Tuesday, January 12, 2010


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


At breakfast Lawa said "I think we should stop collecting eggs for a week or so."

"How come?" asked Pyosz.

"That noisy chanticleer is doing her job, we're getting consistently fertile eggs. If we let 'em hatch out, we can give a starter flock to Vants and also replace some of the failing layers over the next half year. You'll have to get eggs from Gitta instead." Lawa poked the fried egg on her plate to make the yolk run and dipped the corner of her toast in it before adding "Maybe Vants wouldn't mind taking that chanticleer off our hands and let us borrow her back when needed. Since Vants gets up when you do and the levvin' thing won't wake her early."

Qala said "Lawa dreams of roast chanticleer every day around 5 a.m."

"They're delivering hives right after lunch" said Pyosz. "I'll haul mine and Vants' to the orchard, then ferry hers over. I'll get her set up and come back to open the hatch on mine. But you might need to meet Thleen and keep her from that end of Saya."

"Why can't I come watch?" asked Thleen.

"Because after a bumpy ride, they come out mad and looking everywhere for something to sting" said Pyosz. "You and your friends better steer clear of their territory for a few days." She didn't know if the warning would work or beckon Thleen immediately.

On Roku Ziri had come over for a couple of hours without her sibus. They had been studying a map of the planet in geography, which speculated the possibility of ice at the poles. Thleen and Ziri were sure this must be so, and they discussed what it would be like to walk across ice, sleep in an ice house, and of course have endless ice cream. They swore when they were grown. they'd go exploring to the poles.

Maar was washing vegetables for dinner and leaned around the aga to ask "How will you get there? We don't have sinners that can fly that far."

"We'll hop from secano to secano" said Thleen loftily.

"We have no maps showing secanos between here and the poles" said Maar, grinning. "Only open ocean."

"Then we'll land on the water to rest and recharge our batteries during the day" said Ziri.

"Like Abbo did that time" added Thleen.

Maar's grin vanished. "Abbo crashed, she didn't land, and a good pilot died as a result of her miscalculations."

Thleen looked wary, but Ziri said "We won't crash. We'll have little boats on the bottom instead of wheels, so our sinner glides on top of the water. Like this." She and Thleen were both in their sokken, and now Ziri took off at a run through the great hall, then slid on her sokken to a stop by the front door, both arms held out like wings. Thleen immediately imitated her, and they went back and forth, gliding to water landings on their way to the pole. Maar returned to working on dinner.

The following morning, Mill called Maar, apologetic, saying they were short on hauling for the week due to pilot illness and asking her to spend a few hours making runs. Maar said "Okay, I'll be there as soon as I change" and ate the last of her egg toast in two bites, wiping up syrup with her finger.

"You said we were going to practice riding bikes on Dvareka!" protested Thleen.

"We will this afternoon, I'll be back after lunch. And there's that kickball game tonight" said Maar, rushing upstairs.

"Well, since you're stuck with me, how about we see what we can pull in off the point?" offered Lawa. "I'll let you hold the pole." Pyosz wanted to ask Lawa to tether Thleen's belt to a tree, but kept mum. She put beans on to soak and made cornbread before heading to the kissing gate to let does in for nursing time with the kids. She passed Qala planting potatoes and onions in the tillage.

As she was leaving the barn, she heard Lawa shouting "Hey, come here, come look at this!" She streaked toward the point, her terror subsiding when she could see Thleen standing well back from the cliff. Qala was behind her, and Lawa turned to Qala saying "Look at that storm cloud north of Shu, it's different in some way I don't recognize." Qala was squinting. Pyosz hurried into the house and grabbed the radio as well as her binoculars.

She did a scan, then handed the glasses to Qala, saying "There like a dimple on the water under the cloud."

"Oh, lev" swore Qala, taking a look. As Pyosz watched with her naked eyes, a sort of mist seemed to coalesce into the air between dimple and cloud, white and increasingly formed in contrast to the dark grey jumble of the cloud. Right when a column was obvious, Qala whispered "Waterspout."

"Shit" said Lawa, taking the pole from Thleen's hands and laying it on the sand so she could pick Thleen up with a grunt.

"It's headed toward Pirinc" said Qala. "Call the Lofthall."

But at that moment the radio crackled with a general frequency transmission. Jiips said "A formed waterspout had appeared northeast of Shu, currently heading east. Citizens of Pirinc are advised to seek immediate shelter in a stone or underground structure. We have pilots in the air monitoring, will give further updates as available. Repeat, waterspout heading for Pirinc, emergency cover is advised."

"Are the pilots going to be safe?" asked Thleen. "Can't that hurt them?"

"Pilots can see it better than us" said Pyosz. "They have radar, too, they won't ever get close enough to be hurt. Instead they play tag with it, to tell us where the danger is. Brave and smart, our pilots." But the deep furrow remained in Thleen's brow. And Pyosz thought The rice crop, all those little green blades I pushed down into the mud...

