Well done, Geezus92! And thanks again to all the authors that entered and forum members that voted. And a Little Glass of Rum [2,992 words] Abelard Simone de Lyon VII had not eaten in five days. He was a gaunt old man, his cheeks had sunk in from lack of nutrition, his skin had grown pale and translucent, the veins seen behind them were thin like a line of spider web except in the crook of his elbow where an I.V. fed and engorged his weak vein. Bedridden, he never left his lavishly furnished room. He lay in a king-sized bed, hand crafted by an Amish commune: cherubs, bowls of fruit, demons and a coat of arms of angel wings, bugle horns, and crossed butcher knives were carved into the headboard. At the top of each bed post, wooden busts of a younger Abelard watched vigilantly around the room, a white toque sitting deflated on one of the heads. Abelard was restless, pulling fitfully at the purple silk sheets stitched together by blind cloistered nuns that tucked into a memory foam mattress. He brushed at the wrinkles of his violet silk pajamas, lined with the fur of the now extinct red panda. To Abelard’s left on the floor sat a stack untouched meals: steaks, roasts, lobsters, salmon, soups, salads, bread, desserts, juices and water. The maid had not yet come to clean up, unable to handle Abelard’s mood: lashing out at the meals sent to him, shouting curses in French, and smashing plates. To his right stood a short tower of cook books, each emblazoned with the same emblem carved into his headboard, all well-worn from constant perusing. Abelard bashed down on a universal remote with his gnarled fingers. His hand was like a fractured figurine with half the pieces missing, put together with tape. They thudded bluntly against the remote control as he flipped through channels on his flat screen high definition television. A cooking show stopped Abelard for a moment. He watched with a sneer as he saw young chefs chop at vegetables and stir pots. Abelard spat, a reflex when he was disgusted. “Uncouth vermin, sniveling babes, uninspired heathens,” Abelard said. His stomach gnawed the at his insides like a rabid badger digging for escape. He tilted to the side, reached under his bed past the dust ruffles, tugging the IV as he did, and produced from underneath a bottle of wine. He cracked the neck of the wine bottle on his bedside table as he held it between his two damaged hands, taking large swigs as the excess wine dribbled down the bottle, slithering past the same emblem of before plastered on the bottle’s tag. “Abelard,” said a voice from the other side of his bedroom door. It creaked open, the light from the other side beaming in a thick ray as a figure entered. She was in her fifties, dark brown hair, almost black in that darkness, with large brown eyes dazed eyes like a cow. She wore heavy makeup to hide her wrinkles, failing spectacularly at doing so. “What do you want, Collette?” Abelard said, putting aside his wine, reaching into his pajama pocket for a cigarette. “Light this,” he said. She pulled a silver lighter from between her breasts, her cleavage an open pocket, and smoldered the end of his cigarette as he puffed large clouds. “Now what do you want?” “I brought some food,” Collette said. “It is right outside. I made it myself this time, alright? It’s escargot, braised in an oyster reduction with mushrooms.” Abelard merely shooed her away with a sweeping gesture from his hand, the cigarette held flippantly between his twisted fingers. “You must eat something, Abelard,” she shouted, her short stubby arms fluttering around in fury. “It has been five days, you will die, Abelard!” “Don’t you dare speak to me like that,” Abelard shouted back. “Speaking to me as if you have any say in what I choose to do. You are my wife, Collette, not my master.” “Damn it, Abelard! You’re ignorance will kill you. I’m calling your son. He will tell you, he will get you to eat,” Collette said, already on her way out the door. As she pushed down on the door, Abelard called out after her. “Wait!” he said like a desperate child. She turned, a smile hesitantly peeking on her lips. “Yes?” she said. He smiled reassuringly, but then suddenly turned quickly into a snarled fury. “Take these fucking plates out of my room,” he shouted, throwing the plates toward her, smashing on the floor. Collette shrieked, leaving the room, slamming door behind her. Abelard was panting, having expended a great deal of his dwindling energy. His ravaged stomach continued to scrape the walls of his belly. He grabbed at the cracked wine again, opened a drawer from the bedside table, and pulled out a bottle of pills. He had trouble opening them with his injured hands, but managed, popping several in his mouth, washing them down with some wine. The I.V. drop was empty. Abelard picked up a controller on his bedside table, pressing a large red button on it. He picked up a week old newspaper from the shambled floor, glancing through the headlines, the funnies, and the classifieds. His eyes glimmered as he read an ad in the classifieds. “Father?” said an obviously irritated voice at the door. Abelard’s eyes sparked with vitality at the voice of his one and only son. “Ah, Abey, my son, mon petit garcon, come in,” Abelard said, shaking with excitement, a grin spread so far on his face it threatened to break his jaw. Abelard Simone de Lyon VIII stood at the door dressed in a finely tailored gray suit, simple but functional. He held a full IV bag in his hand. His face bore a great resemblance to the busts of his father that topped the bedposts, save for a