isn't awake, she might hear me, better.'

"Emmy, get up and get Mom some coffee."

My sisters's bedroom was next door to mine. Mom was all the way across the house.


Mom kept getting louder. The woman could produce the decibels. I have, yet, to meet someone, louder than my mother.

"EMILY! GET UP!" Mom shouted.

I prayed silently, 'God? Please get Emmy up.' I just wanted to go back to sleep.

After a few minutes, it grew quiet. I drifted off to sleep.


I started out of my peaceful slumber. Mom began beating the door to her bedroom with her cane. Her chair sat close enough to the door, she could reach it without getting up.

She screamed again, "EMMY! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! GET UP!"


I felt like she was beating my head with that damn cane


I didn't hear a sound from my sister's room.

I thought, 'I'm gonna kick your ass if you don't get up, EMMY!' I would have given anything to get Mom to stop screaming and beating that cane.


She was persistently beating the cane, trying to get Emmy out of bed. I loved my mother but there were times, I wanted to beat her bloody. Just hit her until she shuts up.


The cane hammered the door.


Her voice echoed through my pounding head. I wanted to pour the damn coffee grounds down her throat.

My bladder was full, so I got up, went to the bathroom.

As I passed my sisters' bedroom, their door was open.

I pleaded with her, "Emmy, would you please get up and get Mom's coffee started?"

I got a grunt for a reply.

I didn't feel like fighting with her so I continued on into the bathroom. I did my business, and then swallowed down three Tylenol caplets.

As I, again, passed the girls' door, I pleaded with her, "Emmy, please get up and fix Mom's coffee."

I got at least got a grunt from her that time.

'This is going to be one of those mornings,' I thought as I entered my bedroom.

I tried and failed to go back to sleep. Mom incessant refusal to leave her room kept furrowing into my brain. Every three or four minutes, Mom would yell at my sister. Emmy's obstinate ignorance of my mother's shouted requests, started to claw at my nerves. I was nauseous and my head ached.

Mom kept on screaming and beating that cane.



I, finally, had all I could take.

I got up out of bed.

I put on a pair of warm sweats, a sweatshirt, a jacket, and running shoes with socks.

I went to the front door and opened it wide.

I went into the kitchen. I washed out yesterday's coffee and poured fresh water into the pot. I retrieved the coffee grounds from the cupboard. I filled the filter and put them into the coffee machine. I turned on the Mr. Coffee machine.

The whole while, Mom still shouted at my sister.


I thought to myself, 'How are you going to make her regret it if you never leave your chair.'

Then I had an idea.

I went back to the cupboard and took out an empty gallon pitcher. I walked over to the refrigerator, opened the freezer door. I grabbed handfuls of ice cubes from the automatic ice cube maker's tray. I filled the pitcher up, completely. I turned, went to the kitchen sink. I turned the faucet on, filled the pitcher up with the cold tap water. I knew if I let my sister get away with ignoring Mom today, it would happen every morning.

I walked toward my sisters's bedroom with malicious intent. I entered their room as quietly as I could. Sam was lying on her side. She faced the door and saw me as I silently slipped by her bed. She saw what I had in my hand and immediately sat straight up. I gave her an evil smile only older brothers are capable of giving their younger siblings.

Emmy was lying on her stomach. She didn't see or hear me coming. I stood over her, smiling a mischievous grin. I was about to get total revenge, with total satisfaction.

I dumped the pitcher, of ice water, on her head.

I don't think I have ever, in my life, seen someone move that fast. I don't think I have ever seen that kind of speed from a human being on TV or at the movie theater, either. She exploded up, out of her bed.

"What The Fuck?!" Emmy screamed at the top of her lungs.

I had to squint my eyes. My head still throbbed.

"What The Fuck Are You Doing?!" She screamed, as she stood there soaking wet.

In a monotone voice, I replied, "Makin' sure you get up the first time Mom calls you, tomorrow."

I kept any look of enjoyment from my expression.

"What?!" She screamed at me in total confusion.

I spoke calmly, "Start getting up the first time Mom calls you, Emily."

I glanced at Sam. Her eyes were saucers. Her mouth hung open in shock. I winked at her and she snickered.

Emmy started to cry deep sobs as she screamed, "Wwhhoo…Wwhhoo… Who… Duh…Do You Think You Are?!"

