Saturday, January 12, 2008


This will be part one of a nine-part series of quizzes about the Baby Boomer era. The sections covered will include a Historical Timeline 1955-1975; The Golden Age of Television; Top U.S. Song Hit Singles 1955-1970; Drugs; Famous Pairs; Who Gave Them Their Big Break?; Top Movies; Top Rated TV Shows of the 60s; and Miscellaneous.

There will be no grading system for these quizzes, I created them just for the fun of it. Play it with your friends. The answers will be immediately available in case you're not so good with delayed gratification (as they claim about us).

Feel free to share, but give me credit, dammit. The first quiz, the Golden Age of Television, begins after the fold. Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.

(Being a fan of Nick at Night will not help you much with these questions; you had to have been there. NOTE: Despite my earnest effort to be inclusive, note how few females are in the lists above and how extremely few [to none] characters of color there are. Hence The Revolution, still underway.)

(My dad watched every one of these) -- Match each show to its star in the column that follows:

Bat Masterson
The Big Valley
Death Valley Days
The High Chaparral
The Rifleman
Wagon Train
Wanted Dead or Alive

Gene Berry
Ward Bond
Richard Boone
Chuck Connors
Robert Crawford, Jr.
Victoria Cristal
James Garner
Will Hutchins
Steve McQueen
Ronald Reagan
Barbara Stanwyck
Clint Walker

Match each show to its star in the column that follows:

The Avengers
Dr. Who
I Spy
Land of the Giants
Lost in Space
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Mission Impossible
The Prisoner
The Saint
Star Trek
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Richard Basehart
Gary Conway
Bill Cosby
Peter Davison
Peter Graves
June Lockhart
David McCallum
Patrick McGoohan
Roger Moore
Diana Rigg
William Shatner

Match each show to its star in the column that follows:

Ben Casey
Dr. Kildare
The Fugitive
Honey West
Marcus Welby, MD
Mod Squad
77 Sunset Strip
The Untouchables

Raymond Burr
Diahann Carroll
Richard Chamberlain
Vince Edwards
Anne Frances
Peggy Lipton
Richard Janssen
Robert Stack
Jack Webb
Robert Young
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Match each show to its star in the column that follows:

Perry Mason
Mister Novak
Room 222

Raymond Burr
Richard Chamberlain
Karen Valentine

Match each item in column one with its most closely associated item in colum two:

Bunny Rabbit
Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent
Crusader Rabbit
Dudley Do-Right
The Funny Company
Jonny Quest
Mark Lester
Mighty Mouse
Mr. Magoo
Mr. Peabody
Pippi Longstocking
Quick Draw McGraw
Ricochet Rabbit
Schoolhouse Rock
Sky King
Tom Terrific
Yogi Bear

Boo Boo
Captain Kangaroo
Dishonest John
The Explorers Club
His boy Sherman
I'm Just A Bill
Jack Wild
Nell Fenwick
Nephew Waldo
Mr. Nilsson
Oilcan Harry
Ragland Tiger
Shrinkin' Violette
Sweet Polly Purebred




This is draft one of my sci-fi novel Skene. To read earlier chapters, go to LABELS in the right-hand column on this page, scroll down to the Skene tags and click on the one you want to read. Skene is set on a human-habitable planet in the Alhena star system at least 500 years in the future. There's a considerable amount of appendix material and diagrams also available here as needed:
Map of Riesig (the main island)
Map of The Manage on Riesig
Skene Glossary (Skenish to English)
Skene Cast of Characters
Skene Culture, Calendar, Clothing, and Islands
Map of All Skene
Map of The Lofthall on Riesig


Halling pushed down the mic button and clicked it to lock.

"Hello, citizens of Skene, this is Halling la Mwezi na Ng, Sheng Zhang of the Lofthall. Today I accompanied my sinning crew to the Northern Wasa to a site an hour's flight north and east of Exploit. During the course of our successful harvest of a larger-than-average sinning, we were attacked by fifteen adult leviathans and at least a dozen juveniles. Another two dozen levis were in the vicinity but did not attack. At my orders, one of our lighters trained in laser use fired her laser at the blue spot on the leviathan attempting to kill her and the sinners who were already engaged with the net. The leviathan was instantly killed."

