Wednesday, September 16, 2009


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)


As soon as her milking was done on Shmonah, Pyosz set out for Arta Island. She was first on the scene, surprising Ollow who was filling a metal tub with ice, oranges, and jugs of water.

"I brought two pound cakes with blackberry preserves and sweet yogurt to put on top" said Pyosz. "Plus I figured we'd be grilling a lot, so here's a basket of tomatoes, green onions, zukes, and peppers to put on the grill. And -- two pounds of butter."

"I'll use some of your grilled vegetables in corn salsa, if that sounds good to you" said Ollow. "We're also making fritters. Pank said she's bringing center loin pork chops, that's all I know for sure."

Mill came outside, putting on gloves. "Early bird, that's much appreciated" she said to Pyosz. "Did you bring a machete?"

"I couldn't find one in the barn" said Pyosz.

"I'll get you a good knife" said Ollow. Mill handed Pyosz one of the picking bags and explained the procedure. Oby joined them outside, saying "Abbo wants another hour of sleep, they got in at 2:00. Maar will be doing her usual toxics run from the Lofthall before coming at noon."

Over the next two hours, the rest of the family arrived. Dodd was lugging two heavy metal buckets, and Mill called out "Clams or mussels?"

"Lobsters!" said Dodd proudly. "Briel will be the one to kill them, though. And we have kelp to pack around them for grilling."

Frahe and Nk brought new potatoes and raspberry ice cream. By 10:00, eating cold oranges and drinking water wasn't enough to cool Pyosz off. Mill said "Go get in the pond, take a break."

One hauling crate for the sinner at the jichang was already full. Mill lashed it down and rousted Abbo from bed to deliver it to the corn mill near Pertama. "And don't dawdle, we need the second one in place or else harvest will come to a halt" she reminded Abbo.

Pyosz sat in the sun after her dunk, letting herself air dry while chatting with Pank. After half an hour, she dressed again, wishing she'd brought fresh clothes, and returned to what felt like endless rows of sun-blocking corn. Still, it was satisfying working in collaboration with her family, listening to bad jokes and trying to emulate Tu's economy of movement.

Just as the smell of roasting food reached her nostrils, Mill called out "Go rinse off however you want, dinner in ten!" Pyosz raced Briel to the pond, but couldn't get her gilet off fast enough -- she had to lace it tightly, even on a hot day, to keep her breasts from flopping during manual labor -- and Briel won. They were all drying off and putting on crusty shatis when Maar appeared holding a pair of frosty stainless buckets.

"More seafood?" asked Frahe.

"Beer, fresh from the tap" said Maar. A cheer went up. Oranges and water was shoved over to make room for the buckets in the ice tub. Pyosz loaded her plate with half a lobster, three cobs of corn, piles of fritters and veggies, potatoes, a pork chop, and poured melted butter over it all. She staked a spot in the shade and went back to the pergola to fill empty water bottle with beer. She had no reason not to get buzzy, and no need to stay clean. She wrenched open lobster claws with the aid of Pank's claspknife and a nearby rock, feeling like a savage eating at the dawn of time.

It was all incredibly good, but the corn stole the show. Pyosz was too full to eat more than a couple of spoons of ice cream. She used her gilet and otos to make a crude pillow, lay back in the shade, and went swiftly to sleep.

She woke up half an hour later to find Maar sitting next to her, putting white cream on her nose. Maar pointed to the empty beer bottle beside Pyosz and said "I didn't think you drank" with a quizzical grin.

"It was a perfect day and meal for cold beer" said Pyosz, rolling onto her side. Sweat was starting to pool under her breasts, she'd need another dip before returning to work. She looked around the clearing, seeing that most of her family were also taking naps. "Where's Abbo?"

"Making another delivery to them Mill, and griping about it" said Maar. "Hey, I ran into Qoj on Verzin, she says to tell you hi and ask her emmas to see the photos. She also said Uli's been writing her."

