THURSDAY: A Fine Piece of Meat

BY DEBBIE SCOTT

Copyright is held by the author.

IT WAS another quiet Monday. It always was after the weekend flurry of delusional, pretentious “gourmet cooks” anxious to purchase the best cuts of meat to impress their guests. The bell over the door hadn’t chimed for over an hour but that was okay as long as he got his pay cheque — that was all that mattered. Sam sat on the stool behind the counter, pouring over his books. The clacking of the clock behind him and the drone of traffic were competing for his attention but the low din created a grey noise that actually helped him focus on the task at hand. With mid terms coming up, he could use some extra study time. Nathan, his coworker, was out for lunch so Sam buckled down to memorizing computer syntax.

Miranda was only three blocks away. It should have been a quick trip to Fred’s Fine Meats but the rain was coming down quite heavily and that always created a potpourri of vehicle chaos. It didn’t help that it was lunch hour on Yonge Street just south of St. Clair, a vibrant hub of activity in Toronto. She delivered specialty meats twice a week to this butcher store and knew how to manoeuvre the refrigerator truck to make it shrink into ridiculously tight spots. Her hands gripped the steering wheel tighter than usual today and she had to make a conscious effort not to clench her teeth.

She had two more lights to get through. As she sat there waiting for something, anything to move, her thoughts went back a week to her last conversation with her brother. Every Monday after work, Miranda and Joe would meet at A&W for supper. They could certainly afford to go to fancy restaurants, but this suited them just fine since they were practical people and they liked the food here. Since their meeting last Monday, Miranda had tossed and turned in bed each night, trying to contain her irritability and hoping no one would notice.

“What am I going to do?” Asking her brother for advice was quite natural for Miranda. They had always been close. Since their parents died in a car accident two years earlier, the ties between them had become even stronger. The large inheritance didn’t mean that much to them. They valued hard work and both invested in RRSPs for retirement. But Jack had other plans.

“You mean that husband of yours?”

Miranda shook her head. “I can’t take it anymore. Jack is getting worse. I want my life back.” With her elbows on the table, she cupped her head in her hands.

“Yeah. You know how I feel about that low life. He sure covered his true self well until you got married,” Joe scoffed.

“I know it was his own fault for losing his job and that was the beginning of the big reveal. You don’t steal from the hand that’s feeding you.”

“Didn’t you see any signs of his callous and despicable self before getting married? You must have known that he’s pond scum!” His voice rose in frustration.

“Joe, stop it!” She sat up abruptly, held her hands up in defiance and raised her voice. “I already know it’s my fault for marrying him, so stop blaming me. He didn’t show any signs of—”

“Hey, sis, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean it that way.” Joe took her hands in his. The people at the table near them turned to look before continuing to eat. Joe spoke softly. “He fooled all of us. You know I support whatever you do one 150 percent. He isn’t worthy of oxygen.” His voice started to rise. “I hate how he is treating you.”

“This is hard for me to say, but Jack swept me off my feet, married me and then realized that I wasn’t going to cash in any of my inheritance before retiring.” Miranda relaxed her shoulders and lowered her voice. “He knew this before we got married but thought he could change my mind. He would have dropped me like a 100-pound rubber ball and kicked me to the curb if he knew then that I’m not budging EVER. I would have been able to bounce back and carry on with a happier life. It’s MY money!”

Joe looked at her and, after a moment’s pause, decided to tell her. “I think you should know that he intentionally got fired to have an excuse to slum around and live off your inheritance. I overheard him bragging about it on his phone after Christmas dinner last year. I didn’t want to hurt you.”

Miranda admitted that this had crossed her mind. “I confronted him about it.” She hesitated. “That was the first time he ever hit me.”

“Leave him, sis. He’s way overdue for it.”

“I can’t. Said he would hunt me down and kill me if I did, and I believe him. I have to do something. His easy life is over and I’ve had enough.”

The drone of the range fan and muffled talking of hungry customers filled the void as they ate without talking. They were always comfortable with silence between them, but it didn’t mean the wheels had stopped turning. It was the usual process for getting results.

“I’ll take care of it.” Joe took another mouthful of food, allowing him a few moments to think. “There will be a special delivery in your truck next Monday.”

Miranda looked up from her food, startled by his comment.

“What do you mean?”

“Never you mind.”

“Joe.”

“I’ve always looked out for you and that’s all you need to know. Things will be better.”

“What are you talking about?” She was slightly agitated now.

“There will be a package for Fred’s Fine Meats next Monday and that’s all you need to know. End of subject. How’s work going?”

