WARNING - this story may contain adult content including coarse language and/or sexual content which may be offensive to some
RECIPE FOR MURDER
a short story by Mark Kolke
March 28, 2011
The letter was . . . addressed:
Chef Sven Scrivener
Claim Staker Café
2110 – 2nd Avenue
I would like to journey to see you sir, in the course of seeking employment, in response to your advertisement last week in the Nome Nuggett - I would like to be employed as your sous-chef, to assist you and learn your craft, and in this sir, I would be in your debt.I am young, lack formal training and commercial experience of any kind, but I assure you I am a fine cook.
I have wished to be a chef for some time now. I have made some dishes of my own invention which have pleased some friends and family here, but it is impossible to find a position in this pitiful place. There isn’t a good place to eat for four hundred miles or more and I don’t have the wherewithal to start a place of my own.And, more than that, I am in need of training before I would dare risk opening a restaurant.
I considered work on a fishing boat or cruise ship – lots of them come through here – but I can’t swim and I get sea-sick.I need my feet on firm ground.
Also, I should mention that my dad is Canadian - I have duel citizenship – so I can work in the Yukon without having to go through immigration department delays.I would appreciate any opportunity you can give me. I have enclosed my resume and references.
If you could offer me a position, I should like to journey to Whitehorse in the spring, as soon as the snow melts allowing regular train service through to here and when my younger brother can handle my chores on his own.
James (Jesse) MacGruder
P.O. Box 71
Somewhere in his messy files, buried beneath every reprimand-report he had me initial, lingered that yellow coffee stained letter.
I’d typed that letter on dad’s old Smith-Corona portable.Every time I decided to quit, every time he begged me to stay – he’d trot it out and remind me how much I wanted to work there, work for him, learn from him.
What an asshole.
A filthy abusive miserable asshole who tried to fuck everybody’s wife but his own, who bully-pushed everybody in town away or around except for low-life drug-dealing cronies that kept his scary reputation intact.
Probably just another story of frontier business in the modern era, money laundering through a largely cash restaurant business. He was our Sven, our only Sven . . . fuckhead asshole Sven. I wanted him so dead. Not heart-attack dead, but real dead – wretched death dead, the kind from horror flicks where guts leak out and rats squeal while they eat.
There was a time when I had a strong sense of myself, but that’s long gone and swept away so easily it seemed . . .
It was supposed to be so good here.
He was so effing charming on the phone.
At first it seemed that if Sven said so, it WAS so, and everybody trusted Sven.
I soon realized the reality.
Scratch that.Not trusted…. more a matter of not challenging.
Nod and comply – with whatever he said. That was it.
He was such an imposing sarcastic ugly miserable beast that, in time, each of us on his crew looked up to him in height only. We did as he demanded out of near-indentured servitude – fearful enforced loyalty.
He wrote me back you know -a job offer and encouragement to come to Yukon’s capital, which was the only nice thing to say about it except that Pierre Burton came from there.Operative term – came from there – because there is no better direction to go . . .
In time, as I get older, I realize that nasty comes in many forms.
Sometimes it meets you head on, sometimes it’s a backhanded slap of life’s hand that arrives with postage due . . . like Sven’s written job offer.I paid the postage.
I’ve been paying ever since.
There may be no redemption found in murder, but there has to be satisfaction. There has to be.
We sat there, stupefied, in Sven’s galley kitchen, that stupid March night – our bravado rummed up and summed up as we were – the three of us, all fed-up.
We’d had it.For me, learning to make a great sauce, groveling every day, at the foot of my master – that’s how it all started; now just too high a price to pay.
We three conspirators, each with our own angst-ridden litany of stories, reasons and excuses fed our ache for revenge.
Sven must die.
There will be no ending of it, this rage, because that implies you can measure it; but how do you measure something when you don’t know when or how you began it?
Anger is like that.
But, again, I’ve leapt ahead of myself . . .
He could turn on the charm, that’s for sure.
Sweet as fresh raisin pie when he thought I was going to quit or make a run for it. The rest of the time, he treated me like shit – equality I suppose – same way he treated the rest of his staff.
Each time I mustered sufficient nerve and savings to quit, to afford escaping Whitehorse, he’d find some way to twist my angst to thinking it was my fault things weren’t working out. Or, he’d promise to be less harsh.
He made promises of more money or some accommodation to my requests if, IF only I would stay.
It was a downward spiral, tightening, one that twisted my guts more each time.The time-gap between his apologies and his next round of abuse becoming unbearable, became shorter and shorter through the years.
Or, maybe it just seemed that way to me.
I was numb of if now.
But oh, could that bastard cook.Roasted meat, sautéed fish of any kind, soups, chowders and sauces were his forte.
He’d taught me well, taught me all of it actually- let me learn his recipes and didn’t seem to mind when I bested his best, which was often.
He knew my rack of lamb was better than his. My caribou stew, and my succulent roasted stuffed garlic chicken breasts, were better by a Klondike mile than any he’d made.Small comfort I suppose, that he let me have some moments of glory, taking credit with the customers.
But they were all his recipes. Damn him.You’d think, after all these years, he would let me put some of my own recipes on the menu.Sure, it was great for me momentarily to serve up a Friday night special of my own creation . . .but, regular menu?Not a chance.
Last Friday for instance – I had all our regulars begging for seconds of my baked halibut and red veggies.
