Saturday, January 16, 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)


Pyosz was on the radio with Maar for over an hour, calling back every 15 minutes to stay on a private line. Curds and Ember both sat up and watched her, interested in her extreme emotion at this hour of the night. When she finally clicked off, she went downstairs, knocked on her abbas' door, and sat crosslegged at the foot of their bed to repeat verbatim the stories Maar had told and retold her.

Qala and Lawa hugged each other in glee. "She still needs to talk with Prl" said Qala.

"Maar said that too, now more than ever. That curandera, it's Ried, right?" said Pyosz. She was fascinated by a ripple of something unspoken that passed between her abbas. "Our family has some sort of history with her, don't we?"

"We do" said Qala "but it's not mine to tell you."

"Is it about emma?" pursued Pyosz.

"I think Prl's difficulty with Ried centers around Ried's illegalities in the realm of comception, particularly her using it for profit" said Qala. So there was something else.

"Skeners don't like to think of themselves as the product of selective breeding, but we are" said Lawa. "Until Prl threw a change in the works. Truth is, some folks shouldn't be emmas. 'Course, a Genist might not be the right person to make that decision, either. Anyhow, Prl will know how to shut Ried down."

"She's your age" pointed our Qala, "I'm surprised she hasn't retired by now."

"Eks to be made" said Lawa. "Prl will have to find a way to fine the shit out of her without getting Maar's emmas into trouble."

"We need Bux" said Qala sadly. "In so many ways."

Lawa lifted the covers to find a spot on her shin that was itchy. After a minute of scratching, she said "So, nine days from now, we have Thleen for all time."

"She was so happy here in winter, can you imagine her this summer?" said Qala.

"Moasi too" said Lawa. "She's spending almost all day outside, in the tillage or just rumbling around upper Teppe in that cart. Tu rigged an umbrella to the back upright that covers her in the rain."

"Has Lehen moved in over there?" asked Pyosz.

"Not officially" said Lawa. "For one thing, Vants doesn't have milk to deliver yet, so without a lighter dropping in each morning, the commute to Doimoi is prohibitive. Mainly, though, the Talaba family really needs her, for income, for the tillage, and for the kids. So she has to come and go. Vants told me, though, that Avik called her sibemma the other day. She was so proud she near busted out her gilet."

Qala glanced at the clock. "You can still get a couple hours of sleep before milking, you should go on back to bed."

Prl kissed them and went into the kitchen, She heated a mug of warm milk and sat in a hearth chair, Clicker sharing her lap and the milk. Pyosz dozed off and didn't wake until Ember, who had a finely tuned katt chronograph, came to tell her it was time for morning fisk.

She didn't tell Kolm or Gitta the news about Thleen. She thought Maar would want to, or Thleen herself. Plus Maar was going to have to renegotiate her schedule at the Lofthall permanently, and that should start without Mill having heard gossip in advance. But it was hard to keep secret this impending uplift in her existence.

At lunch she remarked "This means Maar won't be moving out." Her abbas both stopped eating. Lawa said "What do you mean?"

Pyosz explained. Qala and Lawa exchanged a glance -- Why, after all these years, were there still communications between her abbas that she couldn't decipher? -- before Lawa said "So she and Thleen are a package deal? You really okay with that?"

"I really am. I want Thleen badly. I want her in this family."

"I do too" said Qala. After another glance at Lawa, she said "So now that we have lots of room again. is Maar going to stay sleeping in your room? Especially once Thleen comes back?"

Pyosz couldn't believe she hadn't thought about this question. Lev...Maar would of course go where Thleen needed her to be. Her internal reaction was not nearly as noble as she wanted it to be. Qala patted her arm and went to refill her bowl of soup from the aga.

Prl called the next morning. She said "I had a long talk with Maar today while her sibs visited my emmas. She said it was your recommendation."

"It was, and I'm glad she followed through, emma."

"I'm continually impressed by her, and despite their personal sense of loss, Yoj and Halling are over the moons about Thleen moving into Owl Manage permanently" said Prl.

"Just have to check, you called on a private line. right?"

Prl laughed. "Yes, and I'm in my office with the door locked and my apprentice out on a call. So, you want to hear my take on it all?"

"Panting for it" said Pyosz.

"First, I took those incriminating documents away from her, they need to not be on her person. I made a copy on the copier in the Archive. One set will be stashed in my personal papers, marked to be destroyed unread on my natural death, I have several sets like that and Genists' requests of that nature are always obeyed by Ethicists. The other set I put in an envelope addressed to you and sealed with the Genist seal. They'll arrive on the next huolon. Take them to your bank and store them with your legal papers there." Prl was crispest at details like this. Pyosz took cryptic notes.

"Second, they may realize she's bluffing, dim as they appear to be, so -- "

"What do you mean, emma, bluffing?"

"Maar doesn't have it in her to send her emmas into exile, child. Not even for Thleen's sake. That's a good thing, not a weakness. So she needs to acquire legal guardianship as protection for Thleen. I gave her the name of someone skilled in those matters, she said she would follow up. That will enable her to revise her will to name another as Thleen's guardian should something happen to Maar, a real possibility." Pyosz was rattled by eventualities she had not considered.

"As for Ried, I can't initiate an investigation of her activities without possibly setting the Ethicist on a trail that could lead her to Maar's emmas. But there's an alternative route: Ried's income from all this, which she cannot possibly have enumerated on her annual taxes. She's underreported her income for decades. Her partner is dead, she lives with her child's family in a nice but not palatial Manage in Verzin where her privacy consists of a bedroom and office separate from the rest of the household -- " How did Prl know all this off the top of her head? -- "And she's been clever enough to never obviously overspend, so it's highly likely she has simply stashed her eks in a hiding place in her own quarters. I imagine she intends to hand it on to that child she had late in life. Tax evasion is a crime that is usually punished by confiscation of suspected unreported income, especially with someone as elderly as Ried. So tomorrow I'll visit the Sheng Zhang of Rahat, who governs all aspects relating to curandera practice including income and taxes, and state I am virtually certain Ried has been charging for extralegal services and concealing the income. No mention of extortion at all. My word will be sufficient for the Sheng Zhang to institute a surprise search. If they find a stash -- and I believe they will -- it will be seized pending review of her taxes, her license as a curandera will be revoked, and the news will hit the paper. Which will simultaneously keep her from further extortion and signal to Dru and Adnes that they need to stay silent, hope this doesn't blow their way...and scare them shitless about Maar's influence. Should take care of all loose ends." And eliminates one of your own community problems as well, emma thought Pyosz.

Prl added "The Sheng Zhang will be very happy if they do seize a substantial amount because every governmental entity and guild in Skene is starting to be concerned about the income shifts which may occur when Pya's contracts come up for renegotiation. She'll be grateful to me."

At Shmonah on Teppe, Mill released Pyosz from her secrecy by announcing she'd gotten a call from Mill announcing Thleen was moving to Pya for good. They celebrated, with Ziri especially exuberant. Lehen was present, she and Vants finding any excuse to touch each other. They said a toast to Pava, taking a moment of silence to miss her. Mill also informed them that Ngall and Ehuy had decided to get pregnant again right away, because they intended to stop at three children and they wanted the chance to focus on something past the diaper stage.

On Moja, Lawa and Qala accompanied Pyosz to Koldok. They placed an order with Taamsas which was delivered that afternoon by Dekkan. Dekkan also carried a laser which she used to cut fencepost holes marked on boulders around the perimeter of Saya's eastern cliffs. Lawa had insisted they make Saya "safe for little ones" as Kacang was. She and Qala followed in Dekkan's wake, setting posts in the holes with concrete. Dekkan lingered for an hour after she was done, intruding on Pyosz where she was trying to finish a set of songbird plates Klosa had requested for a customer.

"I haven't heard from Pava yet, maybe there'll be a letter on the huolon with Maar" said Dekkan disconsolately.

"I hope so, but I'm sure she's been busy helping her emma and sibs adjust" said Pyosz.

"D'ya think she and Maar's sib will be friends, now?"

"I honestly hope so, for both their sakes, but my impression is that they are fairly different personalities" said Pyosz. "My guess is that Pava will be pretty lonely until she gets to University and has a chance to meet others her own age."

"She's going to hate the U" said Dekkan forcefully. "She's got the brains but she needs to do and make, not gas on or listen to others gassing on. And she has to be outside, she's just like -- "

"Poth" finished Pyosz.

"Yeah. Don't tell anyone, but she put in an application to the ejida here to apprentice, before she left. Brek helped her. The problem is that the apprenticeships with stipends always go to folks with a family to support, usually immigrants from Skene. Singles need a place to live and emmas willing to support them for two years. And Thava won't give her a fart's worth if she comes back to Pya" said Dekkan.

"She's very young to assume the responsibility of a family, but in some ways she's had to" said Pyosz. "Thont needs her, too -- "

"Thont will be back in Pya the instant she graduates" said Dekkan with conviction. "Pava means to have a home waiting for her. Nobody on Skene knows a levvin' thing about Poth or how much she meant to the whole community here, it's like she's being erased with this stupid move."

Pyosz had no answer for that.

Maar arrived shortly before dinner, with assorted gifts for family including a drawing for Pyosz by Thleen of her scoring a miraculous goal at kickball camp. Pyosz especially liked the open moths of amazement on the faces of those watching the practice. She put the drawing on their cold box.

Maar handed Pyosz her mail, including a thick sealed envelope from the Genist, which Pyosz slid into a drawer of the sideboard. There were three books selected for Ulcha by Yoj, and a gilt-edged scarf from Prl that made them all whistle when Pyosz draped it around her neck.

Over dinner, Maar told her stories of discovery, confrontation, and meeting with Prl all over again, with raucous feedback and laughter. She reported Thleen was assuming her permission to move to Pya was a direct result of passing her test, which Maar said was one blazing comet of reinforcement for studying. Adnes and Dru had made their decision official after news broke of Ried's Manage being forcibly searched on Shmonah afternoon, that gossip lapping the shores of Skenee faster than a storm wave. Su was trying to hide her jubilation at the prospect of having the loft to herself and being the only child vying for her emmas' attention; Maar said she hadn't realized yet how many extra chores would come her way.

