The Freshest Cut Deli [Unfinished Draft of Short Story]

**Don’t think I’ll ever be back in a zone to finish this, wrote it about a year ago, so here it is unfinished in case you have any use for it…

Chad was beginning to regret his decision not to take a few swigs of the vodka before ridding himself of it. He had passed on the so called liquid courage—a term that aggravated him—because he knew he would come to regret the decision if it caused him to slip up. The alcohol was now to be permanently entombed in a throw-away water bottle, unless some thirsty dumpster diver at the train station had a go at it. “Besides”, he’d tell himself on this and similar occasions, “after you take a few shots it’s not really you then who earns their admiration, and in the end that will tear you up.”
He loved and hated his sense of justice. It was very chivalric, and it was very him—something he needed especially in this city where people were throwing you under the bus just as you would realize they had saved you from the last one; very emotionally destabilizing to an empath like him. Right now, however, he particularly hated his sense of justice. His justice left him all alone, standing in a windowless hallway, with a single chair that he wasn’t sure whether or not he should sit in. He remained standing. He yearned to be outside, with the late spring air a thing not to be missed. As the moments passed by, he could quantitatively feel the nervousness gaining momentum. It was swimming in his veins, reversing the current, feeding too much blood to the wrong areas and neglecting the ones that truly needed it. The anxiety had already stole his tongue, as evidenced by his sloppy response to the unexpected phone call on his way to the studio. “Why couldn’t they just hear how inept I was and have canceled the interview?” he asked himself.
The paralysis was now creeping into his heart—he just wanted to run away, back to his small town where he felt like a hero, where his courage was grounded and nurtured. Here in the center of a metropolis he had so much doubt—he tried to reassure himself it was just the lifeless architecture that made him feel that way, that it was the people who embraced this place that were in the wrong. When he accepted the interview he knew he had a unique opportunity to share his societal views with an audience he could not otherwise ever tap into. He opened the door from where had entered to peak outside. It was getting darker; the sun was now probably set behind the horizon and not just the adjacent skyscraper. He pulled his phone from his pocket and tapped “Jen”. She picked up almost immediately.
“Hey sorry”, she said, “I was actually texting and hit accept without meaning too. I was gonna pick up anyways, ha, obviously, but… I’m being silly! How are you? Are you almost on, is everything okay?”
“Hey, yea, I’m okay,” Chad replied.
“You’re not okay, I can tell… did they cancel? I’m so sorry if they did. You know what I’m gonna shut up and stop guessing!” She had a lot riding on the interview too. It was her business, too, after all. But she was really happy with Chad taking things to the next step and wanted to be that ideal girlfriend without letting her business partner side rival that. She had consciously decided earlier that today she was giving him everything he needed so he could be in the best place for the evening trip into the city, and she didn’t want to ruin that now when it might matter the most.
“Kirklef’s not hosting the show tonight,” he said. She was silent, perhaps stunned, he didn’t know, but it wasn’t reassuring. He thought she might have a reasonable response, but she was probably just as taken aback as he was. He continued: “Some other guy, I don’t even remember the name, is going to take over for the night… so it’s like all my practicing and listening to previous shows is probably worthless. What a fucking douchey curveball.”
“Why did Kirklef not come in? Has he ever not hosted his own show before?” she asked.
“I don’t know, and that’s not the point,” Chad said angrily. “Maybe it’s his night to beat his girlfriend.” He made a face of turmoil, and quickly inserted an apology: “Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry.” There was an awkward pause, Chad battling with himself to unload his anger without sacrificing his girlfriend and business partner. “If I Kirklef on the street before I leave this stinking pile of shit of a city, I’ll be sure to kick him in the throat.”
“Calm down, honey,” Jen scolded him. “Did you get to their studio yet?”
“Yea, I’m in some hallway with my head poked out the door…” he began.
“You should make sure no one can hear you then before you get all angry like that!” she scolded him.
Chad closed the door and sat down in the lone chair provided. At length he replied, “this hallway provokes disturbed thoughts… it’s not comforting at all, I wonder if that’s intentional to give Kirklef the upper hand. He doesn’t seem…”
“Yea I was going to say, the one show I heard with you he didn’t sound like an asshole like Bill O’Reilly. Well, things…”
Chad suddenly had renewed vigor. A new thought had occurred to him that he wanted to share. “Maybe Kirklef stayed home because I am the most controversial and daunting guest ever and he didn’t feel like he was up to it?”
“Maybe that’s it, Jesus,” she quipped sarcastically. She softened her tone. “Listen honey, you are great, and I am glad that I am with you and you are with me, and that we do something with our lives that is more meaningful than the stupid jobs most people value in that city. You are there to explain what we do and why we think it’s important, and let’s stop worrying about the decisions of all these people and what their thoughts are about trying to maybe derail us or something… hopefully they get our message, but if not it’s no harm done, we tried, and we can get back to what we know and do. And I’m sure there’ll be lessons to learn, either way.”
