Rotting Ambrosia

The two large steel pots clanged loudly when Dekel placed them on the portable cooking hob he had set-up. As the sound of ringing metal died away he could make out the voices coming from beyond the roll-shutter.

It was still early morning, not much past six thirty, but as usual the people were gathering, their wheezed conversations competing with the coughing as they eased themselves into the day. The sky had been clear when Dekel pulled his truck to a stop outside the abandoned warehouse. Spring was on the way and not a moment too soon; the stock of winter vegetables was dwindling to nothing. Fresh seedlings had already been put out to harden and some of the early crops were sprouting, but the quicker the daytime heat picked up the sooner he would have fresh produce to use.

Not so many years back it had been only him running the small holding. That was before the GM plagues had turned food across America to inedible pulp. In those days of careless greed people laughed at his isolationist attitude. They picked potatoes from tins not the ground, thought nothing of getting a take-away on a Friday and a pizza on a Saturday. He preached healthy eating but no one listened. Pills filled the gaps left by their processed food. Now that Western science had brought ruin to the world most people either had enough old money to live in a city enclave and ship produce from Australasia or the Pacific Rim, or they came to die in the slums of starvation and disease.

Dekel held a hand over one of the pots. Heat had started seeped into the metal. He upended a container of soup. It slopped and splashed, the first drops sizzling as they touched the hot base. With movements that had become like clockwork over the last year, he placed the empty tub back in the open truck and lifted out full one.

Since finding his calling this had been his routine: get up at three in the morning; load the whatever food the kibbutz had prepared the night before; drive into the slums that spread around San Francisco like a canker; feed the dying; head back to the farm.

He wished there were more of them at home so he had company in the city. He wished they had the skills to build another electric truck. Most of all he wished he could take all those in the slums back with him; that the farm had enough resources to feed everyone, to give them a good life before they died of whatever gene contamination was eating into their bodies.

The metal shutter thundered as he let it roll up into its housing. It stilled the chatter of the conversation from the gathered throng beyond. Sunlight flooded the cool darkness of the warehouse. What had once been a raised loading bay became the front counter of a soup kitchen.

Dekel lets his eyes wander across the crowd making a best guess at the number; thirty, maybe more. He would have enough to feed them all and some to spare.

“Hey, man, we thought you were going to take all day getting ready.”

A grin parted Dekel’s lips. “Uli, good to see you.”

He noticed flesh pulled tight across the man’s bones. Eyes surrounded by dark blue circles. His gaze was drawn to the patches of purple-stained skin that showed underneath the open shirt.

Dekel forced himself to hold the smile. “I’ve got soup again this morning, but you’ll be pleased to hear it’s probably the last batch. The early spring lettuce is coming through so it’ll be sandwiches tomorrow.”

“I’m not going to complain, no matter what you feed us. It’s all good.” There was a burning hunger behind the man’s eyes.

“Well, you hang around. There should be enough for another bowl full.” Dekel passed out the first helping and looked to see who was next inline. “Gren not around to be your wingman?”

Uli was already moving away, raising the warm soup to his lips. “No, man. I found him cold under his cardboard last night. The rot must have eaten more of his insides than we thought.”

Dekel let his eyes drop. “Sorry to hear that.”

When he looked up again Uli was gone and the next stood waiting for her handout. Another thin, pale waif; a refugee from man’s past mistakes. Dekel wondered if she would be back again tomorrow.

—————

1 April 2011
A couple in France are on trial following the death of their 11-month-old daughter. The child died of a pneumonia-related illness having become more susceptible due to vitamin A and B12 deficiencies. The parents were both strict vegans who only breast fed their daughter and who did not accept modern medical practices.

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