Sunday, September 27, 2009


Hot pink sokken
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)


The next morning, Pyosz made cornbread with warm milk and rough-ground meal, eating a piece slathered with peach jam for breakfast. She tore lemon verbena leaves in half and dropped them into well water in her new pitcher. She heated honey with mint, adding enough water to make a syrup which could be mixed with the lemon water for a refreshing drink. She deviled eggs and steeped porridge.

Tu and Pank arrived via sinner flown by Abbo. They unloaded pruning poles, toolboxes, and a flat-bottomed metal boat with coils of cable and rope in its hull. As Pank and Tu ate, Pyosz chopped chestnuts and sausage for stuffing. She prepped the goose for roasting, then walked with Tu to look over the two dozen potted volunteer trees from her orchard. She labeled them according to Tu's identification, and they sorted them into those Pank and Tu wanted for Herne, those which Pyosz thought she could find a site to transplant on this end of Saya, and the rest donated to the ejida.

Pank had wandered off through the kissing gate with a bucket and rake. Tu and Pyosz went to see what she was doing, finding her at the sandy beach north of the pasture, hip deep in the water. Her sokken, otos, and ku were piled on shore.

"Oysters!" Pank called out to them.

"Really?" said Pyosz.

"Lots. Enough to harvest once a week or so, if you're not greedy" said Pank.

"Then we'll all share them, Saya and Herne" replied Pyosz. "Sea-based harvest is not part of my production contract."

She and Tu sat on a rock, watching Pank pull up oysters and rubbing Killer's ears to keep her from chewing Pank's hot pink sokken.

"I don't understand why Halling and Moasi are both being slowly crippled by arthritis" said Pyosz, "When you and Lawa are so agile and strong into your old age. I mean, not to be indelicate, but all four of you sibs have the same genes, both sets. Seems like this must have come from Ng's line, since she had bad arthritis too -- and that means my emma and her sibs may be at risk for it as well."

Tu frowned. "Well, for one thing, emma had her hands in wet clay or was on open-water ferries most of the time, Moasi's career was in damp chilly silkworm caverns, and Halling flew for years over cold ocean updrafts. Whereas me and Lawa, we've lived in exposure but with lots of sunlight and dry air. More to the point, though, genes mix and express themselves uniquely. We get the recipe we get. I think even Prl would say that."

Pyosz thought that over. Finally she said "I'm worried about abba."

Tu looked at her. "If you are, then so am I."

They sat with their own thoughts for a while. Tu said "I hope she doesn't cut her feet out there. Walking on stilts is difficult enough without an injury."

"Tu, if you fall -- I mean, don't you think your hips can break?" It was out of Pyosz before she could stop herself.

Tu grinned. "Sooner or later, one or both of us'll be stopped in our tracks. But all the good in our lives has come from taking big risks -- falling in love at 40, having a child at the end of our fertility cycle, moving to a new world in middle age...We'll keep going until we're stopped, and then we'll reconfigure."

"How did you know you were in love with Pank, not just making a close friend?" asked Pyosz.

Tu gave a belly laugh. "You mean besides the fact that her face popped in my mind every hour of the day? Or that I found a reason to see her at least once a day? Well, I may be what from your vantage point looks old and dried up, but your ginny never stops talking to you. I'm getting hot right now imagining what she's going to taste like after wading in the sea all this time."

Pyosz felt her face go crimson as she hugged herself, chuckling. Killer butted against her hands, and Pyosz extended her hug to the little goat, squeezing her until Killer bleated in protest.

"So..." said Tu. "How was your date last night?"

Pyosz said "It wasn't a date date." Tu smiled as Pyosz told her all about the evening. By the end, Pank had joined them, sitting in the sun to dry her lower half. Killer nuzzled the bright white hair on Pank's calves.

Pyosz concluded with "So, seems like Maar was braving the cynosure of Uli and her cadre but had to drag along yet another ex-lover to the mix. With Abbo who knows where. I don't understand how it all works, I really don't."

Pank was tickled. "I'm guessing Uli didn't tell you she's slept with every one of those friends you named. Spent a year with Cremen, she did."

"You're kidding" said Pyosz.

"Not a bit. Maar was just adding weight to her side of the fulcrum, I think" said Pank.

