by Alexa Roach
“I’m Dude Ferrari, and that’s all for tonight’s episode of Teahouses, Taverns and Truck Stops!”
Click. A satisfied smile made its way across Dude Ferrari’s face as he turned off the television. The latest episode of his food review show on Dish Channel was a success. Dude yawned as he thought about going to sleep to prepare for tomorrow’s filming. Tomorrow he and his camera crew for Teahouses, Taverns and Truck Stops were set to head out a small restaurant called The Inked Up Reindeer, to have the head chef disclose the information of the restaurant’s most popular dishes and recipes. The place is quite popular among the locals in the small town of Carloan, so tomorrow’s episode was guaranteed to be an interesting one.
After completing his nightly routine, Dude set off to get some rest before what would most likely be the oddest yet most watched episode of his career.
“I’m Dude Ferrari with Teahouses, Taverns, and Truck Stops! Here we are outside The Inked Up Reindeer Tavern. Get ready for an adventure as we delve into this restaurant’s secrets about your favorite recipes that put them on the map!”
“Perfect!” The main cameraman, Alan, shouts. “The producers are in for a treat already!” He continues speaking without many listening. Everyone has gotten used to Alan’s endless chatter at this point.
Dude flashes him a wide grin before directing the crew to follow him inside. When he opens the doors he is greeted with a sight that definitely suits The Inked Up Reindeer’s name and dive-ish feel. Looking around, Dude notices writings on the walls and tables, worn out booths, and servers dressed in clothes seemingly too casual for work. While some people would be immediately turned away by the different looking and run eatery, Dude, however, was elated. He hardly had time to turn back to his crew and softly shout a “This place is great!” before he was startled by a presence that had made its way out to greet him.
“Dude Ferrari, what a pleasure!” The lively owner exclaims with a wide smile strewn across his gleeful face.
“Ah,” Dude responds, “you must be Stan!” he continues as he shakes the man’s outstretched hand.
Despite the surrounding camera crew swirling their ways around the two, Stan doesn’t seem nervous at all as he laughs and lets out a loud “Yes sir that’d be me!” and makes the suggestion that Dude come check out the kitchens so they can get the show rolling.
Dude and the crew follow as they’re led back to the kitchens by Stan who continues to spout off a mix of facts about the place and compliments about Dude’s show. It is then that Stan introduces him to the main Chef Monica, who politely shakes his hand.
“Well,” Dude begins, “I love this look you have going on in here Stan. And Monica, what an absolutely pristine kitchen! But we all know I’m not just here to check on the looks of things so let’s get things cooking up in here! What do we have for us today?”
“Currently, our most popular menu item is our signature duck sandwiches. It’s a large sandwich dressed with lettuce, tomato, and our special sauce.” It’s Monica that replies.
“Oh I like the sound of that!” shouts Dude in excitement. “Clearly there’s’ something about these sandwiches that makes them the most popular, so let’s get down to the cooking process!”
“Sure thing Dude!” responds Monica cheerily, albeit fakely for the camera.
“First we start by roasting the duck,” Monica says walking over to the oven, “which we’ve already done beforehand for your convenience. Next, we toast the bread we use for our sandwiches. There’s nothing totally special about that, just a typical butter spread and then lightly toast the bread in a pan.” She finishes. Dude politely nods along in a typical fashion.
“Lastly,” Monica begins again, “we dress the sandwich. Here we use romaine lettuce and freshly grown tomatoes. We flavor the sandwich with our signature Reindeer Sauce.” she states as she finished up dressing the sandwich. “And voila!” She exclaims, sliding the sandwich across the counter over to Dude.
Dude eyes the sandwich and doesn’t think much before doing as he knows and taking a large bite. He’s immediately astounded by the flavors and deliciousness. “Wow!” he says in amazement and takes another bite. “This is phenomenal! However, I just gotta ask, this sauce is so delicious what gives it its strong flavor?”
Monica gives a brief laugh before replying, “That, sir, would be our secret ingredient.”
“Well, what is it,” Dude asks, “because it is amazing!”
“I guess I could show you if you’d like to follow me into the cellar.” Monica puts simply.
“I’d love to know. Lead the way!” says Dude.
As Monica leads Dude to the cellar (Stan following and Alan as well to film) Dude begins to get an odd feeling, for he’s never had to do this much work to discover a secret ingredient. However, he shrugs it off.
“The secret ingredient is gathered from this room,” says Monica as she walks over to another door and swings it open. Dude, Alan, and Stan follow her in. Dude takes in the sight and notices a… garden? How odd. Dude thinks. A garden in a cellar? And is that a clear sky? Where are we?
“What is this place?” Dude asks, somewhat out of it due to the confusion.
“This is what we call Aclancia,” Monica answers, “it’s a land that we guess could be considered magical. Little did we know when we bought this building to open The Inked Up Reindeer that it was built with a portal underneath! Now if you follow me this way I’ll show you to where our secret ingredient comes from.”
Monica continues to walk and leads the group to a stable. As they walk into it, Dude, who was expecting horses, gasps. “Unicorns?”
“Yep!” says Monica. Dude glances at Alan to see his reaction and he’s just as stunned. Stan just smiles faintly. Monica continues. “Our special ingredient is unicorn blood. This is what gives the sauce its flavor and also its rich red color.”
“So…let me get this straight,” Alan speaks for once,”you found magical creatures underneath your restaurant and your solution is to kill them and make them into a sauce?”
“Oh no!” Monica laughs.”We just drain the blood little by little so the unicorns are still healthy but we have enough for our sauce!”
Alan begins to speak again, but Dude cuts in, “Well this has been wonderful. Thank you for letting us do a segment on the Inked Up Reindeer. I’m sure many fans of Teahouses, Taverns, and Truck Stops will love it! My crew and I should be heading out now.”
“Oh, you can’t leave now,” Stan interjects.
“I’m sorry was there something else you had planned for the segment?” asks and even more confused Dude.
“No. You just can’t leave.” comes the simple reply from Stan.
“…Why not?” asks Alan.
“Well now that you know our secret ingredient we can’t let you leave.” Monica steps in. “We can’t have you air all of our secrets now can we?” She smiles sweetly.
“Man, I’m just trying to run my show!” Dude speaks, sounding panicked.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen.” It’s Stan this time.
“Alan, run!” Dude screams and makes a bolt for the exit, Alan following behind.
“Secure the area!” Alan and Dude hear Stan scream after them.
The two men make it upstairs to see the doors barricaded, locked, and guarded.
“Since you refuse to cooperate,” a concerningly calm Stan begins,”I guess we’ll have to play things my way.” He says, pulling out a tranquilizer gun. Dude freezes and everything seems to turn to slow motion as Stan pulls the trigger. The dart releases and everything goes black.
“AAAAAAAHHHH!” Dude awakes screaming, in a cold sweat. With heavy breaths, he takes in the situation. What an insane dream. He thinks to himself and laughs.
“Alan you’ll never guess what I dreamt about this place last night!” Dude exclaims when they’re standing outside The Inked Up Reindeer restaurant. “There was this crazy guy and head chef lady named-”
“Dude Ferrari!” A voice suddenly exclaims as Dude spots a man, followed by a woman, coming out of the restaurant to greet him. “I’m Stan, it’s great to meet you! And this here is my head chef Monica!” Dude’s face loses color.
Jeffersonville High School, 2019