modern haircut and the look of great disdain on his face. “The doctor said you pressed the call button, was it for this?” Abey asked, flopping the plastic bag from hand to hand. “Yes yes yes, I did. Keeps me energized. Keeps me up and running,” Abelard said, staring and smiling at his son. “Up and running? Have you seen yourself? You know what will really have you up and running? Eating food,” Abey said, shaking his head with exasperation. Abelard merely made a childish retching sound. “That garbage? I’d rather starve to death,” Abelard said, ignoring the returning painful hunger still growing in his stomach. He grabbed the wine, took a swig, and held it out for his son Abey pushed it away. “This may be your last chance to drink with your father, Abey,” said Abelard morosely. Abey grabbed the wine from his father and took a slow sip. “This won’t be our last time if you ate,” Abey began, “Ever since the accident-” “Don’t you speak of that!” Abelard said, pointing a twisted hand at his son. “That car crash crushed my hands, my tools, my livelihood and that which raised you for years. It’s like my soul has been ripped out.” Abey took to silence, his father heaving from his outburst. “I did not mean to upset you, father,” Abey said, staring at the shine of his shoes. “You hurt me when you didn’t take up the trade, boy,” Abelard said, cupping another handful of pills to his mouth. “All Abelards have been chefs, for seven generations, and you had to go off and become,” Abelard stopped, swinging his head trying to find the answer, “whatever job it is you do.” “I program, father. And it is better than sacrificing myself to take hold a some damned tradition,” Abey said, “Forget it, that’s in the past. Is it really worth dying over?” “Is it really worth letting me die, rather than you cooking me a meal?” Abelard replied. “This isn’t a game, father. You will die,” Abey said, moving from the door to face Abelard from just inches away. “I am not giving into whatever you say like when I was young, this is not about the food-“ “It has always been about the food,” Abelard shouted over his son. “I ate my father’s food when I was young. Then I ate my food when I learned the trade and took over the restaurant.” Abelard seethed out his words, lined with fury and disappointment. He looked down at his hands and began to weep. “And now I can no longer eat my food because of these monstrosities. When they couldn’t fix my hands, they should have just euthanized me.” Abey just shook his head. “There are many talented chefs out there,” Abey replied. “I have my doubts,” Abelard said. “You must give them a chance.” “I will, but just one more,” Abelard said. He tossed the newspaper at his son and directed him to the classifieds: TO CHEFS: I am renowned chef, Abelard Simone de Lyon. I offer the entire fortune of my family to whoever makes a meal worthy enough to be my last. “How long has this been out?” Abey said, his mouth still agape. “Several weeks now,” Abelard said. “I have been screening calls, looking up credentials, watching to see who might be worth my time. It came down to only three possible chefs.” “When are they to come?” “Any second now,” and like magic words, a storm of footsteps could be heard from the staircase. The door burst open and three chefs, and their three assistants, each came in with a silver covered plate. “Well then, let us see what you have to offer.” The three chefs each swept the cover of the meals dramatically. Each dish looked five star. Small, portions, meticulously crafted component by component, and architected like from the mind of an artist. Each of the chefs gleamed at their own dishes with the pride of a pageant mother for her child star, looking at their opponents with smirking superiority. “We’ll start with you,” Abelard said to the skinny chef on his left. “Good choice,” the chef said, “What we have here is-“ “I know already,” Abelard said, cutting off what he expected would be a long extensive list of marinades, sauces and technique, for what obviously was a filet on risotto. An assistant gave Abelard a fork which he used to pull off a tiny sliver of meat and a dab of the risotto. He chewed methodically. “The filet is twenty seconds under cooked, the risotto is chewy, the sauce lacks acidity and the presentation is too simplified.” He swallowed. The first chef left, huffing and cursing. The second did no better, as Abelard had concluded with a swift smash of the plate against the opposite wall as the second chef left in tears. The third chef shook. “This plate is from a recipe I found in one of you books, Chef Abelard,” the chef said.” “My book?” Abelard said, his eyebrows raised and eyes flashing with interest. “Yes,” the chef said, smiling with relief as he saw Abelard’s reaction, “but with my own twist.” Abelard closed his eyes after the chef’s last words, breathed in deeply and then exhaled. He took a fork of the food into his mouth, and before swallowing, scooped in another, and then more, in heavier amounts at a faster pace. The chef watched as Abelard scooped all the food into his mouth. The chef was unsure whether to smile or start to run. Abelard heaved out all the food, attempting to get some on the chef. The chef ran. “You crazy bastard,” he shouted, still running. “Don’t you dare sully my food again,” Abelard shouted back. He wiped at his lips with a purple cloth napkin. “Well, I gave them a chance,” Abelard said to his son. “You are impossible,” Abey said. “Just make me something, Abey.” “I’m not doing it, father. You’ve been trying to make me into you for too long now.” Abey