When they went to bed that night, Pyosz said to Maar "I guess you'll be bunking with Thleen from now on, once she gets here."

Maar looked at her steadily. "I'm not going to leave her alone when she's needy, but she's old enough to have her own space sometimes. We can all have a talk about it."

The next morning Maar slept in until 10:00. something Pyosz had never known her to do. Qala noticed Pyosz's repeated glances toward the stairs and said "First break she's had since she was 12." Pank arrived with a bucket of oysters from the Saya beach, saying she was taking a bucket to Teppe to as well as Herne. She had a small basket of mushrooms gathered from the woods, and a lumpy brown tuber with soil clinging to it that she named as a faburgon. "Make some plain noodles in butter, or scramble some eggs, no strong competing flavors, and grate a small amount of this over it. A little bit goes a long way. Tell me what you think" she said with an anticipatory grin.

The first apricots, cherries, and currants were arriving on Saya. Qala and Lawa did picking in the afternoons, followed by a hot tub soak, and they all shared processing the fruit for an hour after dinner. Despite increasing demands of tillage and milking, Pyosz still had time every afternoon to go in her studio and work steadily until it was time to help with dinner -- most days, Vants came over to milk, and in return Pyosz made sure half her milk, cheese and butter allotment went to Vants. Vants' yogurt had an extraordinary flavor, and she kept Owl Manage supplied.

On Roku, Maar picked up Moasi with a sinner and flew her to Koldok before heading out to hauling work. The extended family browsed through market stalls with Moasi, who was already popular. She was chatty in a way her sibs were not, and her sense of humor was zany, sometimes surreal. Lawa said she was more like Mweze had been, their aggie, than Ng, whom the other three sibs had emulated.

Maar came home mid afternoon for a nap. She and Abbo were leaving for Skene at 7:00, a night flight because a shipment wasn't going to be ready until then. They made an early dinner. As they sat down, Lawa said "Next time we all share a meal at this table. it will be with Thleen, too."

"Yes" said Maar with satisfaction. "She's mine now."

Qala looked at her sharply. "She's no more yours than she was Dru's."

Maar was startled. "You know what I mean."

Qala raised her eyebrows but didn't rush to reassure. They ate in silence for a minute. Maar finally said "I guess I've been rude in not formally asking you if you're all right with her, and me, moving in here permanently. Do I have your consent?"

Lawa laughed. Qala said "Not rude, but still thinking like a loner under siege. You have a family hunger that's just been met. You need to act like it's not charity and it's not something you have to defend, but a constantly shifting give-and-take."

Maar's eyes were wide. "Okay. I'll think about that."

"And yes, you have my consent and welcome. When you get back, let's sit down and go over your finances together. You're supporting several folks in one way or another, and you're a member of this Manage now, let's plan your security together" said Qala. Lawa nodded, and Maar blinked back tears.

After the meal, Maar said "I've got a little under an hour and I'm packed; instead of a bath, I think I'll go to the hot springs. Anyone want to join me?"

"I will" said Pyosz instantly. Lawa said "I'm going to pack a hamper for your flight", and after a glance at Qala, Qala said she'd stay to help. Pyosz grabbed towels and scrub, and Maar collected her flight uniform. On the way, Pyosz kept hoping Tu and Pank would not be there. Something was buzzing in her bones, something she couldn't name quite yet.

The springs were silent and still. It was a near double dark moon, and Pyosz regretted not bringing a candle. Maar stripped swiftly, asking "How are the new bees working out?"

"So far, so good" said Pyosz. "Those wildflowers I sowed last year are coming in thickly, it's a bee haven around here. I'm going to harvest from the old hives when you and Thleen come back, so we can all share Med honey together,"

"What a great anniversary that will be each year, the first honey harvest marking Thleen's arrival in Pya" said Maar.

Pyosz got in long enough to wet herself, then stood on the shower stone, as she thought of it, to lather herself. She imagined her dark slick skin reflected planes of obsidian light, if Maar was watching, and she was certain Maar did watch under cover of no moons. "Come rinse me" she said, her voice sounding a little thick. Maar did so silently, stepping aside afterward to pick up the scrub and start her own wash. She dipped the pail and rinsed herself when she was clean, glancing at her watch before returning to the springs.

"Ten more minutes" she said. Pyosz thought it sounded like a countdown.

On the walk back through the woods, Maar said "I didn't mean to sound like I own Thleen, or that it's all my doing. None of this would have happened without you and your family, I never forget that."

"I know, Maar." As she opened the kissing gate, Pyosz said "It was when we went to the hot springs together for the first time that you told me you weren't...available...because of Thleen. That you had to put her needs first until she graduated high school."

The air suddenly felt very thick between them. Maar kept walking as she said "You are my heart's desire. That's not going to change, not in the next eight years."

Pyosz felt like she did when she was etching a new design into clay, some part of her brain working way ahead of her conscious will. She hung their damp towels over the porch railing as Maar stepped inside for her bag and the hamper. Qala and Lawa didn't follow her out, and Pyosz carried the hamper to her lighter, stowing it behind the seat.

Maar said "I have to go. We can talk more when I get back."

Pyosz said "I don't want to wait any longer. I don't see any reason for it. If I'm making the same commitment to Thleen that you are -- and I am, there's no doubt inside me and I know what I'm doing, just like I knew to come to Pya in the first place -- then we can do it together. All the way together.

Maar looked frozen. She said "I can't think..."

"Yes, you can. You think better under pressure than anyone on Skene. And you know what you want." She took a step toward Maar.

The radio crackled, and Abbo's irritated voice said "If I do all this levvin' loading by myself, then you get to unload solo. Stop playing house and get your ass to the Lofthall."

Maar hoisted into her seat and reached for the harness. Pyosz reached out to stop her, grabbing the lapels of Maar's guibba to slide her back toward her, slide Maar's spread legs down the outside of Pyosz's thighs, until their open lips met and Maar moaned into Pyosz's mouth. She moaned again as Pyosz pressed her pubic bone up against the underside of Maar's mound, feeling the moisture through two pairs of kalsongers. They kissed without seeming to need air, a perfect balance of ache and release.

Until the radio crackled again and Jiips said "Sinner Maar, is your radio functional? Please check in."

Maar began laughing hysterically. "Everything about Sinner Maar is now functional!" she shouted. She kissed Pyosz again and said "Yes, my answer is yes."

"Smart woman" said Pyosz. Holding Pyosz tight, Maar reached behind her and grabbed the radio. "I'm on my way" she said and tossed the radio over her head into the lighter, claiming another long kiss.

"Here" said Pyosz, pulling one hand free, then the other, to wriggle the blue-stoned family ring from her thumb. "Here's my pledge." She slid it onto Maar's thumb, and Maar said "Perfect fit." Another long kiss, leaving Pyosz having to lean hard against Maar to stand upright. Maar murmured "Why the lev did you leave this until the last minute?"

"Absolute soonest I could get it out of my mouth, love" laughed Pyosz. "All right, go, take no risks, get lots of sleep, and hurry home."

"Tell your abbas Thleen will need a lot of babysitting for a while" said Maar, kissing Pyosz one last time. Pyosz helped buckle her harness and shut the hatch. She stepped backward to wave her off, before whirling to run into the Manage.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, January 15, 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)

The huolon reached Yanja at 10:00 pm. Sziem had cried much of the flight, and the family katt vomited up what smelled like partially digested shu. As they unpacked the cargo, Maar said to Abbo "We're taking them to her sib's Manage in Verzin."

"I know we're dropping them in Verzin" said Abbo irritably.

"No. If no one's at the jichang this late, we're carrying all that baggage to the door of their Manage, we're not just dropping Poth's family off" said Maar in a tight voice.

"Oh. Of course."

The Verzin Manage was small and everyone was asleep. Maar helped wipe down the katt and put some fisk in a bowl while the katt hid under the sideboard. She set the carrier outside the back door, then went to Thava and said "There's a kickball game here in Verzin tomorrow night. I'm taking my sibs and it would mean a lot for Thleen to have a chance to see Thont, plus my oldest sibu is Pava's age, maybe she could introduce her around. Would it be all right if I picked them up and took them to the game with us?"

Thava looked exhaustedly at Pava, who said "Please, emma." She said "Fine."

"We'll be here right after dinner" said Maar. She and Abbo flew to Riesig where she cadged a bunk at the Lofthall and slept until 7:00, getting up to run loads until noon before being dropped off on Chloddia. She talked with the jichang clerk and verified a small sinner would be available for her use at 6:30.

She considered her options. She could drop in on Su and Thleen at kickball camp, but their coach was a wood-ass and didn't like disruptions. If she went to the Manage, her emmas might be home and she didn't want to spend time with them until her sibs were there. She decided to go have lunch, then stop by the allotment center and pick up something to make dinner.

When she walked into the allotment center, the clerk, Roln, looked up and said "Hey, long time no see." Maar stopped by once a year to renew the standing authorization she left for her family to draw on her allotment. Roln had been three years ahead of her in school and, Maar thought, a little sweet on her but too shy to ever act on it.

"Heya, Roln. I'm thinking about making dinner for my family tonight amd I wanted to get fresh milk, butter, bacon for breakfast, some oranges. I was wondering if you have anything special in right now?"

"Well, first off, no oranges or lemons, sorry. We have some frozen chevon from Yagi, though" offered Roln.

"Uh, no goat meat, Thleen would object. What else, turkey, goose, duck?"

"Not this time of month. Most folks come around the first and that's when we have our high inventory. The other time we have stuff like that is mid-month, ten days ago. 'Course, your emma splits it up, comes both the first and mid-month" said Roln.

"Really? Why would she do that?"

"I figure it's because she has help carrying on the first, your sibs come with her and that's when she gets the heavy stuff like hundredweights of rice and flour, gallons of oil, basic staples, you know. Loads everybody down. But mid-month, she gets the luxury stuff 'cause she's on her own, on the day she has afternoons off, you know. It's still about all she can carry on her own, but she takes the short cut then." Roln pointed to the side door which led to a side alley. "Anyhow, all I can offer is a fryer or a pork tenderloin."

