“The Dinner Guests”

meat

by Andy Rausch

It was just after two in the morning when the idea first came to Troy. To his knowledge, he had never had a craving for something he’d never actually tasted before, but now he did. He was curled up on the leather sectional inahling plumes of smoke through his bong—the fancy red one he’d gotten on Spring Break that one year, when he had hooked up with that Puerto Rican girl who liked it in the ass—and watching Plan 9 from Outer Space. This is when the craving struck. “What would human flesh taste like?” Maybe it was the weed, maybe it was just the relaxed state of mind he was in, but the thought didn’t seem the least bit gross to him.

He wondered if human flesh would taste salty. He figured it probably would, basing this on his once or twice licking his own arm as a dumbass kid. He remembered that tasting salty.

Troy supposed these thoughts were coming to him as a result of a recent conversation he’d had with his best friend Chunk. In that discussion, Chunk had talked about all the different kinds of meat that tasted like chicken; frog legs, snake, alligator, bear. “They all taste like chicken.” To this Troy had asked, “Then why not just eat chicken?” Chunk didn’t have a good response for this, but Troy supposed it was the thrill of eating something exotic.

Well, he thought, human flesh was pretty fucking exotic. Almost no one ate that—at least not in Tulsa where Troy lived. And if they did consume human flesh, no one was really going around bragging about it. After all, no one would understand such a thing, and on top of that, he was pretty sure it was illegal.

So yeah, he thought, what would human flesh taste like? Would it be salty? How would one go about eating it? Would you slice it thinly and eat it on Ritz crackers with little quarters of pepperjack cheese? Or would you put it on Wonder Bread and make a grilled flesh-and-cheese sandwich? All of this begged the question of what condiments might taste best with flesh. He didn’t know exactly why, but Troy had a suspicion that deli mustard might be the way to go.

But what if you put strands of human flesh in the trusty old Foreman Grill? That could be good, especially if you seasoned it right. Maybe a little bit of seasoning salt, a few drops of Louisiana hot sauce…

Troy licked his lips, finding he had a real desire for human flesh. It occurred to him that this was strange—not because he would be eating a person, but because he generally didn’t like to try new foods. But flesh sounded really good to him.

Troy got up and grabbed his socks. Formerly white, they had turned pink when he’d thrown them in the wash with a red towel. He held the socks up to his nose and sniffed them to make sure they weren’t too odorous to wear. After all, he’d been wearing them for a few days now. He figured he could get another day or so out of them, so he pulled them on his feet. He then put on his raggedy old sneakers.

It was time to go hunting so he could satisfy this crazy craving. When he stepped outside his front door, he was surprised to discover that it was still warm at this ungodly hour. Then he realized he hadn’t left his house at all the previous day. Instead he had passed the time playing video games, watching TV, and smoking pot. Well, there were worse ways to spend a day, he thought.

So where would he find a person he could eat at this time of night? And if he did find someone, he then had to get them back to his house, so he couldn’t really venture too far. He walked a few blocks in the darkness, but encountered no one. Finally he opted to just return home. He was really in the mood to eat someone, but this was turning into a big pain in the ass. It was just too much effort. He would have to wait until the following day to capture someone and drag them home. It was at this moment that he wondered how Jeffrey Dahmer had managed this. Hmmm, he thought. He would have to do a Google search and see what he could find out.

When he got home, he found Chunk inside the house, eating the last of his Chocolate Brownie Fudge ice cream with a plastic fork and sitting there watching Plan 9.

“Dammit, Chunk,” he said. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Chunk looked at him dully. “I’m eating ice cream.” He thought for a moment and then added, “It’s pretty good, too.”

Annoyed, Troy said, “I know it’s good. I’m the one who bought it.”

Chunk nodded. “So what’s going on?”

Troy looked at him. “It annoys me when you just come into my house without knocking.”

“How do you know I didn’t knock?” asked Chunk. “Maybe I did. You weren’t here.”

Fucking Chunk. He was right, but still… fucking Chunk.

