EXCERPT: 'Cleaving' by Julie Powell

Those familiar with grisly 19th century British history might know that one popular theory among Jack the Ripper armchair criminologists posits that the killer was a practicing butcher. I have developed a small addendum to this hypothesis. I am by now fairly confident that should I want to surgically excise a streetwalker's liver, I could manage it. I will even confess that I can sort of imagine the appeal. Don't get me wrong - I'm not getting behind slashing prostitutes' throats and rummaging through their innards as a valid lifestyle choice. But in a weird way, I sort of see the butchering part of what Jack did as separate from the killing, the frenzy, the rage. And I see it as maybe containing the tiny kernel of sanity still left to him. Maybe it was his forlorn way of trying to fit the pieces back together, or at least understand how they once fit. I look at that crosscut organ sitting on the table, its workings so mysterious but its dimensions so satisfying, dense and symmetrical and glassy-smooth, and I feel a sort of peace, a small piece of understanding.

My hands are blue with chill, my lower back throbs and my left wrist aches, and in the cooler in back is a towering stack of pork sides waiting to be broken down before closing in three hours. I am far from home. I smile into my cup. Right where I want to be.

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