A Birthday Treat

Contributor: Paul Jenner

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Charles felt his back twinge as he bent down to reach into the freezer. Age was starting to catch up with him. Still he liked to think he was in pretty good shape, considering he would be 75 tomorrow. He rooted around at the back of the freezer. If the police knew what he had in here he would be arrested, so it kept it secret and hidden behind ice cream and frozen peas. Charles lifted a large tub of Häagen-Jerry’s out of the way and carefully pulled out his last steak, a thick slab of sirloin. He turned it over in his hands, examining it, savouring it, imagining how good it would be to eat. Finally, he placed it carefully on a plate to defrost and went up to bed.
Charles couldn’t sleep though. Every police siren or drone helicopter passing overhead panicked him. He’d gone downstairs and covered up the meat from prying eyes but he still couldn’t relax. He was a law abiding man, he paid his taxes but he enjoyed the occasional steak or rack of ribs or fried chicken. Was that so bad? Meat eating had been outlawed 50 long years ago. Most of the population had never tasted animal flesh and the rest had forgotten. But not Charles, he’d tried many times but he just couldn’t seem to give it up. Biting into a succulent burger or picking the skin off a chicken wing were not experiences you could get eating tofu and vegetables. He suspected his birthday steak would be his last piece of meat though. Over the years the supply had dwindled, his last dealer had been arrested over a year ago for ‘Meat trafficking and conspiracy to imprison and murder animals’. He would be spending the rest of his life behind bars. Charles had been unable to find another black market butcher and his once stocked freezer had just one more steak. He had saved it for his 75th birthday.
Charles reasoned he must have fallen asleep eventually as he woke the next day to bright sunshine streaming through his window. “Happy birthday to me,” he sang to himself as he creaked slowly down the stairs. He had planned to have the steak in the evening but the excitement of consuming the delicious flesh coupled with the fear of a police raid was too much for him. Charles decided to cook it now, for breakfast, with fries and creamy peppercorn sauce.
15 minutes later and Charles was sat at the table with his birthday breakfast. He carefully sliced into the steak. He had cooked it to perfection, the outside was seared brown but the middle was a lovely shade of pink. Charles savoured the taste in his mouth; the meat was tender and delicious. He tried to eat it slowly and make the experience last but all too quickly he was down to the last mouthful. Suddenly there was a loud rapping at the door. Charles’ heart leapt and he quickly stuffed the final piece of steak into his mouth, hoping to destroy the evidence. The rapping at the door had become hammering, “This is the police. Open the door at once!” shouted a voice on the other side. Seconds later the door caved in and armed police swarmed into Charles’ home. They handcuffed him, read him his rights and collected evidence from his plate and kitchen.
Charles felt strangely calm as he sat in the back of the police van while they finished collecting evidence from the crime scene. He wondered if he would be the last man on Earth to ever eat the flesh of an animal. He vaguely wondered how the police had caught him. Maybe a neighbour had smelt the cooking or perhaps they had him under surveillance. He closed his eyes and remembered how delicious the juicy sirloin had tasted. It had been a damn good steak he thought as the van drove away.

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I am a 32 year old teacher living and working in Sheffield, England. I have been teaching maths for nearly a decade and I have recently decided to try my hand at writing short fiction.
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