Chef Tom’s Tales and Tuna

 

Editor’s Note – Chef Tom has requested a No-Pictures presentation of today’s column. He wants you to use your Theatre of the Mind to conjure up the characters, locations, and story. Experience the age old Joy and Immersion of Reading the Printed Word.

In the Round Robin writing course, even though I was to write one story per day with a time limit of 12 minutes per story, I liked, from time to time, writing multiple chapters of the same saga. This one was fun to explore. The titles of each “chapter” were the daily writing prompts. They were not linear, either, but putting them all together after, there is a definite arc.

Dropout

Major Mike knew something was off as soon as his ship dropped from Mother. He set his tracker to follow the signal coming from the surface and hit the boosters. Entry was rough. The little ship about rattled itself to pieces. The electronics went nutso. Every screen was going off and on, alarm lights were flashing, and warning horns were blaring. He hung on.

His ship finally broke through the cloud cover. He could see the expanse of green below. The jungle he was headed to took up most of the land mass in this sector. He reached above his head, jammed the big red knob that activated the retrorocket to slow his descent. Thank God it blasted into gear. His velocity slowed some, but he could tell he was still coming in way too hot. Looking to his left on the wall above the side window he broke the metal band, grabbed the plastic cover and jerked it away, then grabbed the red handle and gave it a strong tug to manually release the Kevlar shoot.

As the shoot opened the sudden jerk of the ship nearly snapped his neck. He could see the tree canopy slowing in its rapid approach. Bracing for impact, his ship plunged into the tops of the trees, snapping limbs and trunks and smashing through leaves and branches, suddenly stopping dead, the shoot catching fast on branches of a giant tree.

Mike would have gone straight through the windscreen had not his harness held. Still the body slam of the impact was so sudden and violent he passed out. The ship hung there in the massive tree, swinging back and forth, the beeps and whirs and alarms still sounding.

When Mike finally awoke, he was in pain.

Child swimming

Major Mike hung there for a few hours. He didn’t know that because he’d passed out and his time piece busted in the crash. But he did know that he was thirsty as hell. It also felt like someone had slammed him to the ground. A few times. He opened his eyes, saw that his helmet had also busted, but he could breathe. So there was that. Out the broken windscreen, the floor of the dense jungle was maybe five meters straight below. That’s a drop. He felt as hopeful as the pain and the thirst would let him.

Grasping at his belt, he fumbled for the meta-tool, snapped open the holster, pulled it out and pressed the side button. With a snick it opened like a switchblade. He put the sharp edge under one strap of his harness and began to saw back and forth until it broke in half, freeing one shoulder and his right arm. Then the other strap, but this time he held tight to the connector attached to the overhead. Gravity would take him down unless he hung on. Snap! He cut through the other side of the harness and his body quickly slithered out of the seat, but he held fast to the strap.

Positioning himself just over the windscreen, he kicked the rest of the broken shield away and it tumbled through the dense leaves and branches to the floor below. Removing his helmet, he lowered himself through the hole where the shield was, and began an uneasy descent through the massive tree branches and limbs. A couple of meters from the ground, he just let himself fall, snapping an ankle on impact.

The pain shot through him like a bolt. After a few jagged breaths he began to crawl away from where his ship was hanging. He slithered towards a massive undergrowth, greener than everything else. Water. There’s got to be water. It took about an hour’s time to get himself through the underbrush, making his way towards the vegetation, until he crested a small rise. From there he could see a pool of burbling liquid surrounded by stone. His thirst pushed him down the incline to the side of the pool.

Dipping his hands into the liquid, the strange viscosity took a back seat to him drinking his fill. That’s when he heard the splashing. Looking to his left he could see something moving in the liquid across the small pond. Wasn’t struggling, more like frolicking. The small creature suddenly stopped and clambered out of the liquid onto the edge of the rocks.

What Mike saw couldn’t be. The thing was a winged something because it fanned its wings (if that’s what they were) as it lay on the edge. It was small, but much bigger than any butterfly, which it clearly resembled, only with a tiny, humanoid body.

Floating in mist

Mike watched the small creature basking in the light, flexing its wings open and closed. Careful to be quiet so as not to spook the thing, he slowed his breath and stared at the creature. The liquid had slaked his thirst. He noticed between where he was lying next to the edge of the luminescent pool and the stretch of thick liquid between him and the winged thing, tiny specs in the pool were rapidly moving, tumbled over each other, each spec a minuscule marble of changing colors.

What did I just drink, he thought. He’d taken a few big swallows, the cool liquid flowing easily down his parched throat. Like swallowing big gulps of cream. Thirst quenching cream. No taste in his mouth. No smell.

The little creature made a sound. A tinny squawk. Mike could see the miniature humanoid reaching up to the sky above with its tiny arms. It squawked again. Mike raised his head to the sky above to see what the thing was reaching for and saw something high above the trees, in the mist of cloud cover. A giant bird. No. Something else. It flew…well, more like floated…down through the mist, circling lazily overhead, its great yellow and black wings flapping easily and smoothly, giving it lift and allowing the thing to glide slowly downward towards the smaller version of itself at the pool’s edge.

That is a person with wings. That thing looks like a butterfly mated with a person and they had whatever that is. A person-butterfly something.

Mike lay perfectly still, watching the creature land easily and soundlessly next to what could only be its child. The thing flapped its wings slowly, basking in the warm light of the day, and bent its body down towards the liquid to took a long drink. It motioned to the little one and they both took off into the air, circling one another, disappearing into the vaporous clouds.

