Read by Greg Page
She walked in the shop first thing in the morning right on cue, her perfume fighting against the smell of raw meat and sawdust. The butcher nodded to her before going over to the door, locking it and changing the sign to “Closed”. There probably wouldn’t be any customers for a while yet, but he didn’t want to take a chance.
“Well?” she said. He’d had dreams about that voice.
“I got one for you. Four and a half kilos. Came in last night.”
The woman raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “Four and a half kilos? Impressive.”
“I do my best,” he said.
“So how much do I owe you?”
He told her. Without another word, she peeled off her gloves and began counting off from a wad of twenties. She placed the money in his hand and for a moment her flesh touched his and a shiver ran down his spine. I’d have given it to you for nothing, he said to himself.
He was about to go into the freezer room when a thought occurred to him. When One-Eye Mick had brought it in the previous evening, encased in that block of ice, it was the first time he’d seen one close up. He often got requests to source them but he always turned them down, even for his regulars. Too risky. But somehow for this woman it was different.
“What is it about – ?” he began. The thing had looked so unappetising. Which parts were you supposed to eat, for Christ’s sake?
“You’ve never tried it?” she said, the faintest of smiles playing about her lips.
“No, I … I suppose … I don’t know – ” The truth was, the idea scared him.
“It’s like nothing else on earth,” she said, leaning towards him. “Nothing. Once you’ve tasted it, nothing else in the whole wide world will suffice.” The intensity in those deep blue eyes bore witness to her passion. The butcher swallowed.
“Right,” he said. “Right. Just one moment, then.”
As he turned away from her, she said, “You are sure it’s dead, aren’t you?”
“You’re definitely sure it’s dead? Only – I’m sure I’m just being over-dramatic here – but there have been cases. Generally from the cheaper suppliers, of course.” She was playing anxiously with a strand of blonde hair that had come loose from under her hat.
“You can be sure it’s come from an entirely reputable source,” he said, bridling. Then again, it depended on what you meant by reputable. Trouble was, Koslovlski had wanted an absurd amount, so he’d told him exactly where he could stick it. Later on, he’d been muttering about this to the regulars down at The Crown when Bob paused between wiping glasses and said what about One-Eye Mick? And he thought, Bob’s right. You could get anything from One-Eye. Anything.
"Yep, one hundred and eleventy percent reputable,” he repeated.
“Well let’s hope so,” she said.
The butcher went into the freezer room and brought out the crate. He placed it on the counter between them.
“I take it you’d like to check?” he said. She nodded.
He lifted up the lid of the crate and peered in. The crate was empty, apart from a pool of water sloshing around in the bottom. He shut the lid again quickly.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“I … I’m not sure – ”
“Let me have a look.” She leaned over and looked in herself. “Oh Christ,” she said. “It’s gone. It – ”
“I don’t understand. It was – ”
“Oh my God – ”
“I’m sure it – ”
“Oh my God – ”
“Calm down, it must be here some- ”
“Oh my God, its body heat must have melted the ice. It’s escaped! Oh my God, it could be – ”
“But it was dead. It was definitely dead. I saw it last night. Dead. In this block of ice.” He gestured helplessly towards the crate. “Dead.”
“Evidently not dead enough.” The woman was backing away from the counter now. Then she turned and made for the door. “Will you open this for me please?”
“Sorry? What about – ?”
“Unlock this door now!”
“Don’t you at least want your money back?”
“I just want to leave. Will you please unlock this door?”
“But it must be – ”
There was a fluttering behind him and he caught a glimpse of something flash past out of the corner of his eye. Then he saw the look of horror on the face of the woman standing by the door to his shop. And finally he felt a sharp nip on the back of his neck and a sudden darkness as something warm and sticky enveloped his head. As he collapsed, all he wanted was for her to stop screaming her fucking head off.
Rare Meat by Jonathan Pinnock was read by Greg Page at the Liars’ League Fear & Loathing event on Tuesday 11th October 2011, at the Phoenix, Cavendish Square, London.
Jonathan Pinnock has written all sorts of stuff and has been published all over the place, including the BBC. His novel Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens has just been published by Proxima and will be followed in 2012 by his Salt short story collection Dot(.), Dash(-). He blogs at jonathanpinnock.com