Battle Shrimp!

 

By Giampaolo Bianchi

 

giampi@earthling.net

 

 

 

I originally came up with the idea for this story after staying up late at night and watching the Food Network with my best friend. I just couldnít believe the type of things I would see on this network were real. Ever since then I started working on Battle Shrimp! (originally titled Walnut Shavingsóyouíll see why later on). I tried to keep the general order of the show intact, although I had to alter it slightly for storyline purposes. Still, Iím confident youíll get a chuckle out of this.

 

Oh! One last thing: the legal mumbo-jumbo. All characters are copyright their respective owners. This story and its plot are copyright me. Iím not making any money off of this story, and I worked super-hard on it, so please donít rip it off.

 

Okay...now that thatís out of the way...enjoy Battle Shrimp!

 

*****

 

 

It was only a few minutes until show time and MC Takeshi Kaga cast a scrutinizing glance at the sleeve of his purple-sequined suit and singled out a tiny speck of lint, plucking it with his thumb and forefinger and casting it aside with a look of disgust. He had to look absolutely perfect for today, and even something as minuscule as a piece of lint could potentially ruin the entire night. He straitened the wrinkles out of his pink shirt and looked himself over one last time, from his 5-inch azure platforms to his neatly dyed, blonde hair, before taking a few steps forward and positioning himself on the center of the stage.

 

Kaga couldnít help but sigh in satisfaction as he looked out at the audience. He could hear the noise from their constant chatter fill his ears, and he felt truly happy. Just to be one the safe side, he scanned the stage he was on one last time: to his right was a lush, elaborate, yet slightly cramped kitchen station, which was presently deserted. Behind Kaga and to his right was a raised row of seats, populated by a bunch of people Kaga could only assume were guests. The exact same setup was placed on the opposite side, to Kagaís left. Further off was a small, elegant table, where three people sat, conversing casually with each other. Finally, there was the small table directly in front of Kaga. The small, circular table was draped with a simple white tablecloth and a large, silver platter was placed on top. The platter had a large, round lid on it so as to conceal its contents.

 

One of the stage assistants in front of Kaga called to him from a spot near the audience and waved, causing Kaga to break out of his nirvana-like trance and shift his narrow eyes over to the audience. The stage assistant raised his right arm and held his palm open, then began closing his fingers one by one as he mouthed a countdown. "Five, four, three..."

 

Suddenly the lights high above Kaga flared and bathed him and the stage in a kaleidoscopic array of color. Three or more television cameras immediately turned their lenses to focus on him, while a fourth shifted over to a small table near the audience. There were two men there: the first was an older man, with thinning grey hair and liver spots on his wrinkled hands; the second was much younger, wore glasses, and sported a black bow tie to match his grey suit.

 

Kaga smiled and spread his arms out, as if trying to imitate the style of another, similarly dressed TV personality from the past. "Hello, and good evening." He said, his voice booming over the loudspeakers thanks to a small microphone pinned to his pink flannel shirt. "Tonight is a very special night for us...for tonight is our 2000th episode!" as he finished that last phrase he raised his arms and tilted his head back, allowing the audience to clap and cheer in response. He then lowered his arms and clasped his arms together. "But that isnít all," he continued, his tone a little lower than before, "because tonight is also Chef Masaharu Morimotoís birthday!" In response, one of the three men sitting behind Kaga stood and took a bow, evoking an appropriate applause. Kaga smiled and tilted his head. "Now, without further ado, let us get started." He turned to the gentleman with the bow tie in the back and extended his hand to him. "Mr. Fukui?" he called.

 

"Good evening, and welcome to another episode of Iron Chef!" said the latter into a microphone. "My name is Kenji Fukui, and I will be your commentator for tonight. With me tonight is the director of the Hattori Nutrition College, Yukio Hattori, as well as our sidelines reported, Shinichiro Ota." The older gentleman beside Fukui bowed his head in recognition, while Ota, a man dressed in an elegant tuxedo, waved from his position beside one of the cameras. Fukui nodded his head and looked back at Kaga, who had now stepped up to the central table with the platter on it. "What is the mystery ingredient for today, MC Kaga?"

