Nettle’s Butcher Shop

ordinaryhandsomeii

There was a narrow lane between Garnet’s and Nettle’s. To call it an alley would be an exaggeration. It was littered with damp, broken pallets and heavy industrial garbage cans. There was a hodgepodge of wooden crates and broken pickling jars cluttering the pathway. One of the crates had writing on it: Ruckshaw’s Onions. It had a drawing of a smiling cartoon onion holding up a likeness of itself.

The path was essentially a garbage heap. Mr. Nettle used the area to toss out scraps of bone and spoiled intestinal meats. At best, it smelled like a slaughterhouse. In the summer, the path was worse because of the mounds of flies and fat maggots feeding on the spoiled animal flesh. If he remembered, Nettle would spread fresh lime over the mess, but he rarely remembered. The garbage cans were filthy and rife with a thousand different flavors of bacteria.

If you were careful, you could make it through the path without incident. It led to the back door of the butcher shop. I knew the door wouldn’t be locked. This was Handsome.

I found a crumbling brick that Mr. Nettle used as a doorstop. It was lying in a puddle of congealed fat, just beside a splintered piece of bone. Big green bottle flies were buzzing, their bodies shiny and bloated. The brick had decent heft; it might have weighed three or five pounds. It was the color of a fading sunset.

Mr. Nettle did not hear me. He was behind the meat counter, staring at the storefront window, watching the rain turn into something cold and mean. He might have seen me in his peripheral vision but he wasn’t paying attention. He just stared ahead.

I wanted him to see me. I don’t know why. I wanted him to know. When I got directly behind him (there really wasn’t much space for two people behind the counter), I nudged his shoulder with the brick. He turned around, but slowly, caught up in a daydream. I clipped his ear. His hand scrammed towards the blow, and I hit him again, mashing his hand against his head. Instead of falling to the floor, he kept turning towards me. I jammed him with the brick again, this time above the bridge of his nose. He finally went down. I don’t know if he saw me. His eyes were glassy and unfocussed. He fell to the floor like a side of beef. There was blood above his eyes, but nothing mortal. I stood over him and stared. I wanted to reach for the Browning under the counter, but I didn’t. It would have been cowardly.

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0. Free downloadable Kindle app available.

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