Monday, March 21, 2011

Blog Posts from the novel: A Split-Level Life

Just Meat

Prime rib. Rib Roast. Or is it Silver Tip? For years, I have been an Ovo-Lacto vegetarian, but this morning I stand on a line that snakes around three blocks, securing my right of passage into Fernando & Sons Meat Emporium─ this being Fernando’s widely advertised, once yearly, blow-out sale. I jump, startled when two ruddy-faced workers in a noisy pick up, hoot and honk, then brake to survey the selection, as if we, the women on this line, are the meat in the offering: A curvy leg, a lean shoulder, a nice rack of ribs. But no one bats a curly lash to acknowledge them. We concentrate through icy eyes, daring someone, anyone to snag a spot in line.

I’d hurried from the house soon after the girls boarded their camp bus, and noticed how the freshly cut grass shimmered with dew, as if gift-wrapped in cellophane. How a lazy moth, a visitor from the night before, struggled on the cold stone path, its wings heavy with moisture. Once again, I ached for that time: The cool fragrant air stinging my cheeks, my heart pounding as I struggled uphill to Old Main and art class. Some days, I’d stop and dally among the morning shadows before the sun leapt through branches capturing me in its honeyed light. I was alone then, but never lonely.

Now I stand chin to skull with nearly a hundred women waiting, all waiting, for this golden opportunity: the chance to save, to stockpile for next winter─ provisions made from an act of slaughter. Am I the only one watching the floating sky, streaked like the inside of a conch shell, or the Hydrangeas just across the road, weighing on their branches, a bouquet of violet balloons about to burst.

I mumble aloud, desperate to memorize the varied cuts of beef, to be prepared when I enter Fernando’s. My stomach churns like it did before final exams. Any exam. I will not ask my friend Rona, no never, and see that flutter of sympathy in her eyes─ Rona’s downcast look that borders on pity─ a look capable of turning me mute. How can I so easily distinguish a Manet from a Monet, but remain pathetically lost on Chuck Roast, Tenderloin and Filet?

c.2010 Sande Boritz Berger


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