I woke that day with a headache that could baffle medical science. It felt like my noodle was stuck inside a vice with the bolts being slowly squeezed together. My hands were shaking and my heart beating at an irregular velocity. My mind reeled back through the past wreckage of the previous evening. There was a bar. There always is a bar. Perhaps there was a girl. Perhaps not. But without a doubt there was a bar. I picture a huge hunk of jungle redwood bar in some kinda theme bar and a bottle of Jack, ice, coke and then nothing. And then this. I wasn’t expecting this.
I was in the open. Slept rough, lying in a small patch of woodlands next to a busy main road in a small nowhere Midwest town. The area of woodland is the same area of woodland that every small town has. The kind of place habitually populated by prostitutes, bums, drunks and dog shit. Next to me was a woman. She had long bottle blonde hair and her make-up had run down her cheeks. Her skin pale. I guessed she was about ten years older than my thirty and may have turned some heads in her day. Life had not bee kind to her. Crows feet decorated the perimeters of her eyes and she had smoking lines around her rouge mouth. She looked like she might be or might have been a working girl at some stage in her life. We all make mistakes.
Then I looked closer. She was dead. Cold dead. On closer examination I saw several stab marks to her face and throat. The fatal blow seemed to come from a small cut to her neck. The main artery had been ruptured. Blood had stained the tree behind her, where it had probably pumped out in blasts before the heart stopped ticking. Dark red blood had also stained her clothing. Her once cream dress replaced by a burgundy tie-dye hand-me-down from the hippie era. She looked like a zombie extra in a Ramero flick. I had seen dead animals before. This was my first human.
In my left clammy hand a pocket knife, stained with blood vermillion. The knife was the type used by boy scouts, soccer dads and working ladies. Shit, I thought, I killed a hooker.
The sun was coming up as the barometer of anxiety increased. My whole body began shaking with a special kind of guilt. The kind of guilt that every alcoholic has experienced. The guilt of being presented with the evidence of doing something terrible for which you have no recollection of doing. I checked my hip flask. About a quarter full of what smelled like rum. I downed it and felt a modicum of calm. The booze gave me about thirty minutes to sort out the situation. Thirty minutes before the DT’s set in.
I decide to bury the stiff. I checked her purse. A leather purse with a few dollars inside. Enough for a bottle of Scotch and a packet of smokes. Apart from that she had a plastic comb and a business card. I put them in my pocket. I opened the purse again. There was a picture of a child aged about four or five. Probably the product of a legitimate relationship before she turned game. I suddenly felt for that kid. There’s only one thing worse than having a hooker mum and that’s having a dead hooker mum.
The ground was mostly woodchip and damp earth. I managed to dig about two foot deep; the length of a woman’s body. I threw the stiff in there and covered her with leaves, woodchips and loose soil. A few pornographic magazines lay scattered around under the tree. I tossed them over her grave and she was mostly covered.
I walked to the liquor store and bought a large bottle of scotch and a packet of smokes. The store attendant eyed me as I fumbled with the dead woman's money. It was early morning. I was shaking in a liquor store. It wasn’t the first and probably wouldn’t be the last time the store attendant had to deal with such a diabolical customer. Comes with the trade.
‘Have a nice day,’ he says drearily.
‘I’ll try,’ I respond pointing to the bottle
Back at my hovel, I opened the bottle and set to it. I drank it straight, and tried to work it out. Some times you have to get drunk to remember what you did whilst you were drunk. Drunken recall, we call it. But nothing was coming apart from a feeling of absolute guilt; an overwhelming sense of fear. Once the bottle was a third finished I knew what I had to do. I had to dispose of the body.
I returned to the scene at nightfall. She was still there under the wood chips and the pornographic pages. I had with me a large meat clever and two large black garbage bags. I began chopping. The arms came away quite easily as I hacked through the ball and socket joints. The head took more work. The legs I cut into two sections. And the torso went in the bag in one. I removed the clothes and put them into the second bag. I carried the plastic bags back to my hovel, one at a time. Each bagged weighed about thirty kilograms, but I was used to hard labour.
I took the bag into the kitchen and went about jointing it as best I could. I had worked in a southern abattoir so I knew how to do this kinda work. All mammals basically consist of the same parts. I removed the fillets at first and placed them to one side. The spine was out and I separated the ribs and the prime cuts. The rump I cut and put in another container. I worked all night until I reached the offal, which again went into another container. The bones, skull and tough pieces of cartilage went into the bag containing the clothes. I took the clothes and bones bag to a local dump and burnt it before placing the remains inside the landfill.