Troy plunked himself down in the old Lazy Boy and stared blankly at the TV as a thought came to him—what if he just ate Chunk? That could work. Doing this would accomplish two things simultaneously; he wouldn’t have to put up with Chunk’s stupid shenanigans anymore, and he’d have a person he could eat right here in his living room, making the whole process a lot easier. It seemed like a pretty logical solution.

But the question was, did he really want to eat Chunk? Chunk didn’t bathe properly. Troy wasn’t sure he would taste all that good. But hell, he thought, animals don’t bathe either and we still eat them. Maybe Chunk would taste okay once he washed the meat under the faucet. And if the meat was gamey, he could just smother it in steak sauce and the problem would be solved.

And it would really cut down on the cost of groceries. Troy didn’t eat much—mostly microwaveable burritos and PB&Js, but even that cost money. Troy could now see no real reason why he shouldn’t kill Chunk and eat him as leftovers for the next week or so. Sure Chunk was a big dude, but Troy had a deep freeze where he could store the meat. Right now it was filled with old, long-forgotten packages of meat he’d been given years before, which was now covered with a thick layer of ice. But that stuff could be disposed of easily enough.

So now came the million dollar question: how would he do it? He didn’t like the word “murder,” so he preferred to think of it as “taking care of” Chunk. But how should he go about it? Troy had never killed a person before, so this was a foreign concept to him. He’d never intentionally killed an animal before. One time he accidentally ran over someone’s labrador, but that had been a mistake and he’d felt like shit. There was no malice there.

Malice, he thought. Was there malice in his wanting to murder Chunk? He turned this over in his mind for a moment and then decided there was not. After all, it wasn’t like he hated the guy or something—he just wanted to eat him. Who could fault a guy for that?

But he needed to figure out a way to do it without making a big mess. And then a method came to him.

He stood up, causing Chunk to look at him.

“Chunk, could you do me a favor and come with me to the kitchen for a moment?”

Chunk didn’t hesitate. “Sure thing, boss.”

Troy made his way through the dirty-clothes-strewn living room and into the kitchen, switching on the light when he got there. Chunk followed closely behind.

“What do you need me to do?” asked Chunk, trying his best to be helpful.

Troy motioned towards the sink. “I need you to put your head down over the sink.” Most people, having any sort of intelligence whatsoever, would ask why Troy needed them to do this at three in the morning. But not Chunk. He just did as he’d been instructed, never once stopping to consider the reasoning behind the request.

“Now what?” asked Chunk, his head leaned down over the sink.

Troy was rifling through the drawers beside the sink, looking for his ball peen hammer. Coming across a steel meat hammer, he considered using it. But no, he wanted the ball peen hammer. That really would be best. So he continued looking.

“What you lookin’ for?”

“I’m trying to find my hammer,” said Troy, still searching.

“What kind of hammer?”

“The ball peen hammer.”

“Oh,” said Chunk dully. He thought for a moment and said, “Hammer time,” laughing at his own joke.

“Yes,” Troy said non-commitally. When he came to the third drawer, he finally located the hammer. “Aha!” he said, pulling it out.

Chunk was grinning like an idiot, still feeling pleased about the unfunny joke he’d made. “What now?”

Troy turned to face him, the hammer down at his side. “Hammer time,” he said. He then mustered up all the strength he had and brought the hammer swooping up and then down towards Chunk’s rotund head. When the hammer struck the skull, it made a sickening thunk sound. Chunk immediately stood upright and started thrashing around.

Shit. The strike had failed to kill Chunk, now flailing around with his hand on his head, blood seeping and spraying out everywhere. Troy raised the hammer back behind him and brought it swooping down hard onto Chunk’s head a second time, accidentally striking Chunk’s fingers. Chunk staggered back, really wailing now.

Dammit, Troy thought. He hadn’t anticipated any of this. The fucker wouldn’t die. But then Chunk always had been a pain in the ass.

Troy pulled the hammer back a third time and brought it down hard against Chunk’s bloody, battered head. Again there was that grotesque thunk sound, and Chunk staggered back against the counter, blood going everywhere.

