Monday, February 28, 2011

Jersey Chef

Oh yeah. Baddaboom, baby. After years of skuzzy jobs in even skuzzier dives, Mrs. Delavecchio’s little boy Louie had finally hit the big time.

I mean, just take a whiff of the place. Grease and veggies, veggies and grease. A rat’s paradise. Rats wore their wealth on their middles. You could tell how rich a rat was by the size of his belly. Louie patted his ample gut with a sigh of self-satisfaction. Look at that prosperity. Donald friggin’ Trump. Not bad for a guido rat from Jersey City.

He flipped a burger onto a bun with an expert flick of his wrist, then added lettuce, tomato and the special sauce from the recipe he’d brought from home. He sniffed the tomatoes. They were starting to turn. He’d better use ‘em up and make sauce of the rest. His nose knew the difference between good food and garbage. He might indulge in whatever was available, but he never served garbage to his customers. Besides, high-class food meant high-class garbage, and that meant Louie ate well. I mean, look at that belly, wouldja.

The swinging doors clapped open and the blue-haired waitress came in. “Three more orders for Clams a la Louie. Your cooking’s a hit.”

“It’s all the cats in town. They’re big on seafood.” A simple idea, well executed. That’s how you get rich. Bring the taste of the Jersey Shore to Montana. Give the shifters something new, then sit back and reap the profits. Louie’s fat belly jiggled. Proof’s in the pudding, or the clams.

He handed the waitress the plated burger. He liked the humie girl. He liked all humans. They threw their trash all over and kept rats from starving. His breed would have gone belly-up generations back if not for humans. What wasn’t there to like? “Clams coming up,” he said. The waitress took the burger and went out.

Louie went to the fridge for the clams. When he got back, he saw he had a visitor. His long nose wrinkled. “Crocker. Who the hell let you in here?”

“It’s good to see you too, Louis.” Crocker glared down his hooked, prominent nose at the kitchen. He tugged his suit jacket more securely against his gaunt frame, as if to protect it from the grease. Like he had any right to act so hoity-toity, given his own eating habits. At least Louie cooked his food.

“A bar, Louis?” Crocker said. Damn buzzard had the gall to act affronted. “A man of your talents, and you waste them grilling bar food? But then, I suppose such a lowbrow environment would appeal to your type.”

“It’s got its perks. While we’re talking lowbrow, how you like the taste of Rocky Mountain road kill? Better than scavenging the Jersey Turnpike?”

Crocker’s beady black eyes flared up with hate before he managed to snuff it. “I know where the power lies. I follow the bodies. This is why I follow Shere Khan. He’s curious to know what’s become of his personal chef.”

Louie gnashed his teeth. He’d left Jersey to take that job with the poncy tiger, and hadn’t that been a mistake. The bar was small, but honest. You could walk out the door at the end of the night and not have to watch your back. “He’s got dough. Let him hire another one.”

“He misses your broiled snapper.”

“I’ll send him the recipe.”

Crocker started forward, remembered the threat of grease and stepped back. “It’s not about the food.”

“I don’t know nothing. I didn’t hear nothing.”

“Nonsense, Louis. You’re a rat. Your nose and ears are everywhere. Shere Khan is concerned you might have picked up more than sautéing techniques in his kitchen.”

“Shere Khan can kiss my long pink tail. I’m not just a rat, I’m a rat from Jersey. We know how to keep our mouths shut.”

“See that you do,” Crocker snapped. “I’m as happy in my current position as you seem to be in yours. I enjoy tending to Shere Khan’s cleanup, but … ” He looked Louie’s gut up and down with undisguised distaste. “Even I have my limits.”

So do I, Louie thought once the skeletal prick had gone. Here’s something else about Jersey rats: they don’t take scat from nobody. And nobody means a freakin’ stripy cat and the scuzz he’s got circling over him.

He put in the clams to steam, then pulled out his cell phone. Someone picked up on the second ring. “That you? It’s me, Louie. You said call if I hit any trouble. Well, this is me calling. It’s time we put our cards on the table. You and your buddy meet me here at the bar after hours.” He grinned at the words from the other end. “Yeah, sure, I’ll make the crab puffs. Anything for a pal.”

He hung up. News flash, kitty. You don’t get between a rat and his food supply, not if you want to hang onto your ass. And you, Crocker, you frickin’ buzzard, you can choke on me.

The humie waitress came back with an order for Louie’s special nachos. He waved at her and cheerfully went back to work.

# # #

Off Topic Section: I got an email from Siren on Friday letting me know BELONGING will be coming out in print within the next 4-6 weeks. While I’m naturally thrilled, I’m also surprised. The book’s only been on the market for barely three weeks. It’s not even available on Amazon Kindle yet and it’s already going to print? That was fast. Did Siren change their print schedule? Savanna, Rebecca, has this happened with your books? I’m just curious here.

I’ve also heard rumors there are vampire books out there on the market that started life as Buffy/Spike fan fiction. Given the inspiration for BELONGING, I’d love to read one just to see if I can spot its origins. Does anyone know any books for sure that are reworked Buffy stories? I won’t out the authors, I promise.


Savanna Kougar said...

Ooooh, I think I'm in love with Louie... that is in a fascination sort of way. Great flash, Pat.

As far as Siren's print schedule, they recently changed it to bring print books out much faster. It was posted on their private Author loop. They said it was one of their new goals.

As far as the Buffster, nope, can't tell ya.

Rebecca Murray said...

Ah! I love them guiodo rats. They make the best gnocci around! Great flash Pat. As to Siren's print? I dunno. I read the post on the private loop, too, but I haven't had anything go out to print yet so I didn't pay too close attention.

Serena Shay said...

Oooh...Go Louie, give Crocker hell! I wonder who he called? Congrats on Belonging's release to print!

Pat C. said...

Since I don't know if/when I'll get that scene, I'll spill: he called Brand and White Fang. The Wayne family did a good turn for the Delavecchios back in the day. Rodents stick together.

Rebecca Murray said...

Yes! Ha-ha-ha; I'm enjoying watching Sher Khan's little house of cards start to tremble. Wonder if he realizes it...

Pat C. said...

I've decided it would be funnier (and poetic justice) if SK meets his demise at the hands (paws?) of one of his wives, or maybe the whole harem. After all, one of them named her daughter She-Demon. You don't turn your back on a woman like that.

The head wife is probably named Kali. Or Shiva.

Maybe I'll leave that for Savanna to write. She's good at bloodthirsty tigresses out for justice.

Rebecca Murray said...

Agreed. Just saying it's getting real exciting now that the threads are starting to show us some tapestry. FYI, I'm going to orrow Nick to mess with the sheriff a little tomorrow. =D