Tonight We Cook in Hell

In the Empyreal kitchen, Chamuel was busy sweating over a hot pan of rapidly opacifying scallops. This would be the eighty two million, five hundred and fifty eight thousand, seven hundred and sixth portion of pan-seared scallops that he had prepared since his shift started. Nonetheless, Uriel—the kitchen manager—still wouldn’t stop hovering over him like a beady-eyed halo.

“Those scallops better be fudging perfect, Chamuel,” said Uriel, “Don’t you dare serve up any of that overcooked bull sugar again. Michael’s got his hands full with the beef wellington, so there’s no one to cover your cock-sure bottom if you fudge it up. Got it?”

“Yes, Uriel. He can shove his fudging scallops up his luminous backside,” he thought, blasphemously. One mistake, that’s all he’d made. A century ago. And now he couldn’t for the eternity of him get Uriel off his case.

Chamuel finished searing the scallops, checked that they were done, and sent them over to Ananiel to be plated up.

Through the pick-up window he watched the blessèd sitting at their tables, feeding each other with their long spoons, guzzling dish after dish for all eternity. He fired up another pan and was getting ready for pan-seared scallops number eighty two million, five hundred and fifty eight thousand, seven hundred and seven, when the bell rang signalling a five-minute break.

“Thank G—,” Chamuel thought, being very careful to mentally add the dash. He pulled a packet of ambrosia cigarettes from his chef’s robes and made a beeline for the door, but Uriel got there before him.

“Staff meeting in the break room, sharpish!”

“Grrraaaagggghh!” Chamuel barely stifled a blasphemy so brutal it would have warranted a written warning from the boss and, hands shaking, filed into the break room with the other chefs, all of whom looked more than slightly charred.

Uriel, after puffing himself up sufficiently, began his address:

“All right, staff. I know there’s been some dissatisfaction in the ranks regarding the lack of manpower around here, so management has agreed to transfer up a staff member from down below. This is Prince Vassago, Vassadjo—am I pronouncing that right?—who’s going to be giving us a hand until the end of our shift. He’s here if you need him, so make use of him. Now get back to work and no more whining. Chop chop.” He shooed them out of the break room. But before Chamuel could leave, Uriel put his hand on his shoulder. “Vassago,” he said to the new boy, “stay close to this one. He needs all the help he can get.”

Chamuel scowled at the back of Uriel’s head as he returned, laughing, to the kitchen. The new boy, Prince Whatshisname, looked at him and raised his eyebrows. “Your boss, bit of an arsehole, is he?”

“You don’t know the half of it, mate,” Chamuel replied.

From beyond the kitchen came the sound of spoons banging on the table, accompanied by chants of Where’s our grub! Where’s our grub!

“Come on,” said Chamuel. “We’d better get back out there before that lot of blessèd barstools starts to run amok. Bunch of entitled prigs the lot of them—Oh, we’re the blessèd; we’re in heaven; we’re so special. Let me tell you, Prince—er—”

“Vassagio.”

“Let me tell you, Prince Vassagio”—they were back at Chamuel’s station by now—”their souls might be in heaven, but their manners? Six feet under with the rest of them.”

“Chamuel! Stop yapping and keep those scallops coming!” Uriel bellowed.

Chamuel fired up his scallops and began to cook. “So what’s your lot like, you know, down below? Bunch of nutters I’d imagine. Make this lot look like a choir of cherubim.”

“Actually, they’re no trouble at all.”

Chamuel eyed him suspiciously. “You pulling my leg?”

“Nope. They haven’t figured out how to use the spoons. They sit there trying to feed themselves. We haven’t had to make any new food for years.”

“You’re having a laugh.”

The boy chuckled. “I’m serious. Bunch of idiots, mostly. The noise gets a bit distracting, all that wailing and stomachs grumbling, but just stick in a pair of earplugs and you’re sorted.”

“So you’re saying—you just—doss around all day?”

“More or less.” He shrugged.

“I don’t f-fucking well believe it.” He threw down his skillet and marched to the head of the kitchen.

“Everyone listen up.”

“What’s going on here?” said Uriel. “Chamuel, why the fudge aren’t you finishing those scallops?”

“You can shove your scallops up your fucking arse.” A gasp from the brigade. “Boys, we’ve been had. Prince—er—”

“Vassagio.”

“Yeah. Prince Vassagio here has just told me that in Hell—in Hell—the damned haven’t even learnt how to use their fucking spoons, and so all the demons do is sit around all day pissing about, while we—the angels—work our bloody fingers to the bone for this bunch of spoilt Daddy’s boys.”

There was a gasp from the other chefs.

“Mother fuckers,” Michael said and kicked the oven.

Similar cries came from the other stations, followed by a cacophony of hurled kitchen implements crashing to the floor.

Uriel rushed over to the Prince. “What about the non-disclosure agreement you signed, eh? Forgot about that, did you?” But the demon was merely smirking.

“Come on boys,” said Chamuel. “Bugger this for a laugh, we’re going to Hell.” And they stormed out of the kitchen, leaving a trail of shed feathers and discarded halos behind them.

The crowd at the tables had begun chanting again. Sweat was streaming down Uriel’s brow. “G— dash it, they’re going to tear the place to pieces!” he said, leaning through the pick-up window and barely dodging a flying spoon.

Prince Vassagio leaned in and whispered into his ear. “My boss said he’s got a message for your boss.”

Uriel looked at him with bulging eyes. The demon grinned as a portal opened up beneath him. “Revenge is like a nice gazpacho—”

END

“Tonight We Cook in Hell” © 2016 by Dafydd McKimm. All rights reserved.

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