I don’t have a whole lot to say about my work for today. I got another thousand words on my story, which is okay. I realize it’s not exactly a blistering pace I’m setting for myself, but it is constant, which is good for me. I’ll try to pick up the pace and finish the story in the next day or two, that way we can get started on a second before the month is over. I’ll probably extend the challenge past the month just to get two stories done.
Anyway, here’s the next chunk of my story. Please let me know what you think.
Knackered: Day 3
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 1004
The kitchen was near the front of the yard. As Gavin drew near he saw the yard’s oxen drive in ahead of a wagon that was loaded with four or five animal carcasses. Most were horse, animals too withered and weak to survive the winter, but at the bottom of the heap was a diseased looking ox, which was probably why the yard had sent their own out to gather the haul, and it was always possible that one or more smaller animals had been stuffed in along the way, parasites and all. As Gavin watched, a team of men dangling with chains approached the wagon. They reached in, metal in their hands, and skewered the top carcass with half a dozen meat hooks. They heaved on the chains and the withered body hit the packed soil of the yard with a wet crunch. One of the butchers gestured with a cleaver and the men began dragging the body towards the nearest butcher’s shed.
The kitchen itself was one of the smaller shacks on the yard. It was a cramped room with tin walls and a sloping roof. On one side was a small wooden table and a few stools. The rest of the room was dominated by a small iron stove, a barrel of grimy water the men used as a sink, and a hodgepodge of shelves and cupboards riveted to the walls. On the stove was a blackened pot. Gavin looked inside. The stew was cold and lumpy and not really stew at all. It was essentially hunks of meat in gravy, but at least someone had added a bit of onion and a few carrots. Gavin threw a few bits of wood and a lit match into the stove and got it going again, then lumped a bit of stew into a bowl and sat on one of the stools to eat. The stew was salty, the meat greasy, but it stuck to the ribs and Gavin was full before the bowl was done.
He’d almost finished when the door opened and a pair of men walked in. One was Mr. Smythe, the day foreman, and the other was Elbar Gush. Elbar was a large man. His bald head brushed against the ceiling starting around mid slant, and the swell of his belly bumped into cupboards whenever he turned in the crowded room. He was also technically Gavin’s father, adoptive, but Gavin thought of him only as a boss. Elbar Gush owned the knacker yard outright, and, in a way, had owned Gavin as well, ever since the day he’d purchased him from the orphanage. The men were discussing the newest load of animal flesh as they entered.
“You there,” Elbar said to Gavin as he pulled a tea kettle from one of the shelves and filled it with dishwater from the barrel. “You see to the vats before you come in here and eat my food?” Elbar rarely used Gavin’s name, and sometimes Gavin wondered if he’d forgotten it years ago.
“Yeah,” Gavin said through a mouthful of stew. Elbar casually reached over and cuffed him on the back of the head, causing stew dribble out his mouth and plop onto the table. “Yes sir,” Gavin corrected himself. “Number three is clear. Should be up to heat by the time the bodies are ready.”
“Better be,” Elbar grumbled. “They’re a pretty sorry lot. Most of ’em have been dead at least a week, which means we ain’t got to bother bleeding ’em first. Straight from the butchers to the vats, you hear?”
“Yes sir,” Gavin said. He’d expected as much. The yard rarely ever got corpses fresh enough to render certain byproducts from. Occasionally they’d get a fresh but otherwise damaged or diseased carcass and they could string it up, bleed it dry, and then dehydrate a batch of blood meal, but mostly they just got carved up and then thrown in the vats to separate, and so Gavin never planned on having the extra time to spare. “I’ll just go make sure it’s coming along then.” He squeezed around the folds of his adoptive father’s fat and stumbled out into the yard.
Gavin was alone in the vat shed for another hour before the carcasses arrived. Alone except for the strange sobbing that drifted up on bubbles of rot gas. He tried to ignore it as he went about his duties.
The door to the shed slid open and a team of men pushing wheel barrels of animal parts walked in. The sky outside was the dark gray of an overcast sunset. Gavin, who’d been down in the pit checking the coal fires, scrambled up the ladder and over to vat three. Once there he unhooked a length of chain from between two iron railing posts and stood back. The men, sleeves stained brown with old blood, grunted and began dumping their loads in the water below. The flesh had been shaved and butchered, all the organs had been remove, and everything else had been sent to the vats. Bloody forelegs, sticky rib cages, bits of spinal columns several vertebrae long, all tumbled into the copper tub. A few went wide and bounced into the spaces between the gaps. The men turned and gave Gavin a look. He nodded, but waited until they were done. Then he put the chain back and made his way back to the ladder to retrieve the excess bits.
Hours of relative silence passed, with nothing but the sobbing and his own labored breathing filling the shed as the light outside faded to full black. It was starting to worry him. The sheds was always a little strange. Odd noises were normal, only odd because of their diversity. But for one sound to persist like this, it was almost unheard of. And then there was the quality of the sound. It was low and distorted, twisted even, and Gavin could swear that it belonged to a woman. A young woman, perhaps even a girl.