After watching the episode concerning Culloden in Battlefield Britain this week, I found myself disconsolately singing
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye
In 1978/79, right after I'd moved to San Francisco, Therese Edell came to perform in the Bay Area with her friend and colleague Betsy Lippitt. At that show, Betsy did a solo where she sang "Cam Ye O'er Frae France?", explaining its origins as a scathing Jacobite rebellion riddle song, and alternating singing with a dazzling rendition on her fiddle. She had the range and clarity to do justice to this difficult song, and I was blown away. She later announced she would be staying on to perform at a club in North Beach a few nights a week, and I went several times to see her again, mostly to hear "Cam Ye O'er Frae France?" and be moved on what felt like a cellular level.
I was later able to get versions of it done by Ewan McColl and Rosie's Bar and Grill, but honestly, they weren't as good as Betsy's rendition.
At that point in my life, I thought most of my European ancestry was Welsh (what I had been told by older folks in the family) with of course some English and the ubiquitous Southern white claim to "Cherokee" back there. However, in 1985, a year after my mother's death, I began doing genealogy research in earnest, wanting to understand what had been handed on in my family and from what sources. At this point, I have a staggering amount of data, and it's been invaluable in dispelling myth, particularly in assisting me to name and claim classism and racism as it permeates my family culture. Every one of us is handed a storeroom jammed chock-full of cultural baggage, good and bad, at the moment of birth. If you, like most Americans, don't know the truth about "your people", you're doomed to perpetuate the crap and sentimentalize the good.
That same year, I began partnering with a woman who had a profound connection to her own Scots ancestry. Her beloved grandfather had been born and raised in the Highlands from 1886 to around the 1920s, when he emigated to America. He never lost his brogue or his culture, living to age 95 and residing with my lover and her family the last decades of his life. With her, I went to my first of many Highland Games festivals, and it was as if I had walked into a home I'd never known existed.
A great deal of my ancestry can be traced back to counties in the south, especially Virginia and North Carolina, that were the refuge zone for displaced Scots fleeing English oppression. The majority of my Southern heritage is mountain South, not Appalachian but the other mountain South, the Scots who hate authority, urbanization, centralized religion, slavery, and upward mobility, who revere education, poetry and language, music (especially fiddles), powerful women, wilderness, and drinking too much.
My new lover wooed me with music played on her grandfather's fiddle. In particular, she landed me with a song she directed toward me in front of a group, causing me agonies of pleasured embarrassment. It's called "Johnnie Lad" and she delivered it in Scots dialect to the heart-catching original strathspey tempo.
Oh ken ye my love Johnny
He is doon on yonder lea
And he's lookin' and he's jukin'
And he's eye-watching me
He is pu'in' and he's teasin'
But his meanin's nae so bad
If it's ever gain' tae be
Tell me noo, Johnny Lad
Tell me noo, my Johnny Laddie
Tell me noo, my Johnny Lad
If it's ever gain' tae be
Tell me noo, Johnny Lad
Oh Johnny's blathe and bonny
He's the pride o' all yon lea
An' I love him best of all
Though he's eye-teasin' me
Though he squeezes me and teases me
And tickles me like mad
Nane's cam near me that can cheer me
Like my ain Johnny Lad
Oh Johnny's nae a gentleman
Nor yet is he a laird
But I would follow Johnny
Although he was a caird
Noo Johnny is a bonny lad
He was ainst a lad of mine
And I've never had a better lad
Though I've had twenty-nine
And wi' you, my Johnny Laddie
And wi' you, my Johnny Lad
I will dance the butles off me shoon
Wi' you, Johnny Lad
So I fell, hard, and I began claiming Scots as my primary European culture of origin. (As an aside, can you frakkin' believe that someone who courted me with that song would turn out to have major COMMITMENT ISSUES? I mean, who could have guessed? Isn't there any way for me to learn some of these lessons by advanced placement tests or something?)
But when I began mooning over the devastating loss to My People at the last battle on (ahem) English soil, I decided to do another reality check. It turned out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated, nailing down my European roots by percentage, without the aid of those expensive and as-yet-not-quite-complete DNA tests.
I began by going to my pedigree. (You can view it online here.) It's unusually complete because I've worked my digits numb tracking down all the surname and lineage losses which occur because of the fucking rule that women give up their names when they marry, a custom that I don't think men will ever be stupid enough to take on. ("As long as he neeeds me....") What make this automatic 50% of surnames excision particularly galling is that for almost all of us, the only parentage we can claim with certainty is maternal. It's well-known in genealogical circles that over time, there's a 6% "non-paternal event" rule when looking at paternal ancestry. This means that on average, one of our six times, the guy who you think fathered that child did not, in fact.
Also, do the math. With all the work I've done to fill in "wife" blanks, I've got around 150 different known lineages in my 10-generation pedigree. I'm equally descended from all 150 of those names, not just the name on my birth certificate, and that's only for the past 300-400 years. When you consider human beings have been "human" for around 150,000 years (let me know if that number has changed), migrating into every corner of the globe and mixin' it up, even with "non-paternal" events, you can grasp how it is that you, whoever you are, is related at the level of at least 30th cousin or closer to ANY other human being on the planet, no matter who they are.
This is partly because of line collapse; I can guarantee you, in your pedigree are many individual ancestors who contributed to several lines that led to you, not just one. Pedigrees begin as ever-expanding fans but after a while start moving back in again, like the sides of a diamond, as we reach eras when the total number of people on the planet would equal customers in the Mall of America on the day after Thanksgiving.
I limited my investigation to less than 12 generations because before that, Europeans weren't here in North America and that's what I was after, finding out where the Euro of my European-American tag specifically first drew breath. You can view the detailed version of my results here in a separate post.
What I found out is that while Scots is the highest of the smaller percentages, at 9% of those I could reliably document, it's nothing compared to the 42% who are definitely English. As in slaughtered My People at Culloden English. Time to eat a pasty, play some Silly Wizard, and reconsider.
(Silly Wizard performing "Donald McGillavry")
Other startling or interesting facts which emerged were a few rogue Swiss and Danes, a miniscule percentage of German when you consider it's the #1 European ethnicity in the U.S. (I'm guessing concentrated above the Mason-Dixon line and out West), no French at all (I like the French), and almost as many real Irish as Scots. Yeah, I know that Southern label of "Scotch-Irish", it's a myth. Those are Scots who got deported to Ireland, especially after the Jacobite Rebellion, and forced to live cheek by jowl as unwanted intruders. Those clever English, figuring out how to punish Irish and Scots simultaneously. I do have Scots like that in my lineage, and I call them Scots, not Irish. From what I can tell, at least one of them was a Jacobite and lucky to have survived with his life. His son migrated to America and gleefully joined the Revolution, winning a commendation for his actions at the Battle of King's Mountain.
For those of you not in the know, the Battle of King's Mountain is what really won the American Revolution, not all that "shot heard round the world" crap up in New England. It was brutal and decisive, and a majority of the Southerners who went on a kill-the-English rampage there had Scots blood in them. Payback, baby.
So where am I picking up this almost primordial attraction to Scots identity? Here's something a little hard to admit: I'm a pacifist who's reached that identity by decades of intense inner work, and I don't think I can be dissuaded from it by argument or threat. But when I hear pipes and drums, I get scared I could be seduced into battle simply by the music. It feels almost genetic, my response.
Well, I kept digging, and found out a few other very significant facts. One is that I mustn't overlook the reality that 51% of these ancestors' origins I don't yet know, I can only assign an "earliest known place and time in America" to them. Perhaps they will skew the Scots ratio, if I ever nail down their hop over the Atlantic.
A second is something I've suspected but never seen in such stark numbers. Of all these lineages, only ONE came from Europe to a Northern State -- and that was Pennsylvania, a common landing spot for Scots who then scurried down the Shenandoah Valley to less "English" environs. Everybody else went directly to the South.
I've done a lot of research for other people over the years, and if you're white, non-Jewish, and from immigrants prior to 1900, almost always, your ancestry will be overwhelmingly either Northern or Southern, but not really very mixed. We've been a divided nation from the outset. Jamestown vs. Plymouth Rock. Those first waves of colonists came from very different parts of the British Isles, with different cultures and goals. The Civil War ended slavery -- mostly, let's add, because of the efforts of African-Americans, not the heroic Union Army who then immediately went on to happily wage genocide on the Plains Indians and not because of Lincoln. But racial equality was quickly put in a tiny little box, and the war only exacerbated cultural divides between North and South.
So, then I looked at where in the South most of my folks started out. It's not surprising that Virginia and North Carolina came up with 84% of the known total. They were settled early, seaboard states, and that makes sense. But the counties within those states where my ancestors congregated: Aha, I see a pattern. They were counties crammed FULL of Scots. I mean, even some of my ancestors from Germany and Southern England who arrived in, say Rowan County, North Carolina, a Scot stronghald, they promptly began intermarrying with Scots, taking on the culture and behavior.
It is conditioning, after all. Not just skirl and percussion.
I have a lot more to say which can wait for other essays. In particular, I do want to answer an earlier comment's question about "What if Boudicca had defeated the Romans?", though of course my answer will go the touchy-feely, anthropology route, not rely on military history. But it will have to wait, I have other writing to do today.
I'll close with Steeleye Span performing "Cam Ye Oer Frae France?" at the 1987 Philadelphia Folk Festival. It's not Betsy Lippitt, but you'll get the idea, especially when they stop singing and the drums take over. Below the video are lyrics and a little explanation of the Jacobite code buried in the lines, copied from various other sites.
And who will be our Bobbin' John?
