Tuesday, December 15, 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)


Two days later was Halling's birthday. Pyosz called in the morning as soon as she had rushed back from Koldok.

"Abba, it aches to not be there for your birthday, are you having a lovely dinner?"

"It's moved on from dinner into party. Here, let me try out what Prl got me -- this radio turns into a speaker sort of device so everyone in the room can hear -- are you still there, child? Shit and thunderation, I've disconnected her "

Speranz's voice said "No, you haven't, just push this button here -- move your hand, emma -"

In the background, Pyosz heard Ehall proclaim in piercing tones "Habibi said a bad word!" and then Thleen urging "What bad word, I didn't hear a bad word." Simultaneously Maar said "Thleen, knock it off" as Ehall whispered loudly "Shit and funderation." Through laughter, Pyosz kept repeating "I'm here abba, I can hear you all" until finally Halling said "There you are, okay, I've got it now, Speranz. Pyosz, I'm astounded by this map of Pya you sent me, where did you get it?"

"A friend of mine here, Uli, drew it, it hasn't been published anywhere yet" said Pyosz. "But the Lofthall here has a copy." She heard Maar pointing out fish migration symbols in an undertone to somebody. Yoj said plaintively "If you'll let me copy it, I wouldn't have to ask to borrow it", which Halling seemed to be ignoring. Instead, Qala's voice came through, "Say hello to Uli for me when you see her, and Dekkan, too."

"Hey, I have an interesting tidbit for you" said Pyosz. "The rabbit has gone missing!" She heard Maar burst into laughter, and Ehall, who had been repeating "Emma, wat is funderation? Wat's funderation, emma?" now switched to "Wat is wabbit?" She heard Lawa start an explanation as Qala asked "Did an owl get it?"

"No, it was in an indoor run when last seen" said Pyosz. "Suspicion fell initially on Brek, but she has hotly denied rescuing it, as she puts it, and has offered her Manage up for a search, which has shifted public opinion away from her as a thief." She heard peals of laughter coming from both Ehall and Thleen, and knew, irresistibly, that Lawa must have fingers stuck up like ears beside her head and be hopping across the floor.

"I bet it's the Owl People!" called out Maar, giggling.

"Well, except it has been neutered, and the Owl People are focused on creating a habitat on Chwet, not pets per se. The speculation here is everyone's chief form of entertainment right now, gladly replacing that of -- " Pyosz stopped herself. The murder.

Suddenly somber, Halling said quietly "The woman in the hospital gave a deposition to Bux today. The trial is tomorrow afternoon."

"Oh abba, I'm so sorry." Pyosz hoped Bux knew this was aimed at her. Bux replied "I wish you were here. I might as well tell you, the newspaper has it: She testified against her partner and requested she be exiled." Bux's voice was almost unrecognizable, gravelly and flat. Ehall was still chortling in the background, but Pyosz bet Thleen was now listening to the adults near the radio.

With an obvious effort, Bux said "That card you made for Halling was a work of art, Pyosz. When are we going to see ceramics flowing from your hand?"

"Soon" promised Pyosz. Thleen broke in: "I made Nan Halling a card too, s'bem -- I mean, Pyosz -- it's a sinner killing a leviathan. I used up all my red paint on it."

Pyosz made a mental note to send Thleen more paints even as she exulting over that slip, being called sibemma. Halling, always ready to be a killjoy when it came to matters in her expertise, said "You know, lev blood isn't actually red."

"Thunderation!" burst out Thleen, and as Maar began an intervention, Pyosz said "This kind of radio is a marvelous device, abba, what a perfect gift for you." Prl jumped in with "Do you want me to send you one as well?"

"Oh, no, I make my calls alone, I wouldn't use it, emma." Pyosz was willing to bet Prl wouldn't get one either, citing Genist need for confidentiality but the real reason is that Prl wouldn't want to share her calls like this.

Pyosz meant to call the following morning, when it would be just past dinnertime in Skene, her abbas home from the horrors of the trial, but a violent thunderstorm which lasted until noon made her leery of all electronics, especially in a metal cabin or under the kitchen's tin roof. It was just as well.

