Monday, July 11, 2011
Gil hated the full moon. Most of the time he could go about his life unhindered. These days that meant acting as barman and occasional sous chef at Rattigan’s while he waited for Wayne and Kent to get off their respective tails and bring down Shere Khan already, and recover the magic books that (hopefully) would take care of his little problem. Because, thanks to a botched spell, every rising of the full moon turned Gil into a squirrel. Like now. He glared at the broom – now larger than he was – that had fallen from his human hands and chattered some nasty words.
So much for work for the next three nights. He scampered into the kitchen to give Louie the bad news.
An unexpected, somewhat frightening sight met his eyes. Instead of dashing about the kitchen in a graceful dance with the pots and pans, Louie was seated at the little table with his chins resting in his hands. Now and then he sighed.
Gil’s tail bottled in alarm. He raced up the table leg and screeched to a halt before Louie. “Louie?” He waved a paw in front of the wererat’s face. “Hey, Louie. What’s up? Don’t tell me the freezer’s busted.”
Louie blinked and focused down his long, twitching nose at the frantic squirrel. “Yo, Gil. Yeesh. Full moon again already?”
“Never mind me. What’s up with you? We got a dinner rush in less than twenty minutes.”
“Hope they’re in a mood to wait. I don’t know what I’ll be serving tonight.”
Gil’s little squirrel snout wrinkled. “Are we out of stuff?”
“No, we’re good. It’s me. I’m … ” He sighed. “I got cooker’s block.”
Gil looked at him. Then he said slowly, “Pretend I just fell out of a tree. What the hell’s cooker’s block?”
“It means I’m stuck. I don’t know what to prep or make for the special or what. I mean, I been running my A game since I hit town. They seen my best dishes. All day I been trying to come up with something they ain’t seen before.” He tapped the side of his head. “The cupboard’s bare. I might as well tell everybody to call out for pizza.”
“Louie, they’re shapeshifters. They don’t give a rat’s ass – no offense – what’s on their plate, as long as it’s bloody and raw.”
Louie thumped his chest with a thumb the size and girth of a dill pickle. “I give a rat’s ass, Gil. Being as how I’m the rat, I gotta. Cooking ain’t just slapping shit on a platter to me. It’s a calling. Right now it ain’t returning my calls. I don’t know what to do.”
Gil chittered a couple choice swear words. In his pre-squirrel days he’d dated an artsy-fartsy type. She’d get whiny and moody as all get out even without PMS. Gil chalked it up to creative temperament. He hadn’t known guys could fall prey to it, or chefs, or wererats suffering bouts of doubts. Art was art, he supposed. Emotional crises came with the territory. Even for guys, rats and cooks.
Trouble was, he couldn’t shake Louie out of his funk the same way he used to with Miriam. Gender and size considerations aside, sex just wasn’t going to cut it. He could hear the dinner crowd starting to pile in out in the dining room. If they didn’t get served something in a hurry, they’d come hunting their own meal, or the chef.
He peered up at Louie. Louie didn’t appear inclined to budge any time soon.
“Okay,” Gil muttered. “It’s not like I got a choice.”
He flashed off the table, through the doors and behind the bar. Talbot’s Peak could be one tough town at the best of times, and Gil didn’t have many best times in either of his forms. He tugged his Smith and Wesson out from under the register and wrestled it onto the bar. He checked the chamber; fully loaded. The bullets weren’t silver and wouldn’t stop a werewolf, but they’d make one think real hard about his course of action. Gil aimed at the ceiling, braced himself against the register, and squeezed the trigger with both paws.
The shot got everyone’s attention, and brought Louie at a run from the kitchen. Gil aimed the gun at the dinner crowd. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” he shrilled. “I was supposed to be tonight’s special, but there’s been a change in plans. Here’s how it’s gonna go down. The chef’s having a rough night, for obvious reasons, so you’re all gonna be nice to him. Everybody orders off the menu tonight. No specials, nothing elaborate. No substitutions. Keep it simple, keep it light, and nobody gets hurt. And nobody – nobody – orders squirrel. We good?” Heads nodded dumbly all around the room. “Okay.” Gil swung the gun on Louie. “You. I don’t want to hear any more whining. Get back in the kitchen. You got hungry people here.”
Louie raised his hands and backed into the kitchen. He didn’t even try to hide his grin.
By the time Gil wedged the gun back under the register and returned to the kitchen, Louie had prep underway. He was bustling around and humming, per usual, as if nothing had happened. His fit of artistic pique must have passed, thank God. “You get the night off,” Gil said. “They won’t order anything higher up the tree than a cheeseburger. Stuff you can cook in your sleep. It’s not art, but it’s filling.”
“Relax. I’m okay now. It was just a, whatchacallit, aberration.” He hauled an armload of veggies out of the pantry. “Matter of fact, I got all sorts’a new ideas. I been serving seafood and beef. I’m gonna try some game dishes. Stuff they usually catch themselves, but fancied up.” He grinned. “Don’t worry. I won’t cook any squirrel.”
“Hey, cook squirrel. I don’t give a shit. Just hold off for three days. Oh, if you decide on rabbit, better order from a breeder. The bunnies around here, you don’t know what the hell they are.”
“Out’a town rabbits, gotcha. I’ll give Miss Elly a call, see what I can serve without offending anybody. You mind waiting tables until Katie gets in?”
Gil shrugged with a flip of his tail. “Yeah, okay. Get me a pad and one of those little pencils from the pitch ‘n’ putt. Oh, and can Katie cover for me for the next couple nights? I can’t reach the bar.”
Posted by Pat C.