[Members of Steeleye Span: Tim Hart (dulcimer), Peter Knight (harmonium), Bob Johnson (guitar), Rick Kemp (bass,drums) and Maddy Prior (vocals)]
CAM YE O'ER FRAE FRANCE
Cam ye o'er frae France, cam ye doon by Lunnon
Saw ye Geordie Whelps and his bonnie woman
Were ye at the place ca'd the kittle hoosie
Saw ye Geordie's grace ridin' on a goosie
Geordie he's a man, there is little doubt o't
He's da'en a' he can, wha can dae wi'oot it
Doon there cam a blade, linkin' like my lordie
He would drive a trade at the loom o' Geordie
Though the claith were bad, blithely may we niffer
Gin we get a wab, it makes little differ
We hae tint our plaid, bonnet, belt and swordie
Ha's and mailins braid ... but we hae a Geordie
Jocky's gone to France, an' Montgomery's lady
There they'll learn to dance - Madam, are you ready
They'll be back belyve, belted brisk and lordly
Brawly may they thrive tae dance a jig wi' Geordie
Hey for Sandy Don, hey for Cockolorum
Hey for Bobbing John and his Hieland quorum
Many a sword and lance swings at heel and hurdie
How they'll skip and dance o'er the bum o' Geordie
NOTE: When George I imported his seraglio of impoverished gentlewomen from Germany, he provided the Jacobite songwriters with material for some of their most ribald verses. Madame Kilmansegge, Countess of Platen, is referred to exclusively as "The Sow" in the songs, while the King's favorite mistress, the lean and haggard Madame Schulemburg (afterwards named Duchess of Kendall) was given the name of "The Goose". She is the "goosie" referred to in this song. The "blade" is the Count Koningsmark. "Bobbing John refers to John, Earl of Mar, who was at the time recruiting Highlanders for the Hanoverian cause. "Geordie Whelps" is, of course, George I himself. The references to "whelps" are not just ordinary insults, but scurrilous puns on the family name of the House of Hanover, "Guelph".
Lunnon = London
Kittle Housie = Brothel (a.k.a. the Palace)
Linkin = Tripping along
Claith = Cloth
Niffer = Haggle
Gin = If
Wab = Web (or length) of cloth
Tint = Lost
Ha's and Mailins = Houses and Farmlands
Gane = Gone
Belyve = Quickly;
Brawly = WEll
Hurdie = Buttock
[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
(Saya Island eastern end, cabin and outdoor kitchen; click on image to enlarge)
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)
Pyosz woke up with a sense of imminent danger. She had to turn on her flash to remember the owl. Curds had not made any racket all night, which Pyosz thought was significant. She sat up warily, and immediately noticed while she was still sore, there were not the burning flares of the past few days. It wasn't raining, though she could hear a slight breeze. She decided to wear her wellies anyhow, give her feet time to heal.
She walked outside into fog so thick she could barely see her kitchen. Great she thought. What's on the agenda for tomorrow, hail? She made tea and ate a wedge of cheese while the water came to boil, then filled her thermos and followed the trail to the barn. The goats were unusually quiet. She opened the pen-side doors and only two kids ventured out, coming right back in to stand near their emmas.
I wonder what owls do in the fog? she thought. I know they hunt in the rain.
She separated the seven bucklings into a stall and had to badger the rest of the goats toward the kissing gate and out into the pasture. She gave grain to the bucklings, out of all custom, and watched them sadly for a minute as they ate greedily. She decided to leave the katts and chickens for the time being, and leave for Saya now. She looked at her watch when she reached Koldok wharf and gave a small whoop: it was right on 7:00, meaning she had cut half an hour off her milking time. Kolm asked her if the blankets had worked, and Pyosz said yes, she had slept through warmly, despite her visitation. She told her about the owl dropping down on her table, and was gratified by Kolm's amazement. She figured by noon it would be all over Koldok, if not the rest of Pya.
She went to the shop of Naki the cartagen, finding her chatty and inquisitive. Naki printed her two copies of each photo, and sold her a cardboard album with tissue paper between each wide page and a packet of corners for a good price. Pyosz put photos into each of the envelopes with letters to her emma's Manage and her abbas' Manage, keeping one set for herself, sealed it, and dropped them off at the Lofthall for delivery to Skene. Maar was nowhere in sight, and Mill was on the radio but got off soon to talk. Pyosz repeated her owl story for Mill and Jiips. Mill said "I knew there were some big 'uns in your woods at the other end, but I think this means the one you saw has a nest somewhere on your end as well. They're pretty territorial, from what I hear."
Pyosz instantly decided she didn't want to try to find the nest somewhere near her cabin.
Mill said the fog would likely burn off when in an hour or two, but if it didn't, she wouldn't send Abbo out in it this thick. Pyosz put in her request for fresh hay and a recycling pick-up, and signed the forms Mill drew up.
Back on the smoky, eerie main street of Koldok, she realized she was hungry and decided to treat herself, checking out the local cafe. She sat at the counter, and by the time she left, the counterperson and no less than three other customers had found reason to tell her how much she had liked old Ferk, that Ferk surely loved her goats, and they hoped no big change was going to occur at Saya because Pya liked their cheese the way it was. She felt sour back on the street. However, she finished her errands, going to the grocery halfway between the djostiker's and the mercantile.
Gitta greeted her before she reached the counter, saying "You must be Pyosz, I've already heard a lot of good things about you." They talked vinegar for a few minutes, Pyosz asking which varieties were most in demand. Gitta seemed to know a lot about her orchard. More than I do thought Pyosz guiltily, since I haven't had the nerve to go explore that end of the island yet. Eventually, Pyosz pulled out one of her new loaves of bread, along with some rolls cut into samples, and gave Gitta a taste. Gitta's eyebrows climbed high on her high forehead, and she said "You can barter that with me any day. How many loaves a week can you give me?"
Again, they talked varieties and came up with a deal. In the future, Pyosz would take cash, but for today she said she was low on shampoo, did they have castile flakes and essential oils?
"Over there" pointed Gitta. Pyosz browsed and found they had no gardenia oil, her preferred scent. It was hard to come by, requiring greenhouse growth. On impulse, she bought instead lemon oil, and added a 20 lb. bag of oat flakes.
When she climbed back down into the ferry boat, the fog was still as dense as when she'd come over, although now it was strangely backlit by silver light. The water beside her was smooth as glass, flattened by the fog's hand. Just as she reached the central pylon, a loud boom and wail of leviathan song blew around her, sounding as if it were ten feet away. She jerked the ferry to a halt and then froze, unable to make herself look in the direction the sound had come from. She was terrified she'd see a row of black eyes in diminishing size along a massive pinky-grey body, watching her with the alertness of a katt about to kill for dinner. She seriously considered climbing onto the pylon, as high as she could get, and waiting for the sun to return. But there was no safety out here, no pylon high enough.
After a long minute, she creaked her head sideways and looked beside the ferry. Only still water, dark blue today. Another drift of song sent tremors through her body, and she flew into action, transferring around the pylon and hooking onto the chain for Saya. Please please please she kept repeating to herself. Let me not die out here alone.
When at last her dock burst out of the swirl before her, she shoved the lever down and clambered up the ladder, sitting down on the dock with rock at her back and panting. She waited ten minutes, until she was damp and chilled, before she had the nerve to go back to the ferry and rescue her milk cans. Once she was ten feet up the trail, she considered herself immune to any kind of flying leap, and her legs almost gave out underneath her. She dropped the handle of her wain beside the kitchen and opened the cabin door, scooping Curds into her arms. Curds, however, didn't want to be held and wriggled away.
Pyosz put on the kettle and sat for a few minutes, until Ember rubbed her legs, reminding her it was feeding time. She said "Snap out of it. You're okay, evader of owl and lev." Her voice didn't go far in the fog but it didn't need to. She fed the cats, released and fed the chickens, and returned to a screaming kettle. After a mug of tea laced with honey and milk, she felt her strength return. She realized she could see the rocky edge of the cliff in front of her, which must mean the fog was lifting.
She made another mug of tea and set about making her shampoo. She went to the tillage and returned with burdock root, comfrey leaves, nettles, and rosemary, which she steeped in boiling water. She poured more boiling water over the castile flakes in a glass jug, shaking it at the end to mix it thoroughly. She strained the herbal infusion into the jug, added several drops of lemon oil, and declared it good.
By this time she could see the goat pen to her left and the chicken run to her right. Believing the sun would find her, she washed her hair in the sink, watched by both katts in fascinated disgust. She used some of the oatmeal and more castile flakes, plus lemon oil, to make a bottle of shower scrub. She walked into her cabin to put this in the cupboard, and realized she could hear the rustle of a breeze against the metal walls. But it was completely still outside. She walked in and out the door several times to verify this, arousing Curds' suspicion, before she reached to a section of the grass matting pressed into the wall spaces and tugged at it. The dry stuff fell apart in her hands, releasing several black beetles which began skittering toward her wrist. She screamed and wiped them away savagely, lunging backward. More beetles were exposed on the metal wall underneath where the matting had been.
She ran outside, fighting the need to retch, bending over with her hands on her knees. She kept imagining she could still feel the beetles on her hand. Then she realized they were loose in the cabin. She ran back inside and dragged out her trunk, tossing her otos out the door, gathering her bedding in one wad and dumping it on the table, then lifting the corner of her pallet to see if beetles had infested her bed. No sign of them, but she carried the pallet as far away from her body as she could and dropped it over the edge of the wain. She went back to jerk open cupboards, looking for invasion there, and found none: That pennyroyal oil she'd cleaned them with, that must have kept them away.
