Saturday, July 25, 2009


Leviathan in wave on Skene
To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post from yesterday. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices. There is a glossary of sorts for this chapter at the end of this current post. Terms first introduced in previous chapters will not be re-explained here.


Pysoz woke up early and rolled over looking for Sey's embrace. When she found she was alone, she tried to remember where Sey was. A few seconds later, it all came back to her. She felt like she had suffered a body blow and lay flat on her back, trying to make sense of it. Half a minute after that, she remember Mill's offer. Reason to get out of bed, she thought. She dressed quickly and met her emma in the kitchen.

"I've made porridge" said Prl, studying Pyosz's face.

"I'll take a bowl with mulberry syrup on it" said Pyosz. "Are these eggs boiled or raw?"

"Boiled but cold, let me -- "

"I'll do it" said Pyosz. She peeled two eggs, sliced them into a second bowl, added some of Prl's salad dressing and a crumble of ikan over it. She ate efficiently, hungrily, while Prl watched her over a cup of tea.

"What are you up to today?" asked Prl when Pyosz began draining her own cup of tea.

"I need to go visit someone in the hospital. After that, I'm heading downtown, maybe go shopping" said Pyosz evasively.

"I have to take the ferry to Juh for a home visit with set of emmas who have a baby in the house, but I'll be back by mid-afternoon" said Prl. Pyosz looked like this information barely registered. Something was definitely up, but her color was good. "Do you need cash?"

"Oh. Yeah, but I'll take my own" said Pyosz. She went into her room and returned jangling coins in her pocket. She kissed Prl's cheek and zoomed out the door.

Prl ate her own porridge, then went to let out the chickens because Pyosz had once again forgotten her chore. She saw Qala weeding the new lettuces and stopped to say "She's all lit up this morning, like there's some plan underfoot. Just took off for downtown. You know what's up?"

Qala met her eyes. "No. And I'd tell you if I did. Do you think she's meeting Sey somewhere?"

Prl considered it. "Doesn't feel like it. Well, I suppose we'll find out soon enough."

Qala shifted stiffly on her haunches and said "Yoj said Mill called the Manage last night while Pyosz was there, talked to her for a long time. One of Mill's neighbors is perhaps dying at the hospital here, Mill asked Pysoz to look in on her."

"She mentioned that, though she left out the details" said Prl, her suspicion pooling now in a definite location. "Did Mill ask Pyosz to come visit?"

"Not that she told the abbas. But..." Qala wiped dew off onto her knees and forced herself to go on. "Pyosz told them she thought you had done something to Sey yesterday when you went to see the Dean. I'm pretty sure she got that idea from me, because it sounds to me like what you would do. Yoj said they're very concerned about it."

Prl snorted. "That's rich, coming from emma. She's the one who said she was going to destroy Sey."

"But she didn't mean it, and you know that" said Qala quietly.

"So are you warning me or asking me a question?" said Prl.

"I don't need to warn you about your emmas. Question, yes: What did you do?"

"I removed public pity and ridicule from Pyosz's back, and I did it more deftly than anyone else in this family could have pulled off" said Prl irritably. "That's really all you will ever want to know." She walked back into the house with her basket of fresh eggs.

"You're not the only one who loves her" Qala said to the empty air. "I moved in here before she was born, at your request." One of Yoj's multitude of Archive katts appeared from behind the bed of marigolds and made an interrogatory sound.

"Not talking to you, Starchy" said Qala. "But come here, there's a beetle you'll find crunchy, I bet."

When Prl walked through the edge of downtown half an hour later, on her way to the ferry, she kept an unobtrusive lookout for Pyosz. She also noted the reactions of people who saw her or said hello. They were not suppressing curiosity or gloat in the way they would have if they knew Pyosz had been dumped. She smiled to herself as she rang the bell at the landing to call the faryaste from Verzin.

Pyosz talked with the nurse at the hospital front desk, who said Ferk was unconscious and no one had been able to rouse her. "She's on a breathing machine and having her blood cleaned" the nurse said. "She has advanced pneumonia, but before that she'd gone into kidney failure. And of course that backwards clinic on Pya missed the renal issue until it was too late."

