A week out of college, graduating with a Master's of Science in Information Technology with specialization in web development, Kevin Crichton decided he didn't wish to work in computer technology because his interest in the plodding ways and precision of its application had declined.
He knew he ought to have studied fast cars and how to design them more efficiently and to make them safer including to other road users, or alternatively studying the role of women in society today, specializing in fast women. Yes they were his interests but opportunities to study either of those fields were not offered by any university within at least 500 miles of his home. But Kevin's parents had finally turned the screws and ordered him to study at a university without 100 miles of home and to embark on a worthwhile pursuit that would make their costly investment in his education worthwhile.
Worthwhile to whom they didn't say. Kevin's father was an accountant and his mother an attorney. At the time of final commitment Kevin hastily chose to study computer technology because he had some interest in computer games and Internet porn. His parents liked that choice because those both had IT departments in the firms in which they were partners and believed they knew what it was about because they knew IT meant information technology and their careers were based on information processing and application. Kevin knew a lot of people thought like that.
Their son, the new graduate, horrified Michael and Crystal when he announced the job market was tough and so he'd take a year off traveling and gaining knowledge to increase his worldliness to become more appealing to prospective employers.
Once again Crystal and Michael fell to their son's persuasive tongue and each gave him $5000 and jointly established a $10,000 fund to be used only in dire emergency. Alas on the eve of his departure Kevin transferred that emergency fund to another bank. When Kevin was taken to the bus station next morning at 7:00 and he promised to keep in contact with his parents.
Three minutes after the bus began its journey Kevin went forward and told the bus driver he feared he had dysentery and wished to get off. The driver was only too happy to stop, unload Kevin's bag and fully refund his fare before driving off, rapidly.
Kevin had chosen to alight at a small shopping strip. Three vehicle dealers were in that area and two hours later Kevin had chosen a vehicle and returned from the bank with the required $13,200.
Slippery Kevin Crichton then drove off in the first car he'd ever owned, a black 2008 standard V6 Mustang Convertible, 5-speed manual.
He felt young, worry-free and randy and knew this was a time in his life to savor.
A police car approached from behind, siren screaming.
Tensing and watching the approach cop car in the rear-view mirror, Kevin Crichton had a fleeting thought about ramming down his foot and trying to out-run the cops but then sighed and began pulling over.
What the fuck he'd done to offend the cops?
Well they were about to tell him, before head-butting him, cuffing him and throwing him in jail.
However, a grin slowly trickled over his lower face as Kevin realized the cops were showing no sign of stopping, quite the contrary in fact. Under heavy acceleration they roared on by in pursuit mode. Just seconds ago for a few anxious moments Kevin had the feeling he really was teetering on the brink of dysentery.
As he neared the freeway Kevin decided to backtrack a couple of miles and head south another couple of miles to visit his sister Alice, a school teacher who was married to a bit of an asshole called Frank who operated a pre-owned car lot. Frank was the kind of guy relatives would never buy a car from and that was a pretty damning statement.
Kevin knocked on the back door and angry-faced Alice opened the door and smiled very broadly.
"I thought you were Frank and he'd lost his keys. He didn't come home last night."
Alice grinned and said, "That's my asshole husband you're foul-mouthing."
"Coffee?" she said, leading him to the kitchen, dressed only in a thin gown.
"I've come to say goodbye for a while," he said.
"Oh god, you are going. Mom told me on Sunday you were displaying migrating tendencies."
"You appeared about to ask for money before leaving the city."
"Well it's about time. At twenty-two I'm a bit old to stay at home."
"I dispute that," Alice said hotly, "And I have no desire to see you go. You are one of the few decent younger persons around me."
"Then if you're sure of that then drop Frank and get away from him and that rough crowd he cohabits with."
"I'm seriously thinking about that."
"Good," said Kevin and they looked down at a breast that had slipped out of her gown.
"You always have had a great body Alice. Divorce Frank and take that body to a good guy who'll appreciate it."
Remembering Alice was the first babe to jerk him off, years ago that is, Kevin leant forward to kiss her brow. She pulled him down and kissed his lips, pulled him closer and her mouth opened.
Kevin enjoyed tonguing although he'd never tongued Alice. Their tongues touched and then playfully slapped together and twisted.
They generated excessive dribble.
Alice reached in to wipe dribble from her chin and murmured, "Hmmmm."
At one stage her opened his eyes and saw from extremely close range one of her big brown eyes fixed on him and, confused, he closed his eyes and rammed his tongue into her mouth deeply.
Alice reached for his hand and pulled it between her legs that opened and Kevin's hand came to rest on pussy lips that felt fat and shaven.
Kevin pulled away and said firmly, and he thought convincingly, "No Alice, you're my sister."
"Don't worry, I'm protected," she said and leaned back on to the kitchen table, still holding his wrist firmly and she said, almost shyly, "Please have sex with me."
Almost half of Kevin's closest friends had claimed over beers they'd fucked their sisters and two of the guys brazenly had claimed they'd been at their mothers and knowing those two mothers Kevin had no reasons to think they were false claims.
"Come to me Kevin," Alice whispered and Kevin decided to cum for her.
They'd fucked again in the shower, Kevin trying not to think of Frank arriving home a bit late and bursting in on them and yelling belligerently, 'What are you doing fucking my wife you asshole'.
He then watched Alice dress for her teaching role at middle school and overturned his misgivings by making the ultimate declaration to himself: he had no regrets, that it had been very worthwhile and his sister now had a glow and a happy smile to her face.
"Leave him Alice, and you'll rediscover a new beginning, like the glow of an after-fuck."
She smiled and nodded.
Turning on to the freeway west, Kevin smiled in satisfaction and said aloud, "We were naughty boys pal. But good eh? Christ that Alice can fuck."
As miles ticked off Kevin worked on a plan. He'd been taught that every significant objective had to be planned to achieve set goals.
Buying a car that sucked up gas immodestly would account for almost half of available funds. Therefore the key was to find a good-paying job. He had the academic qualifications to enter high-paying computer work but his appeal to an employer would dissolve abruptly when discussion centered on his length of commercial experience.
He thought about becoming warden of a college female dorm but the relatively low pay would outweigh job benefits. Further, the likelihood of being told to apply for male dorm jobs would be more than very likely.
He yawned and thought even when he had something figured he'd then have to decide where to relocate and where to live.
Suddenly returning home became very appealing but that bubble burst when he thought of Alice returning to her old bedroom and demanding Kevin to fuck her twice a day and he pictured the distraught face of their mother listening to Alice passionate screams.
Kevin almost ran his vehicle off the road.
He turned off the freeway and a mile along the highway connecting to the town of Allendale saw a notice for 'Help Wanted' outside a rural cottage surrounded by a variety of fruit trees. He stopped and went in.
"Yes?" asked the woman in her late sixties who came to the open door to answer Kevin's knock.
"Your roadside notice?"
"Oh Christ, you've run it down."
"No I'm responding to it. What help do you require?" Kevin said, fingers crossed that she didn't say some not too robust sex.
"To get me out of here. Milly my Realtor says she can't get me a top price unless repairs are done, the woodwork and roof is repainted, the fencing is repaired, the acreage rank grass is cut and deadwood on the trees and rotting on the ground is removed from the orchard."
"Okay I'll do that. Free full accommodation goes without saying and my charge will be fifty-bucks an hour."
"Fifty bucks is big money and you look young and inexperienced."
Kevin sighed and said thank you ma'am and turned to leave.
"No wait, come in for coffee."
Kevin was served great coffee and a piece of wonderful orange cake that reminded him of his grandmother's cooking.
"Kevin," said Mrs Landers, "You present me with a big problem. You are asking too much and yet that sign has been out for three weeks and no other person has called about it."
"Perhaps you were out when they called?" he said helpfully.
Mrs Landers switched on the lights as nightfall was approaching. "That comment tells me you are considerate, fair-minded and perhaps something of a gentleman."
That made Kevin think a gentleman wouldn't fuck his married sister. He colored.
"Oh you are embarrassing by my compliments. Well that's a good sign. What do you think I should do?"
"Take me on Mrs Landers. I need to be fed and housed and I'll work well because in the summer before I went to college I worked fulltime laboring for a home handyman and learned something of the skills required and before summer's end he'd raised my pay to twenty bucks."
"On now you want fifty bucks plus all-found?"
"Inflation plus maturity Mrs Landers."
"Well you can call me Milly for a start. While I have my bath and think about this you cook dinner. Use anything you find. If you can't cook you'll find cold sausages in the fridge but if that happens I'll know your skills as a home-handyman are limited."
"May I stay the night?"
"Yes and that will be fifty bucks for all-found."
"Isn't that over-charging?"
Milly clicked her dentures and said, "I wonder where I got that idea from?"
She went off and Kevin went into the kitchen on a journey of discovery. He'd cooked when living in a shared apartment while at college so knew about cooking. There was a TV across the dividing bench into the dining area and turned it on to catch the news later. The reception was terrible and working the dials and checking the aerial connections produced no improvements.
Kevin went to the nearby barn and found a ladder. Up on the roof he discovered the aerial was leaning down drunkenly. The holding bracket had rusted through. Back in the barn he found duct tape and made temporary repairs to return the aerial to its correct position.
Back in the kitchen he found pastry sheets in the freezer and quickly made a peach pie using a half-size jar of bottled peaches from the pantry. For mains, he added peas to the potatoes and carrots that he'd chopped and micro-waved to the sausages and then used the microwave again to cook the dried gravy mix with herbs and a can of tomatoes and stirred that over the contents in the pie dish and covered that with pastry, venting the pastry and using the pastry trimmings for decoration.
In the cupboard he found a bottle of port and poured a class. He knocked on the half-open bathroom door.
"What'? Please don't come in."
"I'm coming in. Cover the essentials and don't worry. I often see my gran in the bath."
"You may come in now," Milly said nervously.
Kevin entered smiling, placing the glass on the chair beside the bath, said, "Enjoy" and left.
"Sweet Jesus," Milly said, sounding impressed.
Kevin found custard powder and made custard and then wrapped the stale stick of bread from the pantry in dampened brown paper and placed that at the ready and then poured a glass of wine and watched TV.
Milly came out and looking at the TV image said, "Sweet Jesus, how did you manage to do that?"
"I went up on the roof and found the aerial partly collapsed. I made temporary repairs. We'll buy a new bracket when you take me to town on Saturday for lunch."
"I don't eat out and in fact I rarely go to town these days."
"What since your husband died?"
Milly looked at him before lowering her eyes and saying yes.
