Morien Jones



Can’t Stand the Heat
-By Morien Wyn Jones


Fran Deckbarr was a Chipper.

He danced the cold stiff dance which we all do when harried by wind whilst waiting. Two steps forward, two steps back, hunch, then repeat. Fran was on the corner of Chepstow Road, across from the Riverside Pub and Magistrates Court. He’d frequented both on occasion, when the stars aligned.

He chinned up the collar of his old denim, emblazoned with the neatly stitched mobile number for his one-man business. Under this number curve was stenciled Fran’s occupation, “CHIPPER”.

Ransacked by the weather, his wiry blond highlights went one way, then the other. Putting a hand through, he imposed riot-control on the unruly mop, with his other hand he teased the metal-plastic of the cell phone hibernating in his pocket, willing the god-damn thing to ring.

No-one around. Newport was always a tough sell. He wouldn’t be here at all if not for a friend-in-need social visit. Dippy-exasperating-lovely Jade and all her boyfriend fandangos! Another job then it’s off to Bristol where trade was bristling this month, what with the King’s visit et all.

“Trees are green…”

Fran cut dead the tinny rendition of Wonderful World by answering the cell.

“Can I help?” confirmed Fran to the unnamed caller.

“Are you available now?” inquired a well-bred male voice.

“’Course, do you want to hear my fixed rates?”

“No, I’m sure they will be reasonable.”

“What’s the address?”

“I’ll take you there.”

Fran turned by instinct and saw the suited guy, standing not ten yards behind him. By a nod of mutual consent the two men put away their mobiles, like gunslingers in accord.

“How many people am I doing?”

“Eight, maybe ten.” nodded the perfect gray coiffure.

“Lead on, McDuff.” quoted Fran.

“Hope you have no objection to a little stroll. A small constitutional, if you like.”

Fran sighed. He hoped this guy was not a talker. He hated them to chatter so.
He resigned himself to the walk and threw on his heavy rucksack.

He followed the immaculate suit up the street, the straps on his shoulders already beginning to bite under the strain of his potatoes.


Down at the docks the wind blew stronger. The suited man, Enzo, offered Fran a very generous sum for his services. The negotiations complete, they continued their walk in silence. Enzo moved purposely along the waterside, quickly turning into a side-alley, up a rusty metal stairway and then a three-knock-pause-two-knock on an anonymous black door.

A wide-eyed, possibly psychopathic face popped out from behind the door like a jack-in-the-box, toothy and bulbous. Long springs of brown hair bounced around the manic mug. In a thick Cork-Irish accent he took the rollie from his mouth and said, “And who the bollocks be you then?”

“This, Mr. Mulligan, is our Chipper, Mr. Deckbarr,” said Enzo pushing past him, into the kitchen.

“This hoor’s melt ‘ere better not be coining more than me. How much wit does it take to chip a few taties, anyways? Me poor barmy arthritic granny can do it, and she’s half-dead, God-bless-her-soul.”

“Have you any idea how difficult it is to score five kilos of potatoes nowadays, Shamrock?” Fran responded quickly.

Mulligan skipped after Enzo. “It’s talking to me Enzo. The eejit is talking to me. I’ll need a bonus if I’m apt to listen to this minging mink’s blathering blarney all the day long. Jaysus!

Enzo signed and turned, “Look, our Guests arrive in two hours. Go get cleaned up. They can smell you in Land’s End. Get a grip man.”

Enzo turned and left.

“Can you believe ‘im? Wot a quare haw.,” said Mulligan sniffing himself.

“Now,” He continued, simultaneously extinguishing his fag, grinning and winking, “let me introduce you to the crew.”

The kitchen was a good size, and functional. The windows had been whitewashed to conceal the illicit business of cookery. Strip neon bathed the area in bleach white light, the hanging steel pans twinkled.
At the stove stood a thin furtive man stirring something steaming.

“This be Sonic the Hedgehog, our Saucier. Any soup, gravy or sauce you care to mention, this man can whip it into a pan and heat it up for you. An all round sour-faced gack, aren’t you me-son?” Mulligan ruffled his hair. Sonic flinched, knocked away Mulligan’s hand, and stomped off to the W.C. muttering.

“Ara be whist! Quit your Cnawvshawling!” yelled Mulligan after the disgruntled cook.

“Why Sonic the Hedgehog? Is he speedy?” queried Fran.

“Fast bejayus! Last year he gets low, you-know, more down in the mouth than normal for the eejit. ‘E gots banjaxed on a bottle of scotch and tried to throttle himself. But he makes a right harmes of the job, so he does. ‘ ‘Cos he’s cut off his air supply, eventually he passes out loosing his grip. When he comes to, he has a big blue head, and that’s why he’s Sonic.”

A bun-haired pretty girl worked feverishly peeling beans.

“And this be the glorious love of me life, the jungle-drum beat of me heart, the volcanic fire in me loins. Me very own lovely-lovely li’le dote, Mouse.”

Mulligan grabbed at the girl but she shook him off, saying, “Mulligan - touch me more and you’ll never love again.”

Mulligan was unperturbed, “Her hubby, Dai Pasty, got himself sent down for Culinary. How many years he got left, baby?” 

“Two years before he’s out and kickin’ your ass, Mulligan.” Mouse wiped her hand on her apron, and offered it to Fran to shake.

She gave him a smile, “Hi, welcome to Hell’s Kitchen, Mr. …?”

“I’m Fran, the Chipper,” he said shaking it.

“I think I’ll call you Spud.” Mulligan butted in. “Can I call you Spud?”

“Yes … but probably just the once.” threatened Fran.

Mulligan checked his watch, “Well, I can’t be wasting the treasure of me-day chin-waging with the tinkers. I’m off to prepare.”

“You never said what youdo?” said Fran.