"Yeah, I heard" said Pyosz with a cautious tone Maar probably mistook for something else. "Are you going to come back to Saya with me again to share supper tonight?"

"I'd planned on it" said Maar.

"Good. I have things to tell you" said Pyosz, getting up to head for the pond again.

At 4:00, Oby called everyone to a halt. When they'd gathered around her, she announced there were 18 rows left. "We'll make this last a competition" she said. "Find a partner and each of you start at the end of a row. Whichever team finishes their three rows first wins the last two quarts of beer, currently in our freezer."

The others had clearly been expecting this and pairing off happened almost instantly -- Tu grabbed Nk, Pank snagged Briel, Oby chose Frahe, and Mill pointed to Maar. Pyosz was left looking at Abbo, Api and Ollow. Api said "Ollow did all the cooking, she gets to sit this one out." Which was gallant, coming from Api who was actually frailer than Ollow.

Abbo said "I've been flying back and forth all day, after flying all night, I'm done, too." Pyosz grinned at Api and said "Then it's me and you, let's clean their clocks, shall we?"

Oby said "Just because it's a race doesn't mean we get careless, right? Okay, get in position, and I'll yell when to start."

Adrenaline pushed them through, mixed with laughter and hijinks. Pank and Briel won by a hair, with Dodd claiming it was unfair "Because Briel has superior knife skills." The final bags were dumped into the crate, and Mill left Abbo to do the lashing of her load this time. They all returned to the pond, sweat making their brown skin glisten as if they had already jumped in before they reached the water.

Floating in satisfied exhaustion, Pyosz said to Mill "I want bags of the meal you get from this harvest. Plus dried corn I can grind myself, plus maxa, does it come in a form I don't have to freeze?"

"Yeah, we have airtight bags" said Mill. "You can have as much as you want."

"No, seriously, s'bemma, I'm talking hundredweights" said Pyosz. "I have to pay you for it."

"Or barter" said Oby, looking at Mill. "You haven't picked up your share of that goat meat you had slaughtered, have you?"

"No" said Pyosz with a slight sense of revulsion. "I'll trade you for that gladly."

"I love curried goat, and slow-simmered stew" said Mill longingly. "I can't believe I'm getting hungry again."

"Well, speaking of goats" said Pyosz, paddling to the shore. The last thing on Skene she wanted to do was resume the filthy clothes she'd been wearing, but there was no helping it. Ollow handed plates to her and Maar as they waved goodbye and walking to the ferry.

"It's later than usual" said Pyosz, hearing the racket of bleats at the pasture gate, "but I'm taking a shower first. My clothes ought to fit you if you want to change as well." She was naked in seconds, giving out a loud sigh of satisfaction as hot water streamed over her sticky skin. She heard Maar said "That pot rack looks very good. Who helped you install it?:

Pyosz said "I did it myself" with pride as she soaped luxuriously. After rinsing and dripping into her cabin, she could hear Maar at the shower already. Curds and Ember were in the cabin, looking at her wet body with disgust. "Wanna hug?" she teased Curds. "Give me a hug and I'll add extra brewer's yeast to your supper."

She set a loose pair of ku -- her favorites, actually -- with knickers, maillot, and a soft white shati covered with large aqua flowers on the table for Maar, next to a clean towel. She was distracted during milking, reliving the final race of the day where she'd covered two-thirds of a row to Api's one third. Molars took advantage of her state by getting in a nasty nip to the back of her arm. Even that didn't sour Pyosz's mood, however.

"I was made to do this kind of work, I do believe" she said when she returned to the kitchen.

"Your family saved Arta the cost of an entire ejida crew" replied Maar. "Listen, there was only half a lobster left, so I split it between us, made up the difference with cheese."

"As long as there's corn, I'm happy" said Pyosz. "That shati looks better on you than it does on me." She could still feel the effects of beer in her bloodstream, mixed with the afterglow of cleansing labor and the happiness of having company for supper in her kitchen. Well, not just any company she thought.

Maar said "What did you want to talk with me about?" Pyosz realized Maar might have been worrying about this pending conversation.

