Liquid / Scott Manley Hadley

 Hes a butcher, so hes used to blood. Hes never worked in an abattoir, so hes never killed. Well, not properly. Not halal like.

But the blood.

Hes fine with the blood.

Hes cool with the blood.

In fact, when hes bein honest, a few pints in, he likes to talk about butchery and the feelin of power and strength it give him when he sticks the cleavers in, pulls apart, slices, chops, dices, destroys, prepares, peels

the meat.

Bollocks, sez his cousin, the powers in the killin. His cousin worked in an abattoir for one day once, left cause he spewed up when he saw the machines. One day. One day. Twenty years later, talks about it like it was his fucking career.

You worked in that place for one fucking day, mate, the butcher sez.

His cousins dun twenty years hard graft as a casual chippy, sparky, labourer, plasterer, lifter, bit of delivery, bit of muscle, a few times, when needed. Door work. Roughing up a guy once or twice. Maybe now he could handle the abattoir. But as a piss-stained teenager with a crew cut and a virginity more intact than a crowbar, he cudnt.

No, he sez to his cousin over their steamin fifth pints. Steamin. Why they steaming? he shouts. Freak meteorological conditions, sez the barmaid, the only person sober, female and under 25 in the pub. She isn’t fit, mind, but the butcher’s cousin still sez he would. Even tho his wifes (second wifes) pregnant again. Four kids, his cousin has, not countn the one on th way. The butchers got none. He always tells his cousin hes keeping the family line alive well enough fer the bothuvem.

Yeah, he sez, he slurs, no. Any bastard can kill, any sssscrotum can slice a thhhhroat, yeah? Its an art, tho, guttin and skinnin and-

Fuck off, his cousin sez, do you gut and skin em. You just chop em up! Ive seen it, Ive been in when the dlivrees come in, Ive been inta the freeza.

Yeah, right, most of em come in gutted, skinned, yeah. But when I get game in I ave to –

I gettid, I gettid.

-But the blood, man, all of em bleed-

-Old enough to bleed, old enough to-

-Im not talkin about birds, ureb sessed, man, Im talkin bout meat. Pigs and cows and sheep and shit. And pork and fucken sausage and steak and-

-Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Theyre plastered. Fat men, both. Same age. Born like a month apart, same hospital, same class at school, went thru tghtr. The butchers dad ran the abattoir, how he got his cousin the job he didnt want, how he got his son the apprenticeship (the better job) with the local butcher. Who, when he died

massive blood loss, haemorrhaged, ran his hand through the sausage grinder, up to like the elbow. Disgusting. His apprentice found him the next morning, bled to death, stump in a fucking machine, splinters of bone all over the floor, a little sausage made of his nails and shit hanging like a soft dick from the spout. Verdict at the inquest was suicide, tho most people didnt believe he couldve kept operating the thing long enough to cough it, (cough it, is that the phrase?) CROAK IT, CROAK IT, but there was so much fucking booze, neat alcohol, some backstreet vodka hed bought off the brother of the Polish guy who runs the garage now, moonshine, potato crap, theyd call it poteen if this was ireland, the doctor said he was so spangled on illegal booze he cdv been hallucinating. Also he had massive debts, owed a fuckload to his ex-wife for child support, hed committed a massive insurance fraud on the refrigerated truck he used to have, the one he burnt, and he thought he was gonna get caught, and he was impotent and hed been a prolific shagger for years (had “BEST MEAT IN TOWN” printed on the front of his shop, and on a load of tshirts he used to wear whenever he wasnt at work), and there were rumours about a love child, rumours about a child porn ring, rumours about him murdering a rival, rumours about smuggling heroin in pig carcasses in the 80s, rumours about everything bad you could think of, suicide made sense. Hed also pissed a lot of people off, no one liked him, so though there couldve been fowl play, foul play, no one bothered to look into it cause he was such a colossal fucking arse

gave the paid-up lease on the shop to the butcher. Running his own shop before he was thirty-five. Felt good, felt good. Slicing open meat, chopping flesh, turning the gristle into fucken sausages, stewing the feet of birds into stock, into soup… He got into pat ey, too, sold ubscure bits of animals and normal bits of wiered animals. Like ostriches and alligators and less ubscure but more high-end things like venison and fucken Angus steaks and things like that and his shop became a draw for the high street. Revitalised it, wz the word they used, then more shops came in, gentrifuckingcation, bringin with it lots of little jobs and bits and pieces for a man of many trades, his cousin, yknow, it worked out well forrem.

