An account by Theodore Miro, as provided by Zach Bartlett
Art by Leigh Legler
I understand that TV audiences want to see a little more showmanship than I’m used to providing on the line back at Lilette, but this is ridiculous. They trucked in a six-foot tall burlap sack with “HOUSE FEED” painted on the side, and we had to spend two hours getting shots of me and some crew pouring it out onto a giant plate. They kept having to refill the bag between takes, and I had nothing to do but sit around in the freezing-ass Russian afternoon. The only wifi reception out here is a 1980-looking suitcase laptop with one of those inch-thick rubber antennas. I think all it does is let Chaz keep in touch with the producers through some kinda HAM radio satellite or whatever. No apps or anything. I’d tried making small talk with him in between takes, but I think the only thing he’s ever actually read is liner notes from Smash Mouth albums. Album, singular? I don’t even know. He sure would though.
All I want to do is go with Benny [Dr. Benjamin Havener, the show’s cryptozoology consultant. -ed.] and trap the damn hut so I can figure out if it’s even going to have some edible meat on or in it. He already let it slip that my first round is going to be against a guy who’s serving Sasquatch. The longest pork! I’m going to have to do a lot more than toss those legs in Buffalo sauce if I want to advance to the next bracket. But can I just plate it and be done? No, I’m contractually obligated to cheese it up with a bag of fake house feed and have tedious interviews with Chaz where he keeps trying to work a handful of sponsors into the conversation.
Benny, at the very least, is as frustrated with the reality TV junk as I am. Dude is all business, and his business is hunting down things most people don’t think exist for a few people who have more money than most people. During breaks, he hangs with the crew and tells us stories about tracking Mothmen who were messing with fracking sites in Virginia, or throwing back Loch Ness Monster fry that weren’t regulation size. One guy during dinner asked him if he’d ever hunted vampires, and Benny started laughing. Like, a chest-heaving face-turning-red giggle fit at the idea that someone would ask him that. The guy felt embarrassed and went back to his trailer after like thirty seconds of it, and Benny recovered maybe another ten seconds after that. He apologized and just picked up in the story he was telling before. I didn’t realize until we’d all turned in for the night that he never actually answered the guy’s question.
I’m drinking tonight from a bottle of … something wet. All the words on the label have those make-believe letters with dots and little arrows on top of them. Any grappa in a storm!
Chaz can quit calling me “my man,” or I’m gonna keep flubbing lines and making him restart scenes until he does. We only have like six hours of sunlight a day up here. Hostbro gotta learn, this teddy bear’s got the subtle claws.
Today, they shot footage of me and Benny walking through a sporting goods store looking at hunting equipment and making exaggerated frowny faces, then they had him take a compound bow up to the counter and ask the clerk if they had “anything bigger” while I held my arms out wide. The clerk refused to let the cameraman get reaction shots of him making a corny surprised face, and apparently the crew hadn’t actually gotten written permission to film in the store, because a guy who I swear to God was the model for the Heavy in TF2 came out of a back room and started shouting at us. I don’t speak Russian, but I knew to beat feet because the body language for my-foot-comma-your-ass is universal. Benny said the guy might even have had some ‘squatch in him.
There are two days left until the hunt, and I still haven’t figured out what to do with the hut’s legs. I could easily scale up my usual fried chicken recipe and maybe brine ’em in an inground pool, but there’s no way frying in oil would cook through something that size before the outside was completely burned. I could cut them up and make hundreds of tenders out of them if that’s how it needs to go, but damn, that will hurt the professional pride.
I did not even know orphans were a thing you could just go out and get, but I guess when you’re raking in that streaming TV money, it opens up a lot of doors. Orphanage doors.
Somebody in a suit showed earlier up looking for Chaz with a five-year-old kid handcuffed to one arm and a briefcase to the other. He had Chaz sign some paperwork then uncuffed the kid and left. Even for Russia’s reputation, it seemed shady as all hell, and I say that as a guy who’s worked back-of-house at an Emeril restaurant. Benny didn’t know any details about how they … leased? … the kid, but said that he wouldn’t let him come to harm under any circumstances. They just needed him for bait. Apparently the Baba Yaga can tell if a kid is an actual orphan, so they couldn’t have hired an actor.
We also got one of those giant back-hoe cranes delivered, which four-year-old Teddy would have thought was awesome, but it seems pretty tame in comparison to some of the stuff that’s gone down in the last week.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2018 collection.
Theodore “Teddy” Miro is a chef, dancer, and poet. He’s worked the line at Lilette, Quenelle’s, Emeril’s Delmonico, and has strutted the length of the Big Easy several times over with his marching krewe. His first chapbook Wisdom from the Marrow is forthcoming from Next Left Press. He is legally barred from discussing any time he may or may not have spent in Russia, but he doesn’t usually drink with lawyers.
Zach Bartlett is an editor and former Masshole living in New Orleans. His fiction has appeared in Gallery of Curiosities, The J.J. Outre Review, and Mad Scientist Journal, and is performed regularly at the local reading series Esoterotica. A collection of his comedic stage work, Northern Dandy, was published in 2016. You can find more of him online at http://zachbistall.wordpress.com.
Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.
“Excerpts from the Diary of Theodore Miro, Competitor on CryptoChefs Season 2” is Copyright 2017 Zach Bartlett
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Leigh Legler