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The Gangplank Hires a Chef

11:32 am

On a Tuesday

Clockhaven, NB

Goose-tahv seven-dicks.

Junie squinted at the paper she was holding. “That can’t be right. Is that right? Am I saying this correctly? Goose-tahv seven-dicks?”

Before the man sitting across the table could answer, Milo leaned over one of Junie’s shoulders and Petra leaned over the other. Petra tapped the paper in Junie’s hand. “Ah-hah! Yep, that’s it! Goose-tahv seven-dicks.” The girl sat up straight, an expression of pride on her face.

“Wait,” Milo began, before Malus reached across the table and snatched the paper from Junie and sneered at Petra. 

“She can’t even read!” Malus said.

“Why are you ALWAYS doing that, Martin? I was looking at that! Give it back!” Junie leaned across the table in an attempt to reach the paper but Malus held it higher to evade her grasp. 

“Hey, I don’t think that’s what it says,” Milo said.

“For once Milo’s right,” Malus said. “It doesn’t say ‘seven-dicks.’ You’re all illiterate.” From the bar, Tobias chuckled over a glass of wine.

The man sitting at the table with them raised a finger and politely said, “Eef I may…”

They all turned and glared at him. Petra stood up and thrust herself across the table to knock the paper from Malus’s hand, and it fluttered to the floor. “Alright then, pinhead! If you’re so smart, what does it say?”

Malus put his hand over Petra’s face to halt her advance, then reached down to pick the paper up from the floor. Petra’s flailing toppled a half-empty bottle and sent a stream of green liquid across the table.

“Petra!” Milo squeaked, his adolescent voice breaking. “I just washed this table!”

“FINE,” she said, and sat down in a pout, arms folded across her chest. “I don’t want to make more trouble for Spaghetti Head here, you all treat him like dirt already.”

“Thanks?” Milo said with uncertainty.

“It’s SVENDVIKS,” Malus said.

“THAT’S WHAT I SAID!” Junie held out her hands in exasperation.

The man stood up and tapped the table insistently with his finger tips. “SVEND-VICKS,” he said loudly, pronouncing each sound carefully. The assembled Gangplank staff just looked at him with puzzled expressions.

“Well you don’t have to yell,” Petra said in a superior tone. “We can hear you just fine.” She turned toward Junie and whispered from the side of her mouth, “you think I oughter throw him out? He’s gettin’ kinda cheeky over there, that guy.”

The man smoothed his jacket and calmly sat down, taking advantage of the shocked silence.

“My name ist Gustav Svendviks,” he started, his speech heavily accented with a German-Hungarian inflection. “And I am from Europa Vulfenbach.”

Malus snorted and Gustav glanced toward him. With a flourish of his hand, Malus said, “Do continue. The floor is yours.”

“Yes,” Junie added. “Tell us about yourself.”

Gustav cleared his throat. “I come from Europa to New Babbage and look for verk,” he said simply. The staff stared at him.

“Alright,” Junie said slowly. “But do you know how to cook? You kind of have to know how to cook if you want to be our cook.” Petra kicked Malus beneath the table. “See? That’s why Miss Junie runs this joint,” she whispered. She tapped her forehead. “Brains.”

“Oh yes!” Gustav exclaimed. “I am ein exquisite cook! Chef trained ins France and the Baron’s personal chef before I leave Europa.”

The staff again stared at him, silent. Then all at once they asked, “why would you want to work HERE?”

“Vell,” he started, “I come to New Babbage with grandmother and decide to stay. Ist a beautiful city and I do something new now.”

“Did someone say grandmother?” a voice called out from across the room. Junie glanced over and saw Count Bologna reaching across the bar to pull a bottle of something from beneath the counter, leaning as far away from Tobias as possible in what looked like a posture of revulsion.

“Count Bologna!” she called. “How charming to see you! I didn’t hear you come in.”

Yes, my dear, I do believe there was shouting coming from your table, concealing what was a rather fine entrance,” he said, settling onto a barstool with bottles of gin and vermouth. “Grand, even.”

“Why do you humor him?” Malus asked, his voice scathing. “You know he’s just here to drink and not pay.”

Junie turned on Malus and spoke haughtily. “He is my friend, Squire. And he also happens to be the New Babbage Gin Marshal, and his presence confers prestige on this establishment.”

Malus scoffed. “You’re more gullible than I thought.”

“Do tell us about your grandmother,” the Count called out, as he took a notepad and pencil from his coat.

“Shut UP!” Malus shouted. “You don’t even work here!”

Gustav answered anyway. “Grandmother, sadly, ist dead. I an bringing her here in an urn to be interred bei mein grandfather. They ver from this city before moving to Europa.”

Count Bologna turned his head away from them, obviously less interested than a moment before. “Tsk. Pity.”

Milo leaned forward and whispered to the group, “why does he care about Gustav’s grandmother?”

“Because he takes care of old ladies, Spaghetti Brains,” Petra said matter-of-factly. “That’s his job!”

Malus chuckled. “Oh, he takes care of them alright.”

“No,” Junie said impatiently, “he’s the Gin Marshal.”

“Eef I may,” Gustav said again, followed by bored groans from the staff. “I vould like to verk here because you have posting open. I am excellent chef and you offer lodging, nein? I need lodging.”

Junie nodded resolutely, eager to conclude the interview. “Yes, we have lodging. You’re hired!”

“But we haven’t even discussed this!” Malus said. “I thought the point of interviewing him together was to make the decision together!”

Milo nodded. “Well, Miss Junie, you did say…”

Junie sighed. “Okay then,” she said with a patronizing air. “Should we hire him?”

“Well, we aren’t supposed to discuss it here, right in front of him,” Malus said, wiping his hand down his face in aggravation.

Gustav’s eyes moved from one person to the other as the conversation volleyed between them.

Tobias spoke up from the bar. “I like him, you should hire him.”

“But why do you like him?” Junie asked.

“He takes care of his grandmother,” Count Bologna interjected, chuckling to himself as he sipped the martini he had just made.

“SWEET BUILDER’S HAMMER!” Malus cursed, then stood up from the table. “Fine, just hire him, I don’t care. I’m leaving.”

Petra nodded with an air of formality. “You should bang one of them wooden hammers on the table, Miss Junie. Make it official-like.”

“It’s a gavel,” Milo said.

“Yeah, a gravel,” Petra repeated.

“Oooh, yes, you’re right,” Junie said. She grabbed the fallen bottle and slammed it against the table. “You’re hired!” The bottle cracked loudly and shattered, startling those nearby.

Gustav sat and stared at them as if deciding whether he still wanted the job. “Very good,” he said haltingly, then stood up. “I have my own apron, I start immediately.”

“But we need to waterboard you!” Petra protested. Gustav’s eyes went wide.

“ONBOARD!” Milo leaned forward and yelled at Petra. “Not waterboard. We onboard him to teach him how to work here!”

“But he’s already ‘on board!’” Petra yelled back.

Malus grabbed his jacket and made for the door, Tobias not far behind him.

Junie leaned back and stood up from between Milo and Petra, leaving them to their squabble as Gustav hurried off to the kitchen. She walked over to the bar and sat down next to Count Bologna, snipped the cap off of a cigar and lit it. She lifted the martini that he had thoughtfully poured for her in advance and tapped it against his glass, then sipped and went silent for a few moments. Finally she said, “I think that went well.”

Perfect, even,” said Bologna. “Say, do you think he makes goulash?”

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