When Bux, Yoj, and Halling got home from the trial, held in the main hall at the University, Halling was in deep pain from the walk uphill that she was trying to deny in order to comfort Bux. They walked into a warm Manage redolent with the smells of a seafood chowder and fresh rolls Tlunu had made -- she wasn't a creative cook but she made delectable basics. Halling sat in the nearest chair and Bux returned from their bedroom with a jar of liniment, pulling a footstool beside the chair.

"You don't have to do that" began Halling.

"Hush. It will soothe me as well" said Bux, warming a puddle of ointment between her palms while Yoj, with grunts, removed Halling's otos and sokken. As Bux began rubbing to Halling's groans, Yoj hung up their wet burzakas and went to the kitchen to wash her hands.

"How did it go?" asked Speranz in a low voice, dressing steamed carrots and greens with some of Pyosz's garlic oil.

"Bux exiled her" said Yoj. She looked at Tlunu. "I'm sure Danaan will tap you as part of the group who will fly her out to Peisuo tomorrow."

"I've never actually landed there" said Tlunu.

"It's forsaken. I wish it had never appeared above the surface of the ocean" said Yoj, but not loud enough for Bux to hear. She added milk and honey to two mugs of tea and carried them to her partners, holding Bux's to her lips so Bux could keep rubbing Halling's ankles. Tlunu set the table and called in "Come while it's hot."

Halling was already walking easier as she and Bux went to wash their hands. Bux sat at the end next to the sideboard, flanked by Bux and Halling. In habit from when this table was more occupied but would now strike a visitor as odd, Speranz sat far away at the other end with Tlunu to her left.

After a bite, Bux said "Look at all the crab in this stew!"

"Yeah, I traded a nice dogefish for it from a Bohaira crabber at the docks" said Tlunu, pleased with herself. "There's more dogefish in the coldbox for tomorrow."

"I'm taking the day off tomorrow -- after escorting the Peisuo contingent to their departure, I mean" said Bux. She looked at Halling. "I'll roll the filets in nut meal and fry them in bacon fat for your lunch, you love that."

"I'll stay home, too" offered Yoj. "After going with you" she said to Bux. A concession perhaps only the three of them could appreciate.

After another minute of eating, Yoj added "I'll make a crate of books and spices to send along with the allotment to Peisuo." Which was extralegal but she knew Bux would agree with it.

Halling buttered a second roll and was about to speak when Bux said "I told her, when we met after sentencing -- I explained we wouldn't call for a week or answer her calls unless she said it was an emergency. And if she lied about her need, the silence would get worse. I said we'd bring chickens and katts when we go to check on her after a week." She had stopping eating and was playing with kelp in her chowder.

"I can find a kitten for her, as well as a grown hunter" offered Yoj. "Lawa will have a line on chickens -- "

"She won't be alive in a week" said Bux tonelessly. "She'll simply lie down and die." Everyone looked at her. She dropped her spoon into her bowl and leaned her face into her hands. "She died a month ago, her body just hasn't caught up."

Yoj waited for Bux to cry. Speranz said, "What do you mean, a month ago? The murder was only -- "

"When they ended the meaning of her existence, the definition she'd built on her entire adult life!" burst out Bux. "The two people she trusted most said 'Yeah, we've realized you're not so special to us anymore, no hard feelings but could you stand a little farther away, you smell a little.' She died then. I can absolutely imagine what happened to her inside."

After a moment, Halling said "You can imagine that happening to you?"

Bux wheeled on her "Don't be stupid, Halling. I don't mean I'd ever think you and Yoj could feel that way about me, I got over my shit decades ago." Speranz and Tlunu glanced as each other as they kept eating. "But I can still imagine what it would be like, can't you?"

Yoj said "Yes" quietly. "She couldn't see any way to start over, not living at the edge of the world and left behind by her children, and now her partners. I think her advocate should have argued for insanity."

