“Highly processed protein products, such as breaded shrimp, fish sticks and chicken nuggets, appear to contain ‘significantly more’ microplastic particles per gram than certain minimally processed samples.” — The Washington Post

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George was silent.

Lennie said, “George.”


“I ate another bad thing.”

“Lemme guess, chicken nuggets,” George said, and he fell silent again.

Only the topmost ridges of George’s phone were visible in his pocket now. The shadow of the Google alert he’d set for “microplastics” was blue-light filtered and soft. From the dimming screen was the statistic that the average American consumes 11,000 microplastics per year.

It was hopeless, the fickle pursuit of a holistic diet, and George knew it. Microplastics were everywhere.

Lennie said, “George.”


“Ain’t you gonna give me hell?”

“Give ya hell?”

“Sure, like you always done before. Like, ‘If I di’n’t have you I’d take my fifty bucks…’”

“Jesus Christ, Lennie! You can’t remember nothing that happens when you’re hangry, but you remember everything I say about food safety…”

“Well, ain’t you gonna say it?”

George shook himself. He said woodenly, “If I was alone I could cook healthy food so easy.” His voice was monotonous, had no emphasis. “I’d have more time to prepare organic vegetables, and I wouldn’t waste money on fast food.” He stopped.

“Go on,” said Lennie. “An’ when the enda the month come—”

“And when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go to a… farmer’s market…” He stopped again.

A little evening breeze blew over the clearing. George took off his hat and let the wind blow the damning research he’d just read back into his mind: Microplastics were in processed food, yes, but they were also discovered in produce, because plants suck water that contains microplastics up through their roots.

Lennie looked eagerly at him. “Go on, George. Ain’t you gonna give me no more hell? On accounta microplastics in nuggies erodin’ my cognitive function?”

“No,” said George.

“Well, I can go away,” said Lennie as he chugged his second Dasani of the hour. “I’ll go right off in the hills an’ find a Burger King if you don’ want me.”

“No,” he said. “I want you to stay with me here. Man shouldn’t dine alone, even when he’s shovin’ processed protein down his gullet.”

Lennie said craftily, “Tell me like you done before.”

“Tell you what?”

“’Bout the other guys messin’ up their bodies with junk food, an’ about us."

George was quiet for a moment. “Other guys got no consideration for their health or their wallet—”

“But not us,” Lennie cried happily. “Tell about us now.”

George shook himself again. “But not us,” he said.


“Because I got you and—’’

“An’ you’re gonna get that subscription to Misfits Market!” Lennie cried in triumph.

George’s phone vibrated again. Now there were studies in mice and men that found widespread infiltration of microplastics with potential for serious health consequences, including Alzheimer’s. George attempted to input his New York Times password to read the full article, but struggled to remember it. He clutched his skull and wept.

Lennie said, “Tell how it’s gonna be.”

George put his phone away and composed himself. For a moment he was business-like. “Look across that polluted river, Lennie, and I’ll tell you so you can almost see it.”

Lennie turned his head and looked off.

“We’re gonna get a little place,” George began. He reached below his legs and lifted up a brown bag from the ground and held it behind Lennie’s back.

“Go on,” said Lennie.

George raised the bag and his hands shook, and he dropped the bag to the ground again.

“Go on,” said Lennie. “How’s it gonna be. We gonna get a little place.”

“We’ll have grass-fed cows,” said George, wincing when he recalled reading about the nanoplastics discovered in Tall Fescue. “And we’ll have non-GMO feed for the rabbits… and down the flat we’ll have a… little TikTok account.”

“For the homestead living videos we’ll post,” Lennie shouted.

“For the #homesteadliving,” George repeated.

“An’ I get to eat the humanely harvested rabbits.”

“And you get to eat the rabbits.”

Lennie giggled with happiness. “An’ live on the fatta the lan’.”

“Yes, the monounsaturated fat of the land.”

Lennie said, “I thought you was mad at me for eatin’ up all them microplastics in my nuggies, George.”

“No,” said George. “No, Lennie. I ain’t mad.”

Lennie begged, “Le’s do it now. Le’s live free from all-a them bad microplastics.”

“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta.”

George raised the bag and steadied it, and he opened it up close to the front of Lennie’s head…

“George! Is that popcorn shrimp from Long John Silver’s?”

“Sure is, and enough hushpuppies for the both of us.”

“Oh fuck yeah.”