Halling paused to take a sip of tea, allowing two seconds of silence. Yoj wished she could see the stark hush that must be occurring all over Skene, in manages and workplaces. Dodd pushed back against her and she picked her up, despite Dodd now being ten and hard to hold.

"As it turns out, the leviathan whose attack we met with self-defense is one we recognized as having been actively engaged in assault upon us for at least 33 years. It was easily distinguished by a mark on one side left by a long-ago attack. This leviathan has been witnessed as directly responsible for the deaths of two pilots over the last three decades, and involved in the deaths of two more." Halling now read the names of all the pilots, their emmas, and their islands of origin. She paused, and with strong emotion whispered "Carynn bye".

Yoj could hear Veida weeping very softly behind her. Halling had gone to her directly and said that Danaan had repaid a debt owed Maszon.

"I made the decision to fight back, for the first time in 500 years, based on certain assumptions and within a strict set of parameters. I, and the other pilots at the Lofthall, believe leviathans communicate clearly and easily with one another, over vast distances. They have an intelligence and logic system which, while not our own, is still comprehensible to us at times. They have long memories. They are stimulated by predator instinct, but their intelligence allows them to override that instinct when they find it in their own best interest to do so."

"Prior to human arrival on Skene, leviathans were the dominant life form here. Shortly after we became part of Skene, they set about to establish themselves again as the dominant life form. The first settlers dealt with this challenge in a manner that was ill-advised and excessive. I believe we can do better, and that our refusal to engage with the levis has led them to conclude we are prey and nothing more. I am interested in communicating to them that we are not prey, we are another form of intelligent life who insists on sharing the bounty of Skene, and they must strive to find balance with us as much as we strive to find balance with them."

Ah, perfect wording thought Yoj.

"I believe leviathans are drawn to our sinning activity not just because we coincide with large schools of fish -- they come to kelp sinning as well, where the main source of protein is only us. I believe they are drawn to us because they view us as prey, and they wish to teach their young how to hunt us. I want to disabuse them of that error in perception -- not by waging war on them, but by definitively eliminating any leviathan who attacks us without provocation. We have the means to do this cleanly, in a single strike, with no risk to other life, and we used that means today."

Halling took another sip of tea.

"When we fly far away from the archipelago that we call Skene, morrie strati fade away and clusters of leviathans do not occur. They are focused on us. But today, when we killed the leviathan who was attempting to kill us, every single leviathan in the vicinity sank beneath the water and vanished. They went away. I had the radar screen in front of me, and I saw them leave -- not just submerge, but leave the area." The amazement and triumph in Halling's voice was thick.

"Sigrist reported that almost simultaneous with our action, leviathan activity all around the islands of Skene markedly decreased. This confirms my conviction that they talk to one another. They sent out a clear message -- leave the humans alone -- and their kind responded. As a precaution, we've closed ferry service and warned against cortice activity, but the observable fact is, Skene has not been this safe in 500 years."

There was a small cry of gladness from Speranz that Yoj was sure went out over the radio. She could sense Yerush shushing her, rather than hear it.

"In line with our observed reality that leviathans reason and communicate their reasoning to each other, I had the lighters today which carried defensive lasers decorated, in a manner highly visible to anything below, with a lightning bolt representing a laser arc. Perhaps some of you saw this symbol today." There was faint note of entertainment in Halling's voice, a hint of a shared joke. "We did no kelp sinning today, in order to keep our focus on the one attempt at balance. Tomorrow I intend to fly out with the kelp sinners, with the same lighters, and if there is another overt leviathan attack, I will order a similar response. But, I tell you honestly, I don't think they will attack again. Perhaps impetuous juveniles will, from time to time, test the boundaries, in the way that our own teenagers do, and we will have to stay on guard. But I think the leviathans will, on the whole, seek balance with us. I am staking my future on it, and the future of all pilots who must face them daily."

