Saturday, March 6, 2010


(Dale Robertson, a Tea Party activist, holding his sign at the Feb. 27, 2009 Tea Party in Houston)

The conservatism which took hold in America during the cultural devastation of Ronald Reagan, the Neocons who successfully married the Religious Right, depends on conning the working class to benefit the owning class by actively maintaining or advancing two bedrock values: woman-hating and white supremacy. It's a one-two punch that sucks in otherwise progessive males who are covertly terrified of powerful women and otherwise intelligent women who are covertly terrified of brown folks. (Or not so covertly.)

I agree with Katha Pollitt that I'm personally relieved we are not sitting in the raging floodwaters of woman-hating sewage that would fill all the airwaves if Hillary Clinton had won the Presidency. The backlash would be horrific.

But equally horrific is how white supremacy has come out from under wraps (well. it never was concealed for those of us without privilege or choosing to not accept denial) and has fueled a 250% increase in terrorist organizations whose raison d'etre is race hatred. And make no mistake about it, to quote Bob Cesca's essay at Huffpo today, "The Tea Party is all about race."

I'm going to quote a few sections from his post to whet your appetite but I hope you'll go read it for yourselves. We must continue challenging the media coverage which acts like these people have a rational agenda and force exposure of what actually brings them together -- why separatist, eliminationist Sarah Palin is their darling. Why Rick Perry is running for Governor of Texas with TV spots openly declaring his support for Tenthers, a code for white supremacists who want to roll back federal civil rights protection in "their" states. We have to decode their dogwhistles at every turn and organize that majority of citizens for whom race hatred is un-American. We are the real patriots, and we must not let them steal that term.

From Bob Cesca The Tea Party Is All About Race:
"...when you strip away all of the rage, all of the nonsensical loud noises and all of the contradictions, all that's left is race. The tea party is almost entirely about race, and there's no comparative group on the left that's similarly motivated by bigotry, ignorance and racial hatred.

"...The tea party is an extension of talk radio. It's an extension of Fox News Channel. It's an extension of the southern faction of the Republican Party -- the faction that gave us the Southern Strategy, the Willie Horton ad, the White Hands ad and the racially divisive politics of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. It's an extension of the race-baiting and, often, the outright racism evident in all of those conservative spheres.

"...In the final analysis, when you boil away all of the weirdness, it becomes clear that the teabaggers are pissed because there isn't yet another doddering old white guy in the White House -- like they're used to. That's what this is all about."

(Hat-tip to Brilliant at Breakfast for pointing me toward the Cesca post.)

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Friday, March 5, 2010


(Konagod on day 2 after his injury, photo lifted from his blog)

Konagod, otherwise known as Sheldon's partner, is blogging about his injury and treatment as an examination of the health care system. He's a great writer and I read his blog regularly with pleasure. Check it out and send 'em both your best, okay?




Another dream where I woke up before resolution and I can't remember the main plot now. But two sets of symbols stand out.

One is that I had a study full of desks and worktables, but also with a spare bed in it. Every surface was cluttered, all the drawers were full, and I couldn't get around in it because I was definitely mobility impaired in this dream. (In some dreams I'm a crip, in some dreams I'm not.)

I was living with my family again. For some reason to do with the plot I can't remember, I needed to go around the house and gather up all the kukris that were stashed in various places. Kukris are curved knives indigenous to Nepal, used as tools and weapons, and when I was a child we had an assortment of leather-handled ones on our walls, a relic of our years in India.

In the dream, as in real life, the kukris ranged in size from massive to tiny pocket versions. All of them had dulled, rusting blades and dried-out leather. I needed to get them in good shape, and I began struggling to run hot water in the tub to soak them first. I was struck by the curve of the blade, and in the dream (a la Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), I realized the matching curves "meant something" -- but I can't remember that revelation now.

I needed a rasp and saddle soap to finish the rehabilitation of the knives, and I knew I had both somewhere in my study, but I despaired of being able to find it. Neverthless, as the water ran in the tub I laboriously made my way to the other end of the house, to my study, and began searching.

On the piled end table next to the spare bed, under magazines, I found two handguns, one a large gleaming Colt .45 revolver and the other a blue-black .32 automatic. I realized my parents must have slept in the room and left the guns behind. (Yes, my parents each routinely slept with a handgun until each of them died, it was a fact of life in our family,)

As I searched, I kept finding more pistols, but not the items I was looking for. I was feeling pressured by the water running at the other end of the house. I woke up then.