A minute later, Qala said "It's turning." She handed the glasses back to Pyosz. "It's curving southeast."

"Toward Dvareka -- or Teppe." She turned her glasses toward Teppe as Qala dialed Vants. Pyosz said "She's out in the pasture, completely exposed. Oh, wait, she's got a rope on Spatter, pulling her toward the barn. All the kids are following."

"She's on it, then" said Qala. She added, "You know, her cold box in the barn is in that room sunk four feet down into bedrock, with a heavy metal door."

"I bet she takes the goats with her" said Pyosz. "I would."

She, Lawa, and Qala all looked at each other. Lawa said "Me and Thleen are going in the house, to do a few things. No, don't worry about the pole right now, Thleen."

"I'll get my goats in" said Pyosz. "That storm blowing in from the west is worrisome anyhow." She didn't have any problem persuading Boulder through the kissing gate despite the time of day and still sunny skies overhead, which deepened her fear. She put the goats in interior stalls, kids with does in the middle, and pushed bales from the loft to stack around the stalls. She gave them a dribble of grain and, already sweating heavily, ran to the chicken yard. A few drops of rain hit her as she shooed the less cooperative chickens indoors, throwing feed on the floor before locking what looked now like a flimsy door on a joke of a building.

When she reached Qala again, breathing hard, she could see the spout was massive and brushing the northeastern edge of Teppe. "It's following the water, seems like" said Qala. "Lofthall says the Pea Pods are now on alert."

"It's headed straight for us" said Pyosz. frozen.

"Except it doesn't move straight" said Qala. Rain was now falling in earnest, making it hard to see the spout. Lightning boomed overhead, and Qala said "We have to go inside."

They found Thleen scurrying downstairs with the pillows from all the beds. Katts were yowling behind the door of the storage room under the stairs, and Lawa was muscling the mattress from her double bed through the doorway of the bath room. They ran to help her, discovering the big copper tub was lined with quilts and the silk pillows from the living room.

"This room is lined with pipes in the walls" gasped Lawa. "Pyosz, you and Thleen lie down in the tub."

A sharp crack hit somewhere on the roof. "Lightning strike" said Qala. She twiddled the radio dial and said "The transmitter's out."

Pyosz swung Thleen into the tub and curled beside her, putting her arms over the child. Lawa dropped a quilt over them, then more pillows and the pallet from Maar's bed. "Make a nest from the rest of those pillows for us to lie down on, close to the tub as you can get" Pyosz heard her say through all their layers. "We'll pull this mattress over us."

"It's hot, and I can't breathe good" complained Thleen.

"Here, make a pocket in front of your face, pooch out the quilt, see? And let's pretend we're Jiang Giants, we live in magma, the hotter the better" said Pyosz.

"You promise Maar is okay?"

"I promise" said Pyosz. "She'd be calling us right now if our radios weren't out. Now, if you were a Jiang Giant, what name would you want for yourself?"

Lighting continued to pelt around them, and Pyosz hoped the rain was drenching enough to keep fire from breaking out in her pasture or woods. She couldn't imagine pilots flying safely in this mix. She worried about Herne, the green house -- but they had a root cellar over there, she imagined her cousins hunkered down beside turnips and straw-covered apples. All the while she kept spinning a fantasy with Thleen, incorporating each boom and creak from outside into the story.

And she listened for the first sounds of the house coming down on top of them. This room was on the north, they'd receive the first hit. She would roll on top of Thleen then, she had her thigh muscles tensed and ready. This tub has a lead core, that won't split easily, the main threat is from above she thought.

She lost track of time, but eventually, when the percussions faded and a tingle on her skin dissipated, she began to dare thinking it had passed by. Lawa's muffled voice said "You okay over there?"

"Soaked in sweat but fine" said Pyosz.

"Stay put, I'm going to have a look-see" said Lawa. But apparently she and Qala were having trouble pushing the mattress off them. "Here, let me help" said Pyosz, moving the pallet aside and surfacing into cool fresh air with relief. At that instant the bathroom door flew open and Maar stood there, wild-eyed .

"I've been calling and calling" she gasped. "we were grounded in Pertama so finally I hopped a bike and raced to the ferry, where's Thleen?"

Thleen popped her head up beside Pyosz and demanded "You went bike riding without me?"

Maar choked out a laugh and started for them, stepping on the mattress. "Ow!" came Qala's muffled voice.

"Oh lev, I'm sorry" said Maar, pulling the mattress from under the lip of the tub and then upright against the wall. She stepped nimbly over Qala and clambered into the tub, Thleen saying "You're crowding me, siba, and it's so hot already", but Maar ignored her, pulling Thleen and Pyosz tight against her and starting to cry.

"What happened out there?" said Lawa, wiping sweat from her face with a towel.

