I had been sitting at the computer typing away on a story. He stepped onto my porch, silent. His body made a shadow on the floor. I turned. He stared from the other side of the glass and pounded on the door. My stomach crawled up into my throat.
Nobody else was home, but he could see that I was, so I forced myself out of my chair and opened the door just a little.
He held a cardboard box in his hands. “We’re done with our deliveries and still have meat leftover. This is your lucky day!” As if this box was a special gift he was bringing me. “High-quality meats we’re willing to sell at rock bottom prices.”
I squinted out to the white truck parked in my driveway. An F-150 with a freezer in the back. An older guy sat in the driver’s seat. He didn’t look my way, just stared straight ahead. I wondered if he was listening to the radio. I thought of Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.”
The man at my door leaned in. He tried to sell me the whole box for two hundred dollars. I said no.
“Can I just come in and show you, like on a table?”
“No. You can show me on the porch.”
He pointed out the premium marbling. The bonelessness. He haggled. The bonelessness. Lowered his prices. The BONELESSNESS! He suggested different combinations.
I was getting tired. “What’s the least I can buy?”
“How about this small box of boneless rib-eyes for thirty bucks.”
“Ok.” I went to find some cash.
That night I cut the rib-eye into strips for stir-fry. The cooked meat was tough and tasteless, like chewing a cardboard box.
At the gym the next day, I asked the women in my fitness class if any one of them had recently been visited by the Meat Man.
No, but one of them told me about the murder. The killer had owned a meat delivery service not far from my house.
“If I’m not here Thursday,” I joked. “Come find me. I’ll be in the freezer.”
Sitting at my kitchen table the next morning, I heard a rapping on my door. I jumped. Adrenaline injected into my veins. My hands shook. I grabbed my phone.
Meat Man. I was sure he was back to slit my throat, load me into his freezer, and cut me into boneless steaks, but when I got to the door, two older women in skirts and frumpy sweaters smiled in through the glass.
I cracked the door open.
“Hello,” said the oldest. The thumping in my ears made it hard to hear her tiny voice. ”We’re hear to share with you some good thoughts. With all that’s going on in the world…the bad things…” She clutched her Bible.
I thought of the bad things going on in my world.
Three women kidnapped in Cleveland, held for a decade and raped repeatedly. The doctor in Philadelphia who killed those newborn babies. The local Meat Man who killed a woman, and another Meat Man who sold me shitty beef without bones. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up in his freezer…maybe the women at the gym will hold candles at my vigil…I don’t understand bonelessness. Cows have bones!
The women standing on my porch held their smiles while they waited for me to think my bad thoughts. The younger one scratched her leg through her skirt. The older one’s cheeks trembled. She held her Bible like a special gift. “Can we come in and show you?”
“Thank you for the offer.” I smiled at the ladies who had brought me their good thoughts. I closed the door. The bad things going on in the world weighed down on me.
I texted my friend Karen. “Lunch?”
She met me at a Mexican restaurant. We shared vegetarian tostadas. While we ate, I told her about the Meat Man and the Good Thought Ladies.
“You should write about that,” she said.
She told me a funny story about her middle-school-aged son and his girl troubles. She told me about her daughter’s D.C. internship. “Those politicians. They can be crazy, but they’re just regular people.” Then we talked about all that was going on in our world, the bad and the good.