the cruellest cut

‘I was in the meat trade,’ says Charles, struggling to get his breath back after the exertion of pushing himself further up the bed. ‘Now look.’
‘We just need to get you over this hump.’
‘Hump? Cliff, more like.’
He’s a Casting Director’s dream of a butcher: fulsome belly, large, fleshy hands, and the kind of professionally detached expression you might expect on the face of someone who knows how to swing a cleaver. I can imagine him with his great forearms folded across his belly, standing in a shop doorway, hooks and metal trays, plastic grass, award-winning sausages, a cut of blood in the air. A straw boater, maybe. An apron.
‘Sorry to be a nuisance,’ he says.
‘Not at all. I’m sorry you’re not well.’
‘Waaall – what can you expect? I am eighty-four.’
He closes his eyes and takes a breath. His belly expands dangerously, like he’s hyper-inflating a space hopper.
‘Jerry over the road is older than me,’ he says, opening his eyes again. ‘But you see – Jerry was an accountant. I spent my life throwing hundred pound carcasses around. The biggest thing he ever picked up was a paper clip. It’s no wonder there’s no oil left in my knees.’
I check his pressure areas. It’s hard to shake the butcher thing. I feel like I’m assessing his cuts – brisket, shoulder, hock. Commode.
‘Do you think you’ve got all the equipment you need?’
‘Everything except a bolt gun,’ he says.

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