"Well that will change while I'm here if I am to be staying here a while. Also you need to buy new clothes. Grandmothers wear fashion-looking clothes these days. Granny prints are now confined to great-grandmothers."
"You have no idea about social boundaries do you? What I wear is my business, not yours."
"Unless I live with you."
They stared and Milly looked away first and Kevin was left wondering had she really murmured 'fucking asshole' or had he simply half-expected her to say that?
Milly went to the table and said in half-shock, "You've set my best tableware."
"I only use that for special events."
Kevin smiled and asked wasn't the almost certainty of him coming to live with her temporarily and to effect improvements to her property a special event?
"That's open to dispute but I guess staying here one night could rate as a minor event."
"Only one night?"
Milly looked at him defiantly. "I thought I had reached my decision but now am not so sure."
Kevin thought oh crap but winked at her and she looked away. With surprise he detected a slight smile.
He poured a glass of wine and took it to Milly.
She said politely that she only had a glass of wine with meals at weekends.
"Tonight is Sunday night."
"Rubbish it's Tuesday today."
"That's only according to you. I say it's Sunday."
"And what's tomorrow then smart ass?"
"Wednesday of course."
She said and said to leave the glass with her.
Kevin switched off the oven and opened the door and placed the wrapped bread stick in the oven and then leaned on the breakfast bar. He held up his half-glass of wine and called across to Milly, "Cheers."
"Cheers. By the smells wafting to me I detect you have made a supreme effort to impress me."
"Nah I just slapped some things together. I'm a lazy-butt cook."
She chuckled and placing her glass down said, "I must say you are very, very interesting... and a little bossy."
"Don't over-estimate on defective judgment. You are losing your benchmarks isolating yourself like this. Where will you locate when you sell?"
"Chicago to live with my divorced daughter."
"Divorced eh? And living isolated just like her mom except she'll find it more difficult being an urban recluse."
"Thank god you're not always right. My very personable and articulate Renée is host of the very successful afternoon 'Celebrity Cook Show' that has a huge following and she has many friends, a number being notable, and since the divorce has had a few affairs."
"Goodie for Renée. She's your youngest isn't she?"
"Yes and I have no idea how you arrived at that conclusion. She's only just turned twenty-seven, the so-called after thought. My five children grew up here but in those days we had over 50,000 acres and now I'm left with just four acres. We sold off acreage to put each of our children through college and then after two long summer-autumn droughts and then depressed meat prices my husband and I sold most of the property to retire here where his grandparents used to live after we took over the ranch over from them. Our former homestead lies three ridges beyond here."
Milly looked surprised when she saw Kevin arriving with the pie, the top done to perfection. He placed it in front of her and said. "Please serve mother."
She chuckled and scooping out a chunk on a serving spoon looked at it, sniffed it and said, "Omigod."
Kevin produced the bread still wrapped in brown paper and her mouth dropped. "You know, my late mother-in-law used to do that with bread when she didn't feel like baking or nobody was going in to town."
"My grandmother used to do it too. She taught me to cook when I stayed with her. Today many people won't eat bread they decide isn't fresh."
They chatted and laughed and Kevin couldn't help thinking Milly was inching out of her shell.
During the meal she asked him only one question relating to employment: "Can you ride a four-wheel quad bike?"
"Yeah dad and I went on a three day camping trip though a forest on personal ATVs (all terrain vehicles)."
When they were clearing away Milly said, "What about $45 an hour times eight hours a day for six full working days and then a review?"
"How many days do you think the work will take?"
Kevin said no trial period. You trust me and I'll trust you as a good employer. It's 21 8-hour days or nothing."
"Very well," she said sounding a little anxious.
He thought about her estimate of twenty-one days and thought he could get the property looking pretty good within that period.
"Right I'll accept on the basis of working 168 hours at forty-five bucks an hour on the condition we go to town this Saturday afternoon and you spend up big on a new wardrobe to my approval and you burn your old dresses and shoes... all of them."
"What are you insane? You know there's no way I'll agree to that. Come to your senses Kevin."
"Yes or no Milly," he said looking at her confidently. "You will be crazy if you fail to weigh the pros and cons."
Her eyes flickered and she stopped looking at him and he knew he'd won.
Half an hour later Milly received a call and when she said "Hi darling" Kevin knew it would be one of her kids. He left Milly talking in front of the TV and went to bed.
Half an hour later she arrived at the open door and knocked.
"Come in," Kevin said, putting down the draft of his work schedule,
"Don't you wear pajamas?"
"Not since I turned seventeen. I like to be ready for women who chance to walk into my bedroom."
"I knocked," Milly said stiffly.
"Of course you did and my comment excluded nocturnal visits by women much older than me and, of course, I do tease."
"How did you know that Renée would be my youngest child?"
"You would be going to live with your most accommodating and loving daughter and that would be Renée because her name suggests a pet."
"That is a reasonable assumption and reasonable accurate but I have two other daughters and two daughters-in-law."
"Ah yes but all quite older than Renée and probably with children and probably more set in their ways and they would give a little sigh and say you must come and live with them, quivering in case you said yes, whereas your youngest despite her busy schedule and having men lining up at her bedroom door will have said, smiling beautifully but saying very firmly, "When you sell you ARE coming to live with me mother. You gave me my life and no way can I ever replay you fully for that."
"God you are unbelievable. That's rather what happened and she may well have thought that last bit about giving life. How do you do it?"
"Those thoughts just come to me. You may also have observed that your beloved Renée is not the only articulate person you know."
"I can't say she's my beloved daughter."
"But you can think it."
"Yes and why aren't I surprised you said that. Well if you must know be ready for a backhander. Renée has just berated me for engaging you for forty-five bucks an hour plus all found and described you as a conman and I'm to boot you out of the house."
"Now why are you not surprised your protective young daughter said that?"
"Sweet Jesus," Milly said. "Goodnight."
"A kiss please."
"No. For heaven's sake you are nude under that sheet."
"I'm only asking you to kiss my lips Milly."
She looked startled and then laughed.
"Kiss me in anticipation that your beloved will like me. If she calls tomorrow and finds you didn't toss me our she'll be on her way here, won't she?"
Milly shook her head slowly and went forward and kissed Kevin on the lips briefly, pushed his fringe into place and said, "Good night you teasing asshole."
Kevin grinned as if having just been given the ultimate accolade.
"If you must know whatever I decided she intends flying in on Saturday morning."
"Oh good we can pick her up and then she can help select your new wardrobe."
"Kevin, I seriously recommend you ought to be nowhere in sight throughout the 24-hours of my daughter's visiting. It took me sometime to get used to you and at my age I'm pretty relaxed with people. Renée will take one look at you and charge."
Kevin laughed and said in that case he must catch her by surprised but was told nothing he could do would surprise Renée.
When Milly left, shaking her head again, Kevin revised his work plan. He had just three days to impress the hot-ass Renée.
Milly arrived in Kevin's bedroom next morning with coffee, knocking and receiving no answer. She went in a found the bed made and for a moment thought he must have fled but then saw his big zip-up bag on the far side of the bed.
It was 7:30 and when Milly looked out from the front porch she saw the sagging wire fence along the road bounding had gone and in its place were fifteen more closely spaced freshly formed postholes.
"God he must have began working at 5:00," she marveled.
Kevin arrived from the far side of the house and began pushing the roll of wire netting away.
"Hi Kevin," she waved.
Rolling the wire up a slope he yelled, "Hi Milly."
"Breakfast in thirty-minutes?"
"Great, thanks babe."
Milly giggled helplessly and became confident this guy would bowl Renée over before she'd realize her defense mechanism had failed.
Kevin arrived and was served cereal following by bacon and egg cooked into fried rice and he thanked Milly expansively for that dish.
"Thank you. What time were you out there this morning?"
"A few minutes before 5:00. I'm noting my hours worked. Here's a list of items I want you to get delivered from town and dumped on the house frontage fence line. If you don't want to spend the money then I'm out of here."
"Kevin please, give me the chance to consider this proposal that really ought to have been discussed with me before you commenced preparation.... Omigod these items including nails are for a picket fence. How wonderful. This is a cottage and fronted by a white picket fence it will look wonderful."
"Yeah, will catch the eye. Make sure you emphasis square posts. Damn this meal is good."
"Well we need your muscles pumping with all this work Kevie. Um so sorry, that name just slipped out."
"It's fine. Mom calls me that when she's extra happy or I do something that pleases her. Do you know the size of this house area?"
"Then also buy roof paint. Ask the salesperson about coverage but I'd estimate three and a half gallons should be plenty. Perhaps you would be best to repaint in red as looks good with the stone and white window frames and the green background. Oh remember a gallon of white paint for window sills and buy new brushes, sandpaper and a filler to the paint store's recommendations."
She said as good as done.
"Right kiss me and I'm off to start wire brushing the roof."
"Oh when will you need the paint?"
"Within two hours would be great."
"Aye, aye sir and here's the kiss but don't allow my daughter to see you kissing me because that's bound to make her think dark thoughts."
"God tell her to bury her head, me and you at our ages?"
"Oh thank you very much," Milly said, pretending to be offended.
Kevin laughed and kissed her and left, having been inside for only twenty minutes.
On Saturday morning Kevin went off alone to shop and when he returned he placed a wrapped square of thin board on a stake into the back of Milly's old 1991 Ford Explorer. She didn't asked what it was and Kevin didn't say what it was. He took it with them into the small regional airport terminal.
"There's Renée's airplane now," Milly said, as the feeder route carrier landed.
Kevin removed the paper from the sign and Milly read what it said and groaned, "Oh no, she'll kill you."
Kevin held up the sign and several people read it and took up positions near by, waiting expectantly. Some people arriving off the just-landed aircraft also decided to wait, looking back at the entrance doors.
Renée Mitchell (she'd retained her married name because her public was familiar with that name) had worked out on the flight from Chicago she'd go out to her mother's home and order her mother to stay in the SUV while she went inside and kicked butt.
A little disappointed that no one on the flight had recognized her Renée saw a good-looking blonde guy a foot taller than her mom standing beside her holding up a placard that in three lines in large print read: 'Welcome Home Cook Show Host Renée Richards'.
Her mom yelled "Renée" and the big guy yelled, "Welcome home Renée" and people grouped by them clapped and smiled.
The curvy brunette beamed through her big famous smile and waved to acknowledge her adoring, albeit thinly representative public and amid a wave of heat coursing through her body realized Big Guy must be the sleazy conman who was swindling her mom.
