Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Killer the kid
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)


On San, in addition to milk cans and baked goods, Pyosz loaded into her Koldok cart a crate filled with three dozen pint bottles of oil and vinegar. She had another crate filled with jars of shamsjooz hot sauce and jams. At Gitta's she began arraying these on her counter.

"Okay, these are hot infused oils, with the herbs or whatever strained out, but still I recommend they be refrigerated after opening. I'll do cold infused eventually, but they take a while to reach sellable stage. Here's lemon, summer savory, rosemary, horseradish, mint, tumeric, dill, chervil, basil -- isn't that just beautiful, that green? -- uh, tarragon, garlic, ginger, shallot, thyme, clove, oregano, parsley, and curry. Plus one shamsjooz for the adventurous. One of each, and you can tell me which you think are going to sell. My fruit vinegars are not at all ready, but for infused vinegars, I've got basil, garlic, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, chili, mint, and sage. Plus eight fig-infused apple cider vinegars" said Pyosz.

They worked together to come up with Pyosz's price to Gitta and then Gitta's resale price, hoping to break into a new market by keeping it low at first. "The next batch will have redesigned labels" said Pyosz. "When should I try bringing you more?"

"Let's check in tomorrow and I'll report what customers are saying" said Gitta. She took a jar of the shamsjooz hot sauce and a bottle of the fig vinegar and set it under the counter. "For my Manage" she grinned at Pyosz.

At the cartagen's, Naki said while the labels were printing "I notice your name isn't anywhere on the list of parade participants for Mchele Fair."

"What parade?" asked Pyosz.

"At the very end, before we all go home, there's a big parade in front of the bleachers at the fair grounds. Everybody on Pya marches" said Naki.

Pyosz laughed. "If everybody marches, who's watching?"

"We are. We do the parade in stages. You march, then go sit to stand to watch your neighbors. Some folks march in more than one group. For instance, the kickball teams each have a large contingent, and every town on Dvareka parades together, plus the inhabited islands" said Naki.

"What about the Pea Pods?" asked Pyosz.

"Well, there's only been Saya and Arta so far, and Mill's bunch usually marches with the Lofthall and other Koldok groups. But sounds like next year there might be a Pea Pod contingent, eh? Every band marches and plays, we try to intersperse them so there's music all the time. Anyhow, I'm in charge of deciding the parade roster, and I thought you might need urging" said Naki.

Pyosz was thinking. "Put me down for Mill's group, but -- what about Pank and Tu? I guess they go with Mti Island?"

"Oh, no, they're in the best part. At the very end, the last groups are always the stilt walkers and the giant puppets, plus any performers. Tu and Pank ride high stilts, wearing masks that Nk and Frahe carve for them" said Naki, becoming excited. "Folks go all out for this, costumes, children, even bringing a farm animal or two."

"Then put me down also for a Saya Island contingent" said Pyosz with a wide grin. "And keep that a secret, okay?"

"It gets printed in the program" remarked Naki.

"Okay, but that's all I'm saying." Pyosz left wanting to immediately go work on her idea. But other responsibilities intruded. She stopped by the Lofthall and talked with Api, who waved Pyosz on with her plan for dealing with the ejida "as long as you understand, I won't lie for you and I won't cover up any more lies for you." She stashed her cart at the Lofthall and decided to catch a bus to Pertama for her upcoming confession.

As she entered the ejida offices, she felt her stomach roiling. She found her way to the counter where she'd met with Nioma. Instead of Nioma today there were two other women, one of whom, with a sense of dismay, she recognized as Brek, a friend of Poth's she'd hung out with at dances. Brek looked up, saw her, and broke into a wide smile.

"Hey, it's the capriste!" she cried, leaning over the counter to clasp Pyosz's arm.

"Is this your regular job?" asked Pyosz.

"Nah, we all rotate through the desk work stuff" said Brek. "Except for those who are experts in a single area, report-writers, and of course full-of-themselves managers. Right now, leading up to Mchele Fair, we're all putting in 12-14 hour days. And after that, harvest season strikes on all anvils."