Once the cabin was bare of anything but her metal bed frame, she dug a deep hole in the sand next to bare path and returned to the cabin with a large bucket. She jerked matting away from the walls, dumping it into the bucket and stomping any beetles who escaped. When the bucket was full, she emptied it into the hole and tossed in a match. The blaze made her grin in feral satisfaction. Belatedly, she remembered Mill's admonition about the fire risk and ran to get the seawater hose, leaving it near her firepit as she went back and forth until all the matting was stripped from hr walls and no living beetles remained in her cabin. She let the fire die out on its own before dousing it lightly with water and shoveling sand back into the hole.
She was considering what to do next when she heard the buzz of aircraft from the north. The sky was nearly clear, so it must be Abbo. She shifted her bedding to on top of her trunk, moved the pallet to the table, and began pulling her wain to the jichang. Abbo had a large metal carrier slung underneath her sinner full of hay. Once she'd lowered this to the ground, she did a sideways jog and landed on the jichang proper. Pyosz waved hi as she unlatched the sides of the carrier and began lifting hay into the wain. It pulled at her muscles but there was new power in her body, she could tell.
Abbo opened the side hatch of the sinner and dropped down a ramp before coming to say hello. "You got the goats ready?" she said.
"In a stall. I'll need to lead them over here -- is the crate up that ramp?"
"Yep. Can you get 'em up it, it'll be a lot easier than loading it down on the ground and trying to winch it up." Abbo sniffed the air. "Do I smell smoke?"
Pyosz paused to put her arm to her nose. "Yeah, that's me. I had to light a fire."
"What the lev for?" Abbo looked around, scowling.
"Turns out, the walls Ferk's homey little cabin were swarming with literally thousands of beetles, I had to burn all her buggy decoration. I've done nothing but clean up mess since I got here" said Pyosz. "Furthermore, a giant owl landed on my kitchen table last night right in front of me, and I heard lev song close by when I was taking the ferry back this morning."
"Lev song? They can't get into Koldok Kuono, it's morrie vaseo all the time" said Abbo deprecatingly.
"I heard what I heard" said Pyosz, finishing the hay loading by herself.
"Must've been the fog, it distorts sound" said Abbo. "For sure they weren't nearby. As for owls, of course they're here on the island." Pyosz waited for her to explain away the beetles, too, but Abbo went silent.
Pyosz lifted the wain handle and said "I'll bring the goats in a minute. The recycling is over there, you can load the carrier yourself." She was proud of getting the wain started rolling without a groan.
At the barn, she immediately discarded the idea of trying to get the bucklings into the wain. They'd just jump right out and make a game of it. She searched for rope and finally found a few ancient-looking tethers that she hoped would hold. She slipped these around the necks of three goats, who were not at all cooperative but she stayed patient, pitying them. They were not willing to be led at all, however, until she filled a scoop with more grain. which got their attention and kept them trotting after her.
Even grain, however, could not persuade them up the ramp. Abbo was tossing metal and glass carelessly into the carrier. Pyosz handed her two of the tethers and said "Hang onto them, and don't let them mount you. Unless you're into that sort of thing." She picked up the third buckling and carried her up the ramp, getting her into the crate by pouring the can of grain onto the floor inside. She loaded the other two goats, trying hard not to gloat at her newly-discovered strength -- she was six inches taller than Abbo and for once felt her physical equal.
She returned with the other four goats and another scoop of grain. Abbo, leaned against the sinner, said "That's wasted food, they won't have time to digest it."
"They don't know that" retorted Pyosz, "and I'm glad they don't. It's bad enough what's about to happen to them, they don't need any more fear and confusion added to what's already hitting them."
Abbo pulled a clipboard from her seat and had Pyosz sign several more forms. As she did so, Abbo said laconically "Emma just got a call from her emmas. Seems you called there last night wah-wah-wahing like a baby about how hard it was on you here. Emma's pretty ticked, because she said she's been offering you help and you keep insisting you're okay."
"I am okay. I had a little blip, is all, and I called my emma for comfort. I should've known they'd go overboard. But you know what I'm talking about, trying to be a grown-up when all they want to do is coddle you forever."
Abbo stiffened in deep offense. "I've never been coddled a day in my life, I've worked hard for everything I got."
"Never mind, then" said Pyosz, tired of the whole interaction and hating the increasingly frantic bleating she heard from inside the sinner. "Tell Mill -- no, I'll call her myself. Thanks for all your help." She shoved the clipboard back at Abbo and stalked off.
As she approached her kitchen, she glanced to the left, toward the kissing gate, and saw several goats standing there, looking at her. She felt a surge of guilt about the never-named bucklings she'd just sent to their death. No wonder Vants wants a herd of fiber goats she thought. Animals you can keep all their lives and never think about eating. She picked up the radio, longing to call her emma. Instead, she dialed the Lofthall. Jiips answered and said Mill was out, did she want to talk with Oby?
"Oby, I just talked with Abbo and I wanted to call and apologize for what my call home apparently stirred up yesterday. I didn't ask them to interfere, believe me, and I did not complain about how you've treated me here -- " she began.
"Don't worry about it" came Oby's easy-going voice. "Mill gets calls from her emmas all the time trying to tell her how she should be doing things differently, this is just another excuse."
"But I really appreciate the opportunity you've give me, I want you and Mill to know that. Yes, it's hard right now, and there's -- disorder here, shall I say, but it's not your doing and I'm pretty sure you didn't know about it all" said Pyosz.
"We think you're doing a bang-up job" said Oby. "I wish Abbo hadn't decided to whinge at you about it, Mill certainly isn't upset. Did she get the deliveries done, by the way? Abbo, I mean."
"Yes, it's all handled. Well, I wanted to make sure you know I didn't intend to stir things up. Who called, Yoj?"
"Halling" said Oby with a certain note in her voice.
"See, I didn't even talk with abba Halling" protested Pyosz. "I cried on emma's shoulder, about stuff like seeing an owl and having a goat bite me, how can they think that's Mill's fault?"
"Emmas are not that rational about their children" said Oby. "You know, when Abbo went off to flight school in Skene, Mill called Halling and asked her to please exempt Abbo from parachute training because she was convinced Abbo would break her leg and be lame the rest of her life."
"You're kidding!" said Pyosz. Part of her hoped Abbo was listening in on this open radio conversation.
"Yep. Halling pointed out that not having parachute training would actually make Abbo less safe, in the long run, and would certainly cause her problems with the other pilots around her. 'Course, it turns out Abbo wound up breaking her collarbone because she pulled her cord at the wrong time, but what can you do? Some kids learn the hard way." They chuckled together. Oby said "Anything else we can do for you?"
"No, and I will ask for help when I need it, I promise. Oh, wait, do you know the forecast for this evening and tomorrow?"
"Clean and sunny today, sleepy moon tonight, and clear through the afternoon at least tomorrow" said Oby.
"Okay, thanks, that gives me an idea of which chores to tackle next. Morrie vaseo, Oby."
With two moons, Skene had a complicated schedule of moon rises and sets, as well as phases. A sleepy moon was when one moon was in the dark and the other was just barely crescent. As the visible moon moved into a quarter phase, it became a flirting moon, as if one eye was winking while the other was shut. When both moons were half-visible, it was called a waking moon.
With a dry day ahead of her, Pyosz hefted her pallet over the laundry cistern and made a bucket of pennyroyal tincture. She sprayed this onto the pallet and watched the seams anxiously to see if any beetles made their way out to fresh air. When none emerged, she decided her pallet hadn't had time to become infested -- or maybe they were only drawn to those nasty reeds.
She took the bucket into her cabins and scrubbed down every wall, then the ceiling and the floor. She opened the window to help air it out. Both katts had disappeared far from the strong odor. She shook out her bedding and folded it into her trunk. Then she went to use the loft's pulley to load hay upstairs in the barn. She saved out one bale and scattered it over the chicken run.
She stopped to drink down cold water and realized it was lunch time. She made a cheese and tomato sandwich, and while munching on it, she called the Genist Manage, not bothering to figure out what time it was. After several rings, Prl answered, sounding froggy and panicked.
"What's wrong?" she said.
"Hi, emma, nothing's wrong, I'm eating lunch and wanted to talk to you again. Did I wake you?"
"It's the middle of the night. But that's okay, I'm glad you called. Are you doing better?" asked Prl.
"Much. Much better. My muscles are starting to bulge instead of ache, I got a great night's sleep in spite of what happened after I hung up with you, and it's a bright sunny day here now. I should tell you, thought, Halling called s'bemma Mill to giveher what-for about me, apparently."
"Oh, no, Pyosz, that's unfortunate" said Prl, secretly exulting. "Is Mill upset?"
"Oby says no, Abbo says yes. Hard to tell. I called to apologize. The state of this place is not Mill's fault, I want you to make that clear. I suspect the capriste before me was a secret brandynose, if you want to know the truth. Oops, this isn't a private line. Well, it's out, too bad" said Pyosz, eating a carrot and sending strong crackles over the line that Prl thought was static.
"What happened last night after we hung up?" asked Prl, who was never too sleepy to miss a clue when it came to Pyosz.
Pyosz told her about it, about the lev song, about sending goats to slaughter, about the new blankets, and everything else that came into her head. Except Maar bringing her hamsa, for some reason she left that out. She said "I wrote you and the abbas all this and mailed it today, along with photos, but it's lots better to tell you directly."
"It's lots better to hear it from you" said Prl.
"Oh, and emma? I found that box of spices and it made me cry. I've been using them in every dish" said Pyosz gratefully.