Pyosz went frosty. "As I understand it from S'bemma Mill" she said deliberately, "Ferk didn't have a chance to seek medical attention at all. She was discovered passed out in her cabin, alone. The curandera in Koldok, S'bemma Briel, immediately recognized she needed the apparatus available only here because Skene won't sell the equipment to Pya, forcing Ferk to fly seven hours before getting the treatment she needed."

The nurse belatedly recognized Pyosz and pretended to be studying the chart. Pyosz continued "I've been requested by the Ethicist of Pya to see Ferk. She knows me, perhaps a friendly face will bring her round."

"Second door on the right" said the nurse.

Ferk looked awful, with bright yellow skin and matted hair. There were inset lines of grime on her face and one foot sticking out from the blanket. Pyosz patted her hand, talked to her for a minute with no response, then left the room and accosted the same nurse down the hall.

"Why has she not been washed?" she said in a loud voice.

"We cleaned as much off her as we could" said the nurse. "We can't wash her hair, not with pneumonia. If you want to discuss her care, I suggest you talk to the curandera. Who's in surgery until after lunch."

Pyosz was steaming mad. She went to the gift shop and asked for the most fragrant flowers they had: When they had visited Ferk as children, she always pointed out the blooms on Saya, saying it gave a singular flavor to her honey. She carried a large bouquet back to Ferk's room and put it on the table near her pillow. She pulled one large rose petal from the bunch and lightly crushed it between her fingers, then swept it on Ferk's cheek near her nostrils. "Smell that, Nan Ferk?" she whispered. "You hang in there, and we'll get you back to your island before the summer wildflowers have faded." She waited for any sort of change. She put the rose petal in Ferk's limp hand, closed her fingers over it, and left the room, stopping to tell the nurse she'd be back later.

She was distracted walking to the shoemaker's shop, trying to conjure clear memories of Saya beyond playing with the goats and climbing an apple tree. Once in the shop, she made small talk for a minute, then said "I need a pair of otos. Made from real leather, heavy duty, like field workers wear."

The shoemaker raised her eyebrows. "That's a first. Waterproof, I suppose. I don't have any in stock your size, I'll have to make them."

"All right. I need them as soon as possible." Pyosz could tell the shoemaker was dying to ask what they were for. Instead, she pretended to look at her empty calendar before saying "Three days from now. End of the day."

"Day after tomorrow" countered Pyosz. "No barter, cold cash."

"That'll cost you 25% extra for the rush" said the shoemaker. "I'll be up late two nights."

Against all Skene bargaining etiquette, Pyosz said "Fine. How much?"

"Well, let me get your measurements" said the shoekeeper, wondering if there was a way to increase her price since Pyosz seemed willing to pay a premium.

"You have my measurements, you're the only place I've ever bought shoes for 20 years" said Pyosz.

"I've never made otos, I need your calf circumferences" countered the shoemaker. She pulled out a tape measure and drawing paper as Pyosz sat down with a sigh and removed her zaoxue.

"Do you want the leather dyed?"

"These aren't for fashion" said Pyosz shortly. She craned her neck around to look at the sokken rack as the shoemaker painstakingly took measurements. When she was done, Pyosz walked in her skarpetki to select six thick pairs of wool sokken. When she brought them back to the counter, the shoemaker said "You'll be wearing those, then, inside the otos?"

"Yes. I'll need the warmth because I'm going to dance from head to head across a mass of leviathans in the Morrie Strati" said Pyosz deadpan. The shoemaker laughed and said "Whatever. Just be sure to recommend me if you survive your adventure." Pyosz handed over her coins and went half a block to a clothing store which offered ready-made garments. She bought two long-sleeved maillot, a pair each of heavy broeks, buksers, and kaidang ku, and a plain black manteau with a flannel lining. At the last minute, she added a jaunty red wool cap with earflaps that could be lowered. The store didn't carry work gloves, and suggested she try the hardware store.