"I agree, and I urged her to" said Bux, her voice thick. "That poor woman kept telling me her partners were only temporarily gone, they'd come back for her any minute now. Clearly she's not competent. I'd still have to exile her, but she needs a caregiver. Her family refused to go in that direction, however. When the surviving partner is well enough, she's migrating to Pya with her daughter, Wyspa Fling will come to new tenants."

"Ay, what sort of desperate family will take it?" wondered Yoj out loud. Halling looked at her, communicating without words.

"They've dumped her like molded paper, and she probably won't eat a bite of whatever we send to Peisuo with her" said Bux, finally giving in to her suppressed grief. "I could have exonerated her, I seriously considered it, let the new Ethicist deal with a retrial if community outrage demanded it. But without a family, where could she go?" Halling pulled Bux toward her. Before leaning her face against Halling's shoulder, Bux ripped the dark green collar and medallion of office from her throat and flung it on the floor. One of Yoj's elderly katts actually roused itself from near-perpetual slumber and tottered over to investigate.

The next day, Yoj recounted Bux's anguish privately to Prl, who passed it on unedited to Pyosz. Bux's prediction about the exile proved accurate, with an odd twist: After the sinner had departed, the exile had shoved all her allotment supplies off the kitchen table onto the floor and laid on the table to die, never even turning on the hearth.

"Why the table?" mused Qala. "Why not the bed?"

"It's the first place I look for family when I get home" answered Lawa. "She still thought they were going to come for her."

That week, while a dead woman lay on a forsaken table waiting to be discovered by Tlunu, Pyosz was spending her afternoons experimenting with pot glazes. She was buying the time for it by doing her orchard processing after dinner, meaning a string of late nights that were beginning to show on her face. Maar made her meals a couple of times, but there was no mistaking Pyosz's fever to be translating the visions in her mind to bowls and plates. For once, Pyosz had no letters to send home to her family. Or to Thleen, which finally intruded on Pyosz's obsession.

She loaded what she had finished into her kiln and turned it on, grateful that day was cold enough to hint at the onset of winter in a month. She wished Maar were in town to invite for dinner, but she had returned to Skene, remarking the exile's remaining family would be flying back on the huolon. Pyosz focused on roasting pistachios, arriving on her trees in abundance, and made a warm mash for her goats before she called them in for milking.

After dinner, while quince jelly bubbled on the aga, she sliced apples into a lemon-water bath and called her abbas. Bux told her about the exile's death and they cried together. Yoj was making the funeral arrangements because the family had declined. "I hope I never have to associate with them when they get back to Pya" remarked Pyosz. "I don't understand murder but I don't understand how they're being about it, either."

Which roused mixed emotions in Yoj: Gratitude at her grandchild's innate compassion, and worry at the implication that Pyosz's residence on Pya might become permanent.

Right after Pyosz clicked off the radio, it buzzed again. This time it was Maar, saying "Can you spare a minute to talk, I need to tell you something."

"I've finally turned over my pots to firing, and I already know the news, I just talked to my abbas" said Pyosz.

"Uh...they don't know yet, so -- what are you talking about?" said Maar. After hearing Pyosz's update, Maar said, "No, I wanted to tell you I'll be here in Skene an extra day, at least. A wicked weather system is socked in over the ocean and I don't think we can climb high enough to avoid a risky run. The good news is that I'll be with my sibs for the New Year, which has made Thleen very happy because school starts up again the following day, you know. We're going to dip Pomar apples from Ngall in honey from Saya. The bad news is, well, obviously I won't be there for New Year."

Pyosz was taken off guard by how disappointed she was. "I'll really miss you. I guess I'll go to Herne, or Dodd's. But I'm happy for Thleen" she said.

"This last year was the best of my life, and I have high hopes for the one about to commence" said Maar softly.

"Me too" said Pyosz.

The next morning Pyosz went on to Pertama to meet with Nioma. She found their discussion invigorating, partly because she was trying to decide if a teenaged Prl could have carried a torch for a teenaged Nioma. She found this exercise a little too difficult in the end. Maybe I can ask Dodd she thought.

