Butcher’s Choice


Sweat soaked the back of Andy’s T-shirt as he trudged up the garden path towards the barbeque under the blazing June sun. His friend Steve was moving the burgers around with a pair of prongs. Steve was wearing a bizarre plastic apron bearing a pink-naked woman, the meat’s sizzling mingling with the background music and conversation.

‘Ah, Andy,’ he boomed, ‘you’ve brought the good stuff.’ He nodded to the bulky package under Andy’s arm. ‘And I don’t just mean the booze.’

Andy dumped the cans of beer in the big blue water-barrel.

‘Let’s chuck them on, then’ said Steve.

Andy handed over the enormous package. Steve eagerly unwrapped the white greaseproof paper revealing a massive pile of sausages. He lifted up a string of fat red bangers, shining in their skins. He cut off a section and draped them around the burgers on the grille.

‘Perk of the job, isn’t it,’ said Steve. ‘Being a butcher, and all that.’

Andy grinned as he watched the sausages spit and steam. ‘I guess so.’

‘Where’s Dave then,’ asked Steve.

‘Dunno,’ replied Andy. ‘He said he was going to buy some booze. That was at lunchtime, just before I locked up.’

‘How long have you been screwing her?’ Andy was furious, purple-faced, a caricature of a florid butcher in his red apron. ‘Fucking her and fucking me?’

‘It’s not like that,’ mumbled Dave, a tall young man with the remnants of acne on a handsome face.

‘Bullshit,’ roared Andy. ‘She packed her bags this morning. Said she had a key to your place.’

Dave looked at the ground. ‘It’s probably best if I go.’ He turned wearily around on the sawdust floor.

Andy swung the cleaver with a grunt, splitting Dave’s skull even as he turned. He fell like a leg of beef dropped from a hook and the cleaver clattered beside him. Blood spilled from the gaping rent in his skull, obscuring the glistening meat hiding inside. Andy froze in horror.What have I done?

He came to his senses, dashing through to the shop counter and the front door. He locked it and turned the sign to ‘Closed’ before pulling down the blind. It was nearly closing time anyway.

Andy acted quickly. He grabbed Dave under the arms and dragged him onto the block, tearing off his clothes. He used the boning knife and cleaver to slice and unpick the joints, dumping the arms and legs into a gore-stained plastic crate. He worked quickly. He was well practiced, after all.

One slice of the knife unzipped the stomach and revealed the steaming offal. This went into another plastic crate. Except the gleaming brown lobe of the liver, which he kept on the block. The tang of blood was thick in his mouth and nostrils, but he was used to it.

It took minutes to slice the steak-red muscles from the thighs and arms, and a few more minutes to take the chest meat from the torso. He tossed them into the mincer with some congealed fat from the cold store and switched on the machine, putting a metal tray underneath the outlet pipe.

Then he chopped up the liver into sections. It felt warm through his gloves, slippery in his hands. By this time, the mincer was churning emptily above a pile of pink mincemeat. Andy poured it into the bath-like sausage machine with the chopped liver, and opened a bag of seasoning. He poured the powder liberally over the meat and offal and tossed in a few scoops of rusks, before switching the sausage mixer on.

He used the bone saw to reduce the arms, legs, ribcage, skull and torso to small pieces, pausing occasionally to wipe the bone-chips from his goggles. This all went into the off-cuts bin, which he dragged into the cold store. The hunks of human were unrecognisable in amongst the other carcass chunks. He made sure the scalp, hands and feet were on the very bottom. It would all be incinerated anyway.

He dumped the organs in the tripe bucket, in the cold store. He would have to burn the organs after dark, as the cattle arrived gutted and quartered. But a pile of guts was harder to identify than an entire body.

Then, he made the sausages. He fixed a metal tube to the sausage machine outlet and fed the crushed, mixed and minced meat mixture through into the skin-casing, twisting it off a few times after every few inches. The glossy red meat shone through the pale skins as they coiled on the metal tray.

Finally, Andy scrubbed the butchery from top to bottom. He was running late and the cleaning was normally down to his assistant Dave. But Dave was clearly not available to help, and was in fact the main contributor to the mess on the gore-flecked table, blood-drenched crates and clotted sawdust floor. Andy switched on the radio and whistled along as he worked. He would be late for the barbeque, but no matter.

He didn’t have time for a shower, but washed himself from head to toe in the small changing room. It was difficult enough to get rid of the meat and fat stench anyway and his friends were used to it. The clothes went into a bin-liner for later disposal. He gathered up the sausages in greaseproof paper, and picked up the cans of beer from the cold store. Then he left to Steve’s barbeque, whistling the tune he had heard on the radio, as he locked up the shop.

The spitting of the sausages brought Andy back to reality.

‘How’s it going, anyway,’ asked Steve, handing him an opened beer-can.

‘Not so good,’ replied Andy, rubbing his hand over his balding head. He felt tired. ‘Most of the customers go to the supermarket now. It’s only the old folks who bother with a butcher’s shop anymore. Half of the youngsters nowadays think a burger just jumps off an animal or something.’ He sipped his can of beer.

‘I think these are nearly done,’ said Steve as he poked the sausages. ‘Fancy one?’ He grabbed a couple of buttered buns.

Andy’s breath froze in his lungs. His mouth dried up and fresh sweat trickled down his back.

I’ve no choice, he thought.

He took a swig of beer.

‘Go on then,’ he laughed. ‘I don’t like to mix business with pleasure. I see enough of this down the shop to get sick of it. Slap on plenty of sauce though.’

The first bite was the hardest. It stuck in his gullet before sliding down and his stomach churned in revolt. But he had another gulp of beer and took a second bite. And then another.

‘Where can Dave be,’ mumbled Steve through a mouthful of meat. ‘He’d better get here before these sausages are gone. They’re delicious!’

Andy grabbed a roll and lifted another sausage from the barbeque. ‘I’m sure he’s not far…’ he laughed, as he bit into the roll.

By Iain Paton


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