I was running from the walk-in fridge to the kitchen, attempting to scourge the remains of the week's perishables with rapid-fire cleaning. We all wanted to go home before 2am. I had a pile of 'fishtubs', shallow square plastic storage buckets, to open and dump the hidden food scrappings in the trash, sanitize the box, repeat. I was moving quickly, in a rhythm of peel open, toss, rinse, wash. Wilted brown lettuce, clanking chicken bones, stale crusty bread crumbs, greasy remains of beige fleshed fish.
I opened my last box so quickly - 1:40am - that I almost didn't register what I was looking at. The nude head of a lamb, pink flesh glistening and mottled with red blood stains. Naked peels of ears hanging shrunken on its scalp. Its huge globous eyes, staring blankly, were beginning to ooze in a gelatinous gel. It looked surprised, to be found there by me, so early in the morning. It was as if I disturbed it from a deep fishtub sleep. And it stopped me in my tracks for a moment - we stared at each other - a fleeting contact with the reality of the food chain - until I disengaged my eyes and with a quick flip of the wrist, tossed the head into the trash, stuck the box into the sanitizer, and finished mopping the floors. A fleeting, but jarringly surprise encounter.
When I finally got home and into bed, exhausted, it took me a minute to get the image out of my head: those unflinchingly black eyes, staring out of the dumpster behind the restaurant, watching the black night turn to morning.