Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Pertama fish docks

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)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
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 day after Bux's funeral, Pyosz went with the rest of the Genist Manage to see off family at the jichang. They returned to her abbas' Manage -- one less abba, thought Pyosz -- to make breakfast and keep company. Tlunu had gone to sin, and both Speranz and Xunu decided to work as well, saying they needed the distraction. Plus they know I'm here thought Pyosz.

Pyosz borrowed the radio and went into the study to call first Gitta. "I heard, we all are so sorry for your family" said Gitta. "Don't worry about us here, folks want you to help your abbas."

Next she called Mrebbe, who repeated these sentiments. Pyosz said "I know you'll have to bring your own lunches or ferry over to the cafe all this week, I'll return that portion of your fee when I get back -- "

"You will not" said Mrebbe firmly. "This is a tragedy that you don't owe nobody for."

Pyosz let herself cry while talking. "If you have questions, you can call me at my abbas' here or the Genist Manage. Or if the hours are wrong, I've given full authority to any of my cousins on Herne."

"We've got it covered. All right if Xante digs and washes more clay? She said you're going to need it for the remaining tiles" asked Mrebbe.

"That would be wonderful, but make sure her time is compensated on the hourly sheet. Listen, speaking of the tiles, what are the finished dimensions for the interior walls of the bath room going to be?" Pyosz jotted down the figures and folded the note into her pocket.

After breakfast, she and Yoj collaborated on breadmaking, experimenting with a couple of recipes. Pyosz made two kinds of pie, both favorites of Halling. Halling herself sat in the tub for a long soak but once dressed, she didn't want to go into the tillage with Lawa or even make conversation.

Finally Prl said "Emma? The book you're planning to write?"

Halling looked at her dully. "Bux was going to help me."

"Well, I'm offering to -- " Take her place? Not possible. "Where are your notes, let's look at them together."

"I don't know" said Halling, waving vaguely in the direction of Yoj's study. Yoj stood with a grunt and walked stiffly to her desk, returning with a folder and notebook which she handed to Prl.

"Emma, sit at the table with me" asked Prl. Pyosz sat beside them, looking over Halling's shoulder as Prl drew her out with questions about the unfinished outline. Yoj retrieved a second folder and began writing on a pad.

"You writing the prologue for the collection of essays your publisher wants?" Qala asked her.

"No" said Yoj, hesitating for a moment. "I'm making a list of what I need to do so I can retire."

Halling stared at her. "You don't have to babysit me. None of you do."

Yoj flared instantly. "First of all, you persistently treat our seeking your company as some sort of charity on our part, I'm tired of it. And secondly, you'd levvin' well lay around in your schmatta eating cold bacon and staring at the walls if we left you to it, you're as bad as Ng was. Bux wasn't retiring to babysit you, how come you aim that accusation at me?"

"Because Bux volunteered it of her own accord, she didn't wait until she was pressured into it -- " began Halling.

"She may have volunteered it but she waited too late to make it actually happen, as it turns out, eh?" said Yoj. Her meanness took Pyosz's breath away. "She's gone, and I'm not going to levvin' walk out that door every morning with you here alone all day. I love you as much as she does -- did -- and if you don't believe me, you can ram your thumb up your ass and suck on it!"

Nobody reacted, or even appeared tp breathe. This is where Bux would have done something thought Bux. Broken, broken. Half a minute later, the kitchen timer went off, signaling the sponges were ready for more kneading and another rise. Taking a huge risk, Pyosz stood and said "I'll do it, abba, I'd rather you not put your hands in my dough with your apparent thumb habits."

Halling gaped at her, and it was another long breath before Yoj believed it had been said and that it was Pyosz who said it. She roared incredulously, and Lawa slapped Halling on the back, releasing Halling as well. Yoj went to Halling and said "I'm terrified of losing you, I want to spend every minute I can with you now. I have things to write, too, can't we find a way to work together?"