But Pyosz had glanced at her watch and was now panicked about missing Mill's call. She literally ran the few blocks uphill to home, bursting breathless into the kitchen and starting the apprentice, who had charts spread all over the dining table as she snacked on toast.

Pyosz gasped out "Did we get a call from Pya?"

The apprentice shook her head and began moving her papers. Pyosz said "Don't...I'm going to my room" and hid her bags in her clothes press. She pulled from her notebook the pages with her questions and returned to the kitchen to drink down a glass of water. She choked slightly when the radio buzzed, leaping to answer it while coughing.

"S'bemma? No, I'm okay, give me a second."

"This is an open line" Mill reminded her. "Have you talked to the curandera?"

"No, but I saw Ferk and I talked with the nurse." Pyosz related her news.

"Doesn't sound good" said Mill, her voice heavy. "I got hold of a cousin of Ferk's, she lives on Beras and said she'd go after work tonight."

"I'm going back this afternoon to talk with the curandera, I'll tell you what I find out then" said Pyosz. She'd gone into her room and closed the door. "Mill...I'm going to say yes. To the other."

"Waves and ripples, Pyosz, that's the first good thing I've heard in days!" exclaimed Mill. "Have you told anyone yet?"

"No. Waiting until dinner, when the explosion won't ruin other people's day" said Pyosz, not laughing. "I'm having otos made, and got some work clothes."

They began discussing particulars. Eventually Mill said "Okay, so Abbo's flying the next huolun run tomorrow, which means they'll be returning the morning after that. You'll have to catch that one, or else you'll have to wait five days."

"Day after tomorrow?" said Pyosz. Too soon.

"Yeah, be at the Yanja jigang no later than 7:30 a.m., because Abbo will definitely leave without you. See if you can catch the school sinner out to Yanja, talk to Danaan" suggested Mill. "The ejida worker who's been filling in for Ferk is almost out of slack, she's commuting back and forth twice a day. It's planting season at the ejida, so I had to find a replacement for her who could do scut work. Your Sibemma Dodd, bless her, volunteered because school is out, and they're working her 12 hours a day. But Dodd's not the manual labor type, you know."

Neither am I Pyosz suddenly realized. Before she could follow that train of thought, a knock came at her door. "Have you had lunch?" came Qala's voice.

"Mill, I have to go. I'll talk to you later" whispered Pyosz. She clicked off and went into the kitchen, where Qala was making a salad.

"I have to eat fast" said Pyosz. "I need to catch the curandera at the hospital."

"Who is it, from Pya?" asked Qala. Which meant she'd talked with Yoj, of course.

"Nan Ferk. I saw her this morning, and she's in some sort of coma. And abba, they hadn't even cleaned her face properly, or washed her hair, saying basically she came in dirty from dirty Pya and why should they bother." Pyosz's returning anger stiffened her resolve to follow through on her promise to Mill. She talked about Pya in a general way through the meal, and left before Qala could ask more pointed questions.

After Pyosz was gone, the apprentice said "That was Mill she was talking to. And she came in with bags of what looked like new clothes, that she immediately put in her room without showing them to anybody."

You obsequious little sneak thought Qala. Her stony silence got through to the apprentice, who gathered her papers and went to her own room.

When Pyosz got to the hospital, no one was at the front desk. She started down the hall, and saw the curandera emerge from a door at the end. Pyosz went to greet her, introducing herself and asking after Ferk.

The curandera, named Ried, immediately got a resigned expression on her face. Pyosz put her hand against the wall and leaned on it as Ried said "I'm sorry to tell you, she died half an hour ago without ever waking up. Kidney failure causing heart failure. She was in no pain, I can assure you that."

"But I just saw her, brought her flowers!" said Pyosz.

"Are you the cousin from Beras, then? We need papers signed" said Ried.

"No. I knew her from visits to Pya -- I was asked to visit her by my Sibemma Mill, Sheng Zhang of Pya."

Now Ried's face took on an expression Pyosz couldn't read. "Sibemma? Oh...You're Prl's child, that's right."

"Do you know emma, then?" asked Pyosz.