They sit in the pub daily after work (after the butchers work, his cousins usually there from opening, if and when he works he works enough to buy a good benders worth of booze and speed, then doesn work again until thmoneys run out. Never signs on, tho, Im a striver, he sez. Which is colossal bullshit, because whenever he is out of money he does little petty thefts, helps himself to money from tills, punches fucking priests in the face and pulls out the jewels from th cassocks, maybe not that bad, like, but hes a scrounger tho in his defence not off the state (this is a true blue tory town where wed rather no one got nothin for free than one cunt did who didnt deserve it)). Weekday, Saturday (the pubs got Sky Sports, which saves both of em a packet. The cousin used to have this rig with his neighbour where hed like hack into the signal or something, the butcher never understood it, copied some card with a thing he bought off ebay, stole his signal. But then when digital came in it finished him. I hate Freeview, his cousin screams when more plastered than this, when hes horny, why is all the porn on freeview so shit, he shouts. Yeah, funny story, actually. Like before, the butcher found out years later that the neighbour who his cousin was stealing the Sky from, yeah, had noticed all this dirty pay per view porn stuff, filthy, yeah, noticed on iz bill, and hed presumed it was his WIFE watching when he was asleep. So hes telln the butcher this over beers and the butcher laughs in his face and sez that was my cousin, not your wife, but instead of finding the cousin and punchin im in the face, the neighbour grins and sez I dont care, I thort it was the wife so started doin things in the bedroom based off the titles of th films. Turned out she loves anal fisting, so the jokes on your cousin. Fixed my sex life, mate. Only cost me a few hundred quid), Sunday, sometimes, if the quiz is on. If theres no quiz (quizmaster chases the dragon, unreliable) the butcher stays at home. Good not to drink out of the house every day, he thinks, n cracks open a crate of Stella.

They meet every day, cept some Sundays, drink and booze and chat and stagnate, like sink into each others moods. Tell each other th same stories, sometimes new ones slip in, old ones slip out, the one bout the neighbour is recent, the one bout spewin in the abattoir old but goin strong. Nothin, tho, is as strong or as common as the butcher talking about how much he loves slicin animals up. Not in a pervy way, theres no sex about it. Its the blood he likes, the feel, the anna-tom-lickel no legde.

They play this game called “Wheres the meat?”, where the cousin asks the butcher where different cuts of meat are inside him, and the butcher points with a finger or a fork (the fucken fish and chips in this place, award-winning. The cunts the gentrification brings in sometimes piss him off, but as a man of taste (whos doin alright for himself) the improvement in pub food brought about by this gastro crap (gastroentersomething, isn that the shits???) is the dogs hairy bollocks. (He ate dog once, holiday in Louse or somewhere East, doesn know how to spell it, doesn know where it was, doesn know if the meat was really dog.) Connoisseur.) point with a finger or a fork at the place in the cousins body where the pancreas or liver or heart or brain or kidneys or stomach or sirloin or back bacon or rib eye or gammon or breast or wing or whatever is, like different parts of meats, of foods, hell point at where theyd be on a human, inside a human. Inside his cousin. But its not morbid, like. Its not sick. Theres nothing weird about it. Just two cousins makin jokes.

Once the butcher asked why his cousin never spends his evenings with his wife, his kids, his ex. No pussy, he said. Theres no pussy here, man. The cousin pointed at the bird behind the bar with a ketchup coated knife and said theres her. But thats it, the butcher said, and his cousin nodded and said, got about as much chance with her as I do back home. He never asks again, conversation locked into football squads and immigrants and birds off the telly and new electronics (the butcher fucking loves those Apple pod things, got like four of em, reckons theyll be valuable on antiques roadshow in fifty years – retirement fund, he calls em, tho hes about as likely to make it to his late eighties as he is to win the lotto), today his cousins tellin him about this thing he saw in a magazine, a fucken sex toy for men. Nothin goes up my arse, sez the butcher, except my shit. You put your shit up your arse? sez his cousin, No, I mean nothins ever in my arse but my shit, stop takin the piss. Stop takin your own shit. It isnt for putting up your arse, its a tube you cn wank in, but its got paddin in that feels like a cunt. Bollocks, sez the butcher. No, its tru, sez his cousin, lookt up rev yoos, said its just like a bird. Without a johnny. You remember that? he asks the butcher. You remember fucken without a johnny? Ha ha ha. The butcher hasnt shagged a bird for three, maybe four years. And before that night there hadnt been any since the 90s or something. AIDS AIDS AIDS generation, the butcher, a lad he went to school with who wasnt even gay got killed off it in 93 and hes always been careful to wrap himself up and-

