continued from Part I
and Part II

As mom ordered stew meat, I held onto her coat. It’s not just that the big knives scare me, as Ken would tell you, but also because the door lets in the winter every time it jingles open. When that happens it reminds me that the whole world doesn’t smell smoky like meat and oily like wooden floors. I shuffle-scramble my shoes as I stood, the floor sanding my soles of my feet. I like the feel of it. And it sounds nice.

Mom took the brown bag full of our suppers from Ken and he gave me one last wink. “Let me give you something in return for scouring our floors, Suds.” Even though I’m really not afraid of Ken, I stay gripping mom’s coat as he hands me a square of cheese on a little toothpick. Every week he gives me a different cheese, each as old as grandparents and smelling like shoes. I always act like I don’t want it at first. But I then take it and thank Ken as we leave the place where salt and smoke hang in the air and a plastic swordfish hangs on the wall.