Saturday, August 22, 2009


(Koldok in detail; click on image to enlarge)

To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Start of Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Pyosz felt a frisson of excitement as she got dressed: Her first Market Day on Pya. She hung a clean shati on the wall to change into at the last minute, did her milking and other chores, and blessed whatever stars held back the rain this morning.

When she got to Koldok, the main streets were lined with stalls and all carts were in use. She stood with her fists on her hips, stumped for a moment. A tall young woman with the most flawless honey-colored skin Pyosz had ever seen walked by, pushing a cart holding only a single bag.

"Excuse me, would you be willing to share your cart for a few minutes?" asked Pyosz. "I've got a big load to get down to the other end of town."

The young woman settled her black eyes on Pyosz with an arresting grin and said "You're the new capriste, aren't you? I'm Uli, and I'd give you this one except my emmas are planning to meet up with me and need it. But yes, let's share for now."

Uli helped Pyosz load the cart and leaned on the handle to push it, giving a small grunt and saying "Wow, this your daily haul?"

"Yes, every ounce of it" said Pyosz, feeling glad she'd washed her hair under the scrutiny she seemed to be getting from everybody, not just Uli. At Kolm's, Uli again helped her with the milk. Kolm said "Ah, you've met Uli! How're your emmas, are Udek's headaches better?"

"They come and go with the rain this time of year" said Uli. "Emma says it's going to be a bumper crop of sugar beets this summer."

Listening, Pyosz learned that Uli's aggie Udek was in fact the woman who had woven her new goat-hair rugs, and was also a basket-maker and kept accounts for the sugar mill. Her emma Licoro was an ejida worker in the sugar beet fields, and her sibu Dekkan, just graduated from high school, was currently at flight school in Skene, though she planned to return to Pya to be a pilot.

"Then your sibu will likely know -- " Pyosz had been about to say Maar, but changed it mid-sentence "Mill, my s'bemma. And my cousin Abbo."

"Oh, yes, she's got a bit of a crush on Abbo. And Maar, of course, you know Maar, right?" said Uli.

Pyosz saw a smile flit across Kolm's face. "I do. She's been most helpful to me as a newcomer. All right, I need to drop off bread at Gitta's, then I can take these empties back to my ferry and return possession of this cart to you, I can do my marketing without out" said Pyosz.

"Oh, but we're introduced now, let's keep each other company, shall we?" said Uli. She had an ease in her way of speaking that reminded Pyosz of Riesig and felt like home. Pyosz nodded with a grin. At Gitta's, Uli said "You're the one responsible for this new bread on the shelves? Quick, Gitta, I need two loaves before it vanishes, my emma raves about it. And is that an apricot pie? That, too."

Pyosz left with hoisin sauce, hen-and-chicks mushrooms, and another small collection of coins. She and Uli stashed her cans in the ferry before setting out to visit every Market stall in Koldok. Uli introduced her with repetitive charm, and her explanatory comments about the new people Pyosz was meeting, even those delivered out of hearing, were informative rather than gossipy. Slowly, Pyosz learned that Uli had gone to the University (that explains her polish, thought Pyosz), she had known Sey who was a year behind her and thought Pyosz was well rid of her, Uli had a degree in geography but mostly made maps for the Lofthall and Pya's government, and there was going to be a dance next weekend right here in Koldok, Uli really hoped Pyosz would be there.

Of course there's going to be a dance. Everyone can replace whatever image they've developed of me so far with the colossal klutz I'll reveal myself to be thought Pyosz. But her foreboding vanished rapidly in Uli's easy company.

They met up with Uli's emmas, and Udek immediately offered to barter for goat fibers if Pyosz would be willing to bring them to her. "Ferries don't agree with me" said Udek. It rapidly became clear that both of Uli's emmas had also attended the University, as their conversation made frequent references to books and studies. Pyosz wanted to ask if either of them had been in a class with her emma, but she didn't want to remind them all of the fact that she was the child of the Genist. Not yet.

Pyosz was able to barter her second capon carcass for a dozen lemons, her bags of cherries for a new towel, a second bed pillow, and a bottle of bright blue ink; and her apricots for a catmint plant, a large stirring spoon, and a bunch of leeks. She determinedly declined all offers of cash for her goods, since they were allotment goods, instead taking small change in the form of a postcard showing the waterfalls on Pubu and a tiny copper sunflower she promptly strung around her neck with a strand of embroidery floss.

"That'll go green against your skin" commented Uli, staring at the hollow of Pyosz's throat where the sunflower lay.

