Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Comfort Food
Month 2, Day 10
1018 Hours

Once the morning rush was over, Anna retreated to her office, confident her second could oversee the kitchen while she did paperwork. She left her doors open, just in case she might be needed. It let her keep an ear on things so that she could return at any moment, even if her crew became so busy, they forgot to ask for help.
“Ferg?” came a timid query through the messhall door. Anna paused. That voice sounds familiar. Who is it?
“Hey, Mac. You’re up late, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” the woman agreed, and cleared her throat. “I need a favor.”
“I need a date.”
“No.” The voice had become ice. “Forget it.”
“Wait,” Ferguson told her quickly. “Tell me the favor, and forget I asked for a date.” Anna was startled by an oven door slamming in the kitchen, and almost didn’t hear him add, “Again.”
“A pizza,” the woman stated. “Just a little one. A snack.”
“We have good food on the menu without making anything special.”
“I really want a pizza. Ham and pineapple. Extra pineapple. Please!”
We’ve had more requests for pizza in the past month than in the entire year before that. What’s the sudden interest in pizza? Anna stood and headed for the doorway.
“Mac, we aren’t set up-“ Ferguson was saying.
“Why ham and pineapple?” Anna asked, and stopped at sight of the redhead. That’s Drake’s girl. The one who failed her test.
“It’s my favorite kind,” the girl stated.
“We’ve had a request for ham and pineapple pizza every week for the past month,” Anna stated. “Have you been ordering them?”
The girl’s face suddenly matched her hair. “Either Mac or Bugs have ordered them, to please me. Every 8 days.”
Mac and Bugs? Well, she shortens Ferguson to Ferg. I’ll figure out who she means later. “Why?”
“It makes me feel good. Brings back memories of happier times.”
It’s her comfort food. “Is it the ham, the pineapple or what?”
The redhead went from surprised to thoughtful. “We have ham on Gaelund. We have tomato sauce, cheese and bread. But we don’t have pineapple.”
Gaelunder. Colonist. There’s always something that doesn’t grow well or can’t be made well. Usually the cheese tastes strange, or something won’t grow. Pineapple is a hot-climate fruit. “Do you like bananas?”
“Yes,” the redhead responded enthusiastically. “But not banana chips, and that’s all a ship ever has.”
“Yes, bananas spoil quickly if they aren’t dried. “Come into my office, and let’s discuss your options when this urge hits. Ferguson, bring in one of my specials.”
“One, sir? Or two?”
I do love- No, better not. Anyway, if she doesn’t like it, I can finish hers. “One,” she decided, and led the redhead into her office. “Have a seat,” she invited. Anna typed a query into her computer and set it to work. “I have to admit, I can’t think of many recipes that use pineapple. That’s why we don’t have a lot of it in storage. So, let’s try to find other foods to serve the purpose, before we run out of the one we know works for you.”
The redhead gave her a confused look. “What purpose?”
She doesn’t even realize- “To pick up your spirits. We all need it from time to time. Now, there’s plenty of pineapple sauce, which people usually put on ice cream.”
“Ice cream gives me a headache. Unless I have it with hot fudge, which I also love. But I can’t have that too often, or my uniforms won’t fit.”
Anna smiled. “I have the same problem. I’m not as active as I should be.”
“I try,” the younger woman stated. “But the ship is set at 1G, and that just doesn’t challenge this body.” She adjusted the lay of her off-duty shirt, and Ferguson took a shuddering breath as he put down a piece of pie on Anna’s desk.
Can’t blame him. She’s got a figure to boil a man’s blood. I’ve heard heavy-worlders are muscle-bound, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at this one. Why won’t she date Ferguson? Not my business. “Enjoy,” Anna told the redhead, pushing the pie with chocolate sauce to the other side of the desk. As the redhead stared at the pie for a moment before reaching for the fork, Anna went on. “Pineapple sauce doesn’t have to be over ice cream. We usually have white cake available; you could have the sauce over that.”
Anna consulted her computer screen while the younger woman swallowed her first bite. “That sounds good. I like cake, too. This pie is great. How did you get real bananas? We’ve been in space over a month.”
“It took me a long time to figure out how to properly rehydrate banana chips. Now that I have, I’m writing up the procedure for the Fleet’s Chef’s newsletter.”
“Will it become a regular desert item? I’ll be sure to get a piece.”
“It might. If you want the chocolate sauce on it, ask for Anna’s Special. All my people know what that is. And if you want some pineapple sauce on white cake, why not ask for Colleen’s Cake? I’ll explain to my people what it is.”
Colleen swallowed her latest bite and then grinned. “Nobody calls me Colleen.”
Wrong. One person does. Surely there’s not two Colleen’s on board. “Then nobody else will ask for it, and there’ll be plenty for you. She watched the girl finish the pie and lick the last smear of chocolate from the fork. “How are the studies coming?”
All pleasure disappeared from her face. “Every minute,” she answered. “My days off, all my evenings- I’ve even cut back Bugsy’s hugs to just one viewing of the movie.” She straightened in sudden concern and stared in panic at the wall clock. “Bugsy! He’s going to wake me in 5 hours! I’ve got to get some sleep!”
“I thought this was your day off.”
“I’m midnights,” the girl answered. “So, yeah, it is, but... I sleep days. I... lost track of time when I was studying.”
“Then you’d better go get some sleep,” Anna agreed. “You don’t want to fall asleep during your date.”
“Oh, it’s not a date,” Colleen stated. “Just supper and study. Could be just supper, if he has a date.”
“I see,” Anna said, although she didn’t, not really. After the girl left, Anna got up and closed the door to the kitchen, went to the doorway to the messhall. “Ferguson, you got a minute?”
He turned from wiping down the counter glass, winced as another oven door slammed in the kitchen. “Sure thing, Chef.” He stepped into her office, and she closed the door behind him. “Doesn’t the new guy, what’s his name, Gales, wash the service area?”
“Chef, Gales is hardly a new guy. He’s been aboard almost two years. I told him to try his hand at baking bread today, so I’m wiping things down.” They both winced as another oven door slammed. “Doesn’t sound like he’s doing too good.”
“Could be nerves, if I’ve ignored rotation for that long. I do hope nobody’s trying to make souffl├ęs today. Why don’t you look in on him, try to convince him not to break the ovens?”
“Sure thing,” he agreed, and started to step for the kitchen door, but her hand on his arm stopped him. “Something else?”
“That redhead who just left...”
She did warn me nobody uses her first name.”While we were talking, she referred to somebody, but I didn’t recognize the name.”
“Yeah, if she’s willing to like you, she shortens your name. What name did she use?”
“Bugs. Or Bugsy. Something like that.”
He nodded. “Lt Bugalu, day shift helm. The only man she will date. So far.” His face went pink. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have added that bit of gossip. Anything else?”
“After you check on Gales, and as soon as you get a chance, come talk to me about all these things I’ve been letting slide the last couple years. And thank you for holding the kitchen together while I... fell apart.”

He nodded and headed for the kitchen. Anna opened the door to the messhall and returned to her desk. Lt Colleen MacDowell is the only Colleen aboard. So, unless Smythe is pining for someone who isn’t even on board, it’s her he wants. And she only dates a man considerably younger than him. This does not bode well.

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