One should never, ever toast tuna. It is not natural. Another flash fiction courtesy of the prompt from Chuck Wendig. This one features another character from Blood on the Quarter. Because steampunk is fun in so many ways.
The clanging of metal against metal woke George. Annoyed, he rolled over, trying to get comfortable enough to bring back sleep. A loud bang and subsequent yelp sent him running down the house’s rickety stairs in alarm
“What was that?!” He demanded in French, struggling to put on his robe before he entered the downstairs room.
Tying his robe closed, he stared at the room before him. What had been a sitting room and kitchen was now all kitchen, the comfortable couches and chairs having been shoved unceremoniously to one side of the room, effectively blocking the front door. In their stead was a vast array of copper pipes and wires, each connected to one contraption or another, all fed by a stove turned steam generator. Atop the stove, perched on spindly metal legs, a pinwheel carrying eggs in small pouches, depositing them on one pipe where they were cracked by a toy bird; their yolks went to a sizzling frying pan while the shells went whizzing past to some destination unknown to George. Another set of pipes and wheels catered to bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes. Another stove had been moved into the room, on it a pot simmering water next to the frying pan, and in another; something was busy being frantically whisked.
“What is going on?” George asked again.
“Invention!” A voice shouted back from somewhere in the menagerie of pipes and food.
“What are you inventing?”
A graying head perked up, his weathered face looking thoughtful behind large, round tortoiseshell spectacles. “Sandwich!”
“The Sandwich has already been invented, sir. I think you are a bit behind the times.”
The old man rolled his eyes. “I am inventing new sandwiches, stupid boy!” He pointed, “There is a bacon, tomato, lettuce, and egg sandwich.” He turned to another part of the room, the kitchen proper, “Here I am experimenting with different pastes and jellies. I do believe butter and jelly has promise.”
George raised an eyebrow, moving to the stove and the large pot on it. A mechanical hand attached to a whisk was busy swirling a pale yellow mixture round and round. ;
“Ah, that is a mixture of eggs, egg yolk, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemons, mustard and water.”
The old man sighed. “Yes, mayonnaise.”
George’s eye caught sight of a fresh-caught tuna, still wrapped in newspaper on a bare section of counter top.
“Are you going to make something with the fish?” He asked, suddenly very interested in the idea of inventing a new sandwich.
The old man looked to where George was pointed. He snorted, shaking his head. “Mrs. Basil is using that for tonight’s dinner. She tells me I must have all of this cleaned up by that time. Damn woman, always interfering with my work.”
Mrs. Basil was the LeRoux family cook. A sweet woman, she was always going about complaining about Jeremy LeRoux’s inventions and how they interfered with her cooking and cleaning. George didn’t blame her. Between Gavin and his father, the small house the three of them shared was always a disaster area. But, the idea was there, George couldn’t stop it now.
“I’ll buy you a new fish,” he said to Jeremy.
Jeremy arched an eyebrow, a sly expression coming across his features. “Oh? What do you have in mind?”
A few minutes later, the two men peered carefully at the bowl between them, using tongs to rifle through the meat and pick out any bone their collective vision landed on. When Jeremy gave the all-clear, George transported the bowl to a new pot and made for the stove.
“Do we cook it?” He asked, suddenly confused.
“I would imagine boiling would suffice?”
Uncertainty did not make for comfort. But, lost in the thrill of discovery, George shrugged and dumped the batch into boiling water, waiting for the meat to turn bright pink before lifting the pot and draining it.
“Now what?” Jeremy asked, looking around frantically. His hands searched for an empty device with which to transport the tuna. ;
“White or wheat?” George asked.
“Wheat! It must be on wheat.”
“Why not on white?”
“Well, what shall we put in it, then? It seems ridiculous to sit and eat boiled tuna all by itself.”
“Dull. Why not your mayonnaise?”
Jeremy wagged a finger at George, a bright grin on his face. It took both men to wrangle the whisking arm into submission long enough to get a few spoonfuls into the tuna bowl. Excited now, Jeremy followed the mayonnaise with spare ingredients he hadn’t yet used for other sandwiches.
“We should toast the bread,” George said suddenly.
A look of worry replaced excitement. “I don’t know, that doesn’t sound-”
“Nonsense! This is the time for invention!” George tasted the tuna for emphasis. He groaned in pleasure, “Toast. Toast is necessary to make this a sandwich.” Taking the bread, he spooned a large glob of tuna onto one slice. A thick slab of cheese followed.
“I don’t think-”
“Toasted!” George said firmly, delivering the sandwich into a box outfitted with two burners.
“Do you think it will taste all right?” Jeremy asked, coming to stand beside George.
“It looks marvelous.” The bread was beginning to brown. “This could be your best invention-”
“Is tuna supposed to do that?”
A loud hissing emanated from the toaster box, causing the pipes and mechanisms around it to shudder. With each air bubble that popped, the hissing grew louder until it was a shrill whistle and there was no longer bread but a hideous, frothing conflagration of tuna fish and sizzling cheese.
“Turn it off!” George shrieked, looking for a killswitch. “For the love of God, turn it off!”
“I can’t find the switch!”
A final shriek. The explosion shook the entire room, shattering pipes, overturning full pots and pans, and launching both men to the walls covered in scalding hot tuna and cheese.
“What the hell?!” Gavin LeRoux demanded stomping down the stairs, his open bathrobe flapping in the generated wind. He stared in amazement at the ruined living room and kitchen. “What were you two doing?!”
“Toasting tuna,” George answered.