I know the knives as a symbol are connected to an online conversation I had yesterday, but the India connection is/must be significant. As is the presence of disability, my parents' guns...The clutter I think is a symbol from the conversation about writing that Jesse and I had right before I went to sleep. I began rereading Ginny Bates this week, and while I'm sucked back into that world, I'm a very different writer than I was 4 years ago and for the first time, I have a dim inkling of how it must be edited.

In Pya, I'm writing with the same technique -- character driven, character developed through conversation, family based in the midst of cultural revolution -- but I know now how to do it much more succinctly. It will be brutal to take a scalpel to the delicious conversations of Ginny Bates, but that is what is in my future. At some point. If I can find the rasp and saddle soap.


Thursday, March 4, 2010


(Hickson Compact Group 31 Interacting Galaxies Aglow with Millions of Young Stars)

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 William Wordsworth

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it has been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more!
The rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.


Monday, March 1, 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)


When Pyosz and Maar came in the front door late Iki afternoon, Thleen ran toward them whooping and climbed Maar like a tree. Halling and Yoj, cutting vegetables at the table, called out greetings, and Qala emerged from the kitchen with a spoon in hand.

"We brought treats from Trumpinne!" said Pyosz. Lawa came in the back door with a heaping herb basket and said "You look jubilant. Exhausted but jubilant."

"Sleep is overrated" said Pyosz.

Thleen was importuning Maar "What treats? Are there any for me?"

"We got something especially for you" said Maar. "Get down so I can take off my pack."

"Where's emma?" asked Pyosz.

"Upstairs in your study" said Yoj. "Nioma showed up after work with a sheaf of print-outs from the Botaniste and they're having a biology-fest."

Pyosz took the stairs two at a time, dodging katts. The study door was closed. She swung it open, her mouth about to speak, but then stopped in confusion. Someone was leaned back in her desk chair and Nioma was bent over them, her long black and silver hair obscuring the face of whoever was in the chair. Nioma was kissing her slowly, hungrily. The chair-sitter raised her hand to cup Nioma's cheek, pushing aside the hair enough to reveal it was Prl. Her emma, kissing someone with an open mouth.

Pyosz leapt backward and slammed the door shut. She took in a sharp breath and crossed the hall to her own room in two steps, slamming that door as well. She caught sight of herself in the long mirror she had last used to inspect her partnering finery. Her eyes were wide, her chest heaving, her fists clenched.

She heard the doorknob turn behind her and wheeled in confrontation, but it was Thleen followed by Maar. Maar said "It must be in your pack, honey, slide that off and let me have a look." Maar didn't notice Pyosz's agitation, lifting damp and wrinkled red silks from the top of the pack, then packets of different colored raisins, then a schmatta which had not been worn.

"Close that door" Pyosz commanded hoarsely to Thleen. But it was too late. Prl and Nioma were entering from the hall, Prl with flaming cheeks and lips, Nioma's hair tousled.

"You!" Pyosz screamed, jabbing a finger in Nioma's direction. Maar dropped Pyosz's pack and a flashlight rolled across the floor. Thleen giggled uncertainly. Pyosz shouted "You don't get to hurt her, I won't allow it!" She could tell she was trembling and welcomed the warmth of Maar moving in behind her.

Nioma's voice was maddeningly calm. "I have no intention of hurting Prl. I care for her a great deal."

"You don't know her! She's -- she hasn't ever been with someone, you can't just grab her on a visit and treat her like -- " Pyosz saw Qala and Lawa appear at the top of the stairs. Maar murmured her name in her ear. Pyosz shouted "Get out of my way!" and pushed past everyone, fleeing down the stairs recklessly. She left both front doors open and galloped toward the barn.

Vants had already begun milking. "Hey, you're back!" she said over Cups' rump.

Pyosz flung herself onto the feedbox, ignoring Killer and trying to catch her breath. "Nioma" she spat out. "That ginny-sniffer is after MY EMMA!"

She was enraged when Vants burst into laughter. "Well duh" said Vants. "They've been circling each other since Prl arrived. They are two of a kind, if you ask me." Pyosz eyed the hoof-hook hanging on the wall next to her, considering hurling it at Vants' back, when Maar slid in the door. Vants looked around and said "The only child here is having a fit."

Maar knew enough to not return Vants' grin. "Come on" she said to Pyosz. "Let's walk to the other end of Saya, tell me what happened." As they went through the kissing gate, a snatch of Thleen's voice came to them, no doubt arguing with one of the abbas about her need to follow Maar.

Pyosz kicked at tuffets of grass beside the trail, her fists shoved into her pockets. Maar waited until they were at the woods before saying "What were they doing?"

