| I hadn’t eaten in three days and was hungry enough to eat just about anywhere. We were short on money, so the best we could do was a third-rate restaurant with cockroaches and sickening orange tiles on the floor. The waitress wasn’t much of a welcome, as she wore a tight dress in the same sickening green as the walls, netted pantyhose, and her greasy hair was pulled up in a ponytail that hung down her back like a dead ferret. “What can I get for you?” she asked, in a high-pitched nasal voice that could act as an alarm on a naval vessel to wake every sleeping sailor on the ship.
“Do you have anything on special?” I asked.
“Sugar, everything in this place is on special,” she snapped through her gum.
“Can we have a couple of coffees and a minute to look at the menu?”
We watched her head into the kitchen before turning our attention to the menus.
“See anything you like?” I asked Brenda. She was my current main squeeze and running buddy on my personal little trip into oblivion, but she was becoming more and more fed up with our current situation. I was sinking very quickly to a level that I never imagined my recreational habits would take me. We spent most of our time looking for our next fix and the rest of it using. That is, whatever time was left between nodding off wherever we could find some place to crash and scrounging a meal somewhere. Brenda scored us some money turning a trick last night and getting punched in the process. What we didn’t use to feed our habits we were going to get one good meal in this week.
“As long as I don’t have to look at you,” she snapped. “Let’s go find some more stuff.”
“You have to eat something, you’re really starting to look like shit.” I said looking at the dark circles under her mascara smeared eyes.
“you ain’t looking like too hot lately yourself, you know. What the hell am I doing with a loser like you anyway. I don’t care what we eat, order for the both of us. I’m going to piss.” She announced, getting to her feet. She headed to the back of the place as the waitress returned.
“Made your minds up yet, hon?” She asked, setting the dirty ceramic coffee cups down with a bang, cigarette hanging from one corner of her blood red painted lips.
“What do you recommend?”
“Sal’s alley steak,” she said, brushing an ash off the table.
“you mean Salisbury steak, right?”
“Ok, give me two of them, I guess.”
“Anything else, Sugar?” She asked through a cloud of smoke.
“No, That’s it.”
She headed for the filthy stainless steel swinging door that led into the kitchen, hollering all the way to who I assume was Sal. God, this place was disgusting. But I guess beggars, or soon to be beggars, can’t be too choosy. I sat there slowly nursing the coffee that was put in front of me. It was like the rest of this place, layered with just enough grime to be repulsive. It tasted like pencil shavings slowly percolated through an old sweat sock. It’s funny how sitting alone in a place will cause you to go over the great mysteries of your life. I was doing exactly that when the waitress came back and dropped two steaming plates on the table in front of me.
“Here you go, Sugar.”
“Oh… thanks,” I stammered. “But one of these is for my friend.”
“Well Sugar, you might want to be more careful who you call friend. She left about ten minutes ago through the kitchen.”
“You’re kidding me!” I gasped. “She had all of our money!”
“Well, Don’t worry about it too much. Sal is in a good mood and will probably let you work it off. He made a killing today.”
“He did, huh.” I said looking at the empty tables surrounding me.
“You just go right ahead and have yourself a nice meal, Sugar. You look like you need it.”
I watched her walk off before turning my attention to the plates of steaming meat in front of me. God, it smelled delicious. I wonder what Sal is going to have me do to earn these, I thought as I picked up my knife and fork. I cut into the first plateful and realized that my knife wouldn’t be necessary. The meat was as tender as anything I had ever had in much nicer restaurants in a life now nearly forgotten. It was also the best tasting steak I ever had. I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry or what, but it was absolutely incredible. I dove into it like a man possessed. I didn’t care what it was going to cost me, I was eating every morsel on both plates. I was just forking the last bite into my mouth when the waitress came back to my table.
“How was everything Sugar?”
“That was unbelievable! I can’t believe that you guys aren’t swamped with steaks like that.”
“Well thank you. Sal is in the back and he wants a word with you.”
“Alright,” I said getting up and heading into the kitchen. I went through the grimy swinging door and found Sal standing in front of the sink.
“Hey Kid,” he said, drying his hands on his filthy t-shirt. “A little down on ya luck, huh?”
“Just a bit, thanks for the steaks, they were pretty damned great.”
“Tanks Kid. You ready to do me a little favor to earn em?”
“Sure,” I said, a bit hesitant.
“Alright, there is a stack of dishes in the sink, the trash needs to go out, and that stuff on the counter needs to go back in the reefer.”
I looked at my options to figure which to do first and figured that the stuff that should be put in the walk in freezer ought to go first. Picking up a large steel pan filled with what I assumed to be more cuts of the same delicious steaks, I headed to the door. Holding the tray against my stomach with one hand, I opened it. Cool mist poured out for a second as I flipped on the light switch. I went in and was looking for a spot to put the tray when I saw her. Brenda was looking at me with an expression of surprise and shock. At first I figured that she never expected to see me there, didn’t expect to get caught running out on me. I was about to tear into her for bailing on me until I noticed the tip of the meat hook sticking out of the center of her chest. It glistened with crystalized frozen blood. I heard Sal come into the reefer behind me, stopping at the door. Looking down I saw that her feet had been cut off and there was a large portion of her creamy thigh missing. A large pan under her filled with blood had begun to ice over. I looked down at the contents of the tray in my hands and swallowed.
“Ya gotta let the blood drain out of the meat before you carve it or it tastes too gamy.” Sal said behind me. “You gonna take care of the rest of the things I asked, Kid?”
“Actually Sal,” I said, “I was wondering if you could use me full time?” I heard him chuckle as I looked at Brenda in a new light. Man, she never looked so good.