""Well, I'm here to make a confession which may add to your load" said Pyosz. "Though it's nonurgent, I'll begin with that."

Brek's grin only widened. "What's your confession, then? You painted all your goats orange?"

This is what abba meant by trust thought Pyosz. This woman will believe only good of me until I prove otherwise.

"Last week you ran a bunch of soil samples from Saya for me, and I came to pick them up" began Pyosz, her voice sounding funny to her own ears.

"Yeah, I noticed they were gone from the basket. Nioma said she gave them to you. But we don't have a report ready for you yet, Pyosz." Brek was apologetic.

"Well, I made a mistake" said Pyosz. And how. "I walked off with some of your copies as well as mine." She pulled out the sheaf of results, all put back into numerical order and much folded. The other ejida worker had left her desk and came to the counter now.

"I was going through these one by one with my s'bemma Lawa on the radio to Skene" continued Pyosz, sticking to as much truth as she could by eliminating clear timelines for her actions. "And, well, look..." Suddenly in the stack she was leafing through appeared a form still in triplicate, with pink and green showing beneath. "See this spot here? That's a blotch of something sticky, like honey, I'd guess." In fact, it was definitely honey, because Pyosz had carefully placed it there the night before.

"It made this green sheet stick to the next white one, see? And just so you know, it was me separating these while Nioma went to get more information for me, so it's my fault." Entirely.

Brek turned to her coworker accusingly and said "We've warned people about eating lunch in here -- "

Pyosz interrupted "Oh, no, I'm sure it was my hands who did the deed, I'm a notoriously messy eater and it was at my lunch hour that day." She was wearing again the shati she'd had on yesterday with its assortment of food stains. The coworker glanced at her, then gave an "up yours" glare at Brek before returning to her desk.

"Well, no biggie, Pyosz, we'll just take these and send 'em on" said Brek.

"Actually, it may be a big deal" contradicted Pyosz. "See, I researched the findings of this sample, and it's not like any of the others from Saya. It's crucially different." Pyosz pointed to lines of text on the sheet. The coworker looked their way again.

"See this word, Brek? Kaolin. I did some research -- " Pyosz now pulled out her soil composition reference book -- "and I think this means clay. Very good clay, the sort used for making first-quality tableware."

Brek took the book from Pyosz and read with concentration, going back and forth to the sample findings. The coworker returned to Brek's side.

"Thunder me down" Brek finally said. "Could this be a fluke?"

"I doubt it" said Pyosz. "Look at my sketch of Saya. This sample came from here, and all this area around it -- " she drew with her finger -- "it doesn't grow normal grass. I've gone and dug a test hole, and it's clay all right, down at least 18 inches. I took a sample of it to Mill, and informed Api."

"Thunder me down" repeated Brek.

"I have keramiker background, and if your final report bears this out, I'm thinking about working the field" said Pyosz. "Pending regulations and permits, of course."

"You really are a perfect levvin' match for Saya" said Brek.

"Well, except that my behavior could have lost this resource to Pya" said Pyosz. "I've admitted it all to Api, to insure if there are repercussions they come down only on me." As they should -- don't look at me in that admiring way, Brek thought Pyosz.

Brek asked to make a copy of Pyosz's sketch and sent this task off with her coworker to wherever they kept their copier.

"I've met Lawa" said Break. "She's one of the best. She give you good advice?"

"Always" said Pyosz. "When I'm not too dense to pay attention."

Brek laughed happily and knocked her own head with her knuckles. "This is a big day for Pya, no two ways about it."

"So listen, as feeble apology for my making off with state property" said Pyosz, "Here's a loaf of my rosemary bread, a zucchini cake, and a jar of good Saya honey. For your tea break."

"But don't spill on the reports, right?" joked Brek, stashing the gifts on her desk. The coworker returned with Pyosz's map. Pyosz said "Please give my thanks to Nioma."

"See you at Mchele Fair!" they both called out to her as she left.

She felt ominously weak-kneed when she reached the street. She decided to get a bottle of lemonade at the lentil patty stall, and bought lunch as an afterthought. She climbed to the warehouse balcony nearby, moving slowly, and sat with her back flush against the wall, closing her eyes in belated relief.