"Let me know when you're low on any of them, I get them free as part of my Genist allotment" said Prl. "Not that I wouldn't buy them for you, of course -- "
"I know, emma" said Pyosz, giggling. "Okay, well, I should get back to it. I'm going to repair the chickenhouse roof, work on my rickety wain, and maybe do some weeding before milking comes around again. Give my love to everybody, and tell the abbas I'm going to want to consult with them about this tillage, get some of their good seeds and advice. The herbs are scanty and poor here."
"Sweet dreams, my child" said Prl. Pyosz giggled again before she clicked off.
She rooted through the items she'd saved from recycling and found a square of rubber, taking that plus tin to repair the roof. She cut new copper mesh to patch rusting holes in the chicken enclosure. She gathered a couple of dozen ripening pears from a large tree near the wellhouse and arranged them in Ng's bowl on her table. She scrubbed out the wain, and while it dried, she did a load of her own laundry plus a load of milkrags, hanging them in the drying room.
She went back to the kitchen for another glass of water and decided to roll out some pie dough to make a pear and walnut pie. Once this was in the oven baking, she sanded down all the metal on the wain through two progressions of grit, wiped it with a tack cloth, replaced the cotter pins and washers, and oiled the axle until it didn't squeak. She opened the gallon of marine paint, noting it was a very bright orange indeed, and began applying a coat to the inside and outside of her wain. While that dried, she set the pie to cool on the table and tried sharpening her dull kitchen knives with the new whetstone. It was a skill she'd only watched others perform, and she didn't have much luck with it.
She remade her bed, put all her belongings back in the cabin, and reveled in its fresh smell. She found Curds' katt comb in one cupboard and sat down in the kitchen, calling Curds who came running. She combed out the long, creamy fur, finding an inordinate quantity of sand next to her skin. "You must be rolling in the dirt here" commented Pyosz. When Curds had finally had enough, she sat on a corner of the table to wash and rearrange her do. Ember had been watching from the other chair, and Pyosz said "You want to be combed? Come on, it feels great." Unexpectedly, Ember made a long leap into Pyosz's lap, almost knocking the breath out of Pyosz and drawing a hiss from Curds.
"You're a big katt" remarked Pyosz, starting to comb out the matted fur. Ember was around 30 lbs., large even by Skene standards, and much of it felt like muscle. A rusty, intermittent purr arose from Ember's throat, and it filled Pyosz with pathos. She took her time, getting scissors eventually to cut out matts, and Ember never stopped purring. She was gleaming and silky by the time Pyosz was done.
"Now, aren't you both beauties?" declared Pyosz, giving Ember her chair. She returned to the wain and gave it a second coat. When she was done, she saw more goats at the kissing gate and decided it was time for milking. The barn doors had stood open all day and the odor was a little better inside, but "tomorrow I muck this out" Pyosz promised. She finished before it was completely dark, another milestone to cheer about.
She put away the chickens and had just fed the katts, closing the cabin door, when she heard a voice call out "That's so bright, it glows in the dark!" It was Maar, carrying a couple of packages and pointing to the wain.
"Hey, you" said Pyosz, thinking this day had gotten steadily better.
"Is that pie?" asked Maar.
"Yes, and you're invited to dinner" said Pyosz.
"Good, 'cause I brought fresh shrimp from the docks" said Maar, setting a packet on the table.
"Shrimp is my favorite!" exclaimed Pyosz. "What's in the tube, leeks?"
"No, it's a map of Saya Island and the surrounding area" said Maar. "I got you a copy, thought you'd like to have it. But the main thing I want to show you is the underwater geography that's on it. I heard from Abbo that you thought there was a leviathan in Koldok Kuono today -- "
Pyosz's good mood evaporated. "Talk about meddling and gossiping!" she exploded. "I confide one thing, and now everybody has to treat me like I'm an idiot. I heard what I heard, I don't want your snotty explanations of how wrong I must be."
Maar stopped still, then held up her hands. "Whoa. I'm not treating you like an idiot. I know what fog does to sound, especially lev sound, and I believe you heard it. But you deserve to know the terrain, to know what's around you when you're out on the water, instead of having to take someone else's word for it. And frankly, I'm not the one being snotty here."
Pyosz took two deep breaths and sat down heavily in her chair. "All right. It's been one thing after another, and I guess...I apologize. I'm just -- I hate people talking about me behind my back. I've had to deal with it all my life."
"Why is that?" asked Maar.
"Oh, you know why" said Pyosz, irritation creeping back into her voice.
"Your family being well-known?" guessed Maar.
"No, the -- circumstances of my birth" said Pyosz, looking at her keenly to see if she was feigning ignorance.
"Oh, right" said Maar, remembering. "But there's so many folks like you now, are you still being treated weird?"
Pyosz realized she hadn't throught about it. "I don't know. Anyhow...let's call truce, all right? How about if I start the rest of dinner and you go gather salad, like last time?"
"You must know what a lousy cook I am" joked Maar, setting down the tube and getting the garden basket.
Pyosz sauteed the shrimp in butter with garlic and ginger, pouring it over rice noodles. She made a honey-mustard dressing for the salad and cooked green beans in chili oil. Adding a basket of warm roils to the table, they dug in, Maar making almost indecent sounds of pleasure.
After several bites, Pyosz pointed to where the salad bowl rested and said "Right there is where the owl landed. I looked today and you can just make out faint traces of where its talons scraped the table."
Maar stopped in mid-chew. "Owl?" Her pale face drained entirely, which Pyosz found fascinating.
"So Abbo didn't get around to telling that tale?" said Pyosz. She repeated her story, starting to expound on the details and enjoy herself. Maar didn't resume eating.
"Stars, Pyosz, what did you do?" she asked.
"I felt blessed that my bladder had already been emptied and I slunk into the cabin" said Pyosz.
"I'm scared to death of owls" said Maar hoarsely. As if it didn't show thought Pyosz. "I'm about owls the way you are about leviathans."
"That's pretty funny, because the fact is, you actually have to face levs and they actually do want to kill you" said Pyosz. "Whereas this owl -- I think she must have simply been curious. I was sitting here in the dark, and she could certainly see me, abba says they can see better in the dark than we can in daytime. As well as phenomenal hearing. It was during that downpour, you know, and yet she still heard a shu out there and took off after it."
Maar shivered. "Was her ears that large, then?"
"No, it's her face. Here, let me show you." Pyosz got her notebook and a pencil, drawing a quick sketch of an owl.
"That's a pretty good drawing" said Maar.
"Yeah, I have a talent for it" said Pyosz dismissively. "Plus abba Yoj has this fabulous book, the bestiary, she calls it, full of pictures of animals from the original planet, that she put together for her kids, and I used to pore over it when I was little. So see, the feathers around their face are concave, like a dish, and all the sound that comes her way get collected and directed toward her ears. Pretty clever construction."
Maar still wasn't eating. "And how big was she?"
Pyosz stood up to show how high the owl's head was in comparison to the table. She sat down, took a couple more bites, and said "I don't know how long her wings were. Here, you stand up on the opposite side of the table, where she flew in, and hold out your arms like wings. Nope, not nearly long enough. Okay, walk over to the coldbox and make an imaginary mark in the air about an inch from the post there, because she nearly brushed it with her wingtip. Now go to the vent pipe of the stove, and come in, oh, six inches, I guess. That's how far her wings extended."
Maar turned around and measured with her eyes, then turned back and said in a hollow voice "That's eleven feet, Pyosz." She got her chair and moved it to the other end of the table, where the wall of larder and cupboards behind her would keep anything from flying at her back. She resumed eating, finally.
"So, owls and then leviathans. No wonder you're wound a little tight" said Maar. "How's your shoulders, need more liniment rubbed in?"
"I won't say no. But I wonder if I can ask a big favor of you" said Pyosz. "I haven't been to the other end of the island yet, with the hot springs and bees and orchard. I'm -- I'm scared to walk through the woods. After we eat, could we go down there together, with a flash? If that's too much to ask -- "
Maar swallowed hard, more than just food, it looked like, but she gallantly said "Of course."
"I'd like a soak in that steaming water, too, if you're in the mood" said Pyosz, not looking at Maar's face. "I'm rather funky with just one outdoor shower since I got here."
"Sure" said Maar easily. They ate pie with milk, cleared the table and did dishes together, before Maar rolled out her map.
"See, each line in brown is a foot change in elevation" began Maar.
"I know how to read maps" said Pyosz. "My abbas were always dragging them out to argue over things. Wow, it's really only two feet deep at low tide there by the pylon?"
"That's why the ferries are all flat-bottomed" said Maar. "Only four and a half feet at high tide. Even a baby leviathan couldn't manage it. And that's if they could get in that far, which they can't. See, there are some deep channels here and there coming in from the Northern Wasa past Shu and Teppe, those are pale blue on this map. But they all come to dead ends, and this line here, it's like an underwater wall, sorta. Protects the entire north end of Saya. And below the Pea Pods, extending from Hamsa all the way to Dvareka, there's another natural formation like that. It's why Mill says most of Pya's growth is going to be wastward into the Pea Pods, because they're so protected, and from there into Hamsa and the central islands."
Pyosz had to admit, the cold facts were reassuring. "Thanks" she said softly.
"Plus, you know, I've listened to a lot of lev song, and I think there's something about how they produce it that lends itself to rebound and echo" said Maar. "No telling what it sounds like underwater."
"I'd love to get you together with my abbas" said Pyosz. "You'd have a lot to talk about, all of you."
Maar's normal color had returned, and now she began going a slow pink. At that moment, the radio buzzed. "Speak of the missing" said Pyosz with a giggle as she answered it.
"Hello, darling, it's emma" said Prl. "I have a question for you, and don't give me a hard time about this: Is the mortar and pestle you're using any good, or would you like a new one?"
