|Wednesday night, nine-thirty p.m. "Time to get moving," Broadway said
to himself as he
grabbed his case from the kitchen and set off for the stairs to the
roof. "I'm off to work, honey,"
he said with a grin as he passed Elektra in the living room and gave
her a quick smooch. "Sure
you don't want to come with me tonight?"
"Not tonight, my love," Elektra said with a regretful smile. "I did
promise Derrek that I would
stay home with Dee and Tom whilst he and Samson went out." She added
with an upraised
finger to forestall his next words, "And ere you suggest they come
along as well, I would remind
you of what happened last time."
Broadway shuddered eloquently. "No need to remind me, honey! It took
so long to clean up the
mess, I nearly went to sleep there! 'Two kids and a blender' is one
A few seconds later, he was launching from the roof in the direction
of Pack Media Studios,
whistling, "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go." Yep, he loved his
work. Cooking and talking to
people; two items on his top ten list of favorite things to do, and
he was getting paid for it! Fox
was an absolute genius for thinking of this last year and setting it
A few minutes later, he landed on the roof of the studio, and walked
in through the access door
they'd made just for him. Ah, the perks of being a television star,
he thought amusedly to
"Evening, Broadway!" Mike Johnson, one of his show's stagehands and
cameramen, looked up
from his equipment and waved in greeting as he came down the stairs.
"Something from Mexico tonight, guys; Chicken Mole," Broadway said with
"Sounds great! First dibs on cleaning out the pot!" Mike's brother Ralph
called out with an
Mike glared at him accusingly. "It's my night to call dibs!"
Broadway chuckled and let the twin brothers get on with their bickering;
it never stopped them
from getting the show on tape without a single flaw. He checked the
refrigerator first, as always,
just to make sure he had enough ingredients on hand for making both
dishes of tonight's show.
He frowned as he checked the vegetable crisper. "Joseph, I thought
the list I faxed over last
night said I needed green, medium-hot and hot-hot peppers! All I see
here are the green and the
medium-hot. We need about six small chipotle peppers to make both dishes."
Joseph Armin, his cooking assistant, hurried over to his side, whipping
out a notepad and
scribbling on it. "Chipotle peppers, got it. Anything else we're short
"Let me check the pantry… Mmnnope, looks like everything else is here."
"Good thing there’s a Safeway just a few blocks away. I'll be back in
a few minutes," Joseph said
as he hurried out.
Next came checking his utensils and various kitchen aids. "Didn't we
get a new blender like I
"Sure did; I saw the empty box it came in backstage. It's the same model
as before, even the
same color; that's why it's hard to tell," Ralph said from his console,
where he was doing a
lighting check. "Y'know, I saw this advertisement for a top-of-the-line
Broadway raised his hand to forestall him, saying, "If it's more than
the average homemaker is
going to have in his or her kitchen, I'm not going to use it, you know
that. I only make dishes
that anyone can make, without breaking their budget or needing a team
of chefs standing by to
help out." He wanted the show to appeal to everybody, unlike some of
those snobbish, see-
"Yeah, don't want anyone to get a case of 'spatula envy'," Ralph joked,
and Broadway obligingly
groaned and threatened to brain him with a ladle.
After that, it was time to get to work. He sped through the kitchen,
working the counters as fast
as possible without making mistakes, in preparing the first dishes
for the show; the ones nearly
always made ahead of time to serve to selected members of the audience
at show's end. (If they
weren’t needed to prepare ahead of time, Broadway still did them anyway,
so after the show
was over he could treat the crew to dinner; another one of his’ trademarks’,
and one that
ensured he had a loyal crew with minimal staff turnover.) He did have
one advantage over the
typical homemaker in that, as a gargoyle, he had slightly faster reflexes
than the average Joe
Human. It took less time to chop up the vegetables needed for tonight
than it would take anyone
not using a Cuisinart, even chopping the double batch and setting half
of it aside in a
Tupperware dish for use during the show.
Joseph came back with the hot-hot peppers in the nick of time, and they
were chopped, toasted
and added to the mix to pour over the sautéed chicken pieces.
Then he grated the second
portion of baking chocolate on, before setting the dish into the oven
to bake. He had to admit,
most kitchens didn't have three different ovens, either, including
one designed just for the
purpose of keeping food warm without drying it out, but for a TV chef
they were an absolute
necessity. He set the timer, then left it to bake while he started
working on the side dish.