"I gather you've heard about my request to get geothermal here on Saya" said Pyosz.

"Yeah, and I think it's a great idea" said Maar. Pyosz took internal note of the fact that Maar was the first person to expressed unqualified support for this decision.

"It means I can get an aga, with much more cooking and baking capacity. It also means I'll have the juice to never worry about hot water again, and to get a large coldbox with serious freezer capacity" said Pyosz.

"And warmth for your cabin" said Maar.

"But I'll have to expand the footprint of this kitchen to accommodate the aga" Pyosz said. "Here -- " She retrieved her notebook and opened it to the sketch she'd made of a new floorplan.

Maar wiped butter from her fingers to pick up the page for close inspection. "I like how Curds is sitting on your cutting board in this picture, transgressing even in art" she dimpled. "What is this over here, another oven?"

"A kiln. And that's a throwing wheel" said Pyosz with a sense of drama.

Maar whistled. "A studio, in other words. Part of the Pyosz alchemic kitchen."

"Maar, I want to tell you a secret. You cannot discuss it with anybody. Not anybody. If that's not okay to ask you, I'll understand." Abbo, I mean don't tell Abbo thought Pyosz.

"You have my word." Maar's brown eyes were serious.

Pyosz told her about stealing the soil sample, leaving out no detail. Maar began grinning before she was done.

"I know it's a prosecutable offense, Pyosz, and I bet Api would like to throttle you, but lev, you are my kind of woman" said Maar. "You simply go get things done, and if Saya needs protecting, you'll levvin' break the law!" Maar leaned over to slap Pyosz's shoulder in praise.

Pyosz began giggling.

"But Pyosz, where in your crammed days will you find time for -- what do you call it, throwing pots?" asked Maar.

"I've thought about that" said Pyosz. "A lot of what I've been busy with since I got here is clean up and repair. That's all done now. And I've altered my baking schedule to every other day. Plus -- " she winked at Maar -- "Since you're learning how to cook, sometimes you'll be able to make me dinner without my help required."

"Go for it" said Maar. "What do you abbas think about you becoming a keramiker?"

"I only told emma, Qala and Lawa" said Pyosz. She saw Maar digest the fact that she'd been trusted before the abbas.

"Well, that's big news, all right" said Maar.

"I have more" said Pyosz. "Not big, but..." Her voice trailed off. Maar's forehead developed a furrow in the middle. She knows how to read me thought Pyosz. She set down the cob she'd been nibbling and said "At the dance last night, Uli kissed me."

Maar went still, and seemed to consider several different responses. Finally she asked "How was it?"

"Uh...Unexpected. Not what I would have wanted to happen. But still good" said Pyosz with raw honesty.

"I remember her as a good kisser" said Maar softly.

"Well, I've not had enough experience to speak with authority, but I didn't immediately recoil" said Pyosz.


"I did end it. Said don't do it again, don't even think about it. She coped."

Maar's smile was cynical. "She won't try again. She got past the threshold, that's enough."

"Oh, Maar." Pyosz didn't want her to be right about Uli's motivation.

"Well, thanks for telling me" said Maar.

"Again, just between us, all right?" reminded Pyosz.

"I won't be the one who talks about it" said Maar. Her tone was even, and for once Pyosz was clueless about Maar's mood. It was as if Maar had become invisible. Pyosz wanted to restore their connection.

"Abba Yoj said you and y our sibs came for tea on Roku" said Pyosz. "It brightened them considerably. Halling said she was impressed with you."

"Did she?" Maar's voice had gone high. "They were extremely kind to all of us. And -- I think their influence caused what happened after."

She told Pyosz about the conversation she'd had with Adon and Su at the restaurant. "They've never talked with me like that, Pyosz. Not those two. It was as if I suddenly became an adult to them, someone they could trust. It was a sea change. And it all came from that little bit of seeing me be treated with respect by your abbas."

