The sickening sound of the meat cleaver hitting a joint resonates in the bloodied room. It’s a sound that always makes me cringe, which strikes me as ironic: the owner of a butchery not liking cutting up meat. That’s why it’s never been my job until now.
I was always been in the office doing the finances or ringing out customers. Numbers are more of my thing while I left the actual butchering to my business partner, Janice. That’s something she never, ever lets me forget. Every single day, she always manages to bring up how she does the hard work; how she was the reason we were still in business. I never denied that her job was vital, but I once tried to argue with her by saying that the money side of things was just as important. I remember her reaction so clearly: she acted like she didn’t even hear me. Instead, she went on about how much work she was doing and thank god she was around otherwise this place would never have gotten off the ground. I’ve never been more pissed off in my life.
The meat cleaver cuts through the ligaments, separating the leg from the rest of the carcass that hung on a hook from the ceiling. I wrinkle my nose as I toss the leg onto the gleaming metal table to be properly butchered. It lands with a loud clang!
This job is turning out to be a lot easier than I originally thought. Janice always made it out like it was so taxing and something that only a select few people were capable of. Yet here I am doing the exact same job with relative ease. The only thing that I find troublesome is the mess. The meat is fresh and every cut makes blood pour out. It looked like red Kool-Aid but I doubted it was as delicious.
Janice didn’t complain about the mess, and I give her props for that. It is, after all, a very messy job. She didn’t mind. She minded everything else. The more I think about it, the more I realize that she just complains and complains. It’s astounding that I managed to put up with it for years; I was bound to snap at some point.
Opening up a butchery together seemed like such a good plan in college. Janice and I were never close friends, but we went to the same university and intended on moving to the same small town after graduation. I wanted to put my business degree to good use, and the one thing the small town was lacking was a local butchery. It seemed like a brilliant idea, and a partnership was born. That was my first mistake: starting a business with someone I didn’t like all that much. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. I thought that becoming business partners would help us become friends.
We were civil with each other at first, but there was clearly tension between us especially a month after our grand opening. The butchery wasn’t a total failure, but it wasn’t as successful as we hoped. Everyone in town preferred to stay with their old routine of just picking up pre-packaged meat at the supermarket. We were making money, but it wasn’t going to be enough to make ends meet after a few more months. It turned into a blame game between Janice and me: who wasn’t doing their job well enough? I overheard Janice badmouthing me to friends, to customers, and then straight to my face. I just couldn’t take it anymore!
Whack! Whack! Whack!
I bring the meat cleaver down on the leg, getting off as much of the meat from the bone as I can. This part is going to be a little trickier; I’m entirely sure of what is okay to leave on the bone, and what should be taken off. There isn’t much fat, so is it better if I leave some of it on? Should I take off the skin? Janice would have known what to do. She had been annoying as hell and insubordinate, but she knew how to do her job.
Maybe getting rid of her was a mistake?
I turn on the grinder and it whirs to life. I decide to grind up the meat so I won’t have to worry about how to cut the tender filets. I took the hunks of meat and plopped them into the grinder. Pink mush squishes out of the other end of the grinder. I find myself mesmerized at the sight of the meat suddenly transformed into the pile of pink, a color much softer than the harsh red that stained my gloves. Maybe someone will take that pile of pink home and cook it up for dinner? I will need to mix it with some actual ground beef so that there will be enough to sell. Janice, though muscular, had been rather slim and can only give so much product.