Ender's Thirst
By R. D. Flavin

     It had cost them all of their savings to make the one-way jump and they couldn't go back.  Many wouldn't have left even if the loop was still functioning. The planet they'd chosen had clean air, cool water, and no dangerous life-forms. Vassar ordered all four hundred and seventy-nine migrants to eat a small amount of soil and become one with the new world.  They belonged to the planet, now. 
     Vassar had assigned colonization duties in-flight and the migrants set about 
transforming the unknown into a home.  It took seventeen days to build a central 
meeting-hall and sufficient housing for everyone.  By then, other crews had begun farming and the first slips of green were visible above the dirt.  As Vassar ordered a celebration to honor their accomplishments, it began to rain.  The rain didn't stop for months.  Clearly, all realized, though the meteorological study had promised near-perfection, farming on this world was going to be seasonal. 
     When the rain finally stopped, every able-bodied migrant helped the farmers plow the water-smoothed fields and replant the first crop.  No one knew how long it would be before it rained again, and if it did rain, how long it would last. Vassar saw concern on many faces and even a hint of panic.  The migrants possessed enough mycogenerators to provide a steady supply of mushrooms and the hydrotanks allowed for plenty of shrimp and mussels.  Still, for a proper diet, all needed farming for grains, herbs, vegetables, and other essentials.  Vassar called for an assembly. 

     The meeting-hall was filled with a rare disquietude. Opinions raised against 
uniformity and many doubted the planet was willing to accept them. Some asked for a sacrifice. 
     "Vassar should bleed for our crops!" someone yelled. 
     Krawl turned to Vassar, commenting gruffly, "See, I told you they'd demand your butt if anything went wrong..." 
     First Guide Matu Vassar faced his advisor and grimaced.  He remembered Krawl's earlier warning should problems of successful settlement arise.  But, somehow Vassar believed the migrants wanted food more than his flesh.  At least, now.  "Watch me take care of it," Vassar said, adding, "if you don't mind seeing how hope prevails in the face of doubt!" 
     "Yeah, . . . and the scantily clad dancing-girls won't hurt your case, either!" Krawl answered. 
     Vassar's mouth hung in amazement, as Lissi and her diaphanously dressed 
troupe began dancing through the crowd.  He'd planned this diversion in secret, yet his advisor had known! 
     The dance troupe had an immediate effect.  First, the children and women began to dance, and then the men joined their hands and softened their shouts to song.  Lissi stepped to the front of the meeting-hall and waving, beckoned the First Guide to join her. 
     "I shouldn't," Vassar protested, as Krawl pushed him into Lissi's arms. 
"You'd better," Krawl yelled, seizing the outstretched hand of a young dancing-girl and pulling her close.  "No one should refuse a smile or a good two-step, especially when their partners are wearing little more than scarves!" he instructed, beginning to dance with a vibrancy befitting a much younger man. 
     "Listen to your friend," Lissi whispered into the First Guide's ear, pausing to trace its outline gently with the tip of her tongue.  "He might be old, but I've heard good reports from some of my girls!  Trust him!" 
     Vassar had never been a great dancer.  Awkwardly, his left hand found the small of Lissi's bare back and felt a thin coating of perspiration there.  The First Guide stared into the eyes of the beautiful woman before him, thinking of sweat. She'd made herself wet at his request, and he couldn't be offended.  He withdrew his hand from her back and put it to his lips.  Tasting her saltiness, Vassar asked, "Are you available for private functions?" 
     "Yes, but you might not be able to meet the cost," Lissi answered. 
     "I could pay with my heart," Vassar offered. 
     "Do you have any other organs with which to bargain?" 
     "Nothing that medical couldn't grow for you..., " the First Guide replied, feigning disappointment.  "I should have known better than request what I can't afford!" 
     Her lips said otherwise, pressing softly against his cheek.  "Maybe I could write it off as community-service?" Lissi volunteered. 