"Not really. I lived next door to your family when she was a child" said Ried with some undefined evasion. "I'm sorry about Ferk. You can check in after her cousin arrives to find out about the funeral, which I'm sure will be tomorrow. Do you want to take the flowers away with you, they're lovely."

"No. Tell the cousin she can keep them with Ferk for her burial. Or give them to another patient if she doesn't want them." Pyosz was fighting tears, and wanted to get away. She thanked Ried and left.

The tillage behind the lofthall had a bench where she'd sat with emmas often as a child, petting the katts and chattering on. She stumbled there now and wept into her hands, hoping none of the pilots saw her. When she was done, she wiped her face and headed for home. Saya Island depended entirely on her now.

Qala was at the kitchen sink cutting seed potatoes, and Lawa had a planting chart on the table, conferring out loud with Qala. They looked around at Pyosz, who only nodded at them before going to wash her face. She went to her room and returned to the kitchen with her notebook, opening it to the page of notes about her new job. Prl came in from her office and Pyosz said "I need to talk with you all. Do you have the time now?"

Prl glanced at the clock and said "All right." Pyosz sat down, and Prl followed suit.

"First of all, Nan Ferk died about an hour ago. Nan Ried said it was kidney and heart failure."

"Ried?" said Prl with an intake of breath. She glanced at Qala, whose face was impassive.

"You do know her, then? She said she lived next door when you were little" said Pyosz, her curiosity poked.

"She did. She was not a good neighbor, however." Prl didn't seem to want to say more.

"Why the gasp, then?" insisted Pyosz. "Is she not a fit curandera? Would she have neglected Ferk's care, should I -- "

"No, no" said Prl. "She -- She's the curandera who spread around how to become pregnant using double eggs. After you were born. She was never identified or prosecuted for it, but I know it was her."

Pyosz wished she'd known that when she was talking to Ried. But she forced herself away from that distraction. She swallowed onto a roiling stomach and said "With Ferk's death, there is no one to take care of the goats on Saya Island. The entire djoste production of Pya is now in jeopardy. Mill asked me to come for the summer and take her place, until they can find someone to immigrate and take it on."

All three of the older women simply stared at her, their eyebrows high on their foreheads. Prl was the first to regain her voice. "You must be joking. You, a capriste?"

"I'll have to learn fast, but I'll be paid and Mill promises to get me any relief or training I need. Pya, indeed, all Skene cannot afford to lose the cheese which comes from the goats of Saya -- "

"I'm more aware than you are of how essential that protein and calcium has been to Skene" said Prl coldly. "All of us but you grew up without it."

The limited land available on Skene meant certain food items -- milk, butter, cheese, corn, wheat to name a few -- were either in very limited supply or not grown altogether. Dairy products had been reserved for children and aggies first, but even then, meal made from fish bones and certain leafy greens had been a necessary dietary addition to make sure small teeth and skeletons grew properly to adulthood.

"What beggars belief" continued Prl "is that anyone in their right mind would turn over production of that precious commodity to you. What you know about goats would fit inside this teaspoon. As for responsibility, did you tell Mill that you forget about our own small group of chickens almost half the time?"

Pyosz suddenly realized she hadn't thought about the chickens in at least two days. Prl had the satisfaction of seeing compunction on Pyosz's face. She pushed her advantage.

"Don't you have to be certified to make djoste for allotment? Or is Mill going to ignore that little -- "

Pyosz interrupted her happily. "I'm not making the djoste, only milking. I deliver the milk to the djostiker in Koldok every day."

"How do you deliver it?" asked Lawa.

"By ferry. It's only a few minutes, and there's morrie vaseo all the time" said Pyosz.

"How many goats?" asked Lawa.

"Around a hundred" said Pyosz, not as happily.

Prl made a rude round with her mouth. Lawa did sums on her fingers. "Figure over half of those are lactating does, that means perhaps a gallon a day -- are you milking twice a day?"

Pyosz nodded, watching Lawa's fingers.

"So that's at least 50 gallons a milking. Do you have any idea how much a gallon of liquid weighs, honey? Especially in a metal can, lifting into and out of a rocking ferry?"

"Ferk did it, and she's almost your age" argued Pyosz.