I serenely stated to her.

"I'm the one who is going to pour ice water on your head if you don't get up the first time Mom calls you."

She was soaking wet. The water caused her nightgown to adhere to her body.

"You're Such A Fuckin' Asshole! Your Not My Dad, Steven!"

The shock of the ice water was wearing off. She was getting pissed.

I said, "I never said I was. I said, I was the one who…"

In a rage, she charged me, with claws and fangs bared.

Emmy was a prissy sort of girl, petite. She was never athletic. I tried to get her to play baseball and football, as we grew up, but she was never interested. I was confident I could handle her without hurting her… too, badly. She just didn't have the muscle or experience. She came at me with the speed fury can motivate.

"Aaarrrggghhh!" a guttural scream exploded from her mouth. Her arms were fully extended. Her nails were hunting tender flesh.

I ran…

…as fast as I could for the front door.

The brat knew she couldn't catch me; she locked me out of the house.

I listened, as I heard Emmy stomping through the house screaming, "Mmmmmooooooooommmmm!"

"Mmmooomm! Do You Know What Steven Did?! Mmmooomm! He Poured Ice Water All Over Me And My Bed!" She raged.

I heard her continue to scream at my mother, "He Is Such A Fuckin' Asshole, Mom! I Hate Him, Mom!"

I stifled a loud laugh when I heard Mom's reply, "Then get up the first time I call you, stupid."

I stayed out there for an hour, until Sam got up and let me in.

After the ice water episode, I often worried about Mom not leaving her room. Months went by as I worked and hung out with friends. It was hard times but as a family we scrapped through. I began to get more anxious about Mom's health. She wasn't improving at all and began to stagnate. I knew her mental health was deteriorating but her physical health concerned me more pressingly. She was over four hundred pounds and that was just too unhealthy.

Mom continued the same old routine of shouting at six in the morning. Sometimes my sisters would get up the first call and sometimes I had to threaten the ice water. A couple of times, they waited until I was walking to their room with the ice water. I never had to do more than that though, Thank God.

Every time, I considered Mom's condition, I realized I was going to have force myself to do something. I just didn't know what to do. I seriously pondered on it a couple of weeks and finally contrived a plan. I needed a confrontation with her. My sisters and I needed to get her to start coming out of that damn room.

On a Sunday afternoon, I asked Emmy and Sam to come into my room. They sat on my bed while I sat on a folding chair in front of them.

I said, "I'm worried about Mom."

I knew I needed their help for what I had contemplated. The girls were the ones waiting on Mom. I needed them to stop, to get the confrontation with Mom, I needed.

My sisters and I had expressed our concern to her on several occasions but nothing ever changed. She wouldn't take our advice and seek some kind of professional help. I had to push her until she had no other choice.

"I have a plan and I need you guys to help me out." I said, as Emmy and Sam looked at me with expectant eyes.

I continued, "I think Mom will die in that room if she don't come out of there."

Emmy spoke up, "I think so too. She won't do anything for herself and I'm tired of wiping her. It's sooo gross."

I had to laugh because I've had the toilet duty with Mom too.

I emphatically told her, "What the hell are you complaining about? I had to do it twice as long as you have."

She knew I had too. All the way through high school Mom was too obese to reach around and clean herself after she did her business. I never learned what she did while I was at school and I never asked.

Emmy said, "I don't care how long you had to do it. It's gross and I don't wanna do it anymore."

I knew how Emmy felt but it was something we had to do for Mom.

Every time Mom would crap, she would call Emmy. I remember when I had the toilet duty; I dreaded that call from her.

She had a bathroom connected to her bedroom.

Our house was rectangle shaped. The front two rooms near the street were my sisters and my bedrooms. The next two rooms were the main bathroom and living room. Then the dining room and kitchen, finally a laundry room and bathroom parallel to my mother's bedroom. A hallway started at our bedroom doors separated the bathroom and living room, ending in a linen closet. The bathroom and living room doors sat opposite of each other. There was no wall separating the living room and dining room, just a rusted archway my father had welded and installed but never painted. He never finished anything.

As you traveled through my childhood home, you walked through the living room to enter the dining room. In the dining room with your back to the living room, you faced the laundry room door. On your right was another dilapidated archway, my father installed, which led into the kitchen. When you walked into the kitchen from the dining room, Mom's room was to your left.