"I bathe regularly" retorted Pyosz, and they laughed together.

They stopped at a stall selling flavored ices. "Let's get one of each and share" Udek said to Licoro. Uli turned to Pyosz and said "Shall we do the same? How about strawberry and, oh, lemon?"

"Not lemon, vanilla" requested Pyosz. They swapped the confections back and forth, unable to keep up with the drips and winding up with sticky hands that had to be licked clean. By their own tongues, of course.

Pyosz ran into Dodd and Briel, who joined their cluster, then Api and Ollow. Her camera was passed around and all ten shots were quickly used up, enabling her to go have them developed at Naki's. She smiled so constantly her cheeks started to ache. Finally, with serious regret, she said "I'm going to have to take your leave, I need to go home and, well, kill old hens, for one thing. But this has been an utter pleasure. I haven't felt homesick once all day."

"Well, if I don't run into you before next weekend, I'll see you at the dance" said Uli in a soft voice, leaning in to press her cheek briefly against Pyosz's. She accepted more robust hugs from her family before clattering down the ladder into her ferry and shoving the lever into gear with a long breath of contentment.

That afternoon, she killed three hens, stewing two for Shmonah's family potluck and using one to make canned stock plus chicken salad for her dinner. She sanded down her new chairs and mixed paint into various bright colors, painting the seats, backs, rungs and footrests each a different shade. She weeded the rest of her tillage, separating some starts to put into new beds, and made a pile of her best compost to use as topsoil. She went into the pasture and sat on a rock to comb any goats willing to endure the process, saving their hair in a tie-up bag. She now had an excuse to go looking for Uli before next weekend.

After milking, she heard rumbles of thunder and wondered what they would do the next day, she and her cousins, about making raised beds if it was raining. Do everything but the final assembly in the barn, I guess she decided. It began pouring as she was doing her dinner dishes. She pulled out the photo album she'd bought from Naki and pasted in all her photos so far, labeling them underneath in her tidy script with blue ink. She wrote more letters, but decided to keep the postcard of Pubu Falls to somehow affix to her cabin wall. She went to sleep to the sound of rain and another visit with the rice-paddy workers in her paperback.

When she got up, the rain had stopped but the ground was soggy. She couldn't see the sky and couldn't guess at what the weather would be like. She took the time to make herself eggs and rice porridge, starting a new pot of rice to cook while she ate. She enjoyed the milking, for the first time enjoying every part of it, talking to her goats. Even her daily threat to Molars had a laugh in it. She stashed the milk in the cold box and splashed with a little song to the cabin, where the katts came out in single file, hopping from dry spot to dry spot.

She gave the chickens a little extra feed in penance because she was going to be cooking one of their sibashte today. She returned to the kitchen to get a head start on lunch. She cut the avocado into thin slices, fanned it on a plate surrounded by cherry tomatoes, and drizzled it all with lemony vinaigrette, salt and pepper before returning it to the coldbox to chill. She started another two gallons of sun tea and put half a dozen sweet potatoes into the oven to bake. She filled Ng's bowl with sea beans, a delicious kind of kelp that was very salty and crunchy, added sliced cucumbers and grated carrots before glazing it with a mustard-garlic dressing and putting it into the coldbox as well. She boiled a dozen eggs and deviled half of them. She pounded filberts in her mortar until it was a paste, added chili flakes and olive oil, and rubbed that into the skin of her remaining capon. She intended to stuff it with rice and mushrooms before roasting.

She pulled out her box of spices to make the curry for the stewed chicken she meant to take to Arta Island the following day. After this large pot of spicy chicken was barely simmering on the stove, she looked at the precious 4 ounce square of chocolate in her spice box and decided to make Tu and Pank the kind of dessert they likely rarely had. Even on Pya, cacao was still very hard to come by. She melted the chocolate in a makeshift double-boiler and assembled brownies with walnuts -- a small pan, but plenty for the three of them. She also had a cherry pie for lunch. She didn't know yet what she'd make for their dinner, probably some kind of gratin as she had lots of good cheese and potatoes.

Once the sun came up, it got warm quickly and there were no clouds visible. She made her bed, swept her cabin and the kitchen for all the good it did, and wondered when her lumber would be delivered. As she had that thought, her radio buzzed and she grabbed it, thinking it might be Mill or Tu.

"Hiya, Pyosz" came Maar's voice. "We took a chance on reaching you, I wasn't sure if you had to go into Koldok on Sju or not."

