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Rant by Jim Melanson SciFi short story

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Maya Baliencheynne started her career as third-under-assistant-sous-chef to the great Rudyard Kipling. Giving children the names of famous authors and actors has been a tradition on Io for far too long. Rudyard was one of the famous, if not the most famous, chef's from the Galilean moons.

He had even been selected to lead the kitchens during the Ousoon conference, the one that led to the Ousoon peace treaty thirty years ago. Rumour has it that the Ousoon delegation offered him a blank cheque, if he would only return to their homeworld and open a culinary school. Rudyard declined, stating that he was an Up-Weller and that was where he preferred to be. Regardless of the refusal, if his ego had been over-sized before the offer, it was positively galactic after the offer.

After the peace treaty conference, Rudyard became obsessed with perfecting the art of Up-Well cuisine. Lasting for years, he eventually realized his neurosis had taken over every waking moment. It was threatening to undo the life and reputation he had built for himself. He had lost touch with friends, family, and colleagues. He had resigned his position at Trump Towers Ganymede. He stopped appearing publicly, including the ever popular and widely syndicated Frauline Fruschtetter's Cooking the Moons. He had, however, developed a whole new style of cuisine that was distinctly Up-Well. Some would say, distinctly Jovian. It was the desire to learn this new cuisine style that brought Maya to his kitchen. By this time, Rudyard Kipling had come back to the land of reality, putting his obsessive behaviour behind him. He accepted the position as Chef onboard the ISS Stephen Hawking in an effort to re-integrate himself into commerce, kitchens, and life. He also wanted to foist his new style of fare on as many Down-Well travellers as he could. The new position was the perfect springboard for the interplanetary introduction of his new style of cuisine.

Maya was overjoyed when Rudyard, personally, welcomed her on board. He then stripped her down with a tongue lashing about under-assistant-sous-chef-incompetence. He informed her she would be washing pots and pans, with her primary goal of being elevated to a position that allowed her the privilege of taking out the garbage. If she did this well for a very long time, she may, I reiterate, may, be allowed to slice a loaf of bread, someday. Maya had been prepared for the tongue lashing that all Kipling-Kitchen noobs were subjected to. She just hadn't been prepared for the spittle flying in her face as his eggplant purple face screamed at her.

I don't want it to seem that the unwarranted dressing down was welcomed. It wasn't. Just because she knew it was coming doesn't mean she enjoyed it. This was where she had chosen to be, so she made the effort to put a tight rein on her emotions. She didn't allow her Europan instincts to take hold of her, to rip him limb from limb and then feed himself to himself. The old wives tales of the Europan mafia doing such things were, well, slightly exaggerated. Slightly. That her father was the don of the Fasciet syndicate was something no one on board knew. Had they known, her welcome would have been a bit more red-carpet.

Maya's tall, slender, Up-Well body, fit right in with the rest of the Up-Well kitchen staff. Luckily for all of them, the ISS Stephen Hawking had been built to accommodate the Up-Well physique's of the crew. The Down-Well crew members got used to the eight-foot high doors quickly. If they had never been Up-Well before, it took them time to get used to looking up at the Jovian born humans, not a one of the Jovians under seven foot, two inches. It wasn't only Maya's body that fit right in, it was her personality as well. After spending so long away from Europa, at the culinary school on Ganymede, she finally found some truly kindred spirits. She didn't know that her father had arranged the hiring of most of the galley staff, all on his secret payroll. She also didn't know that he had ... ahem ... arranged her job offer on the ISS Stephen Hawking. Apparently, welding the Stellar Cruise Line's CEO's wife in a metal box, then threatening to Sol-dump the box, worked wonders at adjusting the companies hiring protocols.

This morning began much like every other morning in the galley. Maya was on late shift, so she arrived shortly after breakfast had been prepared and delivered to the two-hundred and seventy-five suites. She walked in to find Rudyard Kipling was having kittens about some new affront, insult, or ridiculous passenger demand. As she stepped through the door, always prepared to do so in this kitchen, she ducked as the uncooked cauliflower exploded against the door jamb. Apparently, she quickly garnered, today's insult du jour seemed to have come from the Familias Windass suite.

The high pitched, facetious screaming was at its usual intensity. “Poached quail eggs! On a nest of braised leeks and shallots! On homemade whole wheat artisan bread! With fraking bechamel sauce! And that jumped up, rich-bitch, dead palette wants ... wants ... she fraking wants PEANUT BUTTER?” Rudyard looked seriously close to stroking out on this one. He didn't allow any kind of packaged food into his kitchen. He wouldn't have allowed it on the ship if he had had any say in non-galley affairs.