Hallling pulled Yoj onto her lap with a wince. "I still can't believe it" she whispered. "Will it ever be real? And when it is, how will we ever be happy again?"

"We'll do it together" answered Yoj. "We've done everything else together since fourth grade."

There was still strain and bravado in it. However, Pyosz saw Qala's shoulders relax. She worked the dough, returned it to bowls beside the aga, and interrupted Prl briefly to ask "Emma, could I borrow more of your chart paper? It's regarding a design for my Manage."

They all looked up with interest as Prl said "Of course, what -- ?"

"I'll show you, I'll be right back." Pyosz snatched her burzaka from the hook and zoomed out the door. At the schoolyard full of shrieking children, Thleen spotted her and ran to the wall. "You could come visit me every day you're in Skene!" she said hopefully.

"Well, tomorrow and Empat you'll see me at lunch with my abbas -- you still come, tell the leraar and your emmas we need you as much as ever. But the other two days, yes, I'll stop by for a visit" agreed Pyosz.

When she returned, she had several sheets of the heavy outsized paper, a roll of tape, and Prl's aluminum T-square. She washed half the long table while, at her request, Qala pulled the most detailed maps of Skene to be found in Yoj's study. There were few better at map-reading than Qala. Lawa was chopping vegetables for soup at the counter. "Will you roast those brussel sprouts the way you do with lardons of bacon?" Pyosz called out. Halling looked up at the mention of bacon. Lawa grinned a yes.

Pyosz retrieved the page of wall dimensions from her pocket and covered the back with math to determine the appropriate scale grid she'd need. She taped together several sheets and used the T-square to cover the expanse with penciled squares exactly 1/8 the size of the clay tiles she meant to make.

Lawa's curiosity broke through first. "Okay, what is that?" she called out.

Pyosz held up the sheet. "This is a reduced rendering of the wall behind my copper tub in my bath room. I'm going to assemble a second sheet that will be the oppsite wall, above the sinks. I'm doing a pair of tile murals but I have to sketch 'em out first."

"What will the murals be?" asked Qala, recognition dawning.

"Big one is my rendering of Pya, all the islands. Smaller one is Skene. On the other two walls will be butternut colored plain tile, floor will be ocean-colored tile with occasional sea creatures, and I'm going to paint constellations directly into the wood ceiling" said Pyosz. "I can see the whole thing in my head, I just hope I can get the clay to cooperate."

Qala whistled softly. "It'll be a room no one wants to leave." She exchanged a glance with Yoj. Pyosz spread out the sheet and said to Qala "Now, will you hold up that third map there, I need to eyeball the quadrants? Yeah, like that." Her hand began deftly sketching inward from one corner.

When it was time for the dough to be made into loaves, Yoj unobtrusively did it and set the pans in the aga. Pyosz was too engrossed to notice the growing delicious odor of soup and bread. Her progess drew their attention frequently, and it was with reluctance that Prl finally interrupted her to eat with them.

The mural was an excuse for them to all sit at the table, working together and slowly absorbing the reality that Bux was not ever going to come in the front door again. It took Pyosz three days to finish, with breaks for lunch with Thleen and visits from family. Maar or one of the Herne cousins called every morning before breakfast to give an account of Saya's construction from the day before, and Pyosz's repetition of these conversations also gave the group around the table something to discuss and anticipate.

Halling and Yoj began crying now when grief hit them and washed through. Pyosz herself felt desolation mostly two times a day: Approaching the copper door each morning, and then at bedtime. She kept crawling into Prl's bed at night, needing to hear her aggie's breathing shift as she slid into sleep.

At the end of dinner on Roku, Pyosz was on her feet instantly when a knock came at the front door. She pulled Maar inside and wrapped around her in relief. Maar leaned back to look at her and said "Much better." She scanned the faces turned her way from the table and murmured "All of you look much better."