"No, I'm here" said Pyosz, a mixture of emotions forcing her down into one of her new chairs.

"Listen, I hope this is okay, Thleen has been bugging me for two hours about if we could call you so she could talk with you. I'm going to drop her off soon, we're flying back tonight instead of in the morning, and, well...I don't often talk about people in Pya so she's very curious about you. Do you have the time to talk with her a minute?"

Oh, Maar, what are you doing? thought Pyosz. But it wasn't in her to say no to a child. "Of course" she said. There was a fumble of motion on the other end, and then a piping voice said "Hello, is this Pyosz the capriste? I'm Thleen, Maar's sibu."

"I've heard a great deal about you, Thleen Maar's sibu" said Pyosz. This child's voice had a burble of joy and interest in it that was instantly captivating, as if she were about to break into laughter and hanging on your every word.

"Siba told me you have a goat named after teeth because she's always trying to bite you on your -- well, I shouldn't say the word" said Thleen with a giggle.

"Oh, I've a new story about Molars, she and a pack of kids tried to take over my personal living space" began Pyosz. Within a minute, Thleen was in gasping hysterics and Pyosz herself was having trouble talking from all the hilarity. She followed that up with the latest owl story, which kept Thleen shrieking because Pyosz hammed up the description of her running around in the dark, almost colliding with her wain.

Eventually, Pyosz could hear Maar's voice insisting "I have to go, sweetheart, and she's a busy woman, we'll call another time, I promise."

"I have to tell her one more thing, okay?" pleaded Thleen.


"Pyosz, when I get to come to Pya, can I visit you on Saya Island?" asked Thleen.

"I would adore that, Thleen. We can have worlds of fun here together, you're welcome to visit any time" said Pyosz.

"She said I could visit any time!" Thleen said away from the receiver. She was hanging onto the radio, however, long enough to say "I love you, Pyosz, I hope I see you soon!"

Maar came back on the line, chuckling, and asked "What on earth were you telling her? I thought she was going to pass out from laughing so hard."

"Get her to tell you the new stories, she'll like that" said Pyosz. She could hear Thleen saying "I forgot to ask her to write me a letter, can I talk to her one more time?"

"Tell her I'll be glad to write her a letter" offered Pyosz. Maar repeated it, then said "It's my turn, don't be greedy" to Thleen. To Pyosz she said "How are you doing, feeling okay?"

"I'm in full vigor, and waiting for Tu and Pank to show up any minute, they're spending the day with me, helping me rebuild my tillage beds and doing other stuff around here. They came day before yesterday too" said Pyosz.

"Oh, I love them" said Maar. "Say hi for me."

"And yesterday I went to Market Day and had an utter blast, met new people, bartered brilliantly, lots of new things to show you" said Pyosz. Inside her head, a voice was saying Oh Pyosz, what are you doing? But it felt so easy to talk with Maar, she seemed to really care about the littlest detail. "You say you're leaving tonight, does that mean you'll be back early?"

"No, we'll lose daylight as usual. But I'll be at Arta Island by noon tomorrow, even if I haven't slept. I've missed my last flight back to Riesig or Yanja, and there's no lofthall bunks here at Chloddia, and the bucky is always crammed, so I'll have to kip down tonight on the couch in the office here at the jichang. Abbo will have to pick me up in the morning and will no doubt bitch about it" said Maar, making a joke of it.

"Don't your emmas have a couch you could borrow for the night?" asked Pyosz.

"Uh, not an option" said Maar, her tone becoming a little guarded. And where is Abbo, why the lev isn't she picking you up tonight, for that matter, why isn't she there with you and Thleen? If I -- But Pyosz stopped that thought, reminding herself Not your business.

"Well, I'll let you go, then. Morrie vaseo" said Pyosz.

"Morrie -- Tu and Pank" giggled Maar. "And thanks for you know what."

"It was my pleasure. I see what you mean about her" said Pyosz.

Maar repeated "Thanks" but her voice was completely happy again. Pyosz realizing she was smiling widely herself when she clicked off. She cut more oranges into thin slices, adding them to the steeped tea and finding room for one jug in the coldbox. She decided to go dig potatoes, but as she pulled on her gloves she heard the drone of a sinner coming her way. She walked to the jichang and watched as a large carry pallet loaded with wood and power tools was lowered to the side. When the sinner hatch opened, out came Tu and Pank, handing her tool boxes with cheery greetings.

