This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Cooking With Oats

Posted by Mike aka Mightily Oats

O’, how the Mightily have fallen!

Welcome, gentle reader, to the most depressing episode of Cooking with Oats to date. Things have certainly gone pear-shaped for your favorite fictional food-based tycoon.  I am writing this missive from the soggy confines of my brand new, one bedroom cardboard box located conveniently in the alley behind Lou’s Diner in downtown New York City. I have found gainful employment as Lou’s new Pot Boy and he has graciously told me that if he catches me digging through his dumpster one more time he would feed me to his dogs, so it’s not all bad.

You may be asking yourself“What manner of misfortune has brought you into the illustrious ranks of the urban outdoorsman?” I think it was due in equal parts to the hostile corporate takeover of Oats Inc. by a cutthroat investment holdings firm, the monstrously large lawsuit brought against me by Burger King for unauthorized use of their corporate mascot in one of my recent articles, and an unfortunate event involving a woman, a man, another woman, a midget, a donkey, 20 pounds of raw chicken cutlets, a snowmobile and a 55 gallon drum of personal lubricant.

I remember my father once telling me, “No sense in crying over spilled lube, son. Now get me another beer.” My father was a wise man.

My first day working at Lou’s was quite an education. Contained within Lou’s blood stained apron and his everything-else stained wife-beater is a hulking mass of blubber, hair and knuckles of indeterminate ethnicity. A snarling heap of gluttonous flesh powered by cigars and a generalized hatred for the rest of the world. Lou would rather throw you in the soup than serve it to you.

With over 20 years of culinary experience under my rather large belt, I thought I knew what it was to turn a blind eye toward Board of Health violations, but Lou was a true master.  I was haunted by the little Zen gardens of fungus growing on the ‘Prime Aged Beef’, and I stood aghast at his resourcefulness when he collected the fluid leaking from the malfunctioning refrigerator for his secret sauce. But these were small potatoes compared to his kitchen staff.

Lou’s horrifying logic worked like this: Rats were an ever present nuisance in his restaurant and humans expected to get paid for their work. In a twisted stroke of genius he fired all of the humans and taught the rats how to cook. The entire kitchen was a writhing mass of matted fur and worm-like tails, the air was filled with the constant cacophony of scrabbling claws and chittering squeaks punctuated occasionally by the high pitched shriek of an unfortunate Rattus rattus that was being cannibalized by the rest of their pack. This must be what Hell looks like.

Turning my back on the swarm of rodent terror, I started scrubbing the filth-encrusted crockery. The steam rising from the sudsy cesspool engulfed me like a foul smelling sauna. Sweat immediately started to drip from every pore of my body. The squeaks and squeals of the rats were boring into my very mind as my shoulders hunched in an instinctual effort to fend off the impending case of ‘Screaming Heebie Geebies’ that was already working its way up my spine. Plunging my hand into the water I groped around blindly for the scouring pad that I had just dropped. Feeling something wiry, I seized it and brought it up for a cursory inspection. Staring back at me was a rat; pox-ridden, scrawny and bedraggled.

“Hey Mack, you seen my rubber duck in there?” it asked.

“NRRrrrgg!” I replied, my brain trying desperately to climb out of the back of my skull.

“It’s gettin’ kinda chilly in here, Chief. You wanna add some more hot water?”

 “NRRrrrgg!”

“Fine, I’ll do it. Geez, ya can’t get good help these days.”

Leaping from my hand, the talking rat plunged back into the sink and disappeared with a “Gloop!” Failing to have found an emergency escape hatch, my brain decided that the only reasonable course of action was to pack its bags, kiss its wife goodbye and go mad. It would be a short trip.

There is a world of difference between being mad and going mad. Being mad can be a delightful existence; floating in a calm pool of liquefied contentment, snuggled safely away from the screaming maelstrom of reality that coalesces around a deranged mind. Going mad, on the other hand, is a terrifying ordeal in which the little gnome that is in charge of monitoring the finely tuned clockwork of the human mind falls asleep at the controls and a small, but incredibly important spring goes “Boing!” and now he’s trying to put it all back together in the dark using only his teeth and a map of Kentucky, while hurricane-force winds blow cogs and sprockets around at Mach 2, scattering them from Hell to Breakfast.

Standing there trying to regain my mental foothold on reality, I felt the hot reek of something foul breathing down my neck. The sweat that drenched my body instantly froze, along with my heart.

“You terribly attach to your heart there, Willard?” the reeking breath asked.

“Yes?”

“Good to hear, Willard.”

“Oats…”

“Listen Willard, I’d hate to have to tear open your belly and have my pack eat it from the inside. You wouldn’t like that at all, would ya, Willard?”

“Um… no?”

“Excellent! Turn around, Willard! I want you to meet the gang.”

Rigid with terror, I pivoted 180 degrees without appearing to move a single muscle, my face diving for cover, leaving my rictus smile to fend for itself.

Placing a convivial claw on my shoulder, the largest rat I have ever seen gestured toward the pulsating mass of pestilence. “These are the boys! Boys, this is Willard. He’s gonna help us get outta here.”

“I am, am I? That’s… great!?” I exclaimed with the manic belief that if I just kept smiling this living nightmare would end.

“Yes it is, isn’t it? They call me Marrow-Gnawer but you can call me Ben.”

“Here’s the deal, Willard. My gang is big, but I want it to get much bigger and this kitchen just ain’t big enough for us all. I like Lou; he’s dirty, hairy, vicious and filled with hate. Hell, he might as well be a rat. But he’s got no vision.”

The giant rat went on at length about his grand plans for his gang; ruthless takeovers, assassinations, world domination, that old chestnut. He talked  about how I was going to help him or else he was going to feed tender and intimate parts of my anatomy to his favorite ninjas. Ninjas? Yes, ninjas. I smiled so much I felt like my face was going to split at the seams.

“And look at all of the toys we have.” he said.

Looking down at the pile of nasty tricks he had amassed, my fevered brain reeled with all of the horrifying possibilities. The horrors that could be wrought upon mankind by these disciples of Pestilence, sickly horseman of the apocalypse, manifested vividly in my mind’s eye. 

The tighter I tried to grip my sanity, the quicker it slipped away until I was finally left with nothing. The ground opened beneath my feet and revealed the hungering maw of oblivion. I stared deep into the mouth of madness and had a sudden urge to brush my teeth.

The wail of despair that leapt from my lips tore through the air as I tore at my eyes, my fingers trying to extract the cackling nightmares that were using my psyche as a combination punching bag/discount latrine. Falling to my knees, I surrender the last vestiges of my humanity to the frenetic torment that ruled my crumbling world. The torrent of madness abates and I am left to piece together the tatters.

Now I sit calmly in the eye of the storm, languishing in a pool of snuggly contentment and look over the blasted landscape of my shattered mind.

The nice lady should be by soon with her nasty tasting candy. I get one blue one and two red ones today. She says I’m doing so good that they might be able to take off my nice white jacket. I think it’s rather dashing but I like her, so the jacket will have to go. I miss Ben. Maybe I’ll get to go visit him and his friends. Maybe they will remember me. I can’t wait to be part of their Rat Pack.

 

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