Keith watched the barbecue happily, prodding the coals gently. His new neighbors were just coming through the gate. Perfect timing. After serving the couple drinks, he carefully placed the first steak on the grill.
"How do you like yours done?" he asked cheerfully.
"Done?" asked Theodosis.
Keith knew they were foreigners, but hadn't realized just how very foreign they were because their English was so good—just the faintest hint of an accent he couldn't identify. Still, they couldn't be expected to know everything.
"Yes, I mean the steaks. 'Well done' means cooked all the way through, 'medium' is a little pink in the middle, and 'rare' is practically raw. Or you can have it anything in between. Just tell me what you want and I'll do my best." He grinned, his hand poised over the grill ready to drop the next steak.
The couple looked at each other, nodding, and Theodosis said in his precise voice, "Just rare, thank you. It is interesting, this barbecue, to cook outdoors on a fire instead of in the remarkable American kitchen on the new appliances."
"Real American-style cooking..." Keith broke off to swat at a mosquito that had been tentatively dive-bombing his left ear for the past few minutes and had finally decided to come in for a landing. He missed, but almost poked himself in the eye with the barbecue fork. "Damn bloodsuckers!" he shouted.
Theodosis and Vorna looked shocked. Better watch my language, Keith thought uncomfortably. "Pardon my French," he apologized, "but those mosquitos really bother me. I hate them."
"Oh, I see," Vorna said. "It is the little buzzing insects—do they bite? They do not do us any harm." She glanced slyly at her husband, who smiled a tight little smile.
"No," he agreed with her. "Us they do not bite. Perhaps they, too, prefer good American food." He smiled again, stiffly.
Keith laughed and poured his special home-made barbecue sauce over the steaks. It was made from his grandfather's recipe with plenty of peppers and garlic in with the tomatoes, wine, and other, more unusual gourmet ingredients. The coals sizzled as the sauce spilled over on them, sending up clouds of aromatic smoke. "That'll drive off those blood-sucking vampires," he observed with satisfaction.
Both of his guests turned pale as the smoke expanded to where they stood. They turned and ran for the gate, Vorna awkward in her spike heels. Theodosis out-distanced her easily and reached their door first.
Keith looked after them, a small smile hidden under his moustache. He spoke to the little dog chewing on his trouser leg. "Well, Fifi—since there is going to be extra, let's see what this sauce does to you."
Unfortunately, the subtle effects of the sauce merely caused her stomach to rumble all night, keeping Keith awake to notice the sounds of the couple next door packing. About four in the morning he heard their house door and car doors slam in rapid succession. The BMW roared away, peeling rubber. Keith turned over and went to sleep, dreaming peacefully of bats in the moonlight.
© Copyright 2000 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.