Pyosz suggested the lumber be stacked in the flat, rock-floored area where she had killed the chickens. "If it doesn't rain, it'll be a good work area, close to the tillage" she said. Pank looked at the stump and walked over to the cliff, glancing over.

"I bet this is where Ferk slaughtered her goats" said Pank. "It's got a tiny slope to the cliff, so you could rinse it down with seawater and not damage any of the arable nearby, it's where I'd do it."

The killing field thought Pyosz. They emptied the pallet quickly and waved off the pilot. Tu handed another small crate to Pyosz, this one filled with small plants.

"We noted you got next to nothing on this end of Saya in the way of ornamentals" said Tu. "Those are climbing vines from Mti, clematis, honeysuckle, scarlet runner, and some morning glories. Thought you could find a place for 'em."

"Oh, wonderful!" said Pyosz. "The reason why it's barren outside the fenced areas is because Ferk let the goats run loose out here in the evenings, apparently."

"No wonder they think they have a right to be on the table and bed" said Pank. She reached into her carryall and handed another package to Pyosz. "Two pork loins from Mti."

"Dinner!" declared Pyosz. "I know just what to do with them. Oh, the oven!" She ran back to the kitchen and pulled out the brownies just in time. She hid them under a plate, and lined the sweet potatoes on the counter to cool. She put the pork loins in the coldbox and returned to where Tu and Pank were assembling work tables for the power tools. Pank handed Pyosz the extension cord and said "Where should we plug this in?"

"The chicken house circuit, I figure" said Pyosz, going to find the outlet. Once the work zone was in order, Tu and Pank ambled to the kitchen with Pyosz and sat down, accepting glasses of tea while helping themselves to deviled eggs and apricots from the plate on the table.

"Well, we've got a few things to tackle on that list of yours" said Tu casually. Pyosz suddenly remembered that Tu and Pank were infamous for never allowing themselves to be rushed. They worked at their own pace or not at all. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, they got much more done than the average person. She leaned back in her chair and reminded herself to follow their lead.

"We thought I could get started on building the grill while you and Tu begin measuring and cutting wood" said Pank. "Once you're confident working on putting the beds together, me and Tu will go inventory your orchard and forest for you. You can join us later down there to hear what we think." She pulled five rolls of kelp-plastic flagging from her carryall and set them on the table; each roll was a different color.

"I don't remember what the different colors stand for" said Pyosz. Before Pank could answer, Pyosz got her logbook to take notes.

Pank pointed as she explained: "Green means needs pruning now, blue means needs pruning later at the normal time, red means it should come down, yellow means it's got some other health issue that might could be treated, and white means it's an owl tree, don't mess with it."

Pyosz felt a flutter of excitement. "I should tell you, I put escape boards in my hives yesterday. They ought to be settled down by now, but you might want to give them some space. Also, I gathered a big pile of rocks for the grill, and talked to Api about it. She said you know the regulations we have to follow and she'll fill out the forms later."

Pank made an obscene gesture but kept grinning. She leaned over to look around at the pile. "We need shims and wedges. Before we get started, take a couple of buckets down to that shingle beach and fill 'em with the rock there, that'll work for more than one purpose." She ate another egg.

Pyosz said "Uh, I don't want to mess up your schedule, but I was hoping to learn something about rock building from the grill project. Can I come watch?"

"I'll do it in stages and call you over for a lesson at each new stage" said Pank. "You'll get mortar on your hands, don't worry."

"These are new chairs, aren't they?" asked Tu, looking around her. "Nice colors."

"Not wain orange" agreed Pank, with a wink at Pyosz. "Well, I'm going to rifle your recycling pile while you get that shingle rock." She stood, stretched, and strolled toward the barn.

"I drew a diagram of how many beds I'd like and where they should go" said Pyosz, pulling it from her logbook and handing it to Tu before following Pank to get buckets for her chore.

By the time they stopped for lunch, three hours later, Pyosz had learned how to measure twice, cut once; how to make biscuits and slots to hold wood together; how to cut and drive support stakes; how to lay a stone bed for grilling with charcoal; how to stack stone in staggered layers and butter mortar in precise layers; and how giving Pank some tin snips, baling wire, an old tin wash tub with a hole rusted in the bottom, and an empty olive oil can could result in a cover for her grill pit that fit it exactly, had an insulated handle and adjustable vent holes for controlling smoke and temperature.

"You should oughta buy a grill that won't rust quick from Taamsas, use the dimensions of a washtub to figure the size" said Pank, ripping a thigh and leg from the roasted chicken. "I could fashion one from baling wire but it ain't worth the time."

