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The Kitchen Help, by Linda
The Kitchen Help
The first memory T’Indaan had of her father’s cook was being rocked to sleep with some old Terran lullaby. Her father told her the woman had been a young exchange student who assisted in his medical research lab, but decided to stay on as his cook after T’Indaan arrived in his household around the time of his wife’s death. The human woman had doted on T’Indaan and had quietly supplied the family with well-cooked meals and a clean house. She had the good sense to stay out of the way during the dinners with colleagues her father had carefully planned so T’Indaan could be introduced to people who might help further her career ambitions when she grew up.
Her father, Valnik, had his first impression of humans from his brother Captain Vanik of the Ti’Mur. Vanik told of an encounter with humans where Captain Archer of the Enterprise had invited him to dinner, but rudely dismissed him from the table. The human captain had managed to keep a Vulcan woman from going home to her wedding, for which Vanik received a dressing down from his superiors when his ship returned to Vulcan without her. Valnik was curious enough about this volatile and impolite species to employ a member of it so he could study its behavior. That he had developed a fondness for this one human was not so illogical, as he had raised sehlats that could be vicious but could be trained to serve you with an affection which you could often return. Valnik was 160 years old when T’Indaan was born and he had died at 228, just five years ago. The Terran cook had tenderly nursed him in his last illness, a fact for which T’Indaan was mildly grateful as it freed her to continue her important work in the development of a new variety of grain that would grow well on Vulcan colony worlds.
Just last week the old human had stopped by T’Indaan’s office while she was out to lunch with some colleagues. There were fresh flowers in the vase on the bookcase and a box of homemade seed cakes next to it. Dr. Somsit mentioned in passing “that old cook of your father’s was here again. Such loyalty to your family, like in the old days of masters and retainers. But I am surprised she did not return to Earth after your father died.”
Somsit was an obtuse old busybody and fortunately not too perceptive. T’Indaan never let it show in front of him or anyone else, just how the old woman’s visits embarrassed her. She gave the gurney an extra shove, just to make sure it was up against the door of the hospital crematorium, and walked away without a backward glance.
That evening, T’Indaan picked up the ashes and went out into the desert. She set the urn on a rock and sat down to meditate on the sad little life of this human. She knew it was only right to perform a dignified last ritual for a long time family employee. It would not take long, as there was not much to say about her. She soon was thinking of the last days of this woman’s life. T’Indaan had known the old woman was dying, but could not bring herself to visit her. It might have produced unwanted speculation on the part of her friends, her husband, and her colleagues. But now it was over and there would be no more presents left in her office.
The last of this woman was here in the urn in the desert twilight where no one could see her. This being the case, T’Indaan could allow herself a little emotional indulgence. Since childhood, the only emotions T’Indaan had allowed herself concerning her father’s cook were those of resentment for a heritage imposed on her, but very cleverly hidden. What were you thinking my father? Was I just another of your inventive medical experiments? It was illogical to procreate so late in your life when you already had a grown son with two offspring of his own! As the superior life form, I blame you more than her for my secret shame.
When T’Indaan was a young child, her father had eyed her critically and said: “Your skin tone is Vulcan, as are your ears and your intelligence and your prospective life span. That is fortunate and will allow you to pass for a full Vulcan. Therefore, I will give you a proper Vulcan upbringing.”
As T’Indaan released the ashes into the brisk breeze that accompanied the Vulcan twilight, sadness and guilt welled up from a deeply repressed reservoir of emotions. She finally could mourn for the loss of this inconvenient life form. She could asurge her guilt because humans where known to forgive, though Vulcans were not, and she could not forgive her father or this human. But the loving care T’Indaan had received from this human all her life told her she could receive forgiveness even if she could not give it. So T’Indaan for the first time in her life acknowledged the relationship in order to finally be free of it: “Forgive me, Mother.” T’Indaan then shook the urn and watched the wind carry the last of the ashes away.
Author’s afterword: The inspiration for this very short story may not come as much of a surprise – the movie Imitation of Life. It sprang into my head while I was thinking of a phrase that has come out of the tragic aftermath of hurricane Katrina: “__________ does not care about Black people”. You can now get this phrase on a commercially printed T-shirt on the Internet, with the politician’s name supplied. I will not mention the name here as that would be too political. I am not Black, but recently a boy who lives across the alley from my grandson said something derogatory about him because he is Native American. So I thought one way humans from the ‘dominant’ ethnicity in America could possibly feel the impact of the above comment about the shortcomings of the response to the flooding, was to write a story where a ‘generic’ human was oppressed.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Vulcans. I like them a lot and I wish such an interesting species were real. But they are convenient as a ‘superior’ sentient life form to humans, so it is not such a leap to use them in an attempt to make people feel what it is to be a suppressed minority. The use of Vanik who was the Vulcan captain in the Enterprise episode Breaking the Ice is an attempt to set the time in a period where many Vulcans looked down on humans. Besides I did not like Vanik’s attitude toward Archer and thought his whole family would take a callous and experimental attitude with humans.
By the way, ‘indaan’ is the shortened form of the word that means ‘my daughter’ in Ojibwe (Chippewa language).
A whole mess of folks have made comments
Ignorance, arrogance and prejudice knows no linits as it exists amongst all races, religions, ethnic, polotical and cultural groups. If we recognise our own vision and perceptions are colored by our upbringing and experiences there may be hope to rise above.
Thanks for your comment, and I hope more people leave their views, whether they like this story or not. It is a bit depressing for the normal Star Trek underlying theme of hope, but it was something I had to express. Thank you readers, for your kind indulgence.
Linda, I came looking for light entertainment since the TnT portion of this site has been so slow lately. What I got instead was a heart-rending glimpse into a life not unlike what the black slaves who bore their master's children in the pre-civil war south must have experienced. I would enjoy seeing you expand on this character being forced, perhaps, to interact with humans and grow to accept her human heritage. Thanks for making us think.
You are right Distracted, I should try to educate this character a bit in another story. I don't much like her, but in the spirit of Star Trek hopeful endings, I will try to make her more 'Human' and actually, more 'Vulcan' too as I see them as a moral and way underneath, a deeply compassionate people!
I tried to think which stories on the Annex are light and entertaining and I am not sure many are. Try ShouldKnowBetter's "A Truth Universally Acknowledged". I love that one. As for any of mine, I tried to be humorous in "At the Coffee Break Cafe" which is real short, so it is not a tedious read. And there are humorous momments and serious ones in my Velik story "Conceptions and Preconceptions". Oh, I think ShouldKnowBetter's "The Mean Old Vulcan and the MACCO" is humorous but set in a kind of bleak background.
Thanks, Linda. I'll try to find the time to check those out.
I thought this was a good story. T'Indaan has a lot of potential. She is secretly stuck between what she is and what people think she is. I hope to see more of her and see her grow.
Well...now that I have a couple of votes in to rehabilitate T'Indaan so she grows into a better person, I will just have to do it. Maybe I could get Soval or T'Pol involved...
very potent. I must have more.
Another vote to continue this story! Well, I will just have to get on with it as soon as our household move is over. I have a few ideas...but always appreciate suggestions. Shall we rehabilitate T'Indaan? I love it when readers and writers work together to create stories.