Friday, October 05, 2007

Mr. Cherches Goes to Mars, Part III

image by Mr. Fairfield

Day five of Mr. Cherches’s visit was Martian Thanksgiving. “This is the most important holiday on Mars,” said Maggie. “We eat a big, festive meal and give thanks for all things Martian.”

Mr. Cherches was looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner. All the food I’ve had so far has been amazing, he thought. This can only be better.

“I thought you might like to hang out with me in the kitchen and watch me prepare dinner,” Maggie told Mr. Cherches.

This was better than Mr. Cherches could ever have imagined. Surely Maggie would make meat loaf for the most important holiday on Mars. All Mr. Cherches had to do was watch and remember the ingredients. “I’d love to,” said Mr. Cherches.

“I usually start by preparing the side dishes,” Maggie said. Mr. Cherches watched her make creamed corn, green beans, and sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. “And now for the main course,” she said.

Mr. Cherches got goose bumps just thinking about watching Maggie make meat loaf.

You can imagine Mr. Cherches’s shock, then, when he saw Maggie take a turkey out of the fridge.

“What, no meat loaf?” said Mr. Cherches, disappointed.

“I’m afraid not,” said Maggie. “Thanksgiving is the one day of the year we don’t eat meat loaf. It reminds us of just how thankful we really are for meat loaf.”

What a gyp, thought Mr. Cherches.

* * *

On day six Mr. Cherches and the X13s went to the zoo. There were many strange animals at the Martian zoo. The only one Mr. Cherches recognized was the unicorn.

While the X13s were looking at the orangufrogs, Mr. Cherches saw something much more interesting. Standing a few yards away was a Martian in a chef’s cap. I’ll bet he knows how to make meat loaf, thought Mr. Cherches.

Mr. Cherches walked over to the chef. “Excuse me sir,” said Mr. Cherches, “do you know how to make meat loaf?”

“Do I know how to make meat loaf?” said the chef. “Of course I know how to make meat loaf. Ain’t I a Martian?”

“By any chance could you share the recipe with me?” Mr. Cherches asked sheepishly.

“Certainly,” said the chef.

Mr. Cherches couldn’t believe his luck. Perhaps the chef didn’t know about the law against sharing the recipe with non-Martians. The chef recited the recipe while Mr. Cherches copied it down.

“Thanks,” said Mr. Cherches.

“My pleasure,” said the chef.

Mr. Cherches caught up with the X13s in front of the hippofoxbird cage. Mr. Cherches stuck his hand into his jacket pocket to get some nuts to feed to the hippofoxbirds. But when he did that, the recipe fell out of his pocket to the ground. Bud knelt down and picked it up. Oh no, thought Mr. Cherches, my cover is blown.

Bud started laughing uncontrollably as he read the recipe.

“What’s so funny?” Mr. Cherches asked.

“I hope you’re not planning to make this,” Bud said.

“Why not?” asked Mr. Cherches.

“This is a recipe for animal feed meat loaf,” said Bud. “I wouldn’t even serve this to a Venusian!”

* * *

On Mr. Cherches’s last full day on Mars Bud said, “I thought you might like to go for a drive around the planet and see the sights.”

“I’d love that,” said Mr. Cherches. “Time has really flown. My visit is almost over, and I’ve hardly seen anything of Mars.”

The whole family piled into the extra-terramobile for the scenic tour. Bud drove by the famous red sand beaches. They stopped at a forest that had the biggest, strangest, most colorful trees Mr. Cherches had ever seen. They saw the Red Mountains and the Very Red Mountains.

Then it came time to return to the city. Mr. Cherches had seen many wondrous sights, but nothing impressed him as much as the strip malls they saw along the highway. Alongside the various shops at the strip malls were dozens of restaurants with names like Meat Loaf King, Tip-Top Meat Loaf, and Colonel KF-C76's Martian Meat Loaf. All the meat loaf restaurants had long lines out the door.

“These meat loaf restaurants seem to be very popular,” said Mr. Cherches.

“Best business on the planet,” said Bud. “There’s an old saying: ‘Nobody ever went broke selling meat loaf on Mars.’”

“Which one has the best meat loaf?” Mr. Cherches asked. Max and Tiffany started laughing.

“The kids think that’s a silly question,” said Bud. “That’s because all the meat loaf on Mars is exactly the same. There’s no better meat loaf in the universe than the original Martian meat loaf, so there’s no point in fiddling with the recipe.”

When he thought about all those meat loaf restaurants Mr. Cherches saw dollar signs, and lots of them.

* * *

To be continued . . .


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