 

Kaga reached over to the platter with a thoroughly manicured hand and raised the lid daintily, revealing its contents. Kaga glanced briefly at it and then placed the lid to one side, opening his arms again and flashing his brilliantly white teeth. "Tonightís theme is shrimp!" he announced grandiloquently, reaching over to his lavender cape and grabbing it as he twirled, causing it to billow impressively. Kaga strolled over to the three men behind him, and then extended his hand to Iron Chef Morimoto. "Tonight, in honor of his birthday, Iron Chef Morimoto will compete with our challenger!"

 

As Morimoto stood and took his place at one of the kitchen stations, Fukui took the microphone and began speaking. "Iron Chef Morimoto is known as the ĎSilver Iron Chefí. He spent most of his career in the United States, and as such infuses his Japanese-style cooking with American techniques." Morimoto finished positioning himself in his station and was now talking with his two assistants, who were nodding in agreement.

 

Kaga walked back to the center of the stage and once again took the pose of an old TV personality, mimicking him almost perfectly. "And now...the challenger!"

 

The crowd silenced, eagerly anticipating the entry of the man who would challenge Morimoto on his birthday. Kaga held his breath, his arms still raised and his head lowered. Fukui, Ota, and Hattori also tensed up.

 

Kaga, his head still lowered, called out to Fukui. "Where...is the challenger?" he asked. Fukui shrugged. "Iím...not sure." He replied. "Perhaps his assistants know?"

 

Kaga turned to the two young men in the challengerís kitchen station and walked over to them. "Where is the challenger?" he asked. The two young men gave each other a look of concern and then looked at Kaga askance. "We donít know." They said in unison.

 

Kaga lowered his head and furrowed his perfectly-trimmed eyebrows in confusion. This was certainly confusing. Out of all the years he had spent hosting the show, this was definitely the first time something as strange as this had happened. The crowd began to murmur as Fukui covered his microphone and conferred with Hattori as to what could have happened. Kaga shook his head and returned to his place at center stage. "Well," he began, "it seems we..."

 

Just then something very unusual caught Kagaís eye. His eyebrows furrowed once again and his cape swished as he walked back to the challengerís kitchen station, for there, on top of the counter, was the largest potted sunflower Kaga had ever seen.

 

Kaga approached the giant flower with a certain degree of caution. It had, amazingly, managed to escape his notice until this point, and its presence on stage was slightly unnerving. Kaga reached out to touch the clay pot warily, while he muttered several words of astonishment to himself.

 

As soon as his fingertips caressed the surface of the pot, Kaga heard a loud explosion and was thrown back a few feet, landing forcefully on a large collection of pots and pans. The two cooking assistants rushed over and helped him to his feet, brushing off a fine layer of white dust that had gathered on his suit as a result of the explosion. After assuring the two young men that he was fine, Kaga veered his head over to the potted sunflower and found that it was no more. In its place stood a tall man in a red shirt and brown slacks, with a white cape draped on his back and a white chefís hat on his head. The man sported a bushy brown beard and had an extremely serious look on his face. He grabbed his cape and waved it in a grandiose arc as a loud fanfare played out of what appeared to be a music box in his pocket.

 

"I am the mysterious Wonder Chef!" said the man, hopping down from the counter and swishing his cape. Kagaís eyes widened and his jaw dropped in surprise. He walked up to the ĎWonder Chefí and gave him an odd sort of look; this man was the most bizarre thing Kaga had ever seen. "You are...the challenger?" he asked incredulously. The Wonder Chef nodded and swished his cape to the side again. "Indeed. I am here to challenge you." He reached out with a firm, callous hand and pointed at Morimoto, who was staring at the entire scene in utter disbelief.