"And hanging above all the shuffling for centerpoint is Pyosz, our plumb bob" Tu said to Pank. They laughed together.

Pank began putting on her sokken, having to fend off Killer with one hand. Once they were back at the barn, stashing their pail of oysters in the store room, Pank pointed to boards Pyosz had leaned against the wall and said "What are you planning to do with those? They've been planed and jointed, I see."

"Yeah, they're left over from the work you did earlier" said Pyosz. "I want to put them together into a couple of big plaques for my cabin walls, to hang my Saya map and some photos, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet."

"Slots and biscuits" said Tu with a tone that implied "obviously".

"I don't have the tools for that" said Pyosz.

"We do" said Pank, shouldering the boards and carrying them to near the kitchen. She and Tu showed Pyosz how to get started, with gouges and planes from their toolbox, before they left to go prune in the woods. Pyosz put her goose in to roast, then worked contentedly for a couple of hours until she had her plaques hanging in the cabin, map already pinned to the one opposite her bed. She sat on her bed, sweat and sawdust limning her face, studying her map with intense satisfaction.

A shadow appeared in her doorway. "Are you napping?" asked Maar.

"No, look what I made!" said Pyosz proudly. Maar sat beside her and praised how neatly the boards fit together.

"You get off early?" asked Pyosz.

"Yeah. I need to change, though" said Maar. She patted her carryall and said "Brought my own duds this time."

Pyosz stood and went to her cupboard. "I need to wash and change my shati, too." She heard Maar say "What's this you're reading?" She wheeled in panic until she realized Maar was looking at the history book Yoj had sent her.

During dessert, a lemon marmalade tart, Pank said "We're going to drive spikes in boulders on either side of the inlet to Herne, and run a cable between here and there. There's a better access point on the northeast corner over there. We'll leave our boat tethered on your side for now."

"Instead of a ferry, we should build an arched bridge" said Pyosz. "With a gate to keep my goats from visiting you."

Tu looked at Pank. "It would mean a world of permits. And more expense."

"Let's think about it" said Pank.

Maar had a two-seat lighter at the jichang. Pyosz brought her camera and took a dozen photos as Maar flew them over Hamsa, Gando, Hari, and Zhao Ze before reaching the western end of Trumpinne. Pyosz was kept wondering about their final destination. When they began circling to land, Pyosz squealed "Trumpinne?!! I've never been here!"

"They have a popular carnival which operates most weekends, we run a sinner back and forth several times on Sju" said Maar. "Charge a fee for it. But it'll be quiet today, everybody's focused on Mchele Fair this coming week. These folks are bringing several of their rides to the fairgrounds."

It was a packed, golden afternoon. Maar first led them up Layl Poke overlooking the small village on Trumpinne. A zipline from the top deposited them back near the carnival grounds. Pyosz screamed the whole way down.

They rode the merry-go-round and bumper cars, rides which would not be hauled over to Dvareka for the fair. They then hiked almost the length of Trumpinne, visiting olive groves and vineyards, eating ripe grapes by the handful.

Back at the village, they bought a wide assortment of olives, oils, vinegars, raisins, and wines. Maar added in some edamame for their dinner from the soyfields which were pocketed among the olive groves. Pyosz had used all of her film by the time they started back.

On Saya, Pank had the grill going, roasting potatoes in coals and veggies ready to go on the grill. Tu was shucking oysters, planning to also grill these with a dollop of shamsjooz sauce in each shell. As Pyosz went to milk, Maar said "Can I make the marinade for those ducks you're bringing tomorrow?"

"Sure" said Pyosz. With only a few hints from Tu, Maar mixed red wine with apple vinegar and reduced it, adding onions, garlic, and mustard, before pouring it over the ducks in their roasting pan.

After dinner, they sat around the fire pit for an hour, burning dead limbs cut that day. Pank recited poetry, but Pyosz only half-listened, reliving her afternoon on Trumpinne. When Tu said she needed sleep, Maar gave them a ride to Koldok where they were spending the night at Dodd and Briel's.

"Carynn bye" Pyosz called to them. She doused the fire and sat at her table to choose photos to hang on her other plaque. When these were up, she fell asleep looking at the faces of her family, leaving her lamp on.

