Oil – David Cook

As the factory was built, the town hummed with expectation. This was big news. Employment was scarce here. Many families were living cap in hand, and they were thought to be the lucky ones. Some couldn’t even afford a cap in the first place.

Shortly after the final bricks were placed, a finely-dressed gentleman appeared in front of the factory gates, clutching a loudhailer. ‘Attention townspeople!’ he hollered. ‘Your prayers have been answered. There is plenty of work available here!’

‘Hurrah!’ roared the townspeople.

‘This,’ he told them, ‘is a vegetable oil factory. In return for working here, all I ask is that you grow produce in your gardens and bring them to me. We will turn that into oil and sell it around the globe. And you will all be paid well!’

‘Hurrah!’ roared the crowd again, although some were unsure about having to hand over their carrots and potatoes, and others were confused because they didn’t think these were the sorts of vegetables that actually went into vegetable oil.

But they stopped questioning the man when what he said came true – the factory’s oil was sold all around the world and the workers were paid well. If the cost of being able to afford warm clothes and a few luxuries was giving up a few spuds each month, then that was okay with them.

Then another factory was built.

The finely-dressed gentleman appeared at its gates with his loudhailer. ‘Attention townspeople!’ he hollered. ‘Those of you who were unable to gain work at the vegetable oil factory, listen to me. More work will soon be available here!’

‘Hurrah!’ roared the townspeople.

‘And this time, we will be making sunflower oil! To work here, all I ask is that you grow sunflowers in your gardens and bring them to me. We will turn them into oil and sell this around the globe too! And you, like your colleagues at the vegetable oil factory, will all be paid well!’

‘Hurrah!’ roared the crowd yet again. Some of them had to borrow money from their neighbours who worked at the other factory so they could actually buy sunflower seeds, and others were confused as to why they actually had to grow them when it was only their seeds that go into sunflower oil in the first place, and weren’t vegetable oil and sunflower oil basically the same thing, anyway? But they stopped questioning the man when what he said came true – the factory’s oil was sold all around the world and all the workers were paid well. If the cost of being able to afford warm clothes and a few luxuries was looking after some sunflowers in their gardens, then that was okay with them.

But still some townspeople were without work, so when a third new factory was built they became very excited. Shortly after the final bricks were placed, the finely-dressed gentleman appeared in front its gates, again with his loudhailer. ‘Attention townspeople!’ he hollered once more. ‘Those of you who were unable to gain work at the vegetable oil factory or the sunflower oil factory, listen to me. More work will soon be available here, but this is the final factory I will build! As ever, I will require you to bring me the raw materials, and with them we will make and sell the finest of oils.’’

‘Hurrah!’ roared the townspeople yet again, and eagerly awaited the news about what sort of manufacturer this would be.

‘This,’ shouted the finely-dressed gentleman,’will be a baby oil factory!’

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DAVID COOK’s stories have been published in a number of places online and in print, and he was once nominated for the Pushcart Prize, which was nice. You can find more of his work at http://www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com and say hi on Twitter @davidcook100. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter.

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Image: Silke

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