This time Andre had just about had it. He walked into the kitchen, reached into the cabinet next to the stove, just like he had every morning for the last ten years, to get his chef's hat, but that dark morning when his hand reached for his hat, all he felt was an empty space.
He looked everywhere.
"Where can my hat be? What is going on in this foul place? I put my hat away, here in this cabinet, last night as I have done every night for the past ten years. I smell a rat. I smell a giant short rat. Shakespeare, where are you? "
No one answered.
Then he waited some more.
And then some more.
It was then that Shakespeare stumbled into the kitchen, groggy, rubbing his eye sockets. "Why are you yelling, big mouth, I just got here."
Andre smirked. "A likely story."
"Have you been sniffing the vanilla again?"
"Why would I sniff the vanilla, Shakespeare, when I can drink it?"
"Oh," Shakespeare said, reaching into his pocket, "so you admit it. You've been drinking the vanilla."
Then Andre cried, "Now why I would I drink the vanilla, Shakespeare? But EVEN MORE importantly, why are you reaching into your pocket? Do you have anything hidden in there?"
Shakespeare's eyeless head tilted up, and he grinned, "Yes, I have New Jersey in there. I have the entire state of New Jersey in my pocket."
Andre's eyes bugged out. "Maybe not the entire state of New Jersey, but you have my hat in there, DON'T YOU?"
Shakespeare slapped his head and laughed. "OH, so this is what this is all about? You think I have your big head chef's hat in my little midget pocket."
Andre kicked the refrigerator door and cried, "I WANT MY CHEF'S HAT!"
Shakespeare stared at Andre and sighed. Then Andre's head spun, searching around the room, past the cabinets, the stove, the freezer, the windowsill, gathering ideas, speculating on the whereabouts of the hat. There was only one thing for them to do -- tear apart the kitchen piece by piece, removing everything from the cabinets, drawers, the closets, the freezer, until the hat was recovered.
* * *
"Oh no!" Shakespeare shrieked. "We are not doing that!"
"IT IS THE ONLY WAY!" Andre stomped his feet and cried.
* * *
They started out small; first on the kitchen drawers. Shakespeare kept insisting that Andre's hat couldn't fit in the drawer, unless it had been crunched and folded to such an extent he wouldn't want to see it, but Andre would have none of it.
"I will have none of this!" Andre said.
And then they moved on to the cabinets. First the ones underneath the counter because Shakespeare was tall enough to reach into them.
"I can reach in, "Shakespeare said, "but I'm not familiar with these cabinets. I have no idea what I'm pulling out."
"It's okay, I can see what you're pulling out," Andre said, leaning over Shakespeare's shoulder, looking into the cabinet.
"But I don't like this feeling. It's creepy. What if someone's head is in there?"
"NOBODY'S HEAD IS IN THERE YOU CRAZY MIDGET!"
Satisfied, Shakespeare began throwing objects furiously out of the cabinet.
Andre looked on grinning, still leaning over Shakespeare's shoulder, until he gasped, threw his head back and shrieked, "OH MY GOD! IT IS A HEAD! SOMEONE'S HEAD IS IN THE CABINET!"
Shakespeare grinned, threw his hands back and said, "Very funny, Andre. Now please stop all this fooling around, we have a lot of ground to cover if we ever hope to find your hat."
"But there REALLY IS A HEAD!" Andre's ears nose and eyes quivered frantically.
"Now, Andre, please!"
So Andre shrugged, sighed, and said okay, "Shakespeare, suit yourself."
He picked up the head, walked to the back of the kitchen, and threw it in the garbage pail.
After they finished looking in the cabinets under the counter it was Andre's turn. He began by reaching into the cabinets above the sink, and though he didn't spot his hat anywhere in the cabinet, undeterred he pulled out dishes, glasses and all kinds of assorted bric-a-brac and placed them in the pile on the floor which at that point had grown rather large.
They moved on to the cabinets against the long side-wall of the kitchen. Andre searched the first cabinet with his eyes. He didn't see his hat, and started removing the boxes of flour that lined the shelf. One box of flour looked particularly gritty, but he pulled it out anyway. The flour fell from the box and poured all over Shakespeare.
Andre began to point and laugh at Shakespeare, who was sneezing furiously.
"I will get you for this if it's the last thing I do!" Shakespeare flailed, sneezed, and cried at Andre.
"Oh please," Andre said, "ha, you look like the Pillsbury dough boy."
Shakespeare picked up the box threw it at Andre as high as he could and snapped, "And you look like Mt.Fuji."
At that moment Henry and Diego walked into the kitchen, wheeling Winifred's stroller. Diego turned to Henry and said "Look, they are playing a game. Isn't that cute?"
Henry gazed at the mess in the kitchen, then he just stared, frozen, at Shakespeare and Andre with one of those deer-in-the-headlights expressions filling his eyes.
* * *
In the meanwhile, back in her office Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson cradled a white chef's hat in her arms. A sadistic grin hung from her lips.
* * *
A policeman marched up the steps of the warehouse and pressed the buzzer.
And he sighed.