"It turned and hit Dvareka, Puaa Woods, that's the last I heard" said Maar. She reluctantly pulled herself away from Pyosz and said "I have to get back to the Lofthall, since I can't call in."

As she climbed out, helpng Thleen out as well, she said "Whose idea was this tub and mattress thing?"

"Lawa's but I helped" said Thleen.

"Good job" said Maar fervently, looking at Lawa, then Qala and Pyosz. "Thank you, more than I can express -- "

"Go do your job, we've got work here" said Qala. "Tell the Lofthall to let everyone know we're okay, including Skene."

The others went to the kitchen for cold drinks. Qala assembled tools and said "I'm going up on the roof, see if I can get the transmitter working."

"I'm holding your ladder, then" said Lawa.

"Bring the radio so we can test for signal."

Pyosz put beans on to simmer, cut slices of cornbread to butter and eat with Thleen, and said "Before we fix the beds back, you go let the katts out, then the chickens, and play with the kids in the barn. I have to check my pasture and woods."

An hour later, stirring the beans, she reported to Qala "One blasted elm but no hot spots or curls of smoke. I put the goats back out. Kudos on the radio, you're quite the electronics whiz." She lay isda filets into butter to fry while Qala dressed a salad. Thleen came into the kitchen to report "All the beds are made."

Lawa arrived a minute later with the same announcement. She asked "Why haven't we heard where the waterspout ended up?"

"Well, in the 15 minutes the radio's been working again, we've gotten four calls from family wanting to know if we're really okay" began Pyosz. Qala shushed her and turned up the radio volume. Mill was saying "at least two Manages completely destroyed, partial damage to several more plus three shops and the bucky. Multiple injuries but repeat no confirmed deaths. All Pyans who can volunteer for search and clean-up, donate food and money, or offer emergency housing are asked to meet at Pya School. Injured and suffering from Talaba are being flown there for treatment and assistance."

"Talaba" whispered Pyosz. "It went on across Dvareka and hit Talaba."

"We have to go help" said Lawa.

"Lunch first" said Qala, nodding at Thleen. She carried the salad and radio to the table. "Wash your hands, Thleen, and set the table please." That's what emma always called her calm dispatcher voice thought Pyosz.

Tu, Pank and Vants arrived before they were done eating, accepting bowls of beans and cornbread with glasses of cold milk. Afterward they traveled to the schoolhouse together. One corner of the assembly room was sectioned off as a makeshift clinic with Briel mixing plaster to cast someone's broken bone. An older woman whose back was to them was receiving a nebulizer treatment from a machine. Dodd was organizing donated food, clothes and blankets already pouring in. Oby was on a radio, and Mill was talking to the cluster of dazed-looking survivors sitting on chairs in the middle of the room.

Pyosz went directly to Mill and said "S'bemma -- I mean, Sheng Zhang -- we're here from three Pea Pods to offer living space for anyone who needs it long-term."

Mill turned to her in relief. "I was counting on you. Tell me the details of what you can offer."

"Well, for Saya, we have four large bedrooms in a Manage with two indoor privies and all conveniences, easy access to school. Herne has one bedroom, indoor privy, and Teppe has two bedrooms, school commute a little more complicated but doable."

A woman in her 30s fixed urgent eyes on Pyosz. "Excuse me, did you say four bedrooms? Not shared? Are any of them on the ground floor, because my emma-in-law, she has breathing problems and needs to avoid stairs?"

Mill introduced them to each other. "Pyosz, this is Rika. She's from a family of ten, right? -- whose Manage has been destroyed. They work in Talaba, at the ejida in Pertama, and one on Doimoi."

Pyosz shook Rika's hand and said "Yes, four bedrooms all to yourselves, one downstairs. We currently are two elders, two my age, and an 8-year-old child."

"You're the capriste" Rika said in recognition. She waved to a group listening behind her, most of whom had on bandages and soiled or ripped clothing. "We're three elders, three around my age, and four children age 10 to a newborn. We -- we were all home in the basement and -- " She couldn't speak for a minute. "My partner has a broken arm, and my emma-in-law is having an asthma attack...the baby had to have stitches...but we're all alive, and we want to stay together, we'll take kids in with us, it would mean so much to not be separated -- "

"Then Saya is yours" said Pyosz, putting her hand on Rika's. "We love children, we have daily fresh milk and a good tillage, and really all we lack are beds and extra linens, but we can -- "

Klosa spoke up from nearby. "I'll get you beds and linens by nightfall, don't worry."

Rika looked overwhelmed. A baby being held by an elder behind her started crying, and Rika turned to take her into her arms. A young woman being casted by Briel called over urgently "What's wrong with Eoma?"

"She's all right, Xani, we're all okay" replied Rika. Mill said to Oby "Call Maar, tell her we have some passengers to carry." She said to Rika "One of the inhabitants of Saya is a pilot who could fly people to jobs on north Dvareka if they can start very early. We'll see what we can work out." She left Pyosz and Rika to keep talking as she moved on to match Vants with a family of four who had lost a roof, and Pank with two single workers whose bunks had been lost in the damaged Talaba bucky.