"Nioma had my emma pinned back in a chair, her tongue down her throat" burst out Pyosz. This time a strangled laugh escaped Maar. When Pyosz turned on her, Maar held up her hands, saying "I'm mortified for you all, but especially poor proper Prl. Must've been her worst nightmare, having you walk in on a clinch between her and Nioma. For all you know, it was their first kiss." She stopped to lean over with her hands on her knees and laugh.

Pyosz allowed a small to flicker across her face. "I hope it botched that moment forever, then,"

"Oh Pyosz, you don't mean that, you're being petty. Prl is overdue for passion, and Nioma is no fool. If you imagine that your emma is some innocent who can be seduced against good sense, well, you're the one being delusional" said Maar.

"She's the Genist, she can't have a partner" Pyosz suddenly remembered, her voice smug.

"Maybe she's not looking for a partner, maybe she just wants to get her face soaked" said Maar. This wiped the smirk off Pyosz's face and she strode on to the hot springs, ripping her gilet over her head. Maar undressed more slowly, ruminating out loud. "Or maybe they've not thought that far ahead. Although that doesn't sound like either of them. I think it's significant that as you move permanently into partnership, Prl expresses her new freedom as an emma by opening her heart in a new direction. I'm actually thrilled for her."

Pyosz ducked her head below the water, holding her breath as long as she could until pulse was roaring in her ears. She surfaced to find Maar looking at her quizzically.

"I'm afraid of losing her" she finally admitted.

"As if" said Maar kindly. "You and Thleen should compare grievances. Think about it, rockwit. If this becomes serious, she'll be tempted to retire soon. And move to Pya. You'll see more of her. not less. And the way it works is that more you love, the more your heart grows, you of all people should know that." Maar sat on the rocky edge out to scrub her skin with sand, since they hadn't brought soap.

"What if she does move here but lives in Talaba?" worried Pyosz.

Maar snorted. "Prl wants Owl Manage almost as much as you do. Besides, Nioma shares her room with a grandchild, they don't have space up there to add on another in their household." Certainly not someone as demanding as Prl she didn't say.

"Then maybe Nioma will want to move in with us" continued Pyosz.

"That family is too dependent on her, in several ways" argued Maar. "Anyhow, you're leaping to all sorts of conclusions about where Prl and Nioma are headed. You might want to give them some breathing room." She slid back into the water with a sigh of pleasure.

Which got Pyosz's attention. She drifted over to Maar and let breasts brush against Maar's shoulderblades. She giggled abruptly, saying "I certainly blew the lid off any privacy they might have been hoping to maintain."

"Yeah. I bet Thleen is grilling Nioma right now, asking if Nioma is going to be her new abba and does this mean she's related to Xoan now." Maar and Pyosz chuckled as Maar turned around to run her thumbs slowly under Pyosz's breasts and over her nipples.

"You know, I brought Sey home to live with us without asking emma in advance, or even telling her I'd slept with Sey" said Pyosz. Maar's exploration of Pyosz's chest came to a halt. She said "If our children are as confrontational as you, we have a long journey ahead of us."

"They will be" predicted Pyosz. "I've got payback coming to me, sorry about that, my darling."

"Totally worth it" said Maar, going to sit on the edge again, feeling overheated. Pyosz did a sand scrub and rinse before joining her.

"I'm really hungry" remarked Maar.

"I'm ready to head back, after I air dry a few minutes" said Pyosz.

They passed Vants on the trail back carrying a pail of milk. "Better?" she asked.

"Much" said Pyosz, hugging her. "Thanks for doing the milking while I was gone."

"Parchment has a hot udder, keep an eye on it" said Vants.

Their family were eating when they came in the front door. Su had come back home from working with Pava. Nioma was still there, and Pyosz felt relief. She bravely went directly to Nioma and said "I apologize. I behaved atrociously."

"You did" said Prl. Nioma took Pyosz's hand and said "I'm glad to accept your apology. It wasn't how we wanted to tell you."

Pyosz bent to hug Prl in her chair and whispered "I know I can be a trial. Can we talk after dinner?"

"Of course" said Prl, kissing her cheek. Pyosz thought she could smell an unfamiliar scent in Prl's hair.

Thleen said "I found the whistle in your pack! That was for me, right?" Maar nodded.

"It has a particularly penetrating tone" observed Prl neutrally. Pyosz sat down at the head of the table, Maar to her right, and accepted the dish of cauliflower Lawa passed her.

After dishes and clearing, everyone else retired to the front porch while Pyosz followed Prl to her room. Prl claimed the velvet chair, and Pyosz sat on the edge of the bed,

"I was jealous, I guess" said Pyosz, feeling uncertain about what upsets might remain within her. "I never suspected -- what do you and Nioma -- I'm not sure what to say or ask."

