The Sacrificial Lime
"THIS is the way to cut a lime," condescended the bar owner, eyeing me with one brow lowered for dramatic affect. His manicured fingers held the tiny off-season fruit to the cutting board where it awaited slaughter, while I played along to avoid my own. His fingers were clustered together, precariously balanced, like a trained elephant on a circus ball. Then he confiscated my knife and, waving it in the air, commanded me to watch while he gracelessly hacked uneven bits from the poor, unsuspecting lime.
"See, you must always cut away from your fingers," he instructed. "I don't want to be paying any hospital bills because you don't know how to cut a lime properly." My mind went to my predecessor who can no longer work due to a decorative cherub having fallen on her head and cracking her skull, and to my co-workers who were presently climbing a 12-foot swinging gate to secure a tarp for the smoking section, and of those trying not to drop the propane tanks while carrying them from the shed to the garden heaters. And of the tiny, barely visible cuts all over my hands from shards of broken bar glass and my general level of exhaustion from working double shifts, back-to-back as standard.
"This one's no good," he declared after a few failed slices with all the conviction of Henry the VIII, snapping me back to the morning's lesson. He plucked another from the bowl. Maybe trying to avoid the senseless loss of its own life, the second lime rolled free of the cutting board and wobbled off down the bar. Only when the third lime lay splayed and visibly suffering before me, did the owner throw the knife in my direction and walk off. "This is your job, I don't have time for this. Ask the chef to show you."
Ignoring the sting of citrus in my cuts, while the owner was off doing more important things in the office, I sliced the limes carefully and evenly as I've always done. But this time I tried to do it a lot faster, so I could finish before he came back.
If I learned any lesson, it wasn't the one he'd intended.