An hour later, he had everything ready to go. One meal cooked to perfection,
and transferred to
the warming oven to stay ready for later. No nick-of-time scrambling
to redo a ruined batch
before the audience started arriving; tonight was going to go perfectly,
he just knew it. He
smiled wide as he relaxed and joked with Joseph and the others while
they cleaned the kitchen
up again, to have everything spotless in time for the show. Then a
phone rang backstage, not
audible to most ears but clear enough to Broadway. He told Ralph, who
went to get it for him as
he finished tidying up. Seconds later, Ralph came running back out
with eyes wide. "Red Alert!
Mr. Martinelli says we’re hosting a birthday party tonight!"
"Say what?!" Broadway vaulted the counter and dashed backstage to the
phone to talk with
Bruno Martinelli, the show’s executive producer. "Broadway here! What’s
this about a birthday
"Didn’t you get the memo I faxed to the castle yesterday?" Martinelli
growled. "My cousin’s kid is
having his sixth birthday tomorrow, and he wants to meet you tonight.
So he’s going to be one
of your guest tasters, and you’re going to have a surprise birthday
cake and ice cream for him
after the show’s officially over. Tell Gordon to keep Camera #3 up
and running, though, so little
Jimmy has a birthday tape too."
Ohboy. Showtime in just over an hour, and now they had to somehow bake
and frost a cake
before the end of the show. "Yessir," Broadway gulped, then dropped
the phone back into its
cradle while he galloped back into the kitchen. "Red Alert is right!"
as he flung open the
refrigerator, praying they had enough ingredients on hand to at least
start the cake baking. Yes,
they still had some eggs left over from last week’s show, and the pantry
always had flour and
sugar… "Joseph, start writing!" as he began tossing what he needed
onto the counters, and
turned an oven on to preheat it. "I need more baking chocolate for
the show; what we got on
hand is going into the cake instead. And a package of birthday candles,
and colored frosting
tubes for writing on the cake—get two of every color they got! And
ice cream; get both vanilla
and chocolate…" Once he got things going, he borrowed Mike’s cell phone.
Holding it up to his
ear with his tail while he stirred the cake batter, he called the castle.
"Hey, Hudson? I got a
situation here, and I need an artist, fast!"
* * * * *
It was a close call, but they got the cake baked, the basic frosting
and filling made and the
kitchen cleaned up again just before the first audience members started
filing in. The freshly
baked cake sheets were hustled backstage, where Ralph had hurriedly
rigged a pair of fans to
gently blow across the cakes and cool them down faster. Tires squealed
outside the studio, and
in another minute Mike hustled Vanessa Green inside through the back
door. Vanessa was a
recently met friend to the clan who was also a struggling fantasy artist,
and she shook her head
in amusement as she came inside and saw Broadway hurriedly changing
into a fresh apron. "I
knew you guys would make my life interesting, but so help me God, I
ain’t never heard of an
‘emergency cake frosting’ before!"
"There’s a first time for everything," Broadway agreed as he pointed
to the bowl of frosting he’d
whipped up (vanilla, but colored dark blue like a twilight sky) and
the tubes of frosting in every
color available laying next to it. "The kid’s name is Jimmy, he’ll
be six years old tonight and he
likes gargoyles; can you take it from there?"
" ‘Course I can! Honeychile, trust me, this will be an edible masterpiece."
And the photo she’d
take of her work before it was cut would make for a downright unique
addition to her portfolio,
Vanessa thought to herself with a wry grin. "And you’d better save
me a slice of it after the
"I’ll do better than that; you can join me and the crew for dinner afterwards.
Ever had chicken
Five minutes later, the audience members were all in their seats and
Gordon Whitman, the
show’s director, was starting the countdown. When he gave the signal,
Ralph started the theme
music while Bud Hollister, the third cameraman who doubled as their
announcer, said into the
microphone, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Cooking Big! The late-night
cooking show for
people who love to cook, or love to eat! With your host, our master
Broadway turned on the tiny microphone hidden beneath his apron front
and walked out onto
the stage, waving to the crowd and loving every second of the applause
and whistles they were
bestowing on him; it was just so great to be appreciated for who and
what he was, not hated
because he’d happened to be hatched with wings and a tail. (He knew
darn well that Fox’s
investigators always discreetly screened the applicants for seats in
the audience, checking for
Quarryman sympathies or likely troublemaker traits before granting
passes to the show, but it
was still great to be appreciated by the folks who made it inside.)
