RECIPE • by William Wood

How dare they?

Lyle gripped the glass bowl, white-knuckled, teeth clenched. He took a slow breath, fighting down the urge to smash it into a thousand pieces. Six years of faithful service. Getting up in the middle of the night to set up the kitchen. All for when that fat bastard waddled in at seven, wearing that ridiculous hat and picking god-knows-what out of his mangy attempt at a mustache.

Images on the television shifted relentlessly, bright colors drawing his attention. The upper left corner of the screen still read MUTE from his mother’s visit weeks ago. She’d informed him the deafening noise was too distracting. He’d only smiled. All he cared about was the news scrolling along the bottom, summarized in five and six word sentences.

He sighed and placed the bowl next to the cooktop. Light erupted outside as another rock slammed to the ground somewhere nearby.

UN peacekeepers roll into Gaza. President under fire from Congressional opposition. Meteorite “INVASION” continues despite FEMA assurances.

He whisked an ounce of whole milk into the bright orange yolk. These new, exotic types really did produce a more vibrant color. He stuck the tip of his finger into the glass mixing bowl and flicked a gooey bead into the frying pan.

A week ago, they’d brought him into the office. Social Services had sent over a girl, not more than fifteen, to translate. He’d seen chimps that could sign better, but the message was clear despite her best efforts to muddle it up.

Chez Neuf no longer needs you, she’d signed. People just don’t normally eat out during a crisis. Etienne has seniority. They’ll call you when things settle down.

The droplet hopped and danced silently along the hot stainless surface, burning to a tiny cinder within seconds, lost in the grain of the steel.

Almost, he thought.

Lunar mining causing meteors, critics say. NASA denies liability for damaged homes. Murder rate up in NYC.

The fist-sized rocks had rained down all over the world for weeks. Lunids, the astronomers had dubbed them. All the news services were excitedly reporting they’d been spotted on every continent now, even Antarctica. Some places in high concentrations.

A columnist in the morning paper had joked that the earth was being salted and peppered by evil alien intelligences, hungry for fresh flavors.

Oh, yes. Pepper.

He took the pepper from the spice rack above the recessed television, stirred the bowl again and scraped a heaping gob of butter from the spatula into the pan. The butter ran to the middle, bubbling around the edges. The rich smell filled his nostrils.

Oh, yes. They’d regret keeping Etienne. He’d shop this recipe around. Someone would recognize his talent, his genius.

FEMA teams dispatched with hearing protection. Hotel heiress arrested in Milan. SETI director resigns after hotel scandal.

Hearing protection? He laughed. Never been so good to be me.

The FEMA crews were having a devil of a time collecting the meteorites, all of which were roughly the same size. Something about a piercing tone they produced whenever anyone got within a few yards. Made a few people lose it completely. Sent them running like frightened children, clutching their heads.

Craziness. What are you gonna do about it anyway? You really gonna stop rocks falling from the sky? You go, FEMA.

Got to be a better way.

He dumped the contents of the bowl into the waiting pan, sliding it back and forth to prevent sticking, and let the rush of smoke pour upwards into his face. A little shredded cheddar and a half-filled cup of maple-flavored sausage chunks.

Oh, yeah.

Droplets of hot butter splattered up onto his hands and arms, each little sting causing him to wince.

Middle school steroids — special report tonight. Oil scandal rocks United Nations. Meteorites have thick crystalline shell.

Tilting the pan above the oscillating glow of the cooktop, Lyle slid a spatula under the omelet and flipped the edge inward, folding it. Seconds later, he let the steaming creation slide from the pan onto a plate and switched off the electricity.

Toast already spread with jelly and orange juice poured in a frosted glass. All arranged on a small wooden tray, fork and napkin included. A feng shui breakfast.


Picking up the tray and turning, his elbow bumped the mixing bowl and it tumbled to the floor, smashing, tiny shards of glass biting at his bare legs.

With a sigh, he began to place the plate on the counter in order to clean up his mess, but reconsidered.

No. Breakfast first. Then clean.

Wind and rain pummels Midwest. Caruthers pulls out of Senate race. Lunid contents are complex organic compounds.

He stepped out onto the deck, almost tripping over a wayward claw hammer, and sat on the steps leading down to the lawn. Tray resting across his legs, he breathed deeply and slowly. Peace in, anger out. A cool autumn breeze softened the sunlight beating on his forehead and thinning hair. Beautiful day.

He’d left the television and closed captioning unit on but that could wait. Wait with the shattered bowl on the floor.

Dead leaves danced noiselessly, caught in a little whirlwind at the base of the steps. The grassy slope swept downward towards the bay. Rays of yellow light glinted on the water and little rainbows sprung from the dozen or so meteorites scattered around his yard. They really were everywhere.

The hollow shell of yesterday’s morning entrée lay behind him near the kitchen door. Compost or rock garden? He couldn’t decide.

A whole week with no ill effects. A masterpiece bigger than this petty disaster.

Taking a mouthful, he began to chew.

William Wood dreams of the day when he can rest upon his laurels in a beautiful mountaintop fortress, surrounded by a library of his own greatest works. Until then he lives in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and children — who are very tolerant.

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