     Vassar relaxed in her presence, warmed and comforted by her dance and playful speech.  As Recreation Director, Ka Lissi brought health and a sense of fun to the migrants, and Vassar respected her commitment to her job.  He'd quietly asked her to organize a communal event, to take everyone's attention away from the worries of farming.  By appearing provocatively attired, with a dozen assistants, Lissi displayed her competence, creativity, and beauty.  The First Guide made a mental note to set aside some personal time for more dancing. 
     It began to rain, gentle drops striking the roof of the meeting-hall.  As one, the migrants stopped their dancing and turned toward Vassar.  If the rain continued, as it had before, for months on end, it would seriously jeopardize the success of the colony.  Slowly, at first, and then with more voices combined, the migrants yelled at the First Guide, "We must leave here! We are not welcome!" 
     Krawl separated himself from the young dancing-girl and ran to the side of the First Guide.  Vassar stood with Ka Lissi and faced the worried migrants. 
     "This is our home, now!" Vassar shouted. "For better or worse, we must accept this place!" 
     "The land wants our blood!" a man screamed. 
     "Your blood, First Guide," another added. "The land wants your blood!" 
     "Idiots!" Krawl spat, placing himself between the migrants and the First Guide. 
     "Listen," Lissi remarked to Vassar, "I think it stopped raining..." 
     As quickly as the rain began, it ended.  The migrants cheered their good fortune and apologized to the First Guide.  Ka Lissi and her assistants led the migrants in a rousing dance to celebrate the arrival of mild weather and the fine crop that would surely follow. 
     "You better hope this planet doesn't send any plague or blight against us, or they might get your blood, yet!" Krawl warned the First Guide. 

     For several months the planet shared a temperate climate, though some of the 
migrants complained of the heat.  There were a few days where the temperature 
reached three hundred and twenty degrees Kelvin, and many stayed indoors.  Two complete crop-cycles were produced that first year of settlement, and there was more than enough grain and produce to satisfy everyone.  There was so much grain, in fact, First Guide Vassar authorized the making of alcoholic beverages. 
     Bedo Ender made the finest beer and ale of all the migrants.  And, he also drank more of his beer and ale (as well as sampling others') than anyone else.  As a baker, Ender knew his grain and had an uncanny knack for selecting just the right amount of spice or flavoring.  Often, sometimes to the annoyance of his neighbors, Ender could be heard praising the merits of his latest brew at the top of his lungs. 
     As the colony still had not yet begun a system of credit or currency, the migrants who wished to sample some of the fine brew had to listen to the talkative Ender expound about whatever was on his mind.  Usually Ender talked about himself, though sometimes he told tales of famous brews throughout history.  It wasn't unusual for passers-by to stay at Ender's so long, they'd hear the same tale told again and again.  Of course, they didn't care, as long as Ender was liberal with his brew. 
     "Tell us the story of the First Beer, Bedo!" a young lad requested one day. 
     "Oh, you've all heard that too many times," Ender replied, pulling long on a glass of crisp Pilsner. "How about the famed stout of thirty aught-four?  It was said to enable a man to see his future!" 
     "The First Beer, Bedo!  Please!" the young lad insisted. 
     A chorus of approval swelled and convinced Ender that was the tale that needed to be told.  The baker/brewer eyed the crowd gathered before him and saw many familiar faces, as well as some new ones.  He noticed the First Guide sipping a porter with the recreation officer, the glamorous Ka Lissi.  Maybe, Ender thought, if he told his tale with verve, she'd grace the crowd with a brief dance.  He did love to watch her dance! 
     "Yes," Ender announced loudly, "it will be the First Beer!" 
     Claps, hoots, and howls filled the room.  Ender slowly climbed atop one of his kegs and whistled for quiet.  The crowd obeyed. 
     "The story begins with Mother Earth, our homeworld," Ender said with reverence.  "Many, many years ago, our ancestors did not farm the fields, but would only pick and select what they could eat right on the spot.  They were gatherers and did not yet know what to do with grains and wild grasses." 