She distributed mail and accepted a plate of food. "Sure have missed your cooking this week" she said, chomping into a cheese-larded roll. "Did Mrebbe call you today?" She added "Yes" to Prl who was offering gravy for the mashed parsnips.

"No, I figured it's their day off -- why, what's up?" asked Pyosz, starting to worry.

But Maar was chuckling. "She and Pank, plus a couple of gobsmacked timmers, got an owl visitation." She took a few seconds to swallow. "Mrebbe had stayed through dusk because one interior door wasn't plumb, she finally had to pull it loose and rehang it, kept crew behind to help her. Pank had finished milking and heard them, walked over from the barn to chat. They were in the house about 15 minutes putting away tools, Mrebbe said, before they came out the front door -- the porch has been partly framed but the decking isn't down yet, so they were walking a wide board to the edge. Mrebbe saw it first. On the side rail, nearest the trees, sat the owl. Your owl. It was facing them directly, eyes reflecting what little was left of sunset, and Mrebbe said it was taller than most first-graders. One of the timmers screamed and fell off the walkway into the crawlspace below, starting to thrash around in panic even more. Mrebbe pulled out her flash and they all bent over to pull out the woman, and by the time they looked around again, the owl had vanished. Never made a sound. Mrebbe said the timmer who fell, they had to walk her like an escort not just to the ferry but all the way home outside Koldok, she was so rattled. Except Pank, of course, who set off into the dark pasture whistling cheerfully on her way back to Herne."

Pyosz enjoyed the reaction Maar was getting around the table. She could imagine Mrebbe was dining out on the story this weekend.

"So she comes at night to check the day's progress" mused Pyosz.

"Your porch has such an excellent view, perhaps it's a boon to her shu patrol" said Maar.

"Well, that eliminates the hope I had that sometimes I could sit out there at night with a katt on my lap" said Pyosz.

"They're both well, by the way" said Maar. "Whenever I stop by, I've been combing their fur, so Ember now comes at a trot when she sees me. I brought a flat of isda one day, brushed them with tarragon butter, grilled them with some eggplant, made hot rice, and fed the timmers lunch. Frahe's been making cakes at night and Pank bring them each morning to leave in your kitchen for the midmorning tea break. Oh, and Killer's really looking for you, so yesterday afternoon I let her through the gate for half an hour of getting ear rubs from all the crew. First though she made a beeline for the katts, sent them both up trees."

"I'm never sure if it's just curiosity on her part or whether she might do them harm" said Pyosz. "Curds mortally hates her."

Maar had cleared her plate and accepted the fruitcake Yoj offered. She leaned back, suddenly somber, and said "The memorial service for Nan Bux was beautiful. It will be the front page in tomorrow's Pya paper."

Hakking said "Tell us everything." Maar recounted Dodd's playing, the tribute from Api, Mill's repetition of Prl's eulogy -- "Except she had to read from notes and she kept breaking down" -- and the firelight procession up Pertama Poke. "I heard several folks saying how sorry they were that you weren't there" she said to Pyosz. "Two people said at least her eyes live on in yours."

After a moment, Speranz spoke up. "I heard today that the woman whose factory where it happened, who was the one that probably left the machinery unstable -- she hasn't been back to work, her family says she's not able to sleep and isn't eating unless they force her. They're afraid her mind is breaking."

Yoj said softly "She called Bux in because they were actually quite close and she trusted Bux to help her calm down about the theft."

"Alleged theft" said Speranz. "Turns out, something may have just been midsplaced."

For nothing, don't tell me she died for nothing thought Pyosz.

But Yoj and Halling were looking at each other. Finally Halling sighed and said "I'll write her tomorrow."

"I'll help you" said Yoj.

After Maar was finished and they began to clear the table, Qala said to Pyosz "Show her what you've been doing, I want to see her face." Pyosz spread her pencil-sketch mural before Maar, who instantly stood to bend over it.