She could smell the crisp rich scent of her onion rings, hear excited shouts of glassworkers below her. It wasn't quite 10:00 yet, but the sun on her dreads was insistent.

Why didn't I talk to anyone before I went to the ejida office last week? Maar said I'm the type who gets things done, but sometimes I act without relying on others and always at the worst time. Like sleeping with Sey. Or coming to Pya -- well, no, Mill asked me to come and this hasn't been a mistake -- but I nearly botched it. Why?

She felt a vibration on the balcony and opened her eyes to see Maar's head appear at the top of the ladder. "Great minds think alike" said Maar, beaming and holding up a bag from the food stool. But as she joined Pyosz, she examined her face closely and asked "Are you all right? You look a little ashy."

"I just went to the ejida office and returned their missing soil sample forms" said Pyosz in a low voice. Maar sat close beside her and whispered "How bad was it?"

Pyosz told her, and saw Maar exhibit the same relief she'd felt. She didn't feel ready to share her internal turmoil with anyone, though. Not yet.

"Why are you eating so early?" asked Pyosz.

"Finished sinning, have hours of loads here and there until 2:00" said Maar, opening her bag. "What's that drink you have?"


"I didn't know they had that" said Maar, crestfallen.

"I asked them to make it for me. What's in your bottle?"

"Pomegranate juice" said Maar.

"Let's share, okay?" Pyosz handed her bottle to Maar, who took a long swig.

They stopped at the fish docks after eating quickly to get Pyosz a crate of shrimp and more anchovies before Maar bustled off, promising to come for dinner. Pyosz rode the bus with her iced crate at her feet. She stopped at the Lofthall to tell Api and Mill how things had gone. Back at Saya, she called Prl on a private line and shared her news there as well, but still not her emotions.

She began another batch of fish sauce, several sponges, and filled quart jars with herbs plus oil or vinegar to sit in the direct sun for infusion. She went to her orchard and, after another harvest, she raked clear all the ground underneath the trees. She sorted this organic material into that which was decaying fruit and nuts, which she bagged to haul back to her compost pile, and saved the rest of the raked piles to use as mulch.

She dug up and potted every volunteer tree start she found. She lightly tilled the soil of her orchard floor, mixed in a top dressing of soil supplements as per Lawa, and broadcast handfulls of her wildflower mix before re-spreading the mulch.

She stopped by the goat tank a while, to take a long drink and feed her herd whatever they would eat of the old fruit and nuts. Killer kept trying to find a way over the wain yoke into the front where a basket of ripe nectarines sat. When Pyosz would pick up Killer to move her, the small goat would lean against her, seeking a cuddle. Pyosz reflected on how very different Killer was from Molars, though Molars was her abba by way of Nips, Killer's aggie.

Before sorting her harvest, she ventured into the small grove beneath the owl oak, looking for fallen ripe figs. To her horror, she discovered Curds napping there in a tussle of blue-green sedge.

"Scat!" hissed Pyosz. "Stay away from here! What if the great owl wakes up early feeling peckish, glances down here and sees you spread out like an appetizer?" Curds gave her a steely glare as she shambled away.

Pyosz carried several figs back to her kitchen, where she cut them in half, glazed them with honey, and sprinkled them with chopped hazelnuts before roasting. She planned to also roast brussel sprouts with a touch of her shamsjooz sauce, braise endive in parsley oil to mix with steamed carrots for a salad, and make a lemon cream sauce to go over boiled shrimp and noodles.

Or, wait, Maar will be here. I can talk her through the recipes.

She went to her tillage and excavated several large clusters of lavender, rue, and pennyroyal which she transplanted in a strategic spread throughout the owl oak grove. All of these were somewhat katt repellant, although she'd ask around for the coleus which was most successful at keeping katts from a particular tillage bed.

Over the remains of the afternoon, she finished her baking, jam simmering, and preparing fruits and nuts for drying. She was extremely tired by the time Maar arrived, very content to give Maar some cooking instructions, then milk in an eye-closed meditative state, the smell of goat, straw, and warm milk filling her senses.

