Jefferson Ball, brown furred and eyed, black nosed, clad in her customary black bikini and high boots despite the exclusive dress code of the establishment, the heroine of Earth and other planets and the strongest female dog in a universe almost exclusively consisting of canines, was convulsed with rage when she heard her date utter the statement that he had just dared to utter in her presence. And the poor boy knew immediately that he could do nothing to recover her good temper and the evening after that.
Slowly getting up from her chair, pushing it into the table and then growling and glaring daggers at her former associate, she stormed to the front door, ignoring the protests of the maitre'd that she do nothing to upset the clientele in her aggravated state. She ignored his advice, as she customarily did to anyone and everyone who spoke to her. In a few seconds she was out the door, and slammed it shut with such force that the glass pane that covered nearly all of it, shattered. Not to mention that of the ornate picture window pane beside it, displaying the restaurant’s marquee.
“Jefferson, please!” he said contritely. “Let me explain….”
“NO!!!!!” She roared back at him as if he were one of her numerous planetary and interplanetary enemies, for whom she had nothing resembling mercy in her makeup. “NOBODY EVER says that about Jefferson Ball! NOBODY, DO YOU HEAR? Now get out of my way and let me go home in peace! And, if we ever happen to meet again, which I doubt, I swear to God I’LL KILL YOU!”
As a final act of her displeasure towards the unfortunate boy, she ripped the metal remnants of the door off its hinges and tied it around her ex-date, in what could only be described as a distinctive pretzel twist pattern. Then she turned tail and angrily walked away from him, leaving him to the accusing eyes of the restaurant staff and patrons- and to pay out of his own pocket for the damage she had caused.
Jefferson maintained her fuming exterior on her short walk from the restaurant to her apartment house at the corner of Asimov Avenue and Pohl Street. She kept it up further as she took the elevator up to her rooms, ignoring those riding with her even as they gawked at her immense physique in the cramped quarters. But, once that was concluded and she was inside the security of her private domain, she found the nearest sofa cushion and cried her eyes out into it.
This took less than a minute to accomplish, for Jefferson was not one to allow a negative emotion like sadness to envelope her mental state indefinitely. She was, however, perfectly willing and able to act on another base emotion her race had inherited from the human beings that preceded them - namely revenge.
Once she had tossed away the liquefied cushion and regained her bearings, Jefferson stalked to her cell phone and speed dialed the only number on it - that of her close friend and business partner, Hamilton Pomeranian.
“Hamilton, get down here!” Jefferson commanded. “We need to talk.”
Ten minutes later, Hamilton Pomeranian, a powerful ex-Star Soldier despite her orange fur and small size (and with a missing eye and limp to prove it), was sitting near her pal Jefferson, insisting she talk about what was bothering her. She did this although it likely meant involving herself in yet another of Jefferson’s hair-brained schemes, which she had increasingly less patience- and less money- for.
“So,” Hamilton said, “what happened?”
“He insulted me!” Jefferson responded. “So I left!”
“I know,” Hamilton rolled her eyes. “I heard you leaving!
“Well, he’s the one who deserves what he got! After what he had the nerve to say about me!”
“And, what, exactly, did he say that caused you to go out of there smashing up the windows?”
“He said….” Jefferson paused as she recalled what he had said to her. “He said that a real girl should be able to….cook!”
“And that’s so bad….because?”
“I DON’T COOK! But I’m still a real girl, damn it! Anyone who’s examined me physically knows that!”
“And, God knows, there’s been a lot of those!”
Jefferson glared at her friend, with the same intensive stare she had just used with her former date. Hamilton immediately knew that it was wise to change the subject, which she did.
“Look, Jefferson,” Hamilton continued, “there’s no shame in not knowing how to cook. You and I, we’re just not the home-making type. The closest I ever got to cooking was KP in the Star Soldiers, and that was mostly just peeling potatoes for punishment. Honestly. You and I have been living off the automats and such for so long…”
“Hamilton,” Jefferson silenced her, “there’s no need for you to try and talk me out of this. My mind is made up.”
Uh-oh, Hamilton said to herself. To Jefferson she said: “Your mind is made up about what, Jefferson?”
“My revenge, silly,” Jefferson answered.
“Jefferson,” Hamilton said cautiously. “You aren’t thinking of actually doing….Not just because of one thing he said?”
“Not that,” Jefferson retorted. “That I could do so easily that it’s absolutely no fun to do it. No. This is a more complex concept, one designed to show Cabot that I actually am capable of cooking!”
“You and I, chum, are going into the restaurant business!”
Hamilton nearly exploded as she uttered that last question, but she recovered herself just in time. As strong as she herself was, she knew that, if she roused Jefferson’s demonic fury, her friend would have no alternative- and no remorse- about rendering her hors de combat- or worse.