glanced up and down at his father. “And look at what you are. I do not want to be that.” Abey left, closing the door behind him, leaving Abelard with nothing but hunger. * * * That night, Abelard was awake. He had no wine and no pills. He felt hollow. On wobbling legs he stood and left his room, tugging the IV stand with him. He was on the top floor, looking down the long staircase and realized it was too risky in his state to attempt to walk down it and into the kitchen. He searched the upper floor pantry, finding food requiring a kitchen, requiring dexterity to make. Except near the bottom, where the help usually puts their food, he found an expired can of mushroom soup. He took it, and a hanging can opener. He searched the helps’ rooms, all of whom left him after he cursed them out. He found a half bottle of rum in one of their drawer and took that as well, going back to his room. Abelard twisted the can opener, grating slowly at the aluminum lid, his crooked hand making progress. He smiled to himself, the lid open, a prideful smirk glazed across his face. He pressed the jagged opening of the can to his mouth, taking down large gulps at a time. Finished with the can, he chugged all the rum and smiled. “Delicious,” he said. His stomach bloated, the overtly richness of the soup absorbing into his blood. It ached at his heart as he began to convulse with shock. His eyes watered as he stared at the ceiling of his room. The bones in his body began to burn and ached, feeling like they were to crack at any second. His heart thumped faster, every beat like a sledgehammer, vibrating the pain through all his veins. His heart finally stopped. * * * Twenty years earlier, Abelard Simone de Lyon VII speckled his final dish of the night with a dotted half circle of lamb demi-glace, delicately married together from the espagnole sauce and lamb stock, each dot topped with increasingly proportioned beluga caviar, the last dot drawn out into a horizontal teardrop. He gathered this last plate and four others onto a silver cart, hiding each beneath a sterling serving dish, each engraved with the coat of arms of angel wings, bugle horns, and crossed butcher knives. Abelard stopped for half a second as he saw his reflection in a mirror above a kitchen sink. He clicked his tongue several times, shaking his head, as he looked upon himself. Three slim locks of golden hair peeked out from under his stiff toque which he brushed back under with a slip of his finger. The apron he wore had three dots of red sauce. He discarded the apron, tossing it in the garbage, his usual ritual after each day at his restaurant. His hands brushed at invisible wrinkles on his double breasted jacket as he cast-off the lavender necktie he wore onto the rejected apron. As he began to wipe his steel-toed shoes of spots, a pair of double doors opened and a young greasy faced waiter paced into the kitchen, worry pulling down on his eyebrows and a crooked frown pulling at his lips. “Chef, please, what are you doing? Is this the food?” the waiter said, “The customers have ordered an hour ago.” The waiter looked blankly at Abelard, as he motioned his hands heavily back and forth at the sterling plates and then at Abelard who was still too busy prepping his appearance to notice. The waiter emitted a grunt and sigh. “Chef, please, could I just deliver the plates. You always say it is your right to serve for the last party, but please Chef, it has been a long day and I still must clean up and if we could just serve these guests-“ “My little boy, mon petit garcon, Abelard Simone de Lyon VIII, my Abey” said Abelard, his eyes sparkling with phantoms of a bright future, “One day you will realize the importance of this self-preparation. This ‘food’ we serve is little more than blank canvasses, my son. We paint upon it like artists. We evoke life and love through the craft. We are the Gods of cet univers cruel,bringing the apple to the unknowledgeable heathens and inspiring them,” “Father, that was Satan who did that,” Abey said. Abelard’s nose wrinkled in thought, his dark blue eyes twinkled with an iota of speculation. “Satan was not such a bad person,” Abelard said, gazing dreamily upward, “How could we reach this level of unparalleled blissful decadence without him? Also, if there was not sin in this world, we could not be charging five hundred francs per person.” He straightened his jacket a third and final time, gestured at Abey toward the cart of food, and proceeded to walk to the front of the house. The double doors opened out into a luxuriously furnished restaurant. From the doors a long strip of velvet carpet rolled out, dividing the room in two. Round tables draped in violet cloths dotted the room, symmetrically placed, a dim personal candle burning lamp on each on which emitted a warm glow. On one wall hung eight portraits, one for each and every Abelard Simone de Lyon, each in a chef’s uniform, each in which the painter captured the Abelard smirk, radiating superiority. As Abelard crossed the floor the patrons at all the tables turned to him, jubilant smiles, admirable gazes, even streaks of envy but always accented with respect. Their applause came in waves like the growing intensity of a hail storm until nothing could be heard but the falling claps of applause. “Bon Appetit,” Abelard said, staring at his dishes. “Fine and good, can we leave now?” Abey said, “I’m starving, aren’t you? You haven’t eaten all day.” “Let me just take this in, son,” Abelard said, watching the patrons eat his food. He smiled, full of content, full of satisfaction.