Pyosz could see Maar was trembling. Maar cleared her throat and continued. "It's not just Thleen who's looking for help, not really. I'm ashamed to admit it, but we all -- we all, me and my sibs, we've not had enough adult nourishment. I'm on my own now, and I'm giving them as much as I can, but...It hurts like fire to see their numb, dumb need. I hope it wasn't so obvious to your abbas, I hope -- " Maar broke into sobs, coarse and wild. She looked mortified but she couldn't stop herself.

Pyosz scooted her chair next to Maar's and pulled Maar's head onto her shoulder, suddenly realizing Maar was very much not yet 20 years of age. "Let it go, buddy, let it all out. The way is works is that smart, decent people who have extra are always happy to spread it around, not from pity but from gladness to be connected to each other. I learned that from my abbas, we're very alike. I'm so sorry you haven't gotten that little bit of respect before now, but let yourself have it now, you've more than earned it."

Maar bawled unrestrainedly, and Pyosz kissed the side of her head gently, over and over, until the torrent slackened. Maar leaned back and squinted at Pyosz through blurry eyes. "Wow. I guess I was overdue."

"I guess so" said Pyosz.

"I need to blow my nose" said Maar, looking around her.

"Use the napkin, it's the cheapest cloth on Skene anyhow, fill it with pilot buggers." Maar laughed as she lifted the stained cloth to her face and honked. Pyosz said "Stay put" and went to her cabinet to get more napkins. She wet one at the sink and sat down close to Maar again to wash her face tenderly.

"You're going to return to Arta wearing my clothes and with swollen red eyes, no telling that they'll think" she quipped. Maar laughed again, her face entirely relaxed. She was staring into Pyosz's eyes, and said "Your abba Bux, she has eyes exactly like yours. I kept feeling like I knew her, she was so familiar; I hope I wasn't too forward with her."

"Technically, my eyes are like hers" said Pyosz. "And wait till you see emma's eyes, hers are the bluest of all." Maar secretly hoped she didn't have to deal with Prl for a long time yet.

Pyosz's gaze drifted down to Maar's mouth, her lips flushed by crying. She forced herself to look away and pull back a little. "So...Shall we finish eating? You can tell me more about Thleen and your sibs, what's your favorite thing to order to Thina Bowl?"

When they were done, Maar said "Do I get to see what's in this week's package from home?"

"My pleasure" said Pyosz. It was a single carton this time, though there were the usual fat letters for reading in bed. "Ah, a tin of saffron. See this, Maar, this is the stamen from a flower, the entire plant is grown to produce this tiny thing. It's extremely dear, but wait til you see what it does in a dish. Oh, and emma found my gardenia oil! I've been using lemon instead."

"I like how you smell" said Maar.

"Thanks. But this is the real Pyosz, take a whiff. Look, this is from Lawa, it's not a tool, too small." When Pyosz opened the box, her eyes filled with tears. It was a tiny gold charm in the shape of a goat.

"Is that an earring stud?" asked Maar, peering at it.

"Could be. But I'm going to tie it at the end of one of my dreads. I'll do that later, in my cabin with a mirrow" said Pyosz. "Okay, here's more books, good, plays for Pank and, yay, a few language references! And a leather seed pouch from Qala, is this to wear when I'm -- there's something in it." Pyosz pulled out a platinum 2-ek piece, two gold eks, and three brass half-eks.

"They sent you more money?" asked Maar incredulously.

"No, this is a loan to pay for the renovations here. See, she's enclosed a signed document in the pouch as well. The money is from her and Lawa, to be paid back as soon as I can." Pyosz felt very adult looking at the form with Qala and Lawa's signature at the bottom.

"Okay, what's this in tissue paper? Oh, mangos! These are from their miniscule greenhouse out back, Maar. One of my earliest memories is abba Bux carrying me outside during the winter, going from the warm house into cold wet rain, and then suddenly we were out of the rain in a place that was warm but still had trees and plants. I thought it was magical, a blending of worlds. Mangos are sticky when ripe, you know, so she'd wrap her kerchief around one on the tree and hold me up so I could pull it from the branch. I'd cradle it in my arms like a baby, and we'd go back to the kitchen where I'd sit on the counter while she washed it and cut it open. We never made it to the table, we'd eat it right there, her leaning against the counter with me." Pyosz hefted a mango in each hand, sniffed of one, and said "I have a mini pound cake still here, shall we cut it open and top it with these mangos for dessert?"