But Renée knew star protocol required her to plaster her smile to her face and play along for the moment to meet the expectation of her greeters or to choose the drastic alternative that was to make a scene, kick the guy in the nuts and as he fell to rip his face opening with her nails. And with him sprawled on his back to slam her handbag across his face, breaking his nose and then stand with one high-heel dug into his guts and hold up one of her hands in victory, hoping someone's camera shot would make it to the front page of the Chicago Times.
On no, don't do that. If she mugged the guy her mom would abuse her for the first time in her life and Renée would bawl in shock and that photo would appear in newspapers throughout the land.
So she swept up to her mother, kissed her and then reached up to the Big Guy and kissed him, quite forgetting to snarl through her teeth, ''You unconscionable cur'.
She froze, shocked. What the fuck was that!
She now comprehended. In that brief instance she'd kissed the guy he'd somehow managed to cup her breast and finger-roll the nipple.
"Darling Renée, how lovely to have you home again (the last visit was a week ago)," said her mom loudly for the benefit of people who were walking away and would expect to have a mother say that.
"Hey there," Kevin said looking at the TV personality and she stared back at him wondering what kind of classy greeting was that?
Milly cooed to her, clasping the jerk by the arm, "Please meet this beautiful young man who is lodging with me and rendering remarkable uplift to my property that you know I'm about to list."
Renée said "Hi" without actually spitting the greeting at him, looked into his Dodger Blue eyes and had to fight from melting. His expression was so tender and calm as if to say he had no fight with her. She had the amazing feeling that her vulva was opening like a flower in immediate post-dawn sunlight, preparing to receive him.
"But you can't have me thinking like that... you are so young," she whimpered.
Looked puzzled he said, "Excuse me?"
She ignored that and fortunately one of the fans had her mom's attention, saying something about green fried tomatoes.
Renée's mind generated the answer she was struggling for and as the kid finished giving his placard to a cleaner she said, "I was saying you are very young for a high-charging or should I say exorbitantly charging home handyman."
He smiled and said disarmingly, "Since when have charge out rates by an adult being rated according to age? That clearly would be age discrimination."
"I-I would have to agree." She felt uncomfortable deciding she needed to pee.
He said prophetically although she didn't realize it then, "You go. We'll wait here."
"I don't have luggage. Everything I need is in this carry bag or at home."
He looked up and said nothing. She followed his gaze and saw a sign marked 'Ladies'.
"I-I won't be long," Renée said weakly and headed to the toilets.
She couldn't believe it. This guy was no flim flam man; he was either gifted or simply from the Planet Zog. He probably possessed x-ray vision and already had noticed her outer lips were formed into a welcoming 'O'. God now her breasts were swelling.
Stop torturing yourself, Renée scolded silently. God she'd come back home to kick him out of the county. But instead she was now thinking of having sex with him.
No she wasn't. She groaned when her inner voice said she was a liar.
They went to the Explorer and for a moment Renée thought her mom but upgraded but then recognized some of the small dents and scratches.
"Kevin washed and polished the Explorer in his own time, saying a person of your caliber wouldn't wish to ride in a grimy vehicle in case you were recognized."
Ah only an astronaut from Zog of Kevin's age would think like that, Renée thought, and absently-minded thanked Kevin.
"See Kevin my youngest is ever so polite. That helps her to radiate her personality."
God had her mom been reading encyclopedias?
He said, "Renée is also very beautiful."
She gaped but quickly turned that into a yawn.
"We're going shopping. Kevin has convinced me to buy new clothes so you may help with the selection Renée."
"But Janice, Charlene and I have been at you for a long time to do that. What has Kevin got that we don't have?"
"The power of persuasion several notches above you lot combined with hard-nose negotiation skill."
That was just too much and sent Renée over the top.
"Is Kevin screwing you?"
Kevin grinned and her mom said in shock, "Renée!"
"What? Oh no, you misunderstood. I meant ripped money off you. How many hours have you worked for mom? Now please answer honestly."
"Thirty-six hours in three days with no charge for lunch and coffee breaks."
"That's bullshit. That works out at three 12-hour days net."
"Renée please apologize. Accusing someone of bullshitting is the same as calling them a liar."
"No I will not. I find that workload too difficult to believe. I work 6-hour days and go home exhausted."
"Yes darling but you have all the dramas associated with TV productions, the tension of being on the hour-long show and keeping it running under direction and dealing with on-stage mishaps and threatened chaos."
"I record my hours honestly Renée and Milly knows how long I work and has a copy of my work plan and ticks off things as I finish them. Unlike you I'm working only against the pressures I apply whereas you have many things working against you and that must surely be debilitating emotionally and burning up huge amounts of nervous energy."
"All right, I'm surprised you understand how I must work under pressure but I'm saying the jury remains out about you as far as I am concerned. And why are you calling my mother Milly?"
"Because she asked me to, that's why," Kevin said coldly. "And every evening so far she's come into my bedroom to say good night and kisses me good night because I asked her, that's why? Next question."
"Why are you driving and not mom?"
"Because I'm the better driver. Next question."
Kevin could almost feel heat radiating from Renée, or so he imagined.
"Oh god, I'm out of order over this aren't I?"
"Crisis over Kevin," Milly said. "Luckily I had the sense to warn you and that she'd be thinking of herself as the underdog coming in to rescue me, ignoring what I had been telling her on the phone."
"Well you are her mom, the only one she has and it appears Renée has a highly developed sense of what that means. I suspect she knows she was birthed late and that her parents, especially you, gave her that chance in life."
"Oh god," Renée sobbed. "You know so much and I might be wrong in some instances. I even had a rash thought that you were from Zog?"
Kevin looked into the rear-vision mirror at the two women in the back seat. He saw Milly staring at her daughter curiously. He said he had no idea, not having ever heard of such a place.
"It was my mind going crazy in overload. I came here to kick you out of the county but somehow you are beginning to beguile even me."
"Oh that's lovely darling. I thought that would happen and now you have become a little overwrought. Kiss me and settle back and talk clothes. Kevin says I'm too young in age and especially in attitude to wear granny prints."
"Spot on Kevin and congratulations. I apologize for my stupid use of aggression."
They spent two hours shopping.
Three times Renée had brushed Kevin's hand while they were walking and in the fourth time he captured her hand and slowly loosened his grip. She looked at him and smiled, squeezed his hand and then pulled away.
While her mom was changing into yet another dress Kevin said, looking into Renée's eyes, "When you squeezed my hand was that you just indicating you really are apologetic or something deeper?"
She flushed and almost choked, "Something deeper."
He bored in. "Signaling sex might be possible."
She gave a nervous laugh and said, "You sure as hell know how to panic me."
He just smiled.
He said he really liked the clothes her mom had chosen so far.
"You really like my mom don't you? I see it in the way you two interact. When that happens I-I feel almost like I'm on the outer."
"That is just an emotional issue for you. Your mother is such a warm and open person and probably was lonely when I first met her. She was in need of company and I was in need of some money. So it's worked out very well. I haven't made a pass at her."
She said too hastily. "It never occurred to me that you had."
Without smiling Kevin said, "Do you really wish to lie to me?"
She squirmed and flushed and said as casually as she could manage, "No not really. It was only natural I believe to have casual thoughts about it. But my relationship with my mother is such that she would have told me if you had touched her or she had encouraged you to touch her."
"Thank you for being honest with me. May I kiss you?"
Renée pulled him between two racks of dresses and they kissed, taking a little longer than for just a friendly kiss.
Milly came out in a red floral dress and spun around for them.
Kevin said the red was a good color for her but to buy it as plain red. The size was great for her. "That cut makes your breast look a little larger. Just don't be afraid Milly, they are part of you."
"Oh gawd," she laughed. "Renée?"
"Kevin had expressed judgment I can't fault mom. The decision is yours."
"So if you two are so much in cahoots, why aren't you holding hands?"
"Two minutes ago we were between these two racks behind us and were kissing mom."
"Oh that makes this old mother feel so delighted. Sleep with him darling."
"I'm thinking about suggesting that to him mom."
* * *
Twenty minutes out of town the cottage on the far side of them came into sight.
"Omigod," Renée screamed. "Drive by very slowly please Kevin. I can't see anyone coming up behind just now but check your mirrors."
They crawled past, taking in the newly painted picket fence. The previously wildly growing lawn had been cut right back. The roof of the cottage was bright red and the windows were once again brightly white, adding contrast. And the two second-level windows providing natural light in the loft now had imitation shutters bolted to the stonework beside them.
"Oh mom, how can you bare to leave this darling home?"
"I've been thinking that myself but then I remember all those lonely days and nights. Debra Mansfield has the listing all ready to go as soon as I advise her to promote the sale. She saw the work that has been done yesterday afternoon as she went by and called to congratulate me. She believes she has three couples registered with her office that might really jump at the chance of ownership. One wants pastureland for a pony for the grandkids and there is scope for that here."
"Oh that's so exciting for you."
"Indeed and what do you think now of my young man who is such a hard worker who is a perfectionist within reason with whatever he does?"
"He's everything you said he was mother, and more," Renée said, as Kevin rejoined them carrying most of the shopping. She told him, "That picket fence has really made such a difference Kevin and I ought to know because I was here last only a week ago. Thank you for assisting my mother in such an outstanding manner. We are very proud of you, aren't we mother."
"Yes indeed Kevin and I mean that."
"Thanks ladies. Well it's just over four hours to sunset and so I'm off to start repairs to the boundary fences to make them stock-proof."
"Wait for me, I'll come and help."
"No it can be dangerous work Renée is a wire being tensioned comes flying back and..."
"Kevin please, I spend my life till I went to college living on a ranch and I used to help dad with fencing. I'll be wearing suitable clothing for protection and thick gloves."
"Well please yourself but please be careful, I have a sense of responsibility to prevent you coming to harm."
Renée's mouth opened but she said nothing and as Kevin walked away she continued to stare at him.
"That boy's taken a real liking to you," her mom gloated.
"Don't say that mom," Renée said softly, sounding a little confused.
She changed quickly and when she arrived at the barn she found Kevin had found the box of fencing tools and was lashing it to the front carrier.
"Have you any idea how to use the stretcher and splice and crimp cutting tool?"
"No but you are going to tell me."
"Well only if you want me to."
"Yes please, it will be quicker than me attempting to work it out. I'm not stupid."
She grinned and said softly she'd not entertained that thought.
He grinned and looked at her and said, "In that thick shirt and heavy pants and woolen hat all your sex-appeal has gone."
"And thank goodness for that. I get sick of people starting at me."
"I stare at you."
"But that's so different..." she tailed off and said, "Who drives?"
"It will be the only chance I get to feel your tits."