"Stars, Pyosz, this is like a sinner's view -- except it's more impressions, isn't it? You put in the zip line on Trumpinne, and the noodle factory up here at Talaba -- the rice paddies, the giant forest, the new volcano -- oh, Pubu Falls..." This last was said in a tone that made everyone glance at Maar, then Pyosz. "But there's some blanks, I see."

"I need more flyovers" grinned Pyosz. "Soon as we can fit them in."

"This is simply extraordinary" marveled Maar. "Thirty years from now, as you give your grandchildren baths in this room, you can show them what Pya used to look like."

"When half the Pea Pods were still wild, and before Pertama was as crowded as Riesig" agreed Pyosz, a little wistful. "Here's the second sheet of Skene, this one is all done." The symbolism of her statement rocked Prl back on her heels, though no one else seemed to notice.

After an hour, Prl leaned toward Maar and said "You look tuckered. Will you accept a bed from us tonight?"

"I'd be honored" said Maar. "I'm leaving early to meet my sibs, though."

"Bring them for a visit" said Halling. Yoj added "And Shmonah dinner here with everyone." The week anniversary of Bux's death.

They left for the Genist Manage not long after. Maar carried her bag into Pyosz's room as directed and sat down wearily on the bed, removing her otos with a soft groan. Pyosz pushed her down on the bed and curled beside her, lying her head on Maar's shoulder. Prl appeared in the doorway and looked at them askance.

Pyosz said softly "You need a bath."

"Indeed I do" said Maar, smiling. She shifted so it was her head lying on Pyosz's shoulder. "You kmow, Briel met Dodd when we landed and Dodd sat down on the tarmac, blubbering about her aggie. Briel sat in her lap as if they were alone at home. It was very moving."

"Come sit down, emma" said Pyosz, noticing Prl. She raised her voice to call Qala and Lawa as well, pulling up her feet to make room for Prl. "What else?" she asked Maar.

"Mill looks wretched, and she's forgetting things. I think she's bottled up. She overhead Abbo saying to some pilots 'Well, the mercy is that she died instantly' and she went off on her, yelling there was no mercy in any part of it" said Maar.

"Is Oby looking after her?" asked Pyosz.

"Much as she can, Api looks suddenly older as well. I did the schedules this week, and Oby said I could be in charge of it next week too" said Maar. "What else with you?"

"It's getting better, which I often feel is a betrayal to abba, you know? I'm sometimes like Halling, I think we shouldn't be able to ever get over it" said Pyosz. "I'm still having moments where I feel like my feet are not solid on the ground and I don't know what to do next."

"Mm-hm" said Maar.

"And honestly, Maar, I've questioned my decision to move to Pya. It feels utterly selfish in the face of all this." Maar closed her eyes briefly.

It was Prl who answered. "Oh, no, you mustn't be tricked that way. It was emma -- Bux -- who helped bring around Yoj and Halling to the fact that your tenancy on Saya, your finding what you are meant to do, is exactly what we intend in how we raise children in this family. She was enormously excited about your Manage, said several times if Qen and Veida were still alive, they'd move there right away."

Lawa added "A good life leaves a hole nobody can fill when that person dies. But new shoots naturally travel away to fresh soil."

Buttressed by others, Maar could find words to say "But you can have doubts as long as you want. Nobody's pushing you through the kissing gate." Pyosz snuggled closer. "What else else?" she whispered.

When Maar fell asleep, Pyosz got up quietly and unlaced Maar's gilet, removing it and her kalsongers with Qala's help. She covered Maar with blankets and set the alarm before leaving the room with Prl.

In the kitchen, Prl asked "She helps take care of Mill, then?"

"Mill and Oby were like the emmas Maar never had" said Pyosz. "They took her in, not because of Abbo but because they could see how special Maar is. And her desperate need for family. Maar is protective of all of us."

"No one I'd rather have on my side" remarked Qala.