"I'll take both. And a ten-pound bag of dried apples." Part of Maar's brain was creating a menu. but another section was in overdrive, wondering why Adnes didn't bring Adon, at least, to help haul a second allotment load. The center was open until dinner, it wasn't like Adnes to exempt her children from chores.

Roln located Maar's account book and entered the items she was withdrawing today, pushing it across the counter for Maar to sign. After doing so, Maar flipped to the previous page, looking at her emma's withdrawals already this month.

"What are you looking for?" asked Roln, leaning on the counter.

"Just making sure what I'm getting today won't short-change 'em" said Maar easily.

"Ah, no, you won't. Though you are a credit to your family, Maar, they lean heavily on your allotment, Especially the luxury stuff. You feed them well."

"Thanks, Roln. Actually, that's an issue coming up for me. I don't know if you've heard, but I'm living in a Manage now on Pya, not the Lofthall, and I need to contribute to that upkeep, too. I need to do some planning, and as you know, in three years I've never looked over my account here -- "

"I've offered to at least mail you an annual tally" said Roln defensively.

"I know, I know, I've left it all to you. But I'm ready to be a grown-up now." Maar grinned her most charming grin. Roln relaxed. "So could you give me a back accounting for the past three years, is that too much to ask?"

"Right now?" asked Roln.

"No, no -- " began Maar.

"Because I've got a copier in the back, and nobody else is in line" said Roln. "You can come keep me company while I run this off for you."

"Sure" said Maar. She leaned against a cupboard and chatted with Roln as the old copier chugged through over a hundred copies. Mostly Maar would asked open-ended question and then pretend to listen with an interested expression while Roln rattled on. But Maar was picking up each sheet as it came out, scanning it with her quick eye, and assessing the quantities, the exact items, that she was certain were never reaching a table where Thleen sat down to a meal.

She folded the sheaf of pages into her pack and said "It's been great catching up with you, Roln, I'll try not to stay away so long next time." She picked up her packages and went out the side door.

Once it was closed behind her, she looked from one end of the short alley to the other. If she went left, it was a short-cut to the lane where her family Manage was. But if she went right, the alley emptied into Chloddia's small shops district. And at the corner of the alley, on the shops lane, was the general grocery with a main front door on the lane and a seldom-used side door which led to an alcove behind the counter. She turned right and went in the side door of the grocery.

The grocery was run by a woman who was some distant cousin, Maar couldn't remember how. Mostly she thought of her as Adnes's best friend. She didn't know what she was going to say when she went in the store, probably just buy lemons and corn meal.

But the voice which called out "Who's there?" belonged to Jomad, the owner's 14-year-old child. She came around the corner and said "Oh, it's you, Maar. Been to the allotment, I see."

"Yeah, I'm hoping you'll have some fresh citrus" said Maar. I'm moving from lie to lie like, well, Prl. Time for me to take the next step she reminded herself. "Where's your emma?"

"Taking a nap, got a headache" said Jomad. "I can help you. We got hothouse oranges and lemons both, from Pya, they'll cost ya."

"Let's start with a dozen of each" said Maar, piling her packages on the counter. "And I don't know if my family's bought certain spices recently, can I look at your ledger and save myself a trip back?"

"Hekp yourself" said Jomad, going to the cold case to bag the fruit. Maar turned to the A tab in the massive ledger and ran her eye down the account for Adnes. Almost every purchase -- and these were few except for way too many buckets of beer to Maar's liking -- were sold on credit. But then, every mid-month, the tab was marked paid in full.

So Adnes was paying nothing for her groceries each month, and instead trading luxury allotment items from Maar's account for the value of her purchases. Completely illegal under Skene law and prosecutable under several articles, including theft. Adnes's friend no doubt took a percentage for her risk and also received rare foodstuffs for resale.

Jomad was back at the counter with a bag of yellow and orange globes. "Anything else?"

Maar opened the corn meal bin and began scooping into a bag. "Yeah, those summer sausages hanging in your window, are they still fresh?"

"I suppose so" said Jomad.

"Would you climb up there and get me three of them?" asked Maar. Jomad picked up a stepladder and walked to the front of the store. Once she was out of sight, Maar neatly tore two past pages of Adnes's account from the ledger and folded them into her pocket, closing the ledger and pushing it aside before tying off her bag of cornmeal. She paid and left by the side door again.

She stood in the alley, breathing hard. She had been joking when she asked Pyosz if Prl coukd send them to Peisuo -- well, mostly joking -- but the papers she now had in her possession would do it. Adnes, at least, would be sentenced to exile for this many years of deliberate theft.

And what in the world were they doing with all the money they weren't spending on groceries? It wasn't in savings, because when an emergency came up, they asked her for help. Plus she paid for her sibs' clothing and pocket money, had done as part of the deal that allowed her to see them again after she offended by joining the Lofthall. What did they need so much extra money for, worth risking exile to obtain?

She shouldered her packages and walked to the kickball field, where the last practice of the day was ending. Thleen was muddy and exuberant, running to hug her. Su walked up from a different group and said "Hey, are those oranges?"

"Yeah, help yourself" said Maar. Su fished out two for herself, one for Thleen. Thleen had discovered the cured sausage, and Maar opened her claspknife to cut them all thick slices. She thought suddenly about how hungry her sibs always were, the evidence of her allotment's richer foodstuffs never reaching them, and her mind went briefly crimson with rage.

"Let's go home" said Maar. "I'm cooking dinner, and I have a sinner to take us all to the game on Verzin." Her sibs cheered, and Thleen cheered even more when she heard Thont was going with them.

Adon was at the Manage along with her emmas. Maar smiled at them in a way that made Dru glance at her a second time. She made no effort at apology, instead gliding into the kitchen and starting the tenderloin, while handing out chores to her sibs.

They ate all the fried chicken and most of the pork roast, a huge bowl of mashed potatoes, steamed kale with horseradish sauce, a pitcher of lemonade, and most of the apple pie. Maar asked lots of questions about Adon's new job, told funny stories about Pya the past week, and ignore the growing irritation from her emmas. Dru finally said to Adon "I guess it's just as well you're going into soft work, you don't have my stamina for actual labor. None of you really take after me." And that's when it all came clear to Maar.

She rushed her sibs through dishes and washing up for going out, whistling cheerfully. As they started out of the Manage, Maar stopped and said "Adon, will you take them on to the jichang office, I'll be there in ten minutes or less." Adon looked at her worriedly but complied swiftly. Once the zinc door was shut, Maar faced her emmas and said "I know what you've done. I know about skimming my allotment every month and reselling to the store for profit. I have copies of it all, proof enough to have you taken into custody tonight."

Adnes's complexion drained of color and she sat down in the nearest chair. Angry bluster remained on Dru's face, however. Maar grinned at her and said "And I know why you did it. It was your fault, emma, because the first three of us looked nothing like you and as we grew up, went to school, we didn't model ourselves after you. Not enough to please you. So once it was clear we were all disappointments, you went to the illegal curandera who was bypassing even normal medical safeguards and paid to have aggie get pregnant with your egg, emma. This child, the fourth you were turned down for by the Genist -- this child would be Dru's legacy. That was the plan, right?" Maar's words had become biting, and Dru's bravado disappeared.

"Only here came Thleen, another version of me. And to make matters a total disaster, that rogue curandera began extorting you, threatening to reveal how you had broken the law if you didn't pay her a monthly sum. Not enough to bleed you dry, but enough to keep you without any extra, desperate for a way out, and never having the guts to call her bluff. Because it would expose your vanity, wouldn't it, Dru, if you confessed and called her bluff. But then I joined the Lofthall, and you figured out how you could cheat me to make your payments."

Maar had to stop for a minute, as anger swept through her again.

"Well, the jig is up. You better be glad Adon is on her own because you can't steal from me or Skene any more. I'm revising my allotment authorization so it's only Su who can draw from it, and she gets to choose what she wants to bring home. Adon is covered, thanks to me, and Thleen -- Thleen is mine now. She'll be moving to Pya permanently next week, you have until the end of kickball camp to come up with a face-saving story about why you let her go to Pya. And on my end, I won't send you to Peisuo. I'll handle the extorter, she's actually well-known to the Genist and others, you're not the first idiots she's scammed this way. She'll never approach you again. I'm going to take my sibs to the game now, and you can stare at each other in the debris of this Manage. The four of us are going to be fine in spite of you, because I'll make sure of it."

Maar shouldered her pack and reached for the door knob. Before turning it, she had one last volley, the only sentence she'd spoken that she wasn't certain was the truth. "Oh, and just so you know? That curandera was infamous for not actually using the second egg she was given. Instead she mixed the aggie's egg with a Y contribution from one of her unscrupulous relatives. Thleen is no connection to you at all, Dru, not by flesh and not by spirit." She was hacking at a tether in Thleen's life, she knew. She counted on replacing it with much, much more.

She was in crazy high spirits the rest of the evening. Pava and Adon didn't become instant friends but they didn't hate each other, either. Maar bought them all whatever treat they requested and kept leaping to her feet to scream for the visiting team, scandalizing her sibs but making Pava laugh every time. She walked her sibs to the Manage at 11:00, where the lights were out and her emmas in bed. She helped get Thleen in her schmatta and up the ladder with Su before walking Adon to her new bucky. She then went to the jichang office and spread blankets on the couch. She made a cup of tea and picked up the radio to call Pyosz.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, January 14, 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)


Tu and Pank came to Pyosz with a proposition. They had a new set of six piglets to raise for slaughter, and they wanted to set them loose in Saya's woods for a few weeks. "They'll eat leftover mast, they'll root up the soil especially in your orchard at a time when it seems turning anyhow, and it'll save us feeding."

"I guess they're not big enough yet to hurt the kids" said Pyosz with a little doubt.

"Vants said she wouldn't worry, she's taking two of our sow's litter for upper Teppe" said Tu. "They don't mess with our katts, and I think emma goats can handle themselves against a lot."

