It’s already September 20th.
Things are starting to die here.
Leaves tumble from the green trees with little ceremony; the fallen scrape along the sidewalks and roads, yellow and crunchy.
There hasn’t been much work for me this year, which is my own fault. I was out of town for . . . St. Patrick’s Day:
(went to The Farm where Hunter’s parents live and did a 1-mile beer run)
(I was all over Europe for two weeks, but I was in Paris on Father’s Day.
We rode a bicycle-powered carousel.)
Fourth of July:
(Florida with Frank’s family for his parents’ 50th anniversary.
I got to watch these dudes expertly filet a ton of fish—and shark!)
and Labor Day:
(Austin for the World Beard & Mustache Championships.
We got to see the bats!).
I haven’t even had time to cook anything fun lately. Breakfast is protein cereal and cashew milk. My other meals consist of thawing out either chicken thighs (lunch) or fish filets (dinner) and baking them in the oven (or browning some sausage or a pound of ground turkey in a skillet), then tossing seasoning or sauce on it; boiling a bag of frozen veggies, and/or throwing some quinoa or couscous in a pot on the stove. I haven’t cooked off a recipe in a long time.
I found this amazing seasoning/sauce combo at the Kimmswick Strawberry festival;
it’s all I use now.
I was going to make a post about Valentine’s Day but just never got around to it. I worked Easter and Memorial Day, but there just wasn’t much to say about it. Or there was, but it was all the usual bullshit that you’re familiar with by now.
* * *
Tommy turned 50 in May of this year. I kept meaning to ask Grace if she had anything planned for him. I finally talked to her the weekend before he turned.
“I was just gonna get him a cake and a balloon, ya know? I don’t really know what else to do.”
Well, I knew. Tommy had been admiring the apron that Frank got me from butcherandbaker.com for our anniversary this year. Technically he got it for Christmas, but they handmake every order, so it didn’t arrive in time.
Obviously, it was already too late for me to try and custom order him one, but a new knife shop opened up in Frank’s neighborhood that I knew had aprons for sale. The only other place I could think that might have butcher aprons was the knife shop on The Hill where we get our knives sharpened. (Fun fact: the shop doesn’t actually own any of the knives that they make, but I do.)
Both shops are only open during bank hours, (i.e.: the hours that I’m working my desk job) and I only had one day when I could get there before they closed, so I could only make it to one shop. I went with the one in Frank’s neighborhood, since I had visual confirmation of their aprons.
They were $90, and not of as good of quality as mine.
I didn’t know what else to get him, so I went with a green one and had them gift wrap it.
I drove directly to the shop so I could leave it there overnight and he would find it waiting for him the next morning. Lately every time I’d stopped by, Tommy was gone by 2pm, so I was surprised to find him standing in the back door when I opened it. I tried unsuccessfully to hide the bag from him, and he tried unsuccessfully to hide his smile from me.
He wasn’t expecting it.
He wasn’t expecting much of anything I think, with all of his family living out of state, and very few friends and not much of a life to speak of outside of work.
And that’s why I did it.
I’m a softie when it comes to birthdays, and all I could think was, when I turn 50 . . . I hope someone remembers me.
The next time we worked together, he made sure to let me know that he was going to be wearing his new apron and I should wear mine, too. He couldn’t help complaining that mine has more pockets than his.
* * *
No one’s seen Nicole in over six months. I always ask if anyone’s talked to her; no one really has. Gus doesn’t work at the shop anymore, since he makes more money building houses with his dad. And Kyle is actually not her nephew, like I previously thought; he’s just Gus’ friend, and therefore doesn’t have regular contact with her. Nicole used to call Grace every day just to talk. Now she might call once a week.
She met a guy on some online dating site. For their first date, he took her to Grafton on the back of his motorcycle. For those not familiar with the St. Louis Metropolitan and Surrounding Areas, Grafton is a town in Illinois known for its steep hills and sweeping views of the Mississippi River.
This guy tried to take his big ass Harley Fat Boy or Road King or whatever the hell it was, up one of these hills . . . rode over some gravel . . . dropped the bike . . . and Nicole with it.
Mr. Fat Boy was fine. Nicole shattered her wrist and had to have pins and plates and screws put in. She was not expected to be able to work either of her jobs for six months.
A few weeks later, Tommy hadn’t seen or heard from her, so he sent her a text to check up on her and ask how the recovery was going.
The response that came was, “Nicole lost her phone this is Craig.”
Tommy already knew Craig as the guy from the Fat Boy incident, so he knew that Nicole hadn’t actually lost her phone. Tommy simply replied, “Hi Craig this is Tommy.”
When someone finally was able to talk to Nicole, she explained that Craig only takes her phone “sometimes.” “Because he just gets so jealous.” Particularly of Tommy.
. . .
. . .
. . .
O-kaaay. . . .
Her daughter Jill doesn’t like the guy, either—says he’s really possessive and insecure. Grace started theorizing that maybe the “motorcycle accident” . . . wasn’t really an accident. Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?
“We gotta get her away from this guy,” Grace concludes.
How? If you text her, you don’t know if she’ll read it, or if Craig will see it, delete it, and block your number for good measure. Nicole is my friend on Facebook, and <3’s everything that I post, so maybe try a Facebook message?
Tommy cuts in, “You think it’s Nicole hearting all your posts, but it could be Craig. . . .”
I’m stuck. I don’t know how you make a human do something they don’t want to do. In my experience, any attempt at dissuading a person from doing anything only makes them want to do that thing more.
So for now . . . we don’t really know what to do.
Blink twice if you need help?
* * *
Burt passed away.
I don’t know much about the circumstances, but his health hadn’t been good in a long while. I know that he was on life support, and they decided to take him off of it. I missed the service because I was still in Austin. When I got back, the whole family had left town for a wedding.
Tommy disappeared for a few days, leaving Kyle and John to run the shop on their own. They said it wasn’t a problem because business has been super slow lately. I gave Kyle my number anyways, and told him to text me if they needed anything.
A few days later, Tommy’s neighbor—the one who always gives him rides to and from work—passed away due to heart surgery complications. He was 50 years old.
* * *
Work at the meat shop won’t start up again for me until November, but I still drop by every other week or so. Hold your loved ones tight, and make sure they know how much they mean to you.
Cheers, Burt. Thanks for initiating me into the world of meat. I won’t forget it, or you.