Experienced Butcher Wanted/Needed
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Deli"
Originally featured on 07-25-2007
As part of our series "Out of the Sandwich"

“I want us to be friends.”

“I don’t think so. You’re more like my nemesis now, Joan.”

I leaned forward to whisper.

“Don’t lean on the glass, Joan!”

“Don’t yell at me, mutherfucker!”

He pointed the knife at me. There was tomato seeds still stuck to the side of it. I pointed my finger at him. We stayed like that for moment.

“Get out. You don’t work here anymore.”

“So we can’t be friends then?”

“Not while you’re working at Joey’s,” he said.

The problem with Alex was he took his job a bit too seriously. This is why I slept with him. Perhaps it’s why he slept with me.

I kept looking at him as I walked out. Then I flipped him off. The bell jingled behind me.

The sun was out and I started to sweat as soon as I left Larry’s Delicatessen. As I headed back to my car I turned and looked over my shoulder at the broken neon sign. I felt my shoulder crunch into somebody’s head.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. The man was maybe five feet tall and had a gray mustache. I was distracted by the shimmer of sunlight off of the top of his head.

Squinting, I said “You should be asshole,” and then kept walking.

I didn’t turn back to see him stare but I did hear his “Humph.”

Man, I knew that Alex would be upset. I did it anyway. So why was I surprised?

I watched the heat beating off of the cement and behind it the side of my parked car. I had planned to show it to Alex. I thought maybe I could take him for a spin on his break. Like he used to do for me when I didn’t have a car.

I was thinking about the time we went to get that pizza on our fifteen-minute-turned-all-day break, when I started crossing the street. I heard the familiar engine rev and my mind did a backflip. By the time I turned my head left, I was already up on the hood and my elbow was throbbing. He kept going and my forehead hit the roof before my shoulder hit the street.

I spit some blood. It was coming from my lip.

There wasn’t any question in my mind who was responsible.

I walked out of the hospital with bandages on my arms and face but no casts. I told the crowd that I didn’t need an ambulance but people are so stupid. There goes fifteen hundred dollars.

The bus was five minutes late and I knew that I needed to get back downtown before eight o’ clock. He’d be off at eight o’ clock and he might not go right home. I didn’t want to spend the time tracking him down. I just wanted to put the knife in his back. This time literally.

Everyone on the bus stared, so I stared straight ahead. It isn’t easy to cry in front of bus full of strangers. But it’s easier if none of them can look into your eyes.

Twenty minutes later, I wiped my eyes and pulled the cord.

Ding. “Stop Requested.”

I heard somebody start to laugh after I got off of the bus. But I didn’t turn to see if it was at me. Probably the Catholic School kids, I thought.

I pulled my keys out of my pocket and pressed the door open button twice.

In the back seat, I unrolled my cache of cutlery. I was tempted, oh so tempted, to use the big butcher knife. Instead I took a small boning knife. And that made me giggle. But, only for a second.

It was in my pocket before I slammed the door and hit the lock door button twice. I didn’t want anyone on the street to see me carrying a knife into the store.

Nobody was in the front of Larry’s but the door was open. I had to put my fist through two of the display windows before he came running out carrying, wouldn’t you know it, a butcher knife. I didn’t smash the glass over the premium cuts. And I think he appreciated that.

We circled each other. “Welcome back, nemesis. Remind me again. Does Joey’s offer health insurance? Oh, right. Not until after three months.” He grinned. It reminded me of when he picked me up for our first real date.

“I make enough now to cover a measly fifteen hundred bucks. Benefit of working at an upscale shop.” I pulled out my de-Boner.

“Do you make enough to bribe your way out of hell!?” He threw the butcher knife and it landed in the wall just over my right shoulder. He wasn’t one to miss. But it was a distraction and his paring knife was in my right thigh before I took another breath. He looked into my eyes, his arm around my throat.

Then he kissed me.

There was tongue and biting. Our first kiss since I had put in my notice. I slid my blade under his ribs and pushed him to the floor. He had just mopped up for the evening and his blood looked cherry sauce as it poured out of him onto the white linoleum. It wouldn’t kill him. It was just a wound. One of many.

His blade still in me I walked over and locked the door. I pulled down the curtain and then I saw it. The sign I saw that made me come in here today. I cut the string holding the sign that read “Experienced Butcher Wanted/Needed.” I dropped it in the trash creating a cloud of sawdust.

I limped back across the room. The blood poured down over my knee. I felt dizzy.

I made it to the back without falling. Inside the first aid box was enough gauze to wrap my leg. I taped it tight with a grunt while I looked at the light square on the wall. It was where our picture had hung for the past years. The two of us, knives in hand — smiling over a side of beef.

I woke him up with a kiss. A second later, he grit his teeth as I pulled the cloth strips tight over his ribs. The red spots appeared as I applied layer after layer, strip after strip.

“You might as well just let me bleed to death,” he said.

“But I’ve changed my mind,” I said.

“Why?”

“I just needed time to think about it.” He lifted his head for a second. It fell back on the red linoleum.

“How do you know I still want to marry you?” he said as drool ran down from the side of his mouth.

I held up the ring over his face.

“I found it in the first aid kit. That’s a strange place to keep an engagement ring.” He laughed and then winced.

“When I cut myself, it’s a good reminder.”

“Of what?”

“Of what real pain feels like.”

Keeping the ring over his face, I moved my finger through it.

“I knew you wouldn’t let me bleed to death.”

Read More By Doug Dean

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