Miranda decided to let it go. She put what she was thinking out of her head since it was so utterly preposterous. His last words to her that day were “I’ll see you next Monday for supper as usual and won’t talk to you before then.” A quick hug and they went their separate ways.

A horn blasted her back to the bedlam the other side of the windshield. She was first in line, finally, at the second red light. Stay focused she told herself. Sam would be waiting for her and would be totally oblivious to the “special” delivery today. She thought he was a nice enough guy but too much of a computer geek to ever be her type. They had become friends over the past two years through their work connection and talked about their studies . . . Sam at University of Toronto in computer sciences, Miranda at Sheridan College studying Human Resources. These part-time jobs helped them get by with the stifling tuition fees. He came to the Christmas party that Miranda and Jack threw last year, so he was now inducted into their small circle of friends and family. Jack, of course, embarrassed her as he did at most social functions.

Finally, Miranda backed up to the delivery station at the rear of the store. After prying her cramped hands off the steering wheel and taking a deep breath, she jumped out of the truck and rang the bell. It always took a minute for Sam to get to the door.

“Nathan isn’t here?”

“No. He should be back from lunch any time now.”

“No problem Sam, I’ll start with the animal innards. They aren’t heavy.”

This was a specialty meats store with delicacies such as liver, stomach, heart, intestines, even brain on occasion, as well as the usual cuts of meats.

As she moved the containers from the truck to the freezer storage room at the back, Sam stood shifting his weight from side to side awkwardly, not feeling very chivalrous or gallant at the moment. Suffering from polio as a child left him with a leg brace, a cane and the affected leg was two inches shorter than the other. He wore a thicker-soled shoe on that foot but it didn’t correct the limp. He was the only one who saw himself as an oddity.

Miranda squatted on the floor and handed the items to Sam who then ticked them off the purchase order before putting them on the shelves in their appropriate spots. The orders were always different, so Miranda had no way of knowing which container had the “special” package, nor did she want to know. Doing this quickly and having done with it was all that mattered right now.

Finally done, Miranda washed her hands and they chatted for a few minutes about their studies. As she turned to leave, Sam asked how Jack was doing these days.

“Okay,” she lied.

“No job yet?”

“No, but hopefully soon.” Yet another lie. She always put on a brave front. Miranda was embarrassed that she chose to marry such a wretched life form as Jack and preferred not to talk about him with anyone except Joe, although the rumours were out there anyway.

“Well, good luck to him.” Sam always had a kind word ready but didn’t understand why she covered for that man of hers all the time.

“Thanks Sam. See you Thursday.”

That night, Miranda and Joe sat silently eating their A&W supper, with questions whirling around in Miranda’s head, and Joe trying to muster up the courage to tell her.

“I’m sorry” was all he could come up with.

“What for?”

“I couldn’t do it.”

“Do what?! I still don’t know what you are talking about.” Miranda had become increasingly tense over the past week. The unknown was daunting.

“And I still won’t tell you, but I couldn’t do it.”

“Joe, tell me what you were going to do! THEN tell me why you didn’t do whatever it is!”

“Chickened out. Sis, don’t worry, I still intend to set you free somehow.”

“So, I’m still stuck with him?” She couldn’t handle this code talk anymore. “Why don’t you just get a gun and shoot him.”

“Yeah, that would work,” he laughed with an awkward hesitancy.

Miranda leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms and took a deep breath. “Unless you tell me your plan, I’m done with this conversation.”

“Nope, not telling you. It’s better if you don’t know.”

“Don’t get yourself in trouble Joe, not on my account.”

The subject was dropped.

While they enjoyed their food, Sam was home, relaxing with his feet up on the coffee table and savouring each inhalation of the reefer. His parents were away for two weeks so he had the place to himself. His drug-induced mind was rewinding his day, which was busier than usual, back to when he and Miranda were stocking the meat shelves. He shook his head thinking of the gross things that humans eat. As they always did, he recited and checked the food items off the purchase order list as she handed them to him to put on the shelves in the freezer.

“Two pounds chicken livers,
One cow brain,
Ten pig feet,
Five cow tongues,
Two deer hearts,
Twenty pig ears,
One sheep intestines”

Sam smirked. After the weekend, the freezer was empty. When inventory was completed, Miranda didn’t notice the extra heart on the shelf . . . three in total neatly placed in a row. She seemed to be in a hurry to get the process over with.

The meat cleaver wasn’t missed and he would return it tomorrow.

No one makes fun of my leg he thought as he leaned his head back, closed his eyes and thought of how cruel Jack was to him at the Christmas party. Now he had a chance with Miranda. I’ll give her a better life than that piece of shit did.

