• Melina Meador

Carniceria

The meat store was in a strange, rather derelict building that Jay and Mike thought would do just fine for a produce stand (Jay's Farm Stand) and a butcher's counter (Michael's Meats).


It did.


At first people were taken a bit off guard because there had always been just Swanson Brothers Grocery, Thriftway, Safeway, and Top Foods which were all general grocery stores in large buildings.


Jay's and Mike's was in a small area and just had fruits and veg (left side - whatever Jay could bring in fresh from Yakima, Chelan, California) and meat to the right of the front door.


I started shopping there when it opened, or shortly after, because it reminded me of Europe. I was freshly back from a stint of living in Watford outside of London and I liked the similarities: less choices, nice displays but nothing fancy, and handwritten notices of price and variety.


Michael's Meats was very strong. It smelled of meat and men in white uniforms looked tough behind counters of red and pink flesh. I felt more ladylike just by walking inside.


Michael was usually behind the counter and while not cheerful - cheer was Jay's specialty - he was calm and rather severe. I liked gathering my produce at Jay's who didn't seem to mind if the total was under ten dollars, but I hesitated at Mike's since I was just shopping for me and counting my pennies.


I and a friend had moved out into the Roosevelt Apartments, no. 1C, and we appreciated that historically it was the former convent for Catholic nuns in the 1920's. We were single ourselves but hoped that living there wouldn't put us in the "married to God" category. God bless the nuns but no thanks.


Michael grumphed a bit when the total for my purchases came to just $6.49 or something.


I usually got a few slices of bacon, a third of a pound of carne asada, maybe a cheap steak for kebabs or strogonaff. He was not impressed so I tried to save up my purchases for the weeks ahead to make the amount bigger and to not have to go in as often.


One day I got a phone call on my cell phone.


"Is this Melina Backholm?"

"Yes, it is."

"This is Mike at Michael's Meats. Listen, your check didn't clear and if you'll come down right away and give me the cash, I'll just tear up the check and save you the $25 and me the hassle."


I was hot with shame.


At Jay's and at Mike's each cash register (they were two separate businesses) posted a list of people who had written bad checks.


Now I had done the unthinkable and become a person who either didn't pay attention to checkbook registers or who willfully tried to steal using a check that seemed legit.


"Oh I am so sorry. I will come down right away."


I had been enjoying time alone in the nun's former home with a book and dinner in the oven but I hustled down Market street to pay up.


If I was embarrassed, so was Mike.


He seemed apologetic as I profusely thanked him for the generous phone call.


"I figured if you were that hard up you might appreciate the call."


I fished out $3.27 (16 years later the exact amount is fresh in my mind) and walked away, wondering at the kindness of butchers and my own sloppy book keeping.



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