Rika began naming her family: "These are my emmas, Lpika and Henar, they both work in the noodle factory. My siba, Lehen, she's a manager on Doimoi." Vants broke away from her conversation a moment to say "Lehen, I'm so glad you're all okay." Lehen replied "We'll be near neighbors, then?"

Vants replied "We're all kin and see each other daily." Pyosz recognized Lehen as someone noticeably older than Rika -- quite a spread in those sibs -- who partnered with Vants a great deal at dances.

Rika continued "I work in the greenhouses north of Pertama. Xani works at the woolens factory except she's on leave right now because of her recent birth. Our oldest here is Xoan, she's in the last of second grade." Pyosz felt Thleen's hip against hers and looked down at her blushing face. "Ryar is 6 and Avik is 3, both in first grade. The baby, Eoma. And Xani's emma over there is Nioma."

Pyosz turned with a shock to see Nioma starting to remove the nebulizer mask from her face. "Nioma!" She went to the woman and hugged her effusively, helping her walk back to her family and grabbing her a chair. "You're coming to stay with us on Saya, your whole family, we're giving you the front first-floor bedroom and we'll help any way we can with your asthma." Nioma pulled the 3-year-old onto her lap and closed her eyes, still wheezing slightly.

With a nudge from Pyosz, Thleen began talking to the two oldest children. Qala and Lawa had moved to converse with Rika's emmas. Xani rejoined them, not yet able to hold the baby but needing to have one hand on her in Rika's arms. Rika said "Are you still in pain?"

"Yes, but Briel gave me some pills, I just swallowed one, should help" said Xani in a strained voice. "Is her head hurting her, you think?" She ran her fingers delicately over a row of stitches on Eoma's forehead.

"I can't tell. Could be all these people, maybe, and -- you know." A shudder passed through Rika, and the oldest child moved in close to her.

Maar arrived, capless and her hair sticking out in all directions. Pyosz introduced her to Rika and Xani, saying "We have the honor of taking in an entire family, Nioma's people. I'm sorry I couldn't ask you first but I've given away your room, I figured you would bunk with Thleen."

Maar was nodding when Thleen objected "No! I mean, I thought Xoan could share my room, I told her how nice it was -- " Her blush had returned and Maar looked at her quizzically.

Trying to keep her voice neutral, Pyosz said to Maar, "Well, of course, I have room..."

"Accepted" said Maar instantly. Pyosz was afraid to meet her eyes. Mill appeared at their elbow and said "Maar, I think you should first transport these folks to Saya, save them the ferry trip. Then carry the others to Teppe and Herne before returning to haul necessary furniture and supplies." They conferred briefly with Rika, Xani and Klosa to determine how many extra beds they'd need before Pyosz, Thleen, Qala and Lawa left to ferry home and greet their new tenants.

Rika and Xani took Maar's former room with the baby next to them in a double bed. Rika's emmas
Lpika and Henar took the back corner room upstairs with another double bed. Lehen and her 6-year-old sibiya Ryar took the room next to Pyosz with a pair of twin beds. Nioma and the 3-year-old Avik had a double downstairs.

Pyosz emptied half her dresser onto the upper shelves of her closet to make room for Maar's clothes, and helped Thleen do the same for Xoan, saying "We're going to make sure she has plenty of nice things to wear." Maar emptied her clothes chest for one bedroom, and Pyosz put her chest in a second. Klosa came up with two more chests, plus four nightstands, and a rocking chair and changing table for the baby's room. She also sent a bale of diapers.

The Talaba family were encouraged to explore the Manage and all of Saya, but only the children did, accompanied by Thleen. The adults huddled around the dining table, drinking sweet tea and nibbling at the food Lawa and Qala set out. Xani found a way to nurse Eoma with one arm, and after a few minutes Nioma moved to one of the easy chairs before the hearth, closing her eyes again with a sigh. None of the family wanted to talk much.

Qala met Pyosz in the kitchen and said "We're good for tonight but we'll need an infusion of cheese and groceries tomorrow if you can pick them up."

"Make a list" suggested Pyosz. "I'll call Vants and Herne, offer to get what they need as well. Are they in shock, these folks?"

"I would be" said Qala. "Mill said the only thing standing where their Manage used to be is an exposed cellar, which is where they rode it out."

On her next haul, Maar came to the table and said "My sinner is crammed with crates of clothes. If you can manage it, it would be easier for you to come out and see what you like. This is not the last, and don't feel pressure to accept something, only choose what you would from a store." Lawa went to call in the children, holding Thleen back with "you've got plenty of clothes." Nioma asked Xani to select for her, she needed to keep resting, "you know my size and style."

