John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Short story: The legend of the four egg omelet.

The legend of the four egg omelet.

   I watched his face drop in complete shock and it captured me with such surprise that even the noise, bustle and confusion of Times Square faded away momentarily as I focused on his features.
   “What is it?” I asked frantically “Are you all right?”
   “It’s him” he whispered loud enough to be heard over the city’s din.  His eyes narrowed as if he were seeing something completely unbelievable.   
   “Who?” I asked half turning to look into the steamed covered window of the Athens and Apollo Grill.   
   “No!” he said and grabbing my shoulders, he turned me full about to face him. “Don’t stare at him”
   “Who?” I begged and began to turn again only to be pulled back around. 
    He held his hand to his mouth and clenched his teeth into his one gloved hand and momentarily closed his eye and shaking his head sadly he said “There were stories that he had come back the city. That he had hit bottom. Like most people, I put it off as  urban legend.  But it’s true. Rock bottom. Of all the gin joints in all the world, he landed here. A Greek carry out in Times Square”
     I noted the ending of the sentence had a slight rhyme to it, clever, I thought. I also enjoyed homage to Casablanca although I still believe that Rick was better off without her. Victor Laszlo was a humorless bore and so was she. Now Rick, ah, Rick, now there was a man of character and don’t even get me started on Renault, Major Strasser, Signor Ferrari or Signor Ugarte and if Casablanca was French why weren’t they called monsieur? Well anyway.
    He sighed deeply and moaned, he actually moaned the words "How the mighty have fallen"
   “In the midst of the battle" I added.
   He looked at me and asked “What?”
  “Oh how the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle” I answered.
   He shrugged.
  "How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!"  I said “King James Bible, 2nd Book of Samuel. From a report on the death of Jonathon.”
  “What is that?” he asked his face twisted in confusion.
  “That’s where the quote is from” I answered defensively “The Bible”
  “You read the Bible?” he asked incredulously.
   “Yeah” I answered “Why not?”
   He stared at me as if he had never seen me before and it made me uneasy. I tilted my head the general direction of the Athens and Apollo Grill and asked “Look, what’s this about?”
   He was still looking at me as though I were complete stranger.
  “Gill” I said “What’s this about”
     Climbing out of whatever though cavern he was lost in, he looked across the width of the wide street forlornly and said “It was a long time ago. He was the King of the gastronomic world, the grand earl of the epicurean, the emperor of the gourmand, the…..”
   “All right” I said holding up a hand to stop him “I think I’ve got it. He was a good cook”
   “Oh he was more than that” he answered with squinted eyes “He was…he was….” He couldn’t find the words because I had already found them “yeah” he said in defeat “he was a really good cook”
    Then he rolled back his head and smiled wistfully and added “But he was good. He was very good. He invented the three egg omelet. It was him. That was his baby, his darling”
   “He did?” I asked skeptically with a smile that displayed by doubt “Wasn’t there always the three egg omelet”
    “Oh no, my bible reading friend, oh no” he said “Back in the old days the wisdom of was that an omelet only needed two eggs and that rule was rigorously enforced by the rigid Old Guard of rations.”
   I was deeply impressed with his instant command over descriptive words beginning with the letter R although I had some doubts about his usage of the word rations in context with the rest of the statement. I also didn’t care for being called his bible reading friend, but I set that aside for another time.
  “The old guard of the gastronomic commanded that omelets would be prepared with two eggs and only two eggs……but he….he” He paused and clenched his gloved hand into a fist and raising his voice slightly he said with great drama “He fought them, by God! And he gave us the three omelet eggs”
 “Well couldn’t have been much of fight” I added but he wasn’t listening and this wasn’t the first time he hadn’t listened to me and so once again I questioned the value of keeping him on as a friend.
    “After that” he continued “he set them all on their ears by adding cheese to the omelet”
   “Get out of here” I said “He invented the cheese omelet? You’re telling me he invented the cheese omelet?”
   I have wondered, now and again, if my friend was missing a screw here and there.
   “Well where do you suppose it came from?” he snapped “A Greek grill in Times Square?”    
     So that’s how it was going to be. Another one of those days where everything I said was wrong, erroneous and incorrect. See? I could do it too. I could have instant command of related words but just not out loud.
    “Well I just assumed the some French guy” I stopped myself. Perhaps the word Omelet wasn’t French in origin as I assumed it was all these years. Actually, I had never considered the word at all. In fact, in the priority or things, if I were ever to sit down one day and considered the origin of some words, omelet would not be one of them. It wouldn’t even be in the running. But now, tossing the word around inside my head it sounded vaguely Russian-ie/ Arabic-ie.
     He looked up to heavens with a pained expression, sighed again and then grabbed me by my lapels and said  “After the acclaim and success of adding the cheese, it all went to his head. The publicity, the public adoration, oh the public adoration was not to be believed”  he released me and held a solitary finger in the air “Oh but he believed it!” and then he whispered “The poor damned fool”    
   He waved his arms majestically across the square and said “It all went to his head. He thought himself infallible. He introduced the four egg omelet” he stopped and took a deep, deep breath of winter air “and that was his downfall”
   “He flew to close to the sun” I added which seemed to disturb him, greatly.
   “Do you want to tell this story or should I?” he said sharply.
   “No” I answered “I was just….”
    “May I continue?” he asked curtly
   “By all means” I answered formally and stiffly because by my observation most Royals seem very stiff.
    “The kings of the connoisseur, the emperors of the epicure had enough of him.” He continued  “This time, they said one and all, this time, this time, this time he has flown to close to the sun!”
    “But I just said that” I offered.
    “Yes” he answered “But it means something different now that I’ve said it”
     Plagiaristic bastard.
   “That year” he continued “At the Bocuse d'Or, the world's most prestigious cooking competition, was being held in Dubuque”
   “Dubuque?” I snorted.
   He turned a cold eye on me and said coldly as to match his eye “Dubuque” and he looked sharply to his left to demonstrate his displeasure with me.
     I stand by my rebuke of Dubuque.
    “Anyway, the Omelet portion of the competition came around and” he stopped himself and raised his palms “I am not accusing anyone. Nor will I name names.  But, the story goes that someone, a paid assassin I should think, slipped a fifth egg in his mixture while he was looking the other way and…..”
    He hung his head “You can only imagine what happened next”
   “No I can’t” I said “I’m not a cook what happened?”
    “Take a guess!” he roared.
   “I don’t know, for God’s sakes” I yelled back “That’s it? You’re going to send me out into the world with that ending? I should sue you!”
   He slapped me. I grabbed him by his throat and threw him to the ground and we wrestled there for several minutes until he, him, the one, stepped from the diner out on the sidewalk and bellowed  “Hey you!”
   I released him and stood to my feet and faced the great man.
   “Me?” I asked breathlessly because I was out of breath.  

   “Yeah, you” he said “Go someplace else and argue with yourself. You’re scaring off my customers and take that shopping cart with you”