Lily ran by, dressed in a purple tutu and turtleneck sweater, chased by Paul, Liam’s son, and yelling “You’ll never catch me!” Paul wielded a squirt gun, held in front of him, firing at Lily in short, controlled bursts of chlorinated water from the pool.
“Good to see you and Kate are getting along,” Chef muttered to Liam.
Liam snorted. Kate had only looked at Liam long enough to forbid him from speaking with her son. “Oh, it’s not that bad, she’s not reaching for your knives to throw at me.”
Chef’s eyes bugged. “She wouldn’t dare.”
“She’s crazy, dude.”
“I’d kill her.” Chef turned a steak, slamming it back down onto the grill.
“My god, Chef, you are a man with an unhealthy passion for your knives.”
“What? No, that’s just an expensive set of knives.”
“More expensive than my car?”
“Probably not, you drove a por –“ Chef gasped. “She didn’t! She’s such a sweet woman, what did she do to it?”
“Fucked it up, is what she did to it. Drove it right into the fake lake up the street from the house.” Liam seethed. He squeezed the beer bottle until Chef was certain it would have shattered in his hand. “They brought it out of the water this afternoon.”
Liam bared his teeth at Chef, but said nothing. He finished his beer and fished two out of the cooler. The still-dripping cans were placed by the radio, blaring Pantera across the yard.
“What’s with this old shit” A voice called from behind the gate.
“Really, you invited him,” Liam said.
“He’s a friend,” Chef replied. “Be nice.” Chef turned a few burgers before answering Skip. Chef didn’t know his real name. The way Skip told it, all of the people that knew his name were all dead, killed in Vietnam, despite that skip was born twenty-two years after the war. “Music is very important to a chef.”
“What does music have anything to do with cooking?”
Chef looked at Liam as if it were the stupidest question he’d ever heard. Liam chuckled and sipped at his beer, waiting for Chef’s response.
“Did you know that if you play a certain kind of music around plants they grow faster, and are healthier plants as a result? Down to our very atoms, every living thing on this planet responds to music, whether it makes our hearts beat faster, or makes us horny, or if it makes us grow faster, everything living thing is deeply tied with music.
“Yeah, but this isn’t classical music, this is crappy metal, and I’m pretty sure those steaks stopped being living, breathing cows this morning.”
“Cooking meat is a man’s lot in life, we’ve been doing it since we lived in caves. Men would go out and kill a beast, hang it from a tree, drain it of its fluids, make a fur coat for his wife to show off. And while she was out with her cavegirlfriends, the man would cook that bastard for his woman.”
“And that’s fucking metal,” Liam said, pointing at Skip.
“Thanks,” Liam said. It was not the first time they’d had to explain Chef’s music choice.
“The meat,” Chef Continued, “responds to metal music like plants react to classical. If you’re making something dead, that you’ve killed yourself, to anything but metal from when music was actually art, you are doing the animal, and your family, a huge disservice.”
“That’s deep, bro,” Skip said. He reeked of marijuana. He sat on the bench at the long wooden table, pulling a plastic bag and a package of papers from his hoodie.
“There are kids here, Skip,” Liam said, cutting off Chef’s protest. “Put that shit away.”
“Ah, you do have some parental instinct. Maybe you should show that to Kate.”
“Don’t start with me. Not today.”
Chef chuckled and leaned back to shout at the house, “Oh ladies, dinner is served.”
“Oh, dude, I almost forgot,” Skip said. “I haven’t found those guys yet. They, like, disappeared and stuff. Slippery dudes, I couldn’t even track their phones or nothin’.”
Liam opened his mouth to speak, but didn’t say a word. Chef had darted to the table, clenching his hand to Skip’s mouth, pressing the metal spatula into his throat.
“Don’t you say a fucking word around my family If they find out because your stoner mouth can’t keep shut I’ll fucking kill you You know it’s true. Do you understand?”
Skip’s eyes bugged, sweat poured from the pores that hadn’t clogged and formed little red mountains on his face. His chins jiggled with his nodding as he babbled behind Chef’s hand. Chef pressed harder with his spatula before pulling away, leaving behind a thin line of blood.
Amberly strolled down the concrete walkway, followed closely by Kate, both carrying large bowls of potato salad, pasta salad, green salad, and surely some other kind of salad Chef wouldn’t eat. Amberly and Kate were dressed in opposites. Where Kate’s dress clung in all of the right places, giving her curves an attractive-because-they-were-engineered-to-be look, Amberly’s loose skirt flowed with every change in the breeze. With women, it is always a matter of preference, but Chef hardly noticed Kate.
Everyone gathered around the table, save for Lily and Paul, who preferred to sit in the grass to eat. A prayer was said, giving heartfelt thanks to God for the meal, also thanking Him for that everyone present was able to live safely.
Chef didn’t mention his involvement with that safety, but he didn’t feel the need to brag.