 

Kaga took a few steps back and almost tripped on his cape. "Well, then..." he said, his voice cracking slightly. "Mr. Fukui, what can you tell us about the challenger?" Fukui shook his head and took of his glasses, wiping them on a handkerchief. "Nothing, Iím afraid." He said.

 

Kaga finished regaining his position on center stage and looked at Fukui, befuddled. "Nothing?" he asked. Fukui nodded. "Nothing. Our producers were unable to find any information on him, except for the fact that heís well known in the city of..." Fukui lowered his eyes to a sheet of paper in front of him and replaced his glasses, reading from the paper. "...Chambard."

 

Kaga looked to the Wonder Chef out of the corner of his eye and saw him posing dramatically, while his assistants muttered amongst themselves. No matter...things would have to go as they were. Kaga regained his eccentric demeanor and spread his hands once more, the light reflecting off his teeth. "Well, then, letís get started, shall we?" he said. "Begin! You have one hour!"

 

Iron Chef Morimoto sprang into action, grabbing several utensils off the nearby shelf and barking orders at his assistants, who ran back and forth quickly. Morimotoís side of the arena was functioning like a well-oiled machine. In the meantime, Wonder Chef was turning to his assistants. He pointed to an invisible spot on the horizon and breathed deep. "Get me...the Eggbear meat!" he commanded.

 

The two young men frowned in confusion. "Eggbear, sir?" asked one of them. The Wonder Chef nodded, his gaze still stone-like and his finger still pointing to the horizon. "Of course." He said. "Eggbear. Hop to it, we donít have all day."

 

One of the young men lowered his head and scratched his chin. "Iíve heard of beef, and pork, but...Eggbear?"

 

Wonder Chef lowered his hand. "Are you telling me you donít have any Eggbear meat?"

 

The two young men just stared at him in response. "Besides, todayís theme is shrimp, not meat." chirped one of the two.

 

"Shrimp?" Wonder Chef said, his voice raising an octave or two. His assistants nodded. "Yes. Shrimp." Wonder Chef ran his hand through his beard and nodded. "I see." He mused. "Now, I shall need some of this...beef of which you speak." He saw the confused expression on his assistantsí faces and rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, and some shrimp." He added, annoyed.

 

The two young men nodded, their drone-like minds satisfied, and set off to their tasks. In the meantime Wonder Chef grabbed a carrot from the freezer and placed it on the chopping board. He opened his cape and grabbed a very large knife from the inside fold, raising it high above his head. Then, with a belligerent war cry he brought the knife down onto the innocent vegetable and began chopping it into tiny pieces as fast as he could, making a loud clicking noise with his tongue, akin to machine gun fire, as he did so. One of the pieces of carrot was thrown upwards by the force of Wonder Chefís knife and landed right in Morimotoís pot, which was being used to broil a shrimp casserole. Morimoto turned and sneered at his opponent, but said nothing.

 

"The challenger Wonder Chef seems to be off to a bad start." said Fukui into his microphone as he adjusted his glasses. "First he called for ĎEggbear meatí, but seeing as how there wasnít any he is now forced to use beef. Meanwhile, Iron Chef Morimoto is already finishing with his first dish and is now adding some walnut shavings as decoration." Fukui leaned back in his chair and turned to his companion. "What do you make of this, Mr. Hattori?" he asked. Hattori shook his head. "Well, as always Iron Chef Morimoto is performing spectacularly, as he is now making a traditional Japanese shrimp Okonomiyaki, infusing it with a hint of wine for flavor. Wonder Chef, however..." Hattori ran his hands over his shiny, bald head. "He doesnít seem to be using any technique Iíve ever seen. I canít say whether he is a chef or a lunatic." Fukui nodded. "I see. Interesting."

 

"Mr. Fukui? I have an update." Fukui heard Otaís voice through the microphone in his ear and nodded vigorously. "What is it, Mr. Ota?"

