Bill took up the thin boning knife and the sharpening steel, and facing the short loins, he straightened the blade. Having sat out so long, the meat had sweated and a thin coat of slime covered its outsides. Starting in on the first loin, the knife slipped several times, even crashing once against the stainless steel counter on which his cutting board sat. He honed the blade straight again, honed it often now because a sharp blade was essential. Too slow, he was thinking, and he tried working faster but the slick meat was slippery and the knife’s path unsteady.
He never felt the knife slice his leg and because of the meat blood on him he didn’t notice his own fluid escaping till it had spilled over his shoe. “Damn,” he said, shock-sober. Dripping blood the whole way, his foot squishing in his shoe, he ran for the bathroom.
“What the hell,” Henry Lee said seeing him burst in. Bill stopped cold, blood flowing out his pant leg onto the floor. Henry Lee’s stump stared at him, and the wood leg, the foot part covered by his sock and shoe, angled against the wall nearby. Bill stared from stump to limb and back again. He was frozen, blood puddling around his foot, the puddle spreading and deepening. Henry Lee was frozen too, torn between helping Bill and hiding the stump. “Lordy, Lordy,” he finally said, “you keep admiring me, you gonna bleed to death,” and trying to keep calm, he reached for his leg. “Better take down your pants and let’s see what you done.” He flashed a smile that quickly turned to a grin. “Nice to make your acquaintance,” he said, then, “Mary,” he shouted, “Mary get down here quick.”
Mary took the stairs two at a time and rounded the corner on a run. The bathroom door was open. She found Bill standing in his dripping blood, Henry Lee sitting on the commode strapping his leg. He was muttering to himself how he couldn’t even take a crap in peace.
“Goddamn,” she said. “What you do, boy?”
“Guess I cut my leg,” Bill said.
“You guess,” Mary said. “Shit. Sit down.”
They both heard the toilet flush and Henry Lee came out of the stall as Mary was helping Bill take down his pants. The gash ran over the front of his thigh, a solid, deep cut about two inches long.
“Nice job,” Mary said.
“Can’t leave the boy for a second,” Henry Lee said.
“Get me a clean towel,” Mary said.
Henry Lee went for the towel, and Mary, on her knees before Bill, looked up at him. “Keep drinking,” she said. But her scowl turned soft and she smiled. “Leastwise you did a good job on yourself. That’ll need some stitches.”
“Give me a kiss,” Bill said. He reached down and kissed her square on the lips, catching her by surprise as his hands reached to her breasts. She might have slapped his hands away, but she focused on the immediate task, applying pressure to the cut to stop his bleeding. Despite her sensibility, she kissed him back, letting her tongue find his. She felt her nipples stiffen inside her bra as creaminess stirred between her legs.
“Be still boy,” she finally said. Her hands were quickly coated with his blood, part of it already drying on her dark skin. She waited impatiently for the towel, helped Bill sit himself down on the floor.
“Tommy on his way down,” Henry Lee said, returning.
“He gonna have to go to the hospital,” Mary said. “Guess I’ll take him ‘fore he bleeds to death.”
Mary wrapped the towel tightly around his leg and elevated the leg so it was higher than his heart. She helped him hold still, the leg propped up, and kept pressure on the cut over the towel. Tommy came in in his usual slow, shuffling way.
“It’s pretty bad,” Mary said. “He gonna need stitches.”
“Okay,” Tommy said, scratching his bald head. He looked at Bill’s leg, but with the towel over it there was nothing to see. “I’ll drive. You can sit in the back with him and keep pressure on it.”
“Pick your pants up, boy,” Henry Lee chided. “Don’t want anyone seeing that little white thing you got.”
Bill laughed. “It’s as good as any, better than most.” Bill smirked.
“Shut up, fool,” Mary said. “ Pick up your pants, and let’s go ‘cause I got a life and being with you in the hospital ain’t it.”
“You know you crazy about me,” Bill said quickly picking up his blood-soaked pants. Mary gave him another towel to press on the cut as he walked. Henry Lee knew he would have to stay and work with Robert until Bill came back. He still hoped Bill would be able to do his night shift.