By Kerry Clark
Madame Dzerzhinsky gave a last blast with the brulee torch and closely examined the golden sugar confection. Only a Dzerzhinski could make something so perfect. Fit for the Tsar himself, God rest him. She sketched a benediction over the creme caramel. The five-foot Russian matriarch straightened with a series of cracks and grunts, her gimlet eye raking the modern-day kitchen. A gangly youth froze in place over a platter of exotic fruits, a paring knife against his red-scored thumb. The lowly kitchen hands trembled. The commis focused intently on placing a last tiny club sandwich on a three-tiered plate because making eye-contact felt like a one-way ticket to a salt mine.
“Right,” rasped Madame, her starched white hat incongruous above the wrinkled parchment-coloured face and saggy arms. “Get this mess cleaned up.”
The kitchen staff scrabbled for their tobacco pouches before the door swung back into place behind her.
“Jeez! I wonder what she’ll do today,” said the exotic fruits hand as he rolled a cigarette.
The commis released a deep lungful of smoke. “Not ‘what!’ Who.” They both laughed.
Madame Dzerzhinsky clumped across the road and up the steps of The Dostoyevsky where three bumpers of vodka and the huge Russian barman waited. Putting down the brulee torch she absentmindedly still carried, she hitched herself onto a bar stool and downed one of the glasses of vodka before greeting Ivan. Ten minutes, three vodkas, and one cigarette later, she carefully navigated the steps down to the street. A green feather had been unaccountably added to her white hat, which leaned rakishly over one eye. Her public awaited her.
A hazard of Harley Davidsons was clustered around the bottom of the steps and they thought their day was made. Show us your tits, Grandma being the most intelligent comment amid the jeers and shrieks of laughter was also the one that got her goat.
She looked the biker up and down, tattered jeans stretched across beefy thighs, a face lumpy and pale like unproven dough—even to the little currant eyes.
“Ooh, you brought your hair dryer. You growing a beard, Grandma?” He looked proudly round at his mates as they laughed sycophantically with him.
“Good one, Baz!”
Madame Dzerzhinsky clamped her lips into a thin, steel line and raised the brulee torch. No manners! No respect for Mother Russia. Searing blue flames stabbed close to Baz’s leather jacket.
Scrambling to get away, he fell off the bike with a ‘whump!’ Faster than he could say, “What the f—” the torch swept across the glittery black and chrome of the Harley’s gas tank. Bikers fumbled to kick their bikes into life and get away from the minuscule mad woman, but the one on the ground just gaped in dizzy disbelief as his hog exploded into a rain of twisted metal confetti.
With a sharp, satisfied nod, she continued across the street to where her minions were already opening the doors of The Royal Russian.