"The only thing I wonder about is if the hot springs are hot enough to keep 'em out" said Pank. "First time they jump in where I bathe, I'll be hauling 'em home."

"This could be fun" said Pyosz.

"They come from a line that has faburgon-finding ability, the first day I'm going to trail 'em and see if they sniff any out" added Tu. "We've got one oak that's growing faburgons underground and we've fenced it off so we get to them before the pigs do."

"I've heard of faburgons but never seen one" said Pyosz. Faburgon in Skenish meant "tree spuds."

Pank grinned at her. "Next one we find, we'll share."

Despite their need for economy, the Talaba family had decided on paintable siding for their new Manage instead of shingles. They intended to do the painting themselves after moving in. "We've settled on vermilion" said Nioma, "The color of renewal."

Dru and Adnes informed Maar they wanted Thleen back home in time for Adon's graduation, which would be three days before Thleen's scheduled exam at Skene School and one day after the huolon would return to Pya. Maar said "I agree it's important for us all to be together for Adon's sake, but I wanted to be there when Thleen went in for the exam. She can get so rattled."

"If she does well, are they going to let her come back for the summer?" asked Qala.

"I can't tell" said Maar grimly.

Equally bleak was the news that Thava was unyielding in her determination to move to Skene. Nioma said she wanted to escape all reminders of Poth. "Good luck in that with those children" said Vants bitterly.

It came out that it had been Poth who purloined the rabbit from the ejida, now a beloved family pet. That, too, would have to be left behind on Pya. Brek had openly claimed it, and no one objected, in honor of Poth's memory. Pyosz marveled at Pava and Thont being able to keep the rabbit's place in their home a secret all this time.

On Sju, Ulcha conducted a birdhouse-building workshop on Saya for Pea Pods children and interested adults, assisted by Nk and Frahe. Ulcha said the songbirds of Pya needed help finding safe places to raise their young as owl territory expanded. She explained how different kinds of birds preferred different sorts of dwellings. Makeshift tables were spread across the killing field, and the day cooperated by staying sunny and hinting-at-summer warm. Babies Ura and Eoma were placed on a quilt out of sawdust reach, and there were plenty of grown-ups to oversee little fingers with sharp tools.

It occurred to Pyosz, seeing Uli at Owl Manage on Shmonah, that Uli had really lost weight. She knew Uli was still taking a lot of pain medication, and perhaps that had an affect on her appetite; or maybe it was the additional labor of ambulating on crutches. Her cheeks were noticable. Pyosz brought Uli a plate of seconds containing all the richer dishes that day and sat talking with her quietly as encouragement to eat a little more.

"How are you sleeping?" asked Pyosz.

Uli grimaced. "Can't go more than 3-4 hours without waking up from bad dreams, though I can't remember them a minute later."

"Well, you went through an ordeal. Did you get a chance to talk it all through with Qoj while she was here?"

Uli looked away. "Not really. She, ah, tried to help me open up but I was still too near to it all."

"How about now?" asked Pyosz.

"I can't do that kind of sharing over the radio, even on a private line" said Uli apologetically.

"No, I meant with me. I'm no Qoj but I am a real friend, and a good listener" said Pyosz. "And I keep confidences, believe me." Ask my emma.

Uli looked at her with a thread of hope in her eyes, and Pyosz realized how haunted those eyes had been for a while. Uli said "Maybe some time next week, if you have time?"

Yes, but I also have time right now" said Pyosz softly. Uli glanced around the crowded room and Pyosz said "Not here. And I think upstairs would take you right now, but you managed the front steps okay, we could go out to my studio? They're going to start singing, we won't be missed."

Uli took a deep breath and said "All right."

Maar looked after them as they went out the front door. After a few minutes, she went out to the porch and scanned in all directions, finally noticing a light in Pyosz's studio. She adjusted the rocker and went back inside.

Pyosz gave Uli the comfortable chair and sat on a bucket of slip. "I'll all yours" she said. which drew a ghost of a smile from Uli.

After using a clay carving stool to scratch inside the upper cuff of her cast, Uli said "If I tell you what's bothering me, I'm pretty sure it will bother you too. It'll be a burden, And I really need you to never tell anyone, not Maar, not your emma or abbas. It's information I have to never let free. So I'll give you an out here, you really don't have to do this."

Pyosz thought about it, looking at the interlocking scroll she was bordering a plate with. Designs were infinitely repetitive, if you could find the right overlap spot, and also infinitely changeable. If I didn't know the things others have shared with me in confidence, would my life be easier? She didn't think so, and she would have lost a point of overlap, of connection, between her and them.

Pyosz said "What's a burden for you won't be the same burden to me, no matter what. I want to hear."

Uli looked doubtful. She shifted her weight and whispered "I lied about Poth's death."

Pyosz felt ice at her bone.

Uli continued "Well, I didn't directly lie, I just didn't tell all of it. She was -- conscious. Her head was hit but she didn't pass out. Her breathing was awful, 'cause of her chest being caved in, but she was so tough. She yelled in pain for a while, and I kept asking how she was, and she said it levvin' hurt worse than anything she'd ever felt. She kept asking me to help her, and I couldn't, Pyosz. I did everything I could. After half an hour, by just ignoring what happened when I moved my collarbone. I managed to reach her foot, and I shook it, asking her if she could feel me but she couldn't I think her spine must have been severed."

Pyosz began to rethink her statement that Uli's burden wouldn't be the same burden to her.

"Her breathing kept getting worse, with more liquid sounds and something hard rasping. I've though about it, comes up in my head a lot, and maybe it was bone from her busted rubs rubbing on each other. That was about an hour in. I had my watch on and I could see it. I was trying to figure out when help would come, when would they miss us, and looking at my watch."

An hour? Oh lev.

"Then she started not knowing where she was. She knew how much she hurt, she never got a break from that, but she was calling out to Thava like Thava was in the next room, begging her to come help. She couldn't understand why Thava wasn't helping, she'd cry, sometimes she'd ask Pava or Thont to go get their emma. She said she heard Sziem crying, the baby. After another hour, my own pain was pretty intense, but I started saying I was Thava, I loved her, Sziem was fine, her kids adored her, and it would work for a few seconds. She kept telling Thava and her kids how much they meant to her, how lucky she was, how happy they made her. And I'd be Thava and tell her I knew it. I have to believe it helped her, Pyosz, because then she started choking. She couldn't talk any more, and it was -- listening to it -- I wish I could forget it. I'm pretty sure my nightmares are about listening to her die."

Uli wasn't looking at Pyosz, or anything in the studio, really. She was staring up into a broken canopy of trees, hearing a friend die.

"Once she was quiet, I began to hear the rustling. I tried to reach a long stick, branch, anything to keep them off her, but everything was either a huge log or twigs. I tried to focus on the birdsong. It was too early for owls. But then I started having chills, and by dark I was fading in and out. I just remember flashes after that."

Pyosz was remembering that day, thinking It would be another 3 hours in dark and eventual rain before help reached you. She reached to take one of Uli's hands between her own. Distant notes of fiddle and singing reached them from the Manage next door. Pyosz could tell Dekkan and Pava were on Frahe's booming floor drums.

"So it was at least a day or two before I could really talk, Pyosz, and by that time everyone was saying Poth must have died instantly. I did put out there she spoke about her family, they deserve to know that, but I haven't told anyone the truth. Because anything like the real truth: It will tear them to shred. Don't you agree? If I tell, it'll just be to get it out of my head, but I'll be dumping it forever on Thava, on those children, Pava will be crushed by it. That's not what Poth would want. I'm making the right decision, aren't I?" Uli was almost frantic by the end.

Pyosz scooted her bucket beside Uli's chair and put her arms around Uli. "I think I would have done what you did. At least, I hope I could be that strong. But you can't be this strong alone, you have to let it be shared. So it's half on me now, let it go."

Sobs tore from Uli's throat and she pounded on Pyosz's back with her fists. Her cries were so loud, Pyosz thought it must drown out the music next door, but no one came to interrupt them. It was a long purge, sustained by Pyosz occasionally saying "I'm so glad you told me, I'm so sorry you've been alone with this."

It must have been half an hour before Uli finally slowed down, partly by the need to clear clogged nasal passage. Pyosz had to give her a dusty wipe rag to blow her nose. Uli's face was puffy, her lips red and swollen, but her light brown eyes again were clear. She asked Pyosz "Are you sorry I told you?"

"I'm sorry it's true, she should never have had to die that levvin' way. But I'm not sorry you told me. I'm glad you were with her, for her sake, and you've been the most true and honorable of friends" said Pyosz. Which brought on a little more crying, Pyosz joining in this time. She washed her face at the tap in the corner and came back with wet hands to tenderly wipe Uli's face.

"So, Uli, keep talking to me about all this. Any time you need to bring it up."

"You too" replied Uli. "It goes both ways."

"Thava's not handling what's on her plate now, and Pava is too young at the moment. The day may come when we can tell that Pava should hear the whole truth, I can imagine her growing into that kind of woman. But we can confer then." Pyosz paused, and asked "Her and Dekkan, are they sweet on each other?"

"I think really not. True friends is all. Which is not less than, not in my book" said Uli, looking steadily into Pyosz's face. Pyosz smiled and said "Mine either."

"I'm ready to go back in. I feel like I'm new again."

"Come on, Clank-Walker" said Pyosz, helping Uli to her feet. Inside, Maar and Dekkan looked at them searchingly, but everyone else politely ignored the evidence of weeping. After taking one of the hearth chairs, Uli asked for a piece of pie with a glass of milk, and Pyosz happily brought it to her.

That night, Pyosz lay down face her front window and Maar immediately spooned behind her, relegating katts to the margins. Maar said into Pyosz's ear "Uli looked completely different by the time she left, night and day."

"Good. I hope she starts eating and sleeping normally now."

Maar breathed a few times and tried again. "Do you need to share whatever was tormenting her?"

