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So I was eating a salad the other day at my friend Chad’s new restaurant. Before you go projecting all manner of metrosexuality on me, know that I do not normally eat salads. Nor do I get my nails done or partake in any type of manscaping. This is important. You can’t appreciate this story if you think I’m  a salad-eater. So, favor for Chad and all that. He gets a tax break for hiring work-release inmates from the local penitentiary but is a little reluctant to micromanage them directly. Which is where I come in: Quality control. A food tester, if you will.

Not knowing what a “good” salad should taste like—or if there even is such a thing—I try to swallow as much of each bite whole as possible. People really pay for this shit? I could just walk outside and take some leaf bites directly off a tree followed by a shot of vinaigrette or something. Whatever. The salad sucks. I tell Chad it was fine and then I sneak back into the kitchen to talk to Quirk. He’s the latest inmate to work in the kitchen and I figure he might know something about the finger I found in my salad (a pinky with some sort of costume jewelry ring still on it). This guy loves me because I probably bring him close to $2K a week in business (besides working in the kitchen, he provides illicit substances for those unable to get prescriptions—I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: if the healthcare system wasn’t so fucked up, people wouldn’t have to go this route).

He takes a smoke break and follows me down the hallway to our normal rendezvous out back by the dumpster. “Ya like that salad?” I just give him a look. I pull a napkin out of my pocket and unroll it. “I found this in my salad.” Now he’s giving me a look. “You’re kind of a sick fuck, eh?” “Me? I just came here as a favor to Chad and the next thing I know there’s a damn finger in my meal. Maybe I should mention this to Chad. Something tells me playing with dead body parts breaks some part of your parole, no?” An I-could-break-you look flashes across his eyes, but Quirk stays composed. “Chad gets his produce from some Greek guy who’s into all kinds of shit. I wouldn’t even fuck with this guy. You want me to tell him you gotta problem with his lettuce?” I shake my head no. “You got any Oxies? There’s a business dinner tonight and they’ll be expecting party favors.” “I’m out ’til Thursday” Quirk says. “Fine. I’ll be by Friday for our usual.” I leave in a huff without saying bye to Chad, but not before I slip the jewelry off the finger and toss the mysterious digit into the dumpster.

 I never showed on Friday. Two weeks go by. Quirk probably doesn’t even still work there. Haven’t spoken to Chad either. Pretty standard behavior for me. Life is short. You gotta adapt to what’s in front of you. And right now some asshole is banging on my door. “Be there in a minute!” I yell. Peephole shows an unshaved, middle-aged fella acting mighty impatient. Looks unfamiliar. I don’t owe anybody shit right now so I figure it’s safe to open the door. “You lost, buddy?” “Not if you’re Caleb. You Caleb?” “Might be. Depends who’s asking.” He shoves me back and closes the door. “I don’t have time for smartasses.” He pulls some sort of small pistol on me and tells me to sit. Or maybe he just motions toward the couch. My brain is racing frantically–Do I know this guy? Did I piss somebody off? How high is my tab at Chez Merkin?

“A week or so back maybe you happened upon some jewelry that wasn’t yours, eh?” That ratmouthed motherfucker Quirk! “I’m not sure I understand–” Before I can finish a bolt of pain erupts from my shin. “A hair to the left and the next kick shatters the bone.” “Yes. I recall lucking upon some jewelry.” I reply. “Do you still have that jewelry?” “It’s in the other room.” I point toward the bedroom. I knew I should’ve had that piece of shit appraised. My new friend motions toward the bedroom again. I pull the ring out of my underwear drawer and hand it over. Not even a thank you from this meathead.

He turns before leaving. “Just two things: One–You keep your mouth shut and your sister Laura in Hoboken will remain unharmed.” How the hell do they know my sister?!! “Two–You should probably change those pants.” As he shows himself out, I look down to see a large dark spot on my left pant leg soaked by my own urine.

I chose never to speak with Chad again, which was pretty easy since he fled town a few months later to avoid some heavy tax evasion issues with the feds. I never mentioned the incident to a single soul and I don’t plan to. Quirk and I have yet to cross paths. And I still fucking hate salads.