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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 27: Beam 64
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Takano 21
“Why do I have to cook?”
Sophia was ranting again. She had been on this every day since they had returned from their foray into the outer world.
“Why can’t we go back to that rest place we found last week? Why should we have to make food and clean up the pots and such, when we can walk down the hall and have it all done for us?”
The joke, to Beam’s mind, was that Sophia had never had it so easy--electric oven replacing open hearth, dishwasher instead of heated buckets of water drawn and carried from a well, precut meats and vegetables instead of slaughtering her own chickens. Yet as easy as she now had it, knowing that it could be easier made her act as if it were too much work, that he was demanding too much of her to expect her to cook a few times each week and to put dishes in the dishwasher.
“It’s your turn to cook. Go make something.”
“I don’t feel like cooking. When you don’t want to cook, you order pizza, or chai knees.”
“Fine. Order Chinese, then, if that’s what you want.”
“I don’t want to have to clean the dishes.”
“What, scrape them in the waste bin and load them in the dishwasher? How lazy can you be?”
“I like the rest place. Besides, I want to get out, go somewhere that isn’t just the same dozen rooms. The restaurant at least is somewhere different.”
“Well, I want to stay in. Maybe we’ll go out another night.”
She stormed off in a funk. She was learning to use the computers, thanks to that night using the restaurant menu, so maybe he should expect Chinese delivery or sandwiches or something. If she was really angry, she’d probably get sushi--she knew he didn’t eat seafood, and raw seafood had to be the worst. He might have to scrounge some leftovers from the fridge. Well, he’d eaten worse.
Part of the problem was that she was right--not specifically about going to the restaurant, but about something more fundamental, an attitude. In a world in which you could walk a couple hundred yards and have someone serve you well-prepared free food of just about anything you would be likely to want, why would there be in-home kitchens and home grocery delivery? If you could eat at the restaurant free, as far as he could tell three times, five times, ten times a day if it suited you, why would anyone ever make food at home?
He would, of course, because he liked to cook, and to eat his own cooking and have others enjoy it. His Swedish meatballs were not something you could usually get on a diner menu, and no one’s chili was quite like his. He, though, was an anomaly, a statistical outlier--and he was often deterred from cooking by the recognition that he might not be able to rope someone else into the cleanup. One might argue that making a sandwich was easier than walking to the restaurant, but making a beef roast certainly was not. He thought his roast beef was better than the roast beef platter they served at most diners, but not better than the prime rib or filet mignon--but that was mostly because he didn’t start with prime rib or filet mignon, and he easily could in a world in which they didn’t charge extra for the better cuts. Besides, he was an exceptional cook, at least in his own assessment.
You might stay home if you expected the lines to be long. Wait times at popular restaurants could be discouraging, and the more so if you didn’t make reservations. That hadn’t been a problem for them, but then, the area was filled with what appeared to be empty apartment complexes, and if their complex was standard each could house forty to fifty residents comfortably, if you counted children. What else? Sometimes his first wife didn’t want to go out because she claimed she had nothing to wear. He didn’t understand that argument because of course she wasn’t standing there naked when she said it and her closets always contained more clothes and even more kinds of clothes than his; he suspected it was an attempt to let her go shopping for new clothes. Of course, sometimes he just didn’t feel like getting dressed, and in his own home he could cook in his underwear if he so chose. Yet none of these reasons seemed adequate. He could use the computer to summon take-out of at least a dozen varieties, and not even have to deal with a person at the door because it all came in robotic delivery carts.
His reason for not wanting to go out, though, was a bit more complicated. Having returned home from the restaurant, he had had that notion about the vast numbers of people for whom the complex had been built, and was wondering where they were. He had taken his scrap of a map and found a graphics program on the computer that would let him reproduce it. Then in his mind he extrapolated some idea of the surrounding area, the part he had not mapped, not walked. He also recognized that they had only assumed the half dozen apartment complexes they passed were empty. Any one of them could be populated, even filled; they could all be filled. It might be a remarkable coincidence that his team had not encountered anyone on their foray, but then, those people could well be living as he was, getting food delivered and staying out of the halls.
After all, his brief mapping venture had told him very little about what might roam the halls. In a post-apocalyptic world the potential dangers ranged from feral dogs to mutant snakes to invading aliens to malfunctioning robots, and that didn’t count the possibilities for invisible hazards like radiation pockets, viruses, deadly molds.
He had faced all these things in role playing games. This was different. For one thing, in the game he knew that there was a referee, a game master, designing encounters which would be challenging but not necessarily overwhelming. The game was only fun as long as the players had a real chance of survival and success. Sometimes that meant a need to retreat, but it never meant no chance at all. Here that was not the case. Oh, Beam had been raised Catholic, and he believed there was probably a god, but he’d had too much trouble in his life to believe that that god had his best interests in view, whatever his Christian friends claimed. At least, if God were out there he wasn’t making sure that their encounters would all have appropriate challenge ratings, or whatever they were calling that nowadays. So they could run into just about anything.
For another thing, although death had now proved not to be permanent, it was still painful. Nobody really liked pain, he suspected. He had had enough. In a game, you knew that your character suffered and sometimes died, but the only pain to you was the emotional loss of the character and the work to create another one. He had shown courage on the space station, but there weren’t really any options there. The same was true in the bunker. He had, he supposed, rather brazenly walked into the Bloody Bucket, but then, he knew that even a horde of medieval peasants would be no match for Dawn’s guns, and a few dead would discourage the rest. Here he was not certain what kinds of weapons they might face, or whether they had robotic fighting machines, or if they had mutated in some way that made them super-human. There was no way to assess the risk.
Of course there was. He was going to have to go out with the team and explore further, open some of those doors, establish what was behind them, build the map more completely, and face the encounters.
That wasn’t the same as going to the restaurant--but then, there was no reason why they couldn’t stop at the restaurant while they were out. Maybe tomorrow; right now, he needed another beer.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #361: Characters Explore. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: