Maury made a gesture of exasperation. “It was a hatchet job!”

Are we going to rehash this again? I thought. “Look,” I said, “you hatched the idea and egged him on.”

“And ended up with egg on my face,” he grumbled. “If we had had the real cook, rather than this hatchet man…”

“The guys are busy,” I said. “They can’t just cater to our every whim.”

“But corned beef hash with an egg on it!” he exclaimed. “Who can ruin that? …Well, we know now. I’d like to settle his hash.” He slugged back his wine. “I bet he was high on hash, too.”

“Well,” I said, “you could always ax him.” I knew Maury knew that French for “axe” was hache, which is also a conjugated form of hacher (“chop”, whence hash) and is homophonous with the French for H, and can also refer to hashish.

“Well, I’d sooner give him the axe than ask him, anyway. You know,” he added, lifting his empty glass and then setting it down again in disappointment, “I peeked in and saw him consulting some pocket Hachette cookbook.”

I refilled Maury’s glass. “Hachette makes good dictionaries.” (As it happens, the French dictionary closest to hand at my desk is my Pocket Oxford Hachette French Dictionary.)

“For all I know, they make good cookbooks, too,” he said, “but this guy is clearly not very sharp. …How did a publishing company get named after a little axe, anyway?”

“Founded by a guy named Louis Hachette. Quite a socially progressive fellow.” I sipped my wine. “Look, these guys are the caterers we always use at our functions. Can’t you just bury the hatchet?”

Maury made a malicious smile. “In the back of his head, perhaps? …That chophouse refugee,” he grumbled. “That hack.”

“I think you’ve got this little bit of hash in the back of your head,” I said. I stood and waggled the bottle, which was empty. “You’re cut off.”

Maury’s shoulders slumped. “Ah, shit.”

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