Lunch Meat

(1981)

 

A Story by Cindy Rosmus

 

Every day, we drank at lunch: me, fat Yesenia, and her skinny sister, Myra. Three wine spritzers each. At that sleazy bar and grill, right by work.

Emerald Isle, it was called, though most of the patrons were Puerto Rican. How lost we all were, that Tuesday in May, when that IRA guy Bobby Sands died. Out of respect, the bar closed for hours.

“Damn shame,” one guy said, as we wolfed down hot dogs from the wagon outside. Whether he meant the poor guy who died, or missing out on beers, I wasn’t sure.

Days, jovial Freddy bartended. “Hi, Chuleta!” he yelled to Yesenia. “Pork chops,” I think that meant.

“Your ass!” she yelled back, laughing. All the guys loved her.

Between shots of Felipe Segundo, Miguel cooked in front of us. The greasiest, cheapest, most delicious food around. Giant burgers and fries, for just two bucks. There was always a pernil, and a huge roast beef, so rare, it jiggled. Yesenia liked hers well-done, with lots of gravy.  

One day, she went behind the counter, and cooked it up, herself. “¿Qué pasa?” Miguel demanded, as the hot beef sizzled.

She didn’t answer. I sensed tension, thick as the grease.

They did it, I realized. I was kind of slow, and still a virgin, but I could smell bad blood.

Wow, I thought. Yesenia and Miguel, the cook.

We weren’t that close, so I couldn’t ask her. At lunch, we drank and played Pac Man, but never talked about real shit. We worked in different departments. Myra was always up her ass, whispering in Spanish. I thought they both had husbands, or kids. At least kids.

Yesenia was gorgeous, big all over, and wore super-tight jeans, and flowy blouses. My first day on the job, she’d took me under her wing. We were union, and she was the shop steward. She was tough, and lots of fun, but I sensed she had big secrets.

I looked over at Miguel. Dark, and chunky, but sexy, even in that grease-spattered tee. He glanced at Yesenia, then back down at the fried onions he was slathering on a burger. Then back at her, again.

“Be careful,” Freddy said, in a low voice. “Su . . . mujer . . . vendrá hoy.”

“Fuck her,” Yesenia said. Myra just shook her head.

“Mujer . . .” I thought. Didn’t that mean “wife”?

“Wanna play pinball?” Yesenia asked me.

We’d be late going back to work. And had already drunk the max.  But I felt this . . . urgency . . . to stick around.

Plus, I thought, if we got yelled at, she was the shop steward.

I sucked at pinball. Nobody else was playing Pac Man, so why pinball?

Once we got started, I knew. Like a stripper, she gyrated, rolled her hips. Slammed herself against the machine, like she was having sex with it! Without looking around, I sensed every guy in the place eyeing her, hungrily.

Then . . . “You gonna break the machine.”

Miguel. From right behind us. Mashing chopped meat into a burger, as he watched her every move.

She didn’t answer, but fought back a smile.

Game after game, we played. Our fourth drink became our fifth. At one point, customers were frying their own burgers behind the grill. ‘Cos guess who was making out, right there?

“You crazy?” For once, Freddy wasn’t smiling.

Guys cheered, as Miguel and Yesenia went at it, heavy-duty. They rubbed  against each other. He squeezed her jeans-cheek, and she pulled his hair. I wondered if it smelled like grease.

“Yesi!” Myra said. “We gotta get back to work.”

Big trouble, we’d be in. And our shop steward, the ringleader. My heart was racing, big-time.

I’d forgotten all about Freddy’s “mujer” warning. Obviously, the lovers did, too.

So when the door opened, and the lady walked in, people just glanced at her, then back at the slobbering couple.

As she came over, I saw she was tall, red-headed, in a pale green suit. Like some business executive. Not many came in Emerald Isle. She looked as out-of-place as the Hope Diamond on a toilet seat.

Till she reached them, they missed what was happening. Horrified, Miguel tried pulling away, but Yesenia held on. “Maureen,” he said, like he could explain this away. “Maureen . . .”

Yesenia was smiling. She just didn’t get it.

Not till the redhead grabbed the sharpest object there was—the big knife Miguel sliced our roast beef with—and turned back around . . .

And made most of us lose our lunch.


 

THE END

 


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out a lot, so needs no excuse to do whatever she wants. She hates shopping and shoes, chick lit and chick flicks. She’s been published in the usual places, such as Hardboiled; Shotgun Honey, Twisted Sister, A Twist of Noir; Beat to a Pulp; Pulp Metal; Thrillers, Killers, n’ Chillers; Mysterical-E; and Powder Burn Flash. She is the editor of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s also a Gemini, an animal rights activist, and a Christian.