Yoj could hear cheering from the main hall.

"I have notified the Ethicist of my actions and my plan in advance of this broadcast. She is no doubt conferring with various leaders at this moment, taking the measure of Skene. You may contact her or come to the Lofthall directly and give me your response. Unless I am ordered otherwise, I will proceed with our test tomorrow in Southern Wasa, and I will again come directly to you and inform you of the results. Thanks for listening. Morrie vaseo."

When Halling clicked her mic off, she drained the last of her tea and turned to face her family. Her forehead was shiny with sweat, but she was grinning from ear to ear. They launched themselves at her, screaming with joy. The door to the dispatch room opened a minute later and the room was flooded with jubilant pilots. Only Qala, wearing earphones, heard the soft message from Z'bef, broadcast on the Lofthall frequency, which said "As the only non-citizen of Skene, you have my complete confidence and congratulations, Sheng Zhang." Qala wrote it down to show Halling later.

The pilots were eventually persuaded to leave the dispatch room because Qala had to organize the transport of people stranded by ferry cessation. Halling helped her plan, the radio on speaker so she could gauge the tones of voice coming in with requests. After an hour, she murmured to Qala "Nobody's registering upset or disapproval, is that your read?"

"I'm getting cautious hope" said Qala. Halling walked out to the jichang to talk with Iro, Mill trailing along, and was startled to discover a hundred people outside the Lofthall, in animated conversation. When they saw Halling, a cheer went up. People kept shaking her hand, or clapping Mill on the back and saying "Your emma just made history!" But this was Riesig. Halling knew the response from other islands, especially Flings and places isolated by morrie vaseo, might be much more worried and possibly furious.

After another hour, Qala said they should go home, everything was winding down and the children would need dinner soon. Lawa stayed with Qala, and the rest of the family began walking home together. As they passed people in the street, they were greeted cheerfully. Some women wanted to stop and talk details with Halling, but she begged off, saying they were on their way to feed the kids. Once inside the Manage, however, Halling allowed herself to dance around briefly on her crutches. Then the children were set to chores as Yoj and Bux began dinner.

While Halling was arduously setting the table, a knock came at the front door. Mill got there first, and let in a teenager maybe a year older than her, thick where Mill was tall, with light brown hair and grey eyes. With self-conscious formality, she announced she had a message from the Ethicist of Skene and held out an envelope.

Halling came to take it from her and said "Would you care for some tea while I read it and consider a reply?"

"No, thank you" said the messenger, "Emma said -- I mean, the Ethicist said I was to wait by the door."

"All right" smiled Halling. She went into the dining room to read in its better light. Yoj and Bux came to peer over her shoulder.

The letter said:
Dear Halling, Sheng Zhang of Lofthall of Skene:
I will, of course, have to bring your proposed change in Skene policy to a community-wide vote. However, judging by the reports I've received from all islands, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. In anticipation of your approval, I have no intent to interfere with your plans for tomorrow.
Carynn bye.
Api, Ethicist of Skene

Mill remained in the living room, stiff-postured and eyeing the messenger. After a minute, the teenager pointed to the coatrack and said "Is that a real guibba? Yours, I mean."

"Yes" answered Mill. "It was emma's -- the Sheng Zhang's -- when she went into the drink. It shrunk enough to fit me."

"Wow" said the messenger softly.

After a pause, Mill said "You're in the grade ahead of me, right?"

"Yep" said the messenger. She extended her hand and said "I'm Oby."

Mill shook it and said diffidently "Mill."

"Oh, I know your name" said Oby. "Your abba, Nan Qen, has told me I have all the skills necessary to be a pilot."

"Lighter or sinner?" said Mill with interest.

"Lighter, of course" said Oby. Of course.

Yerush was watching this exchange from the kitchen and nudged Qen, who grinned at her and whispered "I see them."

Halling returned from the dining room and told Oby "Please convey to your emma my great pleasure at her decision, and also express to her my endorsement in her next election."