"God Kevin, you're so gross," she said, but turned away smiling and lifted a leg over the driving seat of the quad bike, feeling not at all sexy in the heavy clothing that already was making her hot.
"Which boundary fence?"
"Either one starting from the road frontage."
* * *
The clothing was making Renée heat up but so was something else. Young Mr Crichton was the coolest guy she'd come across for some time and lately those guys she'd played around with had been... well sub-standard. This guy also showed every sign of being both athletic and robust.
God what was she thinking? Well she supposed she was developing a soft spot for him because he'd make rather a big impact and not only on improving the property. Her mom was so obviously re-energized and thinking far more positively. Having Kevin around had really stimulated her mom. Without actually arriving at the decision Renée was aware that is Kevin made a hit on her he'd probably get lucky. Being a former country girl that was one of her former ways she'd gladly retained. She still couldn't believe how extraordinarily precious some city girls were about opening their legs for a guy. They were probably women who later in life committed adultery in an attempt to experience what they'd stupidly missed out on in their younger days.
Renée started the motor and Young Mr Crichton swung up behind her. She was disappointed he used the support bar behind him to hold on instead of holding over her breasts and working his hands a bit. She drove off and pushed back a little and felt his groin totally surround her butt. She imaged him being surprised and gaining an instant erection and thinking that erection was just inches away from going in under her butt, past her anus and sinking into a warm, wet and... Jesus! She braked and swung right a bit to avoid crashing into end of the fence protecting the orchard.
"Sorry," she yelled. "Out of practice."
"You must keep your mind on the job," he lectured, and to her surprise placed his arms in under hers and cupped both breasts.
"This ought to relax you," he called, waggling both hands.
Renée face reflected the color of the cottage roof and her gin was huge.
They stopped at the start of the western boundary line.
He made no effort to let go of her.
He sighed, let get and swung off.
She was almost sad it was over but then came a bonus. He kissed her full on the mouth without asking and took his time and when pulling away whispered, "Great tits."
"Thank you," she smiled and held her pose to make sure he saw her looking at his groin.
Kevin began walking down the fence line and she remained on the bike and crawled after him, stopping when he stopped to begin to tighten two strands of drooping wire. He pulled out the stretcher and examined it, and affixed it correctly and then cut one of the wires and invited her to show him how to crimp the new joint.
"You've never held a wire stretcher before, have you?"
"No but it really is the epitome of simplicity. Crimping would take me a little time working out. You are a little older than me, is their anything else you could teach me?"
Renée's cheeks burned and she giggled and said lamely she now knew he could talk rubbish. She had no idea what that really meant and probably he didn't either. But then he asked, "Are you big into fucking Renée?"
Although caught by surprise Renée knew a straight question deserved a straight answer and so she said yes.
She felt very happy he'd grinned and she'd admitted she was big into sex because he now knew where he was with her but still wouldn't know if she would give it to him.
Renée was surprised at his efficiency. Head down butt up as they say. They got heaps done including marking to posts with orange tape that he'd thoughtfully pocketed before they set out. Those two posts were near rotted through at ground and required replacing.
They returned home at twilight, she driving, he at her breasts again although the fiddling had been very brief. As they were walking from the barn, close enough to keep brushing, something came over Renée and she didn't fight it. Casually she took his hand, knowing if he brushed her aside she'd feel devastated. The huge flow of blood that rushed through her when he not only applied his grip but also squeezed excited Renée so that that she felt dizzy. God this was so romantic and so perfectly naturally compared with the little pickup games that occurred in the city.
When they reached the backdoor Renée pulled Kevin to her and kissed him. They pulled apart and she was looking at him when he opened his eyes.
"Thank you for helping out. You are a great worker."
She could have killed him.
"Oh I also liked being with you."
She smiled. Ah saved by the bell and saying he liked being with her was so much better than the usual male response of saying he like her being with him because the latter was so possessive.
"We must do it again."
"Do what?" he said grinning and peering to see if she blushed.
God a hardened road warrior like her couldn't turn on a blush at will, Renée sighed to herself.
"I really like you," was all she could offer. Omigod she thought looking at his face. Was that really a blush?
Renée decided to take a stand. "I really would like to have sex with you but not here."
He looked at her gravely and said, "Then what about on the floor of the airport terminal tomorrow?"
"What?" she said and then realized he was being foolish.
"Stay with me in Chicago when you finish here."
"You mean as lovers?"
"Yes, for a long as that lasts."
"Okay, sounds good. I bet you can really fuck."
The door opened and her mom, appearing surprised that they weren't all over one another, told them to come in as it was getting cold and she was waiting for Renée to make her a cocktail. I've run the bath for you dear and Kevin you can shower or bath with Renée."
"Ah the bath sounds good."
Renée said the shower sounded even better.
They stared at one another until Kevin mumbled the shower sounded good.
"Well just remember I gave you the opportunity to really get together," Milly snorted, returning to the kitchen and calling they were having roasted chicken and roasted vegetables.
Kevin said sourly, "We could have fucked in the bath."
"I know but I really want the first time to be great and that can't happen for me with mom being around."
"Yeah I can understand that. Please let me undress you and see you."
"Okay but keep your dick in your pants."
"Deal," he grinned and kissed without pawing her.
Tingling in unaccustomed excitement Renée waited and waited in the bathroom but Kevin failed to arrive. She went down to the smaller bathroom and outside the door heard the shower and Kevin whistling.
She grinned. What a fucking tease he was. He'd probably never been with a female in his life but then remembered her mom had said he was a college graduate.
Renée was in the bath thinking deeply about sex when Kevin drummed his nails on the bathroom door.
"Come in," she called excitedly, knowing he wouldn't.
Renée dressed in her favorite bra and a tight blue top and the pants she'd worn when arriving. She entered the cheery kitchen and achieved the effect she wanted.
Kevin turned, holding his wine glass, and his eyes zeroed in and remained fixed on her chest.
She smiled and her mom smiled and said, "Hi darling, you look great, doesn't she Kevin."
"Yes. What? Oh yeah."
Renée wondered had he really been to college. Perhaps it was one for yokels. But she had to admit his mind had been otherwise engaged.
She made two cocktails and topped up Kevin's wine.
As they settled her mom said, "Kevin's an astonishingly good cook for a single guy."
Renée was suspicious, wondering what kind of windup was this, but her mom went on to talk about the dinner Kevin cooked for her and presented on the night he arrived.
Renée was quite impressed and he said most females assume guys can't cook whereas that wasn't entirely correct.
"Grandma turned me out pretty well but I reckon they would have been at least three guys in my class each year that probably could have out-cooked any of the females even with the guys having one of their hands tied behind their back.
"Rubbish," the women chortled but they noticed Kevin only smiled at that.
"Go on," Renée said.
"Well Fritz's mother and father owned a top Dutch restaurant and they were the chefs and he worked with his parents. Simon's mom apparently was a renown cook and Simon worked since he was twelve in his uncle's delicatessen and there's nothing about food that Simon didn't appear to know and no one I've ever met could do cookouts of fish and steaks as well as Barnett whose parents manage an exclusive hunting lodge."
"Well that's it; I'm a believer," Renée laughed. "In fact I must say as a sophomore I shared an apartment with five other females and I was the only one who could really cook."
"We don't you do a program on top male cooks from Chicago University?" asked her mom.
"Yeah film in a grotty student apartment," Kevin said. "And then find three great student cooks and three great male student cooks and have a cook-off with professional chefs as judges."
"Omigod, what great ideas," Renée beamed. "That would be a first for TV simply because until now it probably was inconceivable."
At dinner Kevin asked how Renée got into TV cooking.
"I submitted a manuscript to a publishing house in Chicago called 'My Grandmother's Best Recipes' and received a call from a woman who said they were sorry but book publishers receive a few thousand uninvited submissions each year on grandma's recipes and only a handful were ever accepted. However what had interested them was my almost perfect presentation and the way in which my anecdote for each recipe was written and they also noted I had almost completed my degree in English Lit. She asked would I come to Chicago to see her and, of course I said yes, and she then floored me saying she would have tickets sent to me and the package would include two nights' accommodation in a four-star hotel. Being a country girl I was rather overwhelmed."
"We all were so excited as if she'd been called to meet the President," Milly said.
"Well to be brief, I was attached to an editor responsible for assessing submissions including cookbooks, needlework, flora art and art, all things thanks to grandma and mom I was quite familiar with."
"She means knowledgeable," Milly said.
"I worked there for three years after graduating and was living with this guy whose mother directed a TV cooking program. His mom whom I knew quite well called me one day in panic to say their presenter had taken ill and gone home. The program was filmed live before an audience and with just over two hours to go I had to say yes or no. The poor woman was almost frantic so I said yes. I was heavily briefed but when I began on camera I forget most of everything I'd been told and I guess I just sailed into it, adlibbing and making mistakes and cackling at my own goofs and the feedback to the studio quite astonished me and the next thing I knew the studio was talking to me about signing a contract because the existing presenter was negotiating to pull out of her contract."
"I was ordered to keep applying my weird sense of humor and, quote, messing up and braying like a horse, unquote, and was totally humiliated when a TV commentator wrote I ran the goofiest show in America. Then his wife was featured on page three of next morning's newspaper saying her husband was quite wrong about me and my program, that she and her girlfriends met most afternoons over coffee to laugh and said as far as they were concerned I was the best thing in cooking since Julia Child. Julia Child for crying out aloud. Reading that I almost had a coronary but as my director told me people speaking out tend to exaggerate. Well plaudits greatly outnumbered the criticisms coming into the studio. We no longer had to fill empty seats with people pulled from the street and given a café voucher. These days people have to book up to three weeks ahead to get in to see the show."
Kevin said why line up to get in when those people could watch it at home on TV?
"Well people are admitted half an hour before we go live and they are more than interested in the warm-up where we scream and swear at one another and play the fool because that helps our guests to become more animated and relaxed. We make comments like 'Ma'am we do hope you are wearing panties because the cameras show right through your clothes' and their reactions range from disbelief to panic and some even yell 'get me out of here'. So when we go live everyone including the audience is ready to rip into it."
Milly said, "I have seen the show live three times and that last time I was called down from the audience to make a banana cake that Renée said when introducing me had always been her favorite when she was a kid. The audience clapped and cheered and I grinned like a yokel and gained in confidence. I was at the bench when Renée said, "Oh dear, we have no bananas. What are you going to do mom? I almost died and saw a bunch of tomatoes in the bowl. I grabbed two of them and yelled I was switching to make a tomato cake and even the guest celebrity chef fell about laughing. Dabbing her eyes Renée said what a delightful exhibition of impromptu creativity. She then turned to the audience and said, 'Now you guys know why I'm so stupid' and they all rose and gave a standing ovation. At that point I thought everyone would be thinking we had rehearsed the whole thing but then a guy in courier uniform came running in with a bunch of bananas and said to Renée, 'Sorry late delivery'. That's when I realized I'd really been set up."