The meat I decided to sell.
The offal and bad cuts went to a local pet food factory. I had a drinking friend Billy who worked as foreman. I drove up to the factory with the bag between my legs. It was already beginning to stink.
Billy opened the bag and took a sniff, ‘smells kinda strange. What is this shit? Mexican meat?’ A rolled cigarette danced around in his lips. Billy had some kind of meth problem, he moved in spasmodic movements, like he had the Parkinsons.
‘A friend in the meat business. Must be worth a few dollars.’
‘Well, what do I care what we put in the grinder. Look Jim. Normally we wouldn’t pay more than a dollar for a few pounds of this shit. But I know you need the money. This is from my own wallet.’
Billy pulled out a black wallet and peeled out two fives.
‘Thanks Billy, I owe you one.’ I handed him the bag.
Next I hit the steakhouse on the edge of town. I had the prime cuts in the bag. The chef, Johnny, was a periodic alcoholic who used to work as an army chef in Iraq. He lost part of himself in the dust bowl. When he came back the body was the same, but it was like the original tenant had moved out. He was a shell of the man he once was. He was hit by some kind of shock syndrome.
I walked right round to the kitchen and placed the bag on the table. Johnny looked up and nodded twice.
‘What’s up Jim?’ he asked.
I dropped the fillets and the rest of the prime cuts on the kitchen counter right there in front of him.
‘What do you call that?’ he looked at me.
‘Dead meat,’ I told him. ‘Came from out of town. Off the back of a truck if you like. Can you take it?’
‘Not like any animal I ever saw,’ he told me.
‘Johnny, can you keep a secret?’
‘Well I bumped into these Koreans. Came from outa town peddling monkey meat. Supposed to be better than any steak round here. We got talking. One thing led to another, and he let me have a sample. What do you say we cook it up?’
‘I aint eating no god dam monkey.’
‘Well, I’m leaving it here.’
Johnny looked at the fillet, rump and ribs all neatly cut.
‘Listen Johnny, the Asians and the Africans go crazy about eating monkey. The lar-handed Gibbon is supposed to be the best meat in the world hence the animal’s endangered status. The way I see it if this ones been killed already we might as well eat the dam thing. It’s all just meat.’
‘Well some of the guys back in Iraq have wives back in gook land. Says they’ll eat just about anything back there.’
‘That a boy, Johnny. Get the broiler burning.’
Johnny looked around the kitchen. It was empty. The evening was still early. He moved over to the broiler and lit it up. The first fillets were tossed on, followed by the ribs.
‘How we supposed to eat this? rare?’ Johnny asked.
‘I’m more of a medium man, Johnny. You got a good bottle of red to go with this?’
‘You got money?’
‘You’re cooking it.’
‘Ok. Ok.’ Johnny went out back and returned with two bottles. And two glasses. ‘but the boss don’t get to hear about this.’
‘No way,’ I reassured him. Johnny busied himself by flipping the meat over on both sides. He added some crushed garlic. Then he took out a steak thermometer and checked to see if she was ready. She was. We began to tuck into the meat.
‘You were in a terrible state last night.’ Johnny told me as we ate.
‘I don’t remember much.’ I tell him.
‘Yeah, you were in here talking about some prostitute that stung you for your life savings. Kept repeating yourself. Jimmy, you should take it easy with the booze.’
‘I know,’ I said taking a mouthful of the fillet and washing it down with a glass of red. Johnny picked up the ribs and started chewing them clean, running his teeth along the bone.
‘You were so drunk I had to have Georgina take you home.’
‘Yes Georgina. You know Georgina, my partner. We got together some time ago Jimmy. Shortly after I came back from the war. She had been fighting her personal war with the booze, pills and losing her kid. I helped her straighten out her life. She helped me respect myself again. We told you all this last night Jim. You were probably too drunk to remember. If it weren’t for Georgina I don’t know what I would do. Georgina walked you home. She has a good heart, has George. Shes been through a lot. First time Iv’e ever known it.’ Johnny said as he started on the rump, dipping Georgina into some English mustard and swallowing with gusto.
‘Well you’re a lucky man Johnny. Yes, she is a real tasty woman.’ I tell Johnny, taking a long hit on the wine.
Johnny had finished his plate. I offered him one of my rids and I then offered a toast.
‘Drink to what?’ said Johnny through a mouthful of his girlfriend.
And then we drank.