Friday, October 7, 2011

Tough Times in Gotham

"You understand. Right, Alfred?"

"Of course, Master Bruce."

"It's the economy. I just can't afford to keep you on anymore."

"Of course, Master Bruce." Alfred lifted the immaculate silver dome from the tray he had placed in front of Bruce Wayne, releasing the savory steam of his famous venison stew, which cast a brief haze upon his thick glasses. "I am only grateful for the time I have had with you, and for the opportunity to prepare for you, one last time, your favorite meal."

"Thank you, Alfred." Bruce stirred the stew with a large silver spoon, leaning forward to blow across his hot meal. "Like I said before, with upkeep of the mansion . . . and what's under the mansion . . . and the financial situation at Wayne Enterprises, there just isn't enough money left for everything. I just wish there was more I could do. You practically raised me, after all."

"That I did, sir," said Alfred, standing behind and to the right of Bruce's Louis XIV chair, white-gloved hands clasped in front of his genitals. "It was my sole purpose in life. But, as you said, your expenses are neither as small nor as predictable as that of other billionaires."

Alan Napier as Alfred in the Batman TV series.Image via Wikipedia
I may be no Michael Caine,
but you're no George Clooney.
(Val Kilmer, maybe.)
"But you'll bounce back, Alfred. Right? You're smart and resourceful."

"Yes, sir. There are quite a number of opportunities for a seventy-two-year-old proper English butler in the job market these days."

Bruce nodded, took a loud but tentative sip of stew, and then shoveled a spoonful of venison and scallions into his mouth. "Thith ith delithuth, Alfred."

"One should not speak with one's mouth full, Master Wayne."

Bruce downed three more spoonfuls, the moist slurps and slops of mastication echoing in the cavernous dining room, before coming up for air. "Did you put something different in the stew?" he asked.

"The stew is as it should be, Master Bruce."

"Huh." He sucked up another spoonful. "That's weird. It tastes . . . different . . . somehow." He took another thoughtful spoonful. "Regardless, it's delicious."

"Thank you, sir."

"I trust," said Bruce after another few mouthfuls, "that certain . . . information . . . about my usual evening activities will be kept, uh—"

"Of course, sir. You secrets shan't leave this room, sir."

"I knew I could count on you, Alfred." Another spoonful sloshed into his mouth, more than half the stew gone. "We wouldn't want my work — my real work — to come undone now, would we?"

"Of course not, Master Wayne. But while we're on that subject, there is something I've always wondered about. Might I be so bold as to inquire, considering this might be my last chance to do so?"

"Ask away, Alfred," said Bruce. "Whatever you want to know. It's the least I could do."

"Quite right, sir. What I wanted to know, Master Wayne, is whether, during all your experiences with the underworld, you ever learned . . . what cyanide tastes like."

"That's a strange question, Alfred." Bruce thought about it, then shook his head. "No. I can't say I've ever tasted cyanide."

"I beg to differ, sir," said Alfred, bowing slightly. "As a matter of fact, you have tasted cyanide, you selfish, ungrateful, out-of-touch little trust-fund baby!"

So, readers, tell me the truth: Was the ending too obvious? Did you get there before I did?
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