Which Pyosz believed must be true. They lingered over lunch, and eventually Pyosz got up to do the dishes, continuing to talk with her cousins. When Tu wandered off to use the privy, Pank put the final row on the grill pit, creating a lip of mortar to hold the wash-tub lid snugly. Pyosz used the time to butterfly open both pork loins and stuff them with chopped leeks and apples before tying each into a roulade. She made a potato casserole layered with milk and cheese, seasoned with cinnamon and pepper, and reminded herself to put both roast and casserole into the oven right before milking. She'd make a fresh salad at the last minute. For the time being, she was so full she didn't relish the idea of all the bending she'd be doing to finish assembling the beds.

Tu returned and Pank took her turn at the privy. While Pyosz returned to the beds, Tu began making wooden planters with leftover ends of boards. Pank went on to fashion a tripod orchard ladder, three legs with a chain to hold them together, securely leaned against a tree, and a set of rungs that would take Pyosz 20 feet off the ground on a narrowing ascent. It was clever, simple, and easy to carry. By the time she was done, Tu had built ten planters that were 2-3 feet tall and ideal, Pyosz realized, for setting around the outside perimeter of her kitchen to grow herbs close at hand.

Incredibly, Tu and Pank took a break to drink down tea while eating another piece of pie each. Pyosz put the second gallon of tea into the coldbox and decided to use the privy herself. These women had a close grip on vibrant longevity, maybe that's why Lawa was always asking about her bathroom habits.

After their snack, Tu and Pank ambled through the kissing gate, carrying flagging, rope, and a small tree saw. She had mentioned her idea of widening the trail to get her wain through, and wondered what kind of road they might build for her. She finished the beds, wiped and packed their tools, and began filling the wain with the manure and sand mixture as a bottom fill for the new beds. She would put good topsoil for the upper foot of each bed.

She wasn't finished filling the beds by the time she heard goats bleating at the gate, but she was still astonished at how much she'd accomplished. She washed her upper half at the sink, put dinner into the oven, stored tomorrow's finished curry in the coldbox, and went to lead goats into the barn.

She could smell the chicken when Tu poked her head in the barn door and said "It's owl time, shall I put the katts indoor for you?"

"Yes. I've been adding brewers yeast and a raw egg to their fisk, it makes them trot right indoors" said Pyosz. "And will you turn off the oven?"

When she got to the table, it was set with loin, casserole, and a kale salad Pank was dressing. "You could open a restaurant, if you wanted to add another job to the five or six you're already doing" said Tu.

They ate with deep satisfaction. Tu and Pank had taken Pyosz's logbook and neatly filled several pages with tree identification and status. She was sorry to have missed watching them in action. They worked together like two halves of the same mind and body.

"You got two woods owls down there, and at least one more in rocks behind the springs" reported Pank. "I'm thinking the one up here is probably holding all this territory on her own. I'd love to get a peek at her."

"She may oblige us" said Pyosz. "I forgot to ask, when are you being picked up?"

"Oh, not tonight" said Tu. "We're going to lash a tarp over our tools, leave 'em here and take the ferry to Koldok, we're staying with friends there since we're going to Arta tomorrow anyhow. We'll get a ride from Abbo or Maar back to Mti, and stop by here on the way to pick up our stuff."

Pyosz was gratified with the reaction she got when she pulled her hidden platter of brownies from the larder. They downed them with cold milk and kept commenting on how good chocolate was with milk. She sent two brownies off with them, wrapped in a napkin. She stood on the dock, watching them vanish into the dark beyond the pylon, thinking she had the best family which had ever existed on Skene.

There was one brownie left, and she put it in the coldbox before doing the dishes again. She decided to go right to bed; her new muscles had been stretched once again today. As she lay in the dark, she kept remembering Thleen's voice, her peals of laughter, and how all she really had to rely on was Maar. That child is on a serious hunt for family thought Pyosz. She didn't know where to go with that thought, and fell asleep without an answer.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild

1 comment:

Blue said...

Uli sounds deliciously sexy.

Your descriptions of all the food-growing has me very inspired. I'm now planning a much bigger, bolder garden for the Spring, am a step closer to getting the little bantam hens I've been wanting, and am suddenly revisiting the idea of keeping bees, someday, if/when we get some land. It's like these dreams I've had my whole life, of getting back to the farm, are turning into more tangible images, if there is such a thing, as I read Skene and Pya.

And I'm constantly drooling over Pyosz's food preparations.