Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eating Mush

"Eating Mush." Image credit: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. John's jaws and tongue worked sluggishly as he meditated on the repulsiveness of the stuff he'd just squirted into his mouth. His hate for it transcended the mere taste of the substance; this disgust was as palpable as that lidded mug stuck to the desk in front of him -- like an object he could hold out at arm's length and say, This is the cause of my misery; this thing right here. He very nearly acted on the strong urge to hurl the food tube straight into the cycler.

The trouble was, everything they could produce in the ship's food processing factory would inevitably get old and unpalatable, and be imbued with that same partly imagined dullness that, of course, had nothing to do with its actual ingredients. There was no way around it. So John finished his meal in bored silence.

At length he unstrapped himself from his chair, placed the tube in the secure container designed to hold such things, and kicked off in the direction of the loo. Lunch break almost over; time to get back to work. It was a mind-numbing job that basically involved staring at a screen for hours and occasionally pushing a button or two. Not the most social of positions, but he was decent at it and didn't mind quiet. For the most part, anyway.

Lately he had found himself friend-building again. The infrequent conversations with his colleagues had yet again, given their typical insincerity, been causing John to build a wall around his mind that seemed to him was made of something like plastic, not unlike the flotsam that used to accumulate against the sewage ditch drains back home. Disgusting stuff, the kind one had to get rid of, and quick. So off he would go to one of the ship's three watering holes (each of which had its own mixture of charm and tediousness), and drink his way into the eyes of strangers. Conversation they would have, a bit of bullshit or sometimes more. Occasionally he would even feel like he'd made a friend. And then, smirking with mutual sympathy, they would both stare back at the screen on the wall and wait for the next opportunity for words.

The trouble was, he felt, he was always the one waiting, and wanting the conversation to go further. And it was with a different person, every time. He suspected he wasn't the only one in this predicament, as there was nothing lonelier than a deep-space freighter full of transients like him. But still. He sometimes wished he had... well, more. Or, that he was more.


Not that it mattered. In another few months they would be arriving at Galdron Station, and then he'd be off this rig and onto the next one, bound for gods knew where. And then all this fun mush-eating and friend-building would start all over again. 



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