Thursday, January 15, 2015

Part 115

The night hadn't been too bad.  Right in the middle it got really cold but by first light it was a little better.  I crawled out of the doghouse cautiously but after sensing no trouble I stretched and then dug a hole to start a smokeless fire so I could fix my breakfast.  My options were limited but I figured I could fry up a little leftover wild rice and toss in some dried cranberries and it wouldn't taste too bad.

Then I saw Lucy come out of the house and boy did she look in a lousy mood.  I waved and asked, "What's up?"

She growled, "My turn at breakfast.  I hate cooking. Hate it, hate it, hate it.  Nobody is ever happy.  I say if they don't like my cooking then they can take my turn but they won't.  None of us like cooking.  And we wouldn't have to only our last cook went AWOL when she hooked up with some fisherman and ran away to have sex all the time like she wanted to.  Now we're stuck.  And the guys all make fun of us too 'cause none of us can really cook.  Even that stupid McClintick."

"Well the guys take turns cooking too don't they?"

"Huh?" she asked confused and then her face cleared.  "Oh, you think we are all together.  Nope.  Women and men aren't allowed to serve in the same patrol.  Sgt. Shadwell runs our unit but we have to have separate patrols within the unit.  Our unit has five patrols ... four male patrol groups and one female patrol group.  You only see two of our patrols here, two more are back at base and one is on RNR ... that free time to do what you want so long as you report back when you are supposed to."

"How many people does each patrol have in it?" I asked curiously.

"Five ... five person patrols in five patrols plus Sgt. Shadwell and there are usually five units in a given patrol area but we try not and overlap too much but it means that someone should always be close if things get bad."

"Do things get bad very often?"

"Used to.  Not so much over the winter except when we get called in to clean up a town squabble or something."

I was thinking about what she said when a man walked by and practically threw a basket at Lucy before walking on without another word.  Under her breath I heard Lucy say, "Jerk."

"Are they always like that?  The men I mean."

"No.  They're all just bent because McClintick went AWOL during the night and now they are going to be a man short.  They used to make McClintick do all the grunt work now they don't have anyone to do the fetching and carrying for them."

"Yeah, they seemed like they really ragged on him alot."

"Well he was stupid with a capital stoop.  My ma would have named him Useless if she'd lived to meet him.  Always bragging about stuff that doesn't matter anymore.  He was asking for trouble."

She was staring hard at what was in the basket and then sighed.  "Powdered eggs, bread, powdered milk, brown sugar, butter, and dried fruit ... this time bananas.  Same old same old.  I guess it is scrambled eggs and toast again.  They can sprinkle the bananas with the sugar for snack or something."  Then she sighed again.  To me it sounded like a banquet but I guess a steady diet of anything will get old.

Then I thought of something Toddie and his scout friends used to do and smiled.  "Hey, if I teach you something can I share?  I mean is it against the rules if I contribute something?"

Slowly she said, "Noooo.  Sgt. Shadwell even said she figured you might be eating with us if you didn't haul butt before first light."

That was all I needed to know.  "Hang on."  I dug out the bag I kept all my seasonings in - I still had a lot left over from the trailer salvage and had decided I was not leaving any of it behind.  I pulled out a couple of items and then came back.  I also brought back a small jug of maple syrup that I had salvaged from the Singing Waters camp.  I asked her, "What do you think about French toast?"

"I think you're dreaming."

I smiled.  "C'mon.  Let's hurry before they get wind of it or it won't be a surprise."

First thing I did was throw the dried bananas in a pot with some water so they could soften up.  I nearly ate one but I'm not a little kid and it isn't my stuff.  If Lucy could be trusted I'd be getting a taste soon enough anyway.

We used the fire I had already started but her patrol's grate and big skillet since all I had was my mess kit.  I put two tablespoons of the butter in the skillet and added a quarter cup of the brown sugar and stirred it until the butter was melted.  Then I added the bananas that had plumped up about as much as they were going to ... I drained them first to keep them from popping and splattering and generally making more of a mess to clean up.

When the bananas were heated through from my supplies I added just a bit of rum extract diluted with just a little water and then brought the mess to a boil for a minute to kinda make it like a candy syrup.  While I stirred the mess to keep the sugar from burning Lucy whisked together four eggs and a cup of milk made from the powdered milk supply.  I had her add a little vanillar extract to it as well.  We cut the loaf of bread into eight thick slices and then laid them in the egg mixture to soak it up which only takes a minute or two.

I scrapped the hot banana mixture into a bowl and then added more butter to the skillet.  A couple pieces at a time I fried the bread on both sides until it was golden brown and looked around for something to plop them onto when I noticed the three other women plus Sgt. Shadwell staring down at what we were doing.

One of the women said, "Please God let that taste as good as it looks and smells."

She said it so funny that I nearly laughed.  Lucy with her eyes scrunched in concentration said, "It better 'cause if it doesn't it isn't going to be my fault."

I told her, "Stop worrying it to death.  Where are the plates so I can start ..."  I never got to finish because I had four mess kits shoved in my face.

Everyone got about a piece and a half of the bread and a glob of the banana mixture on top of that.  There was enough powdered milk left for them to have a small glass of milk each - and me too - and then those that wanted a little extra sweet put a little maple syrup on the side.

Clean up wasn't too bad because they all try to rake what little bit of leavings there were and then everyone washed their own mess kits with some hot water that I had put on the last of the fire while we ate.

Lucy had taken off and I wasn't sure what to do with the skillet I had just finished washing when I looked up to find Sgt. Shadwell staring down at me.

"I have something you should really think about," she told me.

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