Cut Carve Slice

by Andrew Bourelle

The butcher thinks he does the work. He plugs me in, connects me to electricity. He flips the switch that starts the blade. He puts the ham against my stainless steel skin, and he pulls the handle. But it’s my blade that cuts. I make slice after slice. He wipes me down after he hands the meat to the customers. He thinks—they all think—that I’m just a machine. 

The butcher is new. The others—the ones who bake bread and cook soups and decorate cakes—they tell him what happened before. With the first butcher, it was just a little slice. A nick. But that gave me the taste. And I couldn’t help myself with the next butcher. 

They describe it to the new butcher. They describe the gush of blood. The screams heard throughout the store. 

“It was like the machine had a mind of its own,” they say. 

He nods and shrugs and tells them he is careful. 

And he is. 

But I am patient. 

I wait. And I watch. 

I watch as she comes into his life. The woman, the housewife with the shiny ring as bright as my skin. He changes when she is there, acts differently. He jokes with her and smiles, and they make sexual innuendos about meat. They talk about phallic salami, juicy meatballs, the pink folds of chip-chopped ham. 

I know what I want to do, but still I wait. I wait as she comes in three or four times a week, buying more lunch meat than she could possibly eat. She talks about how strong his forearms look as he pulls the handle back and forth. She tells him that his eyeglasses make him look distinguished. He tells her how beautiful her hair looks, the way it hangs down to her shoulders, yellow as a sunbeam. 

I wait for the right time—when I know she’ll do anything for him. 

It is evening and there are very few customers. When she approaches, she says, “Hello, handsome.” 

“Hello, beautiful. What can I do for you?” 

“I’d like some meat,” she says. 

“What kind?” 

“I don’t know,” she says, pursing her lips. “Something with a lot of flavor.” 

“Roast beef?” 

“Mmmm,” she says, “that sounds delicious.” 

“And do you want your slices thick?” he asks, unable to hide his grin. 

“Oh yeah,” she says. “The thicker the better.” 

He pulls out the roast and turns on my blade. He isn’t being careful, but it wouldn’t matter if he was. He is not the cutter; I am the cutter. 

The slices of beef fall one by one, and he is looking at her and she is looking at him and they are both grinning because they are falling for each other. 

And then I bite. 

Blood squirts onto his apron. He groans. She shrieks. But I don’t let go. I pinch his hand in place, and I take one slice and then another and another. Slivers of his fingers fall like peelings of potato skin. A jet of blood sprays upward with each cut. His apron is drenched. His spectacles are splattered. Red droplets rain down on the glass display case. He is screaming and screaming, but I won’t release his hand. 

“Help!” she shrieks. “Somebody help!” 

She runs around the counter. He is pale and his legs shake, but still I don’t let go. His fingers are gone, and now I’m into his hand: the myriad of bones and ligaments and tendons. I chew them all and spit them into a pile. 

She knows what to do. She looks for the rubber electrical cord giving me my power. She grabs it and yanks it out from the wall with a spark and the smell of ozone. 

But I don’t stop. I slice and slice. My stainless steel skin is slick with blood, and still I don’t stop. 

“Oh, my God!” she shouts. 

She comes to the man’s side and grabs his arm and tries to pull. 

“Help,” he mutters, his voice barely a whisper. 

She leans in closer, trying to figure out what can be done, trying to study the blade amidst the red gore. 

And that’s when I take a lock of her hair in my teeth and pull her into me. She screams with everything she has, but it doesn’t stop me. I take the tip of her nose, slicing through the skin and the cartilage in bite-sized chunks. And then I filet the flesh from her face. 

I stop after I’ve taken only one eye. 

I want her to be able to see herself when the doctors pull the bandages off. 

*

The garbage truck lifts its load and spills me out with leftover bread and moldy cheese. I sit on the surface of the landfill amidst black garbage bags and old newspapers. Seagulls circle overhead and dive for scraps of food. Rats scurry through the labyrinth of trash. Flies buzz above maggot orgies. 

I’m there for only an afternoon before two men walk through in tall rubber boots, sifting through the trash. One has a beard and sunburnt cheeks. The other a long ponytail. 

They look at me. They see their reflections in the surface of my metal skin. One smiles. In all his scavenging at the dump, he has never seen something like me. 

“How much you think we can get for it?” the bearded man says. 

“Nothing,” says the one with a ponytail. “Is that rust? Or blood?” 

But the bearded man lifts me and hefts me to his pickup truck anyway. 

“There’s gotta be some butcher shop that would buy this thing on eBay,” he says, “once I clean it with some disinfectant.”

“Ain’t nobody gonna want that thing,” the other man says. 

“Well, maybe I’ll just keep it for myself,” my new owner says. “I’m gonna stop at the store on the way home and buy a ham. I want to see what this thing can do.” 

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