Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 192,495,956 Issue: 650 | 20th day of Relaxing, Y16
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The New Dishwasher

by theblueorigami


Slap. Hiss. Gurglegurgle. Ding.

     Within thirty seconds, the disorganized mess of bowls full of ingredients had been scooped up from their flour-covered countertop by a deft orange flipper, whisked over the flaming stovetop, relieved of their contents into simmering pans of oil and bubbling pots of stock, and the empty dishes tossed carelessly over the Flotsam's shoulder onto the growing mountain of dirty dishes in the tub of the sink. The ground meat hit the pan with a slap and hissed loudly in the scalding oil, and the diced vegetables dropped into the pot with pleasant sploosh noises and settled down into the clear, gurgling liquid. From the left, the novelty Peadackle-shaped egg timer emitted a cheerful ding.

     Slap. Hiss. Gurglegurgle. Ding.

     For the past four years, such had been the life of Thomas C. Boodle as head chef at the du Barry mansion. It was a pleasant occupation, if a mundane one, though with the exception of the occasional dinner banquet, it generally lacked the delicious challenge which the culinary artist craved. Still, a very pleasant occupation indeed. Madame du Barry was an exceptionally kind lady and an understanding employer. She made an effort from the beginning to learn the schedule of the kitchen staff and to remember when the activity was slow and unhurried, at which times she would appear almost daily to offer a friendly word and make polite inquiries about everyone's health and family. The pay was not luxurious, but certainly enough to live on very comfortably, especially with the addition of generous holiday bonuses. Still, the repetition could get to a man after a while.

     Slap. Hiss. Gurglegurgle. Ding.

     Every day, these noises were his company -- indeed, his only company as of late. If Thomas C. Boodle was renowned for his culinary expertise, he was equally notorious for his volcanic temper. In the past month, he had already sent three kitchen hands and one unfortunate milkman running away in tears from the mansion over various wrath-inspiring incidents of unprecedented incompetency, such as a melon rind accidentally appearing in a fruit salad which he had SPECIFICALLY instructed to made from berries, grapes, and pineapples alone. Also to be considered was the time when the dishwasher had complained about the lack of consideration for his job and demanded the chef move at a pace easier to keep up with, which was so infuriating that in the ensuing explosion of wrath the aforementioned milkman was struck in the head with not one but two kitchen implements serving as improvised missiles.

     Madame du Barry continued to renew her advertisement in the local paper for kitchen reinforcements, but by this time her favorite chef was so infamous that even the hardiest workers were afraid to come near. Now that he was the lone resident and king of his realm, Boodle had a challenge on his hands at last, but not the one anticipated. Rather than being commissioned to create a rare delicacy for a visiting ambassador, he was obliged to perform every duty necessary in the kitchen, from washing dishes to sweeping up at night. Needless to say, the chef was displeased with this undignified new role which he was forced to assume, but what else could he have done? There could be no one found in all of Brightvale who was sturdy enough to withstand the gales of his temper. And so...

     Slap. Hiss. Gurglegurgle. Ding.

     Day in, day out, always the same.


     "Mr. Boodle?"

     The Flotsam spared a cursory glance over his shoulder as he emptied the boiled eggs and hot water into a strainer over the sink. From this brief look, he ascertained that it was Madame come for her daily visit, and that she had brought with her another pet -- a slightly small but unafraid Biscuit Ruki. Even though she was dressed in what could only be described as rags, the Ruki radiated an attitude of defiance in the face of all who would scorn her. Though she was silent, her eyes gleamed brightly with spirit.

     "Why, Missus B, me one true darling!" cried the Flotsam merrily as he returned to the stovetop. "I was just wondering when you'd come by, so I was. How does this morning find you, my love?"

     "Very well, thank you, dear," responded the aging Acara in a clear voice made musical by subtle laughter. "And you?"

     "Same as ever, my dove, same as ever!" He stirred the mountain of slowly browning beef in its pan, watching it cook with a critical eye. "Just sprintin' right along at top speed, tryin' ta keep up with these pots n' pans. It's a right mess, it is!" He motioned with a long wooden fork towards the tottering pile of dishes accumulating in the sink. "When do you think you'll come through with a new dish monkey fer me, eh?"

     "Actually, dear, that is the very matter I wished to discuss with you." Madame du Barry placed her hands daintily on the shoulders of her young companion, drawing her closer into the room with her. Boodle sized her up out of the corner of his eye with a cool gaze, under which the Ruki only threw back her shoulders and stared confidently back.

     "This is a new friend of mine, Miss Sonja Higgins." She gestured towards the Ruki, who quickly threw in a rather loud, "How'dje do, Mr. Cook, sir?"

     "Peachy," responded Boodle, and returned her challenging gaze for a tense moment before redirecting his attention to the pot of stock he was stirring. "An' I assume this'll be me new dishwasher, eh, Missus B?"

     "Right on target, as always, dear Thomas," responded Madame du Barry in a cheerful voice which did not acknowledge the conflicting energy with which the kitchen was already charged. "She's been a flower vendor these past few years, and has an impressive amount of experience with working hard in... high-energy environments." The Acara glanced between her chef and her new employee, seeming to notice the rising tension for the first time. "Do you suppose Miss Higgins will be satisfactory for the job?"

     The glares met, and though the faces were stoic and superficially polite, the eyes were already at war. "I think a trial period is in order, Missus B. If she can follow orders and do things competent, maybe she can stick 'round." The Ruki's posture became straighter and her glare more brazen than before at the thinly veiled threat. Madame du Barry smiled almost imperceptibly in amusement.

     "Well then, dear, shall I leave you to become acquainted?" she asked, folding her hands elegantly before her. Still the prospective co-workers quarreled silently and meaninglessly. Finally, the Flotsam looked away haughtily, snatched another pepper from the basket of vegetables on the table, and began to chop it deliberately into perfect strips. The battle was postponed.

     "I reckon so, ma'am," he called without looking at his employer. "I'll see if I can't learn her the ways of this kitchen."

     "Very well, then. I shall check up on you again later. Good day, Chef."

     "G'day, ma'am."

     And they were alone in the kitchen, the two aggressive personalities, and the silence fell heavy between them.

     "Well, Higgins," said the Flotsam briskly, scraping the chopped pepper from the cutting board into the pot. "I shouldn't have t' tell ya that them dishes need scoured. Get to work on th' double, if you please."

     "Right away, Mr. Boodle, sir," was the mocking reply, and Sonja moved to her new station and began rinsing and scrubbing without a further word.

     Quietly, Boodle considered her out of the corner of his eye, this time analyzing her a little more thoroughly than he had at first. He read in her dirty apron a life of poverty and work, in her straight posture a sense of innate self-worth, in her gleaming golden eyes an attitude accustomed to asserting herself, her only defense against hardship. Thomas C. Boodle looked at Sonja Higgins, and he saw a challenge.

     Slap. Hiss. Gurglegurgle. Ding. Scrub, scrub, CRASH.



     Day in, day out.

The End

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