Prl's cheeks were maroon again in her heart-shaped toast-colored face. She kept her frizzy grey hair cut very short, with a wedge over her nape. She would be nondescript except for her smoky blue eyes and the ferocious intelligence in her expression. She said "I don't have a completely clear story to tell you yet. Nioma and I are still talking. But I told her I loved her. That's -- when she kissed me. We seem to be rather falling for one another."

Pyosz reminded herself to breathe. Prl added "And you have nothing at all to be jealous about."

"It's just, I've always been first in your life" said Pyosz.

"That won't change" said Prl, fixing her gaze on Pyosz. "Not from my end. Any more than your connection to me has lessened because you have Maar and Thleen now."

Pyosz's turmoil suddenly vanished. "Oh, emma, what will you do if you're in love? What about your career and your life on Skene?"

"I don't know, child. I am at a loss." Prl looked vulnerable. "With regard to my career, I have problems before all this...I wanted to talk it over with you, if I can find a way that is ethical. Maybe tomorrow night? Nioma has to be in Talaba with her family tomorrow night."

Pyosz concealed her gladness that Prl wanted to talk with her instead of Nioma. "Of course. Or before dinner?"

"No, I wanted to ask Maar to be there as well. Her mind is gifted at solving problems." Pyosz was surprised but pleased. She said "I'll ask her but I know she'll be honored to listen."

"Pyosz, there's something else I want to clear with you. I want Nioma to sleep here with me tonight, will that bother you?"

Have they not slept together then, yet? Pyosz set aside prurient speculation and said "I have no right to be bothered by it, emma. This Manage is meant to be your home whenever you are here. And -- Maar said she was thrilled for you, and I am too, emma." I will be, I'll get there.

"I really do mean sleeping, not -- I'm not ready to become lovers with Nioma. Not with so much up in the air. This is all so unfamiliar to me. And she said she didn't expect to ever love again after Avani died. But I can't stop thinking about her, wanting to talk with her and see her face, and I have to go back in two days, we want a night beside one another." Prl looked like she might cry.

"Whatever you want, emma, I want for you" said Pyosz, leaning forward to put her hands over Prl's. Prl said with a break in her voice "I am so frightened, I don't think I can bear a heartbreak here, am I being a fool?"

Pyosz moved to kneel in front of Prl. "No, emma. She's extraordinary, her mind and heart are a match to your own, and she doesn't lie. If she says she wants you, I trust her." Prl let herself cry briefly on Pyosz's shoulder. Pyosz untied her sweaty bandana for Prl to use as a handkerchief, and after blowing, Prl said "I wish aggie was here to reassure me."

"What about Yoj and Halling?" asked Pyosz.

"They both like her. Yoj remembers her from our schooldays, says Nioma always stood out. But they seem to be worried for me, about the consequences of my choices" said Prl.

"And Qala and Lawa?" pressed Pyosz. Prl smiled. "They are unambivalently supportive" she said.

"Well there you go, then" said Pyosz. "They were right about choosing to help raise me, about Sey and my moving here and Maar, their judgment seems to be flawless. If they aren't expressing reservations, that's platinum coin."

Prl blew again and said "I want to get back to the porch." Pyosz noticed there were fresh roses in the bedside vase and she asked "Do you want clean sheets for your bed?"

"I already changed them earlier" Prl said, and they giggled. As they walked downstairs, Pyosz advised "Lock your door tonight, Thleen tends to barge in without knocking."

Prl and Nioma excused themselves after an hour of singing. Yoj had offered to tuck in Thleen, and apparently Thleen thought she was getting to stay up late, from the look on her face as Prl left.

Prl had self-consciously bathed earlier in the day. She now went to the sink room and washed again, scrubbing her teeth and then studying her visage in the mirror. She didn't usually mind how plain her face was, but compared to Nioma's sultry beauty, she felt dowdy. At least I have my blue eyes she thought. And my ability to dress well.

She possessed a schmatta made of champagne-colored silk, uncommon in Skene. She couldn't remember why she had tucked it into her bag for this trip -- probably from some uncertainty at spending so many nights away from her own Manage. She was fervently glad to have it now. She had a shati in this shade of silk as well and knew how it brought out the rose within her brown skin. The fabric was thickly opulent, accenting her curves and covering some of her jiggle. She peeked out the door, making sure no family was in the hall, before scurrying to her bedroom.

Nioma had already returned and was folding clothes into her bag. She was wearing a sleeveless schmatta of pastel yellow cotton which did very little to conceal her own shape. Her hair cascaded over her bare shoulders and neck. Prl breathed in raggedly. Nioma smiled at her and said "You are so vivid, Prl, no wonder I can't take my eyes off you."

