The restaurant was located near the river. Out-front Tim, the owner and chef, planted a flower garden with several evergreens to give the restaurant a look of hominess. In the middle of the parking area was a willow tree big enough to cover all parked cars from the direct rays of the sun—all two cars, one belonging to Tim, the other to his cousin Marge. The dated outdoor seating reeked of river water. It was said that the river drew its malodour from the many bodies that were dumped into it by the local mobster who owned half the restaurants in the area. Anyone wanting to visit Isla Luna Restaurant had to endure the foul odor.
“Today’s special will be cordon bleu. So I will need you to bring me several chickens,” said Tim while sweeping the front of the restaurant.
“Sure, but do you have any reservations? I would hate to kill any of my chickens then see them trashed because no one comes—again,” answered Marge, holding her mask closer to block the rancid smell of the river.
Marge owned a free range farm from where Tim bought all of his products. The farm was nowhere near the river. It housed hundreds of chickens as well as cows and horses. Aside from the animals Marge also had several green houses, one of which was solely for Tim—for free. Marge knew that Tim wasn’t anywhere near able to pay for any produce nor the meat he requested, so Marge gave him a section of her farm where he could grow his ingredients. Tim would go over on the weekends to get all the fresh produce straight from the farm which he felt gave the food a more naturalistic flavoring.
By day Tim was a computer analyst, and by night he ran Isla Luna, a restaurant that had passed from generation to generation in the Brooks family. Now, it was Tim Brooks who grabbed the reins of a slowly dying restaurant in the hopes of just barely getting by.
“Why don’t we, anonymously, give the cops a tip on the other restaurant's menu?” said Marge in a hushed voice.
Tim swept up dead birds that were laying near the willow tree as Marge spoke. Some birds would drink water from the river then fly over to the restaurant and die. It was a daily occurrence.
“You know the history of this river. Their menu has to stay between the chefs. If it gets out, the snitch will die,” answered Tim in a whisper while looking right into his cousin's blue eyes filled with concern.
On lucky days when the wind would blow east, the restaurant was a delight; but it only happened once in a blue moon. Summers were the worst, as the sun intensified the river’s putrid smell to offensive proportions.
Inside the restaurant was a different story. Tim had installed exhaust fans throughout, especially at every entrance. Upon entering the foyer you were greeted with an assortment of bromeliads in all sizes and colors. There was a mural of a waterfall in a forest, and if one looked closely you could spot wildlife scattered about the drawing. Overhead you could hear sounds of nature, along with the sound of a waterfall, bringing the mural to life. The second set of doors lead to the hostess desk where, once greeted, you were escorted to the table of your choice. The few that would come always wanted to be seated next to the large windows that overlooked the river. Rumors were that once in a while you could see a body floating along the banks. Tim had never seen one himself, but then again he wasn’t on the lookout.
“I don’t understand! It’s just not fair. Can’t anyone notice their choice of meat?” replied Marge holding the trash bag as Tim filled it with the latest dead birds.
“I really don’t know because I haven’t gone to any of their restaurants. It’s just disgusting,” said Tim while scraping off some flesh that the dead bird left on the pavement.
A Hummer entered the parking lot as Tim and Marge continued cleaning. It was the mobsters lackey named Bullet. He drove his Hummer over to where Tim and Marge were and rolled down his window. Tim knew that it wasn’t for anything bad because he always kept his mouth shut about everything.
Bullet sat in his black Hummer dressed in a black suit with dark sunglasses. He leaned over to his window and said, “My uncle got word that today a food critic will be visiting your restaurant. It behooves you to keep silent.” He drove away without a reply, but not before lowering his sunglasses and winking at Marge. Nervously, Marge looked at Tim, but he was preoccupied with the broom that had fallen from his grip.
“That jerk! Why does he feel a need to intimidate everyone?” said Marge as her heart beat almost out her chest. She hoped that Tim hadn’t seen that.
“Shh, it’s ok. Good thing is that I didn’t know that a critic was coming, but now I do so I can prepare.”
Tim quickly finished his cleaning and went inside. Marge went over to the dumpster around the back and disposed of the trash bag. She then went inside to let Tim know that she’d be leaving to get his chicken ready.
As Tim cooked he recalled the many times he had been cooking with his father and mother in the kitchen of Isla Luna. “Never compromise your cooking to satisfy others,” his father would often say. His father was the one who broke the news to Tim. It was devastating. How could it be? But then again it was true. Lower Merion County had no homeless, nor orphanages, and the hospitals were void of mentally ill patients. Nonetheless, Tim continued cooking and was ready by the time the food critic arrived. Marge had delivered her finest meat and was in the kitchen helping to serve the food.
“What a stench! I can’t believe that this restaurant has a license to serve food in this area” said the food critic to Marge once he entered and sat near the windows.
“Yeah, this restaurant has been here way before the stench started,” answered Marge trying not to give away the reason for the stench.
She gave him the menu and he quickly ordered the day's special. Tim anxiously prepared the meal and went out to serve it.
“Sit and tell me your ingredients.”
Tim sat and gave him a detailed explanation as the critic tasted the food. Once Tim was done the critic said, “I just went to five other restaurants this week and none of them taste like this and they all served me chicken cordon bleu. What’s so different?”
“It all depends on the chef and how they set up cook time,” Tim continued with his rant avoiding the obvious. The critic waved him off.
“But your restaurant is empty, and theirs are filled to capacity.”
“It’s just because of the stench from the river.”
“Don’t give me that. That river doesn’t stink as much as your cooking. What’s killing your business isn’t the foul odor from the river, it’s your menu. Your food isn’t to par with the other restaurants in the area. Their meat is exquisite, their drinks are superb. You should look into getting your meats and drinks from their same supplier, then maybe your ratings will rise, but until then you will remain with the lowest rating in the area.”