Ammenia: I think that's a restaurant down at the end of the block, Bart.
Bart is a little overwhelmed by Wellingburg -- it's much larger than Hannard's Ford, and practically a city compared to Gumgeeville.
Bart looks down the street.
Bart: Yes, I think it is.
Ammenia: Good. Shall we see what they're serving today, then?
Bart: Uh, okay.
Ammenia has offered to buy the poverty-stricken Bart some dinner, after Marvin was resting comfortably from their journey.
Bart looks in the store windows as the two Gens continue down the block. It's really amazing that there are so many stores, and each sells a different kind of merchandise.
Ammenia thinks that this is a quaint little town, even if it doesn't have the variety of goods available in downtown Capital. She looks at the restaurant sign as they draw closer.
Ammenia: "Bar-bee-kew"? What's that? It sounds like a sneeze.
Bart: That's meat cooked over an open fire, so it's kind of burnt outside. With spicy sauce.
Ammenia: Animal flesh?
Bart: Yeah. Meat.
Ammenia's enthusiasm dims noticeably at the idea of eating flesh. She might be adventuresome, but there are limits, and she lacks D'zoll's motivation for fitting into local culture.
Ammenia: Maybe we should try to find someplace where they serve something else?
Bart doesn't have much experience with restaurants, but he knows that most festive Gen meals include meat.
Bart: They probably have food that doesn't have meat in it too.
Ammenia: They do?
Ammenia looks up and down the street, which doesn't seem to have much else to offer in the way of food, at least nearby.
Bart spent the past winter on a mainly vegetarian diet.
Bart: Sure. Vegetables and beans and stuff. Eggs and cheese. Probably stuff like people eat in-T.
Ammenia is ~~ relieved ~~.
Bart figures they can probably make cheese sandwiches. Even he can do that.
Ammenia allows herself to be reassured, not fully realizing just how limited Bart's experience of in-T cooking is.
Ammenia: All right, then. We'll try it.
Ammenia marches boldly into the culinary emporium.
Bart follows, wondering if he should be leading the way.
Ammenia orders a table, with blithe disregard for any curiosity that would invoke in patriarchal Gen Territory.
Bart is a bit embarrassed that Ammenia knows how to do these things better than he does, when he's a native and she's a foreigner. He feels like a rube, or a child, or both.
Hostess: I'm sorry, Miz, we don't have separate tables here. Just sit anywhere you like.
Ammenia: Good enough.
Ammenia looks around for a spot, immediately eliminating one table occupied by a family who appear to be dealing with the flesh problem by smearing as much as possible over their faces. She settles on a table that's off to one side, and largely unoccupied this early in the dinner hour.
Ammenia: How about over there, Bart?
Flantzer sees the interesting-looking woman in the interesting-looking clothes coming toward his seat at the table, and attempts to catch her eye in hopes he can lure her and her kid brother to sit down across from him.
Ammenia sees no meat in front of Flantzer, whose meal has apparently not yet been delivered, and so settles down on the bench more or less across from him. She hasn't had a chance to meet many out-Territory Gens yet, on this trip, and that's part of what she's supposed to get out of this trip.
Bart sits next to Ammenia and examines the menu on the chalkboard.
Flantzer: Umm, ah, hello. New in town?
Flantzer knows everyone in town, at least by sight.
Ammenia: Yes, we're just here overnight.
Ammenia follows Bart's gaze to the menu.
Ammenia: Wrench toast? A wrench is a tool for loosening bolts, isn't it?
Bart: Yeah. But this is bread soaked with eggs and milk and then fried.
Bart hopes it's not fried in bacon grease, for Ammenia's sake.
Ammenia: Fried bread? I had a cousin whose bread was as hard as a wrench.
Bart: This isn't hard, it's more sort of wet.
Bart knows there's some variation, for example between the way his mother makes it and the way everybody else's mother seems to make it.
Ammenia moves on to the next item.
Ammenia: Hot chilly beans -- sounds like a contradiction.
Bart: It's hot and spicy. It has tomatoes and peppers and stuff in it. I don't know why they call it chilly.
Flantzer: If you like spicy, the chilly here is really good.
Ammenia: Hot beans. That sounds like a possibility.
Ammenia didn't think soggy fried bread sounded very appetizing.
Ammenia: What are prokies?
Flantzer: They're blobs of dough with cheese inside, basically. You eat them with sour cream, usually, or fried onions, or applesauce. The cheese is kind of sweet. If you don't like the cheese, you can get potato or sour Kraut instead.
Ammenia really had expected to understand more of the menu, as her Genlan vocabulary is generally pretty good.