Silently thrilled, Prl put away her own clothes, turned on her bedside lamp and flicked off the overhead. Remembering Pyosz's warning, she shyly locked her door and slid into her sunlight-smelling sheets.

Nioma brought a bottle of lotion to bed with her, pouring a small pool into her palm and starting to rub her hands together. Prl picked up the bottle and sniffed it. "I can't quite name that scent" she said.

"It's from juniper berries. Rare and dear, my one luxury" said Nioma. "It soothes and invigorates at the same time. Would you like me to rub your feet?"

I want you to kiss me again thought Prl. But she turned around in the bed, leaning against the footboard, and blushed from the moan she gave when Nioma began massaging her instep with sure, strong fingers.

An experienced emma's hands thought Prl, her eyes closed. In fact, an abba. She's carried a child, just like me, given birth, nursed them, raised them into sterling adulthood. We know our own capability.

In the next instant, however, the comfort this gave her was invaded by remembering Nioma knew her own body in ways Prl did not. She had brought herself to orgasm, of course, had an active self-directed sex life in her 20s and 30s. But it had become infrequent, and she had given up pretending it was another's hand when she touched herself. Nioma had decades of experience to which Prl would never be able to catch up.

After a few minutes, Prl said "That was lovely. I'd -- would you like me to brush your hair?"

"Oh yes" said Nioma. She got a brush from her bag while Prl moved to lean against the headboard. She had to spread her legs so Nioma could sit in front of her, and she kept her eyes averted. She was so unfamiliar with this kind of intimacy. Likewise, she had never brushed silky hair like this, the bristles gliding through like oil. It was sensual in ways she hadn't expected. Nioma gave sigh after sigh of pleasure. Eventually she was leaned back against Prl entirely, two curves fitted together.

With a final long breath, Nioma turned her face and torso sideways, looking into Prl's eyes a moment before closing her mouth against Prl's. Prl dropped the brush on the floor and pressed her arms around Nioma's waist, relishing the thinness of the soft cotton that separated her from Nioma's flesh. Nioma put one arm around Prl's neck, and rubbed Prl's earlobe between the fingers of her other hand.

Some unmeasurable amount of time later, Nioma moved her mouth to Prl's ear, then to the nape of her neck, the hollow of her throat. Prl followed Nioma's lead, unlocking as much sensation in the doing as the receiving. Finally they were gasping, Prl throbbing, and Nioma pulled back, flinging herself to lie sideways on the bed. She tugged Prl supine as well, pressing their cheeks together to avoid a resumption of kissing. "My darling Prl, I want you so badly I'm shaking" she whispered.

"Me too, I thought it was me" said Prl, trying to get her mouth on Nioma's again.

"No, my love, here, roll over." Nioma persuaded Prl to face away from her, spooning into her back and thighs with not a hairsbreadth between them, her mouth behind Prl's ear. "We have to stop now, I promised you we wouldn't go beyond kissing."

They tried to calm down together, but Nioma's warm palm was tucked inside the cuff of Prl's sleeve, her fingers involuntarily stroking Prl's wrist. Prl curved her soles on top of Nioma's feet, and she said "I love you, I love you utterly, what I thought I felt in my teens is a joke compared to this."

"You have been so wasted, my volcano, my storm surge" whispered Nioma. "Whatever it takes, I'll do it to be with you. We'll find our way together, you've stolen my heart. No, stay where you are, I'm fighting to be righteous here, we have to protect your career, you're the best Genist Skene has ever seen, we need you."

"But -- let me roll over, Nioma, let me talk with you face to face. It's true I changed the world as Genist, and I'm not done yet, there's one more task ahead of me, something I don't know how to do. Yet. But I want to retire, Nioma, I want to shed some of my responsibility and focus elsewhere. I miss my child and the rest of my family here, and -- now a whole new door has blown open, I need to go through it. No, listen, I've changed the world because I found ways to do the seemingly impossible, this is just another call on my ingenuity. You need to understand that about me."

Prl saw Nioma take it in. She whispered "What's the one task that you don't know how to do? I can help you, I know I can."

"I think you could too, but I would be breaking a Genist vow to tell you. And if things -- go awry, I need to protect those closest to me. You need to be able to swear you knew nothing about it. I'm good at secrets but a poor liar, it eats at me."

Nioma snuggled closer. "I hate the idea of you being alone with it."

"Well...I'm going to trust Pyosz. She's grown into her otos this year, become someone I can lean on. Astounding when a bratty child transforms like that."

Nioma laughed. "Xani was never bratty but she was such a clinger. And you're right about Pyosz. She arrived her with some boundary issues, shall we say, but she cleaned it up." She and Prl grinned at each other. Nioma knew about the soil sample shenanigan Prl realized.

