The Sympathetic Universe Part 15

Photo by Dzenina Lukac on

When light filtered through the windows of the cabin, Eliza began to worry. She stood to do her calisthenics, but when they were done and she had showered off her sweat, the worry came back. When Gabriel came out of his room, sat on one side of the beige loveseat, and asked in French “Eliza, where are the woman and the baby?” she became more worried. Eliza didn’t see any need to get into a fight with Gabriel over his inability or disinterest to learn anyone’s name, so she just shrugged. “I don’t know,” she admitted. She and Gabriel could communicate any concept that could be expressed within the bounds of French I and French II.

Eliza had not slept all night, and struggled to sit up in her overstuffed easy chair. “No sense in waiting on breakfast,” said Gabriel. He stood and moved to the fridge. He came back with no food and a confused look.

Eliza yawned. Seeing that she was not going to ask, Gabriel said, “The meals are four.”

Eliza blinked the fog from her head. She couldn’t believe that Gabriel was complaining about breakfast. “Is that wrong?” she asked after an extended pause.

“We are five,” Gabriel pointed out.

Five was optimistic at this point, Eliza noted with trepidation. “We are three,” she countered.

A look of horror crossed over Gabriel’s face. Eliza didn’t know how to say “as far as I know” so she just shrugged and said “maybe.” Gabriel was not mollified.

“That is not funny,” he said.

“We shouldn’t do anything until everyone is up,” Eliza said, and Gabriel nodded his agreement.

Before Eloy awoke, though, Angel limped into the cabin with a sleeping, dreadlocked child in one arm. “Eliza,” she said, holding Destiny out, “I’m going back for your phone.”

Eliza rushed forward to accept Destiny, and Angel turned and left. Eliza carried Destiny to the empty room and laid her on the bare mattress. She lifted her head and put a pillow underneath. Then she pulled the folded blanket from the end of the bed and draped it over the child. This seemed satisfactory and she returned to the common area.

An hour later, Eloy ambled in, chewing on a piece of french toast from a green tupperware. He sat down in the other easy chair. “Nobody’s eaten breakfast,” he observed, some toast still in his mouth, “do you guys not like french toast?”

“Eloy!” Eliza shouted, causing Eloy to jump, “how many tupperwares were in there?”

“Four,” Eloy said, “there’s always four. What’s your problem?”

Eliza was too tired to keep the condescension out of her voice, “Eloy, how many people are staying at this cabin?”

After a moment’s frustration, understanding dawned on Eloy’s french toast-filled face. “Fuck, Eliza, there’s not enough food!”

Eloy’s gaze became distant. Eliza glared at him as he reached into the tupperware without looking and pulled out another slice of french toast. Then he saw her look and stuffed it back in. He pushed the top back on and rushed back to the kitchen to throw it back in the fridge.

Eloy often looked like he was doing calculations in his head, and when he came back he was doing it again. “Everyone else should eat,” he announced, “I will fast until we have enough food to go around.” He puffed out his chest, inordinately pleased with himself.

Eliza offered him her best “Isn’t that nice,” smile and stood to go to bed. Angel would handle this when she got back.

The sun was high in the sky when Eliza awoke. She couldn’t sleep any more, even though she was hardly any less groggy. She wandered back into the common area to see Eloy rambling about something to Gabriel, who nodded like he always did when he didn’t understand anything that was being said. “How did she know what frequency to set her radio to? How did she even know how to operate a two-way radio?”

Eloy turned when she came in, “Finally, someone who speaks English.”

“Bonjour, Gabriel,” Eliza said, “Comment ça va?”

“Bien merci,” said Gabriel, turning away from Eloy, “et toi?”

“Fatigué” Eliza admitted, “Faim.”

Gabriel laughed, “Va manger.”

“Je vais,” Eliza agreed. She made a point of not looking at Eloy, but she let a grin onto her lips as she walked to the kitchen. He really had walked into that one.

The green breakfast tupperwares were gone, replaced by red lunch tupperwares. Eliza wondered if anyone had actually eaten breakfast, or if all the food besides one slice of french toast had gone completely to waste. She peeled the top off a red container. French fries. Good ones. They were hand cut. She could see the potato skin on some of the edges and big chunks of sea salt. Despite being in the refrigerator they were still hot. She put the tupperware down and washed her hands, then she pushed the fries aside to see what was beneath. A turkey Reuben on seeded rye bread. Eliza’s mouth watered.

The sandwich was cut in two, she noted. It was thick with a generous portion of turkey slathered in thousand island dressing. Even skipping breakfast, she didn’t need to eat the whole thing. Destiny was a little girl, she couldn’t eat that much. She’d seen Gabriel eat. Half the time, he left most of the food untouched. This wasn’t an issue at all.

Eliza brought a plate with half a Reuben and a pile of fries out to the table in the space adjoining the kitchen and common area. The triumphant look on Eloy’s face made her giggle, which perturbed him. “Please enjoy your meal,” he intoned, “I will wait until there is food enough for all.”

Eliza couldn’t keep her attention on Eloy’s ridiculous posturing. Her Reuben was just too good. At first, she thought the french fries needed ketchup, but soon she was appreciating their own inherent salty flavor all the more.

“Oh, man,” Eliza exclaimed, “this is really good. Wow. Do you like Reubens, Eloy?”

“I’m abstaining,” Eloy insisted, “don’t tempt me.”

“You’re missing out,” Eliza cajoled, “this is just half a tupperware. No one needs to go hungry.”

“Oh,” said Eloy.

“The other half is on the counter.”

Eloy stood. He came back from the kitchen with a red tupperware in one hand and an already half-eaten Reuben in the other. “Wow, these are good!”

“Gabriel,” Eliza called, “viens manger! Il y a … uh, beaucoup de … nourriture!”

“Non, merci. Dieu me nourrira.”

Eliza had trouble understanding this. It sounded like he was saying he was going to eat God. “quoi? Tout …” she struggled to think of another way to say that there was plenty of food. “le monde peut manger”

Gabriel struggled to get his point across, “Ah, non, ah, I… ah, not eat food. You eat.”

Eliza looked back at him. “Beaucoup,” she repeated. She pointed at Eloy and her plates and raised one finger, “un … uh, tupperware.”

Gabriel did the sign of the cross and bowed his head. “La vertu exige des sacrifices.”

Eloy put down his french fry, and his face looked calculating again. Then he shook his head, picked it up and popped it into his mouth. Eliza smiled and did the same. She took another fry and looked back at Gabriel. His face was stoic, but he was mumbling prayers under his breath. Eliza took one finger and pushed the fry into her mouth, and biting down, appreciating the crispy, salty crunch. “mmmm,” she groaned closing her eyes, “délicieux.”

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: