Posted on: February 18, 2014
Courtney pulled up to Gil’s Glutton Shack thirty-five miles west of town. She had a shitty week, and the scenic drive down the highway was exactly what she needed to get her mind off of the rally tomorrow. Months of social media marketing, meetings with community leaders, and skipping savasana at the end of her yoga classes was wearing her thin. She felt like her brain was shaking inside her skull, a bumping from side to side like a claustrophobic version of Pong.
Her stomach was growling as she opened the iron gate before the door, set against a mural of a heifer divided up into delectable sections. It was dark inside and there was the faint smell of cigarette smoke, a scent that recalled the days before the ban. Red-and-white checked cloths covered the tables, topped off with those classic metal dispensers holding thin and useless napkins that always tore when you pulled them out. Red and yellow squirt bottles held ketchup and mustard right next to the salt and pepper shakers. You wouldn’t expect to get the best steak within a fifty mile radius here.
Courtney sat down at the table by the pinball machine as she reached for her iPhone in her jacket pocket, but stopped halfway and shook her head. She needed to unplug, ignore the impulse to retweet, and keep away from her inbox. Deep breath. No need to look at the menu or ask about the specials. Sandra, the owner’s wife, came up and smiled.
“Well, missy. It’s been quite some time since I saw you last. You look skinnier and that’s no compliment.”
Courtney lowered her eyes and nodded. “Yes, ma’am, but that’s why I’m here. Need to get back to my fighting weight.”
“Good,” Sandra said, emphasizing the double o’s and turning on her heel toward the kitchen.
Courtney’s mouth was watering just thinking about the beautiful t-bone making its way over to a two-level fire, the strip cooking above the flames as the tenderloin pulled in the residual heat. She heard Sandra yelling at her husband Leo to get off his ass and get to cooking before she came back with a lidless mason jar full of iced sweet tea and a lemon wedge.
“Forget Michelin stars and swanky high-rise restaurants,” Sandra said. “If you want a fine piece of meat, you gotta get out of the city toward places where people still make things with their hands, grow their own food, and raise their own livestock.”
Courtney smiled, daydreaming about starting over, about getting away from the corrupt non-profit sector as Sandra disappeared back into the kitchen. Every organization starts out with good intentions until the donations start pouring in. Courtney was so busy branding the activist non-profit that sometimes she completely forgot what they stood for in the first place. Being the marketing director also required her to portray a matching lifestyle, otherwise how could she live with herself? By running away once every so often to this meat-lover’s paradise and forgetting. Maybe she could cut ties, move to a small town, and do good work for the locals.
“Now, I already let the steak rest a minute so you can dig right in, but if you wait just a bit, it’ll be even better,” Sandra said as she sauntered over with a plate of crispy fried onion rings and red meat.
Courtney leaned back in her chair, resting her hands on her thighs and gazing at the char lines across the cooked flesh. The scent of fire and coal wafted up to her nostrils and she closed her eyes, pulling it into her lungs like the dankest bowl of her college career. Her palms started to sweat and she licked her lips in a moment of primal desire. It was like watching Anthony Bourdain moaning over a piece of pork like porn. Courtney opened her eyes and picked up her knife and fork. It would take her an hour and a half to eat it, but that’s how she liked it. Good and slow.
She cut a piece of the tenderloin first and placed it on her tongue, pulling it from the fork with her teeth before closing her mouth. The juice electrified her taste buds, and she rolled it over to the right. The more she chewed, the more of that salty, smoky liquid filled her mouth. Courtney passed the piece from left to right, tenderizing the meat further. When it became nothing more than a tasteless, flaccid morsel, she swallowed. Shut up, she thought. Just shut up.
It was dark outside when she got in the car, filled to the brim and riding on the waves before a food coma. She didn’t turn on the radio or roll down her windows. She drove in silence back to the city, thoughtless and free.
The next day, she stood behind the stage left curtain, biting on the corner of her iPhone as Katie Marsden, the CEO of Vegan City, took the lectern to an eruption of applause.
“Being vegan isn’t a dietary restriction; it’s a way of life. As vegans, we must stand together for the rights of animals everywhere!”
An intern nudged Courtney’s arm and whispered, “I think this is our best rally yet. Look how many people are out there! And all because of #lookatmeat. You’re a genius.”
The Twitter campaign challenged followers to take photos of animals who are slaughtered for food and tweet them with the hashtag. It was a viral success in less than 48 hours. The intern scurried away to answer a call before Courtney pulled up the photo of her beautiful porterhouse. She began to resent the meatless spread they would offer at the reception, the carrot sticks and soy-based veggie dip. She ran her tongue over her lips, remembering the fiber of each bite from the night before, then blacked out her phone as the CEO thanked her audience and walked away from the stage.
Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Chris Boyles
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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