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January 23, 2023

Dinner With Henry 42: The Manchurian Chef

By Bruce Memblatt

Angry protesters marked their second week of demonstrations against the new half-human laws today. A brawl ensued when a spokesman for the mayor came out and told the crowd the mayor's position was unchangeable. It appears the mayor is going to fight this one to the end. He refuses to waver on ID cards for the half-humans nor will he close down the new centers. The mayor insists the half-human population needs to be ...

"Shakespeare, shut that off! It is making me sick to my stomach." Andre said, rolling his hands around his tummy.

"If you insist, but you can't hide from the world."

"Why? Why? Why!"

Shakespeare picked up a parfait glass and snapped, "Because there's no place large enough for you to hide."

Andre stood by the stove and waved his spoon. "Have you no shame!"

"None."

"Just as I thought, but what will happen? What is happening to the world, Shakespeare? What is happening to our city? These laws! These protests! Where will it all lead? What horror is waiting around the corner?" Andre said slowly, his eyes, nose and lips quivered.

"Don't worry, nothing will happen, it will all blow over, and before you know it those ID cards will seem like they're second nature."

"That is the problem, Shakespeare, acceptance! When we get so beaten down, and so ... how you say ... jaded, then the unacceptable becomes the norm. That's how things happen, Shakespeare. That is how the world comes to an end. WE STAND ON THE PRECIPICE OF DISASTER."

"Kind of like how we got used to your cooking, huh?"

Andre raced from the stove and chased Shakespeare around the kitchen with his spoon.

"This is not funny, Shakespeare!"

"Do you realize how many times you've said that?" Shakespeare said, standing by the freezer trying to catch his breath.

"When will it end? When will it end? You know, I shouldn't say this, don't breathe a word of this Shakespeare, but Henry and Diego and Winifred didn't go to the park today to look at the trees. That was just a ruse they told Winifred. They were going to take her to the park but the real reason for the trip to the park was to ease the blow. Once there they were going to explain to her that they were really going to the center to have their ID pictures taken. That poor child. It makes me weep. It makes me weep! It makes me WEEP."

Shakespeare turned serious and said, "Cry-baby, get used to it -- you can't fight city hall."

Then Andre grinned and whispered, "Yes, you can, Shakespeare! Yes you can. I happen to know the mayor's chef. We chefs stick together." His eyes glowed. "Perhaps we can devise some kind of plan?"

"What are you going to do, lace his food with stupid?"

"What do you mean, 'lace his food with stupid?' What does that mean, Shakespeare? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!"

As Shakespeare was shaking his head, Henry and Diego entered the kitchen pushing Winifred's stroller. Henry held onto the stroller, relieved the day was coming to an end. Andre and Shakespeare were at it again. Things appeared normal, but they weren't were they? They'd just returned from the New Center for Half-Bug Half-Human Administration. There was nothing normal about that. Their world was changing. They'd have to manage somehow. Then he heard his mother's words in his head. We are different Henry. We never just manage, we shine. We shine. His wing drooped. That was the mother he used to know when he was young, before he changed.

"Henry? Henry? Hello!!" Andre called as he stumbled towards them. "And how is my little Winifred today?"

They heard a voice from the stroller. "Hey, Andre! I got my picture taken!"

Andre rushed to the stroller. "I know, I know, I'm so sorry little one! I hope you didn't cry too much. Come to Uncle Andre."

"Why would I cry? It's an honor and a privilege to have your picture taken. That's what mommy said."

At that moment Diego grabbed Winifred and said, "C'mon it's time for your feeding." She quickly scrambled with Winifred to the back of the kitchen.

Then Andre stared at Henry like a lost puppy and said, "So didn't you tell her the truth, Henry?"

Flustered, Henry said, "I couldn't, well actually Diego wouldn't let me. Not yet, she said."

"Then when, Henry? THEN WHEN?"

Shakespeare snapped, "She's only four weeks old! Get a grip."

"I DON'T WANT TO GET A GRIP! YOU GET A GRIP!"

Shakespeare pointed at Andre and said, "Why are you yelling? You've been yelling all morning like a foghorn."

Then they heard Diego, from the back of the kitchen, breathe, "Shush, you are waking the baby."

Andre raised his hands in the air, "What is she talking about? Winifred's not sleeping, she's feeding her."

"It doesn't matter, motor-mouth," Shakespeare said, and then he began to pace.

"Why are you pacing, Shakespeare?"

"You're making me nervous; that's why I'm pacing."

