Are You Staying Long?

I’m not sure what I’m doing here. I woke up on Mt Alba, cold and tired, and walked down through the forest, and across the marsh, into the valley, then followed the road past farms into town. There were beef cattle and dairy cows. I eyed the steers.

There was a holy gathering at the Transparent Temple, and one outside. The one inside seemed welcoming, but I didn’t want to disturb their rituals so kept going. The one outside was hostile, and I felt it was best to get away as quickly as possible.

Though I’ve warmed up by lying naked in the sunshine, my bones are still sore and my stomach gnawing. I’ll head for that prominent building; it looks like a hotel. Yes, the sign says Lucerne Valley Hotel. I would love to have a pot of tea and some hot dinner. Do I have any money though?

I check both trouser pockets and the ones in my shirt. Nada.

The guy at reception gives me a big smile, he seems friendly. Maybe we can work something out. He says, “Good evening, Sir. Welcome to our humble establishment. Would you like a room?”

“That would a fine thing, but right now I’m wanting some dinner. The problem is that I’ve just returned from a spell in the mountains and find myself without funds. Is there a way that I could work for my dinner?”

“That’s an unusual request, Sir. Let me check.”

The receptionist calls through to the kitchen. He says to me, “I’m sorry, Sir. The chef says that he could do with a hand tonight, but he isn’t allowed to take on casual staff, regardless of whether money exchanges hands. It is forbidden by The Authority.”

The door swings open and a stocky man walks through.

“Hey TJ,” he says to the receptionist. “How goes it tonight?”

“It’s been a busy day, Mr Shama. There are quite a few people from the holy gatherings staying here.”

“Is that what you’re here for?” Shama says to me. “Are you a follower of Guru Baba? Or maybe Ozwald Malchizedek?”

I say, “I’m sorry, I’m neither. I don’t know anything about them.”

“Are you okay, pal? You’re looking pale.”

I’m feeling dreadful but say, “I’m okay, thank you. Just a bit hungry and tired.”

“Well my friend, you should have yourself a hot dinner. They serve great food in the restaurant here. Wait a minute!” He finds his wallet and rummages through it. “Ah, here it is! I thought it was in there. The free meal voucher I won in the raffle. It’s still valid isn’t it, TJ?”

“It sure is, Mr Shama.”

Shama hands it to me. “I know what it’s like, pal. I’ve had tough times too. A good steak will get you through to the morrow.”

I thank him and head to the restaurant. I think I’ll have it medium-rare.

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