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Tropical Leaves

The Eastern Front

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

"My fingers are cold!" squealed the soldier; a piteous cry.

General Hogmalov had little patience for such things. The temperature was a balmy negative five hundred. Usually the men didn't start squealing until negative seven hundred.

"Where are your mittens, soldier?" Hogmalov asked. His eyeballs attempted to roll themselves in exasperation, but were held rigid by the general's legendary will.

"I . . . I don't know, sir. I think they might have fallen down a mine shaft. Me n' Private Crustalov and Private Jenkovkalov was playing monkey-in-the-middle, see, and-"

The soldier went silent when he saw General Hogmalov's raised hand, a hand which had depressed buttons of unfathomable gravity. A simple pointed finger from the general had sufficed to see cities leveled, and oceans drained. The very same hand had slapped Stalin's mustache off during a general staff meeting, and in response the dictator had only choked out a meek apology before scuttling off to his rumpus room.

Hogmalov sighed. His men were an ungrateful lot, but he considered each and every one of them to be as good as biological sons, and perhaps more. The general wouldn't know much about biological sons, however, for his nads had been lost to frostbite during the first World War. Even still, he remembered the Great War with fondness, for it was there he had experienced his first taste of glory.

General Hogmalov reached into a jacket pocket and removed his spare mittens, then handed them to the griping soldier. The lad squealed with delight, and sprinted off towards the mine shaft to join a game of monkey-in-the-middle already in progress.

The flurries had begun already. Hogmalov cursed to himself. His weather warlocks had got it wrong again, and he was beginning to doubt their ability to influence the weather at all. The German's would be coming soon. Sleds and snowballs it would be, and perhaps worse.

"Darn that Hitler bloke," the general muttered. It was rumored that the mustachioed despot had become grossly corpulent in recent months, rendering him all but immune to assassination. Even exotic poisons were said to be soaked up effortlessly by his adipose tissue.

The Führer wasn't the only one who would use obesity to his advantage, though.

A tear rolled down Hogmalov's cheek for a moment, before freezing to his enormous mustache. He always grew emotional at the thought of the Boys.

Their names were Robustov the Swift and Rotundov the Fleet, and neither of them weighed in South of a thousand kilos. They could have been identical twin brothers, but were apparently completely unrelated when they chanced to meet during training, and the two had been inseparable ever since.

The general was startled from his reverie by a foul retching sound. Turning, he saw that some of his men were heating a cube of frozen soil over a pitiful fire, occasionally breaking off thawed chunks and choking them down with the help of melted snow.

They were far from alone.

Dirt was a staple foodstuff these days, and the flesh of the dead was considered a delicacy. This state of affairs was rendered all the more intolerable to those who had sampled the Boy's delectations, for Robustov and Rotundov were far more than mere meat lords; the lads happened to be the most sublime gourmets the Red Army had ever produced, and those who had tasted their treasures could think of little else.

Hogmalov's salivary glands kicked into overdrive at the thought. He had arrived at his command tent, and inside, three of his lieutenants brooded over the map. Pissovalov gestured to the spot where the Boys had been deployed for the evening.

The Kiln.

The twin gourmets' unique gifts were far too valuable to be wasted by the Red Army, and so every night they were disguised as hay bales, and rolled behind enemy lines, where they would find some blasted out shack with a working range.

Then they began to cook.

Das Höllenfeuer, the Germans called it. The Inferno. The Boys' labors produced as much illumination as the fiercest artillery bombardment, and soon the Fritzes would flock from miles around in the hope of a taste. Just a taste. Every last morsel of real food was hoarded by the Russians towards this singular purpose.

Hogmalov was loathe to risk the Boys, but he recognized the grim necessity. Soldiers who tasted their sublime confections were irrevocably changed. Many of them would march directly to their commanding officers and proclaim their retirement from military service, preferring thenceforth to devote themselves entirely to a life of gastronomic endeavor.

Of course, most of them were shot, and the officers in question resolved to see the gross gourmets destroyed.

But a strange conspiracy seemed to have taken hold amongst the middle and upper echelons of German command. Orders for artillery bombardments on the Gourmets were promptly rescinded, and any ground troops who ran into the Kiln were instantly bewitched by luscious aromas.

General Hogmalov stepped out of his tent. Far to the West he could see the telltale glow of the Kiln; the Boys hard at work, risking their lives for Mother Russia.

It was thought that a few of their sacred morsels had even trickled their way up the German command structure, causing Field Marshall Goring to make a pilgrimage to the Kiln one night in late November.

Even the Führer's recent abdominal expansion was thought to result from a minute parcel of fine cuisine, discreetly mailed to him by the NKVD. Germany's finest chefs had been unable to replicate the morsel, and Hitler had been gobbling obsessively ever since in a deranged quest for higher culinary truth.

Hogmalov sighed again. For all he knew, the boys would win Russia the Eastern Front, but he couldn't shake the thought that it was criminal to risk such ascended culinary masters in so trifling a thing as total war.

Stalin was livid about the whole thing. He thought Robustov and Rotundov should be used as bait for a colossal offense, but his general staff had taken great pains to dissuade him of this idea. They made the case that what was happening here on the front actually transcended war, and indeed all human conflict, but it had taken a seven course meal prepared by the Boys themselves to finally convince the cruel dictator.

Opening his satchel, Hogmalov beheld his last crumb of the Boy's cuisine. He had squirreled it away days ago, and only now were his spirits low enough to justify gobbling it.

The august general placed the crumbling morsel on the tip of his tongue, and was soon overwhelmed by Golden Glory.

Then he began to commune with the Seraphim.

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