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                                        ISSUE #2 ‘AFTER HOURS.’ photo

Lookin' for some happiness, but there is only loneliness to find
Jump to the left, turn to the right
Lookin' upstairs, lookin' behind…”

---George Baker Selection, ‘Little Green Bag.’


She walked through the door of my hotel room at the Valhalla, ‘Holly Holy,’ by Neil Diamond played on the little radio next to the television. Her long blonde hair hung over the shoulders of a fake fur coat. Underneath she wore black leather knee high boots, black leggings and a black leather corset. Her eyes, puffy. Her mascara huddles around her eyes and runs down her face like she’d been crying for hours. The orange glow of the lamp illuminated the distance between our lips. A hand with red painted nails, two of them jagged and broken, traveled across the front of my jeans. She unzipped me and pulled me out and stroked me until I pointed north. The vile blow rattled in the front pocket of my shirt, reminding me I was past due.

The sweet, dewy, drip of her peach lip gloss smacked a scent of saccharin when she licked two of the eleven scars on my body. She traveled down to the front of my jeans. The light from the lamp, a divine spectacle against the soft flow and glow of oranges and yellows decorating the room. I took the blow out of my pocket and dumped a little on my hand and snorted while she bobbed. Neil shouted, “Holly Holy Dream, dream ‘bout only you, Holly Holy sun…” when the coke hit my brain, I was in the middle of a sacred experience, traveling fast and hard to the moment we are all conceived to bare the chest of what it means to be you, me, and the sound of violence.

Her hand traveled up my stomach and hit my right nipple, twisted. I wanted her to push her hand into my chest and pull out my heart. Let it beat in her palm so she could kiss it and tell me that I’ve always been a good boy. That, I work so hard for Mommy, and she understands. My body began to twitch and quiver at what was inevitable. Enchant me with your magic, oh sweet witch. I grabbed her by the hair, moved her face and mouth forward and let her swallow everything. Revelation! She stood up and grabbed a green plastic cup with the last of my scotch floating at the bottom. She spit me out into the cup and put it back down for the morning maid to find. I reached into my pocket and handed her a fifty-dollar bill. She snatched it out of my hand and grabbed her purse and put the money in it. “Next Friday?” She asked. I nodded yes. She smiled and walked out the door.

The type of work I do not only requires substances to get through the day, but a release of testosterone several times a week was also important. Eventually the wife, the girlfriend, lovers, get bored that a life in the meat industry doesn’t get a person to the next level of the society structure. We float on the same rung for the same pay most of our lives. They get bored of broken promises and broken dreams. They cannot take it when we cannot afford luxury vacations to the hottest destinations. It goes like this, “I’m tired of sticking my finger up your ass in the United States, I need to do it in Ireland, Jamacia, or Russia. I think you’ll like it better there.” And after many years of the same back and forth, some of us eventually visit Elle in the Valhalla, because Elle doesn’t care if I’m paying for a vacation or taking out the trash. Elle doesn’t care what my paycheck says at the end of the week. Elle doesn’t care about politics on the television, in the newspaper, or on social media. Elle only cares about one thing, and that’s the money I put in her hand after a service rendered. I had been seeing her every week for several years.

                                                2:15 am, 2 hours and 45 minutes left

Once a month in most butcher shops inventory needs to be done, and it’s always done at some crazy batshit hour like two-in-the-morning until five. No one ever bothers to sleep before we spend hours counting in a cold meat locker. Everyone goes home or to a bar and rips themselves silly until we walk like a funeral procession through the front doors, our funerals. We carry our own caskets on our shoulders in silence with leftover twitches and withdrawal. Is there any other way? I spent time with a hooker, scotch and cocaine. Is there any other way?

The type of money I make you’d think I wouldn’t have to do this shit. Walking with a winter coat through icy temps with blood shot eyes and trying to write down some ridiculous and meaningless code from a box, and then open the box and counting how many eye-of-rounds are inside. It truly is the most boring experience of my life. After an hour boredom sets in and we start sipping the flasks, shooters, popping the pills and snorting the powders we all brought with us. It’s like the Vietnam War for butchers. All-inclusive luxury vacation!

It happens like this: My boss, Cody, brings out a radio and cranks the loudest classic rock station. Heads begin to bob through the cold mist moving like a snake from our winter beanies. Chris snaps the seal of a Jack Daniels shooter and pops the brown sugar down his throat. Tommy pops Vicodin: Coronado eats a stick of dynamite and blasts his brain with meth, no judgement. Cody pours three shooters of vodka into a half-empty can of Red Bull. And with gooey lip gloss wasting away inside my jeans, I rip the cap of a scotch shooter and swallow it like Elle swallowed me earlier. I count a dozen ribeye, then rip a rail right off the cardboard and invite my boss to a line. What’s meant to be a well-organized group of working men doing little meaningless, micro-managed bullshit, that rips the skin from our knuckles with cold carboard cheer, turns into an early morning bacchanalia of depraved teeth clenching hard enough to make the antlers fall off a buck. “That’s when the lights went out in Georgia,” sing it, Viki Lawrence!