"So...I mean to have you, Nioma. All the way. There's no firm rule against a Genist making love, only against her doing it with someone who might need her services, or whose close family might seek her influence -- "

"None of which pertain to me and mine" said Nioma.

"And against me partnering while I'm in office. So we'll have to be discreet without lying" said Prl. With an old bravado, she rolled over on top of Nioma. She wasn't sure how to position herself, and she had a hip that tended to catch. She leaned all her weight she could on her elbows.

But Nioma pulled her flat against her, seeming to welcome Prl as she was. She spread her thighs slightly, pushing one between Prl's. Prl responded to the fit, then the pressure itself, and finally the reaction she was getting from Nioma at the rub of her pelvis between Nioma's legs. Body recognition was somehow rendering irrelevant Prl's lack of experience. She gave in to all impulse, scooping Nioma's sideward drooping breasts with moist palms and kissing Nioma over the sounds coming from her.

After a few minutes, Prl's hand had drifted down to travel under the hem of Nioma's schmatta, tugging it upwards. Prl dared a look at Nioma's belly, satiny with stretch marks, a central trail of black hair leading down to where Prl could not yet take her eyes. Nioma helped lift her schmatta more, revealing wide brown nipples ringed by an occasional silver hair. She put her hand behind Prl's head as Prl opened her mouth over one breast.

With closed eyes, Prl listened intently for what Nioma liked most. She discovered pushing gently with her face against Nioma's breast, running the flat of her tongue underneath, and sucking interspersed with firm licking, all made Nioma yearn against her. Nioma moved her thigh so it was no longer between Prl's, instead gripping Prl between her legs. Prl took this as invitation and slid her right hand down between them.

She gasped at the hot wetness she discovered. She could smell Nioma's tang, elemental, a chemistry that called to her, but she could not find the courage to follow with her mouth. Instead, she explored with her hand, shocked at how unfamiliar a body essentially the same as her own could feel. Each fold flowed into another, and she was acutely aware of the two apices of the river valley, as the thought of it. She repeatedly circled and criss-crossed the risen area, having to lift her own hips to keep enough room between their bodies for her hand to maneuver because Nioma kept thrusting against her, saying "Yessss".

Eventually she ventured downward, as if sliding into a vortex. Muscles at the entrance seemed to resist her and she stopped. She said "I'm not sure what I'm doing." Nioma gave a strangled laugh and said "You most certainly do, go inside me". Prl curved one finger in, her knuckle pushing through with a shove from Nioma's hips, and she sucked in her breath at the sense of union she felt.

She explored tentatively at first, noting rucks and shapes that changed as she touched them. She became more confident and pushed in until her thumb's base was flat against Nioma, the pad of her thumb still circling the hooded rise. Copying Nioma's motion, she slid out her finger part way and re-entered entirely. The reaction this drew from Nioma made Prl lightheaded. After several repetitions, she pulled out her finger entirely, briefly, and went back in with two, whispering "Is this all right?"

Nioma's reply was mostly physical but clearly affirmative. Her ache for Prl seemed almost unquenchable, though Prl felt on fire to meet it. She found using the weight of her pelvis behind her thrusting hand, even that, was not too much. She could hear the wooden joints of the bed squeaking as Nioma's calves crossed over Prl's bottom, locking them into rhythm together,

Prl lost all sense of time. She was chasing Nioma, learning her in a way she could never have imagined. Nioma's jerks against her became one solid push, and then her moans gave way to frantic gasps. She seemed to be trying to get away from Prl's hand even as her knees locked Prl against her. Prl was briefly confused, until Nioma arched her head back and her nipple in Prl's mouth hardened even more. Prl didn't want to stop, not ever stop, but suddenly Nioma was weeping, her thighs down, her pelvis no longer tilted upward. Her arms clutched at Prl with a different need, and Prl removed her hand, kissing Nioma with exquisite tenderness, saying "I'm here, I'm all yours."

She rolled to lie beside Nioma, cradling her while she cried. Nioma said "I love you more than I can understand, it's as if I were created to love you." After sobs that wracked her body, Nioma caught her breath, nestled her face against Prl's neck, and in less than a minute, fell sound asleep.

Prl was still feeling waves of desire buffeting her. She forced herself to remain completely still, reliving each sensation she had just experienced without twitching a muscle. She now understood why people took terrible risks, made disastrous mistakes, to keep this kind of pleasure in their lives. She thought of her lost decades with crushing regret.

