Hard to Swallow
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Challenge - Alliteration Challenge
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Short Story
“Here, eat this.”
Colonel Robert Hogan put the plate down in front of Sergeant Andrew Carter, who gulped at the sight. “What is it?” he asked.
Hogan looked at the mass of potatoes, vegetables, and something he was sure was supposed to be meat, and reminded his stomach that it belonged down near this belly button, not up in his throat. “Um—it’s a gourmet meal!” he said, trying to sound certain.
“It is?” Carter looked up at his commanding officer. “Gee, Colonel, it looks more like a Picasso painting!”
Hogan gave up the charade. “I know,” he said. “It’s Klink’s cooking.” He sighed. “We have to convince Klink that he’s a great cook so he’ll enter the chef’s contest in Hammelburg, so we can get this microfilm to our agent at the hotel.”
“Well, why don’t you eat it?” Carter asked boldly.
“Because I’m the senior officer and if I die it’d be harder to replace me,” Hogan quipped. “Klink’s gonna be here in a minute and I want that food aiming straight down your gob.”
Carter swallowed, hard. But he had a feeling it would be harder to swallow the monstrosity in front of him. “Gee, sir—can I have a glass of water?”
RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk reached over and grabbed a jug. “We anticipated you,” he said. “Here—take as much as you want.” He poured some water into a cup for Carter, backing away quickly when his nose got too close to the disaster on the plate.
“Well I don’t see why I have to eat it,” Carter mumbled.
“Look at it this way, Carter. If Le Beau ate it, ’e’d never cook for us again, and you wouldn’t be able to wipe away the memory of what’s in front of you now, would you?” Newkirk offered.
Carter looked at Hogan, confused. “Don’t try to understand it,” Hogan said.
Kinch turned from the door where he had been keeping watch. “Klink’s coming,” he warned.
Think of it as a sacrifice for your country,” Hogan said. “I’ll put you in for the Purple Stomach. Now eat.”
Taking a deep breath as though he were about to dive into a pool, diligently Carter devoured the disgusting dish that was difficult to digest and was not delightful. He was gasping for water as the door to Barracks Two opened, and Newkirk splashed some across his face in desperation. Klink entered as the last few mouthfuls were being consumed.
“Ah, Colonel Hogan!” Kommandant Wilhelm Klink purred. “I see your men are enjoying my culinary delights!”
“Sure are, Kommandant!” Hogan replied, as Corporal Louis Le Beau tried not to start protesting in French. “Why, Carter here was just so overwhelmed with the idea that we couldn’t stop him from plowing right in. Right, Carter?”
Carter tried to answer but found his throat constricting from the herbs and spices that Klink had put into the dish. And he found he had something stuck part way down that he was sure was some small boulder left over from the formation of the continents. His eyes widened as Hogan raised his eyebrows expectantly, and he tried to make some affirmative grunts as he reached frantically for the water.
“Excellent, Hogan, excellent. You know, that settles it. I think I will enter that cooking competition. I had no idea that being a gourmet could be so simple.”
“Absolutely, Kommandant,” Hogan said smoothly. “Just a matter of getting those creative juices flowing.”
“Don’t say ‘flowing’,” Le Beau mumbled under his breath, looking at Carter’s bulging eyes.
“Thank you for your support, Colonel Hogan,” said Klink. “You know, I have made so much more of this—I insist that you join me for dinner tonight in my quarters, and we can share the meal. After all, it was your faith in my abilities that helped create it!”
Kinch coughed to stifle a laugh, and Newkirk lowered his head. Hogan shot Kinch a warning look. “No, really, Kommandant—it wouldn’t be right for me to take the credit for such a… creation.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Hogan. I am not so much of a glory hound that I cannot give credit where it is due. You will join me at nineteen hundred hours.” He took a moment to observe Carter, who had cleaned the plate and was sitting with a pained look on his face. “Carter, are you all right?” he asked.
“Oh he’s—just disappointed that he’s finished it all already, Kommandant,” Newkirk said quickly.
“Oui, our Carter usually eats quite a lot when he gets started,” Le Beau added.
“Oh, well, one mustn’t be greedy, now!” Klink sang, pleased.
Hogan gave a falsetto laugh and started to shove Klink out the door. “No, one mustn’t!” he sang back.
“Very well, Hogan. I’ll see you in my quarters at nineteen hundred hours. Good day, gentlemen!”
“Good day!” Hogan replied cheerily, shutting the door behind Klink. He turned to his men, feeling his own stomach starting to roll at the thought of the evening meal he would now be forced to eat to ensure the mission was successful.
Carter had kept the look of anguish on his face but did not say anything. Suddenly he bolted for the door, holding his stomach. A second later, Hogan followed, gagging, his stomach tumbling. “The things I do for my country!”
4 February 2004
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Linda Groundwater
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.