The clarkl soup kitchens, p.1

The Clarkl Soup Kitchens, page 1

 

The Clarkl Soup Kitchens
 


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The Clarkl Soup Kitchens


  The

  Clarkl Soup Kitchens

  By

  Mary Carmen

  This book is a work of fiction. Places, events, and situations in this story are purely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  © 2004 by Mary Carmen. All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

  Contents

  Colin C. Rodriquez’s First Letter from Clarkl 1

  Roberta Newcastle’s Diary 2

  Richard Crosslyn’s Journal 53

  Sarah Hope’s Jottings 103

  Oscar Wright’s Daily Record 153

  Harvey Hallorin’s Memoranda 202

  Colin C. Rodriquez’s Final Report from Clarkl 253

  For MAIZ, with appreciation

  JAMESTOWN

  INVESTIGATIVE AGENCY

  Colin C. Rodriguez

  Senior Interplanetary Investigator

  March 28, 2410

  Dear Professor Jernigan:

  This is a preliminary status report of my findings from Clarkl.

  I realize I have been here only two months and my tenure has many more months to run, but I wanted to immediately bring to your attention four diaries I found in the New Christian Congregation’s houses and one diary I found at the Fundamentalists of Christ headquarters on Clarlk. These are enclosed.

  My fears about the fate of the thousands of Earthlings at Overowl are essentially realized.

  I will send more information as I uncover it.

  Cordially,

  Colin C. Rodriquez

  Roberta Newcastle’s Diary

  This diary is the private property of Roberta Rachel Warner Newcastle. It is not to be read by others.

  January 7, 2137

  I put Harry into his grave yesterday. Nobody told me what a good man he had been or what a good father to our children he had been or what a good provider he had been. Most of the chatter at the viewing was about how brave a fireman he had been, continually taking absurd chances to make a rescue that would give him another two minutes of news coverage.

  Tomorrow the twins will go back to college, and their sister will go back to her husband’s home in Canada. I will be alone with my memories of Harry and about $100,000 in unpaid loans.

  January 8, 2137

  The house seems strangely quiet, after the week of visitors. The minister from the church down the road called to say he would drop in tomorrow, and Helen came by to help herself to the leftovers. Too much pie, too few vegetables. Why do people think of pie for the bereaved?

  I need to get all the financial papers organized, but I am terrified I will find even more of Harry’s chaotic bookkeeping. Jake said he would help with the lawyers, but I can’t let him see how destitute I am. I have to put a good face on my situation for Harry’s sake. Certainly Harry always did.

  January 9, 2137

  The Reverend Roland Wade arrived at 10:00 a.m., in a roadster much more expensive than anything I could afford. He was carefully dressed, too, something we Methodists are not used to with members of the cloth.

  “I always wanted to stop by,” he said, “especially after Mr. Newcastle was given that special commendation by the mayor. How proud you must have been of him.”

  “Oh, yes,” I admitted, wondering how soon he would get to the point of the visit.

  “Our thoughts have been with you since he passed away,” he continued. “Mine and Martha’s, I mean. We always take a moment before breakfast to remember the friends who have gone on, and we have added Mr. Newcastle to our prayers.”

  “Thank you.”

  He sat down and agreed to take a cup of coffee. He smiled while he talked, and I wondered how tired his face would be at the end of the day.

  “These are unhappy times, I know,” he continued. “Your children are out of the nest, and your partner has gone home to Jesus.”

  “Yes, quite unhappy.”

  “I hope Martha and I can call on you when you are up to facing visitors,” he said. “We want to tell you about our New Christian Congregation’s work.”

  “In a few months, perhaps,” I told him.

  After fifteen minutes and two cups of thirty-dollar-a-pound coffee, he was gone, back down the road. I waved from the front window and returned to my desk.

  Today I discovered the worst of Harry’s financial mistakes, the two loans he cosigned for his sister, adding about $20,000 to my liabilities. Patsy will never pay these off, and the loan company will look to this huge house that was offered as collateral.

  So far, I have found liabilities, including the mortgage, of $237,341 and assets of $242,000. My income from the annuity the city will buy as Harry’s death benefit will pay me about $3,000 a month. My expenses will surely run $2,000 a month, what with two children in college. Even if I could touch those trust fund accounts, which I cannot, I would still want to direct the proceeds to the twins’ educational expenses. If I sell the house and pay off the liabilities, I will face a significant tax bill. If I wait eight years until I am 55, I will be in even worse financial shape. I have no training for any profession, and I know taking hourly work will cost me more than it will pay.

  I feel a chill running down my spine every time I look at these numbers. What was Harry thinking about? Did he have some stash I have not yet uncovered?

  January 31, 2137

  A trip to see the lawyer today. I stuffed all the financial records into a small suitcase and braced myself for the worst.

  “I never took any interest in the family finances,” I told the lawyer. “Harry did all that.”

  He nodded and said, “I see that story every day. Sometimes it’s a woman and sometimes it’s a man. I’ve put my kids through school by sorting out these kinds of messes.”

