The door to the meat freezer made a screeching sound when it opened. I tried pushing the door slowly, but it creaked all the same. I was to find a sharp knife for Harry, who was waiting out back in the slaughterhouse for the knife he sent me to fetch. I believed the last place I had seen it was on the wood block in the freezer. I stepped in and there was only the natural light from the hall a triangular shape on the green and white tiled floor.
I fumbled for the switch, I snapped it down and the long rows of lights popped on, while a few flickered and sputtered awake gradually. I was amazed any of them worked, they were so old. I kept my arms close to me so I wouldn't nudge the meat as I began my search. Long lines of product passed my periphery like light posts as I went down the aisle. I stopped at the wall where I thought the block was supposed to be.
"Where did I put that?" I said, scrubbing my boots at some dried grime. I stared at one of the hanging meat slabs while I thought of where the knife could be. The freeze went through the long grooves of bone and flesh on the meat and jutted out to carve swirling lines of frost.
I wondered how I'd feel if I could remember the cows face. Maybe the knife was on the back tray on the other side of the locker. I took a few steps and then stopped to pull the sticky gunk from my boot treads. "This place is so gross," I thought aloud.
The freezer gave me goose bumps that pricked at my neck and made my arm hairs stand straight. I rubbed my hands down my shoulders to my wrists going down the next aisle.
The cooling fan sputtered on above me and made a low humming noise. I stopped because the misty frost spraying out of the register looked beautiful as it clouded over a splayed pig. "If it's up front somewhere, I'm going to be pissed," I said turning from the archaic cooling register. Sure enough, I could see the chipped handle hanging from the tray of the stainless steel cart. I scooped the knife up and quickly moved for the exit.
I turned the cold brassy handle to the back door and was born out into the sweltering heat of summer. Harry was at the end of the street resting against the shed puffing on a cigar. The shed was in the back alley where the grocer and restaurant did their loading. Martin, who ran the drug store next to us, was crouched down at a patch of grass in his white lab coat plucking out dandelions. The smell of clipped grass tickled my sinus as I approached Harry.
"About time, son!" He said, clapping me on the back.
"Here you go, sir."
"That's a good boy, thanks." He tugged the cigar from his mouth and plopped it to the tan dusty floor. I made sure to step on it as I followed him into the shed. He wiped spit from the corners of his mouth and brushed it down his bloody smock before he took the knife from me. The blots of red made it look like one large Rorschach test sheet. It looked like a mop in a bucket to me. I shut the door to the shed and felt the heat swelling and beading sweat at my temples. We talked a bit back and forth and laughed when he said this shack could heat all of Boston.
I went around the room picking up the little papers from his cigar wrappers while he toyed with the knife. He'd hold the worn handle in his fingertips and let it drop down into the slaughter block and watch it sway momentarily before plucking it up and repeating the process again. He would be bored until the next shipment arrived at three.
"Oh, before you head back to the register, I need you to take the wheelbarrow out to the dumpster."
"Sure thing," I said cramming the wrappers into my pocket. A breeze suddenly rushed as I stepped outside and came to the tall wooden wheelbarrow. I picked up the worn handles and started clunking my way down the alleyway. The wheelbarrow was full of heads mostly. Before I reached the dumpster the front wheel jarred on a rock and my teeth bit sharply into my lip. I dropped the cart and stared back at a pig. We were both expressionless, as I tasted warm iron and the blood began to pool.