Shmonah dawn, Pyosz put her duck in the oven before milking. She made saffron rice to go with them, and decided to get her bread and pie baking out of the way. It was 11:00 before she reached Arta. The sky was overcast but rain was still holding off.

Abbo, Nk and Frahe were already there, the latter with oatmeal cake and avocado salad. Abbo was already nibbilng on an ear of corn from Ollow's boil. Pyosz put her duck in the oven and grabbed herself an ear of corn.

"We have news!" cried Mill when she saw Pyosz. "Ngall had her baby this morning!"

"A week early?" asked Pyosz. "Is she -- "

"Fine, aggie and baby are fine!" said Mill, doing a jig step. "Fast labor, and baby one ounce shy of 7 pounds. Black hair and curls, Ehuy says she's the image of Ngall."

Oby, now outside too, added "And they named her Omill!" Pyosz rushed to hug Oby and Mill.

"We can't get away this week at all" said Mill, "But next week we'll head for Skene with bags of Arta corn and platinum eks to shower on them." It was traditional for close family members to give newborns a 2-ek piece; more distant relatives gave a gold ek. Pyosz realized suddenly she had not budgeted for this expense. In fact, for Ngall's birth of Ehall, Pyosz was embarrassed to remember it was Prl who had made Pyosz's gift for her. Well, this time she'd come up with her own 2 eks somehow -- another member of their youngest generation!

Dodd, Briel, Tu and Pank arrived with banana cream pie, bacon-wrapped scallops, stuffed peppers and tomato salad. The news of Omill's birth was celebrated all over again. Maar's sinner landed just as Pyosz was taking the ducks from the oven.

"Hey" said Maar, "How'd that marinade work out?"

"You struck the perfect balance" said Pyosz, handing Maar a morsel to taste. "You wanna carve these?"

"Uh...Sure, except I haven't really done it -- " said Maar.

"I'll give you a lesson" said Briel. Abbo came to hug Maar and brag about her new sibiya, whom Maar already knew about via the radio. Pyosz went to swim until lunch was on the table.

Maar had brought chilled wine. Pank said "I thought your dish was partly this duck."

"It is" said Pyosz. "The only thing I did with it was put it in the oven."

After their feast and another swim, Pyosz sat on the grass near Nk, who was rebraiding Pank's frowsy white hair. Pyosz kept scratching her own head, and finally Dodd said affectionately "I think your scalp needs oiling, sibiya."

"You're right" said Pyosz, pulling a bottle from her carryall.

"Shall I do it for you?" offered Maar. Pyosz handed her the bottle. As Maar poured oil into her hands, Dodd took a sniff and said "This reminds me of when you were born."

"What do you mean?" said Pyosz, trying not to slur her speech from the flooding sensation of Maar's fingertips rubbing gently at the base of her dreads.

Dodd said "Once you were delivered, there were hordes of us in Prl's bedroom, passing you around. You were peaceful about all the attention, and you nursed very early. But then you got fussy, even when Prl insisted she be the only one to hold you. Finally Qen said 'Her head itches, you need to oil her scalp.' And she was right. Prl had every possible baby product Skene produced, and she'd put two drops of gardenia scent into the bottle of baby oil she had -- she said it was the rarest scent on Skene, and that meant it was for you. It was very faint, diluted like that, but as soon as she began massaging your beautiful little head, you dropped right off. We all used to love oiling your scalp for you when you were a baby, with that signature Pyosz smell." Her smile was wide and nostalgic.

"How did Qen know that?" asked Frahe.

"Oh, three children of her own, five grandchildren, and Pyosz was the tenth great-grandchild, you pick it up along the way" guessed Dodd. Pyosz was fighting the urge to slide into blissful sleep at the moment.

Abbo said to Mill "Did you tell Pyosz about Sey?"

Pyosz's eyes came open. "What about Sey?"

Mill glanced at Abbo with quasi-irritation. "It's not final yet, but she's thinking about immigrating to Pya."

"Whyever for?" asked Pyosz, taking the bottle of oil back from Maar and thanking her softly.

Ollow spoke up. "She's applied for a job opening we have at the factory, as head of R&D in the chemical section, and honestly, she's the most qualified applicant by far."

"She would be" agreed Pyosz, struggling to be fair. "But I don't think your salary or even that job title explains her leaving Skene. What's going on?"