"Oh, emma. Well, to be honest, it's crap, and yes I need a new one. I need a lot of kitchen stuff, but I'm making do fine, I just made dinner for me and a new friend, who is still here so I can't talk long" said Pyosz, winking at Maar.
"What friend?" demanded Prl.
"Maar. She's one of the pilots who flew me here, and she's been bringing me fresh fish and helping chase away the spooks here" said Pyosz.
"Maar? From Chloddia?" asked Prl.
Now that's not a good sign, my emma knowing about someone I haven't mentioned thought Pyosz. She said "Yes" in a careful voice.
"Well, I won't keep you then" said Prl briskly. "Everybody sends their love, and expect a package from us on the next huolon back to Pya." After she hung up, Pyosz said "They're sending me a package. I shouldn't complain, it'll be things I want."
"I'm heading for Skene in the morning" said Maar. "Got to get to bed early tonight. But let's go explore the hot springs first, I gotta live up to how you just bragged about me."
© 2009 Maggie Jochild.
(Perseids meteor, 1997; click on image to enlarge.)
Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite.
Today, however, in honor of us being in the middle of the annual Perseids meteor shower, I'm posting a photo from a different source, taken and copyrighted by Rick Scott & Joe Orman. Their explanation is:
"Like falling stardust, cast off bits of comet Swift-Tuttle hurtle through the upper atmosphere about this time each year as planet Earth passes near the comet's orbital path. For the northern hemisphere, this regular celestial display is known as the annual Perseid meteor shower -- so named because the meteor trails all appear traceable to a common 'radiant point' in the constellation Perseus. This gorgeous wide-angle photo from the 1997 shower captures a 20-degree-long fireball meteor and another, fainter Perseid meteor trail in a rich area of the northern summer Milky Way. A labeled version is available identifying the shower's radiant point, surrounding deep-sky objects, and constellations."
WALKING TO OAK-HEAD POND, AND THINKING OF THE PONDS I WILL VISIT IN THE NEXT DAYS AND WEEKS
What is so utterly invisible
not the wind,
not the inside of stone.
And yet, how often I'm fooled-
I'm wading along
in the sunlight-
and I'm sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining
I can see the light spilling
like a shower of meteors
into next week's trees,
and I plan to be there soon-
and, so far, I am
just that lucky,
my legs splashing
over the edge of darkness,
my heart on fire.
I don't know where
such certainty comes from-
the brave flesh
or the theater of the mind-
but if I had to guess
I would say that only
what the soul is supposed to be
could send us forth
with such cheer
as even the leaf must wear
as it unfurls
its fragrant body, and shines
against the hard possibility of stoppage-
which, day after day,
before such brisk, corpuscular belief,
shudders, and gives way.
~~ by Mary Oliver, from What Do We Know
Tuesday, August 11, 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. There is a glossary of sorts for this chapter at the end of this current post.
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)
When the alarm went off, Pyosz thought it was Curds making noise again. She began shouting "Shut up, Curds, shut UP!" and woke up furious. She had no clue where she was at first. She could hear the sounds of a downpour over the ringing. The flash was next to her pillow, and when she turned it on, everything came rushing back to her. Curds was sitting on her trunk, looking at her coldly. Pyosz turned off the alarm, and even that single reach sent blazes of pain through her shoulders and arm.
What got her upright was a pressing need to relieve her bladder, aggravated by the sound of rushing water. She slid off the bed and decided to use her chamberpot again. Once that was pushed back under the bed, she slowly stood, moaning, and got dressed. At least the rain gave her a good excuse to wear the wellies again.
She cursed not having an aga in her kitchen so she could instantly fill a pot with simmering water for tea. She felt chilled, but decided to forego the time it would take to prepare tea and a real breakfast in favor of a glass of milk, one of Yoj's cookies, and her last orange. She still felt empty, so drank another glass of milk with some cornbread and a wedge of cheese. She could hear Curds through the rain, screaming at the cabin door. She'd feed them but they likely already needed to void, it was simply be cruel. From the looks of it, light was a long way off.
She trudged to the barn, hit again by the steaming funk of ammonia and mold when she opened the doors. She began her ritual, having to remind herself of each step as she went along because she was still half asleep and all her brain wanted to point out to her was how much her body hurt.
After half an hour, the stiffness and chill left her, which was a slight improvement. The burn of overtaxed muscles grew steadily worse, however. She crossed to the doors which led to the pen and opened them. Several kids splashed out into the rain and mud. Pyosz went back to milking, and after another hour, it was light enough to release her katts. She wondered if she would ever be done with milking by this time of day. She went to the cabin and opened the door, put fisk in bowls under the table, and went to tend to the chickens.
Back in the barn, the goats were peeved at their long incarceration. Pyosz finished only by reminding herself if she failed here, no one in the family would ever forget it. They'd forgive her, even Mill, but it would remain in their knowledge of her. She couldn't stand that.
She refilled her milk pitcher, set it in her coldbox, and tore from the logbook her list of items she needed as she reached into her pockets to make sure eks and her allotment book were buttoned into her back pocket. She wrenched her wain from where it had settled into the mud with a flare of protest from her shoulders and pulled it toward the slope down to the dock. It was well past 7:00, she could tell even with this overcast sky.
She turned the wain around to ease it down the mud-slicked incline. After two steps, her feet slid out from under her and she fell ass-backwards into the mud. Her wain hurtled downhill as she gave a scream. There was a barrier fence between the end of the incline and the ocean a few feet below -- obviously someone had foreseen this problem -- and the wain, holding a few hundred pounds of milk, hit it with a sickening crash. Pyosz sat in the muck, waiting to see the wain, milk and all go through the fence and disappear into Koldok Kuono. But the fence held, and Pyosz slowly got to her feet, wiping her hands on her burzaka as best she could.
Her first blessing of the day was that it was high tide, and transfer of the cans to the ferry was a lateral chore without much up and down lifting. Even so, by the time she sat down and pushed the lever, she was breathless. I thought I was in fairly good shape she thought. If it weren't for Lawa's gloves, my hands would be raw by now.
A couple of carts were near the Koldok wharf, and as she began unloading, a stranger came up to her, said "You're the new capriste, eh. Nasty day to be learning the ropes", and pitched in to share the work. Pyosz shook her hand gratefully without either of exchanging names.
She walked into the djostiker's full of apology for being so late. "I began at 4 a.m., I can't believe it's taking me this long" she said. Kolm patted her shoulder and said "No problem, I figured it would be like this for a while. Truth is, Ferk sometimes missed days, which is not good for the milk and affects the cheese, even in a coldbox. I appreciate you getting here."
Pyosz took more cheese when she left, another variety, and asked directions to the allotment center. When she went in, nobody was visible and she called out. After two long minutes, a young woman came through a door into the back, looking irritated at having been interrupted. Pyosz put her allotment book on the counters and said "I need a wide range of staples. I also need ingredients for making goat and chicken feed -- "
The woman interrupted immediately to say "We don't carry animal feed, you'll have to get that from the ejida."
"I don't want prepared animal feed, I'm going to make my own" said Pyosz. "I'm the new capriste -- "
"You still have to get it from the ejida, we don't carry that kind of bulk item" said the woman. She had opened Pyosz's book and now closed it, saying "This is for Skene."
"I know. I just arrived here yesterday, I'm working on Saya for the summer, I haven't had a chance -- "
"You'll have to get a transfer permit before I can honor a Skene allotment. You need the Ethicist's signature -- "
This time Pyosz did the interrupting. "You mean to say I'm going to have to go locate my sibemma Mill and get her in here to straighten things out? Is that really the way things are done here?" Pyosz saw that word "sibemma" register, and the dim brain of this clerk start to put pieces together. She continued "I mean, Api is crazy busy at the moment, which I understand because my abba Bux in Skene is also consumed with her duties as Ethicist. Moreso even than my emma Prl, the Genist." The clerk picked up the book again, starting to backpedal. Pyosz thought And what would you have done, you shu-fart, if I didn't have all these connections? Send me out of here without a grain of rice?
She drew out a month's supply of grains, beans, flours, oils, fisk, vis, powdered kelp, and salt. She added modest amounts of bacon and sausage, wary of the limits of her tiny coldbox. She cut ten yards of the cheapest kelp-based linen they had, to make more milking rags. She had to fill in several triplicate forms, verifying she was not robbing Pya to benefit Skene, but left with a loaded cart, placing all her items into empty milk cans to keep them dry.
She considered going to the regular grocery as well, but decided she had enough for basics and first she needed to finish her survey of Saya's fruit and nut trees. She did stop at the mercantile, leaving her cart in view of the front window. The clerk behind the counter looked around the same age as Kolm and just as friendly, a dark woman with brown curls and a missing front tooth. Pyosz introduced herself, and the woman said "Oh, we've heard you're already hard at it. I'm Taamsas, what can I do for you today?"
Where had she heard about what I'm doing? wondered Pyosz. She pulled out her list and said "Okay. Replacement handles for a standard hoe and hammer, whetstone, machine oil, copper mesh, sandpaper in mixed grits, cotter pins, a can of marine paint, scouring powder and cloths, and do you have vinegar jars?"
"You mean like stoneware?" asked Taamsas. "We do, but they cost the earth, we have to import them from Skene because we don't have a keramiker on Pya, haven't found clayfields yet. Are you planning to make your own vinegar, then, from Saya fruit?"
"Yes, hopefully" said Pyosz.
"Well, most folks use gallon jugs in dark glass. You have to pay more attention to temperature and possible spoilage, but if you've got a dark spot with ventilation, you should do all right" said Taamsas, starting to walk the aisles and pull items from shelves for Pyosz.
