The clarkl soup kitchens, p.6

The Clarkl Soup Kitchens, page 6

 

The Clarkl Soup Kitchens
 


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  These locals know their own government is providing the food, but they have no concept here of the value of the religious life. The laws that exist look very much like our own Ten Commandments, and the Monarchs and their lieutenants, the Batwigs, keep order without any mention of rewards in heaven.

  In the nearly seventy years the Fundamentalists of Christ have been here on Clarkl, only fourteen converts have been made. And some of these did not provide for Christian burials in their wills.

  March 15, 2144 – I feel I am nearly dried out now. My terrible thirst for alcohol has somewhat abated, and I believe I have met my goal for my trip to Clarkl.

  The Clarklians never take alcohol. The agreement I signed said I would not bring wine, beer, or liquor to Clarkl and I would not make any alcoholic beverage while I was here.

  I am certain I cannot buy alcohol in town. My rug adventures took me near several places that would offer bottles, but nothing was shown in the windows.

  Certainly no alcohol was served in the spacecraft on our deck. The lower decks were stuffed full of various types of Christians, all teetotalers. There was no temptation there for me.

  Meanwhile, I think about the joys of drinking every day.

  March 16, 2144 – A full meeting of the compound after the second service today. The dining room’s troubles have redoubled after the start of the survey. The Clarklians are not interested in giving information. The number of meals served was half today what it was three days ago.

  The government has a complete census, going back several thousands of years. Everything the Clarklians want the government to know has already been collected. There is no patience with prying Christians from afar.

  March 17, 2144 – I went out on another drive with my farmhand friend. This time I wanted to look at housing.

  Each Clarklian is guaranteed a house. The basic house is about eleven feet square, with a simple shower bathroom and an all-purpose room that is heated by electricity. We saw many of these little houses, built close together in rows.

  Any Clarklian who can afford a better house can upgrade by presenting his housing certificate and money. The best house I have seen looks to be about two thousand square feet. Of course, I have not been into the Monarchs’ compounds, where I am assured there are enormous palaces shared by the families.

  Some Batwigs live with the Monarchs. A Batwig always has one Monarch parent, and if that Monarch is powerful and interested in its non-Monarch offspring, it can keep its Batwigs in its house.

  Nevertheless, the Batwigs have the best of the housing outside the Monarchs’ compounds. They are thought to be very intelligent, and they usually have good jobs. Unlike the Drones, they do not spend all their time fornicating or thinking about fornicating. They are sterile and do not need to worry about creating offspring.

  It is interesting to me that the Monarchs never keep their non-Monarch, non-Batwig offspring at their compounds. When a Monarch mates with any other type of Clarklian, half the time the offspring will be the same type as its non-Monarch parent. The Monarchs do not ever claim these offspring.

  The combinations of matings are finite. I have been filling in a table of mating results, and I nearly have a complete record. I have found that almost half the mating combinations, except for those that involve the Monarchs or a mating between two of the same type, will produce a Drone either half the time or all the time.

  The problem with the famine this planet has experienced over the last several millennia is that it has affected the Drones significantly. They are the first to starve. Although all Clarklians are welcome to eat at our dining room, we realize it has been established for the Drones.

  March 18, 2144 – Things are even grimmer at the dining room. We threw away food, for the first time in anyone’s memory.

  The last time somebody moved up on the waiting list for the deluxe cabins was over one year ago. I need to brace myself for the terrible expense of redecorating.

  A quiet day today. I am nearly used to the longer time between sunrises, and I am now sometimes late to breakfast.

  The cooks here do a nice breakfast, as far as it goes. Of course, there is no bacon, but they have a nice touch with dried eggs. Waffles are my favorite of the standard offerings for the staff, with wickenberries in the batter and also on the top. The maple syrup certainly has been made with some maple flavoring in a sugar solution, but it has a good taste.

  Waffles are not on the dining room’s menu because they don’t wait well on the steam tables. The locals are asked to eat what looks like cream of wheat. Sometimes wickenberries are served, when there is a good crop.

  The choir has been singing its heart out, even though the attendance at each service is very poor. We have recorded several of their anthems, and I hope to send these recordings back to America to help with the Clarkl fundraising. Of course, the modulation system is keeping everybody on the correct pitch, even that froggy tenor.

  The women in the choir are really redoubling their rehearsal times now in the hopes we will have more recordings to send to America. I took a picture of the choir gathered around the organ, and we will have that to add to the advertisements. They wanted to show themselves with the modulation system’s microphones, but I decided that would reveal too many secrets.

  If I could send the choir home and use only the recordings at the services, I could move into a deluxe cabin immediately.

  March 19, 2144 – Back on the prowl for furnishings. The farmhand, still willing to accept twenty dollar bills, drove me to Gilsumo right after the first service today.

