Sometimes the stories I write take on their own life, as if I had nothing to do with it but record the event. This was supposed to be a light-hearted tale about a couple waiting for dinner at a fancy restaurant, but once Pierre walked in, the spotlight shined on him and his endeavors to make the perfect dinner on an important night and live up to the expectations of everyone.
The Potan del la de Magnus
Thirty minutes and nothing. Not a “hello”, ”congratulations”, “how are you”, even a “fuck you”, came from the wait staff. They felt like they were invisible to the entire world, though their complaints were heard by everyone.
“Harold, where the fuck is that fucking waitress with our fucking wine?”
“I don’t know, Clara, perhaps they heard your shrieking and froze in fright.”
“Phishaw, Harold. They should know by now my bite is so much worse than my bark, bwa ha!” The last laugh bleating out like a turkey mating call.
“Bru’ ha ha ha,” Harold chuckled in agreeance.
The wait staff did know the wait and they also knew that the order required patience on the part of the orderee. But Harold and Clara had always been tough customers.
Tonight was special. This evening marked the 100th anniversary of the Potan del la de Magnus, the longest operating restaurant in all of Florence.
A mystical, magical place, the ambience unmatchable, the food to kill for. The wine selection itself was the size of a phone book, or some other fancy allegory. And for tonight, both the restaurant and the guest list was even fancier than usual. Save for a single couple.
“Pierre! You stupid French Cunt, where is my fucking fo’ gras”, Harold half-yelled, half-belched while Clara looked absolutely disgusted, not by her husband, but by the wait time.
Pierre excused himself from the light conversation he was engaged with a foreign minister. Or was it a diplomat? Bah, no bother, Pierre had to deal with the disgraceful couple from America, the same ones who had been here the past 25 anniversaries and acted as though it was their celebration.
“Ah, my good Harold and Clara, how does the wind blow from your cherished Italian property? A bit to South, no? I see you have landed in our humble establishment once again!”
“Cut the shit, Pierre, if we wanted our ears tickled we would of stayed home and listened to Pa-va-rotti! Now where is my Go’-damn fo’ gras?”
Harold’s “culture” was originally American, but a lottery win a quarter century ago had elevated him into socialite status, though he was rarely invited to parties and generally ended up throwing his own.
Pierre had gone to one, unnoticed to Harold and Clara of course. He saw the guests gulping the free alcohol as if it was the only reason they had gone to a Harold & Clara hosted party. It usually was. It was why Pierre had gone, anyways.
“My good Harold, as you know tonight is our hundredth year of operation, and, as I’m sure you are well aware of, we have one hundred mallard ducks currently caviar foie gras’ed and awaiting to have their livers cut from their still breathing bodies and cooked in the juices of their own blood-buttered caviar seeping out into a searing pan and mixed in with the special blend of spices that our Chef, Le Mon, has concocted. You will be hearing the reviews on this one my friends! There will never be anything like this again!
“Each individual duck has been personally raised and fed a strict diet that brings out a boutique of flavors. This past year has been a labor of love to create this magical night. And all I ask, my dear Harold, is that you allow another 15 minutes so that you don’t get your taste buds shorted from undercooked goose liver.”
Harold squinted beadily at Pierre.
“Go’-damn, Pierre! Ain’t you just another peach in the wilting summer sun, boy! I like my duck rare!”
Pierre momentarily closed his eyelids so that the other guests would not see his eyeballs roll back into the farthest reaches eyes can look inside their own body.
“That it not a wise choice, Harold. Though I raised them in their own individual pens, fed them each individual diets, and gave them their daily cleanings in the most respectful way, I can not ever claim for the taste of rare fowl. Only a searing pan can bring out the true flavor. You don’t want to short yourself, do you, my dear friend? If you only wait, now just ten minutes…
Harold violently slammed his fist down on the table, startling everyone in the restaurant, save his stony wife, her steely gaze still upsettingly set on the also unstartled Pierre.
“I said get me my Go’-damn fo’ gras now, Pierre, or do I have to remind you who partially refinanced this pleasant little restaurant so it could make it another fucking 10 years. Now I want that taste of butter bird right the fuck now or I’ll make the interest rates so good Go’-damn high, there won’t be a 101st around this motherfucker.”