The laundry room, Mom's bedroom, and bathroom were additions my father built on after we bought the shack. The floors were cement, while the rest of the house had wooden flooring. The additions Dad added on were lower than the rest of the house, you had to step down into the laundry room and Mom's bedroom. You had to travel the length of Mom's room to enter her bathroom.

When she would yell my name, I knew immediately, by the tone in her voice, what she needed me to do.

I dreaded that sound in her voice.

She already had the toilet paper folded up in her hand when I walked into the doorway adjoining the bathroom and her bedroom. Sitting on the toilet, she would never look at me. She wouldn't say anything. I knew how embarrassing it was for her, so neither would I. She would hand me the toilet paper, preparing to bend forward, using her cane for balance and support. Bent over like she was waiting for a rectal exam, I cleaned her.

I felt sorry for her but I detested that 'chore'.

When I was a senior in high school, I finally refused to do it. I had wiped her since I was ten years old. The 'chore' fell to Emmy after that.

She never liked it, either.

"I want you to stop doing things for Mom. If we keep getting her coffee and dinner plates, she won't ever come out of that room."

As I looked at both my sisters, I saw the bewildered expressions on their faces. After the ice water incident and so many mornings of threats of the ice water 'punishment', I was doing a 180-degree turn around. I perceived I was going to have to battle Mom over control of the girls. I, also, understood, they were afraid of me. Hell, I had put Dad in the hospital when I was sixteen.

With the most menacing face I could muster, I told them, "If you do get her anything, she can get for herself, I'm Gonna Kick Your Fuckin' Ass!"

I emphasized my point by raising my voice.

They both spoke at the same time, "What if Mom orders us to?"

I could see the conflict in their eyes. The choice of me kicking their ass or disobeying their mother, showed in their expressions.

"I know Mom will scream at you and then she'll plead with you but we all have to be strong. We all have to stand up to her. If we don't stop this now, she'll die in that room."

I asked Emily, "Emmy do you understand? Not even while I'm gone to work or anywhere. Don't get mother anything that she can get herself."

She nodded her head, the conflict still on her face.

I looked at Samantha, her eyes wide with fear, and asked, "Sam do you understand?"

She began nodding, like a bobble head doll before I could finish the question.

"Now let's all go out to Mom's room and talk to her."

We all got up and made the journey to confront Mom.

I was the oldest; I perpetually did the talking when it was Mom against us, kids.

"Mom, we need to talk to you." I said, as I stepped down into her bedroom.

The girls followed me in, walked around me, then sat on my mother's bed.

Mom had a bladder control problem whenever she coughed she urinated. Her chair smelled of urine and body odor. It was a loathsome smell. She hadn't taken a bath in days; the girls and I tried to keep the nauseated look off our faces.

"What is it son?"

She looked at each of us questioningly. We very rarely gathered together in her room. We couldn't stand the smell.

"Mom, the girls aren't going to get anything for you anymore."

My mother's expression transformed from a look of curiosity to anger as I talked. She clamped her lips together and looked at me with this, 'who the hell do you think you are' expression.

"Mom we love you but you've got to do things yourself." I said.

I thought, 'oh she doesn't like what she's hearing one bit!'

"So from now on, you're going to get your own coffee and dinner plate. The girls will cook it for you and set your dinner plate on the kitchen table. You can fix your own coffee in the morning."

I stood over her as I talked, looking at her face. I tried to capture her eyes with mine to express my seriousness but she avoided my stare. The girls just sat there looking sheepish.

I thought, 'this is going to be tough.'

"If you keep on like this, Mom, you're gonna die and none of us want that, Mom!"

My voice was pleading but it fell on deaf ears.

She was pissed off and my words were going in one ear and out the other. I realized the conversation was going nowhere and decided to retreat with one final proclamation.

I turned my glare on my sisters.

The girls were sitting on my mother's bed.

I said, "If either of you get her coffee or her dinner plate, I Will Kick Your Fuckin Ass!"

My voice increased to a guttural shout as I spoke.

In a much more subdued tone, I asked, "Emmy, do you understand?"

Her voice sounding rehearsed she replied, "Yes, Steven, I understand."