"Hello, everybody!" He spotted
a little kid in the front row and knew without a doubt that was Danny;
he could count on the
talons of one hand the number of times he’d had kids as guests on the
show, since it was filmed
at midnight on a school night and shown at midnight two nights later.
He made eye contact and
gave the boy, who was practically bouncing in his seat, an especially
wide grin before continuing
his opening banter. "We’ve got a real treat in store for you tonight,
folks; a dish from south of
the border, from the wonderful country of Mexico. Now, to most people,
the words ‘chicken’ and
‘chocolate’ don’t generally go together, except in the same section
of the dictionary. But down in
Mexico, they have a dish that uses both together, and with the right
recipe it tastes just great!
Tonight, I’m going to show you all how to make… Chicken Mole!"
For the next twenty-three minutes, he talked as he cooked, explaining
to the audience each of
the steps he was going through as he set about making a dish of Chicken
Mole, using the same
recipe Diane Maza had given him a few years ago. "Now, I recommend
corn oil for sautéing the
chicken, but ordinary vegetable oil can be used in a pinch." "When
you chop up the garlic and
the onion, keep the pieces about this small; it’s really mincing them
together. And keep your
pepper pieces about the same size…" As he usually did with spicy dishes,
he deliberately made
two sauces for the same dish, one mild and one as spicy as he generally
liked it; he’d gotten into
the habit while cooking for everybody at the castle, because one thing
that Goliath and Elisa just
could not agree on, as much as they loved each other, was how hot was
too hot. He’d found out
almost by accident that it worked well for the show, too, because then
he could accommodate
both types of palates not just among his guest tasters, but among his
crew for after the show
(poor Gordon loved spicy foods, but his ulcer sure didn’t.) "Now, we
have to simmer this just
until the chocolate melts, over low heat so it doesn’t scorch…" When
he finished, he set that dish
into an oven to finish baking. Then as the light subtly dimmed and
the theme music cued again,
signifying the cameras had stopped rolling for the moment (second commercial
break), he pulled
the previously prepared dish out of its oven and let it cool for a
moment, while he ushered his
guest tasters on stage.
While he’d been cooking, Ralph had hurriedly doctored the top hat he
normally used for drawing
numbers out of, sticking the two seat numbers for Jimmy and his mother
just underneath the
brim where Broadway could discreetly palm them when drawing out the
‘lucky numbers’ for his
tasters from the audience later on. During the first scheduled commercial
break, when he’d
called out the numbers, Jimmy had jumped clear out of his seat with
excitement and waved his
ticket high overhead. "That’s me, that’s me!"
"Settle down, Jimmy… Oh, look, he called out my number too!" Jimmy’s
mother had exclaimed,
pretending to be surprised. Now the two of them came onto the stage
and sat down at the
already-set table together with the other two audience members, while
Joseph poured milk for
them and Broadway served up the chicken mole and the standard veggie
side dish. At
Broadway’s discreet whisper, she whispered back, "Mild side for both
of us, please."
"Mild side it is," Broadway said genially back, and served the four
tasters before serving a big
helping of ‘spicy-side’ for himself. The lights turned a little brighter,
signifying the cameras were
rolling again, just as he took his seat at the head of the table.
After his little ‘welcome back’ spiel for the cameras while everyone
took their first bites, he asked
his guests what they thought of the dish. "It’s good!" Jimmy said through
a mouthful of sauce-
covered chicken, ignoring his mother’s hissed whisper not to talk with
his mouth full. The other
tasters agreed, and Broadway grinned wide before lifting his fork to
take a big bite himself.
Suddenly Jimmy spoke up again, saying wistfully, "Would you come live
with me and Mommy?"
That one just about floored everybody. Forks dropped, knives slipped
and skittered across
plates, and Broadway had to tell himself to shut his mouth before he
caught flies. It was only a
second or two of pause, though, before he smiled and said directly
to Jimmy, politely missing his
mother's deep blush, "Well, I appreciate the offer, but my mate would
be a little upset if I did.
She gets jealous sometimes, you see."