"I'm almost asleep myself, I'm heading straight for bed" said Pyosz.

"You need me? -- " began Prl.

"No, I'm fine" said Pyosz, kissing them goodnight. Prl noticed, in fact, the strain had left Pyosz's face for the first time in several days. "Dream sweet" she called after her child.

When it was time to leave to meet the huolon, it was Prl who tugged a sobbing Pyosz out the copper door and down the lane. This is what it means to be an emma she kept reminding herself brutally. This is part of the deal.

Pyosz had wiped her eyes enough as they circled to land at Yanja to see Maar and Abbo helping load a family onto the freighter. The new folks on Kacang she remembered. Then, seditiously, I'm going home.

As she handed her bag in to Abbo, she got a close look at Maar's face and saw she was ragged.

"You haven't slept enough, have you?" she asked.

"No. Thleen's having a hard time. In fact, if you'll take the front berth next to Abbo, she says I can stretch out the second bench and sleep the beginning leg back" said Maar. Pyosz nodded and help Maar fold down the second row. The space behind it was stacked with carriers containing screaming katts, some of whom were clearly already voiding in terror, from the smell of things. The next sets of seats contained three adults, one of whom was visibly pregnant, and three young children making as much noise as the katts. Behind them were crates of cargo, and in the far rear corner, a savvy Pyan traveler had folded down a jumpseat: Better to sit on metal for seven hours than deal with all the odors and racket of new migrants.

Maar sat up long enough to go through checklist and take-off with Abbo, then lay down with a sigh Pyosz could hear over the engines straining to climb. She lashed herself into the netting, zipped up her guiba, put her cap over her eyes, rolled into Pyosz's blanket, and appeared to go instantly to sleep. Pyosz kept looking back at her.

Instead, once they reached altitude and some of the noise died down, Abbo began nattering on about the dance they'd had on Bosco over the weekend, how she'd dazzled everybody with her footwork, how it was too bad Pyosz missed such a good band. Completely ignoring the sad family gathering they'd had that night. Pyosz wanted to tune her out. However, she suspected if she tried to read or catch a nap herself, Abbo was not above "accidentally" waking up Maar just to have someone entertain her. She was not long on inner resources, their Abbo.

When Abbo decided to begin reminiscing about past dances, Pyosz felt desperate. She interrupted her to say "I've been thinking of tackling a math problem with regard to Pya. Well, concerning all of Skene, actually."

To her surprise, Abbo didn't glaze over. Instead, she said "Creating an equation or simply totting up columns?"

Pyosz suddenly remembered that the family had always talked about how good at numbers Abbo could be, if she only applied herself. Mill had added "You could say that about all sorts of things in relation to Abbo -- that she could excel if she'd only apply herself." Halling had replied with some story about Mill nearly failing a term when she was school, because of the influence of some early crush, it sounded like.

Pyosz began outlining the question she and Yoj had discussed the night before: At what point would the population on Pya and Skene combined be enough to forestall possible extinction from all but a comet strike or self-destruction? And what kind of resource husbandry could help them reach that goal?

Abbo sunk her teeth into the idea immediately. Eventually Pyosz retrieved her bag, quietly, from the bench underneath Maar and extracted a notebook to begin jotting down ideas as they talked back and forth. After filling a couple of pages, enjoying her cousin's mind in a way she never had, she pulled a thermos of hot tea from her bag and offered Abbo a cup.

Abbo accepted, but then exclaimed "Look at the time! We've gassed on for three hours. Wake up Maar, will you, I need to move and stretch."

Pyosz put her hand on Maar's belly and shook gently. Maar awoke with a jerk, her cap dropping to the floor as she tried to sit up and could not because of the harness. Her weary eyes registered memory of where she was, and she unfastened herself, running both hands through her fine red buzz. Pyosz started to reach out her own hand and cup it over the top of Maar's head, but stopped herself. Instead, she said "I have tea, if you want it."

