New in 2021 – NewsFour New Fiction:‘For the price of a sausage…’

Brid Fitzpatrick

Early Morning and Mr. Thompson was busy as usual preparing for the day’s business in his butcher’s shop. Already the various meats were hung up behind him or displayed on the shelves before him. He was very proud of his skill as a butcher and matched his prices accordingly. His was a successful trade and he looked forward to the day he would put the legend – Thompson & Son over the shop. He drove a hard bargain with the local farmers and rarely did they outdo his negotiating skills, whether at the local fair or weekly mart there was always a deal to be had and a hand to be shook at the end of the day. He took great pride in his award-winning sausages – over several years they had been given first prize at the local agricultural show. Thrilled was an understatement to describe his emotion when he displayed the awards and bespoke sausages in full display at the front of the counter. He often steered his customers’ towards his leek and pepper sausages taking pride of place at the top of his counter with other recipes hanging loose further down; As temptingly as possible the meat was displayed. He demurred when the shoppers tried to inveigle the secret of his recipes.

The recipes were written down in a book by his great-grandfather many years ago and had passed down the generations to himself and hopefully to his son. The awards he won spoke of him as an artisan butcher and craftsman. He spoke to his assistant in glowing terms about what a privilege it was to learn the butchering trade in Thompson’s and the quality of products sold there. His emphasis was what an honour it was for the assistant to work there, learning the trade from bottom up and as a last riposte said that the assistant should be content with a basic rate of pay. However his assistant was a disgruntled assistant and would easily have accepted even a basic increase in wages as jobs were in short supply in the town and he had a girlfriend to entertain. He decided to go to a lawyer to see if there was any way he could get an increase in wages. It was time to pay a visit to a solicitor.

“You have a case” – was his advice and he told the assistant he would write a letter to Thompson. “That might do the trick – going to Court might be too complicated. A nudge might be all he needs to cough up.”

The assistant was willing to give it a try, but it was with trepidation that he awaited the letter and the reaction of his Boss. As a result he was on his best behaviour, whistling as he went about his work without complaining or face-making. He knew his ‘sizzlers’ from his steaks, his loin chops from his livers and could cook-up a repast with the best of them. He believed that the best way to his girlfriend’s heart was through her stomach. Napoleon would have been proud!

His girlfriend was the daughter of an eminent local, high maintenance and well looked after and educated by the nuns and used to a pampered lifestyle so any increase in wages would be a bonus for our said Butcher’s Assistant. However, time was eating away at his girlfriend’s patience and it was imperative that he get a wage increase. It was time to make a move. She wanted a week-end away in Dublin and ‘for things to move on a bit but not without an advance in his financial position so she and he could reveal their relationship.’

Then, at last, the Solicitor’s letter arrived at Thompson’s. Our Butcher’s Assistant had been keeping an eye out for the postman carrying the letter. When he saw the letter with the solicitor’s name on the envelope he whistled nervously. The waiting was over and the time for action had come. He worked busily with the sharp knives, cutting and carving the meat. Not too busily just in case Mr. Thompson got the wrong idea. But he had a sharp tongue and the assistant was half-tempted to use the knives just in case Thompson lashed out.

The butcher never said a word on opening the envelope. But the shop turned icy. Neither said a word. Silence ruled the day. Mr. Thompson busied himself with his prize- winning sausages. The apprentice busied himself with sharping his knives.

The sausages hung temptingly from the counter.

Then who should arrive in but the solicitor with his dog in tow. “I’ve come for a chat with your apprentice,” he said to the butcher. Mr. Thompson scolded and called the assistant from the backroom. The assistant signalled his solicitor to the backroom. When they conversed the butcher crept to the door to hear what was being said.

The dog was left sitting beside the counter. “I can resist anything but temptation” was said by a famous Irish writer and, if the dog could talk, he probably would have said the same thing. The sausages were irresistible. He licked his lips, gazed longingly at them and gave in. The butcher was oblivious to what was going on behind his back in the shop as he was trying hard to hear what was being said between his apprentice and the solicitor. Then he noticed – the dog was ravenously devouring the sausages hanging from the counter. His loud shouts as he weaved his knife at the hungry dog attracted the attention of the solicitor and his client the apprentice. “Out! Out! Out!”, cried the butcher as the dog dashed out the door.

As things calmed down, the still agitated butcher turned to the solicitor. “What do you think, as a solicitor, would be a fair payment for the loss of sausages to a dog?” “Well sir, my legal advice would be that it would be exactly the same amount as the cost of legal advice. No more no less, So we’re quits.”

The butcher was tempted to use the chopping knife that he was brandishing. But discretion, he decided, was the better part of valour especially if a solicitor was involved. “And sir, what is the situation regarding the ongoing legal situation vis-à-vis this young fellow here and a financial benefit relating to his wages?” “Cherchez la femme,” replied the solicitor. “Now if you will excuse me I have other clients to see.”

The butcher’s assistant very quickly got back to work but with the protection of a knife – just in case of a knife slipping by his boss in to his heart where his true love dwelt. He was caught between both men. How would the situation resolve itself?

The next day turned D-Day for everyone concerned. A letter arrived for the assistant. He was late for work and the butcher was curious regarding its contents. He didn’t recognise the handwriting and he thought it might be something legal. Eventually he succumbed and put on the kettle to steam the letter open. It worked. He quickly scanned the letter and saw that the assistant had a case. Then he replaced the letter in the envelope, sealed it again with glue and left it in the backroom.

A guilty looking assistant arrived from the backroom and slipped the letter into his pocket. He was an expletory employee for the rest of the day, butchering and cleaning and tidying up with zeal.

Mr. Thompson got him to stay in the back as he could make an appointment on the phone with his own solicitor. The solicitor told him he had no case. Then who should arrive but a young girl in her teens with a dog he recognized as belonging to the assistant’s solicitor. He was making some sausages. “Can I help you?” he asked carefully. She replied that she wanted to speak with his assistant. “Who shall I say is calling”? “Miss Fortune”, she replied. In an instant he realised he was talking to the solicitor’s daughter. “He might be still be in the backroom.” In she went. Thompson saw an opportunity that would perhaps save a solicitor’s fee. He got some sausages that he was making. Artfully he mixed in chopped chilli with the meat. Delighted with his idea he quickly placed them on the counter near to where the dog was standing. The dog could resist anything but temptation and wolfed down the sausages. Within seconds a howling dog ran round in circles and out the door. A distressed Miss Fortune and butcher’s assistant dashed out the door. Touché, said the butcher. He knew he’d never see the assistant again.