Thursday, April 4, 2024

“gastronomic” • by Richard J. Dowling


Location: In the Perseus Arm, on the far side of the Galactic Center from Earth

Cuisine: Cosmic fusion

Currently: open 


Mr Birdwhistle wrote:-

An Astronomical Mistake

I’d booked a table at gastronomic for my son’s 200th birthday. My intention was to have a nice, family meal with a view of the Xixian supernova. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

First of all: parking. There wasn’t any. Space-dock was full and we had to leave our gold Vauxhall tethered outside while we space-walked into the restaurant complex. (Btw, when we got back, there were scratches all over the hull—thanks for looking after my ride, you muppets.)

Upon arrival, some walking toaster had the audacity to tell us we’d missed our reservation, and completely ignored our protests about lack of parking. We were stuffed in a dark corner with no views of anything except the table next to ours, which was filled with Erysichthons. Now, I’m no xenophobe, but these nutters eat their own children, and I don’t see why I have to pay good money to be sat next to a party of cannibals. 

To make matters worse, there was no neurolink; the only way to view the menu was on chuffing paper, and to order our nosh we had to catch the attention of Metal Mickey the waiter! Talk about medieval. This is the 25th Century, you knobheads. Catch up!

Finally, the food came and—wouldn’t you know it?—there was a mix-up. My poor wife was served the head of an Erysichthon infant. She almost fainted on the spot. Unbelievably, the table next door got huffy when we complained. Well, cannibalism is not normal, Erysichthons, and I’ll speak my mind anywhere I please in the chuffing universe.

Eventually we were able to eat. Or try to. The portions were microscopic. My son had the space-fish-and-chips, and as soon as he looked at it the plate was clean. Meanwhile, the space-toad-in-the-hole I ordered was so minuscule I searched for half an hour and all I could locate was a measly crumb. When I complained to the toaster, it said something about fine-dining. Fine-dining? Ha! Find-your-dining, more like. Still, credit where it’s due, the booze was all right. No Stella Artois on tap though, which goes to show the kind of place this is.

After all our suffering you’d think we’d get a discount, but no—the bill was enough to buy a hyperspace chalet.

All in all, my son’s birthday was ruined. Children grow up so fast these days that moments like this are irreplaceable. How sad we’ll never get the opportunity to make it up to him.

Spoiler alert: we won’t be coming back.

Mr TC Birdwhistle

gastronomic replied:-

Dear Mr Birdwhistle,

On behalf of staff and management at gastronomic, I would like to say how relieved we were to hear you won’t return. You and your family were, without doubt, the most obnoxious, rude and ungrateful customers it has ever been our misfortune to serve.

You claim our space-dock was full. Untrue. The fact is that when you neared our space-station, your piloting was so unsteady we sought permission from Galaxy Police for a full scan. Your blood showed a shockingly high level of alcohol. In short, Mr Birdwhistle, we refused you entry to space-dock because you were dangerously drunk.

(What’s more, your badly-tethered ship scraped our hull, leaving behind gold-coloured paint. The really, really cheap stuff. Our lawyers will be in touch regarding damages.)

Despite this, our manager allowed you in through the air-lock and, even though you had arrived a full day late for your reservation, decided to seat you at the best table available.

Your prejudice against robot staff like myself is, of course, no surprise given your behaviour. Jokes about toasters are in bad taste and have been for over four centuries. Our policy is that all beings, artificial or otherwise, are deserving of respect. Which makes your treatment of your fellow diners all the more reprehensible.

The elements of the Erysichthon Conflation at the adjoining table put up with your repeated insults, yet chose not to make a complaint. It was only thanks to the Conflation’s good grace, deservedly well-known around the galaxy, that you were not ejected from our establishment.

As to portion sizes, we prefer to concentrate on quality rather than quantity, Mr Birdwhistle, which is why, needless, to say, you and your family are banned permanently from our premises. 

Maitre’D: 2 R2

Mr Birdwhistle replied:-

Keep on feeding alien cannibals, bucket-head. I prefer places that only serve humans.

The Erysichthon Conflation replied:-

I take deep exception to Mr Birdwhistle’s words. His brand of petty, small-minded xenophobia is all-too common among Earthers.

The Erysichthon Conflation is a single, living organism connected through space-time by quantum entanglement. What he terms cannibalism is more accurately described as autophagy—biting one’s nails, for example. Or picking your nose and eating it, as Mr Birdwhistle did repeatedly during his “fine-dining” experience.

I ignored his behaviour at the time out of respect for his family and because I realised he was intoxicated. But now his comments are writ large for the galaxy to read, I urge Mr Birdwhistle to apologise.

Mr Birdwhistle replied:-

Or what?

The Erysichthon Conflation replied:-

Or we shall declare war on you, your family, your home world and every colony Earth has ever created among the stars.

Mr Birdwhistle replied:-

Oh yeah? You and whose army?

The Erysichthon Conflation replied:-

The same army that, composed of countless elements of myself, is at this moment invading every last hub of human civilisation. We shall wipe the universe clean of Earthers.

Mr Birdwhistle replied:-

Eh? That’s not fair! You can’t do that!

The Erysichthon Conflation replied:-

Already, my vanguard has overrun Earth’s paltry defence network.

gastronomic replied:-

We salute the Erysichthon Conflation and its noble cause. When it comes to catering, we would be happy to offer our services to your unstoppable army.

The Erysichthon Conflation replied:-

Your offer is much appreciated, but soon I shall feast around the cosmos on human flesh.

gastronomic replied:-

Bon appétit!



Richard J. Dowling grew up in Primrose Hill, England, but now lives in Northern Spain. He loves writing and hopes his fiction will raise a smile among life-forms across the universe. You can find his debut novel How to Sell the Stars at all good online retailers. 

If you enjoyed this story, you might want to check out his stories “Off the Hook” or “Dragonomics” on the old SHOWCASE web site, or watch for his next story, “Connection Hell,” coming soon to this site.   





Emerald Marcillon lives with her archaeologist parents at a dig site on the Yucatan Peninsula. She has trouble handling social situations and connecting with her peers, so she’s an expert watcher.

Her parents are convinced they have found artifacts from an alien war that spilled over onto Earth ages ago. What they don’t suspect is that Inamma, an alien AI that survived the war, lies hidden in the jungle. Now that the artifacts have been found, Inamma has awakened, and it’s hunting for the artifacts. With them, it can build a weapon that will end the ancient war once and for all—and with it, end the existence of humanity. 

Emerald’s only hope is to escape on the Solar Explorer, a hollowed-out asteroid turned spaceship that will spend the next twelve years exploring the solar system. Can Emerald protect the artifacts, and stop Inamma from completing its deadly weapon? Can she make friends and find allies? Can she convince people that Inamma is real, and not just a crazy story made up by a frightened girl?

EMERALD OF EARTH: just released in paperback, Kindle, and audio book. Also available on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple Books, and wherever else e-books are sold.


Mr. Naron said...

Instant classic!

Richie said...

That's very kind of you to say, Mr Naron. I really appreciate it.

Dali said...

Delicious read. Keep it up!

Richie said...

Dali--Many thanks! Much appreciated!