"I do" said Maar, her voice gravelly from fatigue. "But first I have to hold my breath and use the privy."

By the time she returned, Pyosz had moved to the bench and turned it back into two seats, taking the one behind Abbo so she could look diagonally up at Maar as she piloted. Abbo and Maar negotiated transfer of the controls, and Maar accepted a cup of tea from Pyosz. Abbo took plates of food from the hamper and was already talking a blue streak about the dance again. As Pyosz leaned back, pulling on her shoulder harness, a small figure slid into the seat beside her. Multiple adult voices of protest came from the rear, and the child turned to shout at them "Up here there's a window so I can see."

Pyosz released her harness to face the emmas and assure them it was all right. She buckled in the child before resuming her own harness again.

"We're emigrating" the child announced proudly. "To Pya." As if there was any other destination from Skene.

"Are those all your katts back there?" asked Pyosz.

"Yes, and they're not usually so stinky. Emma says they don't understand what flying means. But I do, I want to be a pilot when I grow up."

Pyosz saw a smile appear on Maar's face in the rear-view mirror. Pyosz held her hand out to the child and said "My name is Pyosz, and I live on Pya. What's your name?"

"Ziri. I know who you are, I met you with Thleen, remember? I used to live on Verzin, but now I'll be living on Pya." It was a wonder that couldn't be repeated enough, apparently. "That's my emmas, and my sibus. There's three of us children, and aggie is going to have another one soon, but she'll be born on Pya."

"Ah, you're Thleen's best friend, aren't you? She must be heartbroken about your moving." Pyosz looked with comprehension up at Maar.

"I don't want to talk about that" said Ziri, studying her harness buckle. After a minute she said "My emmas have been to Pya already, lots, but I had to stay home with my abbas. But in a few weeks, my abbas will be coming too, all three of them. They have to put their affairs in order first." Ziri clearly was proud of this adult phrase passing her lips.

"What do your emmas do?" asked Pyosz.

"Emma is a hydrologist" -- another big word glibly spoken -- "aggie is a botanist, and emma is a manufacturer of machine parts." Ziri craned around to point fingers at her emmas, busy dealing with outraged younger children who wanted to move up front, too.

Pyosz was impressed. These were badly needed skills on Pya, Mill and the rest must be dancing in jubilation. Ziri continued "See, my emmas want to have heaps of children, but they can't on Skene. So we're gong to Pya. We've got a whole island to ourselves, plenty of room for heaps of children. Do you know what the Pea Pods are?"

"Indeed I do. I live on Saya, which is the pod that all the peas fall from. I happen to know the island you're moving to, Kacang, you can see it from my kitchen and we'll be sharing a ferry, you and me." Ziri was electrified, even more so when Pyosz said "You'll have to come visit me as soon as you get a chance. I'm the capriste on Saya, and also a keramiker."

"Can I pet your goats?"

"They would like that. Most of them, anyhow. I have two katts as well. And a woods of my very own, and beyond that a hot springs you could soak in. I have bees and make my own honey, too." Pyosz could tell she had now become a Magical Being to Ziri.

"Emma says I'll ride the ferry to school every day, but there's always Morrie Vaseo." Ziri wanted confirmation.

"I use that very ferry twice every day, sometimes in the dark of night, and I have never once seen a leviathan in our kuono. It's too shallow for them to come into that part of the channel. Safe as worlds, those boats are. Let's see, how old are you, Ziri?"

"I just turned eight."

"Oh, excellent, you'll be starting second grade then. My sibemma Dodd will be your teacher. When you meet her, be sure to tell her you are already friends with Pyosz, she'll welcome you especially after that." Ziri could not believe her good fortune. Pyosz piled it on a little. "My other sibemma is Mill, the Sheng Zhang. And through her I'm related to the Ethicist as well. We're all neighbors there in the Pea Pods."