"Only one of them" urged Maar. "Save the other for yourself, later. There's one more thing in there, looks like a video disk."

"It's from Halling, let me look at the label. Wow. This is footage of her cutting open the first leviathan that she brought back to the docks, causing all sorts of ruckus. Plus some other early sinning flights and -- waves and ripples, Maar, the video of her killing the leviathan that had killed her first lover! The act which began Pax Piscata! I saw this only once, and that was at school. It says this a copy for me, I don't have to return it. She wrote in paretheses 'For sharing.'" Pyosz looked at Maar with wide eyes.

"Do you have a disk player?"

"Lev, no. But I think they do on Arta" said Pyosz.

"And at the Lofthall" said Maar. "You think about who you want to watch this with, only please please include me, and we'll set it up."

Pyosz stacked her treasures back in the carton and stood to peel the mango. Maar began clearing the table. She said "Speaking of plans, I'm slammed tomorrow but I was wondering if we could do our flying-out-for-lunch-elsewhere thing on Iki or San. There's this place in Talaba I want to show you."

"Count me in" said Pyosz. "I went back to that lentil patty stall while you were gone, had another round. One of the vestristes smiled up at me."

I bet she did thought Maar.

"Oh, and speaking of dates" said Pyosz. "I'm going with Uli to a Gong Tong night on Roku. Do you play?"

"I do, actually" said Maar, not looking around from the sink.

"I'd invite you along, except I'm not sure you and Uli ever want to be at the same event, and besides, you'll be in Skene that night, right?"

"I'm not going to Skene this week, because we have to do an early run next week in anticipation of Mchele Fair the following weekend" said Maar. "So, as it happens, I'll be here on Roku."

"Well, then?" asked Pyosz.

"I'll think about it. Where is it, Dudor? That's where they usually have games night" said Maar.

"Yes, I guess you know which building, I don't" said Pyosz.

"Maybe I'll find my own date and just show up" said Maar. She turned to grin at Pyosz, and Pyosz felt her spirits lift even more.

After dessert, Maar put her dirty clothes in the bag Pyosz offered and they walked together to the dock. Maar said "Thleen says to give you a kiss" and she pressed her lips lightly to Pyosz's cheek. She was ten feet away from shore in the ferry when she pointed to the water beside her and said in a voice thick with horror "Leviathan!"

Pyosz's blood stopped pumping inside her veins for a second, until she realized Maar was having her on. "Eat SHIT, you Chloddia hooligan!" she shouted at Maar, who was now bent over in hysterics.

"Back at you, you Riesig stickypalms!" returned Maar. They laughed together until out of earshot.

The following morning, Pyosz took in her letter from Yoj to read to Kolm the section Yoj had found in the memoirs she was researching about a kind of goat cheese which had been made somewhere on the original planet. A precise recipe wasn't available, but with the long-ago colonist's memory of "cooking the milk until it caramelized and turned brown, maybe some sugar added", Kolm's face grew excited. "I bet I can work out the process" she said. "It would be a dessert cheese that folks would go wild over, I'm guessing. Did it have a name?"

"Abba translates it as 'prym'' said Pyosz. "Can't wait to see what you come up with. Do let me have a taste test on what you'll call failures, you're such a perfectionist, even the near misses will be yummy."

At the grocery, Gitta said "I got in two flats of shamsjooz this morning. Folks like 'em, but a little of that pepper's yanjiang heat goes a long way, so I'm hoping you'll take one of the flats and make something with it. Reduced price."

"Dried" mused Pyosz. "Infused oils. Hot sauces. Yeah, I'll take it plus ten gallons of canola oil. You don't happen to have ramson, do you?"