“You’re right,” Chad replied. “I wish I could just feel better in this moment. I mean you helped but I still just feel that underlying awfulness that I think will make me out of sync with whoever-the-hell is running the radio show tonight.
Jen was silent. “Hey I think you will be on soon,” she said, “the other show just ended and now there are commercials. Of course they said that the Kirklef Introspection will be coming up next… they’ve really got to update that,” she laughed. “It’s this overly quaint old time radio broadcasting style.”
A door down the hallway, opposite the end of the hallway where Chad had entered half an hour before, was pushed open and a man with a clipboard appeared. “Hey, are you Chad?” the man asked.
Chad nodded and spoke in to his phone: “Alright honey I think you’re right I’ll be on soon, so bye for now,” Chad hung up with Jen. “Yeah,” he replied to the man.
“Okay, your wife’s right, you’ll be on soon,” he said as Chad approached him. Chad gave the guy a look and decided not to correct him that it wasn’t his wife, yet. “You can come in here until we give you a cue. Anthony will wave you around to your mic. The glass door has to remain closed until you get in there so there won’t be interference, and since its locked from the inside and you will be the only one in with that mic you will have to do that.”
“Oh-kay,” Chad said in a not entirely polite tone, something rare for him when talking to new acquaintances. He was wondering why things seemed unnecessarily complicated and distracting, all while taking in the new sights of the series of small connected rooms. The glass cubicle separations did not seem that out of place, and fit in well enough with Chad’s preconceptions, but the arcane equipment and vinyl record stacks all seemed antiquated in this digital age and made him smile to himself. The microphone was especially vintage looking—it was the type with a large black bulbous head that reminded him of when his uncle would watch Howard Stern at odd hours. Then he thought of how every little sniffle or “um” he uttered would be captured and amplified for the masses to hear and remember, and remind him of for the rest of his life.
A man was now standing up on the other side of the glass window hurriedly waving Chad into an adjacent booth. It was presumably the new host—he had headphones on and looked the type—and he had a look that didn’t entirely sit well with Chad. Not sure how any of this would turn out, Chad nodded and walked towards the glass door. He opened it and stepped through, walking towards the chair set against a table that had a microphone and headphones laying on it. Chad began to sit but the host, now in front of him, was pointing behind him towards the door he entered. He remembered now that he needed to lock the door from the inside, so he got up quickly to do that. The door had an extra latch that fortunately Chad had experience with in the past, though he noted how odd it was to him to be in a place like this. Now going back to sit down and get situated, Chad was aware of how loud the silence was. The unnatural sonic environment, where no sound was allowed to freely exist without being policed, was heavy in the atmosphere. Chad had a new appreciation—or disdain—for the idea of having a room hermetically sealed.
There was no sound coming out of the headphones, and Chad was almost going to signal to someone that there was a problem in the connectivity when suddenly the voice of the host came on, with Kirklef’s corny intro-theme music playing in the background.
“Welcome to the Kirklef Show; I’m Jordan Keys filling in for Dan Kirklef tonight”, said the voice. Chad looked up and could see the moving lips of the man on the opposite side of the glass, and he could hear his voice through the headphones, so his brain after a slow start and a bit of struggle, was able to calibrate that this was the man talking right now. His voice timbre and speed of word output fit his looks, a bit higher pitched than average for a man, and his gelled black hair and clean shaven face made Chad think of one term: prick. Matching his hair was his unnecessary suit—they were only on radio after all—and this paired with his tone and demeanor made Chad feel like this guy had a law school background and a fairly narrow social horizon. Chad was very quick to judge, but he rarely needed to rescind his opinions.
“… which is why we are going to get right in to our first interview,” the voice continued. “We have with us tonight a mister Chad Wellington. A rather unremarkable name but what he is doing with his time is anything but unremarkable. Chad runs a butcher shop, but there’s a catch. He encourages his customers to do the slaughtering themselves. Yes, he runs a business that encourages people to get so intimate with their food that they take the lives of the animals they will later consume.”

***
[Fragments for the radio interview]

“What do you think of the assertion that your business is training…er… encouragement for people to take the next step and pursue murder?”

“Listen, I don’t know why you are so on attack mode, I mean maybe it’s because you are the first time hosting this show”

“I’ve hosted it before, but go on.”

“This is in the gray area of our laws of animal rights in terms of technical legality. But it’s much moreso in the red zone of our cultural norms and some might call it taboo.”

“Is there an age minimum?”

“Do you think that some college kids go there just to kill the animals and then throw them out”

“Is it out of cowardice to take the animal’s lives on your own that you encourage others to?

“so its not even really a deli then, is it? Does this relate to Halal?”

Somebody cut the power to the building and all of the sudden there was complete darkness. Chad could no longer see anything at all, and the sound proof room assured he couldn’t hear anything either.. Had he blacked out? Was he dead now? He couldn’t see the faint light of anyone’s cell phone—was this the end?

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