The Butcher Shop

Mom and I walked up to the shiny glass meat counter of the small grocery store in town. Behind the counter, three men, dressed in white shirts and pants and wrapped with white aprons, all were busy chopping, weighing, wrapping and taping packages of meat. Mom began her order: four Delmonico steaks, something about chicken, and chipped beef. I looked eagerly at Tony, the owner of the business. He presided behind the counter. His shiny black hair and smiling face always made me feel good. Sure enough, he looked at me and invited me back behind the counter. I pushed open the forbidden door to a storage area, walked a few steps around to the backstage area of this production. I stepped onto the floor covered in sawdust. Then, in a ritual not unlike a Mass where Tony was the priest, he lifted me up onto the altar of a butcher block where I got to sit and watch. There, on the stage, I looked out at the customers smiling at me, a six year old kid, and feel immensely important under their gaze. The smell of fresh meat under the thump of cleavers made this all so fresh, productive, and exhilarating. Out in the aisles, I could see women in trench coats with purses on their arms picking through cans on shelves, looking at prices and carefully deciding what to put in their little carts. The roll of white paper next to me spun out a smooth sheet that Tony tore off with a rip. He spread it out on the counter where he carefully placed the steaks, glistening dark red, and wrapped them in perfect tightness and folded order, secured with a strip of masking tape. On the package, he wrote with a black marker that I could smell from my distance. "Anything else Margaret?" he asked and she said "That's all. Thanks." He lifted me down, and I slid my feet along the sawdust one last time, just because I liked the feel of it, and out I went, back off the stage into the store.

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