The silence hung through Harold's little rant and then returned to its normal volume, as if everyone was trying to pretend they didn’t hear the most impudent speech they had heard this week. At least here, at the Potan del la de Magnus.
Pierre cleared his throat in the most polite way.
“Of course, Harold.” Pierre nodded to the Clara whose irritated expression remained the same it had been the entire tirade. “Madame,”
Pierre turned around and headed ever so dutifully to the kitchen.
Le Mon was wiping the sweat off his brow with the same bloody rag that was utilized in the hepatectomy on one the ducks, the one named Queeny, according to the name tag.
Pierre clapped his hands.
“Get Quebert and Quayquay’s dishes served up!”
The last time he had clapped his hands like that, it was for the Queen of England’s brandy veal.
Le Mon’s face went from tired to apologetic upon hearing the orders bark so eloquently from Pierre’s mouth.
“I cannot serve that which has not even been plated, much less cut from those two honkers’ bodies.” Le Mon again wiped the sweat from his forehead, the blood smearing in with the sweat on both rag and skin. “I was going to have one of the braver waiters ask for another 15 on that table.”
Pierre showed a slight second of annoyance before instinctually remembering who he was and the legend he held and quickly pushed it back. Only Le Mon saw it in his long-time co-workers face. He could guess something shocking was next.
Pierre went over to the impressively sized and varied knife rack and spent a quick second scanning for a blade needed for the job he was about to do. For Pierre, a surgical scalpel was selected.
He went up to Quebert and Quayquay’s holding pen, set up in a specially ordered tent that connected to the rear of the restaurant. A way to connect the animals and their caviar-stuffed livers into the fry pans and finally the patrons’ guts located inside.
The sounds of honking and fluttered feathers was almost overwhelming for Pierre. Though he had raised them, trained them for this moment, the day that they would be more than animals destined for slaughter, the day they would be the main dish of the grandest restaurant in all of Florence, he was still sad to see his feathery friends go.
He had grown attached to the brandy-suckling calves last year, too.
The eyes filling the tent slowly recognized Pierre and followed his movements towards Quebert and Quayquay’s pens, located in the center-left of the tent. Pierre had hired veterinary surgeons the world over for tonight, to remove the livers from the ducks’ still living bodies and into a searing pan carted into the kitchen for garnish and plating. It was masterful and a beautiful display of organization and planning.
He grabbed Quebert from his pen and whispered quiet words of calming encouragement that only Quebert knew and trusted.
Pierre then firmly thrust the razor-sharp scalpel in through the feathers and skin and deep into the general area where the liver lay.
The mallard squawked and flapped its struggled wings against Pierre’s stern grip.
Blood began to spray about the tent, covering things in a fine mist of fluttered red. Though they were all professionals, the staff in the tent looked disconcertingly at the scene.
Pierre held firm, Quebert’s flapping wings and pained honks the only signs that the bird was still alive.
Pierre then stabbed the scalpel into the nearest wooden tent pole, shaking the sturdy canvas rooftop.
With his newly freed hand, Pierre dug into the squawking fowl’s newly gaping wound and pried the black, caviar encrusted liver from its still struggling body.
The surgeons were surprised at Pierre’s finesse and locational abilities in finding such a complexly placed organ.
Refusing the searing pan, Pierre slapped the liver onto a clean, white plate, smearing it with darkly congealed fluid and undigested black caviar.
He set Quebert’s now dead and limp body down onto the blood-covered hay floor. He then pulled the scalpel out from the tent pole and proceeded to perform the same gruesome operation on Quayquay.
As he worked, Pierre’s mind drifted through the past year, personally raising, feeding, training, and naming all the ducks.
He had decided to name all the mallard ducks starting with the letter Q. He felt that it would be challenging to come up with 100 different names starting with Q. Much harder than making rhyming names of the calves last year.
Quayquay was one of the last named.
After his second feathery friend had surrendered his organ, just as his brother Quebert had, Pierre grabbed both plates, dripping with darkened blood and other fowly juices, and created a dotted path towards their final destination.
He placed the plates delicately down, first in front of Clara’s horrified expression, then to Harold’s smirkingly approved face.
“Here’s your fucking foie gras.”