     The young lad passed Ender a full glass of Pilsner, and he graciously accepted it with a smile and a slight nod of thanks.  "At one time, some great inventor and thinker encountered peas and beans, or legumes, as they're called.  Now, peas and beans in the wild are hard to the touch and nearly impossible to eat.  But, if you soak them in water for a time, they become soft and tasty.  And so, many gatherers quickly learned and used this soaking technology to add legumes to their diet.  For thousands of years, many have argued over which came first--bread or beer.  Paleobotanists have traced the development of grasses to grain, but not the context of intent...  It's always difficult to show intent.  Why, I ask you, would our ancestors commit to the backbreaking work of sowing and harvesting, when they could have just as easily killed a small animal?  The expenditure of calories and the time involved with waiting for those ears of wheat and barley to ripen is most confounding!  Who would go through all that effort for a loaf of bread?  But, imagine our visionary ancestors saying to themselves--let us work in the fields, because we're going to make some beer!  That, I say, was the intent.  ...For beer!" 
     While the crowd cheered and applauded, Ender drank half his Pilsner in a large gulp.  "Yet, that still doesn't explain the invention of beer," Ender said in a most serious tone.  He took another large gulp and finished his Pilsner.  "Shall I get you another, Bedo?" the young lad asked. 
     "By all means!  Tale-telling is thirsty work, and everyone wants me to finish the tale, don't they?" Ender teased the crowd. 
     Cries of "Bring the poor man a beer!" and "Hurry up, lad!" colored the solemn account of the First Beer with a relaxed air of whimsy.  Many of the crowd also chose that moment to refill their own glasses, as it was impolite for guests to allow a host to drink alone. 
     When the lad placed a full glass of beer in Ender's hand and was properly thanked (and cheered) by the crowd, Ender resumed his tale.  "Remember I mentioned the soaking technology the ancestors used for peas and beans?  Well, 
some unknown genius applied this soaking technology to the wild grasses to soften them, as well.  This, of course, was good and added grain to the diet of the ancestors.  But, from this soaking of grain was born the First Beer!" 
     The room became very quiet. There was no shuffling of feet, no finger-tapping in idleness, and even glasses half-raised to waiting lips, stopped in expectation.  All paid close attention to Ender's every word. 
     "Imagine that unknown genius," Ender instructed the crowd, "looking at a container of soaking grain and noticing that something was different!  Yes, different!  For, as we can guess, sometime during the soaking period, an air-born, natural yeast happened into the soaking container, and began to work its chemical magic on the grain.  Now, that is not the great event.  That the unknown genius would lift the soaking grain, now bubbling in fermentation, and drink of it--oh, the courage and vision of that ancestor to taste the First Beer!" 
     "To the First Beer!" Ender said, raising his glass in a toast. 
     The crowd joined in the toast and then gave Ender much praise on his telling of the First Beer.  Ka Lissi gave Ender an affectionate kiss on the cheek in reward for an entertaining tale, and asked him, "The great ancestor who tasted the First Beer--you didn't say if it was a man or a woman.  Do you have any idea?" 
     Ender turned his gaze to the First Guide, who stood close by, and answered, "It was probably a woman.  Brave, nosy, inventive--sounds like a woman to me!  And, that men continue to sample its joys in the evening, and pay for it dearly the following morning...  Well, this shows the wiles of a woman, to be sure!" 
     As Vassar and Ender enjoyed a laugh together, Ka Lissi gave both of them a 
playful slap on their bottoms.  "Maybe a woman did invent the First Beer," Lissi joked, "but it was definitely a man who experienced the First Hangover!" 
     "And, perchance, it was a woman who treated that First Hangover with tenderness and care?" the First Guide suggested. 