Oby's face shone with pride, and she said "I will be honored". Before she could reach the door, however, Qen called out "Wait a minute, please." She came to them and handed Mill something wrapped in a napkin, saying "Mill, would you represent our Manage and do us the courtesy of escorting Oby back to her Manage? We'll save a plate for you."

Mill's face relaxed in gratitude. "Thank you, abba!" Qen added in a whisper "There's a honeycake for each of you in the napkin, to eat along the way."

As the two young women left, Halling looked at Qen and said "What's going on?"

Qen grinned and said "You were about that age when I asked your leraar to put you and Xaya at the same desk."

Halling flushed and turned to stare at the closed front door.

Qen touched her arm and said "Come on, dinner's ready."

The following day, a handful of leviathans were found at the kelp beds, four of them juveniles. Rark and Danaan had replaced one of the lighter pairs, and Halling ordered lighters to begin the pattern before any nets were lowered. As the juveniles began swimming in spiraling streaks, Halling radioed Danaan and Rark "At your discretion". But before leaping began, a massive leviathan, the biggest any of them had ever seen, rose from the deep and drew a collective gasp from every pilot. Halling thought It's half again as long as what I've witnessed. It has power to reach beyond the 30 meter mark, but gravity works against it, with that bulk. The giant swam languidly into the path of one of the juveniles, a collision course that the juvenile avoided only by a contorted dive.

Halling realized what an extraordinary target the giant lev was. If she had not been schooled in Skene history by Yoj, she might have been tempted. Instead, as the juveniles stopped their frenzy, she gave the order for kelp sinning to begin. In another ten minutes, there were no leviathins within radar range. The sinning went off without a ripple, and when they started back to the Lofthall, Halling radioed the news to Qala.

Qala said "The Ethicist is standing right here." Api got on the mic and said "Looks like you were right."

"So far" said Halling. "We'll have to be cautious for a long time."

"That's in our nature" said Api. "All right if I steal your thunder and go on Sigrist radio myself to inform Skene of today's events?"

This was profound endorsement, Halling realized. "I'd be much obliged" she answered. Today, the crowd around the jichang was in the hundreds, and the cheering was sustained. Ferries were released to normal schedules. Halling waited until Qala was done with the last few runs so she and Lawa could come back to the Manage with them for dinner.

As they ate, Bux suddenly looked over at Yoj and said "This means you're the last Dichter of Skene." Yoj was shocked. After half a minute, Dodd burst into tears, and Yoj pulled her into her lap, murmuring "You can still be a poet and a songwriter, your talent will save hearts in other ways, I promise."

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.



("Corfu Lights and Shadows" by John Singer Sargent, 1909, Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite pencil on paper; a large, high-quality framed print of this has hung at the foot of my bed for 17 years, the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing at night)

At the rest of sounding like Thomas and his Friends, who are psychologically stunted around the issue of Usefulness (and avoiding public humiliation): My definition of art includes what Sharon Bridgforth refers to as "raising the energy". When I create, I seek to not only reflect my perception of reality in such a way that you have a chance at sharing the experience, but I also feel obligated to walk in beauty, to avoid anger or despair as destinations, and to weave into the fabric of my creation a belief that the viewer/reader has just as much expertise about the world as I do.

How well I achieve these goals depends on my skill level that particular day, of course. Holly Near once said that nonmonogamy was a post-patriarchal idea that we were trying to implement in a patriarchal environment. I think this goes for almost any of our best ideals: We have goals, and then we have reality. The tension between the two, the gap, can be extremely productive and even joyous if self-hatred is under control.

I bring this creative ethic to my poetry, my fiction, my essays, and my blog equally. I'm new to blogging, and have tried to learn the craft from reading others' efforts. Some conventions I follow, some I don't. For instance, I don't have a "Blogroll", I have a list of what blogs I'm actually reading regularly. I don't link to something unless I have derived good from it. No trading favors for me. I'm not in this to curry power and influence: I already have that in my life.

