The jingle bells tied to the door jingle, clank, rattle, and then settle, as we push our way inside and take our place in line. The fog up from the ocean across the street stays on the other side of the door, content to wait, to swallow us back up later.
Freshly mopped tile, and the smooth smell of fat. The butcher’s suggestively stained apron. His netted head, his washed down thicket of arm hair. The diagrams on the wall, dividing out the cow, the pig, the chicken, the lamb by quality and tenderness, by appropriateness of preparation and consumption. Shank. Round. Rump. Shoulder. Loin.
I finger the serrated edges of Mother Goose chip bags on a rack. Daddy is looking at the case. I bend my leg, and then quickly straighten it, making my knee pop. I love sour cream and onion best. I decide to save my pleading for a box of rice candy before we leave. Already placing the colorful sticker prize inside my sticker book beside the Cabbage Patch Kids puffy stickers, and the scented Strawberry Shortcake ones.
Daddy scans the case, the slices and cuts, laid out on boards behind invisible glass. His eyes water. He talks to himself over his mustache. Ground chuck. Bacon. Capicola or mortadella? Liver for your mother.
The customer before us takes his white paper wrapped steaks, and his change, is about to leave, to step into the fog where we will never see him again, but before he does that he looks up at Daddy. “Hey Paul?” he says, “And he says, “It’s good to see you. It’s been a while,” and while Daddy nods, the man says, “This your daughter?” and he looks at me from foot, to leg, to shank, to breast, to neck, to head, and Daddy is still nodding, and the butcher asks Daddy what he would like, and the butcher’s wife hands me a tiny lemon lollipop, and the meat sighs and bleeds as they wrap it, and they wrap paper so tightly, I can’t breathe.
Caroljean Gavin’s work is forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2021 and has appeared in places such as Milk Candy Review, Barrelhouse, Bending Genres, and Pithead Chapel. Her flash chapbook, “Shards of a Stained-Glass Moving Picture Fairy Tale” is forthcoming from Selcouth Station Press. She’s the editor of What I Thought of Ain’t Funny, an anthology of short fiction based on the jokes of Mitch Hedberg published by Malarkey Books. She’s on Twitter @caroljeangavin