Whether it was the flambé

Julie Gray
Aug 10, 2018 · 3 min read

by Devorah Friedlander


Whether it was the flambé that was responsible for the kitchen fire or the overly-enthusiastic new grill chef Lloyd and his “famous” lamb skewers didn’t really matter anymore. John laid in the grass and stared at the stars as he waited for the local volunteer fire brigade to come. Which is when he heard…

…“little lamb, little lamb, where are you?”

John never asked himself what he would save if a fire ever forced him out of the kitchen. But Lloyd seemed to have the answer. A juicy (now charred) lamb chop. Lloyd had taken to crawling around on his hands and knees, sniffing the grass. He cried out with glee, picking up something fleshy near the trash bin.

Lloyd sputtered, spitting out the mystery meat. “Not lamb,” he said sadly, continuing his search.

The fire brigade arrived. They hooked up the fire hose on the fire hydrant near the curb. They sprayed the flaming brick, smoke and mist joining together in an angry dance. Well, Valerie, the owner, had wanted a more rustic steak house. Now she would have the smokiest steak house in town.

Sarah, one of the sous chefs, took out her phone and began taking pictures of the firefighters. It seems she had saved her purse, which she was guarding in-between her legs. John reached into his pocket and felt around for his car keys. They were next to his wallet, his cell phone in the other pocket. He glanced over at Valerie, a phone pressed into her ear. She was pinching the bridge of her nose, if she pinched any harder it would snap off.

Insurance will always find a way out. John thought as he laid his head back down, his curly hair getting tangled in the grass. At least his job was all he lost. Valerie had lost her restaurant; Lloyd had lost his lamp chop and Sarah seemed to have lost her patience, shoving Lloyd away from her purse, screaming, “I don’t have your chop.”

John chuckled, knowing Lloyd would be here all night until he found the tender slab of goodness.

The sound of sirens came whooshing down the street. John sat up, as men in blue paramedic uniforms rushed into the flaming building. Why call the lifesavers? John wondered, craning his neck to see inside. All the cooks and staff were accounted for. The restaurant had been practically empty when the fire broke out. The theater crowd didn’t arrive till ten.

Then John remembered why the staff had been in such a dither. The sharpest food critic in the Big Apple had made a reservation that evening. Had the man witnessed the ruination of the steak house? The paramedics wheeled a man in a suit into the ambulance, an oxygen mask covering his face.

Valerie was crying in the corner, a tissue crumpled in her hand. “Why tonight?” She sobbed. “I spent months convincing Harrison to review my restaurant, and he didn’t even get to taste the sweet batter onion rings.”

Sarah rubbed her shoulder and handed her boss another tissue. There were millions of stars in the sky, they would be lucky to catch even one in Harrison’s review.

Devorah Friedlander is a YA novelist living in Israel.

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Short fiction, essays, poetry

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