The clarkl soup kitchens, p.8

The Clarkl Soup Kitchens, page 8


The Clarkl Soup Kitchens

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  When I went out, she had a list of errands for me to run. When I did not go out, she continually asked if I were feeling poorly. My only chance for a date was to park my car by the reservoir in the middle of the afternoon and wait for somebody with a similar interest to park beside me.

  I think I can live happily in that town if she keeps out of my way.

  April 14, 2144 – An easy day today, with a quick rehearsal between the services.

  The Reverend Walters continues with his hour-long sermons, even though the locals are absent. None of them stays after the offertory these days, so we have changed the liturgy to present both our anthems early.

  His topic today, for both services, was the commandment to honor your father and your mother. I was the only one to whom he could direct his admonitions since all the members of the choir are orphans by now and the locals had departed.

  These Clarklians don’t have anything like a family structure. They have offspring, and the government takes the offspring to raise in large kindergartens. Even the Monarchs raise their offspring apart from the adults in nurseries run by the strict Batwigs.

  How can these entities relate to their parents?

  This society reminds me of the efforts in 2065 to repopulate Alaska by inserting cloned eggs into any woman who was willing to spend nine months and earn $20,000. Those children were taken into enormous orphanages with little knowledge of their biological backgrounds. To get the $20,000, each woman had to give up all contacts with the child, so there was no mother to honor for those children. What commandments were broken? The Reverend Walters has never mentioned that episode in our history.

  April 15, 2144 – Back on the road with my farmhand friend today. We had just enough time between the services to visit a museum in Gilsumo and engage in our usual activities.

  This museum was devoted to the arts on the planet, from the start of their civilization. It was a very poor show, with much of the museum’s space devoted to the story of the entity who contributed the building and donated most of the works.

  I was expecting to see oil paintings. Instead, we saw terrible works that used body parts. More interesting was the large collection of photographs of artists at work.

  Seekers are the artists, for the most part. A couple of Batwigs are credited for works, but they are discussed as clearly amateurs. Following each artist’s name is that artist’s entity type, much like we will list various academic degrees. Nearly every artist was a Seeker.

  These photographs also allowed us to see clothes through the ages, or at least through the last eight hundred years. The styles are essentially the same. Maybe the Clarklians wear more colors now than they did earlier, but they still bundle up in cottons and linens.

  The headdress has remained constant through the years, always a hood with a headband for outdoors and the headband only for indoors. Our Monarchs did not wear the hoods on their visit on Good Friday, but the Drones always appear at the door to the dining room with the hoods pulled over the tops of their heads.

  April 16, 2144 – Another good day on the spirituals. We rehearsed Give Me That Old Time Religion and Gospel Train is Coming, and both sounded good. No notes too high or too low for our choir. Then, we presented Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen at both services.

  Our Clarklians like the livelier numbers, to be sure. I think we will send the Trouble number to our recording company and keep it out of the services. It’s too much of a lament, and, if there’s trouble being seen, these Clarklians have seen much more of it than eight well-fed white folks from America.

  Of course, the words to our numbers are not translated for our guests, but it is easy to tell a lament from a hymn of praise. For that reason, I’m keeping Were You There? out of our repertoire entirely.

  The numbers of meals served fell even further in the last week. The Reverend Walters usually does not get involved with the operations of the dining room, but he offered up a special prayer today for the success of the cooks.

  This evening, I dug out my special Rachmaninoff project from deep inside my steamer trunk. I have been wanting to arrange the Songs of the Church for singers and an organist of ordinary skill, and now I have actually started to work. I have the full score, and I have decided to start with the shortest of the fifteen works, Today Hath Salvation Come.

  Actually, the choir is very anxious to try things. There is so little to do here except rehearse, and they look forward to the new pieces I am able to find. I am in charge of the hymnals and their maintenance, and I usually load several new songs each week.

  For these Rachmaninoff pieces, the alto will need to become a tenor, the tenor will need to sing second tenor, and the baritone, heaven forbid, will need to sing bass. I know the baritone’s range, and I will have to keep his part confined to the four or five notes he can sing. As for the sopranos, I will divide them into two first sopranos and two altos. The current arrangement is for eight voices, but none of these people can sustain the effort these pieces require. Using just six voices will be easier for each chorister to sing, and I will play the highest notes and the lowest notes on the organ.

  This is very exciting, of course. If I were to attempt this in Texas, the entire project would be criticized and I would give it up as the aspiration of a fool. Here, on the other hand, I can work on these arrangements without any deadline and without constant complaints from people who actually have some training in arranging music.

  My computer is set up to work with a very small keyboard, also dug out of the trunk. It has about seventeen piano-like keys, and I can press a key to establish the tone and a key at the top of the keyboard to tell the computer which octave the note should be assigned to. With this computer system, I can reproduce tones from eleven octaves, about at the upper and lower range of human hearing.

  All this stuff weighed too much, and it cost me about $4,000 to bring it along. I expect I will have a use for it in the next months as I work on the Rachmaninoff.

