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Prologue



A word from Joe Parker,


Some might say my job is unusual, if they knew what I did. Sheriff Caine, or just plain Sheriff as we call him in these parts, gave me the job title Skinner, but most people around town just call me Joe, Joe Parker. Being a skinner is nothing to brag about, it’s like what those self-important people call an organic farmer. I take something worthless like garbage and recycle it into something useful. It's not the prettiest job, but most jobs worth doing, aren’t. No one bugs me or bosses me around; besides, I kind of like working alone. I’m used to people avoiding me on account that I don’t smell too good. The stink of manure, the rot and tobacco soaks into the skin and gets on the clothes, and boy when it does, it hangs on something fierce. I don’t care what you try to use, whether it’s some kind of lemon cleanser or orange peel soap, once you get that stench under your skin, there’s no getting it out.

It’s not shoveling cow crap or brewing tobacco juice that’s earned me the title Skinner, but it’s how I use my knife to pry fat and flesh from the bone. It’s an art really, even though it sounds primitive, but now that I’ve mastered it, I realize just how blessed I truly am. I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but first I work the knife under the skin and shimmy it off in long, thin pieces. Lean strips are best to place on the fields beneath the polyethylene. That's the black plastic mulch stuff. I put the meat right on top of the cow manure mixed loosely with some sandy loam soil and the plants grow strong and hearty.

I begin with the thighs. The wet meat makes this sucking noise when I lift it from the bone. It reminds me of the slurping my uncle makes when he drinks noodle soup. I grin every time I think about it.

Then, of course, there’s the smell, again. Yeah, I had to get used to it, but it’s not so bad. Every body smells a bit different, but the smokers and abusers are the worst. The juices that ooze reek like old sweaty socks wadded up in a soiled diaper. Like I said, it’s probably not the best job, but it ain’t the worst, and I get paid more than most farmers in the area.

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