A few minutes later, she had to move her arm because it had gone to sleep and was now starting to burn from loss of blood supply. She tried to shift without waking Nioma. Those black eyes fluttered open, however, and after a second Nioma beamed at her. "Oh lev, I dropped off, didn't I? I should have warned you. Well, from now on wake me up again, my darling. We have lots more to find out about each other. But first I must dash for the privy, my bladder is not what it once was."

Prl realized she needed to go urgently as well. They left the room with hushed giggles and Prl all but scampered downstairs to use the privy there. It took her several tries to wipe dry. Nioma was waiting for her at the top of the stairs, bathed in moonlight through the curved window. They returned to Prl's bed arm in arm, and Prl was not too frenzied to forget to lock the door again. Nioma dropped her schmatta on the floor and said "All right, what do you want most from me?"

They fell into shared sleep an hour before dawn and didn't hear the Manage waken around them. Lawa kept Thleen from bothering them until 8:00, when she was allowed to knock on the door because Nioma would be late for work. As Nioma hurriedly dressed, Prl rushed downstairs to boil eggs and butter a biscuit Nioma could take to eat on the bus, plus make a chicken and tomato sandwich for her lunch.

She walked Nioma to the ferry. She tucked away strands of Nioma's carelessly combed hair a she said "I can hardly bear that I won't see you tonight."

"I know, I keep trying to think of ways to get out of it" said Nioma, her voice agonized. "But it's Lpika and Henar's anniversary, no getting around that. and they've had these plans to go out with Xani and Rika for a month. And I don't like leaving an outsider to put my grandchildren to bed. I'll call you on a private line before I go to sleep, however late it is. I can come tomorrow right after work."

Prl kissed her brazenly at the dock. When she came back into the Manage, Thleen was heading to the point with Halling and Lawa but observed "You went outside in your schmatta." Halling shushed her. In the kitchen, Pyosz was finishing her own breakfast but kept stealing glances at the stunned expression on Prl's face. She said "I gather you're not going into Koldok with me."

Prl shook her head silently, drinking down an entire glass of orange juice in one draught. Unable to help herself, Pyosz remarked "I've never seen you in that schmatta before." Prl was about to reply she hadn't worn it before when she realized it wasn't her champagne silk, it was Nioma's yellow cotton. She burst into laughter, leaning on the counter.

"Oh, child. I'll never be the same. Not a word to anyone, all right?"

Pyosz grinned and made the mute sign before clomping out to run her delivery. When she came back, Prl had gone to bed. Yoj and Qala were in the kitchen, turning a bushel of apricots into jam. Pyosz put away her milk and cheese, then began sifting flour into her enormous wooden bowl. She said "If you save me a few quarts of that stewed fruit before you add pectin, I could make pie and turnovers."

"I was planning to" said Yoj. "Listen, those spicy lentil patties you got us from that food stall? I'm going to have a try this afternoon at recreating thatrecipe. Any suggestions about what's in it??

"Cumin and turmeric, for sure. I've wondered about fenugreek" said Pyosz.

"Those tiny red peppers" said Qala. "Leeks."

"How many different members of the onion family do you have out in your tillage?" asked Yoj.

"Eleven" said Qala promptly. "We're growing an even dozen of tomato varieties over the warm months, and 15 lettuces year-round. Five kinds of corn, seven different potatoes. The expansive soil of Pya."

"I keep feeling the presence of Qen and Ng out there at odd moments" said Yoj.

"Yeah, me too" said Qala. "How about Bux, how are your dreams?"

Pyosz stayed quiet, listening. Yoj said "She adored the idea of this Manage, I feel her more in here. Halling hasn't had a nightmare since we arrived."

Qala exchanged a look with her. After a few moments, Yoj murmured to her "I did get woken up last night, but this time the sound was coming from this end of upstairs." She pointed overhead. As Pyosz's cheeks went red, Qala said "Yeah, someone is tilling the expansive soil of Pya in another manner."

"She trustworthy?" asked Yoj in shorthand.

"One of us" said Qala.

Pyosz continued to take in what was being communicated and, essentially, decided upon, but part of her was preoccupied with the tension she and Maar had encounted in their own bedroom. Once alone in the dark, Pyosz had found she was unresponsive to Maar's touch. She had never wanted to say "No" before, and it disconcerted her almost as much as it had Maar. She didn't even want to give Maar a solo turn.

She wished she could bring it up now to talk about. It was openly understood that when a pair of X's came into cycle together -- and statistically, most sexual relationships had at least two X's and over time they tended to share a common 3-4 times a year fertility cycle -- the resultant combined libido had to be accommodated. Families and coworkers alike understood that for a week every quarter, you weren't going to be able to focus on much besides lovemaking, and your partner(s) knew satiation was slow in coming.

