by Daniel Scamell 

The rippling heaps of flesh are halfway across the parking lot when I get to work. The news said we had three weeks before the meatsprawl reached this part of the city. They said the spillways and razor-netting would divert it again this year, but here it is, latched onto the blacktop and gnawing at the landscaping outside the restaurant. I park across the lot and hope the cleanup crews are here soon to scrape away the writhing mounds of meat, bone, teeth and hair before I have to move my cousin’s Neon across the street. My ride got repo’d.

“Rob and Jose called out,” Jenna, the hostess, tells me as I clock in. “I can have the girls help when there’s time, but we’ve got tons of reservations. Another day in paradise.”

“Heard,” I say walking back to the kitchen. I wish I could call out too. Rent. Child support. Fucking Gabapentin script.

I need this job.

There’s already a mountain of dishes at the wash station. I start loading a rack of plates when Chef shouts to me from the line. “Carlos! Floor drain’s backed up in the ladies’ room. Gonna need you to Shop Vac it.”

“Heard,” I call. With one rack loaded, I trudge to the prep-room closet and get the vacuum. Patrons stare as I lug the machine to the restroom. There’s cloudy water pooled on the bathroom floor, and more bubbling up from the drain. I suck up the shitty water—my shirt pulled up over my nose—then carry the vac to the parking lot and dump it. The greasy, jittering sprawl covers half the parking spaces now. I move the Neon across the street and sit in the driver’s seat, thinking I should go home. Would Clara get another warrant if I missed my payment? Maybe I can get sample packs from the doctor, put off filling my script. Fuck. I need this job.

“Where’s the state crew?” I ask Jenna as I reenter the restaurant.

“They said 3 o’clock.”


Lunch is slammed. People want to get home before the crew closes roads to pry up the meat and cart it away in dump trucks. I wish Chef would just close up.


There’s still no crew when I take my smoke break at 5:45. Same for 7:30, and the flesh is coming up the side of the building now. The stucco is gonna need resurfacing. Before heading back inside, with the toe of my soggy boot I nudge a lump of meat that’s suckling on the curb. A boil on the skin ruptures and yellow shit oozes out. I flick my butt on the ground and watch as an oily, pink nub slowly arches out to devour it.

The dishes have been backed up all day. I just wash what they tell me. “C, we need pint glasses!” “Carlos, ramekins?” “Out of silverware, C.” I run racks and vacuum more shit in the bathroom, feeling like a robot. But robots don’t get their wages garnished.

At 9:30 the bar crowd starts showing up, and Jenna has me and Tyrone, the line cook, scraping the front sidewalks with rusty snow shovels. She says the crew is on its way.

Tyrone heaves a shovelful of bloody chunks into the front lot, then drops his shovel. “Man, this is fucking stupid. I’m out. Let’s bail.”

“Nah,” I say. “I need this job.”

“My uncle’s got a painting crew. He’d take you on. This place is a shithole.”

“He got medical?”

“Nope. Off the books. Tax free.” He smiles.


He looks at the pulsing waves of flesh halfway to the roof. “Fuck this.” He walks off.


I finish clearing the entryway, grab a smoke and head back into the kitchen. The pots have sat all day and they need scrubbing. My shirt is stuck to me with sweat and steam from the dishwasher. I’m getting a rash again.

Around midnight, Chef has to turn the exhaust fans off. They’re grinding and clogged with meat. He keeps the fryer going for the bar crew, though. The air is heavy with heat and grease fumes. “Nice work today, C,” Chef says.


“You good to close up here? Wanna see my wife tonight if I can.”

“No problem,” I say.

“Good deal. Grab yourself a beer if you want.”


“See you tomorrow.” He chuckles, adding, “If the fucking building is still here.”


Tina, the bartender, squeals in disgust as I force the door open so she can leave at two. She squeezes through the gap in the decaled plate-glass, her feet gooshing into the soggy flesh coating the ground outside. “Come on, C. It’s bad out here. This place is fucked.”

“Be out in a few,” I say. “Just have to button up here.”

She frowns. “If you say so. Leave soon, though. Like, real soon.”

After shutting off the front lights, I head back to the kitchen. With no hood fans, there’s grease everywhere. I pull up the mats and hose down the red floor tiles. After a minute, the flow slows down. Probably meat in the lines. I scrub and squeegee the floor as best I can, but the drains are backed up. I get the Shop Vac out and suck up the puddle. The vac still smells like shit. I’ll bleach it tomorrow.

It’s almost three when I try to take the garbage out. None of the doors will budge. Even the front is jammed with wriggling, oozing flesh. I can only see out of the top corner of the glass. Looks like the cleanup crew never showed.

I ache inside. I should go home, I guess. Lie in bed, doze for a few hours, come back here. Meat’s got the building, though.

I decide to pour myself that beer Chef told me I could have. I punch out first, though. You get fired for drinking on the clock.

I really need this job.

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