It was just a part time job really, something to earn a bit of extra money and why not. During the day in the office, taking phone calls, typing letters and filing. Nothing special, but being alone as a secretary there was a certain amount of responsibility. The boss was often abroad on business and home was not far. Actually it was just across the corridor. Your own room, your own bathroom and even access to an outside garden in the courtyard. Life could not be better. Food was cooked by my bosses wife, and I had family connections. They owned the appartment house and had their own large appartment.
The boss also had a restaurent. An Indian restaurent cooking specialities for the customers. It was only open in the evening. It was a small team. The boss organising and his wife cooking and serving, that was until I was asked “How about some extra money serving in the evening.” It was just fifteen tables approximately (it all happened so long ago, I cannot remember exactly) and I would be earning service tips and a small wage. Being new in the area, and not having a concentrated social life, I accepted.
The customers were regular, many were Indians at last finding their accumstomed food in a small Zürich side street. My knowledge of German was quite basic at the time, but I could get through. It was an advantage being able to speak English to the Indian guests. We even had Ambassadors as customers, and were featured in culinary magazines as the Indian Restaurant in Zürich to visit. I even sometimes wore a sari as I got very much adapted to the Indian way of life and its food.
Cooking and serving Indian food of course needed special ingredients from special suppliers. Zürich not being the center of the Asian spice market, the boss often brought and ordered his special spices from London. He often returned from a visit to England with a case packed full of aramatic herbs, spices, leaves and seeds. I do not know how he managed to get it through customs, but then I realised quickly that my boss could organise a lot of things that other straight forward businessmen could not. However, if you do not ask questions, you get no lies.
One day I departed for a two week holiday to see my parents in London. It was Summer, not a busy time in the business or restaurant world. My boss was also on a long business journey in the Far East so I could be spared and the restaurant was closed for the two weeks when I was away.
I returned after my holiday and it seems that the restaurant would be closed for some time. We would usually close the restaurant in the evening around eleven o’clock and the last action in the kitchen was to switch the dish washer on, leaving it to run for a washing programme which would switch itself off automatically. The first job after arriving the next day was to empty the machine with the clean crockery and cutlery. However, during my holiday it seems that during last evening the machine was running and the pipe with the water supply broke, meaning that liters of water were pumping into the restaurant during the night. My boss’s wife was called by the fire and police service early in the morning to say that water had flooded the cellars completely and the restaurant as well.
I was back in my office in Zürich and my boss returned from his trip abroad. Of course the restaurant was closed and there was a backwards and forwards with the insurance company, who eventually cancelled their contract and it was decided that the restaurant would be closed forever. However there was a small problem. The cellars had to be cleared. Of course the water had receeded and things in the cellar started to smell.
“You will have to help us” said my boss. He never really asked for anything, just commanded. I was used to it, so what was the problem?
“We have a sack full of dill in the cellar and after being submerged in water for a time, we have to throw it out. It has perished. You know what dill is?. It is a plant that grows and used generally for spicing fish and cucumber dishes. The leaves are often dried to keep longer. This was also the case with our sack of dill, but it had got wet again, very wet.
“Ok, no problem I thought” and my boss, his wife and I went to the restaurant in the evening to clear the cellar. Of course it smelt a bit strong, but I have smelt worse.
“That is the sack” said my boss, “just lift it and carry it out of the cellar to the bottom of the stairs, I will help you to carry it up the stairs.” He disappeared and left me to the work. It was quite dark in the cellar, the lights still did not function and everything smelt quite damp.
I am not really sqeamish. I have my own garden today and it never bothered me if there were slugs or spiders. The slugs I pick up and throw out of the garden by hand: no problem. I don’t mind spiders. They live in their webs and every living thing has a purpose somehow. Where there are spiders there is usually a reduced population of flies. But what I found in the cellar was beyond my wildest expectations.
First of all something brushed past my face. In the dim light we had from the cellar window I saw a winged insect. OK, winged insects are everywhere – no problem. Then I saw a second winged insect, actually I gave up counting. Gripping the sack a cloud of winged insects arose from the contents. Winged insects have children and not a few. They have sort of multiple births. How a mother can love a child that sqirms and twists and sleeks and glistens white in the dark I do not know. These winged insects had decided to maintain their future generations by laying their eggs on the rotting dill to be found in the sack. It seemed to be a five star menu for the hatching eggs. Let us call the children “maggots”. Now if there is a creature that I dislike, detest, makes me squirm and cause me to scream and panic, cry and have a hysterical fit, then it is maggots.
“What is wrong” and my chef came running, followed by his wife.
By then I had tears in my eyes and my voice was quivering. I must have shocked the children of the winged insects as the sack seemed to have developed its own life, rustling and forming lumps and bumps everywhere.
“Let me out, no, I am not touching that living mass of white. No, never.”
I must have left an impact on the chef and his wife as they tried to comfort me and said “it is OK, we did not realise you were so afraid of insects.”
What a stupid remark to make. They were not just insects, they were a thriving mass of moving eating mini monsters. I am sure if there had been enough light in the cellar I would have seen their eyes all turned in my direction.
That evening the cellar invasion was removed by my boss and his wife. I do not know where they put the sack. I did not care. As far as I was concerned they could have lit a bonfire with it. I think actually it was put on the side of the street for the rubbish collection the next day. I did not ask qustions and did not really want any explanations.
Do I have to say more, about the disturbing dreams I had that night and a few nights afterwards. I still spice my cucumber salad with dill and my smoked salmon in a graved lax sauce. I even grow dill in the garden, but I keep it insect free. I still do not know the name of the flying maggot producing objects, perhaps "Big Maggot is Watching You".