Friday, July 29, 2016

Jack Treacher: Let the Chips Fall

Ye Olde Fish and Chips

That's what the sign said. Below the sign, Jack Treacher worked the deep frier. Fish and chips, like the sign said. The Renaissance Fair swirled around him. Kings, Queens, Jokers, the whole deck. Half of them dressed like characters out of "Game of Thrones" lately. He hated that show.

The kid stood there watching him.  Fat. Contemporary clothes, not cosplay. Just watching. Pudgy face, intelligent eyes. Silent for about a minute. Then the kid spoke.

"They didn't have fry tanks in the Renaissance."

Jack Treacher said nothing.

"It's historically inaccurate."

You're historically inaccurate. He could've said that. He didn't. He told the kid about the Children's Crusade instead. Details. The kind a hardened medical examiner could deal with. The kid projectile-vomited in the fry tank. Then ran away crying.

Jack went back to work. He knew what would happen next. He waited about a minute. Then it happened.

The head of security paid him a visit. Assclown dressed like Robin Hood with a lanyard.

"You're through, Treacher. Pack up your things -- you're out of the Renaissance, permanently. Not just this fair. Ever Ren fair in the country! I'll see to it personally."

Jack Treacher said nothing. He packed up his things.

No more Renaissance Fairs. That left Medieval Fairs. The average civilian couldn't tell the difference. Jack could. The Middle Ages sucked. Medieval Fairs sucked. Almost as bad as county fairs. The kind with elephant ears and speed freaks running the Tilt-a-Whirl.

He was ready to drain the fry tank. Then a shrill sound cut into his thoughts. He walked outside to see what he was. Then he saw.

The kid. Lying on the ground. His face, burned off. A woman's voice. Screaming. Out of a woman's mouth. The shrill sound he'd heard earlier. The woman was looking at him. Then she pointed at him.

"That man! He stuck that kid's head in the deep fryer!"

He went back inside. And waited. Robin Hood returned. With the rest of Ren Fair security. They circled him, guns drawn. He said nothing. They said nothing. Seemed nervous. They should be.

Jack Treacher was right by the axe-throwing concession. Six rent-a-cops. Six axes. Easy. But he went quietly.

They put him in a jail cell. Portable jail cell. The Ren Fair people dragged it around. He wasn't alone for long.

Her breasts were pointy. He liked that in a woman. They entered the cell first and the rest of her shortly followed.

Didn't introduce herself, but he knew who she was. Sally Sears. Head of Ren Fair security out of Orlando. Robin Hood's boss. Or former boss, before she fired him. She'd flown in on the company helicopter. That thumping he'd felt earlier. Like a giant mechanical dog wagging its tail.

"Why'd you kill him?"

Jack Treacher said nothing.

"Seriously, why'd you kill him?"

Jack Treacher said nothing.

What could he say? What would Arthur Treacher say? His grandfather kissed Merv Griffin's ass. Metaphorically. But he started a fish and chips business. Went global, told Merv to kiss his ass. Arthur taught Jack everything he knew. All those years, working side by side. Then he died. People do, even former British celebrities in the fish and chips business. Jack Treacher wound up working for the Army. Brought his skills with him. Fried an endless supply of fish and chips for the hungry mouths of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Helluva lot better than MREs. But the Army decided to cut costs. Cut Jack, too. Threw him back into civilian life like a dead fish into the fry tank. But that woman was saying something. Rising intonation, probably a question.

"Sorry. I wasn't paying attention. The question was ..."

"Why'd you kill him Jack?"

Her first question. Evidently she'd been repeating it.

This time, Jack didn't say nothing.

"Fry Master 2000. Holds 40 pounds of oil, 45 if I push it. How do you think it works?"


"And what does that mean?"

Sally couldn't answer. Jack answered for her.

"Heat transference. The oil gets hot, anything in it gets hot. Then the Maillard reaction kicks in. The surface dehydrates, gets crusty, golden brown. The limits heat transfer to the interior, Stays moist, tender. In layman's terms, it's cooking from the outside-in. You see the problem?"

"The kid was cooked from the inside-out."

Smart lady.

Jack Treacher nodded.

"Microwave," he said. "Had to be."

"No," she said. "His head would explode."

"Urban legend."

Sally shook her head.

"It's in that book. Infinite ..."

"Yeah, I read it. That guy who killed himself. He's wrong. That's not what happens. The brain bubbles like a potato, sure. That's why you stick a fork in a potato. Make holes.  But the human head already has holes. Seven big ones. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etcetera. That explains the enucleation."

She shrugged. Didn't know that word.

"Eye. Popped out of its socket. In this case, two eyes -- two cooked eyes, dangling on stalks like something you wouldn't eat in a Japanese restaurant."

That's when she projectile-vomited.

He liked that in a woman.

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