Mill cleared her throat. "She lost her position with Woalt's family's business. She and Woalt have, uh, parted ways."

"Lev, that was fast" said Pyosz, almost to herself.

"Still, why Pya?" pursued Dodd, looking at Pyosz. "Is she -- well, to be blunt, is she chasing Pyosz?"

Ollow said "I doubt it, since she was under the impression Pyosz would be returning to Skene soon. She did ask after you, though, which was natural under the circumstances." She, too, was looking at Pyosz. It seemed everybody was.

Mill added "I've heard her letters of recommendation are nonexistent, especially from University folk. Does that fit with her academic career?"

"Not at all" said Pyosz. "She had the highest honors, and earned it."

"Well, something must have changed" said Dodd, her eyes fixed on Pyosz's. Pyosz mouthed "Prl" and Dodd nodded. Pyosz felt Maar react beside her.

"Maybe you and she can reconcile, if she's learned a lesson" said Abbo disingenuously. Pank snorted and Pyosz didn't even look Abbo's way.

"I hardly think about her, which is a little shameful but true" said Pyosz. To Ollow she said "She'd be living in Cogio near your factory there, I hope?"

Api said "Actually, she's asked for lodging in Koldok if we can find it, or Pertama as a second choice."

Pyosz said straight-faced to Dodd "S'bemma, you and Briel have spare rooms, perhaps she could move in with you." Dodd and Briel immediately burst into laughter, and after a shocked second or two, the rest of the family joined them. Pyosz finally said dismissively "You know, it's nothing to do with me. I'd rather not stumble across her in the streets of Koldok, but if I do, I'll say hi and go on." So much for running away from Skene to avoid her thought Pyosz.

"Well, to change the subject, I finally remembered to bring the photographs Qoj took on her visit here" said Dodd, pulling a stiff portfolio from her carryall. "Gather round." She lifted her arm to allow Pyosz to snuggle in close. Maar sat on her knees behind them, looking over Dodd's shoulder. They lingered over each shot, taking in the exquisite detail of the velvety black sky and shimmering stars. Pyosz remembered the deep chill of that night flight and was glad to be surrounded by warm brown bodies in the intermittent sun.

"I'm getting these framed and hanging them at the schoolhouse" Dodd said, when they were done. "And while we're bragging about our children" said Briel, "Mruch assisted in the surgical repair of a cleft palate on a baby this week."

As they continued talking, Briel said to Maar "The collar on that shirt you're wearing is gapping in the back and it looks to me like your skin is burning on your neck, let me have a look." Confirming it, Briel said "We need some aloe vera, there's a bunch in the kitchen tillage."

"I'll go cut it" offered Pyosz. "Somebody loan me a knife?"

Maar was the first to ease a claspknife from her kalsongers, although everybody seemed to be reaching for one, Pyosz noticed. As she walked toward the house, Api emerged from the back door and called to Mill "Urgent call for you on the radio." Mill passed Pyosz, going into the house. Pyosz heard Api stand close to Ollow and say in a low voice "There's been a death on Skene. Nobody from our direct line." Her voice was grave.

Pyosz cut the aloe stem with automatic motions, her mind in adrenaline overdrive. "Nobody from our direct line" meant it wasn't Ngall or her children. But the abbas -- Api considered them kin, yet would distinguish them as not direct kin. She walked blindly back to the cluster near the pond, handing the dripping stem and open knife to Briel without caution.

"What's wrong?" asked Maar, examining her face. "Are you -- sit down, Pyosz, are you going to pass out?"

Pyosz dropped heavily onto the grass, leaning her forehead onto her knees. She wanted to stop time -- no, reverse it, keep at bay whatever had happened on Skene. She heard Briel saying "Get us some cold water", but beyond Briel, she could hear Api and Ollow whispering under the pergola in words she couldn't make out. Then she heard the back door slam, and Mill's footsteps approaching.

Mill said "I just got off the radio with emma. Yoj, I mean."

Then it wasn't Yoj.

"Someone we know has died after a brief illness. It's Szebel, from Yanja. Intimate of my emma Halling. Emma is pretty tore up. I'm going to call back in half an hour to talk with her more -- "

Pyosz cried out "Oh thank the stars, thank the stars it's Szebel!"

