The seventh story in the story marathon is another story from Gary Patrick.
Fish and Visitors
By Gary Patrick
Stanley loved cooking. He always had. When he was young his mother would check out videotapes of Julia Child from the library. And while his mother was definitely a good cook, Stanley was what they called a “natural”.
It started when he was in high school. His grades weren’t the best, and in order to pull up his GPA the guidance counsellor suggested that he take Home Economics. It was relatively easy, they said, and he’d learn some good life skills.
That was when he discovered that he enjoyed cooking. And more than that, he was good at it.
Since then, Stanley had been baking, broiling, sautéing – if you did it in a kitchen and it ended with “-ing”, he could do it.
Thinking back on this, Stanley could do nothing but smile when he looked around this huge kitchen. Tons of counter space, a huge island in the middle, complete with warmers and a sink, a pot rack hanging overhead, everything made of stainless steel – he thought he’d died and gone to Heaven.
In order to stay clean (he was, after all, wearing his best suit) he wore plastic gloves, the ones that always reminded him of plastic wrap, and a large white apron with “I’m The Chef!” emblazoned across the front in large, red letters.
He’d been working on the appetizers for the last little while, but they were almost done. He looked over to the table where his dinner guest sat and said, “Barbecued Bacon Shrimp! You’re not allergic to shellfish, are you? No? Good! Because I’ve made these, and next up is the Shrimp Bruschetta!”
He busied himself in the kitchen, tasting and stirring, mixing and tasting. Tonight was going to be special, and he wanted everything to be just right. After the appetizers he was going to be presenting the entrée, Grilled Seafood with Banana-Lime Salsa. It was a recipe that he’d wanted to try for a long time, but the occasion had never presented itself.
A while later he was finally done. Everything was perfect. The appetizers, the grilled seafood – he had even made Sparkling Strawberry and Fruit Gelées (and he’d used the good wine!) for dessert.
As Stanley brought everything to the table, he kept sneaking glances at his guest. She was lovely. Tall, blonde – everything he’d ever wanted in a woman. And he could tell she was hungry. While she was beautiful, she was a little on the thin side. “Gaunt”, his mother had always called it.
Dinner was wonderful. While he didn’t like to brag about his cooking, Stanley could talk for hours nonstop about himself. He told her about his mother, about how his father had never been around, and about how he’d learned to cook when he was young.
As he spooned out the last bite of his fruit gelée, he looked across the table at her.
She looked back at him, her eyes wide. She looked as if she might cry.
“Shhh, shhh. There’s no need for that.” Stanley reached across the table and put his hand on the embroidered napkin that he’d used for a gag. “I’m going to remove this, and you’re not going to scream. Deal?”
With tears welling up in her eyes, she nodded her agreement.
Stanley gently pulled the napkin down and out of her mouth. “Now, I know that this has been tough on you. It’s been tough on me too, though. Can you understand that? Do you see?”
As he spoke his voice got louder and louder, until it was a shrill screeching. “Nobody sees that it’s hard on me too! I just like to cook things and nobody will let me! ‘Take your medication’, they say! ‘No, you have to do it this way’, they say! WELL, I’LL TELL YOU! NO MORE! NO! MORE!”
The louder he got, the more she cried. In between quiet sobs, she tried to talk to him. “How long are you going to keep me here?”
Stanley looked at her and realized he’d been screaming. While she looked like the woman of his dreams, he was suddenly disgusted by her. Her mascara was streaming down her face, and her nose was beginning to run.
“Oh, dear. I’m so sorry. I’m soooo sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. I’m sorry.”
He stood and walked around to her side of the table and pulled her head against his chest. He stroked her hair and kept saying, “Shhh. Shhh. There there. It’s okay. Everything’s good.”
When she finally stopped crying, Stanley looked around the huge kitchen and dining room once again. “I’ll tell you what. You and I have been dating for…how long now?”
