Mr. Cherches Goes to Mars, Part IV (conclusion)
In the middle of the night, as he tossed and turned, Mr. Cherches had a brainstorm. The X13s must have a cookbook with the meat loaf recipe, he thought. All he had to do was find the book and copy down the recipe.
Mr. Cherches snuck down, very quietly, to the X13s’ kitchen. He brought his little travel flashlight with him so he could find his way around.
Just as he expected, on a shelf in the kitchen was a cookbook titled Flavors of Mars. Mr. Cherches looked through the book and found the meat loaf recipe. His heart started pounding. He quickly copied down the recipe and replaced the book on the shelf. Then he quietly crept back up to his bedroom. The rest of the night he slept like a baby.
* * *
The next morning Mr. Cherches got dressed, packed his bags and went downstairs for his final breakfast with the X13 family. As usual, breakfast smelled great.
“You have a long flight ahead of you,” said Maggie, “so I made you a nice big meat loaf omelet.”
When breakfast was over it was time for Mr. Cherches and the X13s to say their goodbyes.
“Mr. Cherches, it was truly a pleasure having you as our guest,” said Maggie.
“Oh, the pleasure was all mine, I assure you,” replied Mr. Cherches.
“We have been honored to be the first Martian family to host an Earthling–and such a well behaved one,” said Bud.
Then the kids spoke. Together they said, “We love you, Mr. Churchill!” That brought tears to Mr. Cherches’s eyes.
“All right,” said Bud, “before we get all weepy, I’d better drive Mr. Cherches to the spaceport.”
And off they went.
* * *
When Mr. Cherches boarded the rocket Captain Singh asked him how he had enjoyed his visit to Mars.
“It was great,” said Mr. Cherches. “Were you aware they have the best meat loaf in the universe?”
“No, I never knew that,” replied Captain Singh. “It’s the sad life of a pilot. I fly to so many places, but I never get to stay long enough to find out what they’re really like.”
As they took off, Mr. Cherches looked out the window and saw Bud waving goodbye.
Mr. Cherches didn’t mind the weightlessness so much this time because he had gained five pounds from all the meat loaf he ate on Mars.
When mealtime rolled around, Mr. Cherches was happy to learn that the food on the return voyage was Martian Meat Loaf Paste. It wasn’t as good as a real hunk of hot Martian meat loaf, but it sure was a lot better than Planet Puffs ‘N’ Stuff Paste.
As he was eating, Mr. Cherches’s conscience started bothering him. “Hey Cherches, you’re a real low-life,” the conscience said. “You betrayed the trust of the Martians. You stole the secret meat loaf recipe, even though you knew your friends could get in trouble with the Martian law.”
“I was very careful,” Mr. Cherches told his conscience
“Even so, it’s the principle,” replied the conscience. “You give Earthlings a bad name.”
Mr. Cherches tried to keep himself entertained on the long flight home by reading a book he had picked up on Mars. The book was called Mr. QB-R66 Goes to Earth. While Mr. Cherches was reading, his conscience kept calling him names like “thief,” “scoundrel,” and “stinker.”
Then, after almost a week in space, Captain Singh said, “Look out the window, Mr. Cherches” Mr. Cherches saw what looked like a toy globe. “We’re almost home,” said Captain Singh.
Fascinated, Mr. Cherches watched the Earth get bigger and bigger as they approached it. By the time they landed, Mr. Cherches had forgotten all about his guilty conscience.
* * *
When Mr. Cherches got off the spaceship he saw the reporters and cameramen from all the TV news programs. The reporters huddled around Mr. Cherches and started asking him questions.
“Mr. Cherches, how did you enjoy your visit to Mars?” asked the first reporter.
“It was great,” replied Mr. Cherches. “It’s a beautiful planet, and the Martians are very friendly.”
The second reporter asked, “Mr. Cherches, how does it feel to be back on Earth?”
“It feels great,” said Mr. Cherches. “Mars is a nice place to visit, but there’s no place like home.”
Mr. Cherches took one more question. “Now that you’re back on Earth, what are your plans for the future?” asked the third reporter.
This was Mr. Cherches’s chance to make his big announcement. “I plan to open a chain of restaurants,” he said. “Mr. Cherches’s Original Martian Meat Loaf.”
Then Mr. Cherches and Captain Singh hopped in a big black convertible limousine and drove off to the “Welcome Back Mr. Cherches” ticker tape parade.
* * *
Back on Mars, XJ-R13 and VB-B42-R13 were standing in their kitchen.
XJ-R13 was now certain that Mr. Cherches had stolen the meat loaf recipe. Mr. Cherches had carelessly replaced the cookbook upside down, so there was no doubt about what he had done.
“I knew we couldn’t trust an Earthling,” said XJ-R13, “but the joke is on him.”
“What do you mean?” asked VB-B42-R13.
“I was sure that Mr. Cherches would not be able to resist trying to find the secret meat loaf recipe,” said XJ-R13, “so I planted the false cookbook right here in the kitchen.”
VB-B42-R13 looked horrified. “You don’t mean–”
“That’s right my dear,” said XJ-R13, “the book with the recipe for the foulest-tasting meat loaf in the entire universe!”