"It would be a relief, but I can't, Maar. I really can't." After a minute, Pyosz said "Are you -- worried about the connection between me and Uli?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

Pyosz chuckled at this uncharacteristic indirectness. "You know, a while ago Uli informed me that I was waiting on you, said it was obvious." She could tell Maar was holding her breath.

"What did you say?"

"I told her no, we've not asked that of each other. She implied we didn't have to ask because we both knew the other wasn't going to look elsewhere."

Maar breathed again. "She's right about me" she whispered.

"Good" Pyosz whispered back. She looked at the clouds over Puaa Woods and thought about Poth wondering why her beloveds weren't helping her. She said "I want this to never end -- you coming home at the end of every day, starting the day with just the two of us whispering over tea, knowing I get to lie down in your arms and talk about whatever I need to before sleeping...I want us to be like my abbas, like Tu and Pank. There's nothing, and no one, I want more."

She started to turn to face Maar. Maar's arm tightened, and she whispered "I think you better stay facing that way for right now." Pyosz relaxed, linking her fingers through Maar's hand on her belly. "Thank you for always finding balance with me" she told Maar.

"Look where it's gotten us so far" said Maar. Then "I'm glad Uli has you."

"Me too."

The following Roku, everyone attended Pava's graduation from Pya School, a bittersweet occasion. Pava was showered with gifts and attention, Sziem was passed around, and Thont had a farewell romp with Thleen. Thava's family wouldn't be moving for a week, but the next morning Thleen was on the huolon to Skene.

They let her stay up as long as she wanted and have multiple desserts. They all got up in the morning as well to see her off. She wept pathetically at leaving Clicker. Maar refused to pack all of Thleen's clothes, leaving half behind as a lucky omen that she would be returning, but the garments she'd brought with her were outgrown in any case. She was brown, muscled, taller, and more confident. But the furrow between her brows could not be ironed out by Pyosz's thumb.

Vants carried her bags. It helped a great deal that Vants was flying back to Skene with them, going to pick up Moasi. Ziri and her emma Aleri met them at Koldok wharf with Dodd and Briel, Ziri already crying. At the huolon, goodbye hugs were protracted. Pyosz helped make Thleen a nest beside Vants, showed her the treats in their hamper, and gave her a goodbye present, the pouncing metal katt toy. She had strung the wind-up key on a thin leather braid with a ceramic medallion of an owl, and she hung this around Thleen's neck, kissing her on both cheeks and then her mouth.

"I wish you was my emma" said Thleen.

"I wish I was too" said Pyosz. "In my heart I am." She kept it together until the huolon was out of sight, then fell to the tarmac and wept into her hands.

Owl Manage felt desolate to Pyosz when they returned. She picked up Clicker and took her into the kitchen to feed her anchovies from her hand, ignoring the other katts' outrage. She had trouble sleeping that night and went downstairs, finding Qala in a hearth chair with Clicker in her lap. They sat and talked for an hour, until Pyosz could face her cold bed again.

Adon's graduation was on Shmonah. When Pyosz called her abbas that morning, they were dressing to go to the ceremony. Adon and Su had both continued to visit Yoj and Halling, which helped them with how badly they'd missed Thleen. "I can't wait to set eyes on her again" said Halling.

"I know how you feel" said Pyosz. That night her sleep was again patchy, knowing Maar would be getting up from a final night with Thleen, reassuring her about the test and her future, having to say goodbye and face Thleen's abandoned face. She pushed herself through work on Moja, distracted and, underneath, simmering with fury at the world's injustice. By 4:00 the extended family was at the Lofthall, Tu with the new electric cart, to welcome Moasi to Pya.

Moasi looked stiff and cold, The flight had been very hard on her. Vants carried her to the cart and she nearly ran down Briel in her first attempts at its use. Her belongings were transferred to a ramped sinner and she was given a tour of Koldok. Gitta and Tamsaa's establishments had thresholds and aisles that were already cart-friendly. The late afternoon sun warmed her and she began laughing in a way that reminded Pyosz of Halling.

They returned to the jichang, where Moasi rode her cart up the ramp into the sinner with a squeal of terror. Abbo had gone to bed, so Maar was flying Moasi, Vants, Tu, Pank. Qala and Lawa to Teppe for unpacking and dinner. Pyosz begged off, citing goats. While she milked, she listened for the sound of Maar's sinner. It returned just as she was putting away the chickens.

She wrapped herself around Maar and said "How bad was it?"

"As bad as you can imagine for me. Thleen, though, was really bolstered by Dodd's test, she feels certain she'll do well. And she's equally convinced that her reward will be summer in Pya. Nobody contradicted her, for what that's worth. And Su, bless her, when she first saw Thleen she blurted out "Wow, I've never seen you look so good!" They laughed a little.

"What do you need right now?" asked Pyosz.

"To lie down with you" said Maar.

"Lpika and Henar made dinner" said Pyosz.

"We can go grab plates later. And a bath for me" said Maar, shouldering her bag.

The next day, the Talaba family took off work because Mrebbe's crew had finished hanging doors on Shmonah and their Manage was now ready for move-in. That morning Maar used her day off to haul their furniture and belongings. They had a farewell lunch at Owl Manage and rode the sinner afterward to their new home, carrying two young fruit trees for transplanting. Chicks would come later.

Back home, Qala and Lawa washed and swept floors while Pyosz flew with Maar to Herne to pick up her new couch and another dining chair. As metal chairs were retired from around the table, they were placed on the porch, each in a different color of the rainbow, or in the tillage for the comfort of those working raised beds.

"What's next?" Nk asked Pyosz.

"Beds" was the answer. "Three generous double beds for upstairs. Whatever design you want." Nk and Frahe grinned at each other.

After milking, they ferried to Teppe for a family dinner. Moasi looked chipper and scooted around the common space with bravado, though Pyosz noticed gouge marks on the walls here and there. She reported she was able to use the indoor privy next to her bedroom downstairs without assistance, and even get in and out of the tub alone because of railing Mrebbe had installed. She had many questions about the songbirds who had awakened her that morning. Vants was building a bench to place at the overlook between Teppen and Hamsa so they could watch the setting sun.

On the way home, the four remaining Owl Manage residents stopped for a soak in the hot springs. A couple of small piggy snouts sniffed their way from the forest underbrush, but there was no sign of porcine hair in the springs. They had already made a wallow under the trees near the water tank, in goat territory, but the two colonies kept an amiable distance from one another except for the runs and leaps of an occasional kid.

The great hall literally echoed as they walked in. Pyosz went to her pad in the kitchen and wrote "Hand rails for bath room and privy." Maar looked at the clock and said it was all right to call now. She dialed Chloddia, and they each took turns talking with Thleen, even Clicker who mewed into the mouthpiece, sending Thleen into a peal of laughter. Adon and Su were ferrying Thleen to her test in Riesig that morning, which Maar said was better than other options. Thleen's confidence had slipped a little, apparently as the result of a lecture Dru had given her, but Pyosz kept repeating "Piece-a-cake" until Thleen began saying it with a giggle.

Maar talked with Adon before they got off, asking her to call as soon as they knew the results no matter what time it was. Adon said Thleen had asked to go to Yoj and Halling's to wait on the scoring, and Maar said that was perfect, they could call from there. Maar then asked after the three apprenticeships Adon had applied for, and was told there had been no reply yet.

Each of the pairs went to bed with a radio. Just past 2:00, Pyosz woke up to what she thought was Ember purring unusually loud, then Maar sitting up abruptly and saying 'Hello?" Pyosz turned on her lamp as Maar screamed "I knew it, I knew you would, sibu!" She could hear Thleen's excited voice coming out the headset and leaned closer, Maar sharing it.

"I thought it was easy, I kept hearing Pyosz talking about how to break down a story problem into a story, or you showing me all those maps, or Qala doing grammar wrong in her funny-fuddled voice" said Thleen.

"You soaked it all in, you big brain you" said Maar. "What was the final score?"

"93%!" said Thleen. "I guess I keep getting smarter, huh?"

"You sure do" said Maar, looking at Pyosz as if to say "And there's the numeric difference between a Skene and a Pya education, 3%." Lawa on the other radio said "Have you told your emmas yet?"

"Prl tried but they're not home yet. Yoj made me chocolate ice cream and apple cake, my very favorite, so I have to go now so I can eat it. Halling says to call tonight -- call who, me or you, Halling? -- she says both" said Thleen. After a chorus of "I love yous", they clicked off.

Maar flung herself back against the pillows jubilantly. "She did it, she pulled it right out of her tiny ass!"

"Lev, I wish I was there for that party" said Pyosz, snuggling beside her.

"A leap, this is a giant leap" breathed Maar. Pyosz felt some of the energy in Maar's body dissipate. "And the next step is up to me" she continued softly.

"Well, like sibu, like siba" said Pyosz. She rolled to turn off the lamp and returned to cuddle.

The following morning, after breakfast, Pyosz delayed her milk delivery to stand beside Maar as she called her emmas.

"I agree with you, I couldn't be prouder of her...Yep, sharper than we guessed...Well, no, it doesn't mean she could have tried harder earlier -- No, the issue wasn't her motivation, it's how much stress she was under, she was -- you're honestly claiming this was all a plot she and I hatched up to get her to Pya, how can you -- what about Adon? -- a refinery shipping apprenticeship, did you just get the notice? I'm thrilled for her but what -- yes, I told her I'd support her through an apprenticeship, her and Su both -- she's 16, emma, it's normal for someone entering adulthood to want their own bed and private space, even if it's a bucky -- I'm NOT trying to turn your children against you, if they want more options it's your doing, not mine." Maar stared at the radio and said to Pyosz "She clicked off."

"What the lev is going on?" demanded Lawa, her arms crossed over her chest.

Through gritted teeth, Maar said "Emma -- that was Dru -- she said Thleen deliberately failed as part of a scheme for me to bring her to Pya for tutoring, no child could have turned their grades around so quickly otherwise. When they got home, there was a letter waiting for Adon giving her the apprenticeship she wanted most, one that will move her into management instead of hard labor, which I'm sure is what most pissed them off. But it's unpaid, and the little rockwit picked now to tell them I'm paying all her expenses, including moving out into a bucky. So Dru sees a vast attack on her family orchestrated by me. She says since Thleen will have her own space now in the loft with Su, the issue of sleeping on the couch is resolved, and she'll have the summer to get used to living the plain and honest life of Chloddia again, without grades being an issue."

