Feast for Two by Patrice Sweeney

Dense steam, laden with the smell of seasoning, uncoiled from the dish just recently cooked. It was one of many; succulent and roasted to perfection. As it was placed amongst the other delicacies, the great table groaned with perverse pleasure for being weighed down so, and the two individuals oversaw the small kingdom of rich platters with mounting delight.

“Did you know,” started the fat one, “that I have always been rather fond of mankind?” His nostrils flared appreciatively at the aroma of the meal before him as he fixed his napkin across his knees.

“Have you?” questioned the thin one. “Well I suppose I knew that, but I’ve always found man wanting in moral fibre.” He aligned his carrots in neat horizontal lines on his plate, slightly squinting his eyes in concentration.

“Oh please!” snorted his companion, “morality has nothing to do with it; what is ethical or not is entirely subjective. Here, stop fiddling with those carrots and pass the gravy will you?”

With an exasperated sigh, the gravy was duly handed over, with the unfortunate result that a bit of it dripped onto the orange vegetables.

“Oh, now see what you made me do. I’ll have to start all over again!” The soiled crystal plate and its contents were smashed to the floor to make way for their replacements. Skinny shoulders hunched over and eyes squinting once again, the host of the small get together began anew his meticulous preparations. His guest, chomping heartily yet looking vaguely unimpressed, regarded everything with suspicion.

“You can judge an individual by his eating methods you know.” He swallowed noisily and speared a whole chicken onto his fork. “Look at you, setting up your food just so, placing it in neat lines, wanting it to look perfect. And then you eat each thing separately: carrots first, and then asparagus, and maybe even a little corn on the cob if you’re feeling dangerous.” He gave a derisive snort while breaking off a piece of bread and jamming it down his throat.

“So what are you saying? That I’m rigid? That I’m too cautious? It’s just food, I like to eat like this.” He added peas to his meal, twenty precisely, and arranged them in the shape of a box.

“Besides, look at you! Your plate is a pile of destruction sprinkled with salt. Everything mashed and slopped together like a pile of refuse. What does that say about your morals, eh? Do you even remember what you put on your plate? Honestly, just like Godzilla!”

The large one spluttered and coughed down his wine in indignation. “How dare you!” He clutched onto his golden goblet in agitation and hacked into his napkin dramatically. “I like to eat, so what? And you compare me to that monster, that villain? Question my morals will you? It’s because I’m not a vegetarian, isn’t it? You’re holding it against me, it’s because you think you’re right and I’m wrong, it’s becau-”

“Oh do shut up!” interjected the smaller friend with irritation. “Do you think I care? I cooked this offal for you didn’t I?” An expressive arm swept over the table as he made his point. “I caught, gutted and roasted half of this meal for you, so stop with the dramatics. Honestly, you’d think I called you Grendel or something.”

The two concentrated on their separate meals without speaking, only their silver cutlery scratching across their plates weighty enough to break the silence.

“I suppose Jimmy Hoffa wasn’t all bad,” said the thin one quietly, a few minutes later. “All that he did for the labour movement in America. I suppose I could say that I was a bit fond of him.” His friend noticed the attempt of reconciliation. And the lie. He cleared his throat loudly before responding.

“Yes,” he began cautiously, “but I think he was a bit off, sometimes I even think almost rotten to the core.” The atmosphere between them became light and companionable once more, before the skinny host was struck with a memory.

“Do you know who was rotten? Constanze Manziarly, ugh, yes, down to her innards!”

“Oh absolutely!” They both took deep gulps of their wine as if to rid their mouths of a lingering bitterness.

“Making dinner for that creep,” continued the fat one breathlessly after swallowing, “it must have rubbed off on her, don’t you think?”

“I couldn’t agree more. That’s what you get for feeding a monster like Hitler, you become unsavory yourself. And imagine, they all think she simply disappeared, in a train tunnel no less!”

The larger friend laughed so hard at their inside joke that wine spurted from his nostrils. This spectacle caused them both to laugh even more, grabbing their stomachs and slapping the table until piles of jewels and stacked coins jumped and bounced off.

“A tunnel they say! However, they’re still puzzling over Captain Benjamin Briggs, I wonder when they’ll give that up.”