Going to sleep that night, she kept remembering one remark Nioma had made. She had expressed sympathy for how the recent trial and outcome must have upset Pyosz's abbas, which in someone else would have been an attempt at extracting gossip, but Pyosz thought was not so with Nioma. She had then said "Skene loves to imagine it prioritizes balance. We especially believe we have evolved beyond the savagery of those on the original planet, whose ways we had to abandon in order to survive. But at times like this, our imbalance and savagery are clearly retained. And I'm not referring to the murderer."

After she left the ejida office, Pyosz's eye was caught by a Pertama storefront showing children's toys, including a plush representation of a rabbit. She went right in and discovered there were only two of these, both delivered that morning. "What fur is this?" she wondered, running her fingers through the odd-looking creature's covering.

"Squirrel" answered the shopkeeper. "It's been dyed." The source was almost as startling as if it had been rabbit. Pyosz looked at her and said "Do you have relations, then, among the -- among those from Chwet?"

"By partnership, yes" the woman answered with a flinty grin. Pyosz asked how much the toy cost and sucked in her breath at the answer. But these will never make their way to Skene she thought. And if she's kin, the folks on Chwet are making some coin from this. She looked over the rest of the woman's stock and walked out with both plush rabbits, plus a small carved version to send Qala and Lawa; two perfectly functional miniature bicycles; a pair of toy sheep whose fleece snapped on and off; and two squirrel tails, one for her katts and one for Yoj's. She had no money left to buy a lentil patty but her gift-giving for Ehall and Thleen was taken care of for months.

Pank ambled up to the Saya kitchen as Pyosz was finishing lunch, accepting a cup of barley soup and settling into a chair. "We need apples and honey for the new year" she said.

"Take all you want from my larder" said Pyosz. She showed her new toys to Pank, who marveled at the bicycles. Then Pank said "I was thinking you might want to do your honey harvest early. My elbows says it's gonna be a fierce winter."

"Your elbows are good enough for me" said Pyosz.

"Anyhow, I'm free this afternoon, be glad to help you" said Pank. "Tu is planting and being disagreeable."

Pyosz wondered what that looked like. She said "Well, it's cold and dry, it would be a good day for keeping bees calm. Sure. I'll get my gear together." When she returned rumbling the wain behind her, she saw Ember leap six feet into the air trying to catch the squirrel tail Pank was dangling over her own head. Still laughing, she called the allotment center and asked to rent the extractor and hot knife again.

"Everybody wants that equipment right now" said the snarky clerk. "There's one coming back in at 5:00 today but it has to be somewhere else by noon tomorrow, and then nothing will be available for over a week."

"I'll take what you got for overnight. I'll call the Lofthall and arrange delivery myself" said Pyosz, resigning herself to another scanty night of sleep.

Pank picked the orchard while Pyosz pulled supers. Pank stuck around back at the kitchen, shelling nuts and telling Pyosz about the play someone in her troupe was writing. Pyosz sat at the table with her, cutting nectarines for drying and apples for applesauce. Once these items were in the second stage of processing, Pyosz went to her kiln and felt its lid.

"Completely cool" she said. "You want to see my first run?"

Pank stood and cleared the table swiftly. She turned out to be an ideal person to view the results with: Pyosz wanted to pore over detail of what had worked and what had not, and Pank had infinite patience coupled with curiosity. Pyosz lost all track of time. When she heard the sinner overhead, she said "Oh, stars, the extractor delivery" and ran for her wain.

Whoever was lowering the pallet was not at all skilled in it. It took her four tries, nearly decapitating Pyosz until she got well away from the jichang, and the sinner landed afterward with a sickening lurch. Pyosz wasn't surprised when it was Dekkan, cheeks flaming, who emerged from the hatch. She held out a paper-wrapped bundle and said "I, uh, brought some cauca from the fish docks."

Oh, lev thought Pyosz and she heard Pank's chuckle from the trail.

Dekkan helped her muscle the equipment from the pallet into her wain, and Pyosz of course had to invite her to dinner, adding "I have more work to do than I can quite handle, you'll have to help. What can you cook?"