 

"Well, Iron Chef Morimoto has in his pot what appears to be a variation of the typical Japanese Miso soup, with parsley, tofu, and walnut shavings for flavor." Ota rattled off that commentary so fast that Fukui was barely able to understand it all. "Great." Said Fukui, satisfied. "What about the challenger, Wonder Chef?"

 

Fukui heard nothing as Ota turned and spoke to one of the cameramen. After a moment Ota was back and Fukui heard his voice again. "We donít know."

 

Fukui raised an eyebrow. "You...donít know?"

 

"Thatís right. Apparently, Wonder Chef is just throwing random ingredients into a pot. He also has a bowl and a pan, into which he is also throwing random ingredients."

 

Fukui shifted his gaze over to the Wonder Chefís station and noticed that he was indeed throwing random ingredients into his pot. Occasionally he would do so while covering his face with his cape, or shouting cries of, "Ha!" and, "Ho!" Sometimes he would stop completely to pose dramatically, his face still wearing the same stony countenance.

 

Fukui paused to rub his temple with his fingers and shake his head. "Why donít you interview the challengerís guests, Mr. Ota?" said he, exhausted. When Ota agreed Fukui leaned back in his chair and turned to Hattori, his hand covering his microphone. "I think Iím going to need a drink after this." He said.

 

Ota straitened his tuxedo and strolled over to the challengerís guest box. The first person he reached was a man with fiery red hair and a purple shirt, with a wooden choker around his neck. He had his arms behind his head and wasnít really paying attention to the events unfolding before him. Ota cleared his throat and turned to the camera following him. "Mr. Fukui, I am here with the challenger Wonder Chefís guests. How do you feel about the way the challenger is competing, Mr....?"

 

The young man looked at Ota briefly, sizing him up before closing his eyes. "Hershel." He said nonchalantly.

 

Ota sighed. "Mr. Hershel, who do you think will win tonightís match?"

 

The young man managed to shrug and shake his head. "It doesnít really matter to me. Iím just looking forward to the food." He immediately gave a yelp of pain as the young lady beside him elbowed him in the gut. She wore a fluffy orange dress and her hair was dark green. Hershel nearly fell off his chair and barely managed to straiten himself up. "Farah! That hurt!" he complained. The girl scoffed at him briefly before turning to smile at Ota and placing her hands on her lap.

 

"What he means is that he hopes both contestants will do their best. Right?" Her red-haired companion said nothing until she apparently stomped on his toe and provoked another howl of pain.

 

"Right, right, whatever...ow..." said the young man begrudgingly.

 

Ota took a few steps forward and turned to the next guest, a man with very dark hair and a white cloak. "Well, sir, whatís your opinion of Iron Chef Morimotoís cooking?" asked Ota, raising the microphone to the speakerís face. The latter, in turn, grabbed the microphone and nearly plucked it from Otaís hand.

 

"Interesting." He mused. "It would appear that this device amplifies and records your voice. How does it work?"

 

Ota looked at the microphone, then at the young man. "I...beg your pardon?" he asked.

 

The young man let go of the microphone and scratched his chin. "And one more thing... Why do you call those lights up there Ďelectric lightsí? They are clearly using Light craymels, not Electricity. Have you managed to fringe them? Thatís not in the Leonoa Encyclopedia..."

 

Otaís shoulders drooped and he stepped forward again, rubbing his head in disbelief. This time he came to a little girl with dark skin, wearing a big pirateís hat. He walked up to the girl and raised his microphone. "Well, little girl, do you have anything to say?"

 

The girl stood indignantly and frowned at Ota, her hands balled into fists. "I am not a little girl!" she exclaimed. "I am Captain Chat of the Van Eltia. You may refer to me as ĎCaptainí, or ĎSirí."

 

Ota took a step back and reached for his handkerchief, which he used to wipe the sweat from his forehead. "A-all right." He said. The little girl didnít look pleased so Ota hastily added a, "Captain." To the phrase and moved along.

