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Corn Dog: Live by the Stick, Die by the Stick 

Tuesday, Sep 23 2014
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As with birth, no one remembers that first corn dog. But with both, we can assume that you were probably young, it was probably hot, and it probably happened at the end of a long dizzying ride in the dark. Perhaps, with hypnotherapy or LSD, you might recall (or reconstruct) that first time: It is a fair — state or county or roadside — and there are many things to fear. The great lurching rides, groaning overhead like poorly maintained planets in orbit. The grim carnies hissing at you through missing teeth. The house of horrors, where within the painted mural on the wall the image of a busty blonde getting decapitated by a leering demon is your first uncomfortable introduction to sex and death. Here is the world, electrified, compressed, and set spinning on end. You are, not for the first time in this life and certainly not for the last, crying.

Someone sticks a corn dog in your hand and damn if the thing doesn't glow in the sunlight (it's the canola oil, still sizzling deep within). Here then is some kind of respite. Eat it down to the bone. Swordfight. Discard. Orbit the orbiting machines with renewed confidence, not knowing that the corn dog will follow you loyally the rest of your days.

Known in other cultures as the "wiener with a coat," the "doughnut with a secret," and "Old Man Meat-on-a-Stick," the corn dog is not America's prodigal pork-tube. That honor belongs to the hot dog, and so the corn dog has always seemed a bit of an outsider, like you. Delightful, strange, not always appreciated: You share a kinship with what some ancient peoples called "God's thumb." And once you make its acquaintance, you start to see it everywhere. There in a corner of the deli case that you grow up and over; there in the largest recess of your cafeteria tray; there under the heat lamps of the truck stops of every single vacation, as old and grizzled and itinerant as the men who pass them by; there in the freezer of your first home away from home, a thing you can make quickly and enjoy when drunk; there to give a toast at your wedding, to be the godfather to your first child, to keep you company during your commute to work, to introduce you to blended whiskeys, to help you pack your things into boxes after your first divorce, to go on road trips with your kids and point at the corn dogs of future truck stops, to rock quietly alongside you in the gathering dark of old age. And it'll be there, still glowing in the sunlight, to read your eulogy and, when finished, to throw a stick into the grave along with that first cascade of dirt.

You won't remember that either, of course, but you may recall (or reconstruct) every corn dog along the way, multiplying, expanding outward, corn dogs without number, spiraling into infinity and describing the true shape of the universe. And you may follow it down into the darkness and, after a long ride, emerge into the light, crying. It will probably be hot and somebody, eventually, will stick something in your hand.

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Brandon R. Reynolds

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