The Lingering Stench of a Virus

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

fictional account of a first generation american woman who overcomes obstacles in becoming a cutting edge chef/restaurant entrepreneur during the covid crisis.

THE LINGERING STENCH OF A VIRUS

by Sartorius

Before the global virus attack, Lupe was hitting her stride. Just a few years out after concluding studies at a prestigious chef school in Europe (on partial scholarship) her skills had progressed nicely. She initially returned home to procure gigs at some of the finer restaurants in the Miami area. But feeling the tug of a different calling, Lupe recently relocated to southern Cali to open a little epicurean organic (anti) establishment, catering to the free spirited niche of Venice Beach. 

 

Her family was rather shocked at this move, feeling her time (as well as their money) had been wasted in Paris. But Lupe was never the corporate type and many high-end eateries were infused with that stuffy corporate culture she detested. Rather than just aspiring to reach master chef status, Lupe considered herself first and foremost a culinary artist, unencumbered by upper crust clientele’s feigned impressions or food critics’ camouflaged quips.

 

Despite her attitude, Lupe’s 10-table dinner-only venture was a hit from the start. With no set menu available, patrons would dine blind; it was akin to being invited to a friend’s home to sup, not knowing what the host planned to serve…until it was placed on the dining table. As the budget was tight, Lupe’s advertising expenditures were almost non-existent; instead she relied on the public’s olfactory reactions when passing her sybaritic oasis. She even installed hidden (and silent) fans to circumfuse the kitchen’s aromas out toward the frequented boardwalk.

 

Aroma was also Lupe’s primary tool in devising her existential culinary concoctions. She had no written recipes; every morning after purchasing ingredients fresh from the market, she’d begin to piece together the evening’s fare. As the imaginative meal came together, she used the more than periodic sniff test to ensure things were headed down the right path; that combined with her cultivated taste buds ensured the night’s special (and only) multicourse offering would be an unforgettable experience for her salivating customers.

 

Her hired kitchen help weren’t as scent sensitive as she, but over a relatively short period of time they honed their evolving skills enough to opaquely conform to Lupe’s discerning parameters. Lupe theorized if the staff savored what they whiffed so would her guests; she was spot on most of the time, but wasn’t adverse to subordinate suggestions on occasion, particularly when her allergies flared up and her snout lost some of its precision tool calibration. 

 

Lupe’s Kulinary Konstructs Bistro defied categorization - just as she planned; it wasn’t specifically Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, African, French, Asian, Americana, or anything else for that matter. But on a given night it could be any one of these, and more than occasionally a fusion of several influences. Lupe had an uncanny ability to combine cuisines, her culinary/olfactory genius creating scrumptious synergy and the best aromas in town. No wonder there was a clamoring line patiently waiting almost every night – and Lupe would swear her exiting early birds to secrecy so as not to spoil the surprise for those being newly seated.

 

After a string of rave reviews from both food critics and the internet public (not that she would let these encumber her), Lupe’s vision was getting the props it so richly deserved. And she didn’t feel badly in the least rubbing it in to her skeptical family back home in Miami. Lupe was on the cusp of living the American fantasy; the reason her parents had made the arduous trip to the USA in the first place. She was first generation here, eager to set the example for her younger siblings.

 

Her family was happy for her, but knew there would be still many roadblocks for Lupe to conquer, none more difficult than the hidden prejudices of more than just a few. But Lupe’s essence screamed determination and the best revenge against those kinds of naysayers would be massive success.

 

Then the virus hit. Hard.Soon, Lupe was near bedridden with flu-like symptoms. Not quite severe enough to warrant a hospital stay, she nonetheless tested positive during her initial visit to the physician’s office. The budding chef fretted she could no longer work her magic in the kitchen, but it wouldn’t matter anyway as her non-essential (not to her) business was subsequently forced to shut its doors for who knew how long. Lupe was able to stay financially afloat initially by applying for a paycheck loan via the CARES Act. At least she could continue to compensate her restaurant staff, if only temporarily, until things hopefully improved. 

 

After several weeks under quarantine, the virus ran its course (she had dodged a viral bullet) and Lupe began to contemplate her comeback. Since opening the dining area wasn’t an option, her only recourse at the time was to consider curbside takeout. Obviously, this could potentially expose her employees to direct public interaction; she was a bit reluctant in requesting their return so she decided to have one-to-one discussions (via phone) with each member of her team.

 

Not surprisingly, all were eager to return to one of the most excitingly cutting edge eateries in town. Tentative plans were made for a modified reboot while Lupe dreamed up more creative concoctions. Due to the new circumstances, she decided to be a bit less spontaneous in her daily creations. Ergo, she planned to spend hours of solitude in the restaurant’s kitchen devising her first week’s take-away menu. 

 

It was then Lupe realized that she hadn’t escaped the virus unscathed. Her ability to smell and taste had fallen mostly by the wayside.When she was ill at home, Lupe assumed this condition to be temporary, eventually passing after the virus succumbed. But the pandemic’s stubborn little gift refused to budge. Although not lethal, this condition could conceivably assassinate Lupe’s career as a master chef/artist - captain of her own financial fate. Boom! The putrescent epiphany angrily bit in. 

 

Although the cause and effect jury was still out from a scientific perspective, Lupe more than suspected (rightly or wrongly) her contraction of the virus and concurrent loss of two vital senses was no coincidence. Now the only thing detectable was the lingering stench of a virus suddenly obliterating her once promising career. Lupe could just give up, but knew it wasn’t in her DNA. The search for a new super nose to evolve under her tutelage would begin post haste. 


Submitted: December 18, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Sartorius. All rights reserved.

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Serge Wlodarski

I'll bet Lupe figures it out. Good story.

Fri, December 18th, 2020 7:07pm

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