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why nothing else matters: Poem by John Sweet
the pale grey light of forgotten afternoons: Poem by John Sweet
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How He Died: Poem by John Grey
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Scott MacLeod: The Offal Truth

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Art by John Sowder 2024

The Offal Truth

By Scott MacLeod

 

 

There was Tanner’s mom preparing to spoon up the runny tuna casserole into the chunky green plastic bowl. Her garish Avon slotted spoon with the faux quartz handle pierced the skin on the whitish surface which was bedecked with 4 frighteningly orange squares of American cheese arrayed like processed banners in a stiff breeze. Tanner jerked awake from this recurring nightmare.

“Never again,” he thought, rolling over to call to confirm tonight’s reservation at Anton’s.

That night, Tanner made a scene at Anton’s, as usual. Loudly oohing and aahing about the tripe. Braying over the sweetbreads. It was off-putting to the mostly expat diners and Parisian staff, especially the chef, Anton himself.

“Never again,” Anton thought.

After that night no matter how hard he tried, Tanner could find no open reservation at Anton’s. The restaurant eschewed Open Table or similar online services so could easily control the process through the house phone. Tanner faced cool denials of any plot against him when he inquired in person.

As Tanner grew more and more desperate for variety meats, he turned to his boyhood pal, Coolie.  Coolie was a knockaround guy, not a made man but adjacent. He could get a job done or find the people who could.

“I’m dying for some pluck, organ meat to you,” said Tanner. “I can’t eat like a plebian. I won’t. Anton seems to have banned me and looks like he has put out the word to his suppliers to keep me on the “pay me no mind” list as well. Passable liver I can find at my butcher, but I need you to use your dark arts to procure me some kidney.”

In this case Coolie farmed out the task to a trusted associate. The order percolated down the chain until finally Tanner was told to be home the following Tuesday and to expect a visitor regarding his special request.

When Tanner’s doorbell rang that Tuesday night, he flung open the apartment door excitedly, only to be roughly tossed to the floor by a hulking man. The brute held in one hand a long syringe and in the other a crumpled notecard that held only Tanner’s address and the notation “Kidney Delivery”.

Tanner awoke the next afternoon in a haze of agony. Most of the blood had been cleaned up admirably and things might have passed for normal if not for the blinding pain and the fresh foot long incision on his flank.

It appeared Tanner had been done in by another organ meat in short supply. Brains.

Clearly there had been some crossed wires on the assignment. Maybe the request had passed through too many hands and became subverted from gluttony to trafficking. Maybe one of the delegees thought “procure” meant sell, not buy. But Coolie was devastated, as a matter of personal heartache for his old friend even more than from tarnished professional pride.  He was as gutted figuratively as his buddy was literally. He was determined to make right this fiasco.

The following night, Tanner was resting after a long day at the hospital confirming his condition was survivable. In the ER he answered a bellyful of police questions, but he held his tongue. Around 10:00 Coolie announced himself at Tanner’s door. Down one kidney but still a mensch, Tanner invited his childhood amigo to let himself in with the key under the mat. Tanner expected another long and anguished apology. What he got instead was his second shock of the week when he registered that Coolie was accompanied by the same gorilla who stole his kidney, who again plunged in a huge hypodermic sending Tanner to la-la land.

When Tanner awoke, he looked up into blinding lights. He seemed to be in some kind of makeshift field hospital. He felt the familiar burn under his ribs and was flummoxed to find when he peeked under his gown a brand-new scar an inch away and parallel to the still fresh one from his attack.

“Mornin’ pardner,” said a groggy Coolie from the next bed. “Bro,” he continued, “when I saw what happened to you, on my watch, I had to make it right. The goons who hijacked you still had enough traces of your blood and tissue to test that I would be a compatible donor. We had to cut another hole in you to put mine in, sorry for that, but now I’ve got a scar to match. When they gave me the green light, I knew I had to do it. I still got one left, that’s plenty.”

“You knocked me out!” protested Tanner.

“I didn’t want to give you any chance to refuse.”

“So let me get this straight,” said Tanner, also still loopy from the procedure. “Because a job I gave you cost me a kidney, you had these butchers cut out one of your own and replace mine?”

“Affirmative,” said his pal. “Happy to do it. Just like the Bible says, ‘an eye for an eye’.”

“How can you afford this?” asked Tanner, still getting his bearings.  

“Not to worry. The guys who worked you over by mistake felt bad and agreed to pick up the tab. They provided their docs and facilities for free.”

“How can I ever thank you?” croaked Tanner, now sniffling.

“Not needed my blood brother, just trying to make us square and make you whole, so to speak. Just promise me one thing. From now on you stick to meatloaf.”

Scott MacLeod is a father of two who writes in Oviedo, Florida. His work has appeared in Gumshoe Review and Short-Story.Me. He can be found at http://www.facebook.com/scott.macleod.334.

From the hollows of Kentucky, John Sowder divides his spare time between creating art for Sugar Skull Press and working on various cryptid-themed projects.  He illustrated GEORGE THE HOLIDAY SPIDER by Rick Powell, which is due November of this year.  You can see more of his art at www.deviantart.com/latitudezero  

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024