I also strive for graphics to accompany my text which offer an added dimension, not just illustrate my words. This means I spend a lot of time sweeping the web for interesting visuals, and my saved images files are enormous. I do my best to credit the creator of the graphic -- this isn't always possible, there's a great deal of anonymous stuff out there, but I search for origin when I have any kind of a clue.

I do this for two compelling reasons. One is the example we set for one another in the 70s, the heyday of lesbian-feminism, to credit our sources. We saw this as a behavior men did not tend to do unless legally or academically required, especially white men: For them, it was all about claiming territory by sneaking it away from others, and building ego through ideas. Our cooperative model, however, led to essays and even fiction being peppered with footnotes at the bottoms of the page, acknowledging the influence/conversation/support of another woman for our comprehension or embellishment of a particular thought. I first noticed it in the pages of DYKE: A Quarterly, but it was common in Sinister Wisdom, Common Lives Lesbian Lives, Chrysalis, Quest, Feminary, etc. Even graphic artists did this, such as Alison Bechdel in her strip Dykes To Watch Out For with her "Tip o'the nibs" squeezed into the margin.

The second reason is that I am assiduously trying to comply with the Web Accessibility guidelines spelled out at Wikipedia. Labeling a graphic means that text recognition software used by a blind computer reader, for example, can hear the caption and description of that image rather than just hitting the alphabet soup of graphics code and skipping over it. The blog server I'm using (Blogger) tends to limit my ability to create large and click-to-enlarge graphics, another accessibility recommendation, but I'm working on that as well.

As I have stated before, I avoid the practice of using some goofy riff to label a link instead of a clear description. This is an obnoxious demand that the reader either click on the link to find out what it's actually about (not all of us have the time and energy to live at our keyboards in this fashion) or ignore what might be something we really want to see. We should have enough information to make a choice. Some big-name political blogs are really terrible about this, and I've gotten into the habit of never clicking on an unclearly-labeled link. If someone won't make the effort to synopsize content into a handful of words, then it must not matter to them very much if I actually go look at it.

Conversely, I was inspired today by Liza Cowan's essay at her blog See Saw about the value of links, the revolutionary impact it's having on our discourse and our ability to not only "follow our bliss" but locate kindred souls out there in Cyberia. Liza says "Links are often my favorite part of blogs. I’ve found some of my most valuable resources by following links, not only in the body of the text but also by following the URL’s embedded in names of reader comments."

I, too, check out the profiles of someone whose work has reached me in some strong way. Ironically, although I knew Liza as a sister leader in our movement for decades, it wasn't until I saw her name in the comments section of a blog (unfortunately, not a blog which allows profiles to come through) that I was motivated to Google her down and commence one of the most rewarding relationships of my life.

(May your friendship spread all over the world -- Shen qing hou yi ji wu zhou)

I think the nature of reality is complex. Usually, more complex than we can comprehend, but dumbing it down in response is a major mistake. The truth is never simple. And art, communication, reform, atonement, any means of growth should simultaneously embrace as much of the complexity as we can see while earnestly attempting to deliver it in a comprehensible form.

One of my mentors, Terry Galloway, a genius of a playwright, dramaturg and director, always stressed that if we have been given an audience, we are not to indulge ourselves at their expense. We have a responsibility to work our asses off, to not intentionally confuse or insult them, to share with trust and goodwill. She was quite fierce about leaving adolescent embarrassment behind, and I often hear her voice in my head when I'm trying to edit a piece.

And, going off on a related tangent, here's a request: When interviewing an artist, please stop asking them the meaning of what they do. The meaning is in the piece itself, and what you get from it. Artists seem to feel compelled to answer these damfool questions with a long string of arcane solipsism which differs from the interviews with football players after a game only in vocabulary. The reason why someone wins a game is because they played better. The reason why an artist did X is because they thought it looked/sounded good. If you want to dissect the artist's psychology, point out that the reason why their faces are mostly expressionless or their conversation tangential is because they lived with a control freak molester, go right ahead but don't ask the artist to participate in it.

So, do offer me feedback and feel free to talk about anything at all in your comments, as long as its not white supremacist, woman-hating, or otherwise oppressive, and you're not simply hyping your own self. (If you do, I'll delete it swiftly.) Aim high, forgive yourself, and as Garrison Keillor says, do good work.