I gazed at Samantha and as she returned my stare, I asked her, "Sam do you understand?"

In a formal intonation, she nodded and answered, "Yes, Steven I understand."

"Mom do you have anything to say?" I asked.

I thought, 'I'm pushing it now.'

She shook her head, with a 'I'll show you, whose boss' expression.

Knowing my mother, I was in bed by ten-thirty that evening. I wanted to be up bright and early to see how my mother would react to my proclamation.

The next morning, at five fifty-five, the girls woke me up whispering and giggling in their bedroom. I thought, as I lay in my bed, 'They're just as curious as I am.' The girls never woke up this early on a school morning.

At exactly six o'clock on my alarm clock, I heard Mom, at half her usual volume, ask my sister, "Emmy would you get up and fix my coffee?"

I thought to myself, 'she doesn't understand how serious I am.'

Emmy immediately replied at the top of her voice, "Uh! Uh! Mom You Heard What Steven Said, Yesterday! He'll Kick My Ass!"

I smiled into my pillow because I heard the humor in Emmy's voice.

After months of getting up early every morning, she was getting to tell my mother, 'No!'

Mom heard it, too.

The next moment, she was raging at my sister, "EMILY, GET YOUR ASS UP AND GET IN HERE AND FIX MY COFFEE!"

That was when I knew I had to intercede.

I got up, entered the hallway. I stopped in front my sisters's bedroom and looked in. I saw them sitting on their beds. They looked at me expectantly and I winked at them. They smiled back at me, as I left for the battle, I knew was about to commence.

I traveled into the hallway, into the living room, breathing deeply. Pondering my strategy, I went through the dining room into the kitchen. I stopped at her doorway and observed my morbidly obese mother glaring at me from her chair. The feud was about to begin.

I inhaled, fully expanding my chest.

I thought, 'This is going to be a knockdown drag out.'

"Mom, I told you yesterday, you're gonna to do it yourself from now on."

I spoke as serenely as I could.

She mashed her teeth together and hissed at me, "I'm the mother here not you, And I SAID TO GET ME SOME COFFEE!"

Her fury exploded from her mouth, spewing spittle as she screamed.

I shook my head exasperatedly and inhaled as deeply as I could.

I said, slowly as if speaking to a four-year-old, "No, Mom. You're going to do it yourself."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see both of my sisters, sitting on the living room couch. They sat and stared at me, as I stood in Mom's bedroom doorway. This was the first occurrence any of us kids had stood up to Mom so obstinately.

I was the adult, she the temper tantrum throwing child. A reversal of parent and child, I felt I had to stand up to my mother for her life. The girls were backing me and that was all the support I needed.

Mom grunted as she started to move out of her chair. As large as she had grown, it took her a while to remove herself from her recliner. Balancing on her cane as she scooted along the seat. She got up on her haunches, glaring at me from the edge of her chair.

Throwing her hand up violently, like a pitcher who'd just won the seventh game of the World Series, she screamed at me, "I'M YOUR MOTHER AND YOU KIDS WILL DO AS I SAY!"

Her hair was a frazzled rat's nest; her body odor stung my nostrils.

I thought, 'Come on Mom. Take the bait.'

This was a battle of wills, my sisters's and mine, against my severely depressed mother's. We wanted to save her life, against Mom's refusal to leave her room and die in that foul piss scented chair.

"We talked about this yesterday. We're doing it for your own good."

My voice was pleading with her but I knew I had to keep her motivated to get out of that chair.

I shouted at her with total defiance. I knew how she hated us to defy her. I wanted her so furious with me; she would try to get in my face. I hoped to lure her out of her room.

"Mom, I Said You're Gonna Do It Yourself!"

She pumped her fist, slamming it down on her thigh and screamed at me through tears, "YOU"RE GONNA RESPECT ME OR I'M GONNA BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU!"

She continued with a visceral scream, "YOU KIDS ARE GONNA DO AS I SAY!"

Then she did exactly as I hoped she would, both hands supporting her on her cane, she stood up!

With as much sarcasm as I could intone, I shouted back at her.

"Yea, We Will Do As You Say But Not Till You Start Coming Out Of Your Room."

I was smiling triumphantly. I had gotten my mother up out of her chair and moving towards the kitchen.