There was a silence behind them. The emmas were listening in, and figuring out exactly who Pyosz was -- or had been -- on Skene. Despite Abbo's drone, Pyosz thought Maar was eavesdropping as well.

"Have you ever seen an owl, then?" asked Ziri.

"Yep, there's a famous one on Saya. Scared me silly once, because she's so big, but she's no harm to people. She keeps the shu away for us."

"Is there an owl on Kacang?" Ziri hoped and dreaded at the same tme.

"I don't know for sure, but if there are several trees, then it's likely. You won't see her during the day, you know, you'll have to watch for her after the sun sets."

Eventually Abbo folded a small blanket into a pillow shape and leaned it against the side for her head, going to sleep as effortlessly as Maar had. Ziri, however, had endless stores of energy and questions. The next three hours passed easily. The emmas broke out sandwiches and water bottles to feed their children. Pyosz helped Ziri negotiate the meal, and when they were done, she shared some of Yoj's cookies with Ziri and the rest of her family.

A few minutes later, Maar shook Abbo and said "We're 20 minutes out." As Abbo roused herself, Ziri said "What does that mean?"

"It means very soon we are going to catch our first glimpse of Pya. Only you know what, the view is best from where I'm sitting. Let's trade seats, you deserve to have a good view of your new world." Ziri was so restless, Pyosz had trouble getting her buckled in again. Her small puffs of breath were steaming up the cold glass six inches away as she yearned for a sight of something more than blue ocean or red morrie strati.

Pyosz told her where to keep focused and that if the blue started looking greenish, that meant it was the forests of Mti on the horizon. Maar gave a small waggle of her orange eyebrows at Pyosz only a few seconds before Ziri gave an ear-splitting scream: "I see it! Pya, that's Pya, right?"

Pyosz narrated what they were passing over. She wasn't sure how much penetrated through Ziri's fevered state, but she found herself choking up as she said "And that's Saya, my home island. See, the goats are heading to the barn to get milked and then put to bed for the night." She felt an ache in her hands, wishing it were her doing the milking.

Once they were on the tarmac, Ziri's emmas were personally welcomed by Api and Ollow. Pyosz stuck around to help them contend with three excited children in an industrial work environment. Mill arrived to give Pyosz a long hug before handing a basket of stopgap groceries to the new arrivals. They all helped load luggage and family into the ferry, Ziri's high voice a nonstop echo over the still water.

Pyosz remained on the wharf, waiting for the ferry to return. Maar kept her company, talking about Thleen with worried fatigue. Mill sent the ferry back from the pylon, returning to help settle in the Kacang family, Pyosz felt itchy to get to Saya and waved bye once to Maar before facing her own dock.

It was full dark by the time she walked the rocky path to her cabin. Lights were visible across the water on Kacang. Pyosz opened her cabin door to yowling katts, willing to pretend they had not been fed that night.

She decided to check on the other animals. Grabbing a flash, she went first to the chicken house, where she found two freshly-laid eggs and a chanticleer trying to throw her weight around. Killer and a few other goats met her gladly at the barn door, and she noted the floor needed mucking out again.

She poured herself a pitcher of cold milk and returned to the kitchen. Then she toured her new Manage, feeling bittersweet excitement about all the visible progress which had been made in her absence. She went to the porch railing, looking for talon marks or droppings, but found none.

She didn't feel like cooking tonight, and the cold box held the makings of a salad plus a plate of bridies made from Pirinc mutton and Herne onions. She assembled the salad and dressed it. She heated two of the bridies briefly in the aga as water came to a boil for tea. She sat down to her homecoming feast with her notebook and began assembling the ideas from her conversation with Abbo into an elegant report and sets of equations she could send to the abbas.

By the time she was done, the paper was damp with dew and both moons were visible. She cleared her dishes, noting residual stiffness from the long jarring flight, and went to bed. "Home" she whispered to Curds as the katt curled into her side.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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