“Probably never,” mused the more robust one, mopping his great mouth with a silk napkin. “Now he was a good one, upright and healthy. All of that abstinence and salty sea air really made a difference.” He picked up a cigar and lit it from a candle burning from a diamond-encrusted skull. As he exhaled, his thoughts seemed to drift wistfully with the graceful streams of tobacco smoke.

“Ah, but those were the days. High adventure, exploration! Man pitted against nature and all the unknown odds!”

“It is rather amazing that no one has figured it out though. You’d think they would have all caught on by now, what with all of these strange disappearances.” Parts of the host’s words were lost as he dug a sharp talon between his fangs to rid them of food. “Although,” he paused and spat out the offending matter, “we have gotten much better.”

“Oh it’s ‘we’ now is it? The vegetarian has joined our carnivorous ranks?”

“You know what I mean,” the small one said impatiently, ‘we’ as in us, our kind. And besides I’ve just given up long meat, I’m not a proper vegetarian just yet.”

The fat one, more commonly known as Asclepius amongst his friends, shook his great scaly head to show his skepticism. “Look here Orochi, I hate to be unsupportive, but you’ll never survive on wild game and-”, he paused and swallowed heavily in disgust, “vegetables. Accept what you are, and realize that for your frame the anorexic look doesn’t work.” Asclepius thumped his chest lightly with his fist before emitting a smoky belch.

Orochi raised his leathery wings in offense and hugged his chest self-consciously. He could feel his ribs through his light blue hide, but he had thought their slight appearance made him look slim. However, since his change in diet he had noticed that his energy level was much lower. Whilst preparing for his guest, the simple and customary task of roasting a lamb with his own fire-laden breath had left him light-headed and faint. Before his diet he could prepare an entire cow to medium-rare perfection in one single blast. Today, the lamb had taken three.

“But what about all of those calories?” he bewailed in a last attempt of self-defense. “The cholesterol alone almost gave me a heart-attack a month ago!” He swished his tail in distress, causing treasure chests and glistening suits of armor to crash and fall into one another.

“Heartburn,” replied Asclepius matter-of-factly. “You’ve always been sensitive to spicy food. You should try Japanese, the cannibals from Papua New Guinea are raving about them, saying they’re the most delicious food they’ve ever eaten. Actually, before I forget, I’ve brought you a little something.”

He rummaged around his feet for a bulky, burlap sack before tossing it effortlessly onto the table. Orochi sniffed at it suspiciously before rearing back his long neck and eyeing his friend with incredulity.

“Is this what I think it is?” he asked excitedly. He licked his snout with a smooth, forked tongue, while tentatively reaching out a talon to the intriguing gift. As he rested his claw upon the rough bag he noticed that it was cold to his touch, freezing almost, as faint wisps of evaporation snaked from the slowly defrosting contents inside.

“Go on,” coaxed Asclepius slyly. “You know you want to.”

Scalding jets of spit dribbled from Orochi’s mouth as he brought the sack to his nose and inhaled deeply, almost desperately. “It’s been so long, I haven’t had one in over one hundred and forty years!” He began to pull a tantalizing morsel from the bag before pausing with a pained expression on his reptilian-like face. “But my diet, I really need to watch my blood-pressure!”

Asclepius scratched his red and horned brow in mock contemplation before alighting on a solution to his friend’s predicament.

“How about we share? You get to watch what you eat and I too can indulge in our mutual love of daimyo. Come on, if I freeze him any longer he’ll lose his rangy flavor.”

“Only if I can have the head: the human brain has always been light and delicate enough for my stomach, you know how I hate rich and heavy food.”

Asclepius nodded in assent and grabbed a leg of the long-dead Japanese feudal lord. The dragons licked appreciatively at their frozen treat in an easy silence born from over eight-hundred years of friendship, since the very first day that they were hatchlings. Orochi’s leathery wings shivered with pleasure as he broke his fast against human flesh, whilst Asclepius slurped at the thigh as he had seen children do with ice cream.

“So dinner at your place next week?” asked Orochi between licks.

“Of course! Be sure to show up with a healthy appetite, I’m defrosting Flight 19.”

Patrice is a fun-loving, 28 year-old Libra who dreams of world domination. Until that is achieved however, she enjoys working on her second goal, that of becoming a published author. She's positive that in a past life she was a famous adventurer-explorer. Under no circumstance will she eat peas.