  I saw many more types of the electrified tiled flooring, and I spent almost $18,000 on enough to cover the room. The salesperson was a Carrier, a curious blend of agility and girth. I believe it was about five and one half feet in height and perhaps four and one half feet in circumference. It ran back and forth between the stockroom and the salesroom while we talked, bringing out the most expensive tiles first and gradually moving down to the ones I was willing to buy.

  Most merchants are Carriers, I found out. They have devices that allow them to translate many of the languages of the universe while they sell. The salesperson spoke its language into a box it wore on his chest, and good English came out.

  The merchant will send the installation team to our compound tomorrow.

  The farmhand and I had just enough time to step into the hotel that caters to Americans for a nice meal. The chef there is much better with the very limited selection of ingredients than our cooks. Still no meat.

  I returned in time to accompany the second service. The attendance was very disheartening. Only two locals were at the service, and both left before the offertory.

  March 20, 2144 – The merchant arrived with the installation crew just after breakfast. The workers, identified by the merchant as Slinkers, quickly moved everything from my tiny room out into the yard that separates my cabin from my neighbor’s.

  While they worked, the merchant opened its truck and showed me a few items it had brought along, things it said I might like.

  Here was a very nice lounge chair with an ottoman for $4,500, a bedspread with gold flecks and blue linen for $7,000, and several lamps with silk shades for prices between $1,700 and $10,000.

  Of course, after the installation was complete, a task that took just an hour with a cabin of that size, the merchant and its crew dragged the chair, the lamps, and the bedspread into the cabin and placed them so I could see how they would “work together.”

  Next, paint samples came out. Three paints were shown to coordinate with the various elements. Then, exterior paint was presented. Finally, a really comfortable mattress was brought into the cabin and placed on my bed for me to try.

  The total amount was staggering, but I authorized all the expenditures. The merchant assured me it would return the following day with the painters. It also said it would “throw in” a drapery to match the bedspread.

  Within a few minutes of the arrival of the merchant, the Reverend Walter
s appeared and poked his head into the cabin.

  “How wonderful you have found some furnishings,” he cried. “I think you will be much happier here with these beautiful things.”

  He clasped his hands to his face when he saw the finished electrified floor. He took off his shoes and felt the warmth come up from the tiles.

  The merchant showed both of us how to regulate the heat from the tiles by turning a dial. It reminded me of a rheostat, except that it had different symbols for high and low.

  The kitchen staff arrived next, with the choir in tow. Many words were said in admiration of the new items, and nobody asked me to feel guilty for spending so much.

  March 21, 2144 – The merchant returned just as the star came up over the horizon today. He had a crew of six, and they set about with the interior and exterior painting.

  It is hard to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but that crew did as near as dammit. The exterior was painted a nice olive green with gold trim, and the interior was painted a warm, light beige with olive green trim.

  I took pictures of the crew and the merchant, standing with the Reverend Walters on the stoop of my cabin. The pictures showed the gold door and the paint-splattered Clarklians. The merchant stood proudly in the center.

  Just as everything was being replaced inside the cabin, the merchant and two crew members brought in a small wooden desk, certainly new but made to look like one in the Queen Anne style. A small armchair also was brought in, “just to see how they look.”

  The card table and the folding chairs were quickly taken to the back of the closet. While I was considering the desk and the chair, the merchant brought in several framed botanicals and had various workers hold them up over the bed and over the desk.

  I authorized another large expenditure, and the merchant and its crew took their leave.

  In all, I spent over $50,000 for this upgrade to property I will never own.

  The merchant assured me the tiles will keep the place warm every day, even when the temperature is below zero Fahrenheit. The new bedspread keeps me warm in bed, too.

  The new desk and chair are very comfortable, and I believe I will be happy here for the rest of the two years I will be on Clarkl.

  March 22, 2144 – I kept to my little cabin today, except for the services and my meals.

  How nice everything looks! The bed is still quite small, about the size of a long single bed at home, but it is very comfortable. The merchant assured me it was the brand used at the only hotel on Clarkl that caters to Americans.

  The Reverend Walters has become somewhat morose about the lack of attendance in the dining room and at our services.

  The only way we are able to find Clarklians to attend the services is to direct them to the sanctuary after the meals. One person stands at the dining room’s exit and points toward the sanctuary, and another stands by the door of the sanctuary and points toward the benches inside.

  When the temperature is extremely cold, as it is from time to time, the locals are willing to go into the warm sanctuary. On other days, they are more likely to just get back into their little vehicles and go back to their other amusements.

  I understand that few Clarklians spend their time in those little houses. Instead, they gather in the streets or in the several public meeting halls to talk or play games.

  Our clientele is unlikely to have extra money to spend on entertainment. It seems to me the music they hear at our services is their only entertainment.

  I am not certain how the government supports these many entities who do not work, but my farmhand friend believes each Clarklian receives the house, electricity and water for the house, and a very small allowance. Our dining room is available for those who are unable to afford food.

  Most of our clientele drive to our compound for meals. Some, of course, walk, but the usual mode of transportation is the one-person vehicle. My farmhand friend has the idea these vehicles are given away, but it is not clear to me why some entities do not have them.