                                            3:45, one hour and fifteen minutes left.

Working in this industry doesn’t allow for mental health issues like panic attacks, and if we ever have one, we certainly don’t mention it to a soul, to say so would be a sign of weakness. You cannot appear to be weak, when you are busy calling a co-worker, a ‘cocksucker.’ The only option is to put your head down and chew nails inside the mind. If I feel it at any given time, I become Sonny Liston in my head, bashing in the brains of every stupid rich cocksucker who has never stepped foot inside a blood factory, but claims they know how to run one. Fuck the rich boys who are afraid to get their hands dirty with blood and bone. However, I’m getting ahead of myself, that’ll be issue three for those in the cheap seats. The only way we can release panic and anxiety and worthlessness is to fuck. And since none of us are gay, the only option is to fight. It goes something like this:

Cody draws a line on the floor, and we all look around the room thinking we are warriors when we are nothing more than enormous bags of arthritis. In the mind we are warpaint and steel cleavers sparking and dragging the concrete of the floor, when we are nothing more than soft cock on way too many drugs. We are ready to play the game, then meth (Coronado) speaks: “My old lady, she smokes my brat whenever I light a cigar with the flaming end of a Molotov cocktail.” You must ignore meth when he’s in the room, to do otherwise is to enter your own mind. No one has time to cater to the erratic feelings of the uncivilized.

Fox on the run and hide away,” sing it, Sweet! Cody, Coronado, and Tommy on one side of the line, and me and Chris on the other. We lock palms, it goes something like this: Who ever is the most banged up, the highest and most drunk will automatically lose, and since all of us are always in the shitter, then it really is a game of chance. The person most lit doesn’t stand a chance, and since I released the last of my hope earlier in the Valhalla, I’m knocked out first. Tommy weighs eleven pounds wet and is automatically eliminated with me. Did I tell you his middle name is Billy Joel? For real, I’m not kidding you. It’s not Billy and not Joel, but Billy Joel. Apparently, his parents met a Billy Joel concert, and went home together after a rousing evening of ‘Captain Jack,’ and ‘Piano Man,’ and fucked their brains out. Nine months later Tommy was born, so why not give him the name Thomas Billy Joel Wilson? For real!

                                                         4:30, Thirty Minutes left.

Like every inventory, it always comes down to Cody and Chris. Cody because he’s an enormous beast made of fat, bone, and an inflated sense of self. And Chris, because he lost his mind a decade back. War in Iraq turned him into a war forever. It doesn’t matter how much booze and drugs a person has running through their system, add in a whole lot of insanity, and you don’t stand a chance. Unless you have a lack of brain cells and a whole lot of blubber behind your palms. Cody wins, again.

The night bitch always comes in the morning of inventory. Night bitch is charged with grinding hamburger for all the Gertrude’s and Martha’s that’ll show up at six-in-the-morning for their hot deals on ninety percent lean. Geriatrics in tight big butt polyester. Valhalla time! The day before we cut the case and leave extra steaks in the cooler for night bitch to put on the racks. Night bitch usually has a name, but we never use it. He’s simply known as night bitch. In fact, they quit so often we usually forget their names, so Night Bitch is preferred, and they really don’t have a say in it. It goes something like this:

“Guys…but guys…my name’s Oliver.”

“Whatever you say, Night Bitch.”

“But guys, for real, I’d like it if you called me by my Christian name.”

“Hey, Night bitch, go get us some coffees!”

“If you guys keep it up, I swear you’ll be cancelled!”

“Hey, Night bitch, don’t skimp out on the cream!”

“Sigh, okay, fine.”

Night bitch always leaves the room with his head down, defeated. What they don’t realize is that we were all Night bitches at one point, but we had the sack, or lack of brain cells, to stay in the game and leave such a title behind.  I have a ton of fantastic Night bitch tales, but that’ll be next issue, maybe the one after.

When Night bitch comes in and starts grinding, we usually down the last of the booze we have. We all have an infuriating moment of Cody worship, and his fat ass loves it. We head home and finally go to sleep. Some of us will have to return after a few hours of shut eye. Some of us will get to stay home. That’s the point of the drugged-up wrestling match, to see who comes in and works and who stays home. Yet again, it’ll be me and Billy Joel Wilson manning the cutting boards and taking care of customers. And man do they come in droves! Spit and goo pouring out of their mouths. Sick to the flesh and stomach for beef, poultry, and pork. They’ll push and trample one another until they get the perfect cut. I’ll have to spend hours sharpening my knives.

I’m still sharpening them now.