“Jeff, you’re crazy!” she said as calmly as she could manage under the circumstances. “How is entering the restaurant business possibly going to help you get your revenge? As if acting out of a desire for revenge against a guy you dated once and completely misconstrued what he said about you isn’t already an act of lunacy!”
“I’ll thank you not to question my sanity!” Jefferson responded, leaping like a jaguar into her friend’s face. “My reputation is at stake here! Supposing Cabot has one of those new videophones where you can post those Hollywood-scale mini-epics you make on the computer to all of your friends? And he would, given all the damn cash he’s got at his disposal! And what if he makes one of those that portrays me as a psychopathic, ego-driven maniac?”
“That’s not far from the truth,” Hamilton whispered to herself.
“WHAT WAS THAT?” Jefferson roared suspiciously.
“I said,” Hamilton said, nervously pulling on the collar of her Army fatigue jacket, “is Cabot going to have his own booth?”
“Of course not!” Jefferson said. “Pay attention, girl! The whole point of us going into this gig is to exclude him! With all his money and finesse, he’ll never get past the guards we post at the gate! Then we’ll see who can’t cook!”
Hamilton went over to Jefferson’s refrigerator. Miraculously, in spite of the large number of packaged and microwavable foodstuffs the appliance was lined with, she managed to locate a fresh item: a single egg.
“All right, Escoffier,” Hamilton said to Jefferson. “If you can actually cook, let’s see what you can do with this!”
“Delighted,” Jefferson answered.
Before Hamilton’s eyes, Jefferson uttered a loud karate yell and aimed her left arm, missile-like, at the defenseless egg. In a mere matter of seconds, Hamilton had yolk, white and stray flecks of shell all over her face.
This will not end well, Hamilton said ruefully to herself.
And so, against Hamilton’s wishes, but entirely within Jefferson’s, the two of them entered the restaurant business. The next couple of weeks were a blur of activity, with Jefferson handling the social chores related to the establishment and Hamilton the more onerous one of securing the exact amount of funding that they required. This latter was the more exacting and stressful of the two jobs, and it took its toll on Hamilton’s temperament, as was by now commonplace in her relationship with Jefferson. But she was prepared to endure such torments, if only to maintain the dignity required to keep their friendship intact.
That was, until she saw the building Jefferson had leased for their new establishment. That the building was elephantine was saying the very least about it that could remotely be considered flattering. Rather than the small hole-in-the-wall establishment that Hamilton imagined Jefferson had envisioned, it was a self-contained labyrinth of steel and glass which was the equal of a four story office tower in length and breadth. As Hamilton took in the expansive lobby, the splendidly ornate dining room, the spacious lounge and the extensive formica-topped bar in the corner, one singular thought crossed her mind: That BITCH! She’s going to BANKRUPT us!
Determinedly, she crossed the dining room to the far end of the hall, where she correctly assumed the kitchen area had been established. This, she also assumed correctly, was where Jefferson had stationed herself, as Hamilton immediately recognized her profile in the background. However, just as Hamilton was about to enter the kitchen and lecture Jefferson about the dangers involved in the extravagant design of the restaurant, one of the sliding doors with the circle window at the top was pushed very forcefully against her, slamming her into the wall beside it.
The door had been pushed open by a loudmouthed Australian shepherd in a chef’s uniform, who patently ignored Hamilton as she struggled to right herself and get back to confronting Jefferson.
“NO, by crikey!” shouted the shepherd into the cellular phone he held at ear’s length. “When I say you will make the snow crab delivery by this evening, YOU BLOODY WELL WILL DO IT! I don’t particularly freakin’ CARE what the traffic is like right now! You will do it or your arse will be stuffed and mounted in my trophy den AFTER I RIP IT OFF OF YOU!”
A fully recovered Hamilton in turn ignored the cursing and swearing shepherd as she swept into the kitchen, where a small army of nervous, sweating sous chefs was intensely involved in the preparation in what looked like an entire menu’s worth of dishes at top speed. Behind them, watching the proceedings with a hawkish sense of desire in her eyes, was Jefferson Ball herself.
“JEFFERSON!” Hamilton growled as she entered the room, startling at least a couple of the skittish chefs in the process.
“Hamilton!” Jefferson walked away from where she was standing and embraced her friend as if they had been separated for a long period of time, even though it had been at most only a couple of hours. Hamilton, angry as she was, refused to let Jefferson take her into her powerful arms, squirming out when Jefferson attempted her desired embrace.
“What?” Jefferson asked innocently.
“You know what!” answered Hamilton.
“No, I don’t!” Jefferson responded angrily. “And you better tell me, or else….”
“Don’t you threaten me, Jefferson Ball, or I’ll put my boot up your ass! What the hell is all this supposed to be?” She gestured with her paw to indicate the entire establishment, in case Jefferson misunderstood her, as she was apt to do.