"I do" said Gitta. "Folks rip it out of their tillages because it makes eggs and milk taste like garlic, you know, but it's almost impossible to get rid of once it's rooted. Be sure not to drop seeds at your own place. Also, I've got two dozen bananas which went black over the weekend, you can have them at no charge."

Pyosz grinned at her. "Because you know I'll be bringing back banana bread. Or, since zucchini madness has hit my tillage, banana zucchini loaf with walnuts."

"I was hoping" said Gitta.

Pyosz stopped at Taamsas's to buy three dozen clamp-top pint bottles for her infusion efforts. She picked up more labels at Naki's, printed out photos from the prior week, and got copies made of all her Saya contracts. She tried to order soil amendment materials through the allotment center but was told to go to the ejida. Instead, she stopped at the Lofthall and placed an order for greensand, phosphorus, bone meal, and other bulk items through Mill, filling out extra forms because the allotment clerk couldn't be bothered.

"Don't you need to wait for the ejida recommendations before you embark on soil rebuilding?" asked Mill.

"No, because I got the word from Lawa about what to do. Good enough for me" said Pyosz.

"Tomorrow okay for this delivery, then?" asked Mill.

"Well, I'm seeing Maar at lunch, you could have her bring the bags then. Otherwise, later in the afternoon" said Pyosz. "Is Api here?"

"No, she's down in Fjer" said Mill.

"I've decided to definitely go ahead with the planned expansion of my kitchen, geothermal installation, and purchase of an aga" said Pyosz. "I'll have the money up front, but please pass on to Api that I expect to be reimbursed by whomever assumes the next tenancy of Saya." She saw this didn't go over well with Mill. There was no argument, however.

"I'll have her contact you about scheduling" said Mill. "With Mchele this weekend, work won't start on anything until next week, you understand."

"Do I contract for the timmer or is that -- " said Pyosz.

"You do that on your own. There's two contractors on Pya, plus individual timmers, but I strongly recommend Mrebbe, Klosa's partner. She's got her own crew and she's very good" said Mill.

Pyosz risked a joke against Mill's scowling face. "Please tell me she's not to built your lopsided Manage."

Mill managed a smile. "She's not. She's who the Lofthall calls for repairs. Thanks for yesterday's work, again. We're replanting the fields this week in a second crop, hoping against an early winter."

Pyosz held up a crossed finger. "Your corn is the best I've ever eaten."

She went back down the main street to Klosa's store. Klosa called out as she entered "I was hoping to see you soon, I've got a couple more chairs for you!"

Pyosz took the chairs, asked Klosa to keep her eye out for a rolling stool, and looked over agas in the back of her store until she found one that suited her.

"Before we begin bartering, you should know, I'm also going to want a larger coldbox if you can track one down" said Pyosz. "I expect to make another major appliance purchase from you in the next month, don't want to say what yet. And, I want to hire Mrebbe for two different construction projects on Saya."

"A Manage?" said Klosa with bated breath.

"No, not that large. Expansion of my kitchen area and building a geothermal shed" said Pyosz.

"That'll be just Mrebbe, then, not her whole crew. I'll have her contact you." A sly grin came over Klosa's face. "We've all heard about how you feed workers who come to Saya. Remind her of that when it's time for an estimate, she loves good food."

Pyosz laughed. "Thanks for the tip." She bartered jam, fruit and nuts for the chairs but had to pay coin for the aga.

"Will you hold it here until after next week or whenever the geothermal goes in?" asked Pyosz.

"Of course. I'll have a line on a coldbox by them, maybe we can make one delivery" said Klosa.

On Iki morning, Api appeared on Saya with a folder of permit requests for the pending renovation. Pyosz filled them out while Api drank tea and ate banana bread. Once everything was signed, Api said "As regards your clay field...I can't know whether there's other uses for this particular clay until I get a report from the ejida. Which will not be forthcoming because you hold the necessary forms." A delicate way of putting it thought Pyosz.