Ammenia: I see. Thank you, Mister...?
Flantzer: Just call me Flantzer.
Ammenia: Mr. Flantzer. I'm Sosu Ammenia, and this is Bart Mullins.
Flantzer: Glad to meet you, Sosu, Bart.
Bart nods politely.
Bart: Hello, Mr. Flantzer.
Ammenia: What is sour Kraut?
Flantzer: Umm, I'm not sure. It starts out as cabbage, and then they do something to it. It makes it salty and sour at the same time, sort of.
Flantzer looks apologetic.
Flantzer: I'm not really much of a cook, just a food hound.
Flantzer waggles his ears.
Ammenia: Pickled cabbage, then.
Bart: Sort of the same way as silage except with salt.
Flantzer: I've never eaten hay myself. Ham-sandwiches, haycorns, and honey, but not hay.
Ammenia: Haycorns? Hay is dried grass for livestock, isn't it? And corn is another word for maize?
Flantzer: No, no. Haycorns grow on hoke trees. You grind them up for flour. Nothing to do with hay or corns.
Ammenia: I see.
Ammenia sees that her Genlan classes were rather skimpy on the agricultural front.
Bart is reluctant to admit that he has more than a passing acquaintance with acorns and other famine foods, but since Ammenia is helping him with his Simelan, he feels he ought to help her with this variant Genlan pronunciation.
Bart: Uh, at home we say "acorns" and "oak" trees, Ammenia.
Flantzer: Well, around here we say haycorns and hoke trees. Where do you come from?
Bart: Gumgeeville. It's back in the mountains.
Flantzer: Huh. Never heard of it.
Bart: It's really small.
Flantzer: But you don't both come from the same place, do you? I mean you sound really, really different.
Ammenia: No, I'm from Capital.
Ammenia pronounces the name in Simelan, of course.
Ammenia: That's the capital of Nivet Territory.
Flantzer's jaw drops.
Flantzer: Wow, you're from Simeland? I don't think we've ever had anyone here from Simeland -- except Simes, of course.
Ammenia: The Sime Center here in town has quite a few Gens from Simeland, actually. We just aren't as noticeable as our Sime colleagues.
Flantzer thinks Ammenia is especially "noticeable", but he's got enough cool not to say so.
Flantzer: Anyhow, if you want to order, you gotta wave your arm about, or they're too run off their feet here to notice you.
Flantzer waves his arm.
Waitress comes up to the side of the table across from Flantzer, double-time and on the bounce.
Waitress: What'll it be, Flantzer?
Flantzer: I'll take the west rabbit with a side of sour Kraut, please.
Ammenia was curious about the pickled cabbage, although not curious enough to sample it, and is glad that she'll have a chance to see what it is.
Flantzer: And my friends here will have ...
Flantzer looks expectantly at Ammenia and Bart.
Ammenia: I'll have the prokies, I believe. With applesauce. Bart, what interests you?
Bart would like to order a bowl of hot chilly, but is concerned about future embarrassing flatulence.
Bart: I'd like the wrench toast, please.
Bart would really like some nice greasy barbecued pork or chicken, but doesn't want to look like a barbarian, or gross Ammenia out, or spoil her appetite. She's paying, after all.
Waitress scribbles everything down and runs off.
Flantzer: It'll be a while, I'm afraid. I hope you're not as hungry as I am.
Ammenia: Well, we won't bother anyone else, so it doesn't matter so much.
Flantzer scratches his head.
Flantzer: How do you mean?
Ammenia is rather relieved that she won't have to worry about keeping surrounding Simes from being overwhelmed by ~~~ appetite ~~~.
Bart picked up on that one, but isn't surprised that Flantzer missed it.
Ammenia: In Simeland, when you're hungry, it makes all the Simes around you hungry, too. Even if they've just finished eating.
Flantzer: Oh. Wow. They must make sure you eat before you get hungry, then.
Ammenia: It's one way to make sure you get your lunch break on time.
Bart stores this away to think about. He knows Ammenia is sort of joking, but isn't sure how much. There's a lot of ethical stuff he knows he needs to learn in order to be a good Donor.
Ammenia: What do you do for a living, Mr. Flantzer?
Flantzer: I work for the Town government in the property tax office. Yeah, I'm a tax collector. You can start hating me now.
Ammenia: Why should I hate you? I don't pay taxes to the New Washington government, after all.
Flantzer waves that objection away.
Flantzer: Everyone hates tax collectors, whether they live here or not.
Flantzer sniffs ostentatiously with his big nose.
Flantzer: It must be the way we smell or something.
