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The Final Challenge

June 5, 2013 10 comments

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words – tell us a story based on this photo.

Daily Post Chefs

Photo courtesy of Michelle Weber, used by permission of The Daily Post (see above link)

Jacques glared at Gianni across the work table. Gianni glared back. Two chefs at the top of their game, their culinary prowess was matched only by the hatred they harboured for each other. A healthy rivalry twenty years ago, it had grown to a loathing famous in culinary circles – no mean feat in a world in which rivalry was second nature.

Today their feud – and “feud” was not too strong a word to describe the feelings between these two – would, in some measure, be settled. Each was cooking his signature dessert. The other would eat it. Neither was foolish enough to believe that his nemesis would admit that the other’s dish was superior, but that was not required. The lesser chef (and each was convinced it would be the other) would know, deep down, that he was beaten.

This would be their final challenge. Their last battlefield.

Jacques worked quickly, his nimble fingers expertly preparing the ingredients. A man in his late fifties, he hailed from a small town to the south of Paris (nobody knew quite where, exactly – Jacques felt a little mystery added to his charm). Married once, he now lived alone in a luxury apartment off the Champs Elysées. His wife could never contend with his first love – cooking – and had left him seven years ago, taking their children with her. It had been two weeks before Jacques had even noticed. He had no idea where they had gone, nor did he care.

Gianni, a man of indeterminate age from southern Italy, had never entered into any relationship lasting longer than a night. He needed to let off steam occasionally but he never let any woman distract him from his chosen profession. He scorned Jacques for his one attempt at a normal life – he knew better than to allow foolish ideas of “love” and “family” to get in the way of his cooking.

Leaving his dessert for a moment, Gianni grabbed a carrot and held it aloft, a knife clenched in his other hand, looking at Jacques with bushy eyebrows raised. Jacques rose to the challenge and fetched a second carrot, and at a silent signal both began to chop in earnest. Faster and faster they worked, their knives a blur until both carrots lay in pieces upon the work table. They had played this game before – a dead heat as always. They returned to their desserts with a snarl.

At last both were ready. They stood back, each eyeing the other’s masterpiece. As Gianni admired his dessert, a nagging fear overtook him until he felt his body grow suddenly cold. Sugar. He hadn’t added the sugar! Twenty years of rivalry had culminated in this moment, and in his anger he had spoiled his dessert. This had never happened before! Why today?

He knew he could never win now. He began to tremble – he would be a laughing stock. His whole life a waste! He felt a red mist descend, the same red mist he had first experienced that day, so long ago, when he had beaten his little brother half to death for breaking his toy.

Beyond reason, he grabbed the wickedly sharp chef’s knife from the counter and lunged forward, plunging it into Jacques’ chest. Jacques grunted and looked down in surprise as a red stain blossomed across his immaculate white jacket. He slumped to the floor, a disbelieving look on his face.

Gianni laughed. He had won. At last, he had won! As Jacques lay gasping on the tiled floor, blood pooling beneath him, Gianni picked up Jacques’ dessert and began to take huge mouthfuls. It was good! Maybe the knife had been a surer way to win. As he ate, he heard a horrible gurgling sound. Jacques was laughing, blood-flecked spittle foaming around his mouth.

“What the hell is so funny?” demanded Gianni, wiping a sudden sheen of sweat from his brow. His heart had begun to thump against his chest, beating alarmingly quickly, making him feel quite dizzy. Something was very wrong.

“I really wouldn’t,” croaked Jacques, his vision beginning to darken, “have eaten that dessert, if I were you.”

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