You shouldn’t take candy from strangers, but sometimes it’s ok to take a piece of cheese. Like when Ken the butcher offers it to you. Today I picked ticket #38 from the red machine at the Meat Market, the one next to the sad dog coin-bank that collects change for starving children. If Ken calls your number and you’re not paying attention, you might get skipped. As I waited with my mom, I looked through the shelves of spices, spices that will make any meat taste like something else.

All the smocked men behind the counter are friendly. They call numbers, listen to orders, cut up ribs, smile at the women, and joke with the men. But Ken is the only one who talks to me with a big wink. Ken has a round face, red as the stains on his white apron, and he always says a fiery hello.

part II