"Uh..." But Dekkan's gaze had gone to one of the new plates on the table. and she reached out to pick it up. "Don't" said Pyosz sharply. She removed her pottery to a cupboard as Pank set up the extractor.

"I can make risotto" said Dekkan, not meeting Pyosz's eyes. "And, uh, I'm pretty good with salads."

Pyosz took pity on her. "Excellent. Go to the tillage and pull for a salad plus one veggie to mince into the risotto, all right?" Dekkan strode into the dusk.

"Your strainer in the barn?" called out Pank.

"Yes, and buckets that will seal afterward" answered Pyosz. Lowering her voice she said "Cauca is my least favorite seafood, it's so bland and falls apart easily. I'll have to make a marinade that will flavor it without starting the cooking process." Pank was giggling again.

Pyosz set a pan on the stove and added chicken stock to heat for the risotto. Dekkan returned with an armload of produce just as Tu came around the barn. Tu stopped a few feet away from Pank and said "I'm sorry I threw that trowel at you."

"I'm sorry I laughed when your pants split open. Although it was lovely to see your buttery ass" said Pank.

Dekkan had frozen, her eyes showing a lot of white.

"Will you come home now?" asked Tu.

No no no begged Pyosz with her eyes, the two of you have to stay here and eat with us. But Pank laughed and said "I was about to head that way. I'll be back tomorrow, Pyosz. We're going to need at least 20 pounds of honey, we're going to use it to glaze hams this winter. But wait til you see what I have to give you in exchange." Pank picked up the bucket of fruit cores for her pigs, handed a bag of apples to Tu, and they ambled off. A chorus of bleats arose from the kissing gate when they reached it, and Pyosz said to Dekkan "I have to go milk, I set you up to get started on the risotto, please leave the fish to me."

By the time she returned, Dekkan had removed her gilet and rolled up the sleeves of her shati. Pyosz thought irritably I just turned 21, doesn't she realize that means we're out of sui? But Dekkan was visibly sweating as she grinned hopefully at Pyosz. "You, uh, got a radio call, they told me to take a message,"

Oh LEV. "Who was it?" Pyosz was rapidly beating a raw egg into her katts' crumbled fisk as they yowled at her feet.

"Uh, your abba."

"Which one?" Pyosz jerked open her cabin door and turned on the light so she didn't trip over the katts.

"She didn't give me her name. But she asked you to send her her own map and for her birthday she wants a historical record nobody has ever seen."

Pyosz was now back in the kitchen, pushing in next to Dekkan to put fish under the broiler. "Oh, that was Yoj" she said, laughing.

"The Archivist? She asked me a lot of questions about who I was" Dekkan said hoarsely. The risotto looked done and Pyosz turned the burner off under the pot. Clapping Dekkan on her shoulder, Pyosz said "I have to run feed the chickens. Set the table and I'll be right back." She felt pity again at the look of gratitude Dekkan gave her.

The fish was dry, the salad gritty, but the risotto actually good. Pyosz served them sponge cake covered with fresh applesauce for dessert, by which time Dekkan was no long starting every sentence with "Uh" and had even made Pyosz laugh hard with a story from flight school.

"Well, I'm a dreadful host tonight, Dekkan, but I can't linger at the table any longer, I have to unseal those supers over there and let the honey strain overnight" said Pyosz.

"I can help, I don't have to get the sinner back" said Dekkan eagerly. But when they reached the supers, a few doomed bees were sitting sluggishly on the wood.

"Uh -- I swell up enormous when I get bit" said Dekkan, backing away.

"Tell you what, go do the dishes and I'll call you if I need help lifting" said Pyosz. But she was done before Dekkan was. She covered it all with a tarp and returned to the kitchen for half an hour's mercy over tea before walking Dekkan firmly to the jichang.

"You were a big help, lovely company, and I'll eat your risotto any time" she said from a safe distance. "Give my regards to your family." She backed away to the chicken house as the engine turned over, and there was a shower of sparks when the pallet's chains were jerked awkwardly into the air. She suddenly wished she had been on Pya during Maar's first year as a pilot. Except she was just as unavailable then and you had a lot yet to learn she thought.

