Sample Chapter

Chapter 1

Just when I thought I could pull it off, I let out a double tequila burp. I can't stop tasting the shit. I 'm in the ultimate purgatory: that place simultaneously blending being hungover and being drunk. What seemed pretty manageable last night has a whole different view from this bus. Man, I just went out to meet Ray and Cindy for a few Margaritas at Rio Bravo and just like that, it's two in the morning and I'm doing shots of Wild Turkey in the Blarney Stone, arguing politics with some toothless 80-year-old guy.

The sun is coming up, and somewhere someone is thinking how beautiful this is and what a great day it's going to be. That's not me. The bus turns left onto Industrial Road and passes a huge cemetery that is jam-packed with acres and acres of tombstones all on top of each other. It's fuckin' packed tighter than the six-train. Some low budget tombstones are actually outside the metal fence. I guess they got a discount. A guy is walking his dog and the dog is taking a leak on one of the exterior tombstones. This gives me a degree of satisfaction, as someone is having a worse day than me.

When I graduate from State and get a real job, I'm buying a Maserati GranCabrio. That's what I tell my friend Cliff Tsan sometimes. He keeps me down to earth and tells me to start liking buses, because I'll never have any job but odd jobs, like the one I have now, carrying beef carcasses. "You know why they're called odd jobs?" he says.

"Because they're really strange?" I answer.

"No, asswipe," Cliff says solemnly. "Odd comes from an Old Norse word meaning the tip of a spear. Therefore, an odd job is a job that makes you feel like you're being stabbed with a spear." Cliff is an English major whose father is a famous novelist, so maybe he's right; then again, maybe he's just busting my balls.

The bus hits a pothole, and my neck goes right through my brain. That's what it feels like, anyway. I don't know why I go out drinking with my friends on a work night, but sometimes I do. Like last night. It's not like I can even afford it; I'm supposed to be saving money for school. But I don't want the guys to think I'm an asshole.

The bus hits a pothole, and my neck goes right through my brain. That's what it feels like, anyway. I don't know why I go out drinking with my friends on a work night, but sometimes I do. Like last night. It's not like I can even afford it; I'm supposed to be saving money for school. But I don't want the guys to think I'm an asshole.

Through a red haze of pain I see the dairy factory on the left, pink and gold in the light of the rising sun. I wish I had a job there. I could run the machine that separates the milk from the cream, or drive a tanker truck. Nice clean jobs. But no, the part of Maspeth, Queens, that I claim as my little piece of heaven is staring right at me. In front is a honkin' big sign in hemoglobin red and raw bone white reading Kosher World Meat Factory: The highest standards in this world and beyond.

I don't belong on this bus, and I don't belong at Kosher World. But I don't belong with the hard-drinking, money-hemorrhaging crowd either, like Cliff and his friends. So where do I belong? That is the million-dollar question, Regis. But first I've got to try to do something about my current situation.

My watch reads 6:15 a.m. as I enter the building and get struck in the face with the stench of blood, tripe and oozing intestines. Miraculously, my stomach stays where it's supposed to be. Better yet, I'm on time. It's June 23rd and I'm bundled in long underwear, flannels and a thick orange jumpsuit, the uniform of the serious meat handler. I'm sweating like a racehorse. Christ, this is so unnatural. But the money's good, real good. There's no one back at college making this kind of money, at least not legally. Cliff and Mike Katz have internships at a swanky law firm, but you can't eat prestige. I'm pulling down $18 an hour, plus time-and-a-half for each hour of overtime and double time for Saturday nights and holidays. I know if I bust my ass and stay focused this summer, I can cover a decent nut on my school expenses for a semester or so.

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