"What about bottle caps? Are they the same size here as Skene?"
"Yep, same dimensions. Do you need decanting bottles for the vinegar?"
Pyosz said "There's a vast pile of bottles out there awaiting recycling, I think I'll scrub those out and start with them. Oh, and I need a bottle brush. And labels."
"Printed labels you should get from Naki, she's the cartagen, right across from the library. Also develops photographs. In fact, she's the best photographer anywhere, I think" said Taamsas.
"I'll go to her soon, but I need temporary labels for now" said Pyosz. "Plus might as well get a vat for mixing animal feed, though I apparently have to get the ingredients at the ejida."
"Who told you that?" asked Taamsas, stopping to look at her as Pyosz took an armload from her.
"Didn't get her name, but she works at the allotment center" said Pyosz.
Taamsas snorted. "That layabout, she'll do anything to not do her full share of work. Listen, I have a lot of those sorts of supplies here, what do you want?"
Pyosz hesitated. "I need to not pay for them, but instead have them come from allotment."
"No problem, I can fill out a form, I'd hardly be in business on Skene if I didn't have bureaucratic skills in my blood" said Taamsas with a grin. "It's ridiculous, giving you a hard time when you're paid by the same government she is. In fact, you produce a lot more than she does."
Pyosz handed over her ingredients list, and she and Taamsas began assembling bags on the counter. Taamsas was asking her questions about her particular feed mixes, and asked if she could try the chicken feed. "Your sibemma Dodd, she's got the best chickens and eggs on Pya, we all barter high for 'em on market day" said Taamsas.
"Same feed" grinned Pyosz. "Although I don't know that Dodd will thank me for giving away the family secret."
"It will stay with us" said Taamsas, laughing. "We've got a large family and stores to run, we actually eat most of our eggs and chickens before they ever reach market."
"Who's us?" asked Pyosz.
"My partners, Kolm and Gitta, and five kids, one of whom helps out in here after school" said Taamsas happily.
"Kolm is your partner?" No wonder you're so well-informed thought Pyosz.
"Mm-hm, and Gitta, have you been to the grocery yet? Well, she owns that. In fact, when you've got vinegar to barter, please go to her first. We have a distiller, over near the kickball field, but..." Her voice trailed off. Taamsas would gossip but not maliciously, it seemed. With a new tone, she said "Are you planning to turn any of your fruit juices into wine or brandy, then?"
"I don't actually know that process" confessed Pyosz. "If I took it to the distiller, would I still make a profit, you think?"
Now Taamsas was choosing her words very carefully. "Depends on the arrangement. I've not used her services, mind, so this is all second-hand. Mostly she seems to prefer to trade product for product. Like, you bring in the juice and she returns you wine or brandy less a commission. It still falls under legal allotment barter rules, but...I think she does very well. Because...most of the folks using her services want the drink, you see."
"Ah" said Pyosz. "Well, I'm not a drinker, so perhaps I should look elsewhere."
"There's a distiller in Cogio" said Taamsas. "'Course, that's a long transport."
Which is why the local distiller seems to have a corner on the market thought Pyosz. And then it suddenly occurred to her that all the empty bottles piled up in Saya's recycling, which she had taken for vinegar bottles, were identical to those used for spirits. Ferk's work ethic took on a new complexion. She saw Taamsas watching her closely, and realized Koldok wasn't ignorant of what she had just figured out. She grinned at Taamsas, and Taamsas grinned back.
"All right, then. One more thing, is there a metalworker or smith who could make me some replacement racks for the drying room out there? I can't find any racks at all, and I'm not sure it's ever been used" said Pyosz.
Taamsas's grin grew wider. "There's a forge right outside my back door here. And in the afternoon, when my child comes to run the store, I put on my smith apron. Bring the measurements to me."
Pyosz laughed. "What would Koldok do without your family of entrepeneurs?"
"Blow away" said Taamsas , with some truth to her words. When Pyosz saw the bill total, she realized it was going to seriously erode her stash of eks. She didn't get paid until the end of the summer. She was going to have to come up with alternate income before then, even with barter.
Taamsas helped her carry her items to the cart. On her last trip in, Pyosz spotted a stack of brightly-colored wool blankets in the corner. "Oh, how beautiful these are!" she exclaimed. They were silky soft, with striped borders in pleasing tones.
"Gitta knits those, when she's not busy" said Taamsas proudly.
Pyosz chose one in vermillion and one that was almost exactly Curds' cream color. Taamsas looked at her small stock of coins and said "I'm giving you a 10% discount, for being a new citizen. In fact, I'm applying that discount to what you've already bought. Take the blankets and enjoy them, no charge."
"I couldn't possibly -- " began Pyosz.
"Gets cold in those metal huts, even in summer" said Taamsas knowledgeably. "Just think of us when you get warm, and be sure to tell others who made the blankets."
You've got my business for life thought Pyosz. She shook her hand happily and headed for the wharf. Before she got there, she ran into Mill on the street, who said "I see you're still alive. Come over to the Lofthall and have a cup of tea with me, tell me how it's going." She took the cart handle and began pulling it for Pyosz.
In the canteen, Pyosz accepted an egg salad sandwich and steamed spinach as well as tea. "This is my second breakfast" she confessed. "I'm way short on sleep, but my appetite is up to the clouds."
"Hard work" nodded Mill. "I was going to come see you last night, but Maar said she was going anyhow, so I thought I'd let you make friends without my old face ruining the fun." Pyosz kept her surprise to herself. Then the visit had been Maar's idea, after all.
After two big bites, Pyosz pulled her list from her pocket and used it to refresh her memory. "Okay, first, explain to me the rules here on Pya for those of us producing for allotment."
Mill began "You have to keep detailed records, and prove you're turning over 50% to the state. Of the half you keep, you can barter it as you wish but absolutely nothing gets sold for cash, that's a serious violation. And no loopholes, no fake barter. You can keep a higher percentage if you can document that you're producing a finished product from it. In your case, that would mean making cheese and yogurt -- "
"Not likely. Kolm looks to be the expert in that realm" said Pyosz.
"Also if you slaughter your own stock, tan your own hides, and/or smoke your own meat. In the case of fruit and nuts, if you dry or juice the fruit, roast the nuts or make nut meal, that counts as production" continued Mill.
"Vinegar?" asked Pyosz.
"Yep. But you still can't sell those products for cash, only barter. Still, it's well worth the extra if you go that route" said Mill.
"I get to keep another 10%, right?"
"15% here on Pya. We're hard up for labor, rich in produce, so the more folks do their own cottage industry, the better for us" said Mill.
Pyosz did quick math in her head. At payment of 5 eks for the summer, that's at least 16 eks per year, plus a chance to have a great deal of valuable barter she thought. Ferk should have been much better off than she apparently was.
Maar appeared in the doorway to the canteen and after Pyosz waved at her with a big smile, she came to join them. "I thought I saw your cart out there. They just put blackberry pie on the counter" she said.
"My favorite" said Pyosz, starting to get up with an involuntary groan. Maar said "No, I'll get it. And more tea?"
"Water" said Pyosz. "Trying to flush out my tissues." As Maar left, Mill leaned over and felt Pyosz's forehead.
"You've got a fever" she said with a frown.
"I'll be okay" said Pyosz. "If I don't keel over first" she couldn't resist quipping. Mill kept frowning. Maar set pie in front of Pyosz and sat down to her own piece. "It won't be near as good as what you or your abbas make, I'm sure" said Maar.
"Speaking of them, did you call them last night?" asked Mill.
"No, I meant to, but I kept falling asleep at weird times" said Pyosz. "I will tonight. Now, about the electricity situation out at Saya: I nearly froze last night. Is there any way to get a geothermal survey done and put in a power plant?"
Mill sighed. "We have one hidraler and two fadians for all of Pya. They're backlogged for months. You'll be gone by the time they get around to it. And if we ask someone to come in from Skene, we have to pay a high guild surcharge -- the guild, by the way, is the reason we don't have more skilled people in that field, Skene guilds won't certify people already living on Pya. You have to get certified there first, and few folks migrate after that kind of apprenticeship."
"When will be out from under all those contracts?" asked Maar, her teeth showing purple stains. Pyosz noticed she had a gossamer mustache dusting her upper lip, only visible in certain light.
"Next year" said Mill, thumping the table in celebration.
"What contracts?" asked Pyosz.
Mill swiped a berry from her plate as she explained. "Before there was local government on Pya, everything fell under Skene's jurisdiction, and all the first settlers had to agree to continue Skene law, Skene guild practices, what have you. Then, in order to have our first election separate from Skene, we had to sign contracts guaranteeing certain exports and imports, etc. Twenty-year contracts." Her tone held barely-concealed anger.
"I smell change in the wind" said Pyosz.
"You know it" said Mill. "So, back to the heat issue -- if you're getting sick because of the cold, sibiya -- "
"No, I'm all right, I told you" said Pyosz. "It'll get better as the summer comes in, I'm sure."
"Don't let it get worse" insisted Mill. "Go see Briel, or you can stay on our couch and make the commute back and forth."
Mill and her family were the first to move off Dvareka or a major island onto one of the Pea Pods, Arta. They built a Manage of wood back when such construction was still new, and they were conservative in their space allocation as any good Skener would be. Consequently, there were no real guest rooms at their house. It had one story plus an attic garret that had been divided into the children's bedroom -- where Pyosz had slept on her visits in Ngall and Abbo's room --, a tiny middle room which was the office shared by all the adults and consequently filled floor to ceiling with papers, and a third small room that was set aside for Lowitt, Oby's sibu. Despite the fact that Lowitt mostly lived at the homes of one of her two sweethearts in Cogio, where she ran Ollow's second kelp processing factory, nobody ever suggested this space be given back to the family for use.