Into the boiling silence that followed, Maar added "I didn't help things with that last crack."

"Don't you dare take any of this on your back" said Qala, "not with all you're doing for your sibs' behalf,"

"I have to go to work" said Maar, looking at the clock. "Let them cool off, and me cool off. Can we all talk at dinner?" They nodded, and each of them kissed Maar's cheek before she shrugged into her guibba and left for the jichang. Pyosz looked at Qala and said "I'm tempted to sic emma on them,"

Qala grinned and said "Wait until we all talk. If Maar says yes, she'll have ideas about how to do it." Pyosz grabbed her cap and headed for the ferry.

Over tofu-stuffed peppers and cream of broccoli soup that night, they brainstormed options. "I'll have to apologize to Dru" began Maar. "Don't give me that look, Pyosz, she won't back down without it, And we have to get her out of the holes she digs for herself."

Lawa giggled. "Funny way of talking about a miner."

Maar smiled wanly. "Aggie doesn't completely agree with her but she seldom stands up to her. Mostly it was abba who did that."

"So what's really happened is that you've just proven the home environment they have to offer Thleen is inadequate. She fails in it. And they are pushing hard to deny that proof. It's exacerbated by Adon leaving, because it seems like she's been seen as the anti-Maar, the child most likely to stay on Chloddia and live like them."

"I think that's an astute assessment" said Maar. "I guess they really expected Thleen to fail her exam -- that's probably why they didn't say anything about her projections about what would happen next, they figured she'd be jerked up short without them having to do anything. And that jolt was accompanied by Adon's defection."

"Kudos to Adon, by the way. I need to write her a congratulations letter" said Pyosz.

"She's still reeling from the 2-ek pieces each of you sent her for graduation. I hope she kept that at least secret from my emmas" said Maar.

"So if Dru backs down, what will that look like?" asked Lawa.

"Hopefully friends and family will give them praise for doing what it took to turn things around. I can imagine that Thleen was a pain in the ass to Dru's sib that was taking her for after school care, maybe they won't want her coming back. Thleen is starting kickball camp this week, which will help short term during the day. And, yes, not sleeping in the bed where abba died will make a difference to her. So maybe after kickball camp and a little while of having her around again, getting used to Adon moving out, they'll consent to her coming for part of the summer" said Maar.

"But not the whole summer" said Qala flatly.

"Not likely."

"And when school starts back up, Thleen's in the soup again" said Qala.

"Probably" said Maar.

Qala glanced at Pyosz before saying "We wondered about the idea of asking Prl to do what she could. Behind the scenes, in her way,"

Pyosz stared at Qala. She must feel desperate -- and she's been in Thleen's kiatus.

Maar looked alarmed. "You mean something like having them sent to Peisuo?"

Pyosz gave a half-laugh. "Only exiling Dru would be enough. No, not even emma has that kind of power. But she does know things. For instance, she knows something about Thleen's conception, I think. She's refused to tell me, so my advice is for you to approach her directly, go to her office and ask her to tell you whatever might help you in getting Thleen into your care."

Maar looked like she'd rather swim with leviathans, but she said "All right,"

"Maybe we can buy her" said Lawa, shocking them all. "We can pool our money and offer 'em 20 eks a year to let Thleen live on Pya until she's grown."

Qala said "It's illegal, honey."

"So let Prl make the offer. It'll be her word against theirs, if they decide to be all high and mighty about it, which I can't see them doing. No offense intended, Maar" said Lawa.

Maar looked too stunned to take offense. Pyosz said "When you play around with illegalities, even for what you're sure is a good cause, you lose internal ground and, on a practical level, you leave yourself open to blackmail. Even emma."

Maar found voice to say "I think I need to go feel them out. And talk with Prl. I'm flying out at dawn on Roku. I could call you from Skene when I know more."

"Okay" said Qala, standing to collect plates. "Anyone else want an orange for afters?

That night in bed, Maar said "If Thleen doesn't come this summer, I have to stop living here."

"Why? Because of the talk, lev the talk, there's been gossip about us all year -- " began Pyosz.

"Because I moved in here for Thleen's benefit, not my own. I mean, yes, it was to my benefit too, but my life decisions right now have to put Thleen first" said Maar.

"How is it not to Thleen's benefit to have you happy? I know you're happy here, Maar/"

"It's not what I really want. What I want is...more. We deserve more. We deserve living without pretense." Maar looked wretched.

But not as wretched as Pyosz. She threw herself on top of Maar and said "So if I lose Thleen, I lose you, too? It's not fair."

"I know" said Maar, wrapping her arm around Pyosz but keeping her cheek safely pressed against Pyosz's.

On Roku, most of the inhabitants of Herne, Teppe and Saya were at the Lofthall jichang to say goodbye to Thava's family. Pava wept on Dekkan's shoulder, and Dekkan promised to visit once a month, even if it meant getting on the huolon pilot roster. Uli wasn't present to hear this; she'd told Pyosz it would be too hard to come see Poth's children fly away from Pya. Pyosz waved the craft off into growing light, then went home to milk her goats.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.



(Hubble-Spitzer Color Mosaic of the Galactic Center)

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, followed by poetry after the jump.


by Jeremy Voigt

The car crossed two lanes of traffic
and a grass median before plowing
head-on into me, killing my wife,
unborn child, and myself. Before
I died I touched the shoulder
of a policeman, felt the sure strength
of his muscles, heard the only word
he spoke, "Jesus," and I smiled
because I stopped believing in him
long ago. He mistook my smile
for something positive and not listless
irony, and I tried to correct him,
but my throat stopped. Red lights.
Blue lights. Star's gases. I walked home.
My wife wandered off into a river
to give birth. I began calling my friends:
"We are all dead," I said into the phone.
I let them cry or exalt in turn, taking
note. I didn't know it would be this
simple. I slipped into a midnight robe,
poked holes in a black sheet, tore
into a loaf of bread. Wandered off
yeast-heavy neither rising nor falling.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


(Clabber and Sugarnose in pasture)

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)


Pyosz tiptoed from her bedroom to milk, Maar hard asleep. She left eggs in chicken roosts and imagined the feathered emmas' response when they returned after breakfast to find their future chicks still intact. It was a small ray of comfort on this terrible morning.

Thleen and Xoan were downstairs eating cherry pancakes and bacon with Qala and Lawa. Ryar came shyly downstairs, peeking through the railing, as Pyosz sat down with her own plate. Ryar opted to slither into Nioma's room, and a few minutes later both younger children emerged, Avik saying "I can't remember where the privy is!" Pyosz took her to the right door, and as they came out, Nioma met them, looking far older than usual.

The rest of the Talaba family trailed in. Xoan asked her emma "What happened with the search, did they find Poth and Uli?" In the pause that followed, Pyosz said "Thleen, grab your plate, I'm going to carry a tray up to Maar, let's wake her so we can eat together, the three of us." Thleen went eagerly upstairs and Pyosz followed in a couple of minutes, meeting Maar coming from the privy. Pyosz said "They were about to tell the news downstairs, I knew you wanted to be there with Thleen."

They ate first, breaking all of Pyosz's rules by feeding bacon to begging katts while sitting on the bed. Maar then told Thleen about Poth and Uli.

"Thont's emma is really dead?" Thleen was too shocked to cry.

"Yes. We are going to need to be endlessly kind to Thont as she grieves this terrible, terrible loss, the worst a child can experience" said Maar. There were bags under her eyes.

"Can I go see her? Can we take Ziri?" asked Thleen.

"We're all going this afternoon, our family here. We can call Kacang and see what they're planning to do. The news will be going out this morning" said Maar.

"Can I call home and talk to my emmas?" said Thleen.

"Certainly" said Maar. "Why don't you go get the radio and bring it back up here so I can talk with them too." She leaned back against the headboard, resting her eyes.

"I have to go to Gitta's" said Pyosz. "I want to stop by the clinic, too."

"I need a bath" said Maar. "Let me know how they say Uli is doing." Pyosz collected Qala's list and some coin from the housekeeping drawer and left her wain at the dock. It wasn't yet 8:00 and a Shmonah, but Gitta was open and several people from Koldok were in the store, talking. They turned to look at Pyosz, and Naki said "It was Maar who found them, right?"

"Maar saw them first, but Abbo and Fohol were right there, and it was the crew from Talaba who did the hands-on rescuing" said Pyosz, determined to be fair.

"How is the family at your place?" asked Gitta.

"Grieving for Poth. Otherwise all right. The children have bounced right back" said Pyosz.

"They say Poth died fast, is that right?" asked someone else.

"That's what I heard" answered Pyosz. She was not going to give them more details than that. "Listen, Gitta, we need to get some allotment items from various accounts, I have their books with me, can we do that and you transfer the paperwork? I know it's work for you -- "

"No problem at all. Hand me the books and start piling what you need on the counter. How many are you feeding now?" said Gitta.

"15 for sure plus whoever drops in" said Pyosz. She grabbed a gallon each of olive oil and corn oil to begin. "I'm buying for Herne and Teppe, too."

Before she was finished, Api came on the radio with the announcement of Poth's death and funeral plans. She added that Uli was holding her own and had regained consciousness, although she was mostly being kept sedated for pain. She also announced plans for Moja's start on rebuilding Talaba.

Gitta and Naki helped Pyosz load her cart. She pushed it toward the clinic, where she met Mill in the waiting room. "Her family's in the room with her, and that's all Briel wants to see her right now" said Mill.

"Has she added anything to what we know?" asked Pyosz.

"Dekkan said it caught them completely off guard, Uli didn't know it was a waterspout until Dekkan told her, she thought it was an earthquake during a rainstorm. She said she was awake for hours in pain, yelling for help and trying to keep shu off Poth, but she couldn't move. She said Poth spoke of her family before she died, so it wasn't instantaneous. Don't spread that around, by the way" said Mill. "Your bunch okay?"