Ammenia: I can't smell anything but the cooking odors, I'm afraid.
Flantzer cocks his head to one side.
Flantzer: That was a joke, Sosu.
Ammenia: I'm sorry, I understand your language pretty well, but humor is more difficult to translate.
Flantzer slaps his head.
Flantzer: Oh yes, of course. I forgot for a moment.
Flantzer doesn't see why jokes about body-odor wouldn't translate fine, but whatever.
Ammenia is much more used to jokes about miserable-zlinning nagers.
Waitress brings up all the dishes, serves them out with a rapid mutter, and disappears again.
Flantzer: All right, here we go.
Flantzer begins to work on the west rabbit.
Ammenia takes a cautious bite of her dough balls, trying not to watch.
Bart is delighted that his wrench toast came with not only a pitcher of hot maple syrup, but a pile of hot stewed apple slices with cinnamon and raisins. It's also dripping with butter, and not at all leathery in texture like his mother makes it. It's not burned, either.
Flantzer's cheese slides off his fork.
Ammenia has had a thing about melted cheese on bread, ever since the head cook at a summer camp she attended as a child got sick, and the other camp counselors didn't know how to make anything else.
Flantzer is pretty attuned to emotions, for a Gen.
Flantzer: Something wrong?
Ammenia: A bad memory from my childhood.
Ammenia takes another bite of her meal.
Ammenia: This is good.
Ammenia is assuming, from the speed at which Bart is inhaling his meal, that it is also acceptable.
Flantzer smiles broadly.
Flantzer: Ah, good. I mean, I'm sorry you had a bad memory, but I'm glad you like the food. That is ...
Flantzer trails off.
Bart tries not to gobble his food, which he's drenched in syrup. He's really hungry and it's really good.
Flantzer: So how do the two of you come to be traveling together?
Ammenia: I'm escorting a channel, and Bart is coming along to help.
Flantzer: Ah. So he's trailing you to learn the business?
Ammenia: More or less. He'll require formal training, as well.
Flantzer: So where's the Sime? He could eat here too, y'know.
Ammenia: He's resting, back at the Sime Center.
Flantzer: I guess channeling can tire you out, huh?
Ammenia: It's traveling on the train that's particularly tiring for a channel.
Ammenia discreetly leaves out Marvin's status as a mule, since it might lead to inquiries for the reason.
Flantzer: So he's down for the count?
Flantzer remembers belatedly.
Flantzer: Ummm, he'll be resting for a while then? Or she?
Ammenia: He. And yes, he's enjoying a quiet evening without us.
Flantzer: In that case, since we all seem to be done, how about I show you the town? I'm sure it's nothing like your Sime capital, but we do have a few features of interest.
Ammenia looks at Bart, to see whether he's up for more adventure, or is ready to call it an evening.
Bart figures if Ammenia is going to go off with this guy, he better come along to protect her, or something. He's heard tales about city people. He also figures he should get a good look at the town, to prepare himself for real cities.
Ammenia: That's very kind of you, Mr. Flantzer.
Flantzer: Just Flantzer, Sosu. Let's stick to first names, okay?
Ammenia: Ammenia, then.
Flantzer: I thought your name was Sosu?
Ammenia: No. "Sosu" is a title for Donors, like, hmm, "Doctor" or "Senator".
Flantzer looks a little perturbed.
Flantzer: Oh. Are you a, um, a Very Important Person, then?
Bart thinks she is. She's a TN-1.
Flantzer is wondering if he's in over his head.
Ammenia: Donor is a respected profession, at least in Simeland. On the other hand, not every Donor is the equivalent of a... hmm, a surgeon?
Flantzer: Got it. But are you?
Ammenia: I've more talent than some, and less than others.
Ammenia gives a dismissive shrug, and grins.
Flantzer: A thing all of us might say, I think. I personally have a talent for putting my foot, umm, for embarrassing myself. But if you don't mind, why should I?
Ammenia: Why, indeed? Now, tell me about your town. I've never had a chance to wander through an all-Gen town before, and I'm quite curious.
Flantzer: By all means, then. Shall we go?
Flantzer scoops up the three checks that the waitress has left behind and goes over to the cashier.
Ammenia considers arguing, as she expects her salary as a TN-1 is a great deal more than Flantzer's as a civil servant in a small Gen town.
Flantzer pays the checks and holds the door open for Ammenia and Bart.
Ammenia suspects, however, that Flantzer can afford to pick up the check, and that he is viewing it as a step towards picking up herself. She has not yet decided whether she wishes to accommodate him, or how far.
Bart resolutely follows the two out, determined to defend Ammenia's safety and honor if necessary.