"Ferk is dead" pointed out Prl. "Possibly from overwork."

Pyosz flared. "Don't you dare speak of her so heartlessly, you effete townie! She gave Pya everything she had for 20 years, she was kind and always welcomed us children and she fed all of levving Skene, and she died alone with her hair unwashed and nobody to hold her hand -- " Despite her best effort, Pyosz could not hold back her tears. As she sobbed onto her fists, Prl decided not to point out that "effete townie" was also an accurate description of Pyosz herself.

Qala patted Pyosz's back and shook her head at Lawa. Lawa craned her neck to look at the page open in Pyosz's notebook. Prl went to her room and returned with a handkerchief for Pyosz. Pyosz blew her nose and said "I'm supposed to leave morning after next. I've got so much to do."

Lawa said "There's beehives on Saya?"

"Yes, I'll have to care for those as well, extract honey. But you and Yoj taught me that well." At least I'm competent in that area thought Pyosz. "There's a woods full of nut trees, and an orchard of fruit trees. Plus a tillage and chickens. I've bought some work clo -- Oh, lev, I forgot about my otos."

"Otos?" said Prl in continuing disbelief.

"Yeah, I'm having some made." Pyosz went to the radio and called the shoemaker's shop. They listened to her ask for the otos a full day early. Then she said "I've already paid you a rush fee, 25% of the price, remember? That should cover any rearranging you have to do." She listened agai and began "I know for a fact the Lofthall gets theirs made in one working day."

Prl crossed to her and reached for the radio, saying "Let me handle -- " They heard a distinct smack of flesh on flesh as Pyosz slapped Prl's hand away, turning to face the stove as she said "Fine, then I'll just cancel my order and expect a full refund. I can go to the Lofthall where they have dozens of good used pairs in storage, one of them will fit me. And I'll be sure to inform my entire family that you put profit ahead of service. I'll be taking my business elsewhere from now on, and recommending the same to everone I know."

Qala chuckled as Pyosz listened to what was undoubtedly a full retreat on the other end. "All right, glad you could change your mind. I'll be by tomorrow around this time to pick them up." Pyosz turned back to them with strengthened resolve on her face.

Prl said in melodramatic tones, "You struck me."

"You were trying to take something from me. But okay, aggie, make a state case out of it. Take it to your emma the Ethicist and have me arrested. Better yet, wait until I'm actually on Pya so you can claim flight and have me extradited, that will give Skene something to talk about for decades."

Now Lawa joined Qala in muffled laughter. Qala thought Prl wanted to smile, too. But the battle wasn't over yet.

"I cannot understand why Mill is willing to exploit you in this manner" Prl said. "Is this her graduation gift to you, throwing you into a situation for which you have no preparation and working you to ill health, as a means of launching your adult life? Or perhaps that's secretly her point, her disdain for education having manifested itself by the fact that neither of her children had enough ambition to actually obtain a degree. Abbo didn't even try, she used her family connections to get her through flight school and ran back home to Pya where her ineptitude is concealed by her emmas."

"Oh, even better, make this all about your unresolved childhood competition with Mill" said Pyosz. "Listen, I'm going to Pya, whether you believe in me or not. I'm needed, I've promised Mill, and I will do what it takes. Now I have to go deal with more attempts to prove how worthless I am from the rest of my family. Feel free to dissect me while I'm gone." She went out the front door with a slam.

Lawa picked up the notebook and read it openly. After a long sigh, she pulled out a blank page from the back and began making her own set of notes. Prl said "I'm not giving her one levving coin towards her support, not until she returns and takes up a career suitable to her talent."

Qala said "At least she won't have to run into Sey and whats-her-name on the street or with her friends. That will be entirely out of her system by the time she comes back."

"Unless she fails immediately and has to crawl back in shame" said Prl. Qala looked at her sharply and said "It almost sounds as if you're hoping that's the case. Which I know you're too good an emma to wish."

A muscle showed in Prl's jaw. "My emmas will talk her out of it. You know how they feel about people in this family running away to Pya. I need to go write a letter to Szebel, make sure she hears from one of us before the rumor mill reaches her and Szebel decides Pyosz is too immature and ungrateful to hold open her offer."