Pyosz helped fold the family's choices into empty crates for carrying indoors. All of the underwear and schmattas were new -- bless Klosa -- and at least half of the other garments as well. Pyosz asked the elders to also pick linens and towels which they could take on with them when they returned to Talaba. Their faces all looked a little better as they carried crates into the Manage. Maar left to take her load to Herne and Teppe.

But as soon as beds were made and clothes were put away, the family returned to Pyosz's enormous table. This time the children stayed close, looking at the adults' faces with anxiety. Finally Qala sat next to Lpika and asked softly "What happened?"

Lpika looked steadily at Henar and took her hand for a long minute before saying "We were all home, thank the stars. Because it was Sju. I was washing the floors, and the children were playing outside until...suddenly it was raining. But the rain felt odd somehow. Then the radio -- " She stopped, swallowing hard.

Henar continued "The radio said there was a waterspout near Shu. Going south, it said. We all went into the kitchen, trying to remember what we knew about waterspouts, wondering how -- well, how you all were here in the Pea Pods."

"Yeah, we did the same" said Lawa.

"But we went outside to watch" said Thleen.

"Briefly" said Lawa. "Until we realized we had to seek cover."

"We started making lunch" said Henar. "We were waiting for the radio to tell us more. Before the soup was done, the rain got so heavy it was blowing under the door -- "

"The katts" said Xoan suddenly. "You said where are the katts?" Her face was stricken.

"And there was this sound, still far off but you could tell it was moving, coming our way -- " said Henar, fear creeping into her tone.

"Like a combine, that's what it reminded me of" said Lehen.

"And Nioma said 'We need to go into the cellar.' She grabbed blankets from the closet and we all got in the corner, next to the stone wall away from the door and the little windows at front" choked out Lpika.

"Abba put blankets over our head" said Ryar, not yet able to cry.

"We shielded the children with our bodies" said Nioma in two breaths.

"The sound got right on us, with a crunching now" said Lehen. "It was a Jiang Giant taking steps, that's what I thought." Avik turned huge eyes on her, and Thleen looked at Pyosz.

Rika suddenly spoke. "Xani was huddled over the baby, covering her face, and I was over Xani -- I'm so sorry, Xani, I couldn't help it, I'm so sorry..."

"The wind, it was like we had no muscles at all" said Xani. "I still don't understand."

"I laid down on top of Ryar, and emma was flat on top of Avik, I remember" said Lehen. "And even so, the wind pushed me to one side and stole the blanket. I was trying to crawl back, trying to figure out where the wet was coming from."

Xoan said "I saw the Manage just go away. One second there was a ceiling, and the next second it was raining right on me."

"I got blown across the room" said Rika. "I saw the baby float in Xani's arms, like she was going to fly away, and I was trying to crawl against the wind."

"I hooked my arm" -- Xani raised her casted left arm -- "Through the drain pipe that went into the wall, and I locked it down with my shoulders, Eoma stuffed under me with my other arm. She was screaming but I could barely hear her over the roar. I had to keep my eyes closed because things were hitting my face."

Ryar said "Abba kept going up and down on top of me, it hurt and I couldn't hardly breathe."

"Yeah, abba jumped on top of me, too" said Xoan. "But I didn't mind."

"I don't know how long that part lasted" said Lehen, "Do you?"

Rika said "It felt like forever. I got one hand around Xani's foot."

Xani said "I felt a snap in my arm. It didn't hurt, not right away, but I couldn't hold on as good any more. And the baby, she -- she was slipping away -- " Abruptly she fell into shrieking sobs. "I was clenching everything I could but she was slipping away -- "

Rika and all three children were crying now, which Pyosz found a huge relief.

"And then it stopped. The wind stopped, and the roar went on past, and it was just regular rain, you could even see light from above" said Lehen.

"I had to pry you loose from that pipe, you couldn't relax your muscles" Rika said tp Xani.

"That's when it started hurting" sobbed Xani. "And we looked at the baby, and oh lev, her face was drenched in blood, she was screaming so loud."

"Abba moved and she couldn't breathe" said Ryar. "I was so scared." Nioma put her arms around Ryar and said "I know, sweetheart."

"It took a while to understand what had happened" said Lpika. "I still can't really believe it."

"Some people from one street over came and found us. Our stairs were gone -- everything in the cellar was gone, except for us -- " said Lehen.

"And that pipe" Rika said to Xani.

"They got a ladder from somewhere and came down to help us out" said Lehen.

"It was flat. Rock like before we built the Manage, and the hole under the privy. Tillage and trees, all gone" said Henar, stunned.

"Are we going to live here now?" Avik asked her emmas.

Nioma said "Only until we build a new Manage, right where the old one was. With an even stronger cellar."

"What happened to the katts?" asked Ryar.

"Well, katts have a special sense that gives them warning when certain bad weather is coming. So they ran away to a safe place, and when we go back tomorrow to look, they'll be waiting on us, I bet" Henar said smoothly. Xoan looked doubtful but kept quiet.