“This,” Jefferson said as she repeated the gesture, “is Chez Jefferson, the most extravagant eatery this city has ever seen!”
“And the most expensive,” responded Hamilton. “Did you even think how much money we’re gonna lose trying to operate this white elephant on a daily basis? Hell! It’d take us all eternity to earn back the initial investments we- or should I say, I- made to get you on your feet so fast!”
“You, Hamilton Pomeranian,” Jefferson retorted angrily, “are not only the most unrealistic and pessimistic business-being I have ever met, but also the most ungrateful! After all I’ve done for you, protecting you, rescuing you from peril, getting you out of more than a few unhappy and constrictive romantic relationships, this is how you repay me? With your VENOM?”
“I’m a lot more goddamn realistic than you’ll ever be, Jefferson! I’d tell you you’re going to lose your shirt, but since you hardly ever wear one, that doesn’t make a lot of sense! So I’ll just say that you’re going to get yourself- and me- into the poorhouse before this whole extravagant spectacle ends!”
At this point, the Australian shepherd entered the kitchen, having finished his cell phone rant. He was clearly in charge, since nearly all eyes turned to him as he came in. All except for Jefferson and Hamilton, still engaged in argument.
“OI!” he shouted at the two of them. “What’s going on here, then? I told you little lemmings hundreds of times that I don’t allow no goddamn yelling and bitching in my kitchen UNLESS IT’S BEING DONE BY ME!”
“Your kitchen?” Hamilton snapped. “Listen, you asshole…”
Hamilton was held in check by Jefferson’s long arm as the shepherd put his paws on his hips.
“Gary,” Jefferson said to the chef, “this is Hamilton Pomeranian, my SILENT partner! You know, the one who put up the cash and was then supposed to SHUT HER LIP about the whole thing? Hamilton, this is Gary Ramsbottom, who’s going to be handling the kitchen affairs here….”
“I know damn well who he is!” Hamilton shot back at Jefferson. “Anybody who owns a television set knows who Gary Ramsbottom is! The question is, how can we possibly afford to pay him and his minions here?”
“Simple,” Jefferson responded. “I told him that if he came to work for me- or us, if you want to get technical about the whole thing- I’d give him a 10 percent ownership share in exchange for a salary. He was just fine with that, and here we are.”
“Good for you,” Hamilton said to Jefferson. “Sacrificing part of your ownership share so that someone else benefits from your actions, even if it is him!”
“Actually,” said Jefferson, “I took it out of your share!”
A miniature Chernobyl went off inside Hamilton’s head. This was the very last indignity she would be suffering at the paws of Jefferson Ball, even if she had to kill her to be fully rid of her. She lunged at Jefferson, spewing obscenities from her throat as if she were possessed by the Devil, but Gary Ramsbottom caught her small body by her fatigue jacket before any grievous bodily harm could be done.
“Shall I dispose of her now, ma’am?” Gary purred with an obsequiously fawning voice at Jefferson.
“Yes,” Jefferson said simply. “I think my ex-friend here understands that she’s not wanted here!”
Before Hamilton could respond with anything resembling coherent speech, Gary Ramsbottom had dragged her, kicking and screaming, to the front of the restaurant and kicked her indignantly into the trash cans across the street.
They did not speak to each other for nearly two weeks. The only communication anywhere close was a call to Hamilton by Jefferson’s lawyer, advising her that his client demanded the immediate sale of Hamilton’s shares in the business to her or else there would be trouble. Hamilton profanely authorized this transaction, and fully communicated to the lawyer where and when she next intended to speak to Ms. Ball, a time which was not likely to occur in the next century, if at all.
Hamilton was, for once, no longer in the eye of the storm when it came to Jefferson’s activities. Consequently, she regarded the events leading up to the opening of Chez Jefferson with a fair bit of bemusement. Now that none of her money was involved in the venture, she was free to let Jefferson act like a clown in public without having to hold the safety net beneath her trapeze wire. All she intended to do on the night of the opening was stay at home and watch television, as she had not received any sort of invitation, formal or otherwise, to attend the event. That was not to be, for, just hours before the event was to occur, the telephone rang.
“HAM-IL-TON!” The pathetic whine was absolutely familiar to Major Pomeranian, but she tried, at least for a moment, to pretend she didn’t know who it was.
“Whom shall I say is calling?”
“You moron! Since when do you not recognize the voice of your best friend?”
“Since she kicked me out of “her” restaurant! Although she did me the favor of returning my money to me! Most of it, anyway!”
“Is that all you care about?”
“It’s all I’m going to care about if it’s all you care about!”
“Look, Ham, I’m sorry. Really. All I wanted was revenge, and I let it come between us.”