Stop tryin tget me chasin birds. Isn my thing, he tells his cousin. Tells him off for tryna say his libidos weird. Some men dont need it like you do, he tells his cousin, yorr a fuckn disgrace. Draggin yr cok frm fkn brd tbrd tfkn brd. This is bullshit, tho. It only looks like the cousin fucks a lot cause the butchers almost a virgin. The cousins only cheated on his current wife with like five/six women tops, which is hardly fucking anything, and two of those were mid-afternoon one-offs, one was a hooker at his mate Daves stag (who everyone had, three of them at once, fkn hilarious. Harmless fun, like) and the other two were exes of his he still sees from time to time for a quickie (never too quick, mind, nd it dusnt count as cheatin if youf hadem before, duzzit, he always sez to the butcher, pist). But the butcher gets NOTHING. He was at Daves stag, butd passed out cause he had some skunk and wasnt (and isnt) fkn used to it. So the cousin thinks he does alright, but hes not fkn Russell Brown, the shagger one, with the hair? No fkn superstud, jus a normal guy what gets what he can, you know? Loves his wife, in his way, like. Gives her money, teks the bins out, duz DIY an that, but he duzznt get enuff at home. Who does? he sez.

The butchers drunkenness works in shifts like the lads at the abba-toir. Sometimes hell be high as the proverbial, loose n relaxed, yhno, sumtimes hell be a belligerent fkn cunt, tlkn about nthn bt this fkn blood thing, other times hell start tlkn bout something then decide hes too nervous or it upsets him or whatever and his cousinll get pist off, coz theyve just started talking bout something he finds interestN, then the butcher jus shuts up. Im not talkn about my fkn love life, he sez. Yeah, cause you cant tork about sumthn that duznt exist, then they both larf and one uvem makes a joke about the vicar that used to talk at school, he found enough to say about sumfin that didnt exist, then theyd start reminiscing about school and how the teacher they all thort was a bender turnd out to be shagging one of the girls in like year ten or sumthin, then his cousin said sumfin like benders and paedos are the same, arnt they, and the butcher said be careful sayin things like that, the owner of this places brothers queer, Bollocks, No its true, I met im, nice lad, well drest. Cant say things like benders and paedosre the same. Its imprtnt to pretend lk, even iff its not true, that yorr accepting of all walksa life. Like no raceialism. This political cerreckness? his cousin assd. No, the butcher sz, nuffin like that, its the fkn laws. They make you go on these corses at the council when you run a biznss, teech you how to be part offa modrn biznss wrld. Important, like. Get fined. Or sent to fkn jail or sumfin, dunno. But you cant say that.

The cousin backed down, settled into his eighth pint and the darts they were showin on the projector. Seethin inside, like, thnkn about the fkn changes he fkn hates to see. Have to fkn respect queers, he thinks, its paedos next, he thinks. The butcher, tho, is thnkn the opposite. Hes thnkn hes done good, lk he deserves some recognishon for spreadin the mssj of the modern age. Tellin a good man (if he thinx iz cousins a good man) how to be better lk. Coz thats all it is, isn it? Bein nice. Gd to be nice. Gd to be gd.

And he sinks off, starin at the beer mat on the table and cognitatin on politics and blood and the bleeding tasty carcass of a meat. Of a pig. He thinks funny when hes this pissed. Words go the wrong way round. He wouldnt lectur his cousin sober, yknow, hes a shy man, duznt like to IMPOSE his way of doin sumthin. Or impose wht ee wants to tlk bout.