"Thank you for saving our baby" Rika whispered to Xani.

"We all saved each other" Xani said. "We did. We're all here, we're meant to be."

They sat in silence for a minute. The children looked much better. Qala said "All right, I want to hear what your absolute most favorite thing to eat is, each of you -- we're going to make a 'We're meant to be' celebration dinner." After compiling a list, Maar was radioed and agreed to stop at the fish docks for lobster and sakana. Thleen and Xoan were dispatched to Herne with bread and cheese to swap for a ham. Pyosz began two pies and a cake while Lawa harvested the tillage and Qala searched the larder for smoked eel, olives, and honeycomb.

While they were eating dessert, Oby and Mill stopped by. Mill looked exhausted. She accepted pie and pulled out a nearly full notebook. "Tomorrow morning, Abbo will fly any of you that want to go to Talaba, to look at your place. Mrebbe has offered her crew for rebuilding, if that's what you want to do -- what Pya hopes you do. Toward that end, we're orchestrating a call for volunteers to help with the reconstruction of all lost or damaged structures, and we'll help transport workers back and forth each day to speed up the process."

She said to Pyosz "This Manage giving a good home to so many, it's an incredible gift to Pya. If you need reimbursement for expense, let me know."

"There is no expense" said Pyosz. "Well, food, but we can cover that, we have plenty here on Saya. And Maar brings us lots of fish."

"We have allotment" said Nioma, "we'll do our share."

"Allotment will be welcome" said Pyosz. "but no spending of coin, you need every ek to rebuild."

Oby said "We here in the Pea Pods gather for a shared meal every Shmonah, which is tomorrow. Seems most practical for it to be here at Owl Manage because you're central and have the most space. But if you feel overwhelmed -- "

Nioma again spoke. "I've heard about your gatherings. I'd love to partake. And our Talaba sibaste will be coming from Herne and Teppe, yes?"

Mill nodded. She ate the last crust of her pie and said "Until tomorrow, then." The radio buzzed and Lawa went to answer it. She was back immediately, saying "It's Jiips for you."

"Yeah, Jiips, what's up? What? How come nobody noticed until now? All right, we'll be right there, make sure all the pilots have eaten and have rescue gear on board." Her face was grave as she said to Oby "Poth and Uli are missing, apparently haven't been heard from since the waterspout hit."

Maar was immediately on her feet, tucking in her shati. "Why didn't their families report it before now?" she asked.

"They were supposed to be meeting at the ejida to go over watershed maps in Puaa Woods, thinking about planned revisions to wild pig territory there. Each of their families assumed they'd gotten involved with post-disaster work. But when Uli didn't come for dinner or check in, Dekkan began asking every place she might be, nobody'd seen her. Finally some shu brain at the ejida recollected hearing Poth say they might go into the woods for a first-hand look." Mill was furious on top of her fear,

Nioma said in gasps to Ryar "Go to abba's room, get my nebulizer, from the crate by the bed."

Mill said "You need us to run you to the clinic?"

"No...I'll be all right...go find them." Nioma's face was grey.

"We'll make sure she's okay" said Lawa. Maar said to Pyosz "I don't know when I'll be back."

Pyosz felt as if her pulse had slowed to a crawl. She repeated "Find them." And then "Carynn bye" to the pilots' backs as they went out the door.

Qala called Dodd, who said "Yeah, we just heard. Briel is rousing the clinic staff and I'm heading over to Uli's Manage to sit with her emmas. Is anybody going to Poth's family?" Qala asked the table, and Lehen said "Ejida folk will already be there."

Pyosz heard rain start pattering on the roof. She lay her face down on her hands and thought We shouldn't have celebrated. Qala's hands rested on her shoulders, and she asked gently "Do you want to go to bed early?"

"Lev, no" said Pyosz. In a lowered voice, she said "What I really want to do is listen to the pilots as they search."

Qala said briskly, "Okay, Thleen, why don't you go get your sailboat to share with our younger guests as they get rights to the first bath in our special bath room? You can skip a night, Thleen."

Rika picked up the cue. "Oh what fun you're going to have, Ryar and Avik. Come on, let's get your new schmattas."

"I'll start the water" said Henar.

"Do I have to have a bath?" asked Xoan.

"You can wash up at one of the sinks, if you'd rather" said Xani. "But then into a schmatta."

"You and Thleen can put together a puzzle in your room" said Lawa. "Thleen, you wash and get ready for bed too, it's been a hard day, go on. I'll pull your trundle out."

Once the children were gone, Lehen said "Can you really listen in on the pilots?"

"Yes, we're a Lofthall family" said Pyosz. She got the second, rewired radio from the kitchen and turned it on. There was no transmission for several minutes. Xani nursed Eoma again, Nioma's nebulizer stabilized her breathing, and Lpika cleared the table while Henar started dishes. Pyosz walked upstairs with Thleen, assuring her Maar would be fine and turning on her bedside lamp before a goodnight kiss. She kissed the top of Xoan's head too and left the door slightly ajar.

