(C) Julie Boyd
Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. Marcus Aurelius
‘Who’s wearing that perfume?’ Harry looked semi-accusingly around the lounge car. ‘Chef just walked through and tells me that someone is smelling prrreeeeeety darn good. Who is it?’ We were in the lounge car having wine tastings again- on the train… heading south this Time. The look on Harry the barman’s face indicated clearly that unless someone ‘fessed up there’d be no more wine for any of us. Feeling like a pack of naughty kids being fronted by the headmaster. Who’s fault? ‘Might be me’ tentative voice. I wanted another glass of wine. ‘Hmm’. Looking down his nose ‘why does that not surprise me’. Felt again like the guilty kid. ‘Not sure. People often comment on the perfume I wear. I can’t smell it, but that might be it’.
Giving me a ‘wait here’ look and Bob flashing a ‘you’re innnn trooooouble’ glance I waited. Harry reappeared. Chef in tow. He sniffed the air. Yep that’s it. ‘What is it?’ “Clinique Aromatics Elixir, an oldie but a goodie’. With a ‘very nice’ he sat down. Harry brought the bottles. All was well. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. Can’t upset Chef. Not when we all wanted to eat for the next 48 hours. Chef was a cute little black guy. Not a politically correct description, but accurate. One side of his face was badly disfigured. A birth defect, cooking accident, burn. Who knew? Who cared? Apart from the pain it must have caused him. He was a lovely man. Wonderful sense of humour. Obviously a great sense of smell. He was into perfume big time. His real profession. Cooking a mere sideline. Who would have guessed. The similarities, connections were so important to him. Flowers, perfume, food, all smelled good to him.
We spent a lovely hour sharing stories and having him describe his fascination with perfume and olfactory stimulation. The wine ran out. Chef had to go to the kitchen. Harry put the empty bottles out. We headed through to dinner. Andrew the maitre d’ seated us with his usual flourish and unintelligible welcome stories. We smiled and sat. Smiles all round. They were up to something. We went to take the menus from Andrew. ‘No. They’re not for you. Chef has something special prepared for you two tonight’. Our dinner companions looked very puzzled. We felt fractionally apprehensive. Andrew launched into an explanation that none of us understood in his ‘Andrew speak’ a language there was only one person on the planet could understand. We just nodded and said thank you as we’d learned to. He beamed and moved off.
Fifteen minutes later, a procession. Our dinner presented to us on silver platters. Chef had outdone himself. The freshest fish, tenderest steak, kept specially for us. What a sweet man. We ate every scrap. I usually leave half my meal, but not one prepared with such care. The smile on his face as we said thanks lit up the entire train.
Next morning we woke as the train pulled into the next station. Pulling back the curtains we looked out the window. Just in time to see Chef dancing along the platform toward a train that had just stopped. He was a little guy. But what a heart. What a smile. A door opened on the oncoming train. Out jumped an extremely large, very black woman. They moved towards each other. Dancers in slow motion. A ballet unfolding before our very eyes. As she launched herself into his arms we cringed, waiting for his back to crumble under the weight. They hung there in space for what seemed eons, must have been a couple of seconds, yelling in delight. Positions reversed. How did that happen. Our little smiley chef vanished into the voluminous bosom of the big woman. We feared for his life. ‘Unhand that man. You don’t know where he’s been’ Bob yelled out the window. He couldn’t hear. All we could see were his feet waving in the wind. Bob tells me that the Starlight Express features in the remake of the movie The Italian Job. That would fit. Italian Job. America. If they didn’t star Chef, and Andrew and Harry, and Cruise…. they missed a golden opportunity. Murder on the Starlight Express as the next movie remake has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ ring to it.