“That’s not the only thing that’s come between us!”
“I said I was sorry! What more do you want from me?”
“How ‘bout you get rid of that dick of a chef you hired? The one you had throw me out of your joint?”
“That’s the problem. I did fire him! I made a negative comment about his bruschetta, and he left! Took his whole damn ENTOURAGE with him! And it’s too damn late for me to go and hire another one! We’re supposed to open TONIGHT! What the hell am I gonna DO, Ham?”
“Calm down, Jeff! I’ll be over as soon as I can!”
“You will? You mean, after all the time I’ve been such a jerk to you, you’d want to help me?”
“I’m not leaving you alone to humiliate yourself, Jefferson. Even though you deserve it so your ego will deflate a little bit.”
“It is. Thank you, Ham.” And Jefferson Ball humbly hung up at her end.
There was, fortunately, enough food in the freezer and cupboards for them to prepare a spread that would satiate the appetites of the hundred-odd guests that Jefferson had invited to the opening, certainly nowhere near the building’s capacity. With their full partnership equitably restored, Jefferson and Hamilton agreed to split their duties down the middle as well. Hamilton would be the public face of the establishment, a tradeoff for Jefferson having her name on the place. She would serve as the maitre'd and formal host and, eventually, hire a full staff when funds permitted. Hamilton would also supervise the monetary funding aspects of the project, which would serve to cut down on Jefferson’s more impractical ideas in that arena. Jefferson, meanwhile, made the kitchen her domain. She damn well meant it when she said that she intended to show the world she could cook, after all!
After a short formal opening reception, the serving of dinner commenced. Nearly all of the guests commented positively on the quality of the cuisine, having absolutely no idea that it was procured and produced literally at the last minute. However, this was not a universal acclimation, by any means. One snotty-voiced boy dog, in particular, was not at all pleased. Having sampled the wares, he got up from his seat and loudly and violently declared:
“This food SUCKS!”
Unfortunately, his table happened to be kitty corner from where Jefferson Ball was slaving (figuratively) over a hot stove. And, when she heard what he had said, she was livid. She charged out in to the front dining room with intent to kill before Hamilton could talk her out of such an action.
“All right!” she demanded of the entire establishment. “Who the hell said my food SUCKED?”
“Nobody wants to own up, huh? Well, I’m perfectly capable of beating the answer of anyone who tries to take me on! Just try it! I DARE YOU!”
More silence, accompanied by a mild cough in the background.
“Look!” Jefferson continued. “I’ve fought my way over this planet and dozens of others like it! And you can just bet that the corpses of all the beings I’ve fought are lying all the way across the damn UNIVERSE! So, unless you all want to join them, whoever said that my food SUCKED better speak up now and retract what he said before I kick the hell out of ALL OF YOU!”
“For God’s sake, Jefferson!” the guilty party uttered. “Do you have to take everything negative said to you as a personal insult?” He had been shaded by a palm tree in the corner, but now he made himself clearly visible.
“Cabot!” she exclaimed. Her date of several weeks previous, and the unwitting instigator of this whole bizarre plan of hers! “You ASSHOLE!” she shouted at him. “You have the nerve to come in here when I didn’t invite you, and insult my cooking besides? You definitely don’t deserve my love, if that is what you’re after!”
“I wasn’t asking for it!” he returned. “I figured, after that little episode in the restaurant, you either could cook or you were just another loudmouthed bitch covering up her insecurities for my benefit! I had to find out which of those synopses was true. Unfortunately, it was the latter one!”
“You smug little DICK!” was Jefferson’s response. “I only built this damn place to show you up! And you aren’t even fazed! That’s fine, then! I’m killing this place, and you can DIE IN IT!”
She threw a fist under his lips. Within seconds, he flew off into one of the steel beams holding the establishment up, and made it cave weakly and spectacularly in the process. Exploding into a furious rage, Jefferson then proceeded to use her super strength to destroy any and everything in her path- cutlery, tables, chairs etc. Hamilton noticed this coming, and she quickly joined the panicking mob of guests who scrambled out of the exits in record time. In mere moments, and with the ease of small children tormenting insects, Jefferson had destroyed the establishment’s interior and the steel beams holding it in place, and laughed in mad, hysterical peals as Chez Jefferson came down all around her.
When it was all over, Hamilton gingerly approached the nervously giggling Jefferson, in case homicidal tendencies still lurked inside her soul.
“You feel better now?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Jefferson said, calmly and rationally. “I just needed to cleanse myself of this little blemish on my record. Listen, Ham?”
“Next time I get a stupid idea like this, do me a favor, will you?”
Laughing, the duo returned to the their apartments uptown as if nothing had happened, completely ignoring the shattered silver ruins of the building behind them- and the corpse of the male dog within!