The Perfect Meal

This is a short-story I worte in Creative Writing. It’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written. Enjoy!

The Perfect Meal

Charles Henderson was not a pleasant man. Every morning, he would rise at exactly 7:00 and go for a swim in his indoor pool. After breakfast, he would play a game of billiards with his bartender. After lunch, he would take his afternoon nap until 3:00. He spent an hour working in his garden and an hour sitting in his den by the fireplace just thinking about the past and all the flaws with today’s society. After dinner, he would spend an hour reading a classic piece of literature. Then at exactly 7:00, he would go to bed. Everything always went according to his plan in a very orderly and timely matter. That was, until the day when his life was changed forever .

He looked down at his dinner. What he saw was a disaster. He took one look at the collections of foods all neatly arranged on the glass plate and looked away in disgust. He ordered his butler to come into the room at once. The butler was there at a snap of his fingers.

“Yes sir?” the butler inquired.

Mr. Henderson pulled his napkin from off his lap and set it gently on the table. Without making eye contact, he spoke to the butler softly and diligently. “Mr. Brady, I realize this is your first day here. I know this day has been quite stressful for you as you are learning about my house and the way at which I go about my life. However, if you cannot follow my simple instructions, you will be thrown out to the curb like the last one. Understood?”

“Yes sir. Sorry sir.” The butler scooted out of the dining room and made his way back into the kitchen. He went over to the countertops and rummaged through Mr. Henderson’s detailed instructions. His last butler had left instructions for the new butler about exactly how Mr. Henderson liked everything; everything from the pool temperature to the speed that the water exited the hose as he gardened. Aha, there it was, page 58: “How He Likes His Food Arranged”. The butler read the single spaced, 12-point font Times New Roman report. At times, his eyes widened in disbelief at the requests made in Henderson’s report. When he had finally finished reading, he went back to work.

The butler exited the kitchen approximately five minutes after he had entered. He had begun to sweat little beads at his forehead from working so hard in such a short time.

“Here you are Sir. Your new and improved dinner is served.”

:”Thank you Mr. Brady. You may leave now.” He shooed him away once more and Mr. Brady went back into the kitchen. Mr. Henderson carefully examined the plate. He pulled the ruler and protractor out of his pocket and went to work. The steak cube was cooked medium well and was approximately 6 inches by 9 inches by 2 inches. There were approximately 50 kernels of corn, all fitting inside a sector with an area of about 7 square inches. The mashed potatoes were not perfectly smooth, but were about two inches away from the stack of corn. And finally, the biscuit was almost 5 inches away from the steak and about a 30 degree angle away from the mashed potatoes. Very close, but good enough was not good enough for Mr. Henderson.

“Mr. Brady!” he called. The butler emerged immediately.

“Yes sir?” he replied.

“You did not follow my instructions to the last detail. You were off by a little bit on everything. I cannot eat with such a sloppy mess all spread about my plate. Please fix it.”

“Yes sir” he replied. He slowly and gracefully walked back into the kitchen so as not to move any of the items. He set it down on the countertops and looked back on the instructions. He fixed the steak by 1/16 of an inch. He added two more corn kernels and spread them out to expand the area by .38 square inches. He smoothened out the mashed potatoes and moved the biscuit up by 2/7 of an inch. A little flustered by his last mistake, he hurriedly brought out the rendered meal.

“Here you are Sir. The perfect meal.”

Mr. Henderson looked at the plate and approved. He sent the butler away and got ready to eat. He picked up his fork, which was exactly perpendicular to the table, and lightly jabbed it into the steak. He picked up his knife and began to cut a piece off. He delicately placed it in his mouth, took three chews, and spit it out.

“BRADY!” he yelled. The butler sprinted out.

“Yes sir?” he replied.

“Brady, this steak is room temperature. You did not heat it back up again after you had altered the placement and sizes of the other foods. Now I am beginning to get cranky because I am hungry. If you do not please me after this last try, you will be fired. Now go!”
“Yes sir.” he replied. He walked the plate back into the kitchen. When he sat it down, he shook his head in disbelief. There was no way he’d be able to work for such a ridiculous man. He referred back to the instructions and saw that Mr. Henderson liked his steak cooked at an internal temperature of 160 degrees. The butler removed the steak from the plate, placed it on a paper towel and inserted it into the microwave. He shut the microwave door with an extra force out of anger. He couldn’t wait for the day to end.

When the steak was at a perfect temperature, he pulled it out and put it back on the plate, making sure that it was in exactly the right position. He powerfully walked back into the dining room and set it down in front of him.

“Here you are Sir. The perfect meal.”
Mr. Henderson looked at his plate with delight. “Excellent, thank you Mr. Brady. I must say, you are being quite a sport about this whole ordeal.”

Mr. Brady smiled and left. This time it was over. He exhaled a sigh of relief as his first task as butler had finally ended.

“Mr. Brady?” The butler couldn’t believe it! He had done everything the man had asked. He was furious now. He briskly walked over to Mr. Henderson and replied “Yes sir?”

“You forgot my milk.”

The butler replied “Yes sir. On it’s way sir.” He began making his way back. He laughed inside his head, but his face showed the opposite . There was no way he’d keep this job. He was leaving first thing in the morning. He referred to his instructions to see exactly how Mr. Henderson liked his milk. After reading about making sure it was exactly 8 inches tall and there were no bubbles at the top and that it was 34 degrees, he saw a note written in by the previous butler. It read “If the old man is getting on your nerves, slip a little of the liquid on the third shelf above the stove into his drink.”

Mr. Brady re-read the note and made his way over to the oven. There was an unmarked container with liquid on the third shelf. He examined it for a moment, smiled, and gladly poured the remnants into the cup of milk.

Mr. Henderson had one of the best meals of his life that night. His steak, corn, mashed potatoes, and biscuit were all prepared exactly how he liked it. His milk, cold and refreshing, was one of the best he had had in a while. But when he fell face-first into the table, dead, his neck was not perfectly angled against the table. His face was taking up more space on the right side of the plate than the left. And as his arms dangled down, lifeless, his right sleeve ended up being pulled up about 1 3/8 inches higher than his left. If he could have been alive to see himself dead, he would have been extremely disappointed.

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3 thoughts on “The Perfect Meal

  1. Kevin, This was an outstanding piece. I was completely drawn into the story. I would love to see you submit this to a short story contest. I bet it would win! Bravo! KEEP WRITING!!!!

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