Henry cleared his throat and said, "Will you two please knock it off? This is a rough time for us."

Andre cried, "Then Henry, Henry, you must be honest with Winifred. You know she's not an ordinary child. If you explain it to her she will understand."

"I suppose you're right." Henry shrugged, and then began to move towards the back of the kitchen, towards Diego and Winifred.

"Shakespeare, I will be right back. I have to make a phone call." Andre removed his apron and his hat and headed towards the kitchen door, shaking his head, scratching his rear.

Shakespeare, alone, could hear Diego and Henry involved in a heated discussion in the rear of the kitchen. He reached into the pocket of his apron and quickly took out a small bottle of Jack Daniels. He took a few swigs before he hurriedly placed the bottle back inside his pocket and began to sing.

"I've got to tell you all some news.
I've got the blind midget blues.
From my head to my toes
Ain't nothing that grows."

Then he hiccupped, and he began to dance.

"I'm a blind midget.
Unwind me.
Rewind me.
You blind me
I blind you.
I've got dem low down, no one's in town, blind midget blues!"

"Shakespeare! Shakespeare!" Andre said, rushing towards Shakespeare. "What are you doing? You are turning into an alky, a drunk, a bum, right before our very eyes. And then you have the nerve, THE NERVE, the unmitigated gall to sing, like you were ME. Standing by MY stove. SINGING MY SONG!"

Shakespeare toppled over. From the floor he began to sing again.

"I've got dem blind midgety, fidgitty blu-oo-oo-oo-use."

Andre leaned down over Shakespeare. "Get up! Get up, you loser bum, you little alky midget."

Shakespeare laughed.

"What is so funny, Shakespeare?"

"Your nose -- it looks like a goiter!"

"I have had enough! I have had enough! Get up before Henry and Diego and Winifred get back you leetle worm."

"Okay, okay," Shakespeare said as Andre pulled him up from the floor. "Say, did you call your crazy chef friend?"

"As a matter of fact I did, and he intends to do something today, something not so nice, but the time for games has passed. He's going to drug the mayor."

Shakespeare's nose crimped. "And then what?"

"And then what what?

"Well, after you have him drugged, what will you do?"

As Andre was scratching his head, Diego and Henry and Winifred began to draw close.

Andre nudged Shakespeare and whispered, "Don't say a word," while he made sure Shakespeare was standing straight.

"Mum's the word," Shakespeare hushed back, crossing his fingers.

Andre smiled at Henry and Diego. "So so how did everything go in the park today, was it nice?"

"Oh you're smooth," Shakespeare mumbled.

Henry grabbed a spoon and stuck it Andre's pot while Diego placed Winifred back in her stroller.

"It was horrible," Diego hushed.

Henry said, "Honey, the park was nice."

"Yes it was, Daddy." Winifred giggled from her stroller.

"The two of you have your heads in the clouds," Diego cried and then she stared at the door.

"Now, honey..."

"Stop calling me 'Honey,' Henry. Stop being such a bug, be a man."

Andre walked over to Henry. Taking the spoon from Henry's hands, he said, "But Diego, Henry is both bug and man. It is the ying and the yang, the drop and the kick."

"The drop and the kick?" Shakespeare snarled, with a puzzled look on his face, and then he toppled over.

"Please pardon our Shakespeare. He is drunk again!"

"I'm not drunk, I'm inebriated!"

Andre leaned over and cried, "You are an insult to blind midgets everywhere!"

"Thank you. I try." Shakespeare said, kicking his feet.

"Will you two knock it off?" Diego said, and then she resumed starring at the wall.

Henry approached her. "What can I do? What can I do, Diego, you can't fight city hall."

Then Andre intervened, "That is the same thing Shakespeare said to me before, Henry, using exactly those words. But I am telling you what I told him. You can fight City Hall. You at least you have to try!"

"That's why you made that phone call," Shakespeare said from the floor."

"SHUSH, SHAKESPEARE, SHUSH!" Andre roared.

This just in; in a bizarre turn of events we sadly report there has been an attempt on the mayor's life. It seems his chef, Julius Companion, aimed a pistol and took a shot at Mayor Krutz, as he was just about to serve him his dinner, which according to reports consisted of roast lamb and small white potatoes with a garnish of butter and parsley. The mayor's chef is now under custody. The mayor remains in stable condition at Bellevue hospital.

"Uh oh," Shakespeare sighed.

Andre grabbed his chest.

Diego continued to stare at the wall.

Winifred giggled.

Henry's wing darted.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-05-30
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