     "No doubt!" Ender roared.  "The First Hangover was probably met with instructions to clean out the cave, repaint the walls with different animals, and answer 'yes, ma'am' every time he was spoken to!  Such tenderness!" 
     "You're a fine brewer, Bedo," Lissi said affectionately, "and you've a gift for words!"  She gave him another kiss on the cheek, saying, "I hope someone tells 
your tale someday!" 
     It was a casual remark, but that night as Ender lay sleepless in his bed, Lissi's 
words came back to him and he began to wish for personal success and a lasting 
achievement.  He'd been married briefly as a young man, but no children came from the union to carry on his name.  Ender closed his eyes, as sleep took him, and began to dream of the perfect brew. 
     As the colony's baker, Ender rose well before sunrise every morning.  Working without a helper, he'd start the ovens and produce his initial batch of breads and rolls, ready for both the ending of the midnight shift and those just beginning their day.  On and on he'd bake, past midday, to supply the colony with enough freshly baked goods to meet their growing demands.  The colony was growing, slowly, for there were fourteen births in the first year, and thirty-one the next. 
     In the afternoon, after all the day's baking was through, Ender would retire to his home and brew a batch of beer, ale, stout, or whatever he liked.  Usually, he'd several brews at different stages of fermentation in the making.  And always, he'd try something out of the ordinary, and push himself to produce a memorable taste.  Increasingly, he failed. 
     Soon, Ender began waking up even earlier to meet the baking demands.  His 
face became pallid and puffy, though his cheery smile still greeted everyone he met.  Ender was approaching physical exhaustion from overwork, but there was something more.  He'd a thirst he'd not quenched, and every night he dreamed of 
doing something truly remarkable and lasting.  Finally, his fatigue became reflected in the quality of his beer, and as the fame of other brewers increased, many began to talk of Ender's "better days." 
     One evening, Krawl sat across Ender's table and sampled a forgettable lager.  To himself, Krawl noted a more than passing resemblance to an iced-tea made from table-scraps.  This was not the usual brewing of an artist, but rather the hollow production of someone simply going through the motion. 
     "May I give you some advice, my good Bedo?" Krawl explored. 
     "If your advice is sound enough for the First Guide, then I would be foolish not to lend an ear," Ender answered politely. 
     "Have you considered taking on an apprentice or a helper?" 
     "Are you poisoned?  You want me to make more of that swill you're drinking?  I think not!" Ender protested. 
     "A different approach, friend," Krawl explained.  "Contract a helper to assist in your baking duties, which would lessen your commitment and allow you to enjoy, once more, your brewing!" 
     Ender felt the overshadowing of the suggestion.  A spectral hand, firm in grip and engendering a chilling ague, seized his heart and squeezed.  He began crying. 
     "No, Bedo," Krawl emphasized, "this is . . . a good thing!" 
     "Do you listen to snot-nosed youngsters, but a few years separated from their 
diapers, before you advise the First Guide?" Ender demanded. 
     "I listen to anyone!" Krawl replied.  "And, I hear a lot of nonsense...  But, those nuggets of sane reason that arise from the barber or the dishwasher -- only a fool turns from a truth, because he didn't think of it first!" 
     Ender ground his teeth as he thought.  He was a proud man and asking for help was not an easy task for him. However, Krawl had given good advice, such was his position, and Ender would heed it.  The several forty kilo sacks of flour he hauled every morning, and the pain in his back every night, had coupled and convinced him he needed help. 
     "The young lad, Stavya, only works part-time at the recycling post.  He enjoys my tales and could use a full-time job," Ender said. 
     "...And he has a mighty thirst, if I remember correctly!" Krawl commented. 
     "Mighty, yes.  But, not so mighty as mine!" 
     "Good!  Then we'll get him transferred to the bakery tomorrow and maybe you'll..." 
     "And, maybe I'll...," Ender interrupted, "simply do what I can and should, with all due respect to the opinions of the barber and the dishwasher!" 