I leave you with a department store product page for HEMA, in the Netherlands, that is a stunning example of how creative a web catalogue can be. Wait patiently for the page to load, then keep you hands off your mouse and watch the place go wild: HEMA.



This is draft one of my sci-fi novel Skene. To read earlier chapters, go to LABELS in the right-hand column on this page, scroll down to the Skene tags and click on the one you want to read. Skene is set on a human-habitable planet in the Alhena star system at least 500 years in the future. There's a considerable amount of appendix material and diagrams also available here as needed:
Map of Riesig (the main island)
Map of The Manage on Riesig
Skene Glossary (Skenish to English)
Skene Cast of Characters
Skene Culture, Calendar, Clothing, and Islands
Map of All Skene
Map of The Lofthall on Riesig


But as Halling's lethargy and disconnect continued, Bux and Yoj became increasingly concerned. That Shmonah, an end-of-school carnival was to be held all day on Pomar. Rark and Danaan offered to take the children since the forecast was rain until noon, and the Manage gladly accepted, giving them spending money and strict exhortations to mind the pilots no matter what. The adults spent the morning catching up on cleaning, weeding, and canning, ignoring the drizzle. After lunch, however, Yoj and Bux lingered at the table and raised the question of Halling's steadfast refusal to even try using the privy.

"This reminds me of Ng, before she came here" said Bux. "I'm scared that she's given up."

Veida, less concerned, said "She looked over the edge into the other side. She has to make sense of that."

"But Halling's always combined her best thinking with action" argued Yoj. "And she's not even interested in the children at the moment."

Qen said slowly "I don't imagine she's ever been as afraid of them -- leviathans -- as she is now. Perhaps she can't continue doing what she's done. Fear can keep people from doing what they know is right, or even what they ardently want to do." She didn't meet Yoj's eyes, and Yoj wondered if she was thinking of Rosz. Or maybe Yoj herself, who chose to be a dichter in part because she was too afraid to fly.

Veida said softly "She knows, now, everything that Xaya knew."

"Not everything" said Bux sharply. "Not the last."

Yerush said "I don't mean to criticize, but possibly she can't tell anyone -- especially you two, who are closest to her -- what she's feeling because your own emotions are in the way. I mean, you've not had a chance, either, to completely face the horror."

Yoj and Bux both went very silent. After a minute, Yoj said "She's stopped asking us to not leave her. But I still sense it from her every time I go out the door. I don't know how to make her feel safe again."

Bux began crying, with a frantic note in her voice as she said "And what if Mill had been with her? I don't think they'd both -- be with us now. I agree with Halling, no more flying for Mill, ever."

Veida said gently "You can't control the rest of her life. And I'm sure Halling knows that."

Bux leaned against Yoj as Yoj began crying, too. "Nothing makes the same sense any more" said Yoj. "Being smart or careful or generous isn't enough. I don't know how to help her. She's my beloved, my partner, and I don't know what to say."

It was a relief to admit, and to rest in the silence of the older generation. After crying, Yoj and Bux both felt better. Bux devised a way to tape plastic over Halling's casts, prop her left foot on an overturned bucket, and get her into a hot bath for a soak. Yoj changed the sheets and whizzed through five loads of laundry. The rain stopped and she was able to hang everything on the line.

Yerush and Qen stacked jar after jar of tomatoes, carrots, green beans, blackberry jam, and mango chutney in the larder. After Halling's bath, Veida kindly but firmly badgered her out the door and to the privy, and when Halling labored back into the house, Veida sat her at the kitchen table to drink yet another kind of tea, insisting she sit up for a few minutes after drinking it because "it's not a good idea to lie down with this tea in your belly".

When Halling complained that her shoulder was aching after using the crutches and asked for a pain pill, Qen instead pulled out Veida's ointment and offered to rub the joint. With poor humor, Halling finally consented, and it did in fact help. Yoj rewarded her with the first piece of a blackberry cobbler she'd made for dinner. Halling still wasn't talking, but being at the kitchen table with all the activity going on around her kept her from being able to return to her daydream state.