 

The next guest was a teenage girl with a purple dress. Her dark skin contrasted with her purple hair a great deal, and she seemed to be more preoccupied with her petóa blue rabbit-like thing with a squirrelís tailóthan the competition.

 

Ota approached the girl and once again raised his microphone, a little cautiously this time. "H-hello, young lady." He said meekly.

 

The girl turned to Ota and flashed a big smile. "Hweel! Meredy is having lots of fun!" she exclaimed loudly. She picked up the rabbit-squirrel-thing and raised it up. "Quickie is having fun too! Right, Quickie?" The animal flailed its little arms and waved its tail. "Kweekee!" it cooed happily.

 

Ota wiped his forehead again and came to the last guest, a huge man with skin darker than the young lady and greenish-white hair and beard. His outfit was lavender and black, and he wore a big smile on his face. So big, in fact, that it was apparently forcing his eyes shut. Ota steeled himself and walked up to the towering giant, raising the microphone one last time. "G-good evening," he said, then, remembering the pirate girl from before, finished with a, "...Sir."

 

The manís smile decreased in size and he turned to Ota. "Yeah!" he said cheerfully. Ota frowned in confusion. "Um...yes." He muttered. "Do you think the challenger Wonder Chef will win tonightís battle?"

 

"Yeah!" the manís smile grew a little more and Ota took a step back. "Are you sure? Iron Chef Morimoto seems to have the upper hand right now."

 

"Yeah?"

 

"...Sir?"

 

"Yeah!"

 

Otaís shoulders slumped and he leaned on the table, pinching the bridge of his nose. "...back to you, Mr. Fukui." He said, exhausted.

 

Fukui replaced his glasses and regained his long-lost composure, secretly cursing Ota for not taking an extra five minutes interviewing the guests. "Well, this certainly has been an interesting battle, here on Iron Chef." He said. "We are now nearing the end of the competition, as..." Fukui was interrupted as a loud, womanís voice boomed over the loudspeaker. "One minute remaining." It sang.

 

Fukui nodded, breathing a sigh of relief in the process. "Yes, one minute remaining. Iron Chef Morimoto has already finished his meal and is now decorating his Okonomiyaki with walnut shavingsóvery unorthodoxóand placing walnut shavings on his dishes. The challenger Wonder Chef, on the other hand..." Fukui let his gaze wander over to the bizarre contenderís station.

 

Wonder Chef was adding what could have been loosely referred to as the finishing touches to his concoction. The mix was exhuming a noxious-smelling cloud of steam and was bubbling like some sort of witchís brew. Wonder Chefís two assistants stood in the back, completely awestruck by their leaderís behavior.

 

Suddenly, Wonder Chef grabbed his pots and pans and headed over to the oven. Using his foot and no small degree of flexibility he pried the oven open and shoved the contents of his arms inside. Afterwards he kicked the oven shut, turned every dial to its maximum setting, and whirled around to face the opposite direction. "Ha!" he shouted. "It is nearly time!"

 

"With only fifteen seconds remaining, the challenger Wonder Chef has shoved everything he has prepared into the oven. In the meantime Iron Chef Morimoto has already finished, and is now conversing with his assistants. Wonder Chef only has ten seconds!"

 

The womanís voice from before rang through the loudspeakers and began counting down. "Ten...nine...eight...seven...six...five..."

 

Wonder Chef whirled to face his oven again. "It is finished!" he cried, and with a lightning-fast motion he opened the oven and pulled out its contents, displaying them on the counter.

 

"...one...*RRRIIING*"

 

Fukui nearly jumped out of his chair. "Incredible! In mere seconds the challenger Wonder Chef has managed to prepare what looks like a carefully tossed Caesar/shrimp salad with vinaigrette dressing, a Cajun Shrimp Gumbo, and a plate of Shrimp Rice, artistically decorated with carved, rosebud-shaped, cherry tomatoes and red peppers! Incredible!" The entire audience began murmuring and chattering loudly, while all the cameramen swiveled their cameras over to the miraculous display the challenger had constructed in few scant moments. The Wonder Chef, meanwhile, twirled and posed with a flourish. "It is done!" he proclaimed.

