Friday 17 August 2012

Short Swine

“Can you tell me,” asked the Cannibal Chief, “one single good reason why I shouldn’t eat you?”

The Great White Hunter would have scratched his head, but the solar toupee he wore was in the way. Besides, it’s hard to scratch one’s head when one’s arms are bound to one’s sides. “How about...” Inspiration struck.  “Human flesh,” he said, “isn’t nutritious. In fact it can clog your arteries with cholesterol, give you diabetes, and cause vitamin deficiency symptoms.”

The Cannibal Chief scratched his head. “Back in college,” he said, scratching away, “we were taught that human meat...we call it Short Swine...was like white meat – quite like chicken or at least like rabbit – easy to digest and most healthy. I believe I have the diet chart somewhere, with the food group values.”

The Great White Hunter began to sweat, and now the sweat made his head really itch under the solar toupee. “Human flesh,” he said at random, “isn’t tasty. You’d not get any eating pleasure out of it.”

The Cannibal Chief grinned and went into his grass hut, and came out with a fairly thick, glossy-covered book. “The Joy of Cooking...Man,” he said, holding it up. “450 recipes in it for cooking everything from brains to testicles, and recipes for side dishes as well. With 1200 full-colour illustrations.”

“How can you trust that book? Where did you get it anyway?”

“I wrote it, that’s how,” said the Cannibal Chief with immense satisfaction. “As to where: it costs €37.00 including taxes. Delivery charges €3 extra, shipping within two days of receipt of order. All major credit cards accepted. You can order it from my website.” He peered at the Great White Hunter. “You can’t order it, of course, but you know what I mean.”

“Look,” said the Great White Hunter, “if you let me go, I can pay you money...a lot of money.”

“What money,” said the Cannibal Chief, watching as four of his pretty young almost-naked wives carried in a huge pot and put it on the fireplace. One of them knelt to set fire to the pile of wood under it, while the others began to fill the pot with buckets of water. The sight seemed to give the Cannibal Chief a great deal of pleasure, but for some strange reason the Great White Hunter failed to appreciate it. Even the sight of all the girls’ abundant and uncovered charms failed to stir him. Such a thing had never happened before to the Great White Hunter, whom they didn’t call the Hunter for nothing. “Am I going gay,” he thought, alarmed.

 “Money,” the Cannibal Chief went on, “is a funny thing. People are so eager to part with it when they’re in trouble, but as soon as they get out of trouble, they discover money’s more important to them than they thought, and they aren’t so eager to give it away any more.” He clicked his fingers at the youngest and prettiest and most naked of his wives. The girl nodded and disappeared. “I mean,” he said pleasantly, “that if I let you go then you’ll suddenly remember how much you worked and skimped for that money and you won’t want to give any of it to me anymore.”

 “I have money I can give you,” said the Great White Hunter. “I have money with me.”

“”Which I’ll get anyway once we slaughter and eat you,” the Cannibal Chief pointed out. “Or do you suppose I’m stupid?”

“It isn’ isn’t nice to eat humans,” said the Great White Hunter desperately. The water in the pot was beginning to steam.

The Cannibal Chief’s youngest and prettiest and most naked wife came up to him with a large stone jar and a cup made of a skull. The Cannibal Chief poured a generous measure of a dark red liquid from the stone jar into the cup, and held it to the Great White Hunter’s lips. The Great White Hunter sipped the liquid, which was faintly salty and deliciously favoured. “What’s that?” he asked when he had finished.

“Blood wine,” said the chief, replenishing the skull-cup. He held up the book. “Recipe right here, on page 286.” He guffawed at the expression on the Great White Hunter’s face. “Did that answer your last question?”

“If you eat me,” said the Great White Hunter, remembering an old poem about East being East and West being West and the twain never meeting, “the British government will send an army that will destroy you.”

“Why would they want to do that?” asked the Cannibal Chief, as his wives began adding chopped herbs and spices to the hot water in the pot. A pleasant aroma rose from it, filling the air all around. From nowhere a pack of dogs arrived and sat down, licking their lips.

“To carry my bones away,” said the Great White Hunter, quoting from the poem.

“Bones!” hooted the Cannibal Chief, and even his beautiful young wives turned to laugh, their voices like silver bells. “What bones?” Everyone looked at the dogs and the Great White Hunter’s mouth went dry.

“Look,” he said, “you can’t be that hard up for food. You aren’t actually doing this for food, are you, so why are you doing this?”

“It’s a religious duty,” said the Cannibal Chief solemnly. “Like Evangelism. Besides,” he added, “I have a new recipe in mind to try out, for cooking kidneys.”

So they slaughtered the Great White Hunter and cooked him and the entire village ate him with real appetite, and the next edition of the Cannibal Chief’s book had 451 recipes, because the villagers approved of the Cannibal Chief’s new recipe for cooking kidneys in fried brain tissue garnished with wild parsley. It was good, they said.

Being keen food critics, though, they only gave it three stars out of five.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2009/12

1 comment:

  1. I think they should have substituted puha instead of the wild parsley, good story.


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