She whisked together the lemon cream sauce herself at the last minute, as Maar finished all the rest of the meal. "Pretty impressive" said Pyosz. Maar adjusted her shoulders with pride and said "I feel that way, too. Wish I could cook for Thleen like this."

"We'll get you two to that place somehow" said Pyosz. They sat down and Pyosz again closed her eyes to hold Maar's hand and consider all the origins of this meal, including her quirky herd.

As she went straight for the biggest shrimp on her plate, Pyosz said "If you don't have to rush off fast, I wonder if you'd like to go to the hot springs for a soak with me. I never get there during the day and I'm still too spooked to go alone at night."

"Love to" said Maar. "My muscles could really use some unraveling."

"Do you sleep well in general?" asked Pyosz, instantly regretting the question.

"Yeah. Abbo and I are in the back right corner, well away from the bathroom and hall traffic, quietest part of the dorm. The side door to the privy is right there but there's a half-wall baffle to keep out drafts and light, and it's handy having access like that. Plus, early on I sprang for a real mattress, not those skinny lumpy pallets they put on our bunks, so I land in comfort" said Maar.

With arms to hold you thought Pyosz. Sey had been disappointing sexually, in the long run, but she had been a solid sweetness to curl up against in the dark.

Maar said "I'd like to borrow back a clean set of undergarments to wear after we soak, though." She had returned Pyosz's clothes, freshly laundered and folded, along with several clean napkins and dishes from food Pyosz had given her.

Pyosz grinned and said "I don't have the kind of maillot you prefer, with those dropped short sleeves and a V-neck. I prefer sleeveless to show off my bulging biceps."

"Hey, my biceps bulge as much as yours" protested Maar. Very true thought Pyosz.

Later, as they approached the forest, Maar asked "Now where are the owl trees down here?"

"One is to our left, on the south cliff and on the edge of the pasture" pointed out Pyosz. "I'm guessing she has part of the pasture as her territory, whatever the great owl at my end allows her. The other is on the right of the trail, again near the cliff on the north side, and close to the beehives."

Pyosz had brought the bottle of lemon-scented scrub for Maar but made a new scrub with gardenia for herself. They each dipped briefly and washed before returning to drift, occasionally bumping into one another's leg or arm. The night was clear and Pyosz stared up at Pyan stars, trying to remember the constellations Qoj had taught her.

She was in the middle of the pool when Maar shook her foot. She stood to see Maar upright at the far end, staring over her shoulder toward the rocky lip on the western edge of Saya.

"What's going -- " Pyosz was turning as she asked, and broke off as she spotted the shu watching them with glittery gold eyes, perched alertly on the rock nearest the pool. It was fully grown, at least two feet long, and its posture strongly suggested it was about to leap in their direction. Shu were excellent swimmers, and Pyosz had to this point counted on the heat of the springs on keep shu at bay.

Maar appeared beside her and then moved determinedly in front of her, between Pyosz and the shu. "What are you doing?" whispered Pyosz.

"I can't find a weapon, so it's bare hands" replied Maar, moving in slow reverse so the backs of her thighs were actually touching the fronts of Pyosz's thighs. "I can grab it by the neck and hold it under until it drowns." Pyosz thought she should offer to share the risk, but the shu gave out a scratchy growl and Pyosz was rooted to her safety behind Maar.

Then another sound reached them, from their left and high up. The shu looked away from them in that direction, which gave Pyosz enough slack to also look. She spotted the owl first, in a chestnut tree: Not her great owl, about half its size, but formidable. And completely focused on the shu.

In the next instant, it simply became airborne, a catapulted glide without any wing-flapping which reached the shu in less time than the flicker of Pyosz's eyes. Feathered haunches reached out, and only one set of talons sank into the shu's flanks, but they were more than enough. The shu gave a ghastly scream and the owl shuddered upward, off the western cliff, into darkness over the inlet between Saya and Teppe. At the very end, they saw a thin stream of urine drop like silver into the void of night.

