stuff the moon

As soon as Frank tells me he used to be a butcher I can totally see it. It’s not just his dressing gown, the long blue and white stripes, exactly like a butcher’s apron. There’s something in the way he sits, his large hands draped over the armrests of his chair, the heavy, slightly disappointed sag of his face, the stainless steel glint of his specs, like someone who stood fifty years behind a chopping block waiting for a customer to choose between the knuckle and the brisket.
‘My sausages were famous,’ he says. ‘They went into space.’
‘How d’you mean?’
‘To Cape Canaveral, anyway.’
‘They took your sausages to Cape Canaveral and shot them into space?’
‘Nearly. One of the astronauts came by and took a coupla pound of my pork and apple specials. Said he was taking them back to Florida.’
I imagine an astronaut in a space suit, plodding in slow motion through customs, a string of sausages swinging from their respirator.
‘Risky,’ I say.
‘Yeah. Well. Astronauts get special treatment.’
Frank wrinkles his nose and vigorously rubs his forefinger back and forwards under it, a gesture accompanied by such a range of facial distortions it’s like the finger belongs to someone else and he’s only just learned to tolerate it.
‘He said he was an astronaut. I had no reason to doubt him. I had all sorts in my shop.’
He nods to a watercolour picture on the wall, a view of the old place. It’s a nostalgic, mournful kind of picture, like you’re looking at the shop through a shower of rain, or tears.
‘There was another butcher at the end of the street. Not nearly as good.’
‘A bit of competition.’
‘Only on price. You get what you pay for. One thing they absolutely could not do was make dripping. He used to make me laugh. He’d get his mum to come round and ask for a few pounds of dripping. I like it in me sandwiches she used to say. Is that right? I’d say. There’s quite a lot there. And she’d say Yes. I know. I like it a lot. And then the next thing you knew there it was, priced up in the window.’

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