Now he had him. Chunk wasn’t dead yet, but he was no longer here with him. He was conscious, but not by much, and he clearly had no idea where he was or what was happening. Troy struck him in the head a fourth time, finally bringing the big bastard down to the tile floor.

Troy looked at all the blood covering the walls, the sink, the counter, the floor, and the hammer. Fucking Chunk, he thought. He’d made a much bigger mess than he’d expected. “You’d better taste good,” he muttered angrily.

Troy felt overwhelmed, unsure where to begin. What should he do first? Cut up Chunk’s body and relocate it to the deep freeze or begin cleaning the kitchen? He stood there for a minute considering his options. Then, finally, he dragged Chunk’s heavy ass through the house, leaving a thick trail of blood on the green shag carpet, and into the bathroom. It took him a few minutes to do it, but finally Troy managed to get the corpse into the bathtub where he could cut it up later.

He went back to the kitchen. He got out the limited amount of cleaning supplies he owned and squatted down to the floor, wiping up Chunk’s blood as best he could. He’d never really been very good at this kind of thing, but he kept at it for a good long time until he was finally convinced that the kitchen could get no cleaner.

Exhausted, he went to the fridge and took out a cold bottle of beer. He twisted it open and downed the thing in three long swigs. Damn, he thought. Killing someone really takes the energy right out of you. He went to the utility room and rummaged through the overhead cabinets until he located the old handsaw. He wasn’t really sure why he had a handsaw in the first place, but he’d seen it up there a time or two, pretty sure it was something the house’s former residents had left behind. Who knows? Maybe they had used it for the same purpose.

Troy walked back through the living room, following the trail of blood on the carpet, and went to the bathroom.

Several days had passed by before Chunk’s brother, Rich, came by to visit. Hearing the knock on the front door, Troy left the frying pan where he had strips of Chunk’s flesh frying. He answered the door and found Rich standing there, smoking a cigarette. He said, “Come on in.” Rich flipped his cigarette off the porch and followed him inside.

“Have a seat,” Troy offered, motioning towards the sectional. “You can watch Wheel of Fortune here for a minute while I finish up supper. I don’t want it to burn.”

Rich nodded. “Sure thing.”

Making his way back to the kitchen, Troy turned and asked, “Have you eaten yet? I could make you some, no problem.”

Rich smiled. “I haven’t eaten, but don’t worry about me. I don’t wanna invite myself to dinner.”

“No, you wouldn’t be. I’m asking—would you like me to fix you a plate?”

“Since you put it that way, sure,” said Rich, turning back towards Wheel of Fortune. “What are you making anyway? It smells good.”

“Venison. It’ll be ready in about five minutes.”

Troy returned to the kitchen, happy to find that Chunk hadn’t burned up yet. He pulled some more of the meat out of the fridge and replaced it in the frying pan. He then proceeded to prepare sandwiches with Chunk meat, spicy barbecue sauce, and sliced cheese.

A few minutes passed and finally Troy was finished. He placed sandwiches for each of them on separate paper plates, garnishing them with potato chips. He carried the plates out into the living room, where Rich was attentively watching Wheel of Fortune.

Rich looked up as Troy handed him the plate. “Dinner is served, my good man.”

Rich smiled gratefully. “I just came by to see how you were doing with it all. With, you know… Chunk’s disappearance.”

Troy nodded, putting on a good show. “I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “It’s been really difficult.”

“I can imagine. You and Chunk have been best friends for a long time.”

“Twenty years if you can believe that.”

“I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually,” Rich said, taking a bite of his sandwich. He chewed for a moment before saying, “This is really good. What kind of barbecue sauce is this?”

“Store brand. I don’t get too fancy.”

Rich stopped eating for a minute and piled some of the potato chips onto his sandwich. He then went back to eating the thing. He looked up, talking through a mouthful of food and said, “I’m sure Chunk’ll turn up. I’m sure he’s still around here somewhere.”

 Troy grinned. “He’s probably even closer than you would imagine.” Rich nodded in agreement and went about scarfing down his brother’s flesh.

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