 

The cooking assistants picked up the plates and took them over to one of the tables to the side. Sitting there were three people: a large, brawny-looking man with his long hair done up in a bun; a brown-skinned man dressed in a smart-looking black suit and wearing sunglasses; and a woman with short black hair. The assistants placed the dishes prepared by the two chefs in front of them, then retreated to give them some space.

 

It was at this time that Kaga appeared for the first time since the beginning of the show. Although he looked rather stressed from the events of the evening, he managed to maintain his superstar-like composure as he strolled over to the table and greeted the three people sitting there. He then turned to face the camera and adopted his usual pose again. "It has been an...exciting evening, to say the least." He began. "Now, it all comes down to this...the judging. Mr. Fukui, will you please introduce our judges for tonight?" he asked politely.

 

Fukui nodded agreement from his place at the commentary table and grabbed his microphone. "Certainly. First up is Akebono, the renowned Yokozuna. He is a regular guest on our show." Upon mention the large man stood and bowed, then flashed a grin and sat back down.

 

"Second is famous pop star, Korn! The name is purely a coincidence." The audience erupted into applause as the man with the suit and sunglasses stood and waved cheerfully. He then sat back down and resumed his conversation with Akebono.

 

"Last, but certainly not least, is actress Chizuru Azuma." The young woman bowed her head from her place in her seat, tilting her head slightly to one side as she did so.

 

"Now," began Kaga, who had taken a place beside the table, "it is time to begin judging. Iron Chef Morimotoís dishes will be presented first."

 

Fukui cleared his throat. "Iron Chef Morimoto has prepared three dishes. First up as a traditional Miso soup adorned with parsley, tofu, and walnut shavings for flavor. Next up is a traditional Japanese shrimp Okonomiyaki. Morimoto has, surprisingly, decided to infuse it with red wine for flavor, and has added generous amounts of walnut shavings. Lastly there is a shrimp soup casserole with walnut shavings on the side."

 

All three guests took their eating utensils and began eating happily, offering comments and suggestions to both the chef and each other, pausing sometimes to slip in small bits of poetic inspiration here and there. Akebono finished anything that the other two judges would leave behind, and all three seemed very satisfied at the end of their meal. When they finished they congratulated Morimoto heartily and thanked him for the meal. The assistants then took the plates away and replaced them with the challenger, Wonder Chefís, three courses.

 

"The challenger Wonder Chef has prepared a cold Caesar/shrimp salad using western-style ingredients and Japanese ingredients for the vinaigrette." announced Fukui. "Next is a spicy Cajun Shrimp Gumbo, and Wonder Chef finishes the meal off with what looks like an exquisite Shrimp rice, artistically decorated with carved, rosebud-shaped, cherry tomatoes and red peppers."

 

Akebono took his first bite of Gumbo and held up his spoon in thought. The look on his face wasnít very encouraging. Korn turned to him from his seat. "Are you all right?" he asked. Akebono nodded.

 

"This...is delicious." said Akebono in astonishment. "This is the most delicious thing Iíve ever tasted."

 

"Youíre right...this is nothing short of incredible!" Azuma began eating her rice rapidly, pure rapture in her eyes. "Itís like a dream!"

 

Korn began munching on his salad thoughtfully, but it was obvious that he, too, was blown away by the food being presented before him. "The combination of Japanese ingredients with western-style cooking brings a flavor to this meal that Iíve never tasted before...surely this must be the most innovative meal Iíve ever had in my life...it doesnít get better than this."

 

Wonder Chef, who was off to the side, actually cracked his stony exterior and flashed a weak smile. His ego was getting an incredible boost right now. He beamed smugly at Morimoto, who simply looked at Wonder Chef and scoffed indignantly.