     "Agreed!" Krawl exclaimed.  "Now, bring out that double-bock you've stashed behind that dresser over there!" the advisor said, pointing to a hiding spot he shouldn't have known was there. 
     Surprised and almost suspecting Krawl of sorcery, Ender brought out his secret stash of dark, rich bock.  He'd wanted to save it for a very special occasion, and it seemed right and proper to taste a few bottles with Krawl.  "I won't ask how you knew about this favorite of mine," Ender said, handing the advisor an opened bottle, "only that you enjoy it!" 
     Krawl did, and yet, not so much as the exquisite triple-stout Ender brought forth later that evening.  The "milk-stout" had an almost embarrassing sweetness to it, and could be as easily swallowed as taking a breath of a fair, spring morning.  Although, after an evening of serious drinking, the following morning Krawl did not enjoy breathing, thinking, or anything else.  Ender, on the other hand, was up early and at the bakery as usual. 

     Stavya's appointment to the bakery met with widespread approval.  Finding a 
replacement for his position at the recycling-post was accomplished with ease -- his younger brother stepped forward and asked for the job.  First Guide Vassar consulted with Stavya's parents and they gave their blessing to the apprenticeship.  There was even a brief talk of a marriage in the not too distant future between Stavya and his sweetheart, Moole. 
     The first few months saw a great change come over both Ender and Stavya.  By all appearances, Ender was regaining his color and zest for life, now that his duties as baker were lessened.  Much to the chagrin of his neighbors, Ender once more began to entertain large crowds in his home when he'd introduce a tasty and significant brew.  These special occasions became so popular, Ka Lissi and her recreation assistants were often asked to help out with service and cleanup. Nearly all the migrants would come to look back on those occasions fondly.  Except Stavya, who had trouble staying out late and getting up early. 
     He was often late.  Yet, the young apprentice had a knack for rolling out 
scrumptious baguettes, and Ender found it difficult to criticize the lad when so many of the migrants praised those long, sourdough loafs.  The apprenticeship progressed steadily, with Stavya learning the trade of the baker, and Ender gradually giving him more and frequent responsibility. 
     "I'd like you to open by yourself tomorrow," Ender said one day.  "But, we've got four cakes on order," Stavya nervously protested, "and the First Guide wants two dozen apple-butter tarts for his breakfast meeting with the Horticultural Society!  I couldn't possibly handle all that by myself!" 
     Ender chuckled softly to himself as he took off his apron and neatly folded it. "Good!  Then, it's settled!" he said, placing his apron on a shelf and releasing a great sigh.  "You can finish without my help this afternoon, and I'll see you 
midmorning tomorrow!" 
     "What if I oversleep?" Stavya asked, chasing after Ender and following him out the door and into the street. 
     "Bye-bye!  Good luck!  Don't burn down the bakery!" Ender answered, waving the apprentice away. 

     He heard the fall of footsteps behind him come to a halt, and a great sigh of 
resignation.  Ender had no need of turning around to know Stavya was going to be fine by himself.  He was an able lad and a good baker.  The sky was clear, the air redolent with the scents of hundreds of different types of flowers, and the path beneath Ender's feet called for him to set one foot in front of the other and go exploring!  The planet had an exciting flora and Ender enjoyed experimenting with new additions and flavorings for his brew.  Indeed, he fancied himself an authority on indigenous spices, and had even produced an outline for a public talk he might give one day. 
     A playful hill raced his heart as he climbed and teased his knees as he 
descended the other side.  "I'll walk around you, on my way back," Ender called out to the hill.  "You play too rough with an old man!"  He felt winded and sat down to rest on a fallen tree.  "Oh, what I'd give for a glass of ale, right now!" Ender said to himself.  He was thirsty and had not brought along any provisions.  "Or some barley-wine, sweet and cold," he continued, "that would surely quench my thirst!" 
