Pillsbury Factory
by Katherine Mockler

The First Day

On my first day I walked through the factory without my hardhat, and Bud Richards hollered at me in front of everybody.

Now I never forget.

It seems like Bud always picks on me.

It's because you're working in the warehouse, Clinton says. He's old school. He thinks only men should work here.


The Cool Room

I punch us in while Clinton puts our lunches in the cool room. The cool room is a big room beside the lunch area that's as cold as a fridge and that stays empty during corn season.

Bud, the foreman, lets us use it because in terms of a lunchroom the warehouse workers really get the shaft.

The rest of the factory has a full kitchen, microwave, fridge, and four vending machines.

But we aren't allowed to use it because management doesn't want us walking through the factory.

So Bud made a makeshift lunch area consisting of two tables, two vending machines, and the cool room, which I'm convinced makes my sandwiches taste like rubber.


Five Minutes

Clinton and I have five minutes before our shift starts. We each get a pop from the vending machine and then sneak off to the stacks and share a cigarette.

There are so many crates, and they are stacked so high, it’s overwhelming.

Each crate holds a thousand cans, and they’re stacked almost to the ceiling.

They’re as high up as trees, as telephone poles, as some office buildings downtown.

If I wanted to, I couldn’t count them. Being in the heart of the stacks is like being in a maze. It’s where the forklift drivers smoke up and take turns taking naps.

And they won’t get caught because no one ever goes back there— not even Bud.


Clinton Knows This

There's a hum in the air that puts me into a trance every time I walk through the factory.

It's like the hum transforms me into a different person, into the person I have to be when I work.

I'm quiet here, more more subdued. I conform because everyone else conforms.

If Clinton's mom hadn't gotten me the job I wouldn't have lasted a day.

I know this, and Clinton knows this.


Snap Buttons

When we pass the administration office, the girl behind the front desk calls out to me.

You have to wear this, she says and hands me a white cotton coat with snap buttons.


All women have to wear them.

But I'm not on the line. I just work in the warehouse.

Doesn't matter. Bud saw you without it and gave me shit.

The girl returns to her desk as I slip into the coat. It's two sizes too big.

What an asshole, Clinton says.

I hold up my arms and pretend I'm drowning.



We're not unionized and only get paid six dollars and fifty cents an hour.

The forklift drivers and anyone who was with Green Giant before they switched to Pillsbury get twenty.


Less Boring

The first night, time went fast because it was new, but since then, the hours drag on the way I imagine seconds do for kittens drowning in a burlap bag. And it’s that excruciating.

When I'm at the factory everything feels as if it’s in slow motion, but when I'm off work time moves like quicksand.

I don't seem to get to sleep long enough or watch TV long enough or stay long enough at the bar.

All the things I like to do become memories before I've even had enough time to experience them.

At least Clinton gets to do something with his hands.

Sometimes an hour goes by and I won't have picked up the iron rod once.

Tonight I'm thinking of ways to make the job less boring. Maybe tomorrow I'll sneak my walkman in or a book.

I don't want to complain or ask for another job because, after all, Bud could give me something much worse.

And the one good thing is— Clinton and I get the same breaks.


No Corn

We got the night off because they ran out of corn.

They didn't tell us until the last minute.

Kathryn Mockler has an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and a BA in Honours English and Creative Writing from Concordia University. She has poems forthcoming in Carousel, the Antigonish Review, Pilot Pocket Books, and Misunderstandings Magazine. She teaches writing at the Ontario College of Art and Design and the University of Western Ontario.