Dinner is served…..
By Ash Warren
It was as if snow had begun to fall in the kitchen, a gentle, sweet, tinkling snow. The two women sat in the soft light streaming from the skylight, a theatre of tiny sunlit motes dancing happily about them and the darkness of the wine they were enjoying shimmering in their glasses.
Yifan liked the kitchen very much and said so. It was all white counters, with a black slate floor that seemed to be made of shadows and which just emphasized the spotless order of the room. A huge renaissance painting of fruit and flowers overflowing from a darkly glinting silver bowl hung on one wall underneath which was a expertly achieved ikebana display of plum blossoms clinging ephemerally do their dark branches, like divers pausing before they plunged into the sea.
The two women were mirror images of each other in many ways. Portia, the elder of the two seemed to be made from the morning on some Swiss mountain peak, her blondeness only enhanced by her immaculate white suit, whereas the more delicate Yifan seemed crafted from the softer shades of forest and the evening and wore tailored black, as she always did to business meetings.
‘My husband tells me you’ve been very reliable’ Portia said to her guest as she took a sip of her wine, and Yifan smiled her happiest smile, the one she knew her customers liked. To a girl like her, who had grown up in a shop and for whom business was her very marrow, customers were very important and were to be pleased at all times. And no, it was not the money that came with business that made her happy, that she regarded as merely as a measure. She just loved commerce, loved the simplicity of its supply and demand, the order of its accounting, the charged balance of trading one thing for another. And she was, unlike her husband, in light-hearted communion with all of the occult practices of the world of deals that lay within and even far from her own personal experience. She understood business on a fundamental level and found that to be a part of it thrilled and satisfied her.
‘Thank you so much. Please tell me, if you don’t mind, does your Club have many members?’ she asked.
Portia waved her white hand dismissively and shook her head.
‘No dear, just the twelve. It’s the same in all our international chapters. Twelve members for each Banquet Club, one of whom holds a dinner for the others each month. But you know…’ and here she lowered her voice a little. ‘They really are so competitive. Always trying to outdo each other…. You wouldn’t believe it. So we’re very lucky to have a vendor able to supply us with all those….ah….hard to get animals that they want to cook.’
Yifan nodded happily.
‘It’s our pleasure.’ she said.
Portia filled the younger woman’s glass with some more Merlot.
‘And has your family been in business long in China?’ she asked
‘Oh yes. We’ve been in the meat trade for generations. Breeding, import and export, you know. So we have some excellent contacts.’
Portia nodded and smiled.
‘Well, we do appreciate it. And the lengths you are willing to go personally to help us. So good of you…’
‘Not at all’ said Yifan. She nodded at the cage in the corner where her husband lay, firmly trussed and drugged.
‘Will they be having all of him do you think?’ she asked.
Portia rolled her eyes and raised both hands in a gesture of resignation.
‘Well, who knows. I imagine not. It’s such a waste isn’t it? It really annoys me sometimes. I think the host just wants some of the liver for an entree. Maybe some of the heart. An amuse-bouche or something like that. You know, it’s just par for the course with these people. No sense of economy.’
‘Oh, that’s quite alright.’ said Yifan, taking a sip of wine. ‘So do you have any plans for the left over bits?’
Portia turned on her stool and looked at the cage with her guest.
‘Well, I was wondering about smoking him actually. What do you think? We just built a new smokehouse in the garden.’
Yifan nodded, remembering her husband’s two pack a day habit.
‘That’s an excellent idea.’ she said happily.
Portia smiled and reaching across the counter, patted the younger woman’s hand.
‘You know, I shouldn’t do this but… would you like me to get them to save some for you?’
Yifan nodded enthusiastically.
‘Oh! Yes please!’ she laughed, and tossed her long black hair in a way she knew her customers liked.