Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mr. Cherches Goes to Mars, Part I

Several years ago, my friend Jon Scieszka, a wildly successful children's book author, suggested I try my hand at children's stories. He even graciously offered to help me market the stuff. I bit, and Jon did his best to help out, but no publisher seemed to be interested in a food-obsessed space travel tale for kids. Rather than have this collecting metaphorical dust in the virtual drawer, I figured I'd publish it on this blog. This is as good a time as any, since I really have to lose some weight, and my restaurant review opportunities will be limited for a while. This will be a serial, in four parts, over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy this imaginary food quest while I try not to think too much about food.

“Congratulations! You are the winner of a one-week, all-expense-paid trip to Mars,” the letter read.

Mr. Cherches remembered that he had entered the “Trip to Mars Contest” several months earlier. There was an entry form on the back of a box of his favorite breakfast cereal, Planet Puffs ‘N’ Stuff. On the box it said: “Be the first person to visit Mars! Send us this original entry form or a reasonable facsimile.” Since Mr. Cherches wasn’t sure what a reasonable facsimile was, he sent the original.

And now he was the winner!

The rocket was scheduled to leave Earth in two days. Mr. Cherches had a lot to do to get ready. He had to do his laundry, he had to find somebody to water his plants while he was away, and he had to buy a travel toothbrush.

* * *

Two days later Mr. Cherches arrived in Cape Canaveral for his flight to Mars. As he entered the spaceship, he was greeted by the pilot. “Hello, My name is Captain Singh,” said the pilot. “Please watch your step as you board the rocket.”

This is so exciting! thought Mr. Cherches.

Mr. Cherches settled in and Captain Singh took off. There were just the two of them on the rocket.

After they had been in space for a while, Mr. Cherches experienced weightlessness for the first time. It felt pretty strange. It must be an acquired taste, he thought. Mr. Cherches was glad he hadn’t gone on a diet before the flight. Weightlessness felt weird enough. He didn’t want to know what weightlessness minus five pounds felt like.

“Have something to eat,” Captain Singh said as he handed Mr. Cherches a tube of space food. “It’s going to be a long flight.”

Mr. Cherches took a taste of the food. It tasted very familiar. That’s because it was a paste of mashed up Planet Puffs ‘N’ Stuff mixed with milk. Even though Mr. Cherches loved a nice bowl of Planet Puffs ‘N’ Stuff with cold milk every morning, it was no fun if you couldn’t see the planets. Besides, he found the thick, warm paste a little sickening. “Is there anything else to eat?” Mr. Cherches asked.

“I’m afraid not,” said Captain Singh. “Planet Puffs ‘N’ Stuff Paste is all we have for the entire trip.”

Mr. Cherches hoped the food on Mars would be better.

A few hours later, Mr. Cherches looked out the window and saw a big red ball floating in space. “Hey, is that Mars?” Mr. Cherches asked the pilot.

“No, that’s a red ball,” said Captain Singh. “We don’t reach Mars for another week.”

“Another week! But my whole trip is only a week,” said Mr. Cherches.

“Don’t worry, you have a full week to spend on Mars,” said Captain Singh. “Travel time is not included.”

A whole week before they reached Mars! That was a long time to be cooped up in a space ship.

Mr. Cherches was glad he had brought along a big fat book of “Mr. Cherches” stories to keep himself occupied.

* * *

A week later they landed at the Bradbury Interplanetary Spaceport, on Mars. “Have a good time on Mars, Mr. Cherches,” said Captain Singh. “I’ll be back in a week to pick you up.”

When Mr. Cherches got off the rocket he saw that thousands of Martians had come to greet him. Many of them were carrying signs, which said things like “Greetings Earthling!” and “Welcome to Mars, Mr. Cherches.”

A family of four Martians ran up to Mr. Cherches. “Greetings, Mr. Cherches,” the father Martian said. “We’ll be your hosts for your visit to our fair planet. It is a great honor to meet the first Earthling on Mars.” Mr. Cherches shook the Martian’s hand, which was green and slimy. “My name is XJ-R13, but you can call me Bud,” said the Martian. “My wife’s name is VB-B42-R13, but you can call her Maggie. And you can call the kids Max and Tiffany, even though their real names are YT-R13 and WZ-R13.”

“Hello, Mr. Churchill,” the children said, giggling.

“Pleased to meet you all,” said Mr. Cherches.

“All right,” said Bud, “we’re off to the shelter unit! Zip zip!”

They all hopped into the extra-terramobile and drove off. When they reached the shelter unit, Bud parked the extra-terramobile in the two-extra-terramobile garage. Even though he’d never been to Mars before, Mr. Cherches thought the R13s had a very nice shelter unit.

“You must be pretty hungry,” Bud said to Mr. Cherches.

“Actually, yes,” said Mr. Cherches. “All I had on the spaceship was Planet Puffs ‘N’ Stuff Paste.”

“Nasty stuff,” said Bud. “We’ll be dining shortly, and then you can have a proper Martian meal.”

* * *

At XJR o’clock they all sat down to dinner. Mr. Cherches was worried. What if he didn’t like Martian food? He was afraid he might starve.

Well, Mr. Cherches had nothing to worry about. Maggie brought the food to the table and it smelled just great.

“I hope you like it,” said Bud. “It’s the planetary dish of Mars.”

“Oh?” said Mr. Cherches. “What’s it called?”

“Meat loaf,” Bud replied.

“Meat loaf! Meat loaf is my favorite food on Earth,” said Mr. Cherches.

“Well, meat loaf is our favorite food on Mars too,” said Bud. “Dig in.”

Mr Cherches took a taste of the Martian meat loaf. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “This is the best meat loaf I’ve ever tasted. I thought my mom made great meat loaf, but this meat loaf is out of this universe.”

“Glad you like it,” said Bud. “You will never taste meat loaf on Earth that compares with Martian meat loaf.”

“Why is that?” asked Mr. Cherches.

“Mr. Cherches,” replied Bud, “I am about to tell you something that no Earthling has ever heard before. For thousands of years Martians have been visiting Earth. We travel in pairs, in flying saucers. When we arrive, we always disguise ourselves as humans so we can mix with your people unnoticed. We wanted to share some of the benefits of our advanced civilization, and we have given many good things to the people of Earth. We brought the Earthlings mathematics, medicine, soap, and the democratic form of government. Best of all, we taught the Earthlings to make meat loaf. But we didn’t think the Earthlings were ready for the pure form of Martian meat loaf, so we left out several essential ingredients that make Martian meat loaf the best in this or any other solar system.”

“What ingredients are those?” asked Mr. Cherches.

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you,” said Bud. “Those secret ingredients can never be made known to a non-Martian. That is the most important law on the planet, punishable by life without meat loaf.”

Mr. Cherches decided that he had to find out what those secret ingredients were.

* * *

To be continued . . .


Blogger Dying Water Buffalo said...

Life without meatloaf is truly a fate worse than death!

Can't wait for the next chapter. Good luck with the weightloss.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

Thanks. I'm pretty good about dieting when I reach my breaking point.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Jimmy Cantiello said...

Martians may be masters of meatloaf but I'll bet they are clueless when it comes to shrimp and grits.

6:09 AM  

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