Sometimes having a freezer at home came in very handy. There was good in Jack after all, and Sam would generously share that well-seasoned goodness in little bits and pieces.

Would anyone really care when the missing persons report came out he wondered. His chuckles grew to a hideous, malevolent howl that made the house quake down to every crack and cranny of its foundations.

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20 comments

  1. Sandra Beatty

    I agree with Gloria — I really liked the twist at the end — I was expecting that Jack would meet his fate and end up as chopped meat, but Sam completely caught me by surprise! I just hope that Miranda doesn’t end up dating Sam!

  2. Michael Joll

    Welcome to Commuterlit, Debbie, where the resilient develop armadillo skin and the sensitive fade quietly to black.

    I thought you based your story on a good premise but it needed editorial help to get over some of the lumpy prose. Don’t be afraid to use Nancy’s critique service. You had some really good turns of phrase which stood out but which became lost in much of the pedestrian sentence construction and rather bland dialogue.

    This is clearly Miranda’s story so the change in POV to Sam’s at the end is not something she could possibly know. It needs to be handled differently to remain credible. You will find a way.

    Keep writing. I hope to see you again soon at another workshop.

  3. Mary Steer

    Michael, bless your heart. Thank you for your kind critique & explanations. I tried (and failed) to come up with something better than “heavy-handed”. You did a much better job and I hope Debbie found what you said useful.

    Do keep writing, Debbie. It’s a never-ending learning curve.

  4. JAZZ

    As Michael has pointed out, here in CommuterLit land, you will be subjected to critiques that are informed and well intended, while others will miss the mark completely. It’s your call as to which ones to pitch.
    My take on your story is that it fell apart when Sam took over.
    As readers, we can suspend our disbelief but here, I’m afraid, you’ve asked us to do so with no particular backup:
    Sam has a limp, a leg brace and a cane but he still manages to overcome an angry, fit fellow and cut him into serviceable pieces. Upon reading, the questions come pouring out — no pun intended.
    But we are all still learning.

  5. Debbie Scott

    Thanks for your comments Michael. Points taken. I did not intend for Miranda to know what Sam has done . . . she doesn’t even know he is missing yet. I wonder if other readers missed this too?? I was going to use Nancy, but wanted to do this first one on my own. Yes, you will see me again!

    Glad you liked it Sandra, you captured what I hoped the reader would. Thanks.

  6. Frank Sikora

    Who has fun writing a story? Every word is a snake in the hand. Every phrase a trapdoor of consequence. Every sentence … You get the idea. For me the fun is the imagination phase — driving around with ideas and characters coming to life in my writer’s eye. After that it is edit after edit after painful my god this sucks what is this damn story about edit. Yeah this fun.
    Ha! But I can’t stop, because when it is good… Oh baby……oh ma ma. …..

  7. Debbie Scott

    Thanks Andy . . . the entire process of classes, writing, editing ad nauseum and playing with the reader’s mind is fun and takes me into a different world!!

  8. JAZZ

    “….playing with the reader’s mind….” I think you will find, Debbie, that this will not be that easy. There are quite a number of highly intelligent and sophisticated alumni on this site whose minds are not, and never will be, for play.

  9. Debbie Scott

    Jazz, I intend to continue with twists and turns in my stories to keep the reader “dancing”. My comment was not intended as an insult to anyone.

    I thank everyone for your encouragement and constructive criticism.

  10. Bev Bachmann

    Wow! What a lot of comments. I agree with Michael that changing the POV at the end of the story stretches credibility and makes the ending flat rather than exciting. I have read several story plots on this site that I thought were far-fetched. Sometimes they made sense; however, I believe a writer should always try to treat the reader fairly. There has to be a solid basis in logic for an ending to work well. For example, I have had two friends who were afflicted with polio as children, and without the aid, an accomplice or drugs, they absolutely could not subdue anyone, much less kill them in a violent manner. But I understand you were trying to be creative. When I wrote my first story “Stalled,” I had the character David simply break up with Angela. When I gave it to my husband to read, he handed it back and said “too predictable” and “not creative enough.” So I had David kill his girlfriend in the elevator when she pushed the right button on his psyche.

    And, finally, if you had fun writing the story, I think that’s a very good sign. We’re usually good at the things we love doing. And every attempt at writing teaches us something. I can’t say that I liked this story, but I admire you for trying.

  11. Michael Joll

    Debbie,
    You certainly stirred the pot with this one. Congratulations! Please keep submitting.
    M.J.

  12. Debbie Scott

    Thanks Michael. The human spirit is resilient, if we allow it to be. There is a silver lining in every comment . . . I welcome and appreciate all of them. I’m currently working on another one. Armadillo Debbie!

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