Horace, Rudyard's sous chef, was the only one brave enough to stand up to Rudyard's histrionics. The kitchen staff always went to Horace, then Horace went to Rudyard. It was the only method of approaching the great man that was considered physically safe. Rudyard liked to throw things. Today, however, Bennit Codswallop had spoken to the great man directly. It wasn't Bennit's fault. It was Bennit's first day and he had been on duty only twenty minutes. As he was merely a helping hand in the kitchen, not someone allowed to prepare food, he had not rated a personal dressing down by the great one. Instead, the new kid happened to pick up the phone when it rang in the galley. He was just trying to be helpful and show how, helpful, he could be. Young Bennit, an algae farmer's step-son, had the honour of speaking directly to Lady Windass. With wide, starstruck eyes, he hung up the phone and stood there looking lost. The first one to walk by him was Rudyard.

“Excuse me, mate, where do we keep the peanut butter?”

Bennit ran so fast and far, the sous chef wondered if they would be able find him before the lunch time prep. He had to send two more-experienced kitchen assistants to find the lad and bring him back, Shanghai style if necessary.

“What's up with the peanut butter?” Maya cautiously whispered to one of her co-under-assistant-sous-chef's.

“Lady Windass, she wants peanut butter. The show only started a couple minutes ago.”

“Oh?”she looked around, trying not to be noticed by the purple-faced-one.

“Just the cauliflower, he hasn't broken anything else, yet.” Her co-under-assistant-sous-chef knew Maya was looking around to see if anything important had been damaged. The morning was still young.

“There is no bloody way in Lysthea that I will serve that trumped up, skinny assed, moon-eyed, bitch, any peanut butter from this kitchen!”

As deadly as the backwater Europan's could be, there were few in the solar system as compassionate towards children as the Europan's were. This was why she spoke up to Il-Purple-Face.

“Mr. Kipling, sir, Lady Windass has a young child with her. Her daughter is only two years old. Surely, asking for some peanut butter for the child cannot be an affront?”

Il-Purple-Face turned on Maya. Those standing around her moved out of the way ... fast. They didn't want to be in the debris zone if he started throwing vegetables, or worse.

“Oh... she has a small child with her? Does she?”

Maya nodded. She had seen them the day before, on the way from the pool back to their suite.

“Ohhhh.... wellll....” the sarcasm dripped from every word, “...let's just throw good sense and good taste OUT THE WINDOW! She has a fraking child with her! Why don't we just shut down the kitchen and order everything in from McDonalds, shall we? Would you prefer that little miss? Would that make you happy? Stop doing everything that we have worked our whole life for? Crack open a jar of peanut butter for the snotty little ankle-biter? Oh....wait.... new menu for lunch everyone! We're going to serve soda crackers and sardines, with MARMITE, for the WHOLE FRIGGING COMPLEMENT, SHALL WE?” It went on like this for a couple more minutes. Maya stood there, poor Horace looking on impassively, both of them waiting for it to be done.
Sybert Geoffrey, the Down-Well cruise manager, walked in the door. He had heard the screaming from the deck above. He usually avoided these shows of Rudyard's, but today's morning performance seemed particularly intense.

“... and besides, we don't even have any peanut butter on the ship!” His final statement on the matter was punctuated by picking up a large steel colander and whipping it at the far bulkhead.

Maya sighed. There was a child who wanted some peanut butter for breakfast and it was within Maya's power to make that happen. She swallowed and steeled herself, “I have some. In my cabin. I don't mind taking it up.”

Dead silence ... wait for it ... wait for it ... it's coming ... ahhh ... there it is .... Rudyard exploded on a whole new missive about the intelligence, parentage, and manner of breeding of under-assistant-sous-chef's. She listened for as long as her Eruopan pride would let her listen, without killing him. Finally, she took a long Up-Well step forward towards him. She held up a hand, stopping Rudyard cold, mid-rant.
“I'm going to get the peanut butter and take it up to the woman ... for her child.”

Sybert looked around, thoroughly confused, he had missed the first part of the conversation about why peanut butter was the insult du jour. “Errm, why is she taking peanut butter upstairs?” Sybert asked Rudyard.

“Oh frak if I know. I just work here. Why don't you ask Maya Baliencheynne...”

Maya sighed to herself, that's not how it's pronounced.

To see more of Jim Melanson's work, click the link to his website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view his member details Visit Jim Melanson's Website.

Images used for the story are
Visit Pixabay Space Galaxy.

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Short Story written by James

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Maya Baliencheynne started her career as third-under-assistant-sous-chef to the great Rudyard Kipling. Giving children the names of famous authors and actors has been a tradition on Io for far too long. Rudyard was one of...

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