As she tentatively stepped to the doorway, I thought, 'It's working! It's working!'

Mom was deceptive, too. She was disabled, yes, but not to the point of an invalid. All the times she said she couldn't do things, the excuses she made, were just so she could hide away in the shelter of her room. It was a hard truth to realize, to understand. She alone had allowed herself to fall to this point, to become this way. She needed help but wouldn't go out and get some. I knew I had to intervene or Mom would rot away in that room. Losing Dad had stomped all of her hopes and ambitions flat. I knew it was time to move on to a new life and stop wallowing in the scum of depression. I knew it had to start now, before we lost my mother to a stroke or heart attack. Mom had given up; she wanted to die in her bedroom. She believed without Dad, she had nothing to live for.

She blew air through her mouth, spraying tears and mucous before as she stepped up out of her bedroom. It broke my heart to have caused this hysterical frenzy, but I felt exhilarated to see her leave her bedroom.

I kept thinking, 'She's doing it, she's coming out of that damn room!'

Her voice raw from shrieking at the top of her lungs like she was damaging her throat and vocal cords, she continued shouting vehemently, "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME STEVEN, I CAN'T DO IT BY MYSELF?"

Speaking in a sedate tone, I said, "Yes, you can mother, I'm doing this for your own good. You need help, Mom."

I think, 'I can't let her wear me down. I have to keep her furious or she'll go back into her room.'

With a cold and manipulating malevolence I said, "You're just being lazy anyway. You can come out and get your own damn coffee!" I heard my father in the words that sprung from my lips. He had made this child in front of me, throwing a temper tantrum. With the discouraging attitudes, with sinister ridicule, Dad had made my family totally dependent on him. I knew I had to depose the minatory conditioning Dad had constantly subjected Mom to.

Through my mind the words reiterated, 'She's out of her room, she' doing it, it's working!'

Her eyes were bloodshot, her face crimson as a fire engine red, her voice deafening as the siren outside the door.

With renewed fervor she began to screech again, "YOU KIDS ARE GOING TO DO AS I SAY! YOU"RE GOING TO RESPECT YOUR MOTHER!"

For half a second, I doubted what I was doing.

I thought, 'she might have a stroke or something.'

Instantaneously, I dismissed the inner discord.

'She'll die anyway in that fuckin' room, one way or the other, today is the start of a new beginning!'

As she approached me, I grew aware of the cane in her hands. My defiance of her commands was her motivation. I knew that, like a viscous virago, she wanted to punish that defiance. I had to be ready for her to swing that cane, to run for the living room.

The reek of her body odor jabbed at my nose as she stepped into the kitchen. I moved to my left, the singular escape I had from the reach of her cane. She laggardly stepped up to the kitchen counter, her body heaved with sobs. I was amazed at my cold resilience. That was my father in me.

I mercilessly told Mom, "I told you yesterday, Emmy and Sam weren't going to get your meals or your coffee anymore. What didja think, I was kidding?"

In my head, I'm dancing at the accomplishment of motivating my mother out of her room.

I could barely disguise the smile.

'I did it,' I repeated in my head, 'I got her out of her chair AND! Her room!

There was a time; I had thought it would take nothing short of a miracle. I was delighted, my heart overjoyed.

My voice splintered with emotion as I questioned, "See, Mom, it isn't that hard is it?"

I kept my face to her and slowly retreated to the dining room.

As the air rapidly expelled from her mouth, I grinned like a dog that got the steak that missed the BBQ grill.

As Mom stood leaning on the counter, her cane still in her hand, I realized she was trying to hyperventilate. The air exploded out of her body like a bullet from a gun.

I thought, 'One last stab at sympathy to get what she wants.'

I knew Mom. I recognized an act, when I saw it.

I thought, 'she's going to pull a "fainting" act.'

The anger flared in my voice as I exclaimed, "Don't play that shit with me Mom! I'll call an ambulance. Emmy! Call 911 Now!"

I knew Mom realized we couldn't afford an ambulance. If she were faking she wouldn't allow my sister to call 911. My mother, who has just creaked her way out of her bedroom after months of inactivity, whirled around, and, with the strength of an NFL quarterback, fired a dish right AT ME! SHIT!

It happened so fast; I barely spun out of the way.

