[All 5 prompts included!]
“I know I’m early, but sis-in-law duties compel me to help organize. Al, is the replicator working?"
“Yes, Sheila. It’s upgrading now. MAT-REPLICATOR, you will accept commands when addressed as MR (mirr). Acknowledge.”
Ack-knowl-edg-ed. Time-r in-di-cates TD prep-ar-a-tion due to start now. Shall I print chairs and table for ten first?
“Yes. Do you have sufficient recycle materiel from breakfast?”
Neg-a-tive for the com-plete sett-ings and meal. Sug-gest adding shoes, old cloth-ing and towels to re-cycle chute and bor-ow-ing scrap from neigh-bors. I can bor-ow air mol-ec-ules with-out en-dang-er-ing life sup-port with your per-miss-ion. I will re-store best air bal-ance after your fest.
“Granted. How is your language upgrade coming? Here is the rest of the scrap on hand. Begin printing chairs in brown.”
Ack-knowl-edg-ed. Up-grade at 98% down-load-ed. Per-miss-ion to shut down and restart when com-plet-ed.
“Granted. This chair is perfect. Print seven more then two with arms.”
Ack-knowl-edg-ed. Down-load com-plete. Re-start-ing.
“Another thing to be thankful for. MR’s robot speech was driving me nutty. The upgrade includes speed and detail enhancements that will make orders easier for you too, Sue.”
“Thank goodness, Al. When she’s ready, give her this final list of preparations.”
MAT-REPLICATOR, MR, ready. Reading meal orders. Printing plas table spread, table, plates and settings; waiting for order to rep food items. Releasing pumpkin spice aroma every twenty minutes.
Ninety minutes later, the table is set with flower groupings and antipasto; four guests arrive en mass in our Spartan, pastel blue cubicle. The view through our large, darkened, windows is spectacular from 400 miles above Earth. ‘Aunt’ Sheila offers a first toast.
“Before my toast, I have to get something infuriating off my chest. WHY is that called anti-pasto for hundreds of years? That literally means someone against the Pasto race. It should be ANTE-PASTA, something you have BEFORE the PASTA meal. Rant over. Though this is the first time meeting some of you, I’ve heard enough about you to be thankful you are in our hosts’ lives. First let me remember those in this family who are no longer with us. Sue, to your brother, my husband on this second anniversary of his untimely passing.”
With glasses raised, Al mumbled, “At least his teleporting accident was painless, so they said. No one knows if reforming into a puddle of goo is painful; it was mercifully silent.” Sue elbowed him hard.
A tear running down her cheek, Bev raised a glass, “To my baby, Cal.”
Sheila paused, “Thanks for the vivid reminder, Al. Kids, can you tell us one thing you are thankful for? Charles?”
“Um, sure. I’m grateful our parents adopted us leftovers from the State home. No one else wanted to take on a black teen and Asian tweener.”
Dick chimed in, “Yeah. And I’m grateful we get to live on this space station with clean air and everything we need.” We went around the table with our thanks.
Maria spoke up, “I, um, have to address the elephant in the cubicle and express my thanks to Sue for accepting me back into the fold. The, um,” she looked at the kids, “incident that put me in the cold for nearly a year was entirely my fault. I apologize again for the discomfort I caused and pray that your invitation means you forgive me. If not, I’ll leave you to celebrate without me.” A tear over ran her eyes as she stared directly at Sue.
Not a second later, Sue nearly knocked over her chair when she ran to Maria in tears. “Of course you are forgiven, my love. The misunderstanding was all mine and my over reaction was just dumb. There’s nothing to forgive. It never happened.” They hugged fiercely as other eyes welled up. They kissed cordially on the lips. Wiping away her tears, Sue sighed, “Let’s eat!”
As we sat digging in to our replicated antepasta, the door chimed. “Welcome Captain. Noise complaints already?” Wearing his crisp, white, dress uniform, he removed his white cap with gold braids, “No. Nothing like that. I uh heard you were hosting a special family dinner and thought I’d drop in and wish you firsthand holiday best wishes. Carry on. I’ll be in my cabin should you need anything.” How subtle. It must take months of practice to arrange a smooth self invite like that.
“Would you like to join us? We have room and can replicate more fixings for you. It would be our privilege having you dine with us. You have been so kind to us, we consider you part of our extended family. Any special food needs?” I pulled him to the table with little resistance. “We have our guest-of-honor chair built and ready — with arms!” No one mentioned that chair was for my lost husband. “You’re just in time to include your ‘thanks.’”
Putting him on the spot was fun. “Well, I can add what I’m thankful for every morning. This orbital station is stable and functioning well as it supports so many Earth survivors. Cheers.”
As we attacked the cheeses and prosciutto, I looked around and made a startling observation. “I just realized, none of us in the family is blood related, yet our family bond is strong. I married Sue’s brother; Lou, I heard you and Bev saved Sue’s life. Mario and Maria, you saved Al’s business when no one believed in him enough to lend him the funds to succeed. Captain, you save us all every day. Am I missing anything?”
Sue spoke up, “Ever since our friends saved us, we became closer than some blood relatives. The six of us are special friends, with benefits.” Charles snorted. My spit-take sprayed the younger child who glared at me. The captain gulped; the others covered their giggles.
“Aunt Sheila! Why did you do that?” Dick wiped his face. “ Mom, what kind of benefits?” “Yeah, mom,” teased Charles. “What kind?” Al spoke up over Sue’s coughing as he slapped her back. “Whatever they, or we, needed. We were and are always there to support each other in every possible way — moving, lifting, um cheering each other up and generally making each other happy. Dick, when you were badly undernourished, Bev had just delivered a baby and she nursed you back to health. She had much mother’s milk so she nursed anyone who needed help. SHUT UP CHARLES!”
I cleared the table and dumped food and settings into the recycle chute. Hoping it would obey a mere sis-in-law, I ordered, “MR, main course, settings first please. Announce the courses for us.” Acknowledged. One warm tofurky, glazed and browned; one chilled small spam-urky, one boneless game turkey, browned, sliced at 165 degrees F, with crisp skin; cold Waldorf salad; hot stuffing; cold 3-bean salad; hot glazed yams with crispy skin; 2021 Merlot, chilled; apple juice.
The captain’s mouth dropped. “How did you find a 100-year old Merlot recipe? May I have a copy for me or ship wide?” Al nodded and raised a glass to him. Lou pointed out the lightening window, “Look there. We are just passing over the fabled Plymouth Rock.” Al tuned the viewer to higher magnification until we could see the historic marker. “We know that’s not the actual landing spot, yet we continue to respect tradition, all be it with a wink. Cheers to our ancestors.” When we passed over it, the captain offered, “I’d like to hear more about those benefits you all share. It sounds like that would be a cheerful addition to ship’s log.” He grinned. Maria blushed as Sue answered, “There is much to tell, but NOT today, thank you.” Charles snorted again as Dick looked around confused. We ate most of the lab-made food, but no one touched the spam-urkey. Charles admitted that was his idea of a gross joke. There was no pasta! After several child appropriate jokes and stories, I dumped the remainders into the recycle chute again and ordered MR to produce deserts.
Cold pumpkin spice ice cream; pumpkin spice pie; Dutch apple pie; rum-rasin ice cream; assorted pastries; hot coffee, espresso and hot chocolate.
Even on a space station, we managed to over indulge. We raised another glass of classic Merlot. “Happy holidays all. Let’s survive well and do this again next year. Cheers.”