Lawa, her eyes still on the list, said "She's going to be breaking in new otos while on her feet doing demanding labor. Qala, do we have blister pads at our place? And that liniment I rub into your shoulders, we have an extra jar of it, right?" They began conferring as Prl left the room.

Pyosz went into her abbas' Manage without knocking. Tlunu was just getting up from the nap she always took after coming home from sinning. Nobody else was home, although Tlunu said she expected them all within the hour. Pyosz declined to leave a note, but asked Tlunu to tell her abbas she needed to talk with them about an important matter before dinner, and she would return. Out in the lane, she couldn't face going back home. Instead, she went to the booksellers downtown who was favored by Yoj.

The bookseller became the first person outside her family whom Pyosz confided in about her summer plans. They went through the shelves together, locating anything to do with goat-rearing, forestry, drying fruit, making honey, and Pya in general. There were two volumes specific to goats which the bookseller didn't have in stock, but she offered to print them overnight and refused to take extra money for it: Yoj's translations, writing, and requests for reprints had filled this store's inventory for years. Pyosz paid as her new books were wrapped in kelp-paper and string.

She didn't feel up to talking with Ferk's cousin at the moment. She trudged slowly back to her abbas' Manage, where now everyone but Speranz was home. Yoj said "Are those books? I thought you were done with all your studies?", but there was an anticipatory gleam in her eye as she reached for the string on the package.

"Wait" said Pyosz. "I have to tell you all something." She sat down at the table and repeated her news, waiting for more yelling to begin.

Instead, Bux came to hug her and said "I'm so sorry about Ferk. I only met her once, but I heard Mill speak of her often."

Halling said "Do you feel up to what Mill has asked you? Because she can be a poor judge of people, sometimes."

"I do, abba. I mean, I think I can. But I need to prepare." Pyosz pulled back the paper from her books, and they began reading titles. After a few minutes, Bux stood to start making risotto, and Halling said to Pyosz "Come with me into the tillage, let's get salad things for dinner."

Once they were outside, Halling put her arm around Pyosz and said "I can imagine that Prl is having a conniption."

"She all but threatened me with prosecution" said Pyosz, conflating events a bit. "And I can tell that Lawa and Qala don't think it's a good idea, which is even worse."

"Do you think it's really the right thing for you to do?" asked Halling, sitting on one of the rusted ancient chairs which for some reason dotted her abbas' tillage.

Pyosz stopped to consider. Halling's acceptance gave her room to turn it all over in her mind. After a couple of minutes, which she filled by pulling onions, she said "I do. I think I need to work hard in a way completely different from what I've been doing. And I need to go away."

"I understand that" said Halling. "I did it once myself, the going away to think part. Well, then, whatever happens, it will be good for you." Pyosz let out a long breath and came to put her onions in Halling's basket. Halling was trimming lettuce leaves with kitchen shears. She said quietly "My emma died right here, right where I'm sitting, you know."

Pyosz felt a chill down her back. "No, I didn't. Ng?"

"Fell over onto a head of Slowbolt. By the time we found her, it had pressed creases into her cheek that we were never able to get out. I couldn't believe she was dead, tried to warm her up again." Halling looked up at Pyosz, her black eyes liquid with old loss. "When someone else's change alters our existence, it can take us a long while to let it be true all the way inside."

"I wish I'd known her" said Pyosz. "Habibi, I mean."

"You'd have adored her" said Halling. "She was fearfully blunt, but always kind. Go cut a couple of squash, will you? I'll get carrots and we'll be done."

Inside again, Yoj said "I bet I have a few more books you might want, come have a look." She and Pyosz went into Yoj's study, which was lined floor to ceiling on three sides with books, many of them extremely rare. They combed through various sections, Yoj constantly becoming distracted by something she wanted to re-read and setting it on her desk next to one of her elderly cats, sleeping away. At one point, she looked over at Pyosz and said "Would you be doing this if you weren't heartbroken over Sey?"