There was a term for it, being ebbswept. When Pyosz was little, she had mispronounced it as "eggswept" which always made adults laugh heartily without explaining why. She wasn't sure how X-Y pairs negotiated the difference in desire. Since Y's didn't ovulate, it was understood their level of sexual interest was generally less than X's. Pyosz wished she could oversome her own worry and embarrassment enough now to ask Qala how she and Lawa handled it. Without wanting details, of course.

Because for Pyosz, it was as if someone had turned off a tap, abrupt and mechanical. Maar's fever was palpable, like a third occupant of their mattress. After a few minutes of not sleeping, Maar had asked in as fair a tone as she could manage "Does this have something to do with your emma and Nioma maybe doing, you know, down the hall?"

Pyosz was offended by this suggestion and had said "Not in the least" in a frosty voice. They had only drifted into contact once they were both safely asleep, which had taken an unaccustomed half-hour. They had been sweet to one another in the morning, but there was a nugget of silence between them. Pyosz hated the idea of Maar thinking she had gone cold for any reason having to do with Prl. For her own part, she was afraid it was some unhealthy reaction to being at last partnered. She was hoping her non-appetite would simply pass and require no digging into murky territory.

Maar and Su arrived together at noon. Lawa and Thleen had just walked to the ferry to meet Ziri and Nezi. All Thleen had been told was that Halling, Lawa, Maar and Nezi were going to teach her and Ziri a task only asked of older children and adults. They all had a quick lunch before Maar broke the news to Thleen: It was time for her to learn how to kill and dress chickens. The four pullets Nezi had brought with them suddenly switched from being an addition to the Saya flock into condemned unfortunates.

"Why do I have to do this?" protested Ziri.

"Because it's part of running a tillage and being a citizen" said Nezi. "You gather eggs and weed the carrots, this is the next step."

"I'll stop eating chicken, then" burst out Thleen. 'Just like I don't eat goat."

"First of all, I don't believe you" said Maar. "Chicken is something you eat every chance you get and I can't see you honestly stopping." She held up a finger to stop Thleen's argument. "Second, you've witnessed slaughter and dressing since you were a baby, this is not a brand new idea to you. You can handle this. Third, Owl Manage feeds itself and others partly from our chicken flock, and killing at the right time is part of recycling and ensuring the health of our flock. You do this as part of your family responsibility."

"Why aren't you going to be here, why are you running off to work?" yelled Thleen, her face red.

"I'm going sinning, which is a form of mass slaughter and extraordinarily dangerous" said Maar shortly. "I do it for Skene, and I don't whine about it, do I?" Everyone looked at Maar. Her patience was nonexistent today. Pyosz shifted uneasily.

Maar continued "The fact is, I'm not very good at chicken slaughter, none of us were taught well in our family. That's why when I am here, I learn whatever I can from these talented elders who are going to make it as easy on you as is possible. And Su is going to learn with you today, because I know she's as deficient as I am in this area." Su looked belligerent but didn't bother to say a word.

"You're mean!" Thleen aimed at Maar's back as she left. Pyosz ran after and walked her to the jichang, giving her a hug and a kiss. "It'll be fine" she said. "Halling is who taught this to all her children and most of us grandchildren, she's kind and quick."

Maar clicked her harness and said "How's Prl?"

"In another universe, looks like" said Pyosz. "And Maar, that's NOT why I -- I don't know why I wasn't interested last night --"

"I heard you the first time" said Maar in a clipped voice. "I have to go." She shut her hatch and Pyosz stepped back, rebuffed.

Halling and Lawa did, in fact, make the process kind and quick. Still, both children cried their eyes out, had their faces wiped gently and then were mercilessly set to plucking. Clicker's growls and pounces among the feathers eventually made Thleen laugh in spite of herself. Saya had two hens for the freezer and two to fry the following evening, once memory had dimmed. Tonight's dinner would be lentil patty burgers, easy on the mind. After clean-up, Nezi took all the children plus Su to swim at the reservoir in Koldok. Pyosz kept sending thoughts to Maar, reminding her to be safe.

Prl got up at 4:00 and took a bath before coming to the kitchen to help with dinner. She trailed Pyosz out to the barn, ostensibly to refill the milk pitcher, but she settled on a stool back against the wall, out of molar's reach, and watched Pyosz in silence for a while.

"Where is Thleen?" she asked finally.

Pyosz filled her in on the day's events. She didn't think Prl was entirely paying attention. After more silence, Prl said "If I miss her this much after only a few hours..." She didn't finish her sentence.

"It will work out, emma" said Pyosz. "Maar and I will be ready to listen to you right after dinner."

Prl sighed, stood to fill her pitcher, and left the barn.

(Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.)