To create more living space, Mill and Oby had built a pergala outside with a grill, dining table, and lots of comfortable chairs. Family gatherings met outside in all but the coldest weather. The Manage was now noticeably listing to one side, because of improper construction, and needed foundation work. However, there was never a time when this busy group could vacate the premises long enough to have the work done.
"I'll be okay" repeated Pyosz. "But before I forget, do you have the authority to sign my allotment book so I can get payouts here without any hassle?"
Mill nodded, pulling out her fountain pen as Pyosz retrieved her book. Mill said "Hassle? Has someone given you a hard time? Because there was an announcement in the paper yesterday about you assuming this position, there shouldn't be any question about your authority."
Pyosz kept mum. She didn't want to start her time here pissing off some petty demagogue who, for all the knew, was beloved in Koldok. Mill saw her silence and said "Look, Pyosz, I'm not Prl, I'm not going to gather kerosene and torches to lay waste to whoever it was. But if they're making trouble for you, odds are they're making trouble for someone else, I'll need to have Api check it out for the good of the community."
Pyosz said "Well...As long as you make it clear I'm not looking for trouble. It was the woman at the allotment center, I don't have a name for you. However, Taamsas made it right for me, you should know that."
Mill smiled. "Taamsas and her family are solid gold."
Maar leaned toward Pyosz and asked quietly "Who's Prl?"
"My emma" said Pyosz.
"The Genist" mused Maar. Mill said "A lot more than that, if you ask her, and she intends Pyosz's feet to never encounter the dust of this planet." Maar raised her eyebrows as Pyosz pushed back her irritation. She complained about Prl often but she didn't like hearing others make fun of her.
Abbo appeared in the doorway and came straight toward them, saying to Maar "Jiips is breathing fire, she's been trying to raise you on the radio, you were due back for another job half an hour ago."
"Oh, lev" said Maar, leaping to her feet. She looked guiltily at Mill, who waved her hand, saying "Go on, we'll bus your dishes and I won't tell her I saw her." Maar loped from the canteen, and Abbo took her chair.
Mill's face lit up gazing at Abbo. Pyosz remembered when she had been little, visiting here, Ngall used to complain bitterly in night-time whispers about how her emmas liked Abbo better, even though Ngall didn't get in nearly so much trouble.
Abbo now said "It must be nice, having the leisure to eat pie in the middle of the morning." Mill laughed, though Pyosz couldn't force more than a wan smile. She said to Mill, "I need to have a group of seven overgrown bucklings taken to the ejida for slaughter, where do I get the paperwork for that?"
"I'll put it together for you" said Mill. "And Abbo here can come pick them up tomorrow, around this time? Drop them at the ejida for you. She'll bring the papers then." Abbo turned her head but Pyosz could see the scowl.
Pyosz added "There's an outrageous stack of old recycling behind the barn. I'm going to sort through it, re-use what I can, but I'll need the rest hauled to -- what's the recyling island here?"
"Doimoi" said Mill. "Just give me a call you've got it ready."
"Be sure to get it over to the jichang first" said Abbo unnecessarily. Pyosz began the effort of standing, saying "Well, I've got another ten hours of solid labor before I get to rest again, I'd better start on it." She did her best not to limp, but Mill noticed and said "Are your feet injured?"
"I'm all right" said Pyosz a third time, a little harshness coming into her voice. She gave Mill a hug, waved at Abbo, and started putting on her burzaka as she left the canteen.
Back on Saya, she had to dig in her heels and strain her body to the maximum to pull the wain up the muddy slope. The rain was ending, but puddles covered all of the path. Curds was sitting on the kitchen table. She piled her staples beside Curds, took most of the other items to the barn along with the milk cans, and then went to empty her chamberpot.
Back at the cabin, she made her bed, leaving the door open so the cabin could air out. She found jars and canisters for all her new dry goods, labeled them and put them away in the larder. Then she pulled back out the flours and began a sponge for bread. She cut the linen into new milkrags, giving herself a supply that would last four days between laundry loads. She punched down the first rising and sat down at the table with a cup of tea to make a list of all that needed doing.
She was just finishing both the tea and the list when a familiar voice called out "Hey, there's my favorite sibiya!" It was Dodd, sloshing up from the dock with a covered pot in her hands. Pyosz went to greet her with joy. Dodd, in fact, was her own favorite sibemma. She was tall, like Pyosz, and wide-shouldered, and had developed a large belly in her middle age. Her hazel hair had thinned so much in the middle that scalp showed through, a rare sight on Skene. She compensated by growing a thick beard, neatly trimmed, in the same rich tone. Her green eyes were large and infinitely kind. She was the kind of person everybody hoped would be their child's second-grade leraar, during those tough years between 8 and 11 when development came in spurts and dribbles. Pyosz had always thought if she couldn't have Prl as her emma, she would have chosen Dodd.
"I brought the rest of a fish chowder I made last night that turned out exceptionally well" said Dodd, setting the pot on the table and wrapping Pyosz in a massive hug.
"I'm not hungry at the moment, but you can dig in if you want, it's lunchtime, right?" said Pyosz, offering Ng's bowl.
"Lost track of time already?" said Dodd, accepting the bowl and examining it with a reminiscent smile before filling it with stew.
"Yeah, pretty much" said Pyosz. "My bread is still in its second rise, but I have one piece of cornbread left, and the tea water is still hot." She served Dodd, who was offering morsels of fish to the katts, one on either side of her chair. Pyosz noticed Curds was no longer growling every time Ember was in her proximity. Packing them together like sardines seems to have done them some good she thought.
While Dodd ate, she asked endless intelligent questions of Pyosz and heard the whole story of her saga to this point. "I'll rub liniment in your shoulders again after I'm done eating" offered Dodd.
"Actually, later would be better. I need to get some things done while the sun is out" said Pyosz.
"Then I'm your helper" said Dodd. "I have to be home for dinner, that's my time limit, and there's nothing would give me more pleasure than to help you make a dint in this mess out here." She was earnest, Pyosz could tell. Dodd was always earnest.
"Well, here's my list" said Pyosz. "I need to save the sorting of recycling for myself, because I have to make decisions you can't. And the barn cleaning is going to be foul, I refuse to let you do that. Anything else that strikes your fancy is your chore."
"Primo cornbread" commented Dodd, munching and looking over the list. "Okay, I'll do the chicken house and go clean the goat tank in the pasture, for starters. I dressed in my ejida clothes, and I brought gloves. I'm going to have some alluring new muscles after this week is over."
"I hope I do, too" said Pyosz. She pulled out the tin of Yoj's cookies and Dodd's eyes sparkled, accepting several plus a glass of fresh milk. Pyosz decided her bread was far enough along to bake. She separated the sponge into loaves and rolls while the stove was preheating, again wishing she had an aga.
"Let's leave the dishes soaking in the sink" she told Dodd when she was through eating. "I'll want lunch eventually myself." They walked over to the chickenhouse together and looked over the flock.
"I wish I could somehow get a few of the abbas' hens here, from that line which lays double-yolks" said Pyosz.
Dodd grinned at her. "I've got several of them, and it's an inherited trait. In fact, I just had a chanticleer come for a couple of days. When the chicks hatch, I'll give you all you want."
Pyosx clapped her sibemma's shoulder. "Then I'm going to be eating a lot of chicken in the next month, to make room for them."
"Do you have that stewed curry recipe?" asked Dodd. "Bring that on shmonah, for the family potluck at Arta."
"I forgot about that" said Pyosz. "Every shmonah, still?"
"Absolutely. I take my fiddle, and Abbo's pretty good on drums." Dodd was a member of a band that played all over Pya.
"Well, to the recycling with me" said Pyosz. "Let's check back in when you're done here." She gave Dodd a kiss on her rosy cheek and headed for the barn.
She used the wain to hold everything that was going to Doimoi and a couple of metal crates for bottles and other items she could use. It went faster than she had anticipated. She hauled the wain to the jichang, unloaded it, and return to the barn to do a more thorough check of the hay in the loft.
To her dismay, when she turned over a bale, she found it was moldy halfway through. She investigated all the bales, and only one was fit to use for animal consumption. She pushed the rest out the side door onto the ground below, then clipped the wires on two of them and filled the wain with the greenish straw.
She pulled the wain to the muddy slope by the dock and tipped it up, raking out all the hay onto the incline. She stomped it down, ignoring her complaining feet, and went back for another two bales. Once the slope was carpeted and for more stable underfoot, she covered the trails everythere there was standing water and mud. She still had two bales left, and she took this through kissing gate, packing straw into the slick slide down into the pasture. Goats of course came to investigate, and a few nibbled briefly at the hay, but even they recognized it was not a good idea and wandered off to eat good grass elsewhere. After another rain, it will be a solid mat, she thought.
Returning to the barn, she ran into Dodd who said "There's a leak in the roof on the northeastern corner of the chickenhouse. Rusted through, and not a major problem yet."
"There's tin in the barn, I can patch it later, I bet" Pyosz said. "I'm hungry now, wanna come take a break with me while I eat lunch?"
The chowder was excellent, and Pyosz had a fresh roll with it. Dodd ate two of the rolls, smeared with butter and honey, and declared them as good as his emmas'. Over this second meal, they talked about Dodd's children, Mruch and Qoj. Qoj had just finished her advanced degree in astronomy and meteorology at the University in Skene, and she was planning to spend years in apprenticeship to the Astronomer on Verzin. "Maybe by the time she's done, I can persuade Pya to build an observatory on top of Pertama Poke" said Dodd hopefully. "We could use her skills here, and I just can't believe anyone can grow up in Pya and leave it forever."