“Well-me-pedants, mine is the most important role of all, I be the Head Bullshitter.”

Mulligan threw a quick magic-act ‘Ta-Daaaa!’ shape and flounced out.


For the next hour, the kitchen ticked along nicely. Fran, Mouse and Sonic kept busy, Enzo popped in from time to time, to keep an eye on things.  At midday the chefs took their lunch pills; they were professionals, they never dipped into the merchandise. All naturally produced foods were illegal since the Beorax Virus struck four years ago. An unsanitary supermarket chain spread the virus that killed 63% of the World’s population. Meals had been replaced by the cheaper, safer Food Pill. The authorities saw the consumption of real food decadent and irresponsible, but some individuals still had a taste for taste.

“Who are we catering for? Who are the guests?” Fran asked Mouse.

“Don’t know, but they’ve gotta be dodgy.” Mouse giggled and put on a bad Italian accent, “Didn’t they make you an offer you couldn’t refuse? Forget-about-it!

“They better not mess with me, whoever they are.” chipped in Sonic without mirth.

“A viewpoint that does you much credit, Sir.” said Fran, raising an eye-brow to Mouse.

Mulligan returned looking very different. “May I now take you up the aisle, Mouse-my-love?”
He wore an exquisite tailored suit, black bow tie, white shirt with diamond cuffs. His hair was tied back, a look that almost had him passing for sane. Almost.

Mouse rolled her eyes, then looked over to Fran, “May I present our maître d’ for the evening.”

“Good grief.” said Fran.


The first unpleasantness took place about ten minutes later with the arrival of The Butcher.

The bearded man-mountain was discreetly ushered into the kitchen; he threw down a white plastic bag onto the counter. The content was sloshey-red.

The arrival seemed to please Enzo, but Sonic was rattled.
“What the hell is that? Is it … Steak?” he spluttered.

Enzo flashed him a disapproving look. The mute Butcher took up a defensive stance.

“No-way, no-way.” Sonic shrilled. “I did not sign up for this. Working a meat meal carries mandatory jail time. Especially beef. I wasn’t informed there would be meat on the premises. Beef! For-God’s-sake!”

“Calm!” commanded Enzo, “You will be compensated for any additional risk.”

“No. You’re all crazy. I’ve had enough of this. I’m out!” Sonic ripped off his apron.

“Let me impress upon you the importance of this meal. Nothing is going to upset our Guests tonight.”

“We’ll see about that.” quivered Sonic, “I’ll ... I’ll talk to the coppers.”

There was a knock at the proper door of the building.

“We’re on. The Guests be ‘ere.” whispered Mulligan, an urgency in his voice.

Enzo sighed. “Oh. go let them in Mr. Mulligan, I’ll deal with this.”
Mulligan left and Enzo turned to face the troublesome chef.

“Is the soup ready?” he asked simply.

Confused, Sonic answered, “Yes, but …”

Enzo removed a pistol with silencer from his jacket and shot Sonic between the eyes.
The falling body made more noise than the gunshot. Stunned, Mouse and Fran exchanged horrified looks.

Enzo replaced his gun. “Mr. Rhoads, Mr. Deckbarr, take that out back. There’s a dumpster a little further down the street. Put the rubbish in there. And Mrs. Brown…” He turned to Mouse.

“Yes ...?” she said meekly.

“Your duties have been extended. Stir the soup.”

 Enzo left to meet and greet.


The trick for Fran and The Butcher was to take the body down the rusty metal stairway to the dumpster without being seen. Murder in Britain was no longer illegal, but it was still frowned upon. The men completed the task with reasonable success, only distressing an old tramp who was asleep in the large bin.

On returning to the kitchen, a breathless, pallid Fran noticed Mouse had cleaned up the blood. The silent Butcher immediately went about the business of preparing the steaks, seemingly unaffected by events.

Fran nudged open one of the swing doors and peered into the function room. A group of swank men sat around the table. Enzo sat chatting to a rotund wealthy-looking sixty-something. To Fran’s amazement Mulligan was offering food and wine advice not only in a refined French accent, but utilizing an English vocabulary any Oxford Don would be proud of.

“Is it going okay?” inquired Mouse.

“I think so.”


Three hours and six courses later, Enzo’s cigar-smoking sixty-something, cut a cheque for the meal and handed it to Mulligan with a satisfied smile.

Enzo tapped on a glass, rose to his feet and raised a gun.

 “I’m Sergeant Conrad Ruck of Newport Police. You’re all under arrest.”

The front door was kicked open and in rushed two-dozen armed coppers. The Dinner Guests drew their guns. Chaos ensued.

Mulligan was through the doors and back in the kitchen like a whippet. His Irish lilt whipped back to. Over the sounds of gun-fire he yelled, “Millie up!Tis a bloody sting! Listen up Sheep-dogs, and get the flock outta here.”
 He did not slow his gait from arriving in one door and leaving via the back.

A crazed wounded Guest staggered into the kitchen. The Butcher butted him back and held closed the doors, nodding for the cooks to run. Mulligan was already leaping down the stairs outside. Mouse and Fran followed.

At the end of the alley they were cut off by cops. Mulligan turned and bounded away, his feet barely kissing tarmac, like a pebble skimming the surface of a lake. There was a shot. Mulligan cried out; head an awkward angle, he dropped stone-like into the deep back-street gloom.

Mouse kicked and screamed like a banshee as they loaded her into the paddy wagon, along with the last of the surviving Guests.

Fran put up no resistance. His stars had aligned once more; he’d be returning to the magistrate court.  Newport was always a tough sell.

Sergeant Ruck and his police moved in to collect Mulligan’s body, but of course, there was no sign of the Bullshitter.




Copyright Morien Wyn Jones 2008. All rights reserved.



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