  April 17, 2144 – Give Me That Old Time Religion went over very well with the locals. They were nodding and clapping with the choir, and the Reverend Walters was clearly pleased. However, they all walked out right before the offertory.

  The prayers for the cooks have not yet been answered.

  I hurry back to my elegant desk in my little cabin to work on the Rachmaninoff. I find I am very excited about it, not happy to tear myself away for services or rehearsals or even meals. I have been keeping it a big secret from the choir, but I hope we can start the rehearsals of the first piece within a month.

  If I pace myself at one of the fifteen pieces each six weeks, we will have all of them recorded before my two years is over.

  April 18, 2144 – The dining room was essentially empty today. The services were attended by a few Clarklians, but, as usual, they left before the sermon.

  The staff is idle. They are playing cards in the lounge when the Reverend Walters is not watching, and some of them are given to weeping. There is no alcohol for anybody to drown in here, as I frequently regret.

  The lull in activities in the dining room has not stopped the Reverend Walters from continuing with his long, sometimes angry sermons. Today the text was the commandment against coveting your neighbor’s wife, something these poor people have little time or inclination for. Even if the Clarklians were staying for the sermons, those texts are certainly inappropriate for them.

  I wish we could just have a list of suggested texts from which he is not allowed to depart. I also wish the government’s contract covered the maximum time for any sermon.

  We are out here without any supervision, except for the general manager who comes to inspect the dining room for cleanliness. If the Reverend Walters is driving away the dining room business, nobody can tell him to change his ways.

  Meanwhile, the choir and I keep moving ahead with the spirituals. I sent two more to the Deacon’s agent today, via the messaging service.

  Today we rehearsed I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray and Little
David, Play on Your Harp. Very rough. The first sopranos were both in poor voice, and the baritone was as usual.

  One woman keeps her hymnal on a very large zoom scale; I think she can only see three notes ahead of where we are singing, and this does not give her much time to sight read. When a rest comes, she has a hard time getting started again, often coming in flat. After a few rehearsals, she forgets the hymnal and sings from memory. That works much better.

  The tenor is our most enthusiastic singer, but, of course, his range is small. His face turns an alarming shade of red when anything like an F or an F# shows up on his hymnal. I can see he is thinking about the F and straining toward it, but it never comes out. He has a really solid middle C, though, and the notes about an octave below that are pretty good.

  Our best sight reader is one of the women, who will take nearly any part we ask. She has a good range on the low notes, from a good G below middle C up to about a high E or, on a rare day, F. She clearly is very intelligent, but her voice is not the best. It sounds like it has been washed frequently with gin.

  These people have become quite dear to me during the last couple of months, and I have learned much about their strengths and weaknesses as choristers. They are all treating this assignment as something to do for two years that is interesting and for the good of the Christian church, but nobody is exempt from continual complaints about the housing and the meatless food.

  I worked on the first of the Rachmaninoff pieces this evening, O Come Let Us Worship. I think this will be the easiest for me to arrange and the easiest for our choir to work with.

  These pieces have a haunting effect on me. I am almost hypnotized by them as I try to imagine how they will sound. I wish I had a recording to work from, but I brought only this bound sheet music.

  I went back to the sanctuary late in the evening to play the first Rachmaninoff piece on the piano. The Reverend Walters was kneeling in prayer at the chancel, and I slipped away before I disturbed him.

  April 19, 2144 – At the second service, I played the doxology for myself. After the recessional, I was the only entity left in the sanctuary.

  Two more letters came from my mother today, but no new people were on the spacecraft to replace our crew.

  My mother reports the wedding date has been confirmed with the church and the reception hall. Plans are moving forward.

  She knows I left complete genetic samples before I left. If she wants another grandchild, she can pay somebody to give birth to one, using my material.

  Why can’t she just spoil the three grandchildren she already has? Or, make plans to spoil the one on the way?

  If she took the time to have my genetic materials examined, she could see I’m not the marrying kind. It’s all there, in plain sight. The counselor at my freshman genetic consultation at Ohio Wesleyan pointed it out and said it was quite pronounced in my genetic makeup. There was no need to wonder what environmental conditions caused me to be the way I am, she assured me. Just like Uncle Wolfy, I suspect.

  Certainly my father knew. His will identified me by my name and my genetic fingerprint.

  April 20, 2144 – More work on the Rachmaninoff this evening, after a nice ride in the countryside with my farmhand friend.

  He reports the New Christian Congregation’s food usage is higher than ever. They order more fresh vegetables each week than they ordered the week before.

  The farmhand also reports a new plan to grow wild rice. The New Christian Congregation has ordered so much of this cereal from America that the farming manager wants to see if the conditions about one hundred miles north or south of the Clarkl equator are equal to those in Minnesota, where wild rice flourishes. A two-hundred-acre plot has been identified, and plants from the lakes of Minnesota have been introduced there. My farmhand is assigned to that project for three days each week.

  Our dining room rarely has wild rice, and any that comes is saved for the staff.

  April 21, 2144 – Some nice smoked salmon, a gift from the faithful in Canada. I sat an extra foot away from the hors d’oeuvres table to penalize myself with an appropriate handicap.

