Mystic Meat || Kathryn Fitzpatrick

On a Tuesday afternoon in April, the meat rises. Douglas Speck is getting a little freaky with Amy Jenkins up against the dumpster behind the high school cafeteria, and while he’s going in for the landing she whispers something like, show me your magic meat, and a pockmarked log of bologna rolls out from beneath the dumpster.

At first, this is a total vibe-kill, so Douglas jumps back and zips his cargo shorts and Amy slips on her hoodie and they scoot apart with their backs leaned against the dumpster and don’t look at each other.

Amy makes a look like, Can this be so?

Douglas says nothing but he knows the legend about the bologna as
well as she does and figures he could probably strike it rich if he exploits this situation correctly. en he could get with girls who are solid sevens or eights, and not the usual Amy Jenkins who wears scrunchies and is (maybe) a ve on a good day.

Everyone in the town knows the legend of the bologna. Once every nine years, the bologna rises up from the depths of hell and predicts the future for the community. ey bestow it with gifts: Miracle Whip and whole canned tomatoes, or Quiznos combo meals, and they ask it yes/no questions and it rolls slightly forward for yes, and slightly backward for no.

One time it appeared and local mother Lucy Tucker asked it, Will I be rich someday? It rolled forward and just about a year later she was contacted by a Nigerian prince for a business deal and word on the street was she must’ve gone o and wedded him and was probably living on a goat plantation drink- ing warm milk and honey because no one saw her after that and come to think of it, no one’s heard from her since.

Amy Jenkins is occupied picking the dirt from under her fingernail with her thumb, so Douglas sneaks the magic meat into his backpack and in- forms her that he must go home right away because the cats are sparring again and says that yes he will give her a call sometime even though he won’t.

When Douglas gets back to his stepmom’s condominium he sets up a little stand out by the storm drain and in block letters he writes MYSTICAL BOLONA READINGS 5 BUCKS, and he places the bologna in a clear plastic tub so that the juices aren’t wasted. In the past, people have been known to massage the meat liquids into their palms and run it over their thinning hair- lines, or lick their fingertips and convulse. Douglas is being economical in this business decision, and he rubs his hands together like a man on the Grilling Network who is cooking up some ribs.

Four minutes pass and the block is abuzz with Q-Tip heads and ladies with baseball caps and a man in a wife-beater who has one grease stain below

his left nipple. A few gray locals protest the business transaction Douglas has arranged, and state that the meat is a living, feeling thing meant to be shared with the community, and not cloistered away like a pig at the fair. ey tell Douglas he will regret this eventually but Douglas sort of just shrugs and makes a noise in his throat like, unuhyuh.

One girl hands Douglas five bucks and rubs some stone ground mustard on the bologna. She takes her time to pat the excess residue on her gums with her ring finger and asks the mystic meat if it thinks her boyfriend will ever propose to her, and it wiggles forward so she lets out a loud, powerful whoop and clutches her breasts and runs to her Camry to call her mom.

e next man in line asks if perhaps it would be a good idea to get the band back together so that the guys from his high school reunion will think he is cool and successful. When the meat rolls backwards he takes a Swiss Army knife from his pocket and presses it to the center of his hand and smears the blood on his chest. He swirls his wounded hand in the plastic tub and caresses his face, and a tie-dye vermilion pattern is transferred to his stubbly cheek.

The day goes on in much the same fashion, families come and go in minivans with their jaundice infants and problem teens, and they lay hands on the bologna to channel the demon spirit and bless their souls with powerful juju.

By suppertime everyone has heard of Douglas’s operation, and he is getting calls from the type of girls who live uptown in Rosewood Farms who have nice, supple thighs and at stomachs perfect for blowing raspberries and who receive SUV crossovers for Christmas. He picks one at random and closes shop for the night and after locking up the bologna in his room, he treats her to a nice dinner at Buffalo Wilson’s, where he uses a fake ID to buy her yellow drinks.

At the restaurant she talks too much and her voice is too shrill, and Douglas leans all the way back in the booth like he is being blown over by her debilitating convo, but she says she’ll go home with him, and they sneak up the stairs with their sweaty hands smashed together and they get to Douglas’s room and close the door and put a towel over the crack to keep the noise from escaping and she says something along the lines of, just so you know my dad is a stockbroker and I am a neglected daughter so I have to call you daddy during. Douglas is thinking of course, maybe he made a serious mistake with this one, but it is way too late at this point so he shrugs his shoulders and takes o his khakis. She goes, Are you going to be a good daddy? And neither one of them knows it but in the corner of the room the bologna is rolling back, back, back against the side of the plastic bin, and almost six weeks later Douglas is at the Wal-Mart buying Chee-Z-Puffs and grape juice and he gets a call from Amy Jenkins and she tells him she is pregnant.

This was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of The Helix.

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