"It occurs to me that perhaps you can find a means to return the ejida's copies to them without incriminating yourself" continued Api. "Apologize with all the charm you possess, and if you earnestly request a follow-up report on that soil sample, suspicion as to your attempted cover-up will be somewhat diverted. If you can pull that off -- and I'll be the first to know if charges are laid against you -- then my reading of your contract shows no obstacle to you claiming keramiker's rights to the clay. Excepting for a possible Pya share if we find that appropriate."

"I'll need to talk this over with my abbas and emma" said Pyosz. "On a secure line, to go no further, of course."

Api sighed. "If you must. If scandal breaks, I'll deny knowledge of your actions, Pyosz."

That surprised Pyosz. She returned "If you must" and sat it land a small blow. I guess I don't have the proclivity for political maneuvering found in my aggie's line thought Pyosz. I'll steal, obviously, but without much art to it.

An hour after Api left, Pyosz heard a sinner overhead. She had her wain sitting at the jichang, with a tarp to cover her load since it was overcast and threatening rain. She and Maar made short work of transferring her bags to the wain. Once in the air, Pyosz told Maar about Api' suggestion.

"Got any ideas?" said Maar.

"No, but I'll call my family tonight, that'll stir up my brain" said Pyosz.

Maar took her to the rice noodle factory in Talaba, where Pyosz spent more coin that she should have at the store attached, discovering noodles in shapes and flavors she'd never seen. "I'll recoup this from my food budget eventually" she said out loud.

"Well, I'm treating us to lunch, which we'll have to take with us" said Maar, pointing across the street to a small noodle house. There was a line at the door of workers waiting to be seated -- A very good sign in this town full of people who are connected to the rice production on Pirinc thought Pyosz. A side window offered take-out orders, and Pyosz let Maar guide her selection. They had an armful of steaming paper cartons by the time they ran for the jichang, the rain having finally arrived.

They sat in the sinner to eat, steaming up the windows. Pyosz tried one bite of every dish, gasping at the heat of a couple of them, and she declared "Okay, win number two. If this cafe was in Koldok, I'd eat lunch there every day." She wiped her eyes carefully, afraid of getting any of the sauce near tender membranes.

"I come here when I feel a cold coming on" said Maar, jubilant about Pyosz's approval. "Scours me out every time. We gotta run, buddy, you can take the leftovers home with you."

"Not much left" remarked Pyosz, buckling her harness while Maar wiped down the inside of her windshield. "Look, I got sauce on both my shati and my gilet, I'm such a messy eater."

"I have three extra sinner scarves because I'm always having to send mine to the laundry with food stains" commiserated Maar, giving them a brief cloudy view of Doimoi, Katt and Pirinc before looping southwest to Saya. For that night's dinner, Pyosz cooking dark green spinach-flavored noodles in a cheese sauce with baby artichokes and roasted shallots. She dripped on her shati again, and as she was scrubbing the spot with a corner of her napkin dipped in hot mint tea, she had an inkling of a notion about how to get herself off the hook.

She called her abbas anyhow and told them what was up. As she had expected, Halling was not upset with her at all that she could tell over the radio. Halling had broken many rules herself when she thought it necessary. She was more focused on the idea of Pyosz as continuing Ng's legacy as a keramiker. "Don't buy a wheel there, let me call emma's old friends here" Halling said. "Well, no, they're all long dead, but their children or grandchildren will have a good wheel, I'm sure of it."

"Please don't buy anything without talking to me first" pleaded Pyosz. She called back after their 15 minutes was up and talked with Yoj, who whispered "Bux went out to the privy, to collect herself, I think. What you did was rash, but I'm not going to fuss at you about it." They talked about Kolm's embrace of the prym possibility, and then about noodle shapes, how various types might be formed from dough and what kinds of sauce would be best paired with each.