Leaving Milly and Renée chatting, Kevin cleared away and then kissed them goodnight and went to bed. About an hour later he heard someone enter his room and Renée whisper, "Are you awake?"
He pretended to be asleep.
Kevin drove them to the airport next afternoon. With Renée assistance that morning they had finished repairs to all the fencing apart from replacing five fence posts.
When they were at the terminal standing and waiting for Renée's flight to be called she looked down at the floor and began giggling so loud she had to place a hand over her mouth. Milly looked down and saw nothing. Kevin looked down and saw nothing and then remembered what he'd said suggestively about what he'd do to Renée on the floor of the airport terminal.
"It's nothing Milly. I'd told her she has big feet for a woman."
"She hasn't, no way."
"She was wearing her father's old boots Milly."
Milly laughed and said she enjoyed the joke. Renée grinned at Kevin and hugged her mom.
"Now when the sale completes you are to come and live with me. Promise now."
"Yes of course I will. We had arranged that with the possibility I could lease a studio apartment in your block."
"Yes but there is no hurry for that. I have plenty of room. Um Kevin might be still living with me at that stage. Will that be okay?"
"Kevin will be living with you? Since when did you two become that close?"
"We haven't. As yet it's all theory. I plan to get him into the team that sets up our shows with his first assignment to locate top student cooks attending UChicago."
"Oh that's so marvelous you two," Milly said, taking them both by an arm.
On Sunday two weeks later Kevin stood outside Renée's apartment block and called her.
"Hi Kevin. Are you ready to leave mom?"
"I did that yesterday. I'm standing outside your apartment block."
"God Kevin that really is a surprise but what if I'd had a guy here with me?"
"You're free to do what you wish."
"Well there's no guy here and there hasn't been any guy allowed near me since I left you. Come up. When you enter the lobby you'll see the security panel with the apartment numbers. I'm 27A and that panel is on the left as you enter."
Going up on the elevator Kevin was a tad disappointed Renée hadn't rushed to the lobby to greet him. But as he stepped out of the elevator there she was, dressed only in a robe and with her hair pinned up and holding out his lips plus an opened bottle of beer.
What a great welcome.
He kissed the lips and took the beer.
"Feel a tit through the neck opening of my gown," she whispered.
Kevin did that and found the nipple up and hard.
This was a magnificent welcome.
She crooked her arm in his and led him away to her corner apartment.
Inside there was far too much white and far too little color but he was aware this was to her taste. He rushed to the largest window and pointed and said, "That's a great view of Michigan."
"I know," she smiled.
He felt a jerk. Of course she knew. "Um drop your gown."
Her smile kept in place and she dropped it as he took another swig of beer.
"Is that all for me?"
"Every bit of it," she laughed, holding both arms down and appearing to cup her pussy.
Kevin virtually bounced over to her.
"I've been thinking all the time..."
"Hush," she said, placing a red-tipped finger over his lips. "And so have I."
She took the beer and placed it on the table. "Please finger and kiss me."
Kevin tore off his jacket and obeyed.
She felt so soft, so fresh.
He pulled away slightly, a finger squishing in her vagina and held up that hand offering her a finger to suck.
She sucked, watching him very closely.
Kevin looked at her puckered mouth around his finger and thought of what else he could place there and unbuckled and dropped his pants.
Renée pulled the finger in her mouth away and cooed, "Oooh. Are you undressing?"
"Please suck my cock."
She dropped like a stone, pulling down his briefs as she went.
"Oooh is this biggie all for me?"
"Yeah," he said proudly, spreading his feet and bracing, feeling his butt cheeks tighten.
A little later after throwing his head back and breathing through his mouth Kevin moved his head forward and clearly saw the outline of the head of his cock in the cheek of his bobbing darling. He groaned and spewed before he could warn Renée.
She pulled away spluttering and chocking.
"God you might have warned me," she said, spitting out wads of cum.
"You hit a high area of sensitivity and I just blew violently and unintentionally," he said lamely.
"Oh darling," she said, and that was a first. "Well just have to do this many times to get into sync. At least your sperm tastes nice and wholesome."
Wholesome? That was a new description for him, Kevin thought, his vision returning back to normal. Perhaps she assumed in would supply calcium.
They were at it for two hours and she must have come fifty times. Well at least a half dozen times.
"God Kevin, you've left me near-legless," she said to her new guy who lay on the bed not willing to walk to the toilet in case his legs gave out on him.
She staggered off. He laid back thinking that she had the best cunt his dick had ever sunk into. It appeared to be lined in silver velvet and had stroked him sensually to penetrate his very core. But it wasn't only that. She had long, strong legs that she wrapped round him and squeezed and also squeezed him with velvet pussy, combining her administrations so exquisitely that she rapturously squeezing ever drop of sperm he could produce. And she'd stopped right at that final ejaculation fortunately because the next production would have been blood.
He licked his dry lips and fell asleep and didn't know another thing till he awoke to feel his cocked being sucked and he could see beyond her tight swaying butt that it was dawn outside.
"I missed my dinner last night," he complained.
She completed a long very wet lick up the length of his cock and said, "Oh what a shame. Well after I finished here you may feast on pussy juice when you eat me out."
That idea rather appealed but then Kevin figured well really there was no substitute for a solid meal.
They fucked in the shower. Renée admitted to really liked taking a long dick like his when standing up.
"How many dicks do you think you could take up you at the same time?"
"Don't be so foul," she scolded but then screamed into a huge climax, making her mild reprimand sound somewhat hypocritical.
"How many dicks did you think you had up you to make you cum like that?"
"Four," she said, unable to hold his gaze.
Kevin intoned, "What a fucking slut and yet so pietistic." he intoned.
Renée quivered in his arms and then shook and she burst into laughter and as that eased she called him a dirty, debauched and denigrating asshole.
"Gee you not only fuck good but you talk good," he leered, using bad grammar for effect.
"Kevin I could do with more sex," she whined but he convinced her to wait till they'd had a decent breakfast because that would equate to better sex.
* * *
Kevin proved to be a huge asset for the support team of the 'Celebrity Cook Show'. He arrived brimful with ideas and they appeared endless, his mind apparently working like a computer. He was already known when he arrived to join the team because his photo and appeared in TV gossip programs and in the gossip print media exposing him as the new boyfriend of Renée Mitchell of TV's 'Celebrity Cook Show' fame.
The full team was gathered to greet him. Renée said, "Please everyone ignore that a domestic relationship exists between Kevin and me. I convinced Harry (the producer) to take Kevin on because I feel he has a streak of creativity only just becoming exposed. Kevin thinks outside the box and has a masters not surprisingly in computer science. I've called this meeting with the approval of Harry and Glenys (the director) who have joined us to listen to Kevin. Let it rip buddy."
"Hi everyone. Renée sounds like an assassin doesn't she? Building me up big and that will allow me to crash down very big (laughter). My experience in TV is confined to watching it (some groans) and I have no organizational skills (more groans). Let it rip, said Renée. Well here goes. Raise a hand those of you who went to college and that includes university?"
"Wow, at least two-thirds of you. That's really great and almost guarantees me of your support. Renée and I have developed this concept and one program a month we will have a team of college students, three males and three females, cook off in a contest to produce the best main dish as well as the best desert. Three top chefs will act as judges. We begin with UChicago and then will follow teams from five more colleges selected by you all on popular vote from colleges within 200 miles of Chicago, restricted to that area because we are Chicago based. You'll each receive a list of forty-eight colleges to select the five colleges you personally favor. Each college will have a brief summary about it to assist your choice. Glenys and Renée will examine the poll result based on popularity and then choose the five to ensure we get a representative balance over the entire area, and to avoid the choice of only state colleges or only church-aligned colleges etc. Those forms will be handed out in a few minutes."
"I know from my own experience many parents -- probably adding up into several millions over the years -- worried about what their children were eating or not eating when they were at college, in many instances cooking for themselves. Renée and I were chatting about this and I surprised her when I said I could name three guys who were students with me who were great cooks and the best cooks I've personally known since leaving college. And that's what started this going... the idea of a cook off of top college cooks, with Renée as presenter talking to these top student cooks while they cook on the show and she'll also wander into the audience and talk to folk about their eating habits and bad eating experiences when at college. I for one never intend to willingly eat macaroni and cheese again, ever, and Renée has a similar reserve about eating spaghetti. Do any of you here have college food hate legacies?
"Chicken on rice."
"Vegetarian anything especially hamburgers."
"Cheap meat undercooked and producing dysentery."
Everyone laughed and clapped.
Renée said, "Well thank you Kevin. You have been hired and we are ready to make headway and get the six college events programmed and then the six highest scoring individuals will cook off in something we may call, America's College Cook-off, depending what our legal department says. We may have to substitute the word student for college."
"Well that's all... oh Kevin has also suggested why haven't we produced books each season based on the presentations of our Celebrity Chefs? I'm astounded that none of us came up with that proposal, especially myself because I worked in book publishing before coming here. Well George has got our TV stations Promo Department looking at that. Thank you for attending everyone."
Kevin was disappointed with his starting salary but Renée had assured him it would grow when he proved his value to the TV station. He was told he could draw in big money if he fronted an IT program, especially if it attracted big advertising support but he pretended to vomit and gasped, "God no."
A week later Milly arrived, having sold her property with two buyers scrapping to get in and thereby pushing up the price until one of the buyers finally quit the bidding contest. Kevin went by public transport more than 40 miles out to the village of Shorewood where he waited for Milly to arrive, coming off Interstate 55. They greeted warmly, had coffee and he then drove her through the somewhat daunting road network into Chicago and to the apartment where Renée had arranged permanent parking for the Explorer. Four nights later Milly shifted into a studio apartment with lovely city views on the 11th level.
Kevin had fitted into his role competently and it was noted when he wanted assistance people jumped in to help and he had a knack of sorting out problems. Then when Renée went down with the 'flu the director asked him to fill in for Renée her instinct proved correct, Kevin performed admirably although not as smoothly or accomplished as Renée.
The Great College Cook-off was an immediate hit, so much so that it was decided to run the final at peak time between 7:00 and 8:30 and the show on that night provided the station its 16th largest non-sports local viewing audience ever.
