The long-suffering crew of the Prayer have found a home. They’ve got a harvest. Now it’s time for a holiday. But while the captain was looking forward to a day spent lying on his back, he’d wanted it to be as a result of a prolonged food-and-sex coma, not arthritis…
Adrift Book Five
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His hands trembling with anticipation, Thomas held the warm brown loaf up to his face and breathed in, sighing as the smell of real bread made with real flour flooded his nostrils.
It’s slightly burnt on the underside, said Echo, who stood by the oven, watching his reaction closely. Do you want a knife?
Shaking his head, Thomas set the loaf down and tore off a chunk from the corner, shivering at the sound of the crust cracking open. He stuffed it into his mouth and waited a second before he started to chew. As the warmth and flavour spread over his tongue, he made the sort of noise he generally reserved for when Khurshed hit his prostate dead-on. Bread had been one of the many, many things he’d taken for granted back on Earth, only eating it when it was so loaded down with strawberry jam and peanut butter he didn’t even notice its taste or texture. What a spoiled idiot he’d been.
So? asked Echo.
Swallowing and smacking his lips, he said, “I’m starting a new religion. We’re all going to worship this bread now.”
Echo blushed, bowed, and allowed Thomas to kiss his forehead. It was a shade browner than it had been the last time Thomas’s lips had touched it; finally, after almost a year living on Yusra’s surface, Echo’s milk-white skin was beginning to tan.
“Where’d you learn to make something like that, huh? Did you go to a fancy cooking school?”
I wanted to when I was a teenager. The only culinary academy on the Moon was expensive, though. I learnt to bake while I was working as a waiter in a pastry café; the manager let me experiment in the kitchen after-hours.
“You’re so talented, babe. And cute. And smart. And nice.”
No, you can’t have the whole loaf to yourself. It’s our first, and I promised everyone a slice.
Thomas mewled disappointedly as Echo took it back and set it down on the tray before adding, I’m making more loaves for Thanksgiving. You can gorge yourself then.
“We aren’t celebrating Thanksgiving,” Antoine huffed, striding into the kitchen. “Our first official holiday on this planet is not going to honour that tasteless American celebration of colonialism, gastronomic excess, and wanton cruelty to animals.”
As he spoke, he washed his dirt-covered hands in the sink and then poured himself a glass of water. He was wearing a grimy shirt and shorts that exposed his legs and knobby knees to the world, so he’d probably spent the morning foraging for specimens or visiting the nearby ruins again. His legs were building up some decent calf muscles, Thomas noted, and his biceps were getting more defined from all the time he spent lugging his equipment around. He still wasn’t Thomas’s type―pretty face or not, men that skinny just didn’t do it for him―but Thomas was sure Zachery and Khurshed appreciated it.
Thomas shrugged. “It makes sense, Ant. We’re celebrating food.”
Specifically, they were celebrating Rick’s successful harvest and the resultant fact that bread was making its long-awaited re-entry into their diets.
“There are plenty of harvest-related holidays that aren’t as thoroughly appalling as Thanksgiving,” Antoine said, his nostrils twitching as Echo passed him the still-warm loaf. He picked up a knife and cut himself a dainty slice. “The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, the Slavic Saviour of the Apple Feast Day, the Igbo New Yam Festival…”
He paused to take a bite, and then another. “The… That other one… Dear God, Echo, this amazing.”
I still think celebrating Halloween would be fun, said Echo, after prying the loaf from Antoine’s grasp before he could devour it whole. Everyone likes costumes and ghost stories. And it’s also historically related to the harvest, so it’s appropriate.
“Echo, you just want an opportunity to use your morbid cookie cutter collection again. I’ve ingested enough decapitated gingerbread men for one lifetime, thank you. Besides, you know as well as I do that our captain would take it as an excuse to wear that lewd pirate costume of his, which would hardly be appropriate for a social gathering.”
Nodding, Thomas added, “Yeah, plus Rick and Zachery would both want to be the pirate queen, and we’ve only got one skirt.”
“Debates about the name of our celebration aside, how are preparations going?” Antoine asked, leaning on the table. “I know Mehtab and Khali are festooning the mess hall with hideous decorations.”
“I’m helping Echo with the cooking, Zachery’s handling the music, and Rick said he was organizing ‘entertainment’.”
“You don’t know that. It could be dodgeball. Or card games.”
“It’s weed, Thomas.”
The entertainer himself barrelled into the kitchen, almost knocking Antoine over. “Oops! Sorry. Hey, guys, guess what I found to make our Thanksgiving complete?”
In response to their blank stares, Rick showed them what he’d been hiding behind his back. “A turkey!”
“Gobble,” said Rux solemnly.
“Oh good grief,” Antoine muttered as Thomas snickered into his hand.
“Rick, you’re fucking twisted.”
“I am pleased and honoured to have been invited to participate in your festivities,” said the enormous green bird, fluffing out its feathers. “Rick told me this form would be most appropriate.”
Looking thoughtful, Echo signed, I don’t have a big enough pot.
“I don’t understand, dear Echo?”
Nothing. Try some bread.
T.J. Land is a South African writer of queer spec fic, erotic romance and sometimes other things. She owns many cacti but few cactuses. She knows everything. Yes, even that. Especially that.