"Yeah. They came so close to losing one of their number, they're fragile but grateful, especially now" said Pyosz.

"Thava doesn't want visitors until after 3:00" said Mill. "So we'll be at your place by noon, in a big sinner that can carry 20, for whoever wants help getting to Pertama later."

"See you soon, then" said Pyosz. At the wharf, a pilot saw her from the Lofthall and came to help her load the ferry. She used the lift at her own dock, something she rarely did, and rolled her wain to the front porch. All four children were playing in The Saya.

Pyosz separated the three island's lists on the steps before going to the door to ask for help carrying in. Thleen and Xoan were loaded down and dispatched to Herne, told to come back for a second trip. Lehen offered to carry over Teppe's groceries.

In the kitchen, Lpika was starting roast mutton while Qala and Lawa put things away. Nioma, breathing normally, offered to make casseroles and Pyosz gave her a counter. Rika was helping Xani take a bath while Henar held the baby. Pyosz started a huge sponge, one of five she thought she'd need to make today. Once Maar appeared, she passed on the news Mill had given her except for the piece about Poth not dying instantly.

Maar put on an apron and said "I need to do something that demands my attention. I'm no baker but I could do pie fillings."

"Okay." Pyosz gave her instructions and Maar begin pouring dried fruit into a large saucepan. Once the sponge was rising, Pyosz mixed pie dough and put it in the cold box to rest. She said "If no one else needs the tub right away, I'm going to take a bath."

She didn't linger, partly because of her sponge, mostly because whenever she was alone and still she started thinking about Poth dying in pain. When she got back to the kitchen, Maar was rolling out pie dough, a spray of flour in her orange hair. "Do you want all of this in pie form or some of it as tarts?" she asked.

Pyosz grinned at her. "One third each as pies, tarts, and turnovers." She punched down her dough and began mixing cookies.

By the time everyone arrived for lunch. Pyosz's baking cupboard was crammed. She had stacked the extra bread and some pastries on the counter to send home to Herne and Teppe. All the children, including the Kacang bunch, kept finding reasons to come in the kitchen and eye the clear plastic bags of cookies and tarts. But it was Qala who shooed them away. Pyosz was too distracted missing Pava and Dekkan, keenly feeling their absence in the midst of the crowd.

Only those who had friendships with Poth or her children went on the sinner to Pertama. Maar held the hands of both Thleen and Ziri, reminding them during the flight how to offer sympathy.

The baby was crying when they went in the house, being walked back and forth by Brek who confided to Pank that Poth had been the only one who could comfort her when she got this agitated. Thava was on the couch and greeted them numbly. Nioma sat beside her, taking her hand and talking to her softly. Thleen and Ziri went to Thont, Ziri hugging her as Thleen said "I'm so sorry your emma died" with a kindness that made Maar's eyes well.

But it was Pava with blotchy face and shuttered eyes who caught Pyosz's attention. And Vants. They flanked her and tried to permeate her misery in any sort of useful way. Pyosz didn't think they succeeded. Eventually she went to hold the baby, who had cried herself into hiccoughs and a runny nose.

Other people kept arriving, and after an hour the Saya group left. The flight home was entirely silent. Even Ziri and Thleen didn't whisper. As they came in the front door of Owl Manage, music hit them, and though the song was slow and melancholy, it felt jarring to Pyosz. She walked past Dodd on her fiddle and Nezi on the piano into the kitchen, leaning at the sink to look out the window at moss and vine covered escarpment. Too much death she thought. I'm getting less and less accepting of it.

Meamea tugged at her pants leg. Pyosz looked down at her and Meamea said "Are you sad, too?"

"Yes, I am" said Pyosz.

"Come sing wif us. I sit wif you" Meamea offered.

"All right."

When she and Maar went to bed together, she was self-conscious, changing into her schmatta with her back turned. Maar said "Are you going to read?"

"Not tonight; you?"

"Too tired." Maar clicked off the lamp. Curds placed herself squarely between their hips. Pyosz looked out the window at the sky over Puaa Woods, a view now forever altered for her.

Maar asked "Do you think Thleen has a crush on Xoan?"

"Not a crush like we feel it. I think she longs for her in that child way."

Maar was thinking, Pyosz could almost hear it. A minute later she said "I lied to my emmas about the risk of waterspouts here on Saya."

"I think that's best."

"You know, Pyosz, you need something like a cellar here."

"Yeah, that occurred to me. Let's set Qala and Lawa on the idea."

Another interval of silence. "Speaking of risk, Maar -- I know how smart you are, how much you prepare for contigencies. I trust you like I trust few others."


"But you have a dangerous job, buddy."

"No news to me, Pyosz."

"Just saying." Pyosz sat up with a sigh and lifted Curds to her outside hip. She lay her head on Maar's shoulder. Maar put her hand on Pyosz's scalp and tugged gently at her dreads, one after another, until Pyosz breathed out in release. She put her spread hand on Maar's belly and drifted off.

They sent Thleen to school the next day with the Talaba children. After making her deliveries, Pyosz joined everyone from her Manage except Xani home with the baby, Nioma home to help Xani, and Maar who was sinning, for a ride from the Lofthall to Talaba. Mrebbe assigned jobs according to experience level, and Pyosz was gratified to be given actual hammering and measuring tasks instead of stacking and fetching. The site where their Manage had been was horrifyingly bare. Pyosz walked over to look down into the exposed cellar, staring at the pipe where Xani had anchored, and felt an impossible mixture of feelings about the saved baby and Poth dying underneath a tree.

At noon the Lofthall sent soup and sandwiches. Lehen suddenly cried out and pointed at her feet, where a black and white katt was rubbing her ankles. She fed it all the chicken from her soup. By 2:00 another of the Manage's katts had shown up, leaving only one still missing. A neighbor agreed to take the katts in at night and keep them fed. The tillage and chickens were an utter loss, however.

They quit for the day and returned to Saya to dress for Poth's funeral. Thleen went silent as she put on the silks she had worn to bury her abba. Ziri met them in Koldok with her abba Uben. Nioma, Lpika and Henar caught a bus to Pertama. The rest of Pyosz's family, along with many people from Koldok, walked the road in near silence.

Maar met them on the outskirts of Pertama, wearing silks she had taken with her that morning. Pyosz was electrified to see Dekkan with her, also in whites, her face lined and puffy. Pyosz hugged her for a long time and asked after Uli. "She's in and out, mostly out" said Dekkan. "But she asked me to go to the funeral on her behalf."

"Can she have visitors yet?" asked Pyosz. When Dekkan shook her head, Pyosz said "Then tell her I'm thinking about her all the time, and I'll come as soon as they'll let me in. Anything you need, you just ask me."

Dekkan's presence drew looks and whispers. These increased when they reached the foot of Pertama Poke, meeting Poth's family, and Dekkan stepped forward to embrace Pava. They remained holding hands, with Thont holding Pava's other hand. Thava carried the baby, flanked by two of Poth's cousins. Torches with a chemical red flame were lit and handed out, and the procession slowly wound up the Poke.

At the summit, Poth's wrapped body lay in an intricately-woven basket attached to long chains. Pyosz suddenly remembered what she had seen when she drew back the sheet that had lain over her abba Bux, and she passionately hoped Thava -- or Pava, please not Pava -- had not been who prepared Poth's body. She glanced at Pank and thought she read the same question on her face.

Api began the eulogies. There were many. Pava and Thont stood, hand in hand, Pava holding the baby, and talked of Poth as their emma, which had sent Pyosz and Thleen both into sobs. Pyosz pulled herself together to say a few words near the end about Poth as teacher and carer for Pya's well-being.

Then a small lighter hovered overhead, lowering a single cable with a bracket. The coroner and Mill attached the chains from Poth's basket to the bracket. Thava rushed forward, wailing baby in her arms, to touch the linen-wrapped face one last time. The basket slowly rose into the air, swaying in a greater and greater arc, as if beginning the pendulum of a fantastic clock. The lighter banked and headed east. The basket would be dropped into the volcano marking the eastern edge of what was considered Pya: "Gone to the sunrise" is how some Pyans referred to death and burial.

Oby raised high the torch she was holding in a farewell salute, then turned it to put it out against the rock of Pertama Poke. Everyone else with a torch followed suit. Red flickering light gave way to late afternoon shadows, and Pava fell to her knees sobbing. Vants reached her instantly, picking her up as if she were Thont's size and shouldering through the crowd to carry her down the spiral path. Thava and the rest of her family followed, and after a respectful interval, so did the rest of the funeral-goers.

At the base, Pyosz said to Maar, Qala, and Lawa. "I need to head home. By the time I get there, it'll be milking hour." And I don't have another wake in me right now. "Tell Vants she can stay as long as she wants, I'll go take care of her goats, too."

"You all right?" asked Maar. Thleen stared up at her face.

"I don't know how to answer that" said Pyosz. "Except I guess I will be." She headed west, away from the rising sun.

After dinner, after dishes and diaper-washing and baths, they gathered on the porch, children in schmattas and quilts. There were no stars, but everyone saw the flicker of a giant shape fly from the point toward the rocks facing Kacang, and exclaimed in unison. "Our owl is out patrolling for us tonight" said Pyosz with a quaver. She was sitting next to Nioma on the steps, and Nioma reached out to squeeze her hand. Avik in Nioma's lap slipped her small hand from beneath the quilt and did the same.

"Can we sing?" Pyosz heard Thleen ask in her carrying whisper. Qala responded by starting the first bar of "Oak Grove". When they reached the lines

The friends of my childhood
Again are around me
Each face stirs a mem'ry
As homeward I roam

Pyosz willed herself not to sob. She was tired of crying. After the song, however, Maar came to sit on the other side of her, Thleen in her lap with sokkened feet stretching onto Pyosz. During a break between songs, Pyosz asked Maar "Did you see Ulcha there? She had blue paint on her face. A few people with her did, too. And a few other folks here and there, including one pilot. What does it mean?"

