He sat alone at the table, his calloused hands folded in his lap. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had such a fine meal. Perhaps never.
Footsteps echoed off the walls and he sat up straighter, fidgeted a bit. He closed his eyes to heighten his senses, wanting to savour this moment, burn the memory in his mind.
The smell assaulted him first. His mouth watered in Pavlovian reflex and he swallowed thickly, greedily licking his chapped lips. Aroma wrapped around him, caressed him like a familiar lover who promised to fulfill every perverted desire. The plate gently touched the table before him and he waited until the footsteps faded away.
Alone again, though he knew he was watched, he slowly opened his eyes and stared at the feast before him: an enormous piece of prime rib—rare—garnished with a large dollop of strong horse radish. Arranged around it in homage to the succulent meat were parisienne potatoes, crisp asparagus and fried mushrooms.
He slowly cut into the tender meat then placed a small sliver on his tongue, relished the juices as they filled his mouth. The small morsel all but melted. The crisp outer shell of the potatoes housed a tender white interior. A mushroom cloud of steam erupted when he split them open. The asparagus, steamed to perfection, lay in a pool of melted butter next to over-sized seasoned portabellas.
His contented sighs punctuated the silence as he steadily ate through the meal, laying down his utensils after each mouthful, delaying the end as long as possible.
Crème brullée was the final indulgence. He tapped the crust gently, watched as the fault undulated across the golden scab, exposing the vulnerable richness beneath. Each spoonful was sheer joy.
The utensils now lay across the empty plate, meticulously lined up. He wiped his mouth carefully with the napkin and gently lay it atop the china. His eyes closed briefly as he sent silent thanks to the god he was convinced had long since turned away. He would remember that banquet as long as he lived.
He smirked as, once again, the footsteps approached, confirmation that he was watched. How else would they know he was done?
“Ready?” The question was asked, as though he had a choice. He merely nodded in reply, rose awkwardly and shuffled towards the door. With one final glance at the barren room, he followed the uniformed fellow out the door.
As he hobbled down the long corridor, the chains around his ankles clinked ominously, barely heard above the bellowed “Dead man walking!”
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