     Ender sat on the fallen tree and began to recite all the various brews he'd ever 
made, tasted, or heard of from legend.  The afternoon gave way to early evening and Ender continued to reflect out loud on all the possible variations of beer.  He did love a good beer! 
     The memory of the Ankorian malt liquor he'd shared with Emli on their wedding night, made his tongue tingle with delight.  Such an intoxicating beverage!  They'd half a glass apiece and fell asleep for two days!  He tried to laugh as he remembered how Emli had scolded him afterwards, but found he could not.  She was a sweet woman who had deserved a honeymoon of love, and not unconsciousness. 
     It was dark when Ender recalled the first batch of mead he'd ever attempted. 
He was the Chief-Baker aboard a jump-ship on a two-year cartographic expedition.  At least, it began as a two-year expedition.  After the crew had sampled Ender's mead, they ignored a crucial jump and went off-course by several galaxies!  Instead of lasting two-years, the entire trip was closer to three years and four months.  But, it was a wonderful mead!  Golden and fragrant! 
     "Lupo?  Do you remember how I talked and talked that night on Cnu Prime? That over-proofed bock made the words just slid out of me!"  Ender looked up at the faraway stars and stopped talking to himself. 
     Lupo had been dead for years.  Ender, suddenly aware of the silence of the past, began crying.  His friend had died a slow, horrible death, somewhere beyond those twinkling lights, yet Ender had chosen to ignore it.  He was busy and not to be troubled, or so he'd thought at the time.  He'd never hurt anyone.  Every now and then, he'd raise a glass in memory of his dead friend.  Or his ex-wife.  Or the good job he'd lost. 
     It returned.  Long had Ender kept that thirst slaked with baking and brewing, but the loneliness was never far away. 
     The walk home was a difficult one.  Several times the thirst was so strong with Ender, he'd grabbed his throat to stop the screams which wanted out.  Once, he paused along the precipice of a cliff and tried to imagine what lay in wait amidst the darkness of its chasm. He saw the familiar lights of the settlement in the distance and the thirst forced him to his knees. 
     He began to crawl.  Heavy arms outstretched, fingers penetrating loose soil and gripping the planet, Ender pulled himself along.  It was long and painful task, but eventually he reached the perimeter of the settlement. 
     The loneliness seized him once more, only this time with fury and puerile 
decisiveness.  Ender tried to cry out, but his face was buried in shame, dirt, and 
weeds.  His screams were swallowed by the planet and Ender, himself, was not even sure he'd actually bellowed fear and regret.  He attempted to raise himself 
on his elbows, only the loneliness would have none of that.  Crushed and 
exhausted, Ender could do little but stare at the weeds in front of his face. 
     A tiny, blue speck of chitin grew a dozen legs and began to walk towards him.  It was one of the many indigenous arthropods on this new world and was regarded as harmless, in fact, useless as a known pollinating agent because of its awkward morphology.  The bug was called "promener-tete " on account of its misproportioned head.  Ender watched its tiny legs pump and push the great head forward and felt fascination and sadness.  Such an odd creature it was! 
     Scant millimeters from his face, the insect appeared monstrous to Ender. 
Spellbound, he watched the curiosity maneuver about with what looked like a 
combination of hard work, skill, and a fair amount of luck and happenstance. 
Sometimes the little bug with the big head appeared to wrap its dozen legs around itself and roll down a minor incline in the dirt.  Whether this was purposeful locomotion on the bug's part, or just another insignificant life-form holding on to dear life as its world spun out of control, Ender couldn't tell. 
     The walking head veered from Ender's face and struggled to a nearby weed, 
where it miraculously began to climb.  What strength, Ender thought to himself, this speck of an alien life-form shows!  Its head was so much larger than the rest of its body that it would be like Ender shouldering one of his ovens and climbing on top of his bakery.  He could only conclude the bug wanted to be atop that weed in the worst of ways and nothing would stop it. 
     After the long and difficult climb, the blue head with legs attained its goal. 