He likes his job and he likes fkn blood. Duz that make him weird? Maybe. But whats wrong wiv bean a bit weird? The pint in front of him is flat, the head thick, creamy, white, full of fkn bubbles. Sometimes blud has bubbles in it. Sumtimes he fills a fkn glass with blood and like blows bubbles in it like what kidz do, you know, thru a straw. That is weird, he knows. And tho he implid he like did it more than once it was only once like and it was when he was really pist and really sad so its fkn acceptable right? Hes not a fkn murderer, even tho loadsa people sed he was after the other butcher died and he lk en herr eatted th shop,

old butchers life was a fucking mess, fines coming from every department at the council, hate mail coming from all his exes, pimps shaking im down for money he refused to pay coz ee cudnt geddit up an isn payin for a service ee didnt get, ees a businessman, sum1 cums into his shop n duznt buy nethin he mite be pist off, yeh, shurr, bt he wudnt fkn thretten tkill em, life was crumbling, owed money to the abattoir, owed money n meat to is customers, owed wages to is apprentice, owed money for gas, leccy, owed money to the fkn company that sold im the sausage grinder ee died in, had it on hire purchase, they took it back afterwards the morbid fucks, hired it out to like caterers at posh weddins n things, owd lik money to every last fkn SME in the county, but the one thing ee kept up to date was, paid rent five years IN ADVANCE, was the leasehold on the super trad-fronted Edwardian butcher shop on the high street, money that wudnt be refunded, meenin that the old butchers widow n kids ad to suffr the debts, n iz shit n failin business passt to iz apprentice oo made it a fkn success wivvin a year, suspicious or

but he never did a fkn thing, the only thing hes ever made bleed is the fkn dead animals the abattoir send im. Maybe itd be good to kill a pig, he thinks. Been choppinemup fr lng enough, maybe itd be good life experience, yknow, sumthin to say yhv dun. Sumfin to like talk about. Hed seen it happen like, dad runnin an abattoir cors hed seen the machines and stuff, but is dad never liked to get blood on his clothes. Ruined coats, he sed, ruined tens o fkn coats climbin to the top o this fkn fleshpile, not gonna do it any more now Im fkn here. And, he may as wellve sed, no boy of mines goina kill animals for a fkn living. But butcherinem was fine? Twisted fkn logic, dad, the butcher thort. Tho he loved his job, yeh, all of it. From the red stains beneath his fingernails, from the smell, from the way hippies sneered thru the window, from the way a cleaver slices thru bone slong as you chop hard enuf. He loves hackin, like, he loves when you have t use a saw on bones, really feel yr fkn animalistic sense of fkn POWER when you have to use a saw to slice up, slice through, another fkn animals skelenton. Skelington. Skeleton. Christ, Im wankrd, he sez. Pist. Teks a big swig, emptz his glass. Goin home, he sez, standin up, abrupt. See yeh tomorrow. Gnight, his cousin sez, movin t th bar.

The butcher lefs, pushs into the drvn rain of the fkn rural night and staggers th two streets home, leanin on terraced frnt rooms the whole way. The wall supportn his lef sholdr, draggin, rubbin along the glass of sumones windo, Newsnight or somethin else shit on, next house lights off, dead, asleep, house arftr that, watchn sum action film, guns and helicopters and nxt house an advert for nort per cent finance available and the corner and turnin round, gardens this section here, leanin on the walls, walls, fence, shit, less steady, shifts in the soil, does that every day hes too pist to walk properly, walk straight, walk upright. Next group of houses, his, no gardens, wall right up to pavement. Finds his house, dark, lights off. Unlocks, closes, leaves keys in the lock, outside, Yale, duznt notice, goes up the stairs to iz flat, lays down on the setee, jst for a minute like, TV on, left on, and then heez fkn past out in seconds and the next thing he nose his alarm is goin off in his bedroom and fkn BBC Breakfast is on. Theres a little pile of vomit next to his face on the cushion. Dried, its from like three weeks ago. Fuck, he sez, leaving it for another later and headin to the shower.

Awake. Stumbling. Ready for another day.

 


Scott Manley Hadley blogs at TriumphoftheNow.com and his debut poetry collection, Bad Boy Poet is published June 2018 by Open Pen.

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