Not long before dinner, the carnival-goers returned, grubby and loud. The children thronged around Halling, Speranz trying to crawl into her lap and causing a sharp reprimand from Halling when Speranz tugged at her cast for traction. Unfazed, Speranz insisted Halling try opening a small magic box she had won at some game of chance, while Ndege began imitating a barker and Prl spun around the living room to demonstrate one of the rides. Halling looked rapidly overwhelmed.

Mill was the quietest of the lot, standing at Halling's right shoulder protectively, then turning to Danaan at the table and saying "See? I told you it was the battery."

Yoj said sharply "What about the batteries? What did you hear?" Halling's ears pricked up as well.

"Hush a minute, Ndege" commanded Bux. Mill, with a surprised smile, said "I reminded her about that thing she told me when I was younger. After Schla died, and I got so scared about emma being a sinner?"

Everyone except Danaan and Rark looked blank.

Mill explained, "Danaan told me about when she was still in school, the first time she and Rark got to fly with emma, it was on the school sinner and she took them out so they could see the morrie strati." Looks of recogniition came to the faces of her emmas. "Rark and Danaan already knew they were going to be pilots. Anyhow, Rark's siba got scared, I guess because of a lev, and emma told her that being scared was the right thing to feel, not to pretend she wasn't scared. 'Cause the best pilots let themselves have the fear. Fear means their brain is working, you know. Emma told her after you have the fear, you need to recharge your batteries and that's why good pilots have to have families. Your family gets you all right again. And that's the day Danaan and Rark promised to be each other's family, right?" she said to them.

They were both red-cheeked and grinning, and Danaan said "You got it in one, Mill."

Mill, with extreme gentleness, touched Halling's cast and said "I'm going to be a good pilot, too, because I've got the same batteries you do, emma."

Even Prl had stopped to listen, and the silence was now profound. Halling looked at Mill, then turned and faced Yoj and Bux. She said, in a very high voice, "It touched me. Don't leave me alone with it" and burst into screaming sobs.

As Halling's partners moved to either side of her, Qen began to urge the children outside, but Yoj said "No, it's all right. This is good for them to see. This is their emma recharging her batteries."

So everyone stayed in the kitchen as Halling jibbered her way through reliving the worst moment of her life, and came out the other side, finally. When she was done, her eyes were Halling's again. She blew her nose on Yoj's handkerchief and said "Thank you, everybody."

"You're welcome" said Speranz automatically, and in a whisper to Dodd "What did we do exactly?"

"We're ready to set the table" said Yerush. Rark and Danaan stood up and Yoj said, "Oh, no, you're staying for dinner. But would you please go get Iro and Ektr to join us?" Danaan headed out the back door, trailed by three of the children. Mill and Veida set the table, and Bux pulled two clothes chests into the living room to act as a childrens' dining area, putting cushions on the floor for them to sit on. Yoj began getting small hands washed. By the time everyone was clean and seated, dinner was ready.

As Yoj and Bux dished plates for the children, they and the pilots told the story of their day's adventures. Halling followed the disjointed narrative and laughed steadily. Later, when it became clear there was plenty of blackberry cobbler, she accepted a second piece for dessert. As Rark and Danaan cleared the table, Halling whispered to Yoj, who went to her study and returned with the two aluminum cases, handing them to Halling.

Halling said to Mill "This is from Nan Qala, so when you see her next, you must tell her in every way you can how much this means to you." Mill's eyes were wide as she accepted the top case from Halling. When she opened the lid, she froze for so long that the twins crowded in beside her, demanding to see. Finally Mill lifted out the guibba, saying "Is this really yours?" in an incredulous voice.

"It was. It shrunk, from being in West Tendril. It's yours now" said Halling.