But she was numb inside.

She asked if she might hold Eoma, who was now sleeping. Xani handed her over and Pyosz sniffed the baby's head, murmuring "You have an extraordinary aggie, you certainly do." Xani looked at her with wet eyes. When the radio crackled, Xani reflexively reached for Eomi and Pyosz helped settle her in Xani's right arm.

On the radio, Maar's voice said "Abbo, go direct to Talaba and locate the rescue ground team at the edge of crossover at the river. Light their way for them at a safe cover."

"Will do" said Abbo. Maar assigned three other pilots to make arcing sweeps of the lower section of Puaa Woods from river to kuono. One of them remarked "We'll have pigs running crazy." Pyosz winced, thinking about humans possibly trapped in those woods.

"Fohol. we'll start at the point where the spout made landfall, follow the destruction trail toward Talaba. You take my south 1.5 lengths behind me, on overlap, full ground lights. Anything moves, any color shift, anything, alert me. Speed one notch up from hover." Maar didn't sound at all tired.

After a minute, Abbo said "It's very slow going here because of blown debris, household goods, clothes, lumber, like scattered confetti. Every piece has to checked by the ground team, everything looked under."

"Got that" said Maar. "A lot of the trees have been reduced to kindling. The swath is 20 feet wide here."

"Less than that here" said Abbo.

"It must have hit us head-on" said Lpika softly.

The bath room door opened and two scrubbed children scampered out. Pyosz turned down the radio as Rika called "Goodnight kisses only".

"Put them together in my bed for now" suggested Nioma. "That way we'll hear them if they have a bad dream." Rika took them into the front bedroom and closed the door. Pyosz turned the radio back up and they heard Fohol say " -- shu?"

"Levvin' big one" agreed Maar. "I thought owls kept these woods clear."

A minute later, Maar said "We're definitely curving north."

"Yeah" said Fohol. "Wobble here and there -- what's that?"

"Pig -- no, pigs" corrected Maar. "Bacon heading north." Not quite pilot humor.

There was five minutes of static or an occasional "Anything?" -- "Nope." Qala refilled the teapot.

Then Maar said "I think that's Puaa Creek ahead."

"I don't see it yet. Are we going to stay on the swath or check up and down -- "

"I see blue, bright blue!" said Maar urgently. "Come level with me, Fohol." Uli's burzaka was bright blue.

"Okay, got her" said Fohol. "Tree pinning down her leg, blood visible on -- shit, that's shu!"

Maar's voice was amplified and echoed, and Pyosz realized she was using her loudspeaker: "Uli! Can you hear me, Uli? It's Maar, are you awake?"

Overlapping was Fohol saying "Abbo, we are 5 yards southwest of Puaa Creek -- " She read coordinates. "Need ground team here as quickly as possible."

"I have a distant visual of your lights" said Abbo. "On our way."

"That's scattered the bastards" said Maar. "No movement from her, though. I'm to start winching down the rescue basket -- "

"Maar, follow her right arm up, she's touching...an oto. Underneath that other tree" said Fohol.

There was static, then Maar said "Incomplete visual, but yeah, I think it's someone else. Winch down your basket, too." Her tone of voice was fighting despair. Nioma began weeping. Pyosz said "Do you want me to turn this off?"

"No" gasped Nioma.

Xani stood clumsily and said "I'm going to join Rika with the little ones." Lpika said "Let me carry Eoma for you." She slung the diaper bag over her shoulder and cradled the sleeping baby, returning in a minute. Pyosz scooted next to Nioma and put her arms around her. Let them still be alive, please, still alive.

"They're here" said Maar. "Abbo, will you take third point to maximize their light?"

Then static for another long minute, until Maar said "She moved! I saw Uli's arm move when they lifted the tree off her leg. Abbo, you've got the rescue crew on your frequency, right? Ask one of them to strap into the basket to ride next to Uli and give me the all clear when I can winch up and get her to Koldok."

Pyosz imagined Dekkan sitting in the Lofthall office, listening. Mill would not have allowed her to fly, but Pyosz was sure Dekkan had not gone home to wait.

Fohol said "That trunk is massive, they're having to section it. But at least the branches are off her face." Must be Poth.

Pyosz was counting seconds under her breath. At 113, Abbo said "She's secured, says go."

"Remind her I can't bring the basket close because of jet heat, there'll be sway and tilt. Hang on, once I'm well above the trees it'll only be two minutes" said Maar. There was a whine in the background of her transmission. Pyosz started counting again -- 120 until Uli was being lowered to the jichang, to Briel and Dekkan standing in the rain looking up.

But at 57 Abbo said "They're reporting -- she's stone cold. Her chest is crushed." Lehen said "No no no" and began weeping. Lawa buried her face on Qala's shoulder.