"I don't know. I love Pya and going there for the summer has always meant a lot to me" said Pyosz. "The thing is, abba, I still don't understand how I could have been so wrong about Sey. Until I figure that out, I feel like I'm stuck, like my heart is stuck."

She expected Yoj to reassure her. But Yoj nodded to herself and said "You do need to find the spot where you made a wrong turn. Why did you believe her, when she was lying to herself, at the very least?"

Pyosz felt a lump in her throat. She whispered "Do you think, then, that maybe there's something wrong with me?"

Yoj turned and gave her a wide smile. "Of course not. You're my favorite grandchild, though if you repeat that to the others I'll deny it. But you made a mistake, and now you believe there may be something wrong with you, which is another mistake. You'll have to fix that somehow. Could be tomorrow, could take months. Fortunately, you've got time and opportunity. Listen, you need more to read than texts about horn disease and nut rot. You need poetry, adventure -- here, take this bestiary I made for your emma and her sibs when they were little, showing the animals on the colonist's home planet, it's fascinating to look through. Pick out some other fun stuff. That bottom shelf is all books I'm giving to the library, help yourself. Are you going to eat with us?"

"No, emma will be expecting me home for dinner" said Pyosz regretfully. She bent easily to her knees and began looking through the give-away shelf. Yoj envied her youth and strength.

"Put all you want into that crate there, you can use it to carry them home -- or to Pya, for that matter, it closes with a catch" said Yoj. She returned to the kitchen to set the table for dinner.

Pyosz started for home with a heavy load in her crate. Halling had given her one of Ng's beloved bowls, dark red with a pattern of sliced beets and curled shrimp around the rim. Bux gave her the small silver pepper mill they used on special occasions, saying "This was my aggie's, and hers before that. It's due to come to you through Prl, but I think she'll forgive me for skipping a step." She promised to have dinner with them all the following evening, inviting her own Manage to join for a family send-off.

As soon as the door closed on her, Halling said to Bux "Can you make that risotto last another ten minutes?"

"Calling Mill, are you" said Bux, nodding. "Tell her she better levving know what she's doing this time."

At home, Pyosz set her crate of books inside her room. She removed the bowl and pepper mill, trying to think of what to wrap around the bowl to keep it from breaking. Prl appeared in her doorway and said "Qala roasted a chicken, and I made your favorite carrot dish." She paused, then said "Is that Yerush's pepper mill?"

"Yes. Abba gave it to me." Pyosz lifted her bags of new clothes from her press and emptied them onto her bed. She began wrapping the bowl in her new manteau.

"They're okay with your decision, then" said Prl, coming to look at the red hat.

"They are. To paraphase Halling, if it's a mistake, it's one I need to make for myself." Pyosz still wasn't looking at Prl's face.

"I'll help you pack later, if you want. That list you left on the table said you were to bring your own linens. I have several blankets and quilts in my cupboard."

Pyosz felt a surge of anger at them reading her notebook. "I'll take what's on my bed, emma, I don't need extra blankets. It's summer, and I will have shelter, you know."

Prl left the room without a word. Pyosz went to the table to retrieve her list. Sitting on top of her notebook was a pile of items: A nearly-new pair of ejida work gloves, another pair with the fingers cut away, jars of lotions and liniment, garden tools, packets of Prl's blends of tea, a powerful flash, and Prl's expensive camera. Pyosz closed her eyes against hot tears, then turned to Prl at the stove and said "I'm sorry. I'm having a hard time thinking about doing this at all."

Prl faced her swiftly, saying "I know you must be. I'm sorry I've been an ass, I really am." They hugged, awkwardly. Lawa pushed open the door with an basket full of greens from the tillage and said "Now there's something I wanted to see."

"I can't take your camera, emma" said Pyosz. "It might get wet or damaged."

"I'll take that risk" said Prl. "What I ask is that you shoot a roll each week and send us photos of you in your new world. Is that a burden to ask for?"

Pyosz grinned. "No, it'll be fun." She went to hug Lawa, saying "Thank you for all the practical help, I definitely need it."

