“Don’t!” Oscar shouted at his mother-in-law. “Let me.” He took the plate out of her hands and replaced it on the table before she had a chance to pile it with food. His wife had long since died but he still ate at her parent’s house on the fourth Monday of every fifth month. Pulling a compartmentalized picnic tray from his messenger bag, he began the methodical process of separating his food. He always ate his meals in quarters: protein in one pocket, vegetables in another, starches touched only each other, and then condiments formed a pool in the final compartment. Or fruit if there was any to have, in which case he would forego the frivolous sauces.
Oscar kept his digital watch set to beep in fifteen minute intervals, a reminder to put a new TicTac in his mouth. He would only do this at work, though, because he lived above a slaughterhouse and sometimes the howling and the squealing of chains and the grinding of gears rendered it impossible for Oscar to hear his watch. If something else happened to be in his mouth when his watch would chime, he’d spit it out into the tiny wastebasket under his desk, which was emptied four times during his shift.
On Sundays, Oscar enjoyed going to the farmers market in the industrial district of town. A public parking garage was provided as a courtesy to the citizens, but Oscar preferred parking on the street. He loved the way the quarters sounded as their shiny disks slid into the metal slot of the meter. It was slightly arousing, but only Oscar’s therapist knew this.
“Sometimes I lick the quarters before they leave my hand, and often I feel pained to release them. But once I hear that sound, it makes me swell. You know. Swell. And that is one of the most rewarding sensations this life has to offer, I really think.” Oscar’s therapist copied this quote for his file in bright red ink.
One day, Oscar was granted a handsome bonus because the company had enjoyed a very successful quarter. He went home that night, scrubbed each limb with a vibrant pine-scented homemade bar of soap that he purchased from Ethel who worked on the twenty-fourth floor but was visiting her friend on the twenty-fifth floor at the time of purchase. Thumbing through the phone book, he found just the number he was looking for.
At exactly 9:41, his doorbell rang. He dawdled and stalled, pacing beneath the stately portrait of George Washington which hung in the foyer, and chugging on a quart of half-spoiled vitamin D milk, until 9:45, at which time he found it perfect to open the door and greet the four prostitutes he ordered.
For a quarter of an hour, they quietly noshed on tea sandwiches, which Oscar had meticulously de-crusted and quartered over top of his grandmother’s serving tray, which was conveniently divided into quadrants. He precisely slipped his Quarterflash album from it’s sleeve and placed it gently upon the record player. Then they moved to his slumber quarters, where Oscar requested that he be tied to each one of the bedposts. The four cocottes silently obliged. As Oscar lay there, mind soaring with the possibilities, wondering if he would become as tumescent as he did in the company of parking meters, one of the harlots brandished a chainsaw from her purse and by 11:15, Oscar’s post-quartering torso was left in the center of his bed, and his limbs were sold to the slaughterhouse below where they were wrapped in freezer paper and sold for a quarter a pound.