Broken Eggs Don't Always Make Omelets

Submitted into Contest #121 in response to: Write about someone in a thankless job.... view prompt

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Crime Fiction Coming of Age

            Throughout his youth in Elizabeth, New Jersey the mysterious John Wilenski’s actions and appearance convinced many of his neighbors and peers that his actual age amounted to a much smaller number than that displayed on his birth certificate or sworn to by his parents and other relatives.  Noone, however, had any idea how  the perception of his youth would carve out a future path none of them ever imagined.

          John grew up in a typical “blue collar” working class area of the “Port” area of New Jersey’s fourth largest city--so named for its close proximity--within about eight blocks--of the Elizabeth River or the Arthur Kill--across “the pond” from Staten Island, NY.

         John had ambitions--greatly encouraged by his parents--to attend Rutgers University.

     He went on to earn his degree--magna cum laude--in health and sanitation at Rutgers.  This area of study had captivated John since his first science class in high school.

        It didn’t take John long after his Rutgers graduation to land a dream job which he considered the first step to the career for which he had prepared for many years--as a first-level inspector in the Elizabeth Health Department.

       John made such an immediate hit that, barely six months into the newby’s excursion in the health department, city health director Joseph Fornay summoned the rookie into a confidential meeting.

       He said, “For a long time we have suspected Sam and Josh Silberstein of conducting illegal and unsanitary operations at their Fieldstone Food Processing plant in Elizabethport. 

     “However, we have been unable to get any solid evidence against them. We would like you to work there as a “high school “ summer intern. You will, in fact, go undercover for us and tip us off when the health violations are taking place so that our inspectors can raid the plant.  Because you look young enough to pass for a 17-year-old and due to your excellent academic background and work record here, we believe you have the chops to complete this assignment without the Silbersteins finding out about your mission. If you pull this off, you could earn a big promotion and a huge salary increase.”

     John did not hesitate to accept the assignment--after all, what could be so hard about breaking eggs into “ice cream cans”? Also, the clandestine nature of this “adventure” appealed to the James Bond side of this nature.

         Fieldstone supplied “processed eggs” to many establishments in the Elizabeth area restaurant industry.

       At John’s job interview, arranged through political connections in the health department, the Silbersteins explained to their new “high school summer part-timer” that “processed” meant that after he broke the eggs he would add sugar, and sometimes flour, before sealing the cans and loading them onto pallets and trucks prior to shipment to the customers.

     He would earn just the minimum wage for his role in the processing.

       Sam and Josh didn’t tell John, however, that some “accidental ingredients” occasionally worked their way into the egg mixtures.

     For example, the products of Fieldstone often needed “Kosher” certification because of the delivery of some of the egg mixtures to Jewish Orthodox restaurants. This meant that, every Thursday, the rabbis would inspect the eggs before the completion of final processing.

     Requirements for strict Kosher certification during the 1960s, when John worked in Fieldstone, meant that “blood eggs”--containing spots from blood vessels broken by hens during the laying process--could not be approved as Kosher.

       Now Sam and Josh, possibly faced with a very slim profit margin, could not afford to throw away any product that the rabbis did not certify.

      Therefore, each week, the day before the rabbis came in to inspect the eggs for Kosher certification, the Silbersteins instructed all their workers to mix any cans of blood eggs to make the spots on the yokes “disappeared” so the next day the rabbis would certify them as Kosher.

     An accident that happened during John’s second week “on the job” also provided fodder to the reports he had begun submitting to the health department.

     One of the larger rooms in the plant contained a large vat holding eggs ready for pasteurization mixing. An ultraviolet light above the vat helped detect bad eggs, which, according to health regulations, the Silbersteins should have thrown in the trash.

    One day, the plant supervisors began to move a large and very heavy piece of machinery onto the second floor above the vat. They lost their grip when moving the machinery and it dropped to the floor--just above the ceiling over the vat.

      The ultraviolet light broke into the vat, and, instead of cleaning the vat and starting over as they should have, the supervisors just stirred up the eggs including the glass that had fallen into the vat, and finished processing them.

       City health officials also had received reports, now substantiated by John, that healthy cleanliness also only came to the plant when the Silbersteins somehow received a “tip” about a “surprise” Elizabeth Health Department inspection from an inspector whose palm the plant owners had “greased.” 

     Before the “surprise” inspection the plant owners told everyone to stop working and clean the dirty facilities in order to pass the inspection.

     To organize his evidence and snoop around for more, John volunteered at Fieldstone to work many overtime hours, during which he had the privacy needed to complete his reports. 

      The Silbersteins suspected nothing because they considered the work assigned to their summer help during the extra working hours unimportant.

      Also, because of the lack of supervision during this time, the “rookie” had no problem passing on the plant’s schedule to the department’s senior inspectors so they could map out a time for a surprise raid at Fieldstone. 

       Thus, a raid not planned for by the Silbersteins or the corrupt health inspector on their secret payroll took place about a month later. 

       It resulted in the arrest of the Silbersteins for fraud and numerous health and safety violations and the firing and jailing of the corrupt inspector.

     It also meant  the closure of Fieldstone Food Processing and its replacement by a modernized, healthy-and-safety compliant processing plant that became one of the city’s showplaces.

      Thus, what looked like the worst job ever, actually earned John a position he long had dreamed about--along with a promotion and many exciting stories to tell at the Rutgers Alumni Faculty Club about “how I spent my summer vacation.”

November 20, 2021 16:57

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2 comments

Laura Jarosz
22:22 Dec 01, 2021

It was fun to watch things progress in this story! I think it would be even more fun to witness all these events through John's eyes as a first-person narration. You could have a lot of fun with your readers by revealing the twist of his undercover assignment at the very end--or even better, hinting all along that he's got an ulterior motive before revealing what it is during the raid. That would also put your reader more in the action!

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Thomas Carlucci
22:25 Nov 27, 2021

Hi, Bob. Nice story. However, as a former print journalist, I'd like to give you two bits of advice. First, em dashes have their use but you tend to greatly overuse them. Commas could be used to replace them and reduce the number of dashes. The same is true for the quotation marks. They are QUOTATION marks. There is no need to put so many words within the quotes. There is no reason to emphasize them. It actually makes reading your story unnecessarily distracting. Just some constructive advice. Good story, though. Good luck with it.

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