She had thrown it chest high, the dish whipped past me, missing me by fractions of an inch. She threw it so doggedly; it sailed across two rooms, and crashed into the far dining room wall. I made a hasty retreat into the living room, not wanting to push my luck.

I glanced at Emmy and Sam and with a smile, said, "When do you think she'll stop acting like this?"

With great toothy grins, they both shrugged their shoulders. They understood what I was doing and it was working! I had lured Mom out of her bedroom. I don't think they thought I could do it at the beginning. When I had first decided on my plan of action, I didn't think I could, either. Mom was rooted in that chair, in that room.

As she pitched dishes across the kitchen and dining room, I thought, 'Now maybe we can coax her into the car to go get her some help!'

Meanwhile, every dish Mom could reach was being launched as my sisters and I watched. It appeared to me like she was trying to throw them through the dining room window. Fortunately, she was a terrible aim, not one dish crashed through the window. Like a tennis match, all three of our heads were in unison, as we watched those dishes fly.

Not only did the dishes not hit their mark, but also, they didn't even break. That was a miracle in itself, considering the velocity in which she hurled them. I could hear her bawling crocodile tears in the kitchen, as the grunts of exertion erupted from her lips. As she passionately hurled the dishes at the window, I was on cloud nine.

I again glanced at the girls looking to see the expressions on their faces. They had ear-to-ear smiles.

Mom spewing breath and saliva out of her mouth, exhausted from the activity, she stopped launching the dishes.

She had hurled every dish within her reach.

The childish tantrum dissipated.

I, cautiously, walked into the dining room. I stood in there, observing my mother as she cried profusely into her hands. Frustration and fury, in the form of spittle, spewed from her lips. Her head bent in submission.

I thought, 'That's the most exercise you've got in years.'

Sarcasm dripping from my words, I asked, "Are ya done yet? I think we still have some pots and pans in the cupboard."

She glowered at me, her anger seething in her eyes.

It was hard to stop pushing at that point. Once I got that malicious ball rolling, it was extremely difficult to turn it off immediately.

I walked up and hugged her. Lifted her arm over my shoulder to help support her, walked her back to her chair.

"We've got to get you to a psychiatrist, Mom, if we don't you'll die in this room." I told her, my voice finally softening with emotion.

"I know, son, I know."

I know now how depression is so embarrassing, having suffered with it myself. I just didn't realize then how far it pushed a person.

February 20, 2004: Sunday

My landlord called bitching about the lawn being too high. The anal prick. It was only about mid-shin high. I phoned the kid across the street. I asked him if he would mow it for me for ten bucks. He jumped at the offer. Problem solved.

February 21, 2004: Monday

It is about 2:30am and once again I can't sleep. Every time I eat I vomit the meal back up. I feel weak and listless. I get up and pace through my small abode. Back and forth through the living room, into the kitchen, open up the refrigerator, nuthin appealing, then to the bathroom to take a bath but I lose track of what I'm doing and go sit back down on my couch.

I don't understand why I can't concentrate to even bathe. I haven't shaved in two weeks and the growth itches nonstop. I dig at my cheeks but don't think to shave. I raise my arms above my head and the stench from my pits about knocks me over. I still don't feel like taking a bath. I dress for work and slop deodorant on. I don't care what they think the assholes.

Another inspector assigned to the beef plant came over and asked me to trade with him for next week. He wants to attend his son's junior varsity football game on Friday and the red meat plant works late on Fridays. I happily agree because the supervisor there is cool and excellent at his job. He doesn't allow the company to get away with murder on the kill floor and condemns the carcasses that is unfit for human consumption unlike other FIICs I could infinitely name.

Other than that, it was an uneventful day.

February 22, 2004: Tuesday

Dr. Ziggy was suspiciously chipper at the beginning of the day. I eyed him talking animatedly with the 8's across the room. His arms swung wildly talking about something or the other.

I tried to bore a hole into the back of his head. He must have felt it because he grew quiet and glanced at me nervously.

At the end of the shift I found out why he'd been so happy.

He handed me the reply from Dr. Gault.

I waited till I got home to open the envelope.

Mounting fury built up as I read the speed memo.

It said I couldn't properly time the lines as I inspected the chickens. What I couldn't count to seventy in a minute? I had been doing this job for ten years and now I can't even determine if the lines were too fast.

