Short story

Back To the Roots

Peter had made it. Born as the seventh son of a Spanish steel worker and a Polish scrubwoman he had been told by the people about his pre-ordained life as either a criminal or a homeless. Nobody had ever imagined that he would become rich and famous one day although Peter had never doubted it. And he had been right. In his seventeenth year he started an apprenticeship as a cook and after that he opened his first restaurant in the Bronx when he was 22. Now he was 36 and owned a well-frequented restaurant in Brooklyn that was ready to get some stars. This day was supposed to bring about the decisive evening of Peter's life as George Simmons, a famous and bad-tempered restaurant critic, would make his appearance and taste at least one of Peter's palatable meals.

The whole day, Peter's establishment had been humming with activity. Now, fifteen minutes before Mr. Simmons was expected, the chef went around for a last check. Suddenly he discovered Fred at a table in a corner of the large main room. At once, Peter remembered the happy days he had spent with Fred. This somewhat shabby man over there had in their youth always been more attractive and popular than the cook who had greatly admired him. Peter went straight towards his old friend. „Fred! What are you doing here?“ The man frowned for a second but Peter did not notice. Fred smiled: “I'm trying to get something to eat. My mother told me to taste one of your delicious meals.“ „Well, thank you, but I'm a bit in a hurry. Simmons is gonna come this evening.“ He had a look at his watch. „Ten minutes. I'm sorry, Fred, but I'm afraid I'll have no time for you.“ Peter quickly turned away. He did not hear Fred's answer nor see the strangely satisfied expression on his friend's face.

The following events led straight into a disaster although everything started just as planned. When Mr Simmons arrived he seemed to be positively surprised by the interior of Peter's restaurant. There was no problem with the wine either. But just when the critic wanted to taste his salad a nasty little cockroach had a peep through two carefully arranged pieces of lettuce. Mr Simmons shrieked and jumped up, as all of Peter's guests did as if on a wordless command. Peter had a look around and noticed that the room seemed to be full of insects searching their way from plate to plate like tiny robots. Everywhere in the restaurant people ran excitedly from corner to corner. Peter was not able to think. He just stood there in the middle of the room, unable to move a muscle. When he looked up again he noticed that Fred stood right in front of him. In his hands he held a metal box which still contained two cockroaches.

„I brought these for you. To remind you of the place where you belong.“ Fred grinned. „Back to the roots, my friend.“

by Mareike Kaden
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