Thursday, January 28, 2010


Title: Dinnertime
Authors: Rolf and Ranger

"Can I come in now?" I said plaintively on the doorstep.
The Beast glanced at me from the castle oven where he was spit-roasting yet another healthy, wholefood meal complete with low salt content.
"Are you in a better temper?"
I glared at him, deprived of any helpful or truthful answer.
"It's MUDDY out here. AND cold."
"Go back into the garden, Gabriel."
"WHY!" I demanded.
The Beast declined to reply, just pointed at the garden without looking. I huffed and went back to stamping around the drenched and muddy lawn. Everything dripped with water. He'd made me stand out here nearly ten whole minutes, there had to be laws against it somewhere. AND for no reason. I was unemployed, for God's sake. I had NOTHING to do, NOWHERE to go, NO cause whatever for breathing in and out, and yet he bombarded me from morning ‘til night with things I had to do. Go HERE, Gabriel. Go THERE, Gabriel. Come with me to do THIS, Gabriel. And then he expected me to do it all with a sweet smile and a happy heart.
Dream on, Beast.
It was telling him that, which had led to a Beast snarl to go and stand in the garden. Somehow this was supposed to be therapeutic.
Well, I had long since drawn the conclusion that the Beast was deranged in a mild sort of way.
Deprived of anything else useful to do I stepped up onto the low wall that divided the patio from the lawn and balanced along it, stepping delicately. I didn't need exercise. KNEW how to exercise. I had been an internationally recognised athlete just two years ago. Fresh air had NOTHING to do with it. Thoroughly annoyed, I balanced myself, gathered the energy and pulled off a - nearly - perfect three quarter twist flying dismount. I knew within the first split-second of take-off I didn't have it properly controlled. I flung both arms out, trying to land it successfully. On a properly set mat I might have managed it- I might even have convinced the judges it was a deliberate landing. On wet, muddy grass I lost my footing instantly. I knelt in the mud for a moment, panting with the residue of shock and bitterness. Then I got up and went to the back door, hurling it open.
"If you don't let me in, I'm going to pillage the village and kill everyone."
"You'd better come in then." The Beast held the door back for me, taking in my muddy hands, knees and feet. "Kick your shoes off, go and wash your hands and change out of those jeans. Quick, dinner's ready."
"I'm not hungry," I said as a matter of course. The Beast didn't even trouble answering. A stinging swat landed behind me as I passed him, headed for the stairs.
"And don't do acrobatics in the garden."
DAMN Beasts.
I waited until he'd gone back to the oven, then did a flick-flack in the hall. Just to prove who was boss.
Upstairs I dumped my muddied jeans in the bathroom, gave my knees a cursory wash and put my next cleanest pair of jeans on. Then I rinsed my hands and headed downstairs. The Beast met me in the dining room where he was setting the table. He pointed at the stairs again with barely a look at me.
"Now go and wash again, properly this time."
I stood still in the doorway, stiff with outrage. "I JUST -"
" NOW , Gabriel, while the meal is still edible," The Beast said calmly.
I stamped, losing my temper, "They're MY hands!"
"And you're eating with me. Therefore the hands are going to be clean. Go and wash."
"I AM clean!"
"Do you want me to come and do the washing?" The Beast invited.
I stopped and thought about that. I'd had a few encounters with a determined Beast and a soapy flannel. His aim was dreadful. Way too much soap tended to end up in my mouth. I stamped all the way upstairs.
"SCRUB," The Beast said helpfully behind me.
He was sitting at the table when I finally went down again. If he had any doubt as to whether I'd scrubbed, he was going to be certain when he saw the bathroom. I'd made damned sure there was plenty of evidence. The Beast turned his chair towards me and held out his hand.
"Let's see."
Used to his peculiar ways, I held out both hands for inspection. He checked my nails, turned my palms over and nodded.
"Good. Sit down, it's getting cold."
I saluted and dropped into my place at the side of the table, leaning over to watch as he took the top off the serving dish.
"What's that?"

