Janice cut the chicken into strips and tossed them into the frying pan, along with the onions and peppers she had prepared earlier. Adding a little sauce, she stir- fried her composition for a few minutes, singing along to compilation of late-eighties pop acts that were the mainstay of her decade-old MP3 player. The kitchen was not her most natural environment, but, on reflection, she realised that this cooking malarkey wasn’t all that hard.
The family’s usual chef, Pete, was upstairs repairing the broken drawer, a task he was neither enthusiastic about, nor particularly skilled at, but he was ‘damn well not going to fork out another hundred quid’ for a replacement unit.
Alicia was doing her homework, Bradley was playing on his console ignoring his homework and Hamish, unbeknownst to Janice, was foraging for food in the kitchen bin behind her.
Satisfied that she had cooked the chicken to a level which now offered no threat of food poisoning to her family, albeit with the certainty that it offered little in the way of discernible flavour, Janice moved her concoction from frying pan to serving bowl and delivered it to the dining table.
“Dinner’s ready” she called to her dispersed family and, with a predictable Pavlovian punctuality they dutifully appeared.
“What’s for dinner?” Bradley asked, utterly failing to engage any of his senses to discern the answer for himself.
“Duh, it’s chicken,” his sister mocked, as she took her place.
“I can see it’s chicken,” retorted a wounded Bradley, who had now managed to employ his ocular skills, if no others, “I meant what kind of chicken!”
“How many kinds of chicken do you think there are?” Alicia continued with her ridicule, deliberately missing the purpose of her brother’s enquiry.
“It’s a new recipe,” explained Janice, “something I created myself as a matter of fact. Chicken-a-la-Janice you might say.”
“Sounds lovely,” said Pete, joining the table as his offspring exchanged dubious glances.
“I always enjoy your creations.”
“Thanks love,” Janice purred, as she completed the congregation of her household.
Bradley knew better than to question his father’s sincerity, but he noted that Pete had not discouraged the appearance of a twitchy-tailed and hyperactive Hamish, directly under the table.
Pete took a mouthful of chicken, artfully concealed a grimace, and smiled benevolently at his wife.
“You know what you deserve?” he said, “a nice warm bath this evening.”
“Oh that does sound wonderful,” agreed Janice.
“I’ll run you one directly after dinner, and then I‘ll take this mutt for a good long walk.”
Bradley and Alicia exchanged another knowing look. They both knew it would not be mere coincidence that Pete and Hamish’s walk would happen by the Chinese takeaway and both of them intended to be there.