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WITH A wry smile, the man held up his long, shining knife. He rotated his wrist slowly, presenting all angles of the viciously sharp blade.

“I sharpen it every day,” he said as one of the fluorescent bulbs above flickered and glinted off the knife sending reflections around the small, cold room. 

The man was imposingly tall with a bald head, thick neck and arms that might as well have been tree trunks. He stood between me and the only exit and looked down at me with penetrating eyes, barely blinking.

Prickles of dread began to course through me. I took a deep breath attempting to slow my quickening heart.

“I want you to see this,” he said and beckoned me to come closer with the tip of the blade.

I dared not disobey him and inched ever so slightly closer knowing I was about to witness something that I would never be able to un-see. 

I stood as though paralyzed as the man began to cut up the body on the metal table with his prize knife. He worked with a speed and skill that said he was no stranger to this work. For the most part, his knife sliced through the flesh with ease but every once in a while, it would catch on a bone. When it did he would deftly change the angle of his blade and press harder, his knuckles momentarily turning white. I heard one bone give way with a sickening crunch. 

As though ice was insidiously filling my lungs, each breath I took was more shallow than the last. And yet, I couldn’t look away.

When the man was finally finished, he took a rag from under the table and wiped the blood from his knife. He leaned casually back against the counter eyeing me closely.

“Not bad, right?” he asked as he continued to polish his knife slowly and methodically.

I felt my knees wobble beneath me and reached out to steady myself against the counter.  Silently I willed myself to stay strong.

“Yes, sir,” I managed, my lips tightly pursed.

He chuckled. “Best knife I ever had . . . even slices through the bone real easy.”

My hand jerked up to my mouth as a wave of nausea hit me hard.

Something about my expression made the man let out a guttural laugh. “A little sensitive are we?” He flashed me a toothy smile.

All I could do was stare in response, completely speechless. I noticed a drop of blood trickle off the table top and land with a faint tap on the floor.

“Anyway, let’s not put it off any longer,” the man said as he stepped forward, straightening up to his full, intimidating height. “It’s your turn now.” 

He winked at me, once more beckoning me to come closer with his knife.

I felt my heart begin to pound harder than ever. I knew I had to get out of there.

As the man dropped the next huge, disgusting slab of cow on the table with a thud, I slipped behind him and bolted for the door.

“I QUIT!” I yelled back over my shoulder and yanked off my ridiculous company apron.

It was only my first day on the job but it had already become very clear that I was not cut out to work in the meat department. Besides, I had just decided to become a vegetarian.

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