She was bleary the next morning and longed to go back to bed after milk delivery. Uli caught up with her as she began loading her ferry, handing her cans and saying "I've had a talk with Dekkan, she won't be barging in on you again."

"Oh, Uli, it wasn't that bad" came out of Pyosz's mouth before she could stop herself. She and Uli stared at each other briefly, then they both roared. Pyosz leaned against the gearhouse in the stern, and Uli sat at the edge of the wharf, her feet dangling. With the wisps of fog burned off, the day was already warm and still, the water unusually smooth -- what Skene called sentimental summer.

"I do like having company for dinner, as long as they don't expect to be served or have a kiss afterward" said Pyosz. "I can't speak to the latter, but she did more than her share of cooking."

"She acts like she's too mature to hang out with her buddies who are still in high school, and the ones her age are either at the U in Skene or apprenticing elsewhere on Pya. And my friends don't welcome her tagging along" said Uli. "Plus those damn pilots, the ones who cluster around Abbo, all they talk about is, well, ginny. But what I think what Dekkan really wants is a friend."

"She's got potential" said Pyosz. "Listen, I'm going to Herne Island tonight for the new year, why don't both of you drop in? If you're both invited, it's not a date and your emmas have to let you disappear for a while, right?"

Uli laughed appreciatively. Pyosz dared "But no Sey tagging along with you." Uli's smile vanished.

"Look, I've wanted to explain that to you -- " she began.

"You don't have to. I won't socialize with her, but I'm not asking that of my friends here" said Pyosz. Except Maar would never consider it she thought.

"She -- she and Cremen have been seeing each other" said Uli.

"Ah, well, I had a better opinion of Cremen's judgment than that, but whatever" said Pyosz with a grin. Uli roared again, and said "That's why I haven't invited you back to Gong Tong, it's been bugging me."

Pyosz heard someone calling her name distantly. She looked around and spotted Pank standing on the Saya dock, waving at her. Pyosz waved back and said to Uli "Any time this evening, don't bring food, we'll be up to our ears in it. And Uli? Tell Qoj how you really feel, that's my advice. See you later." She pushed the lever into gear.

Tu was at her tillage and stopped her, saying "There's a monster storm due in after midnight, we need to harvest anything that'll get pulled to bits."

"I was thinking I'd get those rose starts from Isola Fling in the ground today, because it's so warm" said Pyosz in dismay. "I'm not sure what to do with them now."

"Plant 'em" advised Tu. "Stake 'em good and cover them with clear plastic, once the storm's over they'll have a chance to take hold before we get any freeze. I'll do your tillage."

Pank had started her honey through a second strain and was crunching on comb. A sextet of small minute chops lay on the table. Pyosz peppered them heavily, dropped them into a pan with butter, reheated leftover risotto and sliced some of the tomatoes Tu was rescuing to grill in the chop fond with a dash of cream. Pank and Tu joined her for a second breakfast before they all resumed their work. Pank pruned trees on the eastern end of Saya while Pyosz planted the largest of the roses on the other side of the kissing gate. She put two more in front of her kitchen and one in a sheltered dip along the trail to her dock.

Tu moved on to rake out the chicken house and lay down fresh straw. Pyosz transferred her rented equipment to beside the jichang for pickup and turned some of the tillage harvest into dishes for the family meal that evening. Then she and her cousins returned the cleaned supers to her hives, setting out a feed of sugar water against the impending weather the next day. They stripped the orchard of anything likely to fall in wind. Pank said "We need to go work on our place now." Pyosz said "I'll be over within the hour to help."

She rolled her loaded wain straight to her dock, deciding people would want the harvest as is right now. She saved out two bushels of apples and another of chestnuts from what she hauled to the allotment center, taking them instead to Gitta, who crowed when she saw Pyosz coming in the door. "I'm almost out of apples!" she said.

"I have honey, too" said Pyosz. "Do you have any goose or lamb?"

"All gone. But I have a large duck left."