Kevin was asked to front a new format IT program on Saturday mornings but he declined the approach. He did however accept a further offer to be co-producer of the new show, and doing all the legwork provided valuable experience. From there his unexpected entry into TV took off and six months later he was producer of that show and also the show screened two hours earlier called 'Computers and Kids'. When the ailing IT program was finally axed because of lack of advertising support, Kevin successfully argued that 'Computers and Kids' be increased to three hours on Saturday mornings and with the new computer games segment run by kids including the direction (Kevin's idea), advertising ballooned and before long twenty-three TV stations began taking the live feed and when the program won the national award for 'Best New Program for Kids' for a while more than 40 stations began taking the feed.
Renée announced she was pregnant and saw no reason to get married although Kevin thought they should. He was asked to lead the investigation into a new farm machinery program. It appeared to have considerable merit but unfortunately advertisers were difficult to convince although a major one supplying farm machinery round the world was interested to have the show sponsored under its name. That program idea was put on hold and Kevin waited for his next placement. After two weeks he was declared redundant.
Kevin was mortified but Renée was philosophical. "You are too young Mr Crichton and too inexperienced to be paid so much money and so the best option facing management was to let you go."
"Too young be damned."
"Cool it Kevin. Let's get married quietly."
"I have been thinking about it and believe you being married will give you greater impetus to find gainful employment."
"Jesus you ought to know I don't think like that."
"Mom says I ought to feel the first kick of our baby any day soon."
Kevin stared big-eyed at Renée.
"I can't believe that is about to happen."
Suddenly he felt like a father, something that had been eluding him and he really needed to think in the context of having a family to protect and to nourish.
""Yes let's get married. Our kid needs responsible and married parents."
He took Renée home unannounced to meet his family who were gob smacked and were delighted to be invited to the wedding along with his sister Alice and her new man that had holed up with her five months earlier. They were also 'expecting'.
It was a very quiet wedding. It totally escaped the attention of the media including the news team on Renée own TV station. The couple had a two-day honeymoon.
During that time Renée said, "Why don't you pitch to produce a proper cooking show for one of our competing channels whose cooking shows are woeful?"
"Would you mind?"
"I'm the one suggesting it, remember?"
"God I'm thick," he grinned and received a quiet smile instead of sharp confirmation.
Renée was in just a gown and they were watching bad TV. As she went to change channels Kevin said casually asked was she interested in sex.
"I could be," Renée smiled, dropping the TV remote control and allowing a breast to pop out."
"Come over here," Kevin drawled.
"No you come over here," she murmured, drawing up her gown to show plenty of leg.
Kevin left the networks off his list. They would only say. 'Sorry Young Mr Crichton who lacks broadcasting credentials apart from a few shows. We suggest you look elsewhere' or words to that effect or implied.
By short-circuiting those rebuffs before they could be delivered he was into the real Chicago heartland of TV and his proposals would be considered sympathetically and with intelligence and insight.
Five rejections later he'd learnt otherwise. So he went to WWW-TV), biggest of the lower echelon stations. A guy who looked like Larry King's younger brother who was executive producer heard him out and said, "That's a well thought out submission. You have it in writing?"
"Yes on a memory stick," Kevin said.
Paul West turned up his nose and said, "That's not in writing."
"Yeah right. I'm in the 21st Century."
"Well I'm trying," Paul smiled. He placed the USB flash drive back on his desk and pushed it toward Kevin.
He stared at Kevin and something told Kevin to leave it there.
"If you're really itching to toss that digital script into your trashcan be my guest."
Paul frowned. "I might prefer to have my PA present it into a proper proposal document for me to distribute for discussion at my next meeting."
Kevin looked at the director of programming who also looked after new proposals. He decided to say nothing.
"Are you hungry for work?"
"Yes. That's because my wife is pregnant and I don't relish the thought of her being the sole breadwinner. I said I was made redundant because they had no further need for me. I should have said they thought I was too young for the amount of money I was receiving."
"And how much was that?"
"One eight-eight thousand."
Paul whistled and said, "Right you may go now. I'll call you."
"I said I'd call you."
Kevin realized he might be close to blowing it. "Gee thanks Mr West."
"There's no need to grovel."
Kevin then experienced his own version of flash-memory. "Oh until we get the show screening and advertising and plaudits rolling in I'll be prepared to be both producer and director for $100,000."
"Eighty grand could sound about right."
"Then pay a street sweeper to be your producer/director."
Paul laughed and acknowledged Kevin's wave.
He arrived home at 7:15, the end to two tiring days of job-hunting. Renée greeted him with a huge kiss and she was flushed. She handed him a beer.
"I felt a tiny kick at 3:21 today and don't say I imagined it. I'm only into my 18th week."
"Jesus. It's moved."
"I called the clinic and was told everything sounds okay. Some women feel a kick around 16 weeks but 19 to 21 is about normal. How did you go today darling?"
"My final call was well faintly promising. The others were shit. The guy at WWW-TV said he'd put my proposal to his team but I don't know if I should believe that."
"Well believe that. It's all that you have. That station had a big share of the under 30s market and calls itself Hip TV which is a little old-fashion. You best watch that channel daily from now to gain insight ready for your recall."
"Yeah I'll look at it. Is it chicken and rice again?"
"No mum is bringing steamed fish over buttered sliced potatoes and spinach. She says that's good for pregnant mothers with queasy stomachs. Just tell me if you want steak or salmon when I say I'll do chicken rice. I find it rests easy with me and I won't... "
"No chicken rice is fine although not every night."
Kevin drank four bottles of beer and they went to bed early because he was tired.
His excited wife shook him at 9:21 and took his hand and placed it on her belly.
"Nothing," he said. "Did you feel something?"
"Yes, distinctly. Lie very quietly."
Suddenly Kevin whispered, "Holy fuck, I felt it."
"Oh you are so clever."
"Oh Kevin, don't be such a wet," Renée said, obviously pleased by his reaction.
Late next morning Kevin took a call.
"Hi it's Paul. My meeting considered your proposal and I called a recess and we meet again at 2:00 with the chiefs in attendance. It's your chance to fire and convince us Kevin. Bye."
Kevin then heard the phone click and felt sure Paul would have heard him say thank you. He called Renée. She was pleased and said go slay them. She said her studio had hired a 30-year-old trained chef as assistant director who would fill in as presenter whenever needed.
She added, "This might be the end of me."
"Does she smile a lot?"
"Do people smile at her?"
" Not that I've noticed."
"Does she wave her hands around and scratch her butt on camera?"
"I don't think she will. She hasn't been on camera yet. Rehearsals start from her this afternoon."
"Well all I can say is you have nothing to fear. Ratings will slip while you are away."
"Kevin are you suggesting it's me who scratches her butt on camera?"
"Yes and you occasionally sniff and lift up your left breast and you flick your hair back with the back of your wrist like a real cook instead of with the front of your hand like most women do. Those are small idiosyncrasies that humanize you baby and you perform them consistently and so they are your trademarks. Please don't change and for fuck sake don't talk to your substitute about distinctive characteristics."
"I really can't believe I do those tiny things. I'm sure I sweep my hair back like this... Omigod," she shouted into the phone. "That felt so unnatural. Omigod this feeling of sweeping it with the back of my wrist feels so familiar."
"Yeah baby. Just as well you don't have balls otherwise you'd be scratching on TV."
She cackled and said she must go.
"Oh one more thing. Contract Eva White in your Promo Department and advise you have married privately and are expecting a baby and what those things will mean to the public, meaning your loyal fans."
"But we agreed to tell no one."
"Yes that was then. Half the women who watch your show will already know you are pregnant."
"Oh God, I never thought about that and the reason for my absence would have to be explained when that time comes. How do you know these things darling?"
Kevin scratched the top of an ear and said didn't everyone know such things?
Kevin dressed in a suit and sharp tie and thought everyone at the meeting would be like that. So he changed into light fawn pants, a not too colorful business shirt without a tie and the top two buttons open and stepped into brown loafers.
In the meeting room Paul introduce him to the company president Carl Matheson and his seven minions. They were all in light colored slacks and an open neck business shirt and loafers except for the two women who instead of loafers and long pants wore skirts and high heels.
"We are almost in complete agreement with your concept of 'Cooking for Non-cooks'," Carl said. "But we'd like you to plea passionately, really telling us why we should run with it."
"Well I said in my submission that an hour-long cooking show is one of the cheapest programs to screen unless extravagant idiots are engaged whose spending habits run amok. Shows with good fronting personalities including cooking can attract massive viewers and advertisers will line up. But let's not get ahead of ourselves."
"What most of you won't realize is cooking is an art. Just watch a cooking show featuring a top chef and see how he flicks from one pot to another, lifting lids, looking and smelling, and stirs a pan as he checks the pots with all the rhythm and showmanship of the drummer of a band. It involves hand-eye coordination and motor-reflex hand/finger skills. Some of you may know it as professional dexterity."
Kevin was glancing at everyone and suddenly knew he had them intrigued.
"There's also something else to recognize. Just as bad drivers yearn to become better drivers unspectacular cooks also have their yearning, perhaps never verbalized, to introduce the wow factor into their cooking. A good cook can make poor food taste and even look good but giving great food to a poor cook is the recipe for a feeking disaster as the Irish would say."
"Produce and present a well-thought out show based around cooking and using top personalities and place it at the perfect time, and lo your financial controller scratches an ear and says where has all this money come from? Some of you will shudder reading I've suggested the prime time for such a show is 7:00 to 8:00 each Wednesday and all I can say at what time do you think most people who want to look at cooking and want to learn about better cooking would look for the answers on TV. I say when sitting down for the evening on a full stomach. You don't require rocket science research to figure that one out. There is one other top spot but my former TV station has that spot and my wife is the presenter."
"You are married to super cooking presenter Renée Mitchell?" Paul asked, appearing keen for confirmation.
"Yes we were married four weeks ago and kept it quiet. But Renée finds herself pregnant and her station will probably feature news of her marriage and our wedding photo on its 6 o'clock news bulletin tonight. I ask that you all keep that information confidential until six tonight. If you are to run with me in a cooking show I suggest we are up and running by the time Renée stops work prior to the arrival of the baby. Her relief presenter will only be a shadow of Renée and its ratings could slip to your advantage. That's ends my verbal presentation."
Carl said Kevin was persuasive. "But there's no detail of the proposed program structure in your written submission from what you've told us today."
"Well sir, good ideas in TV are difficult to protect until the format is screened giving it a solid finger print to establish ownership and at this stage I hold the ideas but have not sought the rights to them yet. Therefore I cannot divulge my unique ideas until contracts are signed at the station that hires me to secure the rights in my name and I assigned them the rights to screen and re-screen my programs I produce."