"What about Mruch?" asked Pyosz. "I saw the notice that she's been accredited as a curandera."
"Yes, but she wants to be a surgeon" said Dodd. "That will take another year of hard work there in Riesig. Again, though, if we had a surgeon on Pya, we could open our own hospital. Right here in Koldok, if Briel has her way. None of us will have to die alone in Skene again."
Pyosz suddenly hoped Ferk had never regained consciousness, had never experienced the wrench of separation from Saya that she surely would have felt.
"That reminds me" said Pyosz, getting her camera. "Will you take a photo of me that I can send back home, to show them I'm alive and well?"
Dodd took one of her standing by the fig tree, then one of her holding Curds. They took one of the two of them together, and Pyosz managed to get Curds and Ember into the same frame long enough for a shot. She found an angle to catch much of the interior of the cabin, and used her last shot on a sweeping view of the goats, the grassy plain with the woods beyond, and a corner of the shingle beach to the south.
They separated again, Dodd going to muck out the goat tank, Pyosz flushing the privy and pulling weeds from the packed gravel of the jichang. There was no point in shoveling out the goat barn without fresh hay to lay down. Instead, she took one of the kitchen chairs to the tillage and sat down to spare her throbbing quadriceps muscles as she began weeding, making notes about future planting.
Before she was finished, it began raining again. She returned the chair to the kitchen, meeting Dodd who said "It wasn't that bad. It'll refill from the rain, I don't think I need to take a hose down there."
"I declare us done" said Pyosz. "I refuse to garden in the rain, after all I've done today. I've got an hour before the goats will be ready to milk. How about if we look through the books abba sent with me?"
"Hear, hear" said Dodd. Pyosz brought them to the table from her cabin, all except one novel that she realized had a lurid cover showing scantily-clad rice-farmers about to go at it next to a paddy. This must have been in that give-away pile she thought. But what on earth was abba doing with this kind of trashy book?
Dodd left eventually with her chowder pot washed (the rest of it stored in a bowl in the coldbox for Pyosz's dinner) and a bag of books which she'd return to Pyosz after she and Briel read them. Pyosz walked her to the dock, wishing she didn't have to leave. At least I'm in better shape here she thought, walking more easily back up the trail. Though my muscles are as inflamed as ever.
She didn't finish the milking before nightfall and had to stop in the middle again to put away katts and chickens. Curds was suspicious and didn't come when Pyosz put fisk in her bowl, but finally succumbed with the offer of sausage. Ember got a bit of sausage, too, "for being the good katt on Saya" said Pyosz as she shut the cabin door.
Once the milking ordeal was over, Pyosz fried sausage with chopped kale and sliced carrots she'd pulled from the tillage earlier. She added this to the fish stew and ate it with two glasses of water and a couple of figs. In the dark, she stripped and stood under the solar shower, hoping there was enough hot water to rinse the gardenia-smelling soap suds from her crusty body. The last half-minute was tepid, not even warm. She dried briskly, realizing she'd forgotten to get that massage from Dodd. She dressed in warm clothes and heated water on both burners of her stove until she had enough to fill the basin again. Her feet actually looked a little better, she found. After soaking, she re-dressed them, put on clean sokken, and sat down at the table to write letters to her family, long letters full of description and as much humor as she could muster. She began with a letter to Prl, because she was especially missing her. The idea of going an entire summer without seeing her emma suddenly seemed insane.
She picked up the radio and called the Genist Manage. After ten rings, she hung up, astonished that nobody was there. Where could they be? She kept writing and tried again half an hour later, still with no result. She started to worry: What if someone was in the hospital? Wouldn't they have called Mill, at least, to tell her? She kept working on her letters and calling at ten-minute intervals. After an hour, she was in a near frenzy. The rain pouring down around the canopy seemed like walls pinning her in, no light making its way through the dark. She was frightened but going into the cabin seemed worse.
Finally she called her abbas' Manage, figuring it must be about 9 in the morning there. To her reilef, Yoj answered, and Pyosz burst into tears. "Is everybody okay? I've been trying to call emma and nobody answered, not for hours" Pyosz wailed.
"She's here, actually, with Qala and Lawa" said Yoj, suddenly wondering if anticipating this call was why Prl had shown up so early this morning, before anyone but Halling was awake. She must have thought Pyosz would call us instead of her thought Yoj. But Prl was at her elbow, saying "Is that my child? What's wrong, do I hear her crying?" The radio was jerked from Yoj's hand and Prl said "Baby, what happened, do you need to come home?"
"Oh, emma, I've been calling and calling you tonight, I was so worried about you" sobbed Pyosz. "And my whole body aches so bad, my feet are covered with blisters, I can't wear my otos, this place is a wreck and the goats bite me and Curds hates me and I'm freezing at night, you were right about the blankets, I should have listened to you!" Prl listened, pacing the floor, as Pyosz unburdened herself of all her troubles. Eventually Pyosz was able to say "But s'bemma Dodd came and brought me lunch, and helped me loads. And some of the people in Koldok are very nice. And please tell abba Lawa that her first-aid kit has saved me several times over." She was beginning to tell Prl details of Saya's condition and about all the purchases she was having to make, when the line went dead because Pyosz had called on a private frequency.
She sat there, deliberating calling back. She hadn't had a chance to talk to any of the others. But she was mailing letters tomorrow, and she had told Prl twice how much she loved her, and she really needed to go to sleep. She felt so much better, she thought she could maybe sleep soundly tonight. She put the radio back in the recharger and turned off the kitchen light, sitting there a few more minutes in the pitch-black night, breathing in the moist air and feeling like maybe she hadn't made a mistake, after all.
Prl, of course, was in near hysterics. She repeated everything she could remember Pyosz saying, often with embellishment, and shouted "I will never forgive Mill for doing this to my child, putting her in peril like this!"
It was Bux who calmed her down, saying "She just needed to cry, you know what that's like, she's only 20 and in a strange place, doing a hard job. She needed her emma, and she got you, that will make all the difference a grown woman wants." Although Bux did cast a look at Yoj and Halling which said, plainly, We will be checking in with Mill about her behavior here.
"It sounds like she's already running out of money, because Mill is letting her spend all her savings on fixing up that shu-hole" said Prl.
"But you yourself told Pyosz you weren't going to give her any money to help her in this foolish stunt" said Qala quietly. Prl looked daggers at her. Lawa said "She'll ask for help if she needs it. Sounds like she accepted Dodd's offer. Her body will heal, and she'll come back with enormous advances in self-confidence."
"I'm afraid she won't come back at all" whispered Prl.
"Nonsense" said Halling. "She's not Mill, she doesn't have a point to prove about being the Sheng Zhang. She's not driven in that particular way."
"Not like an 18-year-old I remember" added Yoj, "who became the youngest of all Genists with inadequate preparation and the responsibility of all Skene's future on her shoulders." Yoj's gentle tone drew a reluctant smile from Prl.
"If she doesn't call back, it's because she's done with this outburst" added Bux. "You know how self-absorbed that age can be. She'll move on to the next shiny object, now that she's wept in emma's lap."
They all laughed, then, and Prl finally showed a willingness to go back home to her neglected duties. Lawa went with her, but Qala stayed behind, saying to Yoj quietly "I'm not so sure Pyosz will ask for money if she needs it. Anything else, yes."
"Well, she won't go hungry" said Bux. "It's Pya, and there's family all around her there."
Pyosz was still and contemplative at the table, her flash in one hand, radio in the other. She was already in the habit of sitting on the side of the fable facing Koldok Kuono, where beyond the water she knew was town on her left, Arta Island on her right, though at the moment nothing was visible. She began making a mental list of what she had to do the following day, besides the levvin' milking -- call Mill and get a load of hay delivered, first thing. Maybe Abbo could bring that when she came to get the goats, if it wasn't pouring again.
Suddenly the grey of the rain in front of her turned black, utterly black, accompanied by a break in the breeze from that direction. A shape glided toward her and dropped down effortlessly onto the metal table next to her left hand, with a small sound of chitin scraping aluminum but no other indication of flight. The light-blocking wings folded elegantly against a body three feet tall, and a neckless head swiveled in her direction. She caught a glimpse of tapetum, and would have screamed except she was not breathing at all.
Before she passed out in terror, the head swiveled in the opposite direction, seemingly too far for a head to turn. Again without a sound, the creature lifted into the air, its wings passiing inches over Pyosz's head as it glided into the night again, a single flap giving it height once clear of the canopy. Pyosz breathed in with a gasp, and startled at the rattling she heard nearby before she realized it was the flash banging against the table because her hand was shaking uncontrollably. A few seconds later, Pyosz heard the scream of a shu in the direction the owl had gone.
That got her to her feet. She burst into the cabin, scooping Curds into her arms and gibbering "You surely don't want to be out there, katt of mine, you surely don't". She put on her schmatta, set the alarm, spread the new blankets on her bed, pushed her trunk against the door, and lay down with the flash and radio still in either hand. Ember was looking intently out the window, and Pyosz whispered "Did you see it, Ember?" From Ember's glance down at her, Pyosz thought the answer was yes. Curds seemed to have picked up on the tension, and curled against Pyosz's back, silent. Pyosz fell asleep without completely closing her eyes.
EXPLANATORY NOTES FOR CHAPTER SEVEN:
Chanticleer -- rooster.
Cogio -- town at southern tip of Dvareka in Pya, which has a salt factory, several refineries and ore processing plants, a distillery, a kelp factory, and a number of the only taverns on Pya.
Kuono -- ocean bay
© 2009 Maggie Jochild.