Pyosz realized her arms were clasped around Maar's waist, and Maar was pressed against her so tightly she was more or less sitting in Pyosz's lap, with Pyosz's knees bent to lower them both a few inches into the slight protection of the pool. "I got you" Pyosz whispered to Maar. Maar's hands closed over Pyosz's as she said in a raw voice "Tell me you saw that. At the end..."

"I saw it. I guess I have more than one guardian here on Saya" said Pyosz. She was suddenly aware that her legs were parted, as were Maar's, and a slight pulse of water flowed between them both. Maar must have had the same perception, because she moved to the side, off Pyosz's lap, but not out of contact. Turning to look at Pyosz, Maar said "Always something interesting when I come to visit here." Her grin was brave.

"How's that muscle relaxation treatment working for ya?" said Pyosz, and they exploded into laughter. A few minutes later, they agreed to get out, dress, and go back to "the end of Saya where I don't actually have to watch owls hunt in front of me", as Maar put it.

After Pyosz went to bed that night, despite her enormous fatigue she slept poorly, waking up with dreams she didn't quite remember. It was raining in the morning and she had the day off from baking, so she focused on fruit drying, making seasoned roasted nuts, and starting cold infusions for the oils and vinegars Gitta had decided were going to sell the best. She was happy to be in her kitchen, mostly sitting, with music playing and a spicy pork stew simming on the stove.

Shortly before noon, a strange woman walked up the path from the ferry dock. She was short but wide with muscle, dark brown skin and lighter brown eyes, and her brown hair was so short it was a rich fuzz on her scalp. She introduced herself as Mrebbe, the timmer who was partnered with Klosa. Pyosz asked her to eat as they went over her plans for the kitchen expansion, and Mrebbe instantly accepted, slowly savoring her way through two bowls of stew, several rolls, and a quarter-of-a-pie slice of cherry crumble. Mrebbe outlined what the geothermal installer would require, what labor Pyosz could do or ask friends to help with, and eventually left the pleasures of her place at the table to take detailed measurements. She was busy for an hour. Upon her return, she sat down and cut herself another sliver of pie. Pyosz poured her a glass of milk and said "What's your estimate?"

"Can I ask for bread and pie to take home, in addition to what you'll feed me?" grinned Mrebbe. Pyosz thought that wouldn't actually conflict with her exclusivity agreement with Gitta, not for a single large project, and nodded.

"Well....four loaves of bread, four pies, I get to pick the flavors...two jars of pound each of whatever roasted nuts you produce...five jars of that hot sauce...and all I can eat...Let's add on one ek and that's my fee" said Mrebbe. Pyosz decided not to barter further, she loved the presence of this woman and wanted a chance to see her work. They shook on it, and Pyosz paid the honey and nuts in advance.

After Mrebbe left, Pyosz made a small pen for her chicks in the bottom of a large crate lined with straw, spread it with tasty chicken morsels, and carried it to sit under her table at her feet, next to the oven where she was continuing to roast nuts on a low heat. Alternately writing letters and chick-watching, she had a quiet afternoon. All this warm rain is germinating my wildflowers in the orchard she thought.

She ate dinner alone, finishing her letters. She had glazed a few pounds of pecans with honey and cinnamon. She made herself a pot of tea, poured a bowl of these nuts as dessert, and went to bed early, munching and reading one of the history books Yoj had sent, flanked by katts who were now forgiving her for not allowing them to pounce on the chicks earlier.

On Ot, Pyosz stopped by Klosa's store, where Klosa said immediately "What did you put in that stew yesterday? Mrebbe wouldn't stop talking about it." They were alone but Pyosz leaned over to whisper "Cayenne and turmeric. Plus a cup of apple juice added to the stock."

In a normal voice, she said "I'm putting something together for the parade, and I need to look at your caps for babies or children. But keep it to yourself, our secret, okay?" Klosa was delighted to help her find what she needed, including a battered child's toy that was exactly the right size. With a little paint, stitching of leather, and two holes cut for ears, by lunchtime Pyosz had her Saya Island contingent equipment ready to go. She had decided on Killer as her goat emissary, because Killer was all black like Pyosz and least likely to completely freak out in the crowds of Mchele Fair.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

Blue said...

I loved the glittery gold eyes. All of it, actually. But that really sticks out.