This story, if titled, would be titled “A Ballet of Chopped Meat.” That should be reason alone for its existence. 

He needed meat.

So he went to the butcher. It was loud. Twice he asked the butcher for a pound of this and a half-pound of that. The butcher smiled, went to the back, and then returned with pieces of four different animals.

With his cleaver he lopped off the bottom part of a leg. Then he got in rhythm, raising the cleaver, lowering it, raising, lowering, raising, lowering, raising, lowering. He and the cleaver were one. It was poetry.

It was a Ballet of Chopped Meat©, smooth, efficient.

The man watched, entranced. But suddenly a thought occurred to him. He said, “What’s the difference between a lamb and a sheep?”

The butcher did not hear the question. He only heard that words were said. Looking up, he said, “What?” the cleaver raised above his head.

“What’s the difference,” the man said, “between a lamb and a sheep?”

The butcher, still looking up, lowered the cleaver. He held his face in that strained grin that people make when trying to listen better. Then the grin faded, slowly. It fell away. A look of absolute bafflement took its place. He looked down, picked something up. Between the thumb and index finger of his right hand, he held a human thumb, which used to belong to him.

The man backed away from the counter. He left the butcher shop and took the train home, all the while thinking, I should’ve never started to tell that joke.

Written at 10:07 at night, in my office, in Agoura Hills CA, after watching Superbowl LI and deciding that all good sports are rigged. They must be. Why wouldn’t they be? If I owned a sports league, professional or not, it would be rigged and there would be no referees. Also, SEO guidelines say I should include these phrases, so I will: Flash fiction; short story; writing. 

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