Pyosz couldn't seem to think clearly. Who was going to tell Poth's family? She thought of Pava's sweet, enthusiastic face, then Thont. And that baby Poth loved so distractedly. None of this made any sense. She went to a hearth chair, dislodging Curds without comment, and held her hands toward the warmth.

After a minute, Qala and Lawa sat on either arm of her chair. Pyosz said "Should I go -- to Poth's house? To the clinic, we don't know if Uli is -- I'm not sure what to do."

"Others are doing the terrible work right now" said Qala thickly. "We stay here, with these people. If you can sleep, go lie down because there will be much to do tomorrow."

I wish emma was here thought Pyosz. She looked at Qala: "If I take the other radio to my room, will it keep people from being able to call us here?"

"No, it's time to turn this one off anyhow" said Qala. "I'll radio Mill and ask her to let us know about Uli."

"Leave the front light on for Maar" said Pyosz. She said goodnight and went upstairs, trailed by Ember. She heard giggles from Thleen's room and poked her head in. "Lights out now. Dream sweet."

She put on her schmatta and laid out Maar's on her side of the bed. A soft knock came at the door, admitting Lawa with a carafe of hot milky tea "for when Maar gets home." They hugged again. Pyosz shut the door and left on the lamp on Maar's nightstand. She curled under her blankets with Ember and dialed the Genist Manage.

She was sound asleep when Maar crawled in beside her, crying. "What -- oh, come here, buddy, crap, you're cold as ice -- wait, Uli, is Uli -- "

"She's stable" choked out Maar. "Her leg is broken, collarbone, concussion, possibly pneumonia, but Briel says her signs are strong. They're all with her. Oh, Pyosz, I have to tell Thleen about her friend's emma, what will that family do without Poth? What will we all do? She worked so hard, she was out at work on a Sju when something rose up out of the ocean and smacked her down for no levvin' reason at all!"

Pyosz had cried herself out with Prl and she could receive Maar now. After 20 minutes, Maar pushed to her feet, almost staggering, to go empty her bladder. Pyosz went with her, and wet a cloth with warm water to wash Maar's face. Maar shuffled down to peek in Thleen's room. Thleen was on the very edge of her mattress facing Xoan's bed. Xoan had her back toward Thleen.

In their bedroom, Pyosz unlaced Maar's gilet, trying to ignore the bloodstains on it. Maar took over undressing herself, and Pyosz poured a cup of tea. She heard scratching at the door and let in an aggrieved Curds. Maar leaned against the headboard, sipping her tea, and Pyosz lay beside her.

"Did Poth die right away?"

"Briel thinks so. Her injuries were grievous, and some were -- postmortem. Uli couldn't tell us anything. Uli had several shu bites, too, but nothing disfiguring."

Pyosz was suddenly fiercely glad her garret was producing another generation of shu-killing owls.

"The funeral is to be on Moja, but people will be going to Poth's Manage tomorrow, I think" said Maar, finishing her cup and sliding down next to Maar.

"Turn off the lamp and spoon back into me, sweetie" said Pyosz. Maar was asleep in a count of 30. Pyosz lasted 14 more.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Margot said...

Tough one. Nothing like a natural disaster to shake things up and move them along! Eye-popping description - especially the bit about the baby - I've never read a first hand account of being in a tornado. In spite of my whinging about our current white-out, the climate here is really very benign.

C. Diva said...

There's so much in this chapter; I had to take it in small doses.
After having grown up in the midwest, it was hard for me to feel completely sheltered in a home on the west coast UNLESS there was a basement, no matter how often people reassured me that tornadoes were not a threat.
And don't get me started on my response the first time I saw a tsunami warning on the coast of SW WA.
Thanks for this.

Maggie Jochild said...

Growing up as a child in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, even Louisiana, I've lived through more tornadoes than I can remember to accurately count. When I was in first grade in Pecos, Texas, a historic storm with 8 separate funnel clouds killed another first-grader and destroyed most of the mobile home park where we lived (only knocked our trailer off its blocks). Mama and her friend Betty Cagle picked up their kids from school, saving us from likely injury, and rode around Pecos in our '58 Chevy, Mama with her window rolled down so she could see twisters and turn down another street to avoid them. Both front and back windshields were cracked by flying debris but my crazy Mama kept us all safe.

Another timem living outside Del Rio, a twister lightly fingered our trailer, knocking it askew, toppling furniture and turning off the power, but again we were spared.

I'm now one of those people who can tell when there's a tornado nearby by the tingle on my skin.

One of the reasons I chose Austin to settle in was no earthquakes, no hurricanes this far inland, no tsunamis, no blizzards, and no tornado strikes in the city for decades. Hella hot I can handle, but I got enough uncertainty in my life without facing natural disasters personally any more.

Margot said...

Wow. Your mother's courage and presence of mind - awesome.