Flash Friday 05/08/2016: High Steaks
Mrs. Driverly entered Jake’s Butchery, shaking the rain off of her hat. “Thank goodness you’re still open,” she said, rubbing her glasses dry. “Starting to think I was all out of options for a nice steak.”
Jake simply gave a warm yet crooked smile from behind the counter, his hands clasped together, his black hair smoothed back, his tall and spindly frame surrounded by meat hanging off of hooks. Of course Jake was open at such a late time. The only people who bothered going to a butcher at nine o’clock at night were the needy rich, loaded with money and surrounded by knives. Just where Jake wanted them.
They’d go missing. The police would question people around Jake’s shop. They’d chase gangs around Jake’s shop. They’d put up missing posters around Jake’s shop. Nobody pointed at Jake, the kind butcher at the end of Smith’s Row, who must have come from a rich family because he could somehow find the funds for expensive tools. The finest producer of pork, lamb, and beef in all the city; even if nobody took to the ‘strange meats’ he sometimes sold that he swore were a ‘foreign delicacy’.
“Good evening,” Jake said, with a slight bow. “What will you have?”
The little frame of Mrs. Driverly was dwarfed by Jake as she approached the counter. “If you had any steaks in, I’d very much appreciate one. If I don’t get one home, my head will be on the chopping block.”
Jake smirked as if he was in on a joke nobody else knew. Realising what he was doing, he snapped out of his trance. “Yes, well. Regardless, I could waste your time showing you the selection I have out front, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I allow the real connoisseurs in the back where they can select from the finest meats I have to offer. Would you like that?”
“Ooh, a peek in a craftsman’s workshop!” Mrs. Driverly chirped. “Certainly, sir. I’d very much like to.”
Of course, Jake didn’t lie when he said that only connoisseurs were allowed. Connoisseurs were also stinking rich and loaded with jewellery and cash, and often didn’t watch their backs amongst ‘trusted’ persons. Mrs. Driverly was very this kind of person; so much so that she looked around the various carcasses around the back room with morbid fascination.
“The sirloin cut is just over there,” Jake said, pointing to a cutting board. “Is it to your liking?”
Mrs. Driverly approached the cutting board, checking the chunk of sirloin meat sat atop of it. “How fresh is this?”
“Cut it today,” Jake said. It was no coincidence that the cutting board was set up so that people standing by it had their backs turned to the vast wall of various butcher knives. Jake skipped over all of them in favour for his largest cleaver. “Fresh as can be.”
“Certainly looks it.” Mrs. Driverly said, turning it over in her own bare hands without any sign of disgust. “Prime cut, too. No wonder they say good things about you.”
“Do they?” Jake said, approaching Mrs. Driverly, cleaver in hand. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Oh, they definitely do. ‘Always go to Jake if you want stellar service’, they say. ‘Top quality meats and long opening hours’. Glad I heard about you, I did.”
“Yes,” Jake said, wiping the blade against his clothes as he approached. The way she was craning over, he could score an easy slice down across her neck. “So am I.”
“You don’t think I’ll be able to grab a cut and get home before ten, do you?”
“No.” Jake rose the blade high above his head. “I don’t think so.”
At that point, Mrs. Driverly turned.
Either she wanted to ask a question or just make a comment; whichever one it was was lost to history as her face turned white. “What are you doing?!” she blurted.
Jake froze on the spot. He hadn’t prepared for moments like this; now that it had happened, it felt like his entire body turned to stone. Visions of what would happen if his secret life was exposed flooded his mind at once. “Oh. I, see, I, ah…”
“How dare you! How dare you!”
“I’m sorry, I was, ah…”
“How dare you go at this sirloin with such a brutish knife? Give it here.”
Mrs. Driverly snatched the blade away, leaving Jake with his jaw hanging open, frozen in mid-swing. She put the cleaver back on the rack.
“Now let’s see here,” Mrs. Driverly said, adjusting her glasses to read the labels for each knife. “‘Serrated knife’…’knife for pork’…’human flesh’? Why do you have a knife for that?”
Jake’s face blanched. “I…perform surgeries on the side.”
“In a butcher’s workshop?”
Jake nodded sheepishly.
Mrs. Driverly nodded approvingly.”I’ll have to recommend you.”
“Ah, here we go; steak knife.” She drew it the rack, then crossed to the sirloin once more, immediately getting to work. “See, if you cut sirloin straight downwards like you were planning to do, you’d hack the top sirloin to shreds. If you cut that out first, you have yourself a source of prime steaks to sell to your customers.”
Jake looked over her shoulder like a shy student watching a master. “Really?”
“Yes. Honestly, if you went to town with that thing on this meat, I’d have murdered you.”
Jake nodded, face still white. He pulled on his collar. “Yes, quite.”
With the top sirloin cut off, Mrs. Driverly cut it into steaks, with Jake looking on anxiously. Once done, she took a steak, placed payment into Jake’s still-shaking hand, and gave a sweet smile. “First pick of the prime stuff,” she said. “As payment for our little lesson today. Seem fair?”
Jake simply nodded in silence.
“Good. Have a good night Jake, won’t you?”
Jake watched haplessly as Mrs. Driverly proudly walked out the workshop with steak in hand. Maybe he should go into barbery instead.