Lying in wait

Major Mike lay there by the side of the pool of viscous liquid, having rolled over on to his back to watch the ascent of the winged creature and its offspring. He was not afraid. In fact he’d never felt this good before. He was sensing what could only be called a deep, visceral connection, as if the two flying creatures slowly whirling skyward were a part of him. Like that time he visited his cousins for Christmas as a kid. Watching them play in the yard, laughing and cutting up, he felt the link; the blood-bond of family.

Then something deep inside began to move. What Mike didn’t fully realize was that the liquid he swallowed a few moments earlier was thickened by a watery murmuration of tiny orbs. Each orb, if you looked really close, had movement inside. Something tiny and alive. The microscopic spheres were now inside him and they were beginning to change. Growing bigger. One globule in particular was outgrowing the rest – at breakneck speed. He could feel it growing inside his stomach, pushing his insides out and out, as it expanded.

But it wasn’t painful. It wasn’t even really pressure. What Mike was feeling as this thing got bigger and bigger was more like ecstasy, or bliss maybe. Exhilaration even. Mike recalled his very first orgasm – the shock, surprise, and utter pleasure of it. Yeah, like that.

With the force from the internal pressure, Mike’s stomach, his chest, and his back began to literally split apart. His flesh began separating at the seams like a piece of old luggage. What emerged from his loosened skin was something altogether wormlike in appearance and glowed bright with colors yellow, blue, and green. The worm knew exactly what was next and began to crawl. Mike began to crawl. Mike truly loved that he was able to crawl. Crawling gave him a fulfilling single-mindedness.

Fifty, a hundred, five hundred meters away from the pool to the base of a giant tree. Suddenly Mike began to violently cough, though each paroxysm of his wormlike body filled him with delight. From deep inside, he coughed up a string of sticky white stuff, like a long, deflated balloon. He dragged the white stuff with him as he clambered up the side of the tree. A gluey mucous dripped from his new mouth which he used to attach the white stuff to one of the bigger branches.

Fountain

Major Mike’s ship had gone off the screen almost immediately on entering the atmosphere. No signal. Nothing. Back at Mother, the crew searched frantically, then finally sent out six teledrones. Nearly four thousand meters from the guestimated crash site, they finally located a faint heat signature in the dense growth near Mt. Shepherd.

The reddish glow made a trail through the underbrush and trees. Control followed as closely to the top of the tree canopy as it could and finally had to push the drone through the overhang for it to make its way to the floor of the jungle. Following the trail for nearly three hundred meters, it ended at a large pool of glistening liquid. At one end of the pool the camera sent back a vid of the liquid burbling out of a rock protrusion, like a small fountain. Maybe the source of an underground river or spring. Samples were rushed back to Mother. The lab determined that the viscosity of the liquid was made up of a shimmering mass of microscopic orbs, like minuscule, one-celled marbles, giving the liquid its bright luminescence.

At the edge of the pool, where the initial heat signature ended, was a larger mass of red. Looked like something had exploded. The signature then trailed off again and was picked up a few meters away, downstream from the pool. But the colors were different. Still registering as heat, the colors went from the dark red to layers of blue and green and yellow, as the traces led off into the dense growth.

Following the new trail, the drone came to a halt at the base of a large tree. The smear of colors led up the side of the tree to a giant overhanging limb. Hanging from the limb was an object that appeared to be a large, thready, bulging hammock, glowing green in the shadows. Control raised the drone up to the same level as the iridescent object, and hovered there, sending back more pics and vids.

What is that? Get closer.

Inside the hammock was a bright greenish pod-like shape. On one side of the pulsating pod, obscured by a thread-like skein, Control could detect what looked to be familiar shapes.

Are those…letters? Can you see that? Close in on that.

Good god.

That says…Mike.

==========

SIP Recipe

Couple of weeks ago I started an online service called Foodie 911. Over the years I’ve fielded many a call for friends and family to help them out of a culinary jam, give them tips about technique, or tell them what to do with ingredients with which they’re not so familiar. I jokingly called it Foodie 911, but today, seems like a service a lot of folks are needing. I put it up on Fiverr and to date I’ve received five orders, including one from the Dominican Republic!

Today, for simplicity’s sake, I wanted to go after something with less only five or six ingredients. Of course, if your pantry is full, feel free to expand, but it’s a basic – albeit tasty – recipe based on minimum ingredients on hand.

How about a sexy name.

Tune Pasta

Chef Tom’s Easy-Peasy No Red Sauce Versatile Tuna Pasta Supper
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 cans tuna in olive oil OR water (or if you like bolder flavors, use those sardines in the back)

1 pound spaghetti (or pasta of choice)

2 cloves of garlic (more or less, depending on what you like)

¼ cup olive oil

1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
The thing about canned tuna is that it doesn’t need or want to be cooked, otherwise it’ll get dry and tough. Instead, you just want to drain two 6 oz cans or jars and put it in a heatproof bowl with two cloves of chopped garlic, the zest and juice of the lemon, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, ½ tsp salt, and fresh pepper, and let the bowl sit over the pot where you’re cooking your pasta.

Additions:

  • Capers
  • Sliced olives
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Couple mashed anchovies
  • Drained white beans
  • Baby spinach (which wilts when you toss with the cooked pasta in the bowl)
  • Chopped parsley
  • Chopped dill would be nice
  • Pasta Sauce of choice
  • Parmesan or another grated hard cheese (even a creamy goat cheese would work)

As soon as the pasta is finished cooking—you want it to be on the more tender side of al dente, since you’re not cooking it in the sauce—simply drain it, toss it with your now-warm tuna sauce, and dinner is served.

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

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