  Most of our clientele are Drones, who are sterile. For this reason, we don’t have many children coming into the dining room. The Reverend Walters has seen only three or four children in the sanctuary. Perhaps they were brought there to see the sights and hear the music.

  March 23, 2144 – Another comfortable day in my redecorated cabin.

  The merchant returned today just after breakfast. It said it wanted to thank me for my business and to present me with a framed drawing of the planet’s spectacular Crystal Ice Ponds.

  We placed the drawing over my desk, and the merchant took its leave.

  I cannot imagine a more pleasant experience than I have had with this Clarklian. If it had cost me half as much, I would have been happier, but merchants are merchants all over the universe. This one was very congenial and very attentive. Even the painting work was carefully supervised.

  Our services were essentially empty today. The choir, the Reverend Walters, and I were entirely alone for the first service, and we had two Clarklians in the pews for the second service. Both left before the offertory.

  The shows went on. The Reverend Walters continued with his homilies on the evils of the Roman Catholic Church, even though that organization is essentially out of business in America. I suspect he learned those sermons in divinity school and has not yet thrown out his notes.

  The manager in charge of the farming efforts came to the staff dining room today to discuss what vegetables were expected to be harvested in the next two months. It looks like cabbage is booming. I heard from one of the cooks he was berating the dining room manager for the poor numbers of meals served. Certainly he has a big stake in the productivity of our dining room.

  March 24, 2144 – Easter services are in less than two weeks, and we started our preparations today. I’m not sure if anybody will be in the pews, but we are pretending it will be the most important day of the year.

  There won’t be any new clothes in the congregation, that’s for sure. These Clarklians don’t ever think of replacing their garments until they are worn out, and there is no place for Earthlings to go to buy the latest in fashion.

  The choir is very enthusiastic, anyway. Ever since I began recording nearly everything they prepare and present, they have been on time to each practice session and even occasionally on pitch.

  The modulation system really has been wonderful, and we use it for every service. However, the individual members of the choir need to stand somewhat apart so no microphone picks up more than one singer, and they have had to get used to that.

  One so-called soprano is quite a boomer. She must have come from the revival tent circuit. I have set her input maximum so she no longer drowns out the others, and I wonder if she has noticed. Certainly the recordings present a good blend of these voices.

  We started with the Bach today, and it sounded very good. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is one number nearly every Christian chorister can sing, and our choir is almost ready to present it. Then, we moved onto something new to the choir, a John Charles Myllar number with plenty of fireworks for the accompanist. Rough going there.

  March 25, 2144 – My mother has sent, via the latest spacecraft, some boots and several scarves her friends have knitted. I put the scarves on a table right outside the dining room, with a note that said “Free to Good Home.” Within fifteen minutes our locals had gathered to examine the garments and to snap them up. Somebody left a coin worth about $10, and I put that into the plate before the second service.

  The boots are very warm, and I sent a letter of appreciation. I also sent a picture of one of the locals wearing the most colorful of the scarves.

  March 26, 2144 – We are going through a bit of a rainy period now. Rain is usually very heavy later in the year, but the planet has so much ice at the poles that rain can surprise even the oldest of the Clarklians.

  The rain has had a pleasant result: the locals are coming to the dining room. The manager believes it has something to do with fellowship, a d
esire to see one’s own kind when the weather is bad. I, on the other hand, think it is because it is easier to drive to our dining room than to shop for food in this weather.

  The New Christian Congregation has opened an automat, and that service, I understand, is jammed when it rains. The Clarklians take food out of the doors faster than the Americans can stuff it in from the other side. The Congregation has a nice covered walkway that leads to the automat, and the locals are able to pick up food without braving the elements.

  My little cabin is quite snug in this rain. The roof is good, and I understand it is rated for winds of up to 175 miles per hour, something we never see in Texas.

  I have been keeping the floor warm all day, even while I am away, and the window is very steamy when I return. The exterior paint seems to be holding up under the rain.

  The merchant was back yesterday to visit another American. Of course, this is not the time to paint, but I understand colors were selected and a mattress was sold.

  I am thinking, in this rain, about a hot toddy.

  March 27, 2144 – About six hours of rehearsals today, with the winds howling outside.

  Our sanctuary building is the least sturdy of the buildings in the compound. I understand the first Americans here built it themselves from plans that were developed for a modest church in North Dakota. Since that time it has had several new roofs, but the building remains the one not up to local standards.

  Even those 121-square-foot dwellings are better able to withstand the cold and the winds than our sanctuary. The Clarklians build them like Fort Knox. I understand all those tiny houses have that expensive electric flooring, although probably not with platinum flakes throughout. The government keeps boiling water circulating through a special set of pipes so the water that runs to all houses is kept above freezing at all times. It sounds like a plumbing nightmare, with a requirement for three temperatures of water in each building.

 
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