#230 Gravy

by May Anderton Ryan

Two dogs sneezed by the back alley trash cans. Slobber dripped from their lolling tongues. Their pupils enlarged while trembling streams yellowed fresh snow.

In the kitchen, the chef whisked flour and water. After so many failures, he had one last chance to create the perfect dish, his signature. His biggest break.

He stirred some jus into the roux. Then he drizzled the thickened brown liquid over two plates. The aroma quickened hearts, widened eyes, and hushed idle chatter throughout the restaurant.

“Bon appétit.” The chef served his entrée to two long-awaited food critics. The man had too much facial hair; so did the woman.

As the chef walked away, he pretended not to notice their hidden holsters.

Through the kitchen door window, the chef spied on the couple. They ate quickly. The man wrote in a small notebook while the woman drank wine. Then at the same time, they both lowered their heads and licked the leftover sauce from their plates.

As if on cue, the chef returned to the table. The woman asked, “How much?”

The chef replied, “Don’t worry about it.”

They stood and shook the chef’s hand. The man said, “We’ll be back.”

At the end of the night, the chef entered the back alley. He hosed off two corpses and dragged them inside. Runoff flowed into a drain.

He thought about the cops, how they acted like dogs. He shuddered.

The chef opened another bag of flour.

There would always be gravy.