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The CIA’s Challenge

Allez Cuisine

By Stephanie J. BradberryPublished 2 months ago 6 min read
Graphic by Stephanie J. Bradberry

“Can we go home now? I’m hungry”, said her son, Maurice, a young lad of 14 who was growing a half inch every month on the month.

“Me too”, chimed in his sibling sister, Janel, who was only 15 months younger than him, but at least a foot shorter.

“Oh my goodness. We’ve only been in the store for like three minutes. Sheesh.”

“Since we are soooooo hungry can we get some sushi?” Maurice asked, prepared in advance for the curt “no” from Stephanie’s mouth.

“No.” Stephanie knew to stay focused on her mission and accomplish it expeditiously. After all, she still needed to make lunch once they got home. Prepared sushi would be convenient. But this was a classic case of “we have food in the house.”

Maurice and Janel still made a beeline for the food section marked “Asian Cuisine.” They honed in on the cold sections that housed their favorite sushi rolls. Janel’s favorite was either eel avocado or shrimp tempura. Maurice loved anything with a kick and as much raw fish as possible. By the time they caught back up with Stephanie, she was heading to the self-checkout lanes.

The kids stood by anxiously rocking to and fro, shifting all their weight from the left foot to the right foot, hands jammed in their pockets. They never quite caught on that these grocery runs would go faster if they pitched in a little. To Maurice’s credit he did help load the bags into the trunk.

“Another shopping trip under the belt.” Just as Stephanie was about to close the trunk, it dawned on her. Goat butter. Stephanie was exceptionally pleased with using her memory to cobble together her grocery list despite the consistent pleas and demands for attention from her children. But one item was forgotten. “Oh well. I still rock!”

After a fifteen-minute highway drive, home was just around the corner. Air traffic above and the sound of propellers and the subtle vibration of planes coming in for a landing or just taking off grew. The local airport was only a couple miles away. So the glint of a small drone peaking over the neighborhood barely registered in Stephanie’s brain.

Janel and Maurice nearly leapt from the car before Stephanie put it in park. Don’t forget to tuck, jump and roll, Stephanie wanted to yell. The path from the driveway to the front door became a ninja warrior course. Maurice and Janel raced as if there was a prize for getting to the door and waiting first.

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom! There’s a package on the porch”, Maurice and Janel squealed a half beat off from each other. They finally showed interest in picking something up. A grocery bag from the trunk, no. A mysterious package on the porch, heck yeah.

“I’m not expecting a package.” Stephanie was a bit amiss. She didn’t place any recent orders for business supplies. So, hmmmm.

The box itself was a curiosity. Instead of a dark brown cardboard box, it was a sophisticated jet black. There was no return address. There were some words and graphics though. One side had a shiny butcher knife. Another side had a deep-green sprig of parsley. And the rim of the box contained the French phrase Allez Cuisine in elegant cursive.

Hunger in the kids dissipated into questions of “what’s in the box?” Stephanie lapsed on the need to start lunch. She was just as inquisitive. Like an eager child on Christmas eve, Stephanie shook the box a little. No rattling. The box was extremely light.

Stephanie cautiously slid the top off the box. “It’s empty!” the kids rang out in an earth-shattering cacophony.

“It’s not empty. There’s just a lot of filler to protect whatever is inside.” The kids were right, though. It did look empty. And the feather weight mass made Stephanie skeptical to dig deeper. Oh my goodness. What if this is one of those schemes where the package is laced with poison? Too late now. Stephanie’s hands and nostrils were committed to this riddle.

“See, here’s something.”

“It looks like a sheet of plastic”, Maurice said.

“No, no. It looks more like plexiglass.” Janel always found a way to mentally and verbally one-up Maurice.

Stephanie held up a small rectangular piece of see-through glass. She turned it right. She twisted it left. Flipped it over. Nothing. “Well, this is odd.”

Snatching it from her mother’s hands, Janel gleefully shouted, “Let me take a look at it.”

Janel swiped her hand across the surface. The rectangle hummed awake. A small stream of blue-hue light blinked in the middle of the console, expanding about an inch per second.

“Wow, it’s like a high-tech computer screen!” Stephanie was amazed to be holding technology she only saw on Korean dramas and futuristic movies.

A gray-blue, rounded triangular play button took center stage on the screen.

“I want to hit it”, grinned Maurice.

This was clearly expensive gadgetry. But letting Maurice touch it was only fair since Janel already, albeit wrongfully, had her turn.

“Okay. But be careful. This is expensive. And I don’t want to owe anybody anything.”

Stephanie gently pried the screen from Janel’s clutches. Handing it over to Maurice, Stephanie said, “Okay, hit play.”

“Hello, Stephanie. It is my pleasure to inform you that you are a finalist for the Fan Favorite Enthusiast Iron Chef America Challenge. If you win, you will receive a full scholarship to the New York location of the Culinary Institute of America.

The face and voice of Chairman Mark Dacascos enveloped Stephanie’s living room. “This can’t be for real!” Stephanie grabbed the screen from Maurice and erratically jumped in pure excitement.

“Mom, be careful. Didn’t you say it’s expensive and you don’t want us to break it?” The kids loved throwing their mother’s advice back at her. Often the wording was slightly altered for dramatic effect.

Stephanie sprung back to consciousness after hearing a switch in voice. I Know That Voice!!! It’s Alton Brown!

“Chef, should you accept this challenge, you will be competing against up to four opponents. Contest location, date, time, rules, ingredients, judges, how you will be scored and more will be covered if you accept the CIA’s challenge. We here at kitchen stadium are generous. So, here’s a little hint.”

“Konnichiwa, Chef. Iron Chef Morimoto here. In 2005 I went up against Chef Michael Symon in Battle Asparagus. I presented my Shikai Maki Roll or Stained Glass Window Sushi. In 2019 on Twitter I encouraged people to try making their own stained glass window sushi.”

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's Twitter Feed

“There you have it, Chef. Perhaps this whets your appetite for competition. Back to you, Chairman.”

“Good luck, budding chef. And, in the words of my uncle, Allez cuisine!” There was the trademark exaggerated hold and exclamation of the words, “Allez cuisine.”

The sound stopped, and the screen went blank for a split moment. The background became clear and translucent. Then two buttons manifested: a green one with the word “Accept” and a red one with the word “Decline.”

A shiny object floating past the front window caught Stephanie’s eye.

“What’s that noise?” queried Maurice and Janel at the same time.

“I don’t know. Let me check.” Stephanie pulled back the white laced living room curtain just enough to peer through without being obvious. “There’s a drone waiting outside. Freaky!”

Janel and Maurice clamored to open the door. Stephanie quickly reached out to stop them. As she did, she heard the device pleasantly say, “Thank you for your response. Please repackage the screen and hand it to the drone outside.”

Wait! I don’t know which one I hit !?!

Short Story

About the Creator

Stephanie J. Bradberry

I have a passion for literature and anime. And I love everything involving academia, health, metaphysics and entrepreneurship. During my free time I enjoy nature, crocheting, reading, my kiddos, and writing.

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Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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Comments (1)

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  • Novel Allen26 days ago

    So many challenges behind us, still we keep going. So many wonderful stories still left to be told. Great plot with the children included.

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