Paul said, "You could end up selling us a dog and costing us big money."
"Yes and I've worked in television and know as much about risk factors as you do Paul. You have a list of TV shows I've produced or directed but I left some out purely to present at this stage, if I got to this stage. I directed Renée's shows 344 to 379 and was assistant director for fifteen shows prior to that and I was director of the show 380 to 402 and then was given another project to head. You will notice in those sessions the name of the executive producer was used for reasons best-known to the studio but have someone call Thelma the executive producer who will probably tell you she didn't feel it necessary to come near the show when I was producer."
The woman who was director of productions said with great interest, "It's really interesting to learn you've actually have had direct involvement with the production of cooking shows,"
"Thank you. Actually I filled in as presenter for the 'Celebrity Cooks Show' numbers 372 to 375 when Renée was sidelined with influenza. I also totally created and scripted for production the most successful 'The Great College Cook-off' that Julia ran."
After another half hour of answering questions the president called in his PA to take Kevin away for coffee. A few minutes later Sharon received a call and after it ended smiled at Kevin. 'Congratulations. You are requested to be at that meeting room at 10:00 in the morning to discussion a contract with executive producer Mr Paul West, our director of productions Mrs Lilia Raymond and representatives of our legal team."
Kevin called Renée who said she was at a salon having her hair done.
She said, "It's all on. We will be interviewed briefly during tonight's news and then a reporter and photographer from the Times will be in Eva White's office waiting for her. Please shave and wear a suit darling but go without a tie if you wish. How did you get on?"
"A contract negotiation meeting in the morning. Sounds like success to me."
"Oh congratulations. Well done. This is only round one so don't be tempted to be too greedy. Once you get good ratings is the time to turn the screws. Cushla and I are so proud of you."
"I have a big feeling our baby will be a girl. I rather like the name Cushla."
There was silence.
"Have I offended you by not discussing our baby's name with you?"
"I'm close to being offended."
"Oh well, obviously we need to have a discussion. What names do you favor?"
"Buck, Charlie, Ned and Dexter for starters."
"What about girl's names?"
Kevin said they needed to discuss that.
She laughed and said she expected to be home in about an hour.
Half an hour later Kevin began his second beer feeling very pleased with himself, being confident the only sticking point would be salary and he'd received good advice from Renée.
He sighed, thinking he'd come along way since hitting the road soon after graduation. He was practically estranged from his parents and so must do something solid about that like inviting them to come and stay with Renée and him regularly and perhaps going on vacation together if Renée agreed to that.
The there was Alice his sister. Oh wasn't that a great fuck they had? He laughed thinking he should invite her to accompany him on vacation. Er no, he was now mature enough to avoid mixing with her again. Er yes, sure. And anyway all up his wife was a great fuck, not so athletic and full on as Alice but she lasted longer and did things purely to please him. Oh yeah.
"Well Young Mr Crichton exercise some love and maturity eh?" he mused aloud. "Do that and you will appear to others as being a man rather than a ex-college kid who drove a Mustang and leered at pretty girls and stole money placed on trust by his parents."
"Jesus," he cried. "I stole from mom and dad!"
He went to his laptop and emailed his mom: 'Dear Mom and Dad. Thanks for all your past support. I'm transferring the $10,000 you gave me as an emergency fund into your household account. Many thanks from your extremely grateful son. I will be home next weekend to see you, accompanied by Renée is she is well. She's a bit scratchy at present. Love Kevin.'
He then found the household bank account number and made the electronic cash transfer and then could scarcely believe how good he felt as a reformed thief.
He then decided to trade in his Mustang for a fairly late model Explorer.
Kevin called Alice.
"Hi how you're doing?
"Fucking awful Kev. I'm really not suited to pregnancy."
"Talk to mom. She'll know how to help or will know someone who really can offer help. Renée tells me it's mostly the body fighting against changes and growing demands on it."
"Oh I never though of it that way. I must call Renée."
"Do that. In the meantime give me your bank account number. I wish to send you guys a little something for the nursery."
"Oh Kev, how sweet. I feel better already."
When preparing to okay the $1000 transaction Kevin thought of all the times Alice had been a real pal to him when they were growing up because he'd really been difficult to handle. Several times during that period his mom had fumed she was changing his name to Kevin Trouble Crichton. He smiled and thought yeah Alice had been a real star at times. He changed the $1000 to $10,000 and sent off the transaction, smiling hugely, wondering if Alice would pee herself when she next checked her bank balance.
Renée arrived home, looking beautiful but drawn. She was greeted expansively and looked at Kevin for the guilt to show, saw none so asked, "What is this about?"
"Nothing. You're just my darling."
"Oh God Kevin I love it. I hadn't realized being on the brink of winning your next contract meant so much to you. You are usually almost blasé about it."
"Nah, getting the job if that happens will be good but having you as a new mother is even better."
"Oooh come here you lovely man. I feel so much better."
They kissed unhurriedly until Kevin said, "Ma'am your bath awaits you."
"Jesus Kevin, are you okay?"
"Perfect but perhaps a little mild after two beers. Go to you bath and I'll fetch you mineral water."
Kevin entered the bathroom with their drinks and some plain cookies.
"Kevin about my bumptious way of attempting to sneak in the name for our daughter," Renée began guiltily."
"Oh that, it's fine. I'm already used to the name Cushla. You involvement in conceiving and bringing to the doorway into adulthood of our daughter is bound to be considerably more than my contribution, because that's how it works darling. Therefore you take precedence over me in the naming of our children. That's only being fair."
"Oh Mr Crichton, you are so lovely to me and so mature in your thinking."
"When you get affectionate like this you always call me Young Mr Crichton."
"Oh that, that's old hat. Let's discuss a middle name for Cushla. You go first."
"Well what about Scarlett or Mimi?"
Renée turned pale.
"Darling Kevin, may I suggest we first explore the possibility you are not 100% behind the name Cushla?"
* * *
Two weeks after Renée left her show on maternity leave she was back almost on an even keel, feeling well apart from tiring easily. She'd been delighted to have learned that day from someone up high at the studio that after two shows under the new director and the backup presenter, ratings for the show had taken a fall and a big advertiser who'd been with the show since Week 5 had suspended further advertiser until Renée returned as presenter. Renée's informant added that the chiefs were concerned but not yet panicking and said, "WWW-TV began a huge promotion today for a hot new cooking show, so it claims, that begins running on Wednesday next week at 7:00. Renée that's real prime time. We could never get something into our program schedule that wasn't murder, sex or political scandal into a top spot like that."
"What are they calling it?"
"Cooking at 7:00."
"God Claudia, that's bold and it means they are committing to the long haul."
"Renée I'm sharing this information because I have something to ask you."
"I can anticipate what your question will be, yes Kevin is behind this initiative and will direct."
"God Renée if our chief's believe you have assisted Kevin to set up that production..."
"Claudia now you listen to me. I have had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the planning and preparation of that show. Kevin told me he was making a submission to WWW-TV for such a show and then later he'd told me he'd been signed up and the studio had committed to run the show five nights a week for each season. Now if my superiors don't accept my word about that then tough. I try to go to work for Kevin."
"Right I'll pass that on."
"Is there a whisper who will front their show?"
"Someone called The Arrogant Chef. No one here has ever heard of her."
"Omigod, what a masterly stroke. The younger set will really love him, older women too."
"Yes he's been all the rage in France this past year. He's nineteen and already a master chef as are his parents and both grandfathers. His English accent and mannerisms will make female viewers in this country automatically open their legs. I have a couple of tapes of him doing his hour-long show. There are in French with no translations of course. I'll dig them out for you and copy them on to DVD. Send someone over for them in about an hour. You guys may as well preview what the enemy is about to do to our show. It's war Claudia, make no mistake about that."
"I'll move to have your present retainer trebled darling. We'll probably request you to record their programs and help plan strategy for us."
"Fine but birthing must take priority."
"Of course darling. How will you keep this arrangement from Kevin?"
Renée laughed, assuming she was being recorded. "You don't have to worry darling. Kevin has already said this is probably what you guys will do if you have any sense."
"Fuck, why the hell did we let Kevin go?"
"Stupid decisions are made every day in television Claudia. Just remember my loyalty lies with my show, not Kevin's, and I would blast him off-air if I had to but actually I don't that the problem is all that big, apart from a new competitor competing for the advertising dollar. You see it's actually a brilliant set up for cooking-minded viewers. They can view our afternoon program and then at night guess what? Make sure our stupid programming jerks don't suggest our show switches to nights. I suggested to Kevin he should go for a prime time night spot purely because I wanted to protect my own show."
"Omigod, you're awesome. Wait until our chiefs listen to this recording of my conversation with you."
"Claudia you bitch. What the fuck are you doing recording this conversation without my consent? You are in breach of law in this jurisdiction," Renée shouted and cut the call.
She chuckled and stopped her own recording of that conversation.
Claudia immediately called back and apologized and Renée said she accepted the apology.
"Keep me in touch about ratings Claudia. I'm really worried about this new threat. I'll keep watching the show of course and make any suggestion I can think of to help combat slippage."
"You're a real darling Renée. Bye."
Renée assumed that conversation was also recorded. She hoped it was because it was meant to cement her loyalty in the minds of station chiefs.
Although Kevin invited Renée to the first-night screening of his new show, Cooking at 7:00, she declined saying her TV bosses would have kittens if she were caught on camera or it was reported she'd attended that launch.
"Come dresses as a spy?" he urged but she patted her big tummy and said no.
"Are your bosses in a panic of the fall in ratings of your show?"
"It's best I don't comment Kevin. Remember our promises to keep our business lives our of our private life?"
"Oh yeah. It's easy to forget isn't it?"
* * *
Kevin had lunch along with the so-called Arrogant Chef. Actually he found Dominique Deschamps to be a perfectly pleasant young man but like so many top professionals he had his pleasant side but that all changed when he focused on the job. Then he'd be demanding, even of himself, focusing on achieving perfection or as near to it as possible, and hostile if thwarted or challenged or faced with incompetence. When angered he tended to gesticulate dangerously if having a kitchen knife in his hand.
In the two weeks Dominique had been rehearsing and getting the set fitted out to his requirements he'd found one restaurant nearby that he liked and so they were seated there.
"Are you nervous about today Kevin?"
"Of course. This is like first night at the theater. The opening will greatly influence public opinion."
"You have acute understanding."
"Thanks Dominique. Such thoughts just come to me. And you, are you nervous?"