"I don't like that," I said as a matter of course. The Beast spooned a ridiculously large amount onto a plate and put it in front of me.
"How do you know until you try it? Help yourself to vegetables."
"And what's THAT?" I demanded suspiciously as he passed me a dish. The Beast didn't look up from serving himself.
"THAT is kale. It's more or less cabbage. The orange things are carrots. None of it will poison you. Although you won't find any of it in a McDonalds meal."
I put the lid on the serving dish. The Beast removed it firmly and put a spoonful of each on my plate.
"You need to try new foods."

"I don't," I said with decision. "I like bread and fruit."

"Bananas." The Beast began to eat his lasagne. "You cannot live on banana sandwiches for the rest of your life. Try it."

This meat and vegetable thing was a problem. He produced it at least once a day with monotonous regularity. I picked up a fork and prodded it. It lay there, looking dead in a cheese sauce. I lifted the edge of the pasta sheet and peered underneath. Something still more suspect lay underneath. Revolted, I let the edge drop and cautiously poked the carrots.
"Gabriel, I promise nothing there is going to bite you," The Beast said patiently. "Just eat it."
I sat back, stirring the carrots cautiously. They quickly got boring. I slid a little further down under the table and peered over The Beast's shoulder at the garden.
"Gabriel…." The Beast said mildly.
I hugged my knees, tucking my feet on the edge of the chair, and picked my fork up again.
"Can I leave the carrots?"
"No," The Beast said matter-of-factly.
I cut all the carrot discs in half. Then I cut them all into quarters. I was halfway through dividing them into eighths when the BIG voice cut into my peaceful reverie. 

I jumped a mile and looked up at him, eyes prickling with shock. Hastily I forked carrots into my mouth. 

They were revolting.
I choked down a mouthful and hesitated, gathering courage for the second. Then I pushed a huge mouthful in and shoved them into my cheeks, concentrating on not tasting.
"I'm just going to the bathroom."
With the door safely shut I transferred the contents of my mouth to a tissue and flushed it safely down the toilet.
Then rinsed my mouth out.
My plate still looked horribly full when I sat down again. The Beast was just finishing his plateful. Feeling faintly sick, I picked up my fork again. Already the meal felt as though it had been going on for months.
I put my fork down with decision and pushed the plate away.
"I've finished."
"It doesn't look like it," The Beast said calmly.
"I ate the carrots."
"Now eat the lasagne and kale."

"I'm full."

The Beast took my plate and divided it into halves.
"Eat that half then."
"But I'm full."

"Gabriel, you're not leaving the table until you've eaten a decent meal," the Beast said unkindly.
I slumped back in my chair again, scowling.
"Can I have a drink?"
"Not until you've eaten."
"No," The Beast said more firmly. "You can stage a full-scale war every single mealtime, Gabriel; I don't care. You ARE going to eat, and you ARE going to eat more than bread, diet coke and bananas. Nine stone is not an acceptable weight for a fully-grown man."
"It is," I informed him. "And I'll dehydrate. You know you can die from dehydrating?"
"It'll take you two minutes to eat that, then you can drink all you want."
"But I don't want to eat it," I pointed out reasonably. The Beast reached over and moved the plate before he gripped my wrist.
Just a little too late I remembered he had something of a problem with 'I don't' and 'want to' being in the same sentence. He pulled me out of my chair and around the table, tipping me over his lap before I could wriggle with any sort of real strategy. I got rolled to the side far enough for him to unbutton my jeans and then they were tugged down, and my shorts rapidly followed. A heavy Beast paw landed hard, three times across an extremely sensitive place, making my polite objections rise by several decibels.
"WHAT was that comment, young man?"
"I didn't mean it!" I pleaded, squirming. Two more unnecessarily hard swats landed.
"What are you going to do with this meal?"
"Eat it?" I hazarded.
Another sharp two swats made me yelp. "And anything else I tell you to eat?"
"I WILL…" I twisted, trying to dissuade him from emphasising his opinions any further. He slipped my shorts back up and put my on my feet.
"Sit down and eat, right now."
I sat, gingerly.
The lasagne still looked disgusting. The Beast gathered up his plate.
"I'll be in the living room. Bring your plate out and show me when you've finished."
He left, leaving the door open.
I stared after him, outraged and abandoned.
After a minute, I had a quick look around. There was nowhere in the dining room that could be used for ditching food. Even temporarily. I would have used my pockets, but the Beast had taken my abandoned jeans with him. I got up and very quietly headed for the bathroom again, plate in hand. The Beast's voice halted me in the doorway.
"Gabriel, sit down."