Pyosz took a long drink of tea after they were interrupted by static before calling a final time to face Bux. "Do you not comprehend the fact that Skene, all of Skene, operates on a basis of trust?" began Bux. "We don't lock our doors, we have lots of red tape but few real laws, our economy is reliant on barter which is reliant on trust for all value. The folks who buy your bread, they trust that you have a clean kitchen and aren't substituting machine oil for butter." Pyosz heard Yoj in the background say "That kind of dough would never rise -- " before Bux apparently went into a separate room and slammed a door loudly. "You're just starting out, in a new place, and if you rupture the trust others have in you there, you'll never get it back. I've made mistakes, Pyosz, a few of them very public, and after 40 years people still haven't forgotten some of them. I've worked very hard to earn the responsibility placed on my shoulders, and I know you, of all people, don't want to shit in your own tillage this way. I grew up with two emmas people trusted with their lives and their children, rightfully so, and one emma whom everybody knew was utterly unpredictable except that ultimately her own best interest would win out. They feared her and sometimes respected her acumen, but...You don't want to go down that path, child."

"I'm not, abba, I promise I won't" said Pyosz, beginning to extremely very worried.

"I'm retiring, Pyosz, I'm not going to run for re-election next midwinter -- and yeah, I've heard about that flatulent little challenger, it's nothing to do with her, I want to spend time at home with Halling. The point is, I won't have influence to pull you out of hot water. And Api will cover to the extent that it touches Oby and Mill, but she's never forgotten to wipe front to back, she has no comprehension of giving latitude the way we do in our family" continued Bux. Except when it comes to Abbo thought Pyosz.

"There's going to be at least one sharp person who puts the pieces together, no matter what story you come up with, and understands what you intended" said Bux. "It will be someone who is familiar with devious thought and expects to find it in others. You don't want that kind of person holding any power over you. So tread lightly, check with us or your emma before you make further leaps. And what happens to that clay field when you come back to Skene? If someone at the ejida wants retribution for having been hoodwinked, they'll move the goats to a pen on Dvareka and turn Saya into Argile with enjoyment."

Pyosz was now fighting nausea. Dimly she understood Bux was still talking about Yerush, about her experience of growing up with Yerush.

"So stay in touch, close touch, and clasp this tight to your chest. I love you, and I'll help you as much -- " Static broke in. Pyosz wished she'd begun with Bux and finished with Halling, maybe she wouldn't be this panicked if she had. She poured herself a glass of milk before dialing the Genist Manage.

To her relief, Prl answered. Pyosz said "I just confessed to the abbas, with Api's consent, and Bux reamed me out. I'm really scared now, emma." She took one call back to relay everything, including Api's prod, with Prl reminding her periodically to take a deep breath. She called back a second time to tell Prl her idea for how to return the missing forms. They went over it in detail, and Prl finally said "I think it will work. But it depends on you not trying to conceal your emotions. Let them see how distressed you are, it lends credibility. You're having genuine remorse now, and that's good. It will be good for them to witness it, even if they don't completely know the source."

"I feel so bad about disappointing abba, emma. She said she's retiring to spend time with Halling, did you know that? I'm worried about abba Halling, too, I don't think she's happy being retired. What if Bux hates it, too? And Yoj, how will she feel being the one leaving the house every day -- " paradoxically, it was concern for her abbas which finally released Prl's tears. She called back a fourth time to finish crying and hear Prl assure her "I'm looking after your abbas, child, and so is Speranz. Ndege hardly stirs from Sigrist Poke because she's terrified Gerra will find out she might like another kind of life, but Speranz and I are enough, my emmas are powerful women, not children. You set it all aside for tonight, and tomorrow morning you can call me any hour, we'll go through it step by step. All right?"

"All right, emma. Oh, and thank you so much for the gardenia oil. Please tell Lawa -- no, I'll take a photo and send it to her, never mind."

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

C. Diva said...

1) You are racing through this draft, it looks like.
2) Bux's description of Api was...a great snapshot of well, Bux, actually. Not that it (the description itself) matches Bux, but rather the imagery she used seemed so very Bux.
If not Halling, too, now that I think about it.

gnight, and thanks.