"I'll take it" said Pyosz. She stopped at Koldok's only food stall for a portable lunch, adding extra for her cousins, before heading home. She put plum sauce in the bag with her duck and walked to Herne, deciding to start her bird roasting there before she dashed back to milk.

She cleaned their chicken house and pig barn, hauled pruned limbs to the woodpile, and swept their first floor before goats beckoned. As she was finishing milking, Mill, Oby, Api and Ollow appeared in her barn, carrying bowls and platters. "I have to change, I'll be there soon" she waved them on. She secured her chickens, fed her katts, washed at her sink and loaded a crate with vegetable dishes before strolling to Herne with a sense of accomplished anticipation.

The twilight was dead calm, a stunning night to eat on the porch. Pyosz jarred half her duck fat to take home -- it was so good for frying potatoes -- and gladly hugged Uli and Dekkan when they arrived. Uli had two bottles of sparkling apple wine which were immediately opened and poured. Dekkan was dressed in stylish ordinaries and carried a velvet bag containing a set of silver pennywhistles. She confided in Pyosz "Uli's friends, and Abbo plus some of the pilots, are all going to a big party in Dudor, but we decided to come here instead."

"I'm so glad" said Pyosz, feeding Dekkan a slice of honey-dipped apple and allowing herself to be fed in return.

The radio buzzed three times. Frank called from what she said was a tediously slow labor on Inish Fling. After they clicked off, Nk said to Frahe "Homesick" and Frahe nodded. Halling used her new radio speaker to call from what sounded like a riotous brunch at her Manage. Prl kept shouting in the background "These apples were picked by my baby's hands, a toast to Pyosz!" Yoj whispered "She's been drinking brandy for an hour." Pyosz giggled "She'll have a migraine to start the new year."

The third call was from Maar at her family's manage, sounding utterly happy. Thleen announced "There's a kickball game tonight and then I get to stay up an hour late, even though there's school in the morning!"

"Who is Chloddia playing?" asked Pyosz.

"Abfall and they stink. Adon is on second string because she's not old enough yet but she says they'll get far enough ahead of stinky Abfall that she'll get put in during the second half" said Thleen. "Maar made apple pancakes for breakfast and we put your honey on them, she said we can eat treats from Saya all day."

"We're doing exactly the same here" said Pyosz.

When Dodd began tuning her fiddle using Dekkan's pitch pipe, she said quietly to Dekkan "Pava really misses you." Dekkan looked at her hands. Pyosz knew that Pava was Poth's oldest child, 15, and guessed she had been Dekkan's best friend at school. After a minute of adjusting strings, Dodd said "I was thinking that once the term gets under way, maybe on your day off you could come have lunch at the school and then speak to the fourth graders about what it means to choose the Lofthall as a career." Dekkan's face lit up and she looked at Dodd, nodding.

Frahe brought out her massive copper drum and music commenced, bouncing through the hushed dark to cliffside rocks and back. Once during a lull between songs, they heard a faint snatch of leviathan song, which made them all laugh hysterically for reasons Pyosz couldn't explain. Briel, who was wiry and slight, came to sit in front of Pyosz and lean back against her, dispelling any trace of Pyosz missing her Skene family.

Shortly past 10:00, Pyosz felt a breeze blow through a gap at the back of her untucked shati. A shower of leaves from the hickory nearest the porch made Oby turn her head and look at her watch. "I think maybe it's early" she said. Five minutes later, a distant flash of lightning stopped Dodd mid-song.

"I don't want to ride ferries during a storm" said Briel, an unfamiliar anxiety on her face.

"I know" said Dodd, putting away her fiddle. By the time they got to Pyosz's kitchen, the rain had arrived and the wind was already alarming. "Don't walk us to the dock" commanded Mill, "we've got each other. Get indoors and stay there."

Pyosz felt a wave of gratitude for her radiator and the wood paneling of her tiny metal box. She used her chamberpot and invited the katts under her blanket before turning out her lamp. "Happy new year" she whispered to the owl, wherever she passed a night like this.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.

No comments: