“Welcome to the Poison Squad!”
Dr. Wiley congratulated Ethan on the noteworthy apprenticeship that had now made him the youngest member of the group by a country mile. The teenager could not conceal his pride. The daily stool samples, the sweat collections, the incessant pulse-taking. It had all been worth it. The Poison Squad was the most famous food gang in the States. The girls he’d win over just by being a member…
“Eager to see what’s on the menu today, I suppose?” Dr. Wiley winked while making his way to the basement of the Agriculture Office where the midday tasting was about to start.
“I’m not going to lie to you, son,” said Dr. Wiley. “You are here because your predecessor keeled over from eating too much copper sulphate. Got to his liver, then his kidneys. It’s banned as a food additive now of course. Though I have heard they are considering using it as a pesticide.”
Ethan knew the dangers. He was not put off by them. So he spooned in the apple sauce, slurped the soup, feasted on the turkey and savoured the rice pudding. All with a healthy, ever increasing dose of saltpetre of course.
The same routine was repeated each morning, midday and evening. Sometimes Ethan got sick, sometimes he got really sick. Most of the times he just enjoyed a hot meal, the unpleasant metallic taste notwithstanding.
It was a tale he would often narrate to his grandchildren, who were all ears as he told them he and his colleagues where the pioneers who had made sure the food they ate would be safe.
“Now who’s up for the yummy spinach your granny has prepared?” Ethan would ask. He’d get disgusted faces every time. And he’d wonder if he had wasted his career.
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