Thleen put her spread right hand over one side of her face. The iridescent blue paint had been in the shape of a hand, gap between third and fourth fingers wide enough for the eye, ball of thumb resting on earlobe. Pyosz thought it must have been that person's own hand, traced onto their face and then filled in.

Nioma answered. "It's an ancient practice that was kept alive, but in secret apparently, by one family on Bosco. Some folks think it came to Pya with the Owl People, but Ulcha says it's not just them. It's a sign of preparing for a difficult transition, she told me, not really a funeral rite per se."

Qala said "It was gossiped about on Skene, you can imagine, as evidence of Pya's superstition or aggression. Yoj was fascinated with it."

"Yeah, it's been tricky at the Lofthall" said Maar. "Mill has been worried about public perception of the face-painting. Kuus, the pilot you saw, is who flies the basket to burials. and she got it from one of her abbas. She says it's a symbol of community connection and support."

Thleen squirmed to look at Maar. "Can I paint my face like that for school tomorrow, siba, please? To show support for Thont?" Xoan and Ryar both sat up with interest.

"Well, first of all, I'm not sure Thont will be at school tomorrow" said Maar. "Second, if she is, it might just look to her like a painful reminder of her emma's funeral, not a symbol of respect. And third, you need to figure out if the main reason you want to do it is because you want to see what it's like and have everyone pay attention to you, not for Thont's sake."

Xoan leaned back again. She knew Thleen had just lost and her own emmas would never go for it. Thleen went silent, meaning she'd heard a blah-blah version of "no" as well. Maar switched Thleen's hands for her, saying "It's always the left hand on the left side of the face." Pyosz resigned herself to breaking out face-paints for the next group voyage of The Saya.

"Speaking of Ulcha" said Lawa meaningfully.

"Yeah, I saw that, too" said Pyosz. She added to Maar "She and Frank were holding hands."

"Tu says Frank has been to dinner on Chwet, to meet the family" said Lawa.

"I've been to dinner with Ulcha's family as well" said Nioma, surprising them. "Extremely interesting, well-read people, and great cooks."

"Do they really eat squirrel?" asked Thleen.

"Well, we did because I requested it" said Nioma. "Squirrel stew with carrots and potatoes. It was very rich and savory, I'd eat it again any time." Pyosz was sure this endorsement would make the rounds of the schoolyard tomorrow.

"We're heading up to bed" said Xani, handing Eoma to Rika, who said "I have to get back to work at the greenhouse tomorrow, we're -- short-handed."

"Me, too" said Nioma sadly, pushing Avik to a stand. She looked around at Qala. "Thank you again for staying home with Xani and the baby."

"My pleasure" said Qala. Lehen was returning to her job on Doimoi -- every ek of income was critical right now for this family -- and the other two abbas were spending half-days at the noodle factory, half at the construction site. Lawa, Pyosz, Vants and Tu had all committed to six hours a day on Mrebbe's crew for at least the next two weeks. Qala would take over meeting Thleen and starting tutoring, and Pyosz would do her baking in the evenings.

The cranberry pond had now filled completely, and Vants had volunteered to be the bog planter and tender for the next year, since her herd was in its infancy and she had no other income currently. Lawa said Moasi was still talking about emigrating, and Vants had a special electric cart being built that was small enough for indoors but had balloon tires for outdoor terrain. There was a ramp in place at her Manage's back door. At one point, Pyosz had expressed concern about Vant's finances, "Does she really have enough savings for all this outlay plus two years without real income or barter?" Lawa had grinned "We'll make sure she's okay."

Qoj came on the next huolon and stayed at Uli's bedside for the next four days. She informed Dodd and Briel that she was definitely moving back to Pya by midwinter and she meant to partner with Uli. She also relayed the news to Uli's emmas, who were not as thrilled as her own had been.

They had a stretch of clear, warming days where Xani sat on the porch snapping beans or peeling vegetables next to a slumbering Eoma. Qala planted most of the tillage by herself and began extra starts not only for their own succession but to rebirth the Talaba family's tillage. Likewise, eggs were not collected for a second week to create an extra set of chicks they could give to their new friends.

Nioma began bringing a chair into the kitchen to talk with Pyosz at night as she baked. Pyosz was frequently struck by how much it reminded her of conversations with Prl, and she would feel a little disloyal to her emma.

Uli was finally allowed to have visitors, now at home, and Pyosz went right away with a crock of Prym and a bouquet of Isola Fling roses. There were still yellow and purple bruises on Uli's temple, and she complained several times about the itchiness of her leg cast. She said she didn't want to talk about her experience in Puaa Woods, her eyes showing a lot of white, and Pyosz changed the subject. She kept visiting every Roku after Market, and supplied Uli with all the books she could read.

Two weeks after Poth's funeral, Dekkan and Pava arrived together for Shmonah dinner, Dekkan's arm over Pava's shoulder. After half an hour, Pava's color got better and she laughed at one of Pank's jokes. During a break in the singing, she blurted out "We're moving. Aggie's making us move to Skene, soon as I graduate."

There was a general outcry of dismay, and Tu asked "Why?"

"She has a siba we can live with, aggie says she needs help with the baby. It's on Verzin, and aggie can get a job in an office there. The Manage is tiny, aggie will be sleeping in a loft over the living room with Thont and the baby." Pava's despair was worse than ever. Verzin, for a river-running Pya child? The same as Peisuo thought Pyosz.

"Where will you sleep?" demanded Vants.

"On the couch until I go to University. Only I don't want to go to the U, I want to apprentice at the ejida, but aggie gets crazy when I say that." Pava began crying, and Vants scooted over to pat her shoulders. Pava looked through tears at Pank, saying "I have to give away my sailboat, I want you to have it."

"I'll keep it for you until you return" said Pank, which made Pava cry harder.

On the walk home from Herne, Lawa said to Qala "It's just not right, Thava isn't thinking well about her family."

"She must be up against it" said Qala.

"I'm going to talk with her" interjected Nioma. But Pyosz was distracted by hearing Thleen whisper to Maar, this time in a real whisper, "I don't want to go back to Chloddia, siba."

"I know" said Maar. "None of us want that."

The ribs in Thleen's chest were no longer visible, and her weekly reports from Dodd were folded with pride by Maar into letters home. On Iki, Pank stopped by after dinner on her way to Koldok to deliver some smoked bacon and Thleen got permission to tag along with her. When they returned, Thleen had a small orange-and-white kitten tucked into her guibba.

"Look what they had at the Manage where we went!" she said joyfully. "Watch what she does!" She set the kitten down and trailed a ribbon tantalizingly along the floor. The kitten chased it in frenzied hops where it arched its back and then crouched to spring. "I'm going to name her Clicker!" bubbled Thleen. Indeed, the kitten's antics did strongly resemble the clicker beetles children loved to provoke into startling leaps.

Maar gave Pank a bleak look. "I don't think my emmas will let her bring a kitten home."

Pank's face fell. "Why not, she said you had katts, they're treated well."

"Yes, we keep katts, but they come to us full-grown, never as kittens. Emma says they have to work for their keep just like everyone else. I mean, I'll try, of course" said Maar softly.

Thleen was wriggling on the floor in hilarity, and the other children were being held back from snatching the kitten. Curds and Cha both were watching in disbelief from their perches. Qala said "We'll keep her here if need be."

Thleen took Clicker to bed with her and Xoan, though Maar insisted the bedroom door be left open so the kitten could "use her privy". Pyosz made sure Curds and Ember were in with her that night, to postpone at least those confrontations for Clicker. In the morning when she went to the kitchen for tea before milking, she found Cha and the kitten curled up together on her breadboard. Nobody can resist babies she thought.

Lamminsade progressed with two weeks of daily warm rains. All of the fruit and nut trees were in full bloom, the pasture was now full of rambunctious kids, and Pyosz's milk yield was increasing daily. Vant's first kid was delivered from the Botaniste, a "spectacular goat" Vants marveled, and a second started. The Talaba house was framed, roofed, and plumbed, and "without all the furbelows of your place", as Mrebbe put it, she expected it to be livable before school was out. Uli returned to work, hobbling around Koldok on crutches and being flown to Shmonah dinners by Dekkan.

In the first week of Med, however, everything was dropped one day and night for the annual eel migration. Pyosz bought Thleen cotton eeling gloves and new wader boots. Saya was assigned a stretch of South Dvareka river, below the sugar mill, as their eeling territory, and Lawa hauled live boxes there by bus and bicycle. Kacang, Herne, Arta, and even Teppe had their own territories nearby. The Talaba family had an established territory on North Pertama river, but Thleen was too excited to protest her separation from Xoan, since this was her first time to go eeling.

It was a grand, moonslit and torchlit party on the banks of the river, until worn-out children fell asleep on dew-dampened quilts upbank and the adults slogged on, catching and sorting eel as long as the run lasted. The Pea Pods collaborated on their daily check afterward, a single adult coming to check the various live boxes for dead or dying eels, because Thleen and Ziri were too immature to be trusted with the job beside a strong river. The network had primary dibs on Herne's smokehouse as well, and they feasted the Shmonah smoked eel first became ready.

That Roku, after Market, Thleen had gone to the schoolhouse to take Dodd's version of the graduation exam from first grade. Dodd explained it would not be identical to whatever Skene presented -- which changed from year to year, depending on leraar -- but she promised it would be equally rigorous. Or more so thought Pyosz. When Thleen emerged from the exam, fatigued and wanting to know her score instantly, Maar took her for ice cream and another bike-riding lesson while Dodd graded her paper.

They all celebrated Thleen's announced score of 90% with a kickball game in Pertama followed by a dance nearby. Maar took the first turn on the dance floor with Thleen, whirling her around and making Thleen squeal. That night, Lehen didn't come back to the Manage, and Ryar went to sleep with Nioma and Avik. Pyosz asked Nioma quietly "Vants?" and Nioma nodded, grinning hugely.

Which was even more interesting to Pyosz because she'd seen Lehen at the hot springs and knew she was also a Y. You go, cousin she thought.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.