"Your mate?" Jimmy said curiously.
"Yeah, she's my wife, only gargoyles don't usually use the term, because
we don't sign marriage
certificates. Her name's Elektra; want to see her picture?" Broadway
already digging into his
belt pouch and pulling out his wallet. He flipped it open to show the
picture inside, beaming
proudly. "That's her, with Malcolm." The picture had been taken just
the night after she'd birthed
their egg, when it was time for the first turning.
Jimmy looked at the picture and decided, "She's pretty. Almost as pretty
as Mommy." His
mother, who had just about recovered from her son's first words, blushed
again, but this time
with a smile instead of horrified dismay. "But what's she holding?"
"I told you, that's Malcolm. Our egg."
"Your egg?" Jimmy blinked.
"Yup. He'll hatch into a gargoyle in another seven years; it's a long
wait, but it'll be worth it!" as
he proudly showed the picture to the rest of the table.
"But you already named him? And how can you tell it's a him?" Jimmy
"We can tell by the shell patterns. See, these markings indicate it's
a boy; if they were different,
it'd be a girl. And we named him after Elektra's daddy, like lots of
people do. Did your parents
name you before you were born?"
"We did," Jimmy's mother admitted as she affectionately ruffled her
son's hair. She told him, "As
soon as the ultrasound told us you were going to be a boy, we named
you after my father, your
Jimmy then wanted to know, "What's an ultrasound?"
Broadway noticed Gordon making frantic motions towards his wristwatch;
they were out of time.
"It's a machine hospitals have, for looking inside pregnant women to
see their babies," he said
quickly. "Your mom can tell you more about it later; right now, your
dinner's getting cold!" as he
pointed firmly to the plate.
Jimmy obediently began eating again, and bare seconds later Ralph cued
in the show's theme as
Mike pulled back for a fade-out shot. "And cut!" Gordon said, grinning
from ear to ear.
They kept Camera #3 rolling, of course, so Jimmy would have a recording
of his birthday party;
Broadway grinned wide at the boy’s expression of both surprise and
utter delight as he came
from backstage with the birthday cake. Vanessa had outdone everyone’s
expectations; the cake
sported a recognizable version of the New York skyline on the bottom,
while cutesy depictions of
every gargoyle in the clan frolicked above it, and in between was the
message "Happy Birthday,
Jimmy!" Both Jimmy and his mother were thrilled, and they had to take
extra still pics of
Vanessa’s work before lighting the candles so Jimmy could blow them
They served cake and ice cream for the family, and Jimmy’s mother even
brought out one of his
presents to open at the party. It was a small electric train set, and
Jimmy was thrilled again,
wanting to set it up and start playing with it on the spot. Broadway
thought amusedly that he
should introduce Jimmy to Samson, Delilah’s mate, who had a small room
of the castle devoted
entirely to his super-deluxe model railroad setup; if the kid liked
gargoyles, he’d probably be
thrilled to have a mutate as a fellow hobbyist and friend.
After Jimmy and his mother had gone home, Broadway pulled the second
dish of Chicken Mole
out of the oven while Joseph set the table again, for Vanessa and the
entire production crew to
sit down to dinner. As he sat down, Gordon said with another wraparound
grin, "We'll have to
cut a few seconds out here and there throughout the show to get all
our sponsors' commercials
in, but we have just got to leave in every second of the ending!"
"Yeah, what you did with that kid was fantastic!" Ralph agreed enthusiastically.
Broadway blinked at them in confusion. "What are you talking about?
All I did was show him
Elektra and Malcolm's picture."
"Right, and it was so exactly like any proud family man would show off
his wife and kid! It just
shows the audience more of how much you guys have in common with most
of humanity, get
"Oh, I see!" Broadway decided now was not the time to bring up the point
that his clan was
decidedly different than most clans were. Most gargoyles were raised
in a rookery, like he had
been, and contributed any eggs they produced to the rookery as well;
they neither knew nor
much cared exactly who their parents or progeny were, so long as the
race continued. But
Angela and Aiden had been determined to raise their kids knowing who
their parents were, and
the rest of the clan had agreed that it wouldn't be such a bad idea
at that. And he had to admit
now, after three years of knowing which egg was his and Elektra's and
lavishing attention on it,
that he wouldn't want it any other way. He grinned again and said,
"Anyone else for seconds?"