  Gospel Train sounded good at both services. A few locals were there, and one recorded it. Then, we presented Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, to not much appreciation. The Clarklians like the lively tunes.

  I saw that $10 scarf today on a different local. Perhaps it has become a valuable item for trading.

  The recent spacecraft from America brought an upgrade to the organ’s software, and I loaded that today. It sounds about the same, but the music stand now can hold up to twenty sheets. I’ll have to get used to it.

  After the first service, my merchant friend visited to show me a new bathroom. It can install the bathroom in my cabin, it assured me, in only four hours, giving me a steam room with a shower. Gone is another $17,000, along with about fourteen square feet of my space. I expect the installation in three weeks. Meanwhile, I continue to shower near the staff lounge.

  April 22, 2144 – The dining room manager put the sterling silver on the tables today, to be used by the Clarklians. Whom had she been saving it for? The Monarchs came and went without seeing it. Usually she sets the tables in the staff dining room with stainless steel and lets the locals use disposable plastic.

  Several Batwigs were at the services today, and I was happy we had the I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray in good shape. Four Batwigs attended the early service, and the Reverend Walters preached on the text of the Loaves and Fishes miracle. Then, seven Batwigs stayed through the offertory at the second service, not long enough to hear that sermon again.

  Loaves are in good supply here. The farms produce some wheat, but the spacecrafts from America are full of it, too. Fishes are, of course, out of bounds for this planet of vegetarians.

  I asked my farmhand friend about other animals on this planet, and he has never seen any. Vegetation appears to abound, but the usual animal pests do not appear at the farms. They do not need to spray to eliminate bugs.

  The merchant returned today to sell two more $17,000 bathrooms. These buyers are also on the waiting list for the deluxe cabins.

  I spread all the work on the Rachmaninoff on the top of my desk and made some real progress today. I wish one of the sopranos could reach A#, but I can’t chance it. The organ has to take over all these high notes, using the flute stop. Same with the really low notes, except I’ll indicate the tuba stop.

  I am getting very excited about this set of songs, and I hope the Deacon will agree to publish them. It’s not the popular item the spirituals will become, but surely college students will appreciate the revised score.

  April 23, 2144 – Nobody came to the dining room today, or to the services. The dining room manager was very upset, pacing back and forth from the staff lounge to the kitchen most of the day. The Reverend Walters was looking very sad, too.

  The show had to go on, of course. We played and sang as if the room were SRO. The choir decided to add an extra anthem to the second service, as if that might attract the locals. But nobody was seen anywhere near our property. I’ll ask my farmhand friend tomorrow if the New Christian Congregation is canceling orders for produce.

  I sent the two spirituals we have been rehearsing to the Deacon today, via the electronic message system. I also made a recording to send in the next spacecraft. His encouragement has been very uplifting, of course, but we are always pleased at the reaction of our friends in the congregation. The Clarklians like these pieces above everything else.

  I borrowed a little printer from the dining room manager to make a backup copy of the first Rachmaninoff piece, and I took it to the sanctuary after the second service to try it out. I always like to work from paper because I can make notations directly on the sheet and apply them when I return to my cabin.

  The first piece is sounding better than I had imagined it would. I played each of the six parts in turn, just to make sure nobody had too much to sing, and then I played the accompaniment. Some notations for ch
anges, of course, but so far a good effort.

  Sarah Hope’s Jottings

  March 28, 2142 – I went to the lawyer, Mr. Whipple, today, the visit I had been both dreading and wishing for.

  “Well, Miss Hope,” he said, flashing a toothy smile and looking at me as if I were a very small child, “I talked to the people from the New Christian Congregation yesterday, and now I have the pleasure of your visit.”

  “Yes,” I admitted. I wondered what the church had to do with it.

  “Mrs. Aperson signed a very complete will and testament, and she has left you some property,” he continued.

  “Yes,” I agreed. Actually, I was expecting to be the only beneficiary.

  “There’s not much in this estate, you understand,” he went on. “Mrs. Aperson was over 100 when she died, and she outlived most of her assets.”

  “Oh,” I said, widening my eyes.

  He straightened his tie and picked up a heavy document.

  “Here’s a copy of the will I made for you, but I will explain the gist of it now.”

  I took the copy and continued to look at Mr. Whipple.

  “Mrs. Aperson left you her house, its contents, and its grounds. There is a substantial mortgage on the place, and, I am sorry to say, you have inherited that, too.”

  “No, no,” I said. “She was to leave me her house free and clear. She told me so when I went to work for her in 2111.”

  Mr. Whipple nodded and said, “Yes, that may have been her intent in 2111. I know you were her companion for over thirty years, but those years exhausted her inheritance from Judge Aperson. She mortgaged the house to pay the taxes and the maintenance.”

  “What maintenance?” I cried. “I did all the repairs, even the plumbing and the roofing.”

  He waited until I had calmed down. Finally, he said, “I, of course, can’t know where the money went. I assisted with the three mortgages she took out on the house, one in 2116, another in 2229, and the third in 2237.”

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