  I started to shake, rather noticeably. How many of his tuition bills was I going to pay for?

  “Is there a form I fill out? Something I can work on at home?” I asked.

  “Oh, no, don’t worry about anything like that,” he assured me. “Our office is prepared to handle this paperwork. You just relax.”

  I was turned over to a very no-nonsense young woman who pawed through my bills and statements, asking an occasional question. What was the current balance of this? What was the annual return on that?

  She made notes on a long sheet of green paper and transferred some numbers into a computer. Finally, she listed four documents she needed that were missing, and I agreed to search for them and bring them to her within a week.

  Gone was the soothing charm of the lawyer. I was at the mercy of this forthright person who assumed I was there for business. I continued to shake.

  February 26, 2137

  The lawyer’s invoice was in the mail today. My liabilities have increased by $2,000.

  My first check from the annuity company arrived today, too. It was less than I had expected. Harry assured me he bought all the life insurance the city offered him, but the annuity company believes otherwise.

  March 12, 2137

  Alice called with an invitation to lunch, Dutch treat. I assured her I was too busy.

  I can’t avoid friends forever. How can I tell people Harry left me nearly destitute? I am entirely out of coffee, and I have no money to buy anything except the absolute necessities.

  March 27, 2137

  Back to the lawyer today for the bad news.

  “We need to think creatively,” he said. “The estate is essentially a negative number. If you sell the house, you can pay off all the debts, but you will have nothing left to pay the capital gains. If you don
’t sell the house, you can’t service the interest on the debts.”

  I sighed. I had come to the same conclusions two months before, at no expense to myself.

  “We need to consider employment,” he said. “What is your profession?”

  I admitted I had no profession. Harry and I had married when I was very young, and he assured me he wanted to have me at home with Susan. When the twins arrived seven years later, any plans for my entering the workforce had to be postponed.

  April 9, 2137

  Captain Wilkenson dropped by the house today to give me the last check.

  “Sorry it has been so long in coming,” he said. “The department had to calculate all the vacation time Harry earned and all the time he had taken. Things are so complicated, and paperwork gets lost frequently.” He looked very miserable, as if accounting for vacation days were his worst problem.

  “I appreciate your bringing it to me personally. So kind of you,” I blathered.

  “I should have come by before, I realize, but things are so busy. This terrible heat has had everything so dry, and we just don’t have the staff to handle all the calls.”

  This was no news to me. The last four years have been the hottest on record in Ohio. The polar icecaps were at about half their usual size, and winter was almost nonexistent.

  Of course, it is bad form to complain about your troubles to a recent widow. Captain Wilkenson quickly remembered his manners.

  “I hope you are doing okay,” he said, hanging his head a little bit. “Harry was one of the best, and I expect he had faith in you to carry on.”

  With this comforting statement, he took his leave.

  I waived as he drove out of the driveway, and then I quickly tore open the envelope. The amount was just double Harry’s typical monthly check.

  I quickly got into my car and drove to the bank. I paid my overdue mortgage and put some of the funds into my grocery card.

  By the end of the day, I had brought home enough food for two months, including a half pound of coffee. I consider myself about three months from the day when the mortgage will be foreclosed.

  April 19, 2137

  The Reverend Wade and Mrs. Wade came to call this afternoon. I could put it off no longer.

  Before they came, I was certain they wanted a donation for their church, perhaps in the form of a member. Widows are always being pursued, during these first few months, by people wanting money from the insurance payout.

  “We want to talk to you about our work on Clarkl,” Mrs. Wade said after I had served coffee. “We hope you will find it of interest to you.”

  I braced myself for the pitch.

  “Yes,” the Reverend Wade continued, “our church has sent over ten thousand people to Clarkl, and we always are looking for intelligent women to recruit.”

  “Where is Clarkl?” I asked. “In Africa?”

  The Wades smiled. Mrs. Wade said, “We can’t see its star from Earth, but it was one of the first planets to invite Earthlings.”

  “Whatever would you do there? Why would the Clarkl natives want missionaries?” I asked.

  “We aren’t missionaries, primarily,” Mrs. Wade said. “Certainly, that’s our reason for going there, but the government on Clarkl wants us to help feed its population. It pays us very well for people who can farm and cook. Then, we have some spare time to spread the word. About Jesus, that is.”

  “I have never farmed,” I admitted. “I like to grow some corn in the back yard, but it’s been too hot lately for good corn.”

  The Reverend Wade nodded. He said, “I still remember those delicious cookies you served when I was here before. That’s what gave me the idea you might be interested in joining our group as a cook.”

  I remembered those cookies. Helen had been too loaded down with pies and the leftover ham to take the cookies. They had come from one of the firemen’s wives.

  “I’ll leave our brochure,” he said. “It tells how long a commitment you will need to make and how much you can earn. Perhaps you can share it with your children. They ought to be involved with your decisions, of course.”

  I smiled and accepted the brochure. The Wades finished their coffee.

