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| A Girl’s Gotta Eat
by Pat Tyrer
"...because at close of day the ship we sail in is the soul, not the body"
Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture
At one time, my ability to tell lies got me in a lot of hot water; now that I’m up
here, that early training in telling whoppers comes in very handy. I can pass
through an evac station without breakin’ a sweat these days. It’s just too
easy. Because I was bored today, I went out to the cemetery to see if dad has
any weeds growing on him. I don't go to the cemetery very often. Besides, it’s
not a real cemetery, just a 2’x2’ square on an elevated platform. I try to go at
least a couple of times a year. I miss talking with him. Dad loved to argue.
That's probably what attracted him to mother in the first place. Boy could she
argue! During the war we could hardly get through dinner without mom or me
storming from the table in an angry huff shouting back at dad how uninformed
he was. Dad supported the war; Martin, mother, and I did not. At least two
nights a week would find me in the kitchen after the ten-o-clock news with the
jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread.
Things were pretty good with us until Martin was killed; he was twenty-two,
which by my calculations, was a miracle considering the rat pack he hung out
with. Martin stayed behind, wandering the cities, finally having everything he
wanted. Personally, I think he got a lot more than he gave. Mother, of course,
saw this as his calling, like he was some kind of saint--St. Martin. Better that
he's dead I thought, not that any of us ever saw him dead; we just stopped
hearing from him. Besides, nobody picks up the bodies anymore. He probably
served as a good meal for some pack of whatever's left down there.
Tonight I have to quickly finish up my required community work because I’m
having company for dinner--a guy I met. I’m not really into cooking, but tonight
I’m determined to do something spectacular. I cleaned my knives earlier in the
month when I finished with the cat, probably the last cat I’ll ever see, but like I
said . . . don’t care. I passed through that evac station with that cat in my
backpack, still alive mind you, without battin’ an eye. Before the final dictate
against eating animals, there were studies showing how animal protein caused
aggression, so almost no one eats meat anymore. It’s not illegal, but you
definitely become persona non grata. That cat was the only one I’d seen in
months—probably somebody’s stash that managed to get outside.
Right after the war ended, we were evac’d to the Zone. Out rooms were
nothing fancy, but great views of the below. Mom spent a lot of time watching
those on the surface—pretty boring stuff, I thought, until they started burning
things. You could still see the surface occasionally when the smoke cleared,
but not nearly as often as just after the war. Until she was committed to the
lunar sanctuary, mom looked for St. Martin and claimed she’d seen him waving
to her which was just so much bullshit. After dad died, she pretty much lost it
and had to be locked up, for her own good, of course. She went peacefully,
singing “fly me to the moon,” from some old song she remembered. Nobody
thought it was funny. I kind of chuckled.
After that, things settled down for me. I’m not usually creative in the kitchen,
but I’m going to do my best tonight. When Bill, that’s his name, the guy I met
from the P-Zone, let it slip that he was a meat eater when he could get it, I
almost fell on top of him right there, not that anyone would have noticed with all
the joyful love freaks, but a meat eater? As I took the slab from the locker, I
noticed that it hadn’t stayed as fresh as I’d hoped; still, it wasn’t gamey. This
was a calf piece and pretty pricey considering I’d just met this guy. It looked to
be the whole calf, cut from just above the ankle to just below the knee—fleshy
too. Just about dead center on the calf was a fairly large tattoo that would
have to be scraped off. I laid my knives out trying to figure out which one
would take off the tattoo and leave the most flesh. The tattoo looked familiar,
but then at one time darned near everyone had them—it was hard even to buy
a piece of flesh without one. As I steadied my smallest blade and carefully
began shearing off the tattoo, I remembered where I’d seen this one. St. Martin
had one just like it, even down to the tiny initials curled at the bottom. I
suddenly stood straight up and laid the knife on the stand. I stared at the
tattoo realizing that at last I knew for certain what had happened to my brother.
Still, I sure as hell wasn’t telling this new guy and ruining my plans for the
evening. I picked up the knife and continued slicing away. At long last, St.
Martin did me some good. After all, a girl’s gotta’ eat!