What a goddam joke.

Dr. Gault proceeded to inform me that if I ever left the line for any reason other than a personal emergency I would be suspended.

Shit just rolls down hill but then it starts to rise up to your thighs. Then begins to cover your hips. All the while you're trying so hard to climb out of it. It gets to your navel and you begin to panic but you're running on that treadmill that is just a step too fast for your pace. It floats up to your chest and you know it is going to drown you now. You realize that you are going to drown in shit. You panic trying to swim out of it but its just so draining. So parasitic of your strength, that eventually when it reaches your mouth, you just give up and sink into the stinking well of defecation. I lay the yellow piece of paper and carbons on my desk after I finished the reprimand.

I am disgusted with the whole damned system.

February 23, 2004: Wednesday

I must have gone walking last night but don't remember leaving the house. I awoke with the bottom of my pants muddy and my feet scratched as if I'd walked miles on asphalt.

Am I sleep walking?

I picked up the phone to call in but then changed my mind. I couldn't keep calling in sick or I'd be written up. Enough write ups and they can fire you.

I go to work.

I couldn't afford to be fired. I watched the inspector down the line from me sleep while birds flowed past him with shit all inside them.

The trimmer was too busy talking with my presenter.

I look around the inside of the kill floor.

Four lines with machinery to eviscerate the chickens. The carcasses were rehung from a conveyor belt leading back into the scalding room. They traveled on u-shaped shackles, into a round machine that spun around and cut holes around the bung. It had a vacuum discoid hallow at the point of touching the chicken tail. It was called the ventor. If this machine was slightly off, the bung area was constantly contaminated with chickenshit. The shackles with the chickens hung by their hocks, snaked around to a machine to remove the oil glands on the opposite side of the tail. The mucous from the oil glands was supposed to be the highest in bacteria count but our supervisors never even slowed production when the oil glands were left on.

The birds continued to weave around until they met the body opener.

This was a machine to open the carcass from breastbone to bung. If it wasn't working properly, then the eviscerator wouldn't be able to pull the viscera out of the chest cavity properly. It was a chain reaction, if every piece of machinery didn't work properly the birds were contaminated abundantly with fecal material. That's why the outbreaks of e-coli and salmonella were so predominately absurd.

To top it all off every bird was dumped into a huge bathtub. It is a big joke among inspectors. On an average night, before being dumped into the chiller, you might have 25-30 fecal contamination or bacterial count on the carcasses; upon exiting the chiller it rose to 95-99 bacterial contamination.

Two inspectors worked every line. I watched today as the inspector down from me weaved as if he were drunk out of his mind. His trimmer kept trying to get my attention saying he stank of alcohol. All the FIICs in the circuit knew about this certain inspector's alcoholism but they never chose to reprimand or even write him up for sleeping on the line.

But they wrote me up because I tried to stop the employees from dumping uninspected birds into the chiller.

I thought it fuckin hilarious.

February 24, 2004: Thursday

I had the nightmare last night. This time Kurt just pounded on my door. I ignored him and went back to sleep.

I woke refreshed. I felt great and took a 2-mile walk down my street. But I still had the feeling Kurt was following me. It didn't matter today, I felt too invigorated to care. Maybe I was turning over a new leaf.

February 25,2004: Friday

Thank God! It's Friday and I am the hell out of this dungeon for a whole week. But beef has its own pressures.

February 26, 2004: Saturday

I stayed all day in bed but woke up after an 8-hour sleep to feel more exhausted than before I'd drifted off. My back door was open again. I'm going to nail it shut.

February 27, 2004: Sunday

I am really looking forward to working with Dr. Harvey. He has been extremely responsible for educating the inspectors in the Franklin circuit. I still can't believe the disgusting beef carcasses I have had the unfortunate experience to watch entering Meat Packers Incorporated coolers before Dr. Harvey.

February 28, 2004:Monday

I assigned pre-op inspection for the week.

I inspected several units coming upon the evisceration table. It was a giant stainless steel conveyor belt that the gutters dropped the pluck, hearts and lungs, and the viscera, the liver, stomach, intestines and spleen onto. Since close to all the viscera is consumed by one nationality or another the evisceration table is considered a direct