Meat

Janice Galloway

when no one asks awkward questions we turn into

 

meat

 

The carcass hung in the shop till the edges congested and turned brown in the air.

People came and went. They bought wafers of beef, pale veal, ham from the slicer, joints, fillets, mutton chops. They took tomatoes and brown eggs, tins of fruit cocktail, cherries, handfuls of green parsley, bones. But nobody mentioned the meat. It dropped overhead from a claw hook, flayed and split down the spinal column: familiar enough in its way. It was cheap. But they asked for shin and oxtail, potted head, trotters. The meat refused to sell. Folk seemed embarrassed even to be seen looking in its direction. Some made tentative enquiries about a plate of sausages, coiled to the left of its shadow while the yellowing hulk hung restless, twisting on its spike. These were never adequately followed through. The sausages sat on, pink and greasy, never shrinking by so much as a link. He moved them to another part of the shop where they sold within the hour. Something about the meat was infecting.

By the tenth day, the fat on its surface had turned leathery, like the rind of an old cheese. Flies landed in the curve of the neck and he did not brush them away. The deep-set ball of bone in the shoulder-blade turned pale blue. The ribs were sticky and the smell had begun to seep unmistakably under the door when he was alone in the evening relaxing with the tv. So he fetched a stool and reached out to the lard hook, seized the meat, and with one accurate snip of the embroidery scissors, cut it down. It languished on the sawdust floor till nightfall when he threw it into the back close parallel to the street. As he closed the shutter, he heard the scuffling of small animals and strays.

In the morning all that remained were the hair and a strip of tartan ribbon. These he salvaged and sealed in a plain wooden box beneath the marital bed. A wee minding.

 

Janice Galloway is a grateful product of good state schooling and library provision. Her books include the award-winning Trick is to keep Breathing, Foreign Parts, Clara, This is not about me and All Made Up.  

While government watches you, who watches the government?