Precariously balanced on a small, delicate yellow flower, the bug plunged its head deep into the petals until only its little legs, flailing away in the air , were visible.  A paradise for the walking head, or so Ender assumed.  This insect DID pollinate!  Despite its awful appearance, it had a purpose in life! 
     "Congratulations, my ugly, little friend," Ender said aloud, "you've a piece of the whole after all..." 
     Suddenly, the little legs stopped all movement.  For a moment, all was perfectly still, and then Ender watched the bug fall from the flower unto a cup-shaped leaf below. 
     "Ah, you've quenched your thirst!" Ender joked.  If the tiny creature could have understood human speech, it probably wouldn't have found Ender's appraisal of the situation humorous.  As travelers have learned, on a thousand worlds, among the million life forms humans have encountered, one constant had prevailed -- there's nothing funny about death. 
     With every vain struggle on the part of the insect, the waxy surface of the leaf would allow the trapped creature to slide further to the bottom of its cup-shaped "stomach."  It was a carnivorous plant and the great, walking head was to be its next meal.  Ender understood finally, as he watched the walls of the leaf bulge and bend from the death throes of the insect as the plant's natural acids began to dissolve its meal. 
     Tears began to drip from Ender's eyes.  The Maes Howe Restaurant on Gnomis and his parents broke from the past and returned.  He remembered choosing, as a child, between a salad and a piece of grilled meat.  His father was proud his son had chosen something with substance, but his mother argued against the killing of anything with a face. 
     "Animals are our friends, Bedo," his mother said once more, after more than 
sixty years in neuro-storage, "and we shouldn't eat them." 
     "It's the food-chain, son," his father reasoned.  "Eat, or be eaten!" 
     His father passed on from a viral infection and his mother died because of an 
unrecognized and untreated intestinal bacterium.  One parent fell to the hunger of a small, microscopic animal, while the other expired from the ravages of a tiny plant.  A life-form didn't have to be sentient (or even have a face) to be hungry.  The plant before him had less genetic intelligence than one of his toenails, yet had supped on a meal of blue bug.  Life was not about just meat or just motion, but an inseparable and inescapable combination of the two. 
     He missed them all very much.  Yet, with love and respect, they lived on in his memory.  Never again would he forget he wasn't alone. 
     Ender began to rise.  Muscles stretched, joints creaked, and with more than a 
few favorite curses, he stood and walked home.  It was near dawn and he needed to grab a couple of hours of sleep before checking in on Stavya and the bakery.  And coffee!  He wanted a big mug of fresh-brewed coffee!  Maybe with an ounce or two of one hundred year old Bweesdon whiskey... 

     First Guide Vassar welcomed the new migrants with a firm handshake and a warm smile, while his wife Ka Lissi gave every newcomer a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  Advisor Krawl coughed salutations and pointed to the reception area, where someone else would instruct them.  Now that this new planet had proved successful, despite the long rainy season, many migrants from all over the galaxy were more than happy to make the one-way jump. 
     A young couple with five small children surrounded Krawl and began asking 
directions.  "Where's your shopping district?" the wife asked. 
     "Where's the playgrounds?" the children screamed.  Krawl was tired of these 
questions.  All of this was covered in the jump preview. 
     "I hear you've a local brewer with quite the reputation for quality," the young man remarked.  "I could use a cold one after that long jump!" 
     "We've several brewers of merit," Krawl answered cheerfully, at last addressing a topic he felt comfortable with.  "Stavya's our finest and most successful brewery and will amuse and impress any palate," Krawl began, giving the young man a playful slap on the shoulder, "but, I'm going to take a gamble that you've a discriminating sense of taste and direct you to an old friend of mine.  He doesn't sell his small output, but if you've an ear, a fair grasp of humor, and a deep thirst, I think you'll be pleased!" 
     And, of course, he was. 

The End 

c. 2002 by R. D. Flavin 

return to Flavin's Fictions