"I just want to go to the bathroom."

I sat down again and scowled. Cold, lumpy, disgusting lasagne. No one should have to eat it. I poked the carrots some more. Then pushed the square of lasagne straight on the plate and amused myself by putting carrot wheels on it. Having done that, I rolled the carrot wheeled car off the plate and onto the floor.
Whoops. OH dear.
Well it was uneatable now.
"It's fallen on the floor," I called out to the living room.
"I don't care," The Beast said calmly back over the sounds of the television. "Eat."
"It's been on the floor!"
The Beast declined to answer. Bored, I built a few more carrot columns, then roofed them with kale. From the sound of the TV, The Beast was watching EastEnders. I was MISSING EastEnders. And he didn't care. I was having a terrible day and he didn't care. I was having a terrible LIFE and he didn't care. At the end of my tether, I gave the plate a hard push and it slid off the table onto the floor with a crash.
"And I don't care either!" I yelled in the direction of the living room.
The Beast appeared in the doorway of the dining room, venom dripping off bared fangs. I burst into tears, curling up in my chair before he bit anyone.
"I CAN'T eat it! I tried! It's cold and disgusting and it's on the floor now anyway-"
The Beast's paw closed on my arm, pulled me up and the other paw landed a solid swat on the seat of my shorts. I really started to cry then. The Beast put me down into his chair, out of the way of the mess, and padded into the kitchen for a moment. He reappeared with a fresh plate, once more loaded, and a fork. He pulled me to my feet for a moment, sat down and took me onto his lap, pulling me close enough to make further crying difficult. It was made still more difficult by the forkful of lasagne he held to my lips. I shut my mouth tight and turned my head away. He cupped my chin in his hand, pushed a strong finger between my teeth and slipped the fork in after it.
"Whoever named you Gabriel needed their brains tested. It should have been Lucifer."
The meat was warm and spicy and comforting. So was the rumble of his voice in my ear.
The second forkful I accepted without arguing. I just leaned hard against his chest, tired and still hiccoughing with the last of my sobs while he fed me. I had my eyes shut through most of it: kale and carrots mixed with the lasagne, their taste undetectable. Eventually the Beast put me on my feet with a second, gentler swat.
"Right. Get yourself a cloth and clean up that mess on the floor. Every bit of it, I don't want to see a mark left."
That took me awhile.
Eventually, when the floor was once more immaculate, I left the cloth and the broken china in the kitchen and stole into the living room. No lights were on. The TV was switched off. The room was dark and one of the Beast's pet symphonies was playing. The Beast was lounging in his big chair, head back, eyes closed, humming along with phrases of the music. I crept up on him discreetly, slipped around the arm of his chair and insinuated myself into his lap. His arms folded over me and I plastered myself against his chest, curling up tight. Sometimes, if I tried hard enough, I had the impression I really could disappear into him.  
"I'm sorry I'm so horrible," I said very, very quietly into his neck.
"You're not horrible. You have bad days and better days. Sooner or later you'll get onto the good days." The Beast kissed the top of my head, rubbing it with his cheek. "We'll survive."
"I AM horrible," I said under my breath.
The Beast didn't answer. Just pulled me closer and one big paw rubbed my back, deeply and slowly in time to the music.

~The End~

Copyright Rolf & Ranger 2010

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