  May 3, 2137

  Today I looked at that pamphlet the Wades left about Clarkl. If I could cook, I could earn about $25,000 per year and some retirement funds. Of course, I would need to go to faraway Clarkl, and I would need to stay for at least ten years.

  I’d better get down to the county library tomorrow to investigate Clarkl.

  May 5, 2137

  The reference librarian helped me with Clarkl, saying there had been a great deal of interest in that planet lately.

  Clarkl is much colder than Earth, and it is very primitive in terms of the quality of life. Housing is the worst problem for Earthlings, but the terrible snowstorms are certainly another.

  Clarkl has technology significantly more advanced than Earth, though. The spacecrafts from Clarkl land on Earth to pick up workers nearly every three weeks.

  One bizarre note had the reference librarian hooting: there are seven sexes on Clarkl. The dominant entities are human types that walk upright, but that species has divided itself into seven subtypes. The librarian was unable to find information about other species living on Clarkl, so I don’t know if the other species come in pairs or in sets of seven.

  The pictures of the New Christian Congregation’s compound are interesting, though. The workers live in single-person huts, each one with the charm and comforts of housing at Girl Scout camp. Flooring is rare, and a good roof is more precious than rubies.

  Another Christian group is also there, also trying to feed the natives. I wonder what their deal looks like? If only I could cook.

  I don’t believe learning to cook is beyond my powers. I just haven’t had much use for it. Everything comes in handy packages nowadays, and restaurants, with professionals, exist for those few special occasions when a good meal is required. I believe anybody can learn to cook, but few take the time to do so.

  My grandmother could cook, so it couldn’t be that hard, could it?

  May 7, 2137

  The book I ordered about Clarkl arrived. I’ll look at it and then send it back for a refund.

  The human-like beings are very ugly. The pictures of groups of them look like a Halloween party, without the candied apples.

  The seven sexes are: Monarchs, Seekers, Drones, Batwigs, Slinkers, Carriers, and Wolpters. The Drones and the Batwigs are sterile, but the Batwigs are usually near the top of the social order.

  Of course, the Monarchs are the rulers, but their status varies with the changes in the quality of life. If there is ample food, the Monarchs are revered and cared for. If rains and floods have washed away houses and crops, the Monarchs have to watch their backsides. I believe the Monarchs are the ugliest of all the creatures, with strange feelers on their heads.

  Our clients are the Batwigs. These entities are very concerned about keeping the civilization alive, and they contacted the American government on Earth in the early 2070s to ask for help. These early messages indicated they had several rare elements to sell, including various types of uranium the government wanted. The President quickly realized they would approach other heads of state with the same offer, so the Secretary of State authorized five groups to develop proposals for efficiently feeding the masses on Clarkl.

  The New Christian Congregation, founded in 2073 to meet the need for such a proposal, was the first group to be awarded a contract. The Fundamentalists of Christ also were awarded a contract. Both organizations continue to work on Clarkl today, and the government pays for the rare elements by underwriting the labor and supplies of the two religious organizations.

  No info in this book on how much the Fundamentalists are paying for cooks, so back it goes. I’ll make copies of some of the pictures at the library before I take it to the Post Office.

  May 10, 2137

  The reference librarian was very interested in the pictur
es in the book.

  Now, to learn how to cook. It can’t be that hard. The librarian gave me three basic books, but to read only in the library. Cream appears to be also a verb.

  Seven hours in the library today with the cookbooks, taking notes. Then, to the grocery store. They have a special section, way in the back, called Raw Ingredients. I found flour and sugar, but they were out of baking powder, having, they said, not much of a call for it. I placed a special order for two cans, to be available tomorrow.

  May 12, 2137

  My first cake was a flop. Back to the library to compare pictures in the cookbooks with the mess that came out of the oven. Took notes, will try again.

  My brochure from the Fundamentalists of Christ came today. They claim they pay up to $2,500 per month for a person to go to Clarkl. Hell’s Bells! $10 fits that description.

  Their brochure, though, was much more oriented toward the Christian missionary aspect than the one from the New Christian Congregation. Spreading the Gospel while feeding the hungry. The New Christian Congregation seems to concentrate on making some money while you do a service for your country. I can’t get enthusiastic about either of these approaches, but I suspect I have five years of Bible study ahead of me with the Fundamentalists. I had better put them aside for now.

  How can I call the Reverend Wade to ask the monthly salary without appearing too grasping? Maybe he has already seen the peeling paint on the garage.

  May 15, 2137

  A better cake last night. On to muffins and yeast breads.

  With the house agents today. A woman sent me a fancy sympathy note when Harry died and inserted her business card into it. Is nothing too sacred? I called her about perhaps leasing the house, furnished, and she was delighted to come over here to talk today.

  She thinks I can get the mortgage payment, the taxes, the agent’s fee, and the insurance plus about $1,500 per month. However, I need to finish nearly $10,000 in repairs before the place can be shown (she loved the furniture, for what that’s worth). Of course, some of that $1,500 I will need to spend for a storage locker. No need to let tenants paw through Grandma’s silver.

 
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