I baked that magic white meat at high heat - and fast - finished it under the broiler to bubble/brown my lemon-butter-dill-parmesan concoct.
I’d sautéed rings of red onion, shallots, lemon dressing, Asiago cheese, garlic, butter and Worchester sauce in a mix of truffle oil and balsamic vinegar . . . spilled that lusty tangle of flavor over sliced tomatoes, Bocconcini slivers and red pepper shards . . baked it next to the halibut – red on one side of the oven, white on the other.
I begged Sven - since everyone was raving - if I could put this new item on our new menu we were getting ready for the printers.He didn’t even try to say maybe.His flat, “NO, it wasn’t very good”. . . that tipped me over the edge.
Years of dreaming, about using my boning knife to give him a kidney-echtomy, or watching a pressure cooker explode in his face were just idle preparation – my brain candy – to prepare me for this moment, for this day of reckoning when my dream would become his final nightmare.
I was ready.
Rage, irrational idiotic rage.This was simply going to be murder.There was no other way.I didn’t want to get caught . . . but, on the other hand, they need cooks in prison. Just last week the opposition was belly-aching in parliament that the hard-on-crime initiatives were spending too much money on prison construction and upgrades. Maybe I’ll get sent to one with a great new kitchen.
But I don’t want to get caught.
Sven’s wife will be so glad he’s gone, surely she’ll pick me to run the joint.The crew I can handle; as for her . . well, I think a boost in business will make her cash-happy and fund some trips to Vancouver.She’ll leave me alone.I’m not sure about Sven’s grotty friends, but maybe they’ll move their illicit trade up the street to the Pizza Hut or Sam N Andy’s.Or maybe they’ll just find another way.I’ve been hearing lately that the drug trade has mostly moved out of town – lots of little hideaway spots out on Hamilton Boulevard, south of town.
Gawd .. how long has it been since I’ve felt free like this?
Was it a five or twenty-five years now - not sure how long its been, this not feeling nearly alive?
It’s not that I’ve forgot . . . but it’s the rum talking.
We weren’t so much in fear of our jobs in a market where there are precious few to be had or loss of our place to live in a zero vacancy market. We are his captives, tenants in run down rooms over the Claim Staker; dank quarters barely fit for holding the roof up.Most of the crew drank half their paychecks anyway, others gambled or frittered it away some other way.A couple of dopers too.Wages weregood,but cost of living in the north has always been a half-step ahead.
But there we sat, so stupefied, that stupid March night . . .
We were agreed then.
Tom would do the research (watching some old video of Arsenic and Old Lace I suspect) on poisons, I was to figure out some way to orchestrate an equipment failure - of the car variety - and Gordy was going to figure out some way we could electrocute him in the kitchen without starting a fire that would burn the restaurant to cinders.
Gordy and Tom were good guys, really – they seemed to deal with Sven’s evil ways easier than me; two gay cooks in the middle of red-neck nowhere, as tightly hidden in the closet as you could imagine. Sven has always kept them nervous – his veiled threats of outing them was as nasty for them as his abusive mind control over me, unbearable.
Somehow, up till now, they got by all right; since they started flying lessons they’ve seemed a lot happier. Sven was joking just the other day, if Gordy and Tom have an accident, we’ll be putting another ad in the Nome Nugget: Wanted, line-cooks (2), to start right away.
I was still boozy, having slept half the night on that sagging couch . . . one eye open, I spied her . . she lay there, splayed on that ratty area rug – just like she was yesterday. In the middle of the afternoon, music blaring, I was talking over the music on the phone as I came into the room to turn the CD player down.
She wasn’t dead, or even sick – but her sounds were sorrowful; she was asleep, having dog dreams.That lazy Golden Retriever - that doesn’t bark while awake - was growling and yipping in her sleep, oblivious to the room and goings-on around her.Maybe she was having nightmares about last night.But how can a dog know what we were plotting?She was upstairs in my room.She might have heard, but without seeing anything, how could she know?
She probably sensed my stifled homicidal rage – sensing I’ve been up to my knees in disappointment lately.
But she thought – I’m sure she thought – it was just because there’d been a lack of bouncing bed-springs lately . . . she’d rest at my feet when I was reading or working on tomorrow’s catering menus.
Belly with a tail.Ah, but to sleep like a dog and have no worries.
In my next life, if there is such a thing, I’m coming back as cook’s dog.
I think I’d like to have just one cook instead of being shared by the whole staff like this fat bitch. She’s sick much of the time because we are all feeding her.
If I could fix that, she’d fart a lot less.Hey, a solution to global warming – limit restaurant dogs to one meal a day, one handler, one feeder … one owner.
I slept, finally . . . or maybe I blacked out from too much rum.
What the _ _ _ ?
“Sure … Constable, I’m Jesse .. er . . James MacGrudger.What is it? … Hey, it’s 3AM.”
It was young Constable Buckaway, the Mayor’s boy, calling - there was a light plane crash landing attempt just south of town – seemed the pilot thought Hamilton Boulevard was a runway because of those damn sodium vapor lights, looked like runway markings in the fog.
Pilot and co-pilot both dead, he said. Likely drunk – he found an empty rum bottle in the cockpit; and, he thought it really odd that Sven’s truck was parked out there, on the side of the road, considering he lived north of town in Valleyview.
“Sure … Constable, I’ll be happy to come out to the house. Sure, I’ll meet you there and stay with Mrs. Scrivener after you inform her of her husband’s tragic accident.”