Flash Fiction Story 011: "The Creme Brûlée is Still Caramelizing"

The menu for their last meal was delectable. Chef Henri outdid himself.

For hors d’oeuvre, canapés à l’amiral. The lime juice was especially tart, which only encouraged the Board of Directors of Americans Supporting Sovereignty to drink down their glasses of white Bordeaux. The Board was more interested in the wine, anyway.

After the serving staff cleared away their opening salvos, bowls of cream of barley soup—Henri’s speciality, aside from desert—arrived. Again, each and every member of the Board was more interested in the accompanying Madeira wine.

The seafood course followed and while Henri applied his expected level of exceptional craft to the poached salmon with mousseline sauce, those attending agreed that their regrettable distance from either coast doomed the fish to be merely average. 

Henri regained his footing with the main course. The man did things with a filet mignon that—were cattle aware of their fate in this world—would have viewed their deaths as absolutely worth it.

The last normal moments of The Board’s life came with the arrival of a champagne sorbet to cleanse their palates. Had they known that nothing would be the same after the cheese course, they might have savored the final moments under the protections of polite society. 

The cheese course went…strangely. It should have been their first clue that something was amiss, but they were so completely lost in the hazy afterglow of Henri’s beef that their qualms were never said out loud. They may have also been confused. Not one member of the Board had ever consumed a Ritz cracker with a dollop of Matthew McConaughey Brand Canned Cheese™. Many of them thought it must have been a delicacy from Henri’s native—if completely unknown—country. Others were more concerned that the presentation was more along the lines of an amuse-bouche. 

And then came the creme brûlée…

Or, rather the lack of it’s coming. Chef Henri emerged from his kitchen to address his diners. “My apologies for the delay. I pray your appetites will bear the continued wait, but the Creme Brûlée is still caramelizing.”

They were entirely understanding. Art takes time to perfect, and if Chef Henri needed time, then time he would have.

After an hour, people became concerned. The President of the Board might have shuffled into the kitchen to see if there was some manner of emergency, but it would be quite gauche to leave her guests.

Another two hours passed, and the next day officially began. Those assembled were getting restless, but what could they do? While it would have been slightly against etiquette for the President to pop herself into the kitchen, it was an absolute anathema for anyone to leave the festivities before the desert course was served.

Daylight came, and still no sign of Henri or the brûlée. By then, the power structure among the Board began to shift. Had someone called for a vote of no confidence in that moment, surely the President would have lost all of her authority. Still, no one left. The last thing any of them would do is anything that might be considered rude, even if they hadn’t had anything to eat—not a morsel—in nearly twelve hours.

Some of them wanted to leave, but wouldn’t dare. By the second day, their worries turned to dying of starvation, but they should have been able to rest easy. Hunger would not kill them for weeks. Now, their feelings about going hungry were a different matter entirely. 

By dawn on the third day, all hell had broken loose. They were quickly becoming delirious and yet unable to exercise enough free will to leave the party. Old factions within the Board—some of them simmering for decades—had exploded into blood feuds. The Recording Secretary became convinced that the Vice-President had been hoarding a few morsels of Ritz crackers that he had found unpalatable. His death was swift, but there were no Ritz crackers to be found. They had long since stopped wondering why their beloved Chef Henri had left them so heartlessly to their own devices. Was he simply mad? Did he hail from some far flung country that Americans Supporting Sovereignty had denounced with their activities?

Which country did he come from?

Days more passed and as with most violent, bloody conflicts over limited resources, there were few survivors. In the end, money won the fight. The Treasurer looked over the bloody wreck of the party and realized that—according to the group’s bylaws, he was now the President and sole member of the organization.

A modicum of guilt, and more than a little unwillingness to take on the responsibilities of the Presidency forced the Treasurer to ensure that he was not the last survivor of Americans Supporting Sovereignty for long.

Chef Henri refocused himself on the task at hand and caramelized the final ramekin. He didn’t normally dream of the people he cooked for turning on each other in fury and blood, but such fanciful imagining can make the work go by easier. As he turned off the butane torch, he realized the fantasy he had concocted didn’t matter. He fully believed the people he currently served would eventually leave the dinner party, even if he never served the dessert course.

At least, he was pretty sure they would have that much sense. No, if Henri wanted these people dead, he could not rely on them to destroy one another. He would have to get his hands dirty. He wiped some powdered sugar from the tips of his fingers and watched the waiters deliver the final course.

 Art by Eris O'Reilly

Art by Eris O'Reilly