There was a horrified silence around her. Pyosz said "I heard Api say -- I thought it was one of my abbas who died, or..." She couldn't bring herself to even consider Prl's death. "I don't mean I'm glad Szebel died -- "

"S'all right" said Maar, patting her on the back. "We get it."

Mill still looked shocked, however. "I thought you were friends with Szebel" she said.

"I am -- I was. I'm just -- Oh, Halling must be stricken!" said Pyosz. "I have to go back to Skene, I have to be with her during this loss."

Mill looked at Oby before saying "I don't see how we can swing that, sibiya. There's nobody to take over your work on Saya, not this week, not with Mchele Fair. I mean, I'm not going to be able to attend the funeral, much as I want to go comfort emma. Abbo is flying the huolon, she'll have to represent our family from Pya for us."

"No" said Pyosz stubbornly. "Abba's been having a hard time, I need to go talk with her myself. Maybe the milking could be rotated among a different ejida worker each morning and afternoon, the rest of the work can wait -- "

"They'll laugh at my request" insisted Mill. "Some of them are only getting five hours of sleep a night right now as it is."

Pyosz felt a mixture of despair and rage. She was trapped here, this is something of what it felt like to be one of those first colonists, severed from the people she loved.

Pank and Tu had been whispering. Tu now spoke. "I feel torn, too, I want to be with my sibu. She does have her partners, though, and Lawa. And I'll be making a long visit at midwinter. But -- "

Pyosz gave her a cold look as she said "By midwinter, she'll have sunk into who knows what, abba will. They need me, right now as much as Saya does!"

"I understand" said Tu. "That's why, me and Pank, we'll take over Saya while you're gone. We can stay there, we're taking the week off anyhow and need a place on Dvareka to sleep while we get ready for the Fair."

"I'm not nearly as fast as you, but I can milk goats" said Pank. "We'll share the lifting of milk cans, and make sure your katts and chickens are all right. We won't have time for anything else -- "

Pyosz leaped toward them, pulling them both into her arms. "Thank you, thank you" she blubbered, tears finally filling her throat.

"Well, all right" said Mill. "That's an elegant solution. I can tell my emmas, then, that you'll be coming? The funeral is to be at 11:00 day after tomorrow. The huolon is scheduled to leave tomorow at 4:00 in the afternoon, fly all night and should get to Yanja about an hour before the funeral."

"I'll be ready" said Pyosz. "But I should go back to Saya now, I have to make bread for the days I'll be gone, and get everything ready." She was putting on her sokken and otos.

"I'll come help you" said Maar firmly. Pyosz said to Mill "Tell abba I'll call her in an hour or so. And I'll call emma, too." Dodd said "We'll leave condolence letters at the Lofthall for you to carry for us, along with gifts for Ngall and Ehuy."

"We'll be at Saya by 2:00 tomorrow" said Tu.

The first time Pyosz did back at her kitchen was make a list of everything she needed to address while Maar made cold lemonade. Maar took over the laundry and chicken-house cleaning. Pyosz began sponges before she rattled her wain to the orchard for a rushed harvest. By the time dinner was over and rows of baked goods were stacked in her larder, Pyosz felt utterly drained. She had talked with all her abbas, bleeding inside at the numbness of Halling's voice. She asked Prl to bring her funeral silks to Yanja early so she could change on arrival. She still had a full day ahead of her on Moja, and Maar had to work the morning sinning before grabbing an inadequate nap prior to their flight. They parted by 8:00, so they could both go to bed early.

Pyosz had cleaned her cabin, hidden the rice paddy workers novel, put new sheets on her bed, and made a dinner hamper for the flight before Pank and Tu arrived. She wrote out everything she could think they might need to know, because she wanted to take her logbook with her, along with her map of Saya and a crate of her various products to share with her family. She had a platinum ek and other coins from her secret stash in her pocket as Tu and Pank, flanked by distressed-looking katts, waved her off at the dock.

She took the passenger seat up front so one pilot could lay down the second row of seats into a single bench for sleeping. Abbo asked to take the first shift flying, which meant Maar would be handling the full-dark, into-a-storm hours approaching Skene. Once they were clear of any sight of Pya, Pyosz pulled a small silk pillow from her carryall and handed it back to Maar. She took a second pillow out for herself, wrapped her manteau about her snugly, and leaned against the window, thinking Skene...I'm coming home.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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