"Of course. I am perpetually nervous," he said in almost flawless English, having been educated in England at high school level. I also still remain resentful of you."
"Want to step out in the street and have it out, man to man?"
"You are two powerful for me. It would have to be with knives."
"What? You'll be prepared to face me with a knife after you've seen how I handle knives?"
"Yes providing you promise not to cut me up too much. That would upset my wife when viewing my body in the coffin."
Dominique looked astonished. "Are you serious or is this some type of American humor I'm not yet familiar with?"
"At my reasonably young age I'm committee enough to risk my life in order to advance my career as a director. I do want this show to succeed. I also point out to sometimes lie a bit."
Dominique grinned. "You have genuine humor. There is something I must tell you. I'm half-in-love with your beautiful wife."
"Yes I have been watching tapes of her show when she is the presenter, not that stupid woman fronting at the moment. Renée is a composite artiste because she looks good, speaks beautifully, is graceful and a natural in front of camera and knows enough about cooking to stroke the egos of invited chefs on her show that they perform for her like puppy dogs. So that makes me like her. I love her because I see the way she moves, how she 'speaks' with her body. She should be Italian. I love her sexiness."
"Are you finished?"
"Let's go to the kitchen and choose our knifes."
"What? I'm sorry, I did not mean to... oh I see, the Quiet American jokes."
"Yeah Dominique. Are you still pissed off at me by my choice of the first dish you are prepare?"
"Well I have got used to the idea, yes. Also Avon said..."
"Yes I have noticed your body language when around my assistant."
"She is your assistant, not your Avon."
"That's true. As you were saying?"
"I was saying Avon said to me your choice of first dish was inspired thinking but then look who was doing the thinking. I had to think about that to understand what she meant. It was as we say, a true accolade."
"We say a genuine accolade but we also say that's just her view."
"Well Jake, the head chef here. We drank wine together two nights ago and I told him of your stupid choice as an opener and he said, "Holy shit man that's brilliant. Everyone can make French Toast even if it's bad French Toast. When people from the audience are chosen to come down and taste it they will rave and say you can really cook. Then you won't have to claim to America you can cook. Get it?"
"Well you are associating with intelligent people Dominique, first Avon and now Jake."
"And I will add your name to that list maestro. Even you know I'm unlikely to stuff up on French Toast."
As decreed by Kevin, the warm-up half-hour started five minutes late and over-ran by five minutes so that as the opening credit of 'Cooking at 7:00' began being televised viewers saw the last five minutes of the warm-up as the hilarity reached it's peak, a voice-over explaining this opening was intentional, simply to established 'Cooking at 7:00' was not the usual yawn run-of-mill cook show.
"So feel this pastry," Dominique said, "This is how pastry should feel."
He scooped out bits from the bowl under his arm and pelted the studio audience with rapid-fire samples. The audience was ducking and screaming with laughter and yelled missed, and some catching the pastry threw it back at Dominique, some scoring direct hits.
He then pulled out something from his apron pocket and tossed it yelling, "It's a raw egg."
The camera caught the astonished look of an elderly man as it landed and broke over the front of his jacket and polo shirt.
"My apologies sir. Here comes our Clara with eighty bucks for you for being such a good fall guy. Thanks everyone for warming up with me. Now I'll change this dirty apron and tie a fancy polka-dot kerchief around my neck to give the impression I'm a chef and I'll be ready to go."
Some people in the audience were pointing to monitors so Dominique leaned over to look and he said, "Oh Christ, we're already on live."
He turned to a camera said in the exaggerated accent Kevin wanted used, "Good evening everyone. Whoever has embarrassed me by involving me in this farce will get my boot us their... whatever rhymes with farce. If it's a woman well she'll be groped. A Frenchman would never kick a woman."
"Right I'm Dominique Deschamps from Paris. I say Paris because if I told you where I really come from in France most of you would be non the wiser. I'm thirty but my mom insists I'm nineteen and I have bruised ears to prove how hard she insists that."
"If you think this series will be all about French cooking then think again. God have you guys tried French cooking for two months on end? Then you'll appreciate this: French cooking is boring, boring, boring. If my mother learns I've said that then I'm dead. My father is one of the great chefs in France today and he was almost killed by his father, also a great chef, when my father declared he wasn't a French Chef that he was an International Chef and that's my slogan too."
"You know what? The director assistance of this show is a really cute babe... Dominique turned to look off-camera and said, "Someone put a camera on her." The screen was filled by the surprised and beautiful face of Avon.
Looking back to the camera focused on him, Dominique said, "When I date that really cute babe Avon Browning, she'll expected me to take her to a French restaurant but no I'll probably go Italian simply because they are passionate about food and their restaurants tend to rock a bit.
[The studio audience cheered and clapped].
"I know something most of you guys know; when away from home you'll never feel lonely if you dine at an Italian restaurant."
"Right this is what we do tonight. First we discuss and make French Toast and then we do a dish that I first started helping my grandmother made before I turned three years old, Bouillabaisse. If some of you have never made it then I feel sorry for you. Now I know traditional Provencal fish stew originally, so they say, in Marseille, believe me it's an international dish. As a sophisticate you can make it lovingly with the most expensive ingredients money can buy or you can make it at the orphanage by shoveling anything in the kitchen that's been alive into a cauldron."
There was an abrupt change in Dominique's presentation.
"Diane, look at the crap over this apron. Fetch me a clean one pronto. Viewers expect me to look clean and professional. Where are you Diane? Move your ass. Cliff get that inhumane white spotlight off where I will stand to cook or put a filter over it. Why do I have to tell you people how to do your jobs. Thanks Diane, here take the dirty one and let me hug you. Mom thinks I'm a proper bastard as well. Where's the feeking warning for the seconds to go to ad break? I know I was told but I can be expected to remember everything. What the hell am I suppose to cook? Gee this chaos is reminiscence of the stuff-ups in French television. It's great to feel at home. Oh someone's screaming in my ear to talk about French Toast.
"Right your unhealthy looking Americans sitting up there. Name me a country that doesn't have its own version of French bread?
Someone called Spain.
"Yeah you are dark enough to be Spanish. There it's called torrijas and is recorded as being made in Spain as far back as the fifteen century. Come on someone, give me a tougher challenge or do you wish to sit on the fence like some of your politicians?
"Thank you ma'am. Nice attempt to catch me out. Roti telur meaning egg bread. Viewers I swear these people in out audence have not been coached. This is my arogant way to demonstrate I'm not just a pretty face in chef's clothing. Right one more."
"Oh sweetheart, you are such fun and are determined to prove just how clever I am. Give that woman fifty bucks Clara (the camera focuses on the beaming woman being given the money)."
"Well surprise, surprise. In traditional France it's called pain perdu which literally means 'lost bread' but I grant you in restaurants on tourist trails you will find it listed in the menu as French toast. The origins of French toast go back to Roman times. Here comes the ad break which is my way of demonstrating that this show is coming to you live. When I return we'll look at how to make great French Toast. Where's the men's room Diane?"
Renée reached for her phone and sent a text message to Kevin: 'Brilliant.'
The reply came back: Thanks. We've nervous, uncertain. All the chat.'
She responded emphatically: Leave him be. He's making it HIS program.
The executive producer Paul West waited impatiently along with the show's producer and Lilia Raymond, director of productions for Kevin to finish fiddling with his phone for Kevin and say something reassuring. All had expressed dismay at the 'looseness' of the production and the absence so far of any cooking. They knew there was now only thirty seconds to go before the show was on air again.
Kevin showed Paul the text message about 'leave him be'. And when Paul had read it and grumbled, "That's one opinion, a contrary opinion I would think" Kevin lifted his finger and Paul read the sender's name, Renée.
Paul went through the came routine with Lilia and when she saw the sender's name she said firmly, "Make the right decision Paul. We all know that woman is brilliant."
"Let him be," Paul said and Kevin raced off to his seat.
At the 'first night party' immediately after the show wrapped up Lilia noticed Dominique had gone already and enquired and was told he'd gone out for dinner.
"I'm afraid I don't know Mrs Raymond."
Lilia asked Kevin, "Where's your assistant?"
"She's eating Italian tonight," he grinned.
Lilia grinned and said she really like being around young people. "When they move things happen and I include you in that young man."
Kevin went home early and was surprised to find Renée's car gone. She arrived ten minutes' later and danced him around singing the same line several times, "Fucking fantastic."
When she stopped and they sat she said, "I was called to an emergency meeting at work. Everyone is in a panic and I listened and finally the executive chairman Sid Washington said it was not a time to panic. He asked me to speak. I said not only was it not time to panic the reality was there was no reason to panic. I said the formats of the shows were so distinctly different they weren't competitive, rather they were complementary. He agreed with me and that effectively shut down the stupid things people were saying. I said the only real effect on us that I could see was a possible flight of some advertisers and Sid said he'd called the advertising and promotions people to a conference in the morning.
In bed Kevin tuned into a talkback radio station and sat bolt upright.
"What is it?"
He said, "The caller is talking about "Cooking at 7:00."
They listened for forty-five minutes and he broke out of the cuddle to turn off the radio.
"God some of the ridiculous statement callers make," Renée giggled.
"Yeah some are as useless as bottled farts and are as ignorant as crap. But did you notice something about the discussion as we listened?"
"People that commented on the quality of the show said it was good entertainment. That was repeated often. In fact the plaudits were very generous."
"Yes all of that. But there was no dissenting discussion. No one said the show was a waste of viewer's time. One would have thought..."
"Just be happy that the people you heard say they liked it. Don't go looking for people prepared to bad-mouth it."
Kevin rushed in next morning with the newspaper.
"Apart from saying oh, yawn, yet another cooking show, the TV critic then says that being said, this new one is shaping up to be one of the best because it's so different."
"Oh my good boy. Give mommy a big hug and kiss."
* * *
Two weeks later Sharon Cushla Crichton was born and both mother and daughter arrived home in great shape. Kevin had continued to lie he was comfortable about the name Cushla but looking at her baby Renée suffered a drop in confidence and told herself the baby looked more like a Sharon than a Cushla. Her mom Milly agreed and said, "You often make splendid decisions darling."
Three months later Sharon was in day care with Milly, allowing Renée to return to resume ownership of her show and to win back the flagging confidence of its cornerstone advertisers. Meanwhile Kevin had received a big salary increase and fifteen regional TV stations were taking 'Cooking at 7:00' live and that number appeared likely to increase, judging by enquiries.
WWW-TV was confident enough to replace its contracts with Kevin and The Arrogant Chef with new three-year contracts.