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Every day it’s much the same: I wake up at 4:30 in the morning and pop codeine for the pain, physical and emotional. If I’m out of codeine or the various other opioid drugs on the market, I take Klonopin. I’ve been prescribed the drug for the last seven years. If I’m being honest, I find the pill fucking boring compared to codeine, and I’ll only take it when it’s necessary. What most people don’t know is that most of your town butchers are on some kind of pill, powder, or liquid, to get them through the day. We are drug, booze, and sex crazed heathens with an assortment of enormous sharp knives at our disposal. Customers see us run racks, stock cases full of meat, or hear the saw buzzing, and think, “Aww, the happy butchers doing their happy little work.” Fuck’em.

Codeine is a lower dose opiate. It allows me to work without falling into the saw and cutting off a finger or arm. I can put on the long white coat and the white plastic apron over the coat and work without the emotional vortex of life hanging over me and punching me in the dick over and over. The last thing I need is for the likes of Coronado, a coworker whose drug of choice to cut meat is speed, is to witness me lose a piece of flesh. The thought of injuring myself in front of a speed junkie, whose only claim to fame in life is how he’s from California, is embarrassing. Every fifteen minutes it goes like this: “Hey bro, back in California, before I got into this business, I was stroking six donkeys a day in order to make my nut.” He continues, “My old lady, yeah, bro, she works at Home Depot now. Before, back in California, when I lived there, she was at the tail end of the six donkeys I was busy jacking off. She had a fist full of dynamite. Yeah, bro, fucking vicious.”

Listening to a speed freak carry on about absolutely nothing when he’s trying to make sense of everything, is equivalent to gutting a deer with a butter knife as the damning sounds of Gordon Lightfoot plays on full blast and Satan sticks a watermelon up your ass. It’s not meant for human consumption. I’m there trying to forget. I’m there doing a job to pay for the same thing in and out every day. Fucked by the company, just so I can go home and get fucked by the beer and fucked by the lack of sleep. Codeine, well, she makes me forget. She allows me to get from six-in-the-morning to two-in-the-afternoon without feelings. There are no feelings allowed in a butcher shop. Behind those swinging doors we talk about ass, sports, hangovers, angry wives, spoiled kids, and most of all we make fun of each other all day. Without the ability to make fun of one another we’d start sticking one another in the belly with knives. Gusto!

Not long ago a customer came into the shop one early morning. He said to me, “How’s it going?”

I said, “Good and you?”

To which he replied, “Pain and misery my friend. Pain and misery.”

That is the feeling we have as butchers every day and why we all have our drug and/or alcohol issues to get through a shift. The job has a way of getting its hooks into your bones and it won’t let go. People who don’t work with knives find the job fascinating. Like I am a secret agent hell bent on saving the nation from a bunch of Russians. I assure you the only Russians we are thinking about come in a rocks glass with milk or no milk, and always double on the vodka.

There are a plethora of other problems that go along with being a butcher like bad backs; torn rotator cuffs; arthritis; cocks that only work half of the time due to high stress; mental problems from seeing the same forty cuts of meat day in and day out; and finally the people back at home who only want to see you, but you spend a good forty-five minutes thinking about ending it all because you know the same thing will happen tomorrow that happened the last five hundred days (every hundredth day there is a pizza party! Be grateful!) Those at home end up resenting you for the ‘attitude problems.’

“What’s the best way to cook a Porterhouse, hon?”

“Do I look like Gordon Ramsay?”

Or “Should I get a tri tip roast or a chuck roast for the crock pot? How many will five pounds serve?”

“Should I ask the cow before or after the bolt shatters the brain?”

People often ask me what it’s like to be a butcher. Some even want me to write some kind of memoir about cutting. To be honest it’s only a paycheck. It’s not a way of life. It’s another low paying blue collar job like a carpenter, lobsterman, or plumber. It’s a job where we must pretend to be master craftsmen lovingly preparing steaks for cookouts. The company makes it safe nowadays and it’s boring. Sarcasm in front of customers isn’t allowed. Wearing cutting gloves is a must. Put on a show, clowns! Dance for those pennies on the dollar! No healthcare! Become addicted to porn, drugs, buying too much shampoo; and spending way too much money on a femdom to remind you just how naughty of a little boy you’ve been. There’s nothing to really tell people other than it starts with codeine and ends in a pool of blood and trim for the evening bitch to clean up. Something I delight in, watching the apprentice clean up the bloody floors, boards, and saws. I revel in the phantasmagoria of horror in his eyes when he unravels the hose and fills the sinks with disgust. I never bother to remember the names of the night bitches, because I know they won’t last a week, but we’ll hire another, we always do.  

Earlier in the month, I was in the meat locker rubbing my sore balls when Coronado had a stroke in the cutting room. He’d been going on for a week about how his blood pressure was too high, and he doesn’t take medications for it. No one cared. I cared more about how there was a beautiful woman walking around my apartment in nothing but panties the night before, and how I was too tired to perform. She was screaming to get a dickin’ but I was too busy hating myself in front of a half-eaten, salty cheeseburger. It wasn’t a full-on death stroke. He half-collapsed on a box of Angus short loin. “Back in California, I never collapsed on a short loin.” My boss came and carried him to the front like they were in a twisted love story. I popped another codeine pill because I felt shame about passing on the woman the night before and how my balls were heavy and sore. My boss carried him out the front door like a wounded dog. I never saw Coronado again.

There are legends and lies spoken about him in the cutting room. Some say he’s back home living out his days on disability. Others say, he joined the donkey rodeo out west somewhere with his old lady, and he’s raking in the money putting on a circus act that rivals the biggest glitter and make-up shows in Las Vegas.

“You pull those racks of country ribs yet, Francis?” My boss asked.

“Not yet.”

“Well, we are expecting a huge crowd today. Sitting on your dick all day isn’t going to make the sun come up.”

I laugh. I always do. I laugh because there’s nothing left.