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     The Cooking House

       Z.N. Singer / Fantasy
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The Cooking House

The Cooking House

by Z.N. Singer

Copyright 2011 Z.N. Singer


Bernard lived in a good house. But you wouldn't have known it to talk to him.
It was very homey, warm and inviting. It was large but never felt empty. It had nice land around it. In fact, most people would have happily decided it was perfect, or at least close enough.
Bernard was an inventor, or so he fancied himself. He believed it could be improved.
Actually, what he believed was that houses could be improved in general. It was the year 1889, in England, and the bounds of what was and was not possible were being stretched daily: society was turning itself inside out about the various wondrous innovations that were being brought into the world. It was a time of exciting possibilities, and Bernard – with the help of a small private income – had his notions about how to bring this to the home.
The problem with homes, the eternally single man had decided, was that the people living in them had to do all the work.
Cleaning, cooking, and all the rest, what good was a home that didn't do it for you – he asked of the world in general and his home in particular – instead of relying on those females who didn't even understand his life's passions? None, he imagined the humble response to be. Yes, that's right. You're useless now, like all the rest. But it isn't your fault. It's mine. I haven't finished my invention yet. Then you will be perfect.
His automated home, being a product of the late nineteenth century, involved a great deal of cogs and wheels. He'd experimented with steam and the like but found that trying to run such a thing in a home made for an atmosphere that distinctly lacked peace and relaxation. So, clockwork it was, and a complicated mess it was turning out to be. And of course winding the mass of contraptions was still quite a chore: he supposed a certain amount of regulated effort to maintain it was acceptable, as nothing was going to make the house take its own initiative, but ideally this process should not take too much longer than it would to, say, eat a piece of toast in the morning.
Ah, toast. Yes. That was his one great success so far. The clockwork for cleaning, laundry, pest control, and all the rest still plagued him like the Devil's Advocate, but the cooking mechanisms – ah, those had worked marvels from the start. No matter how the rest of the house confounded him, he had only to look at that culinary success to know he would eventually succeed with the rest too. How could he not? He merely had to properly understand what had gone right, and apply it. Indeed he spent nearly as much time studying the cooking mechanism to solve this mystery as he did tinkering with the rest of it. For it still seemed to him, no matter how he pondered and tweaked and poked, that there was no significant difference or reason why the cooking machinery should work so well while all the others merely spat back oil at him, or threw parts of themselves about their respective rooms. It was simply beyond him, at least for the moment. But it was his own creation, and he was sure he would get there in time.
And while all that was going on, at least he had three meals a day, plus teatime, exactly as man should: served and waiting for him, done to perfection, and without the nuisance of some fawning thing to thank or acknowledge or otherwise bother with. Yes, this was how life should be. And once he'd had his way, this was how all of his life would be. And everyone else's. And then he'd see what those snarky fellows at the pub had to say.

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