The woman looked at him with a dumbfounded expression. “Dating? No. You’ve been here and have had me tied up now for three days. Three days that…”
Stanley cut her off with, “Three days! Has it been that long? Well, leave it to a woman to keep up with silly details like that! Anyway. Have you ever heard that old saying, ‘Fish and visitors smell after three days’? It’s true, you know.”
He carried the plates into the kitchen. He continued to speak loudly from the other room to make sure she could hear him. “After three days. I suppose it’s been that long, so I’ve pretty much worn out my welcome.”
Stanley scraped the remaining food on the plates into the garbage disposal. “I suppose I should just…leave.”
He rinsed the dirty dishes, put them into the dishwasher and turned it on. “You’re right, you know. This hasn’t been dating. It’s been more of a spiritual adventure. What we’ve shared…” He sucked in a deep breath. “Well, it’s been almost like a pilgrimage. And we’ve both learned so much!”
Stanley walked back into the dining room and wiped the table. Furniture such as this shouldn’t suffer the rings from condensation on glasses. It was then that she saw the knife in his hand.
He saw her staring and looked down to see what had caught her attention. “Oh, this? No, this is to cut you loose. BUT – you have to promise me you’ll help me put up the leftovers. Can you promise me you’ll do that? Just help me put things in Tupperware bowls, and then I’ll go.”
She looked up at him, tears threatening to spill down her face once more. “Just like that? You’ll just…leave?”
“That’s right, dear. I’m breaking up with you. But we should at least be amicable about this whole thing, don’t you think?”
Stanley walked around behind her chair. Once more he stroked her hair. She waited to feel the knife plunge into her back or her throat; that feeling never came. Suddenly, she realized she was actually loose. She could move her arms for the first time in three days.
“Now, you promised…” He took her by the hand, and she reluctantly followed him into the kitchen. She noticed that most of the dishes had already been washed and put away.
Stanley followed her gaze around the mostly-clean kitchen. “Yes, I know. But a clean workspace makes things taste better, don’t you think? Now, if you’ll get out the Tupperware, we’ll just put this stuff in the refrigerator, and I’ll be on my way.”
As she turned to get the bowls from a cabinet by the sink, she again waited for the bloom of pain from the knife stabbing into her back. And again it never came.
She stood beside him as he calmly and slowly placed the leftover food in various containers. “You shouldn’t mix certain things because the flavours will bleed into each other, and that can ruin the entire dish.”
As Stanley finished placing the food into the little plastic bowls, he said, “Now, if you’ll just put this in the fridge, we’ll be done.”
He handed her the bowls, and she did as he asked. One by one she placed the bowls on the shelves in the refrigerator, moving them around as he directed. “No, that one shouldn’t be too close to the top – it’s colder there because of the freezer. It might damage the fish.”
As she placed the last bowl onto the lowest shelf she started to think she might just get out of this alive. Stanley hadn’t really hurt her, unless you counted starving her, so he may just be crazy enough to actually leave.
She turned back around, and he was directly in front of her, their faces less than 6 inches away from each other. She felt a cramp in her stomach. Hunger? No, this was something else.
She looked down and saw that the handle of the knife that Stanley had been holding was now protruding from her stomach. Blood was already beginning to soak through the evening gown he’d dressed her in.
She looked at his face then, and realized, when she looked into his eyes, that she should never have thought she could escape.
Stanley said, “Well, if we can’t be lovers we can at least be friends. Give me a hug.”
He grabbed her and pulled her against him, driving the knife even further into her gut. Stanley did a good job of twisting and fidgeting, making the blade move around inside her, cutting and slicing anything that got in its way.
As he pulled back he leaned in and kissed her forehead. “It’s been fun, cheri, but it’s time for me to go. Au revoir!”
As she fell to the floor, she could only watch him. She couldn’t even draw enough breath to speak.
Stanley took off the apron, now stained with her blood. He folded it neatly and laid it on the island in the middle of the kitchen. He took off the plastic gloves he’d been wearing and dropped them into the garbage disposal.
Stanley looked back at her one last time, gave her a wink accompanied by “finger guns”, then casually walked out the door.
Available at Amazon for the kindle. Get your copy today!