 

Just then Azuma reeled back and put her fork down. "Still..." she mused, "thereís something..."

 

Akebono nodded. "Youíre right." he said. "I canít put my finger on it..."

 

Korn gasped in surprise and realization. "I know!" he shouted, "...there arenít any walnut shavings!"

 

Off to the side Wonder Chefís jaw dropped to the floor like a dead weight.

 

Azumaís eyes widened. "Youíre right...he hasnít added any to the food!"

 

"I donít believe it!" grumbled Akebono, seemingly offended. "How can you not have any walnut shavings? This is terrible!" He stood abruptly and pointed a large, muscular finger at Wonder Chef. "The challenger is disqualified! Iron Chef is the winner!"

 

Morimoto smiled and patted Wonder Chef in the back in an effort to comfort him in spite of his obvious happiness at having won. Fukui, Hattori, and Ota began speaking to their respective cameras, while MC Kaga stepped in front of the judgesí table and spread his hands.

 

"And so ends another episode of Iron Chef." he said. And thank God for that...he thought bitterly. This had to be the biggest fiasco in the history of entertainment...even more so than the time they turned that video game into a movie. Still, he had to keep his cool until the end of the show. He could relax when the cameras would turn off. Perhaps he would go get a drink with Fukui and Ota later...

 

Wonder Chef, visibly dejected, turned to his opponent and bowed, bringing his cape over to cover his shirt. "You are a great chef indeed." He said nobly. "Walnut shavings...I will consider this next time."

 

Morimoto laughed heartily. "Yes, well...you werenít half-bad yourself." he admitted with a smile. "Iíll be here if you ever want a rematch."

 

Wonder Chef nodded, his eyes lowered as he considered the proposal. "Yes. I shall do that. Indeed!" he swished his cape around. "I will not be so forgiving next time. Until we meet again, Iron Chef!"

 

Morimoto took a step back in surprise as the Wonder Chef pulled a small pellet from out of his cape and threw it on the floor, creating a large cloud of white smoke. Morimoto could hear the sounds of shuffling as he coughed and tried to clear the smoke away, and when it finally cleared he could see a giant piggy back in the same spot where Wonder Chef was earlier.

 

Kaga, who had freed himself of his cape, jacket and shoes, walked up to Morimoto. He was now substantially shorter than Morimoto due to the fact that he was now wearing normal shoes. "Say, Morimoto...Fukui, Ota, Hattori, and I are going to the vending machine downstairs for some One Cup Ozekis. Would you like some?"

 

Morimoto nodded, waving his hand in front of him to clear away any remaining smoke. "Sure, why not?" he said.

 

Kaga looked around. "Where...is Wonder Chef?" he asked curiously. Morimoto jerked his thumb to the side and pointed at the huge piggy bank. "Heís in there," he said.

 

"I am not!" came a muffled voice from inside the piggy bank.

 

Kaga shook his head in bewilderment. "Whatever." He said. He was just glad it was all over. "Letís just wait for Fukui to wrap up and weíll go."

 

As the two men walked away, the piggy bank shook slightly and a hearty chuckle could be heard from within. "Ha! They have been tricked by my disguise." exclaimed the piggy bank. "Fools!"

 

Fukui, very relieved to be at the end of this show, removed his glasses and stared into the camera from his seat. "Well, Iím afraid weíre out of time," he said, tired. "Until next time, Iím Kenji Fukui."

 

Hattori nodded. "Iím Yukio Hattori."

 

Ota waved with one hand while he removed his bow tie with the other. "And Iím Shinichiro Ota."

 

"Join us next time for another episode of Iron Chef!"

 

FIN

 

*****

 

So, whatíd you think? I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Any comments or suggestions (or comments and suggestions, as the case may be) can be sent to me at giampi@earthling.net. Until we meet again!