BEEF: A GOOD BLEED
He may not have made the best impression that daya sweetish stench wafting before him down the corridors of the town hallbut he had an honest face, hard-working hands, and most importantly, the down payment in cash. Besides, the purchase seemed meant to be. The butcher shops previous owner was called Ross, so Thomas didnt have to lay out for a whole new sign. Just change the second S to an E and it was Roses Fine Meats. To celebrate, he had the sign painter crack a small can of red and add a garish, overblown rose.
Upon finding the place had no killing room, he immediately set about converting the garage. He had a sink plumbed in, sunk a drain in the concrete floor, screwed in hooks, rigged up a couple of block-and-tackle hoists. Two tables, a hog vat, a V-shaped box for lambs. It seemed the late Charlie Ross had taken on only butcher-ready carcasses and wholesale cuts. Thomas didnt judge him for it either. He knew better than anyone, slaughtering was a whole other thing.
Its four years now since he built it, and the killing room has long since paid off. Itll keep on paying too, just so long as there are those who havent the stomach to slaughter their own. Take the heifer hes got tied up in there now, hauled in that morning by Ida Stone. Poor womanhusband long dead, stuck raising her drunk daughters kids.
"Theyve gotten attached to the animal," Ida confided across the cows back. "Especially the boy. You know how the city makes them. Id keep her for a pet if I could, but a woman in my position doesnt have a whole lot of choice."
"Never you mind, Mrs. Stone," Thomas assured her. "Shell come back to you in brown paper parcels. Theyll never be the wiser."
Hes a great comfort to the women of the town. They linger gossiping in his shop, find themselves buying finer cuts than theyre used to, asking for cooking tips, how long and how hot, even what side dish to serve. He listens to them, really listens. He doesnt have to try eithergrowing up, he was his mothers only friend.
Hes entertaining too, another skill he honed at home, reaching down into Sarah Roses dark. Sometimes he impresses the housewives of Mercy with his hands, surprisingly agile for their size. Without warning, hell take the tip of his knife to a steak fillet and carve a snowflake or a butterfly or a bird.
He opens the screen door to pull the glass one shut, flips the sign to read Sorry Were Closed. So what if he puts on a bit of a show. Its good for business, and it doesnt hurt to hear a womans laugh now and then, feel the warmth of a female smile. He pauses, grinning to himself. After tomorrow hell have all the female warmth he needs.