Colin doesn’t want to go back to the bakery because if he goes back to the bakery they’re gonna make him fuck a cornbread and Colin doesn’t want to fuck a cornbread.
They say they do it to all the new guys. Like a rite of passage, or something. Everybody does it once or more. They film it and shout things like Worldstar! and they put it on the YouTube with silly sound effects like DOINKs and BOI-OI-OI-OIIIINGGGs and titles like Industrial Baker Fucks Hot Cornbread #17. Everybody who works at Harvest Point fucks a cornbread eventually and he doesn’t know how the ladies do but he’s scared to look on the internet about it. Colin had a panic attack this morning. Like a fist of ice in his chest, tendrilling all the way up to his brain. Lying there in bed, crying because he’s freaking out but it’s only his second day at the job so he has to go because he’s still on his probationary period. If he has to fuck the cornbread he’s going to turn to dust and float away.
Pot doesn’t help and neither do his Klonopins or Abilifys and then after a little while he starts to get scared that he’s had too much so he has more to try and even all that shit out. He still has to drive to work and his car regards him with streaky glassy eyes and a mouth full of vertical chrome in the garage and the car thinks to itself What a pussy and doesn’t stop even when Colin takes a hammer to its windshield to teach it some manners. He sits in blue-green pebbles all the way.
The wind is cold on Colin’s face through the raggy hole where the windshield was, worse on the highway. The engine is old and rattles like a box of elephant bones and the smoke that whistles out of it smells like his dad. There’s a Willie Nelson song about that, maybe. Colin turns the radio on as loud as it will go and screams nonsense and swear words along with all the songs to try and hide from the cold and the panic. He drives too fast and honks and throws trash at other cars. He asks a parked Jeep of teenagers if they want to buy some real good bad dick. When they roll down the windows, he screams Fuck you and gives them the middle finger before peeling away.
In an empty part of the highway, he runs a van of nuns into an embankment and sings “Sloop John B” while it burns and then he’s gone again.
When he closes his eyes, he can feel himself coming apart, horrible humanity aftershocks threatening to split his seams and calve off parts of him he’ll die without. He sinks a foot on the gas pedal and tries to live in the darkness and play chicken with the light, but it isn’t any good and when he opens his eyes again he’s still on the highway and people won’t stop driving at him and laying on their horns.
When he gets to his exit he can’t do it. He tries to turn the wheel and his heart knocks and hammers inside his ribs and the air’s sucked all out of him and his eyes go blur-spotty. He lets go of the wheel and sinks his foot on the gas and the car rights itself, slotting back into traffic and he’s not going to work today and when the car drives him to a Chili’s in the suburbs he’s not surprised but that doesn’t stop him from setting it on fire in the parking lot.
Inside, the restaurant smells like fucking. There’s a man behind the plastic bar with a Halloween mask face that turns toward the orange glow outside and screams Whut the fucken fuck izzat? When he’s not looking, Colin takes a bottle from one of the little mirrored shelves and goes down to the end of the bar to cool off but of course that doesn’t really work either because his boss is there waiting for him.
The old man has black hair with a bald spot and a rapist mustache and all the personality of a wet dogfart. Colin asks why he’s here and he says that he’s here to make sure he fucks the cornbread. He smiles at him with wet knives and Colin excuses himself to the bathroom to poop and drink the rest of the bottle. Not at the same time. A little bit at the same time.
The bathroom door bangs open and Colin can hear his boss breathing outside the stall and when he says You’re gonna fuck that cornbread, boy, Colin kicks the stall door into his face as hard as he can and runs for the outside through the atomized fog of red, pulling his pants up as he goes. He was gonna wash his ass in the sink but he can’t do that because the bathroom’s all stained and fucked up with dead person. In the parking lot, his car’s still burning and it screams his name and things like I fucking love you as he runs by.
He sprints all the way to the highway and steals a tractor trailer and drives home. He doesn’t dream about cornbread and you can’t prove that he does.
The next day at work they have a little funeral service for the boss and they laugh and tell stories and share sad bagels and then they lead Colin into the conference room where they’ve laid a cornbread on the table, swaddled in sheets and hay like the baby Jesus. Someone shouts Take yer medicine, and he kicks someone else in the balls and runs through the bakery to the back where they throw the garbage. He turns the baler on and sticks his arms in and laughs as the industrial machinery crushes them off and then everything’s red, red, red. He can hear the screams of everyone as he blacks out and when he wakes up in the hospital his arms are still gone but there’s an open half-bottle of Cialis on the table next to him and somebody’s impaled a yellow loaf on his horrible erection and left a get well soon card signed in blood.
Colin throws himself out the window and he never hits the ground but the cornbread sure does. It crumbles apart on the wet asphalt, warm and buttery and just the right amount of moist inside.