"You definitely will" agreed Lawa. Qala came in from the back and said "I did the chickens for you again. May the stars help those poor hens on Saya." The teasing in her voice helped Pyosz laugh. She said "I'll be back in a few minutes, I need to call Mill." She picked up the radio and walked to her room, but returned in a minute, saying "It's busy."

"My emmas" said Prl knowingly. "Make us some dressing while you're waiting."

Pyosz began grinding mustard seed in the mortar and said "Emma, would you have enough time tomorrow morning to cut my hair?" Her dreads extended halfway down her back when they were unpinned from her head.

Prl winced but said calmly "Of course. I'm taking the day off to be with you. How short are you thinking about making it?"

"I still want dreads, but easy to wash in a sink" said Pyosz. "I also want to go visit Ngall tomorrow, I guess on her lunch hour. And I don't know when Ferk's funeral is, or if I should go."

"Ask Mill" suggested Qala. Prl winced to herself again, but Pyosz saw it this time.

"What? Are you still ragging on about Mill exploiting me?" demanded Pyosz.

"No. I just -- you're my only child, and I love you coming home every day. I love being the one you talk to about what's happening in your life. Now you're going to be turning to Mill and Oby, I guess. And Dodd and Briel, which is a little easier to take because I don't think they've been as slipshod in how they raised their children as Mill and Oby. I -- I'll miss you terribly." Prl was not trying to sway Pyosz's feelings, Pyosz could tell from long practice at decoding her emma's maneuvers. This was an earnest admission.

Pyosz said, with dry humor, "As the whole world knows and points out frequently, I only have one emma. And that's you. I'm seriously not looking for another, you're quite enough." She paused, and added "I'll miss you terribly, as well. When I'm not ducking owl attacks or getting a hernia lifting milk cans."

They all laughed, and this time the hug between Prl and Pyosz was easy, close.


Broeks -- Quilted linen pants (outdoor presentable attire).
Buksers -- Roomy canvas work pants.
Djoste -- Chevon/goat cheese (as opposed to pecorino or sheep cheese, kaas).
Djostiker -- Maker of goat cheese (as opposed to maker of sheep cheese, kaasyaste).
Ejida -- State run cooperative farm, for produce, animals, and/or greenhouses (as opposed to a Manage curtilage or tillage, which is for an individual family). All products go toward the annual allotment.
Faryaste -- Ferry boat driver. On Skene, ferries which are in an enclosed lagoon with barriers to keep out leviathans are operated by a chain drive, but still require faryastes to help in case, as has occasionally happened, a leviathan leaps over a barrier. Open-water ferries only run during times of low tide, when Morrie Vaseo can be expected because of pathways between reefs built over centuries of dangerous effort. Open-water faryasters consider themselves superior to chain-drive faryastes because of the much higher risk they face from leviathans, even with the current condition of leviathan truce.
Huolun -- The large, powerful freighters used to fly cargo and passengers between Pya and Skene.
Jichang -- Airport or airfield of any size.
Kaidang ku -- Canvas pants with open crotch covered by tie flap, favored for children and field workers (easy to take a piss in these).
Manteau -- Long wool cloak for cold weather wear.
Morrie Strati -- The vast fields of red-colored ocean where leviathans congregate, named for the increased viscosity of seawater there. It has never been determined if these regions are created by leviathans extruding something from their bodies or if they are naturally occurring and somehow preferable to leviathans as habitat.
Morrie Vaseo -- Meaning "safe ocean" or "easy path", this is any waterway between islands which is considered relatively defended from leviathan attack, because of shallowness, protective reef, and/or low tide. This phrase is also the most common farewell on Skene.
Otos -- Heavy leather boots worn by outdoor workers and pilots.
Skarpetki -- Thin wool or silk socks, dyed deep colors, for dress wear.
Sokken -- Thick wool socks for everyday wear, especially for workers.
Zaoxue -- Dress boots/shoes, ankle high with polished or dyed leather finish.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Blue said...

Loving it! And staying up way too late to finish. Thanks, Mags.

Maggie Jochild said...

Thank YOU, Blue. I, too, am losing sleep over the adventures (in my head) of Pyosz, et al.