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An Evening's Events at the Marshmallow Factory (standard:Psychological fiction, 1447 words)
Author: GXDAdded: Oct 23 2008Views/Reads: 2102/1182Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
This tall tale reveals how rational thinking leads to an unexpected conclusion.


It was midnight, but the graveyard shift hadn't come in yet.  All I 
could dowas to sit here on my stool and play with the weigh scale on 
the counter.  Late summer nights were like this every year.  The night 
shift would go to a drive-in, stay for the triple feature and come to 
work about 1:30 a.m. 

We made only one product here -- but it wasn't marshmallows.  About
1915, this guy who was nuts about automobiles went off his rocker and 
drew every penny out of the bank, so he could open up an auto factory.  
He built the building, bought and installed a passel of machines, then 
went off to talk to some people in Detroit and never came back.  A 
couple weeks later, the postmistress got a letter addressed to her from 
Detroit: Marshmallow's obituary.  So someone donated a can of paint and 
painted over its door: "The Marshmallow Factory". 

The building became a museum of sorts, and not being too far from the
Public Library, the town council kind of took it over.  They didn't 
have to ask anyone.  Marshmallow had been a bachelor, parents dead, no 
brothers or sisters.  We never knew what kind of car he would have 
built in his factory. 

About 1948, when I was just feeling my oats, I bet on a number and it
paid off.  I talked to the town council very persuasively, one bill at 
a time.  Eventually their responses became neutral, and even 
encouraging.  I decided not to change the name on the building but to 
build it into a unique business.  Not to make money - just to have fun. 
Not to make marshmallows -- something simpler.  Pins. 

There is an industrial pin known as the spring rollpin, since it curls
up into a little cylinder springy enough to wedge in a smaller hole.  
Every auto company needed these pins, and all I had to do was make them 
cheaper and faster than anyone else. I already knew just how to alter 
Marshmallow's  machines into the kind of pin-making machine that was 
needed.  One that could make pins only a quarter-inch long, or six 
inches long. 

Some of the pins had a minuscule diameter; others barreled up to a fat
two inches.  There were soft pins for wedging; hard pins for locking; 
pins of steel and stainless steel; pins of bronze and aluminum; pins 
with heads and pins without.  Pins with two tails for spreading; pins 
with crested engravings on their ends; pins that were rifled and 
striated. Pins that were smooth; pins with beveled edges.  Pins plated 
with silver; pins plated with black oxide; gold pins and chrome-plated 
pins for assembling earrings. 

I hired an engineer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who
worked with me all summer till every machine had been converted over 
and set up to make pins.  When we were done, I gave him half in cash 
and the rest as shares in "The Marshmallow Factory". The machinery was 
totally automatic: load a couple of reels of metal in the coiler, push 
the "start" button and forget it for the next eight hours. A couple of 
nights in a nearby bar gave me the workforce I needed:  A man-and-wife 
team for the morning, one for the evening and one for the night shift.  
Something about those pins really appealed to people.  They were truly 
and sincerely thrilled with the prospect of being pin-producers, even 
when I offered them peanuts for wages. 

Next day, the raw materials arrived and we began to make pins.  It went
very slowly at first, because we hadn't gotten all the bugs out.  I set 
them up to work together and practice for a few days, then got in the 
car and drove off to call on the auto companies. 

The first auto-makers seemed so skeptical, I was disillusioned.  They
wanted this-and-this dimension, or that kind of a bevel on the pin, and 
I had to explain how I could make it.  They asked about the tolerance 
limits and the surface finish which I had to guarantee.  They 
questioned my inspection methods and disagreed with my hardening 
procedures.  They wanted to know the age and sex and eye color of the 
machine operators, and whether they were white or black.  They seemed 
displeased with the wood beams which supported the plant roof and the 
lack of toilets.  They didn't like the brand of oil I was using in the 
machines, the color of my shoes or the shape of my eyeglasses. 

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