Somerset England, Wednesday August 6th 2262
The kitchen looked like World War Three had occurred; it always did when Norman was preparing one of his meals. There wasn’t a work surface that didn’t have utensils or ingredients left on it or spilt over it. Random wall and base cupboards alike had their doors open, exposing the contents of the interior.
Norman couldn’t have been happier. Following his brief call to Hillary Jane he had decided to cook her some of her favourite dishes for their evening meal. He had spent an enjoyable hour porting all over the world for just the right ingredients to make the meal perfection. She would be pleased to see his efforts when she got home. They could celebrate her inevitable success with the Russians together over the meal.
He had decided on squid and red peppers for a starter and had teleported to a little known Greek fish market to purchase her favourite squid; fresh from the sea farm that morning.
For the main course he had gone for roast goose with cranberry and orange. A trip to Maryland had acquired the perfect snow goose.
Hillary Jane wasn’t really too bothered about desserts, but she had recently shown a slight interest in an apple and mint sorbet in the restaurant on top of the Eiffel Tower. The sorbet had been on the World Cuisine Menu, she had decided against it after a moment’s thought. Norman had port direct to the restaurant and paid way over the odds for the two desserts that now sat in the food suspension unit in the utility room.
Another port to France had attained some of the finest French cheese he could find. They were both quite partial to a strong Pélardon or Roquefort.
The goose had been on speed cook in the oven for seven minutes, another five minutes and it would be done just to her liking; according to the oven’s database. The minted new potatoes and a selection of her favourite vegetables had been finished some time ago and were now in suspension with the starter and dessert.
Norman glanced round his devastated kitchen and sighed happily, he wiped his hands on the white apron he had donned and took another bite of his brie and ham baguette. Large crusty crumbs fell to the floor; joining the other food scraps that had fallen there over the last few hours. He chewed hungrily, the noise of the laser saw savagely interrupted Beethoven’s Für Elise which currently filled the entire house.
It must be about time to take the gardeners another drink, he thought. They would never come to the house to ask for one so he always made sure he kept them well supplied throughout their working day.
The job on the large oak was now taking them a lot longer than they had anticipated. Hillary Jane had decided that she didn’t want a single branch, no matter how high up, to breach the boundary wall. Norman had delivered the bad news to them shortly after his call to her. They had taken it fairly well; to his face anyway. He didn’t like to think about what they may have said about her behind his back. They hadn’t questioned her reasons behind the seemingly pointless task, they knew better. The poor old boys had been working on it for over four hours now. Bill had called the Clarkes to postpone their afternoon’s gardening job.
Norman put together a tray of lemonade and four cream cakes before heading out into the courtyard. He felt more than a bit sorry for them. The last tray had included several rounds of sandwiches. He wouldn’t share this information with Hillary Jane when she returned home; she wasn’t a believer in looking after any of the staff. As far as she was concerned ‘they were here to do a job, not to be eating and drinking food that they probably didn’t appreciate the quality or cost of’. He didn’t feel the same way.
Norman crossed the lawns heading down toward the high pitched buzz of the laser saw. Bill and Billy were high up among the branches of the oak on the scissor platform. Bill operated the platform’s controls; moving them up and down the length of the branch they were currently working on. Billy worked the monster laser saw; sections of the branch fell to the platform bed as they progressed along it. Norman stood by the large trailer which held the current load of timber. He waited for a pause in the noise from the saw.
“GUYS!” he shouted up at them. They both turned round and looked down at the tiny figure on the ground below. Bill raised a hand to gesture they had heard him as he lowered the platform. Within a couple of minutes they were at ground level.
“Thank you Son,” said Bill taking the tray from Norman through the platform’s safety railings. He and Billy sat themselves down on a pile of logs to enjoy their midafternoon refreshment. Both of them were sweating in the heat, Billy had several dark patches of damp on his grubby green shirt, twigs and leaves stuck out of his grey unkempt hair making it look like he had donned a bird’s nest.
“How’s it going guys?” Norman asked.
“Not too bad; I think we’ve broken the back of it now,” Bill replied spitting fresh cream onto Billy’s shirt. Billy looked down at the blob and attempted to rub it off, smearing it into a larger patch in the process.
“We’ve done well over two thirds of it now,” he added.
“Oh great!” said Norman, a little too enthusiastically. “I will personally make sure you are well compensated for the extra work you have put in this week.”
“That’s very kind of you Son,” Bill said with a smile. Norman couldn’t be 100% sure, but it certainly looked like there had been a slight inkling, for a nano-second, of the start of a smile from the usually expressionless Billy.
“I must get back to the house,” said Norman. He stooped down to pick up the previous tray. “I have dinner in the oven.”
“We won’t keep you then with endless chatter,” Bill replied with a mouthful of his second cake.
Norman headed up the garden with the tray. His dat-com strap pulsed. He couldn’t read the display and hold the tray.
“Audio,” he commanded.
The strap pulsed again; acknowledging the command.
“Mr Bradleigh, the ladies black suit you sent in this morning is now ready
to be teleported back to you. Please authorise our port request as soon as you can.
Freddie, Clean Again representative.”
“Great!” Norman exclaimed out loud, that was a relief. They had promised a quick turnaround; but you could never tell when they may contact you with some problem or other. He quickly entered the kitchen and put the tray down on the relatively clear dining table.
Norman continued on to the teleport room. He authorised and accepted the pending port. He was just thinking that he should go and come back when he got the incoming port alert.
The display switched to countdown mode. He sighed impatiently as he waited.
The door slid aside to reveal a grey corrugated cardboard suit carrier standing in the centre. He lifted it out and headed upstairs to the bedroom where he laid it on their bed. He was about to pull open the package by the chunky cardboard zip on the side when he realised he still had his food stained apron on. Phew! That was a close one, he thought, as he slipped off the apron. He could have soiled her suit for a second time in the same day.
The zip unfastened three sides of the carrier. Hillary Jane’s suit lay inside like new. Now where to put it, he pondered. He wanted her to see it but didn’t want to make a big thing of it; he could have left it on the back of the door in the port room if he’d wanted that. He toyed with leaving it on the bed, and then dismissed the idea, it may crease just laying there - it needed hanging.
He wandered into the dressing room with it and decided to hang it on one of the large brass wardrobe door knobs. He stood back and looked at it. Perfect! She would see it when she came up to shower before dinner and they wouldn’t have to mention it.
He left the dressing room and headed to the bedroom door, picking up the suit carrier and his apron on the way. Now back to that goose, the smell of it filled his nostrils as he descended the stairs.