The look on Mill's face was unalloyed, reverent joy. She slowly slid her arms into the sleeves, shaking her shoulders into the fit. It was just a little big on her, but that was good -- she had growing yet to do. She fastened the buckles, one by one, and then pushed her hands into the pockets, looking up at them with an expression so much like Halling's that everyone breathed out together. Rark stood up and said "Lighter Mill!" with a pilot's wave. Danaan joined her, and Mill began laughing wildly. Yoj and Bux did not laugh quite so hard.

Ndege said, with a tinge of hope, "What's in the other box?" Halling grabbed her crutches and got clumsily to her feet, then balancing on one leg, took her new guibba from the second box and gingerly pulled it on over her cast. Mill helped her buckle it and they stood side by side, Halling resuming her crutches and Mill's hand on Halling's left forearm. Everyone applauded, and Speranz asked Yerush, "Does this mean siba knows how to fly now?"

Halling took off her guibba and hung it on the back of her chair before sitting down, but Mill insisted it wasn't too warm to keep wearing hers. Qen brought over another pitcher of iced tea, and Yoj said "We've got something to tell you, Halling. Well, Iro should start it, since it's her that brought it to Qala's attention."

The four younger children, full of cobbler, went out back to play as Iro began her revelations. Yoj took it up from the point of Qala's investigation. By the time they were done, Halling's eyes were sparking black. "So..." she said, and her soft tone had a blade of steel in it. Mill, sharing Danaan's chair, said "What does this mean, emma? Does it mean Enyi is why your sinner went down?"

Halling hesitated, then answered "Basically, yes. Enyi and all those who don't want the Lofthall to make changes."

"Then I hate her" said Mill.

Danaan put her arm around Mill. "Hate will just drain you, Mill. But you can be as mad as you want. And your emma will take care of Enyi."

Halling said "I think it's time I return to work. If you three will come by in the morning and help me walk to the Lofthall -- "

"Be delighted to!" said Rark.

"Can I go with you?" said Mill swiftly. "School's out, please, emma?"

Halling looked at Yoj and Bux, and Bux said "No flying."

Halling said "Agreed", then looked at Mill and said "All right. I may really need your help and cooperation."

Yoj stood and said "In that case, my dear, it's to bed with you" and walked with Halling to the bedroom to help her get into her schmatta. Bux and Yerush began the children on their bedtime routine as well. Their neighbors said goodbye and left by the back door. By the time Yoj and Bux joined Halling in bed, she was deeply asleep, and they dropped off easily as well.

The next morning, when Halling lurched into the canteen, breathless and sweaty, the room erupted into cacophony. Qala followed Mill in, beaming. Mill was of course wearing her new guibba, which went largely unnoticed until later. Halling accepted a plate of eggs and hotcakes, and listened to stories of the past week from the pilots as she ate. When she was done, she asked Qala to bring in all the jigongs and other Lofthall staff. She managed to sit on the edge of a table, with her feet on a bench, and waited until every member of the Lofthall had crowded into the canteen. She motioned for Mill to sit next to her, then looked out at her pilots.

"First things first. Rark dropped a grapple on the only try she had coming to her, at an angle under difficult circumstances. I was going down and in fact had already been rubbed up against by a leviathan. Her cool head and flawless action saved my life. Let's give her a cheer!"

The shouting went on quite a while, and Halling encouraged it. Finally she called for silence and said "Second, and no less: Qala stepped into my otos and filled them completely this past week, acting as Sheng Zhang with brillance and tirelessness. We are unbelievably lucky to have her." This round of cheers were just as boisterous, which Halling was glad to hear.

"I want to add, my eldest child's new guibba, made from my old one, is the product of an all-night effort by Qala. Stand up here, Mill, model it for them."

Mill's face was bright red by the end of her round of cheers, but she and Qala both were completely gratified.

Halling's face now went to stone, abruptly. "Lastly: The cause of my engine failed has been incontrovertibly documented by Qala. The new battery array was incorrectly installed, and despite my pointing out a warning of the problem the day before, it did not get fixed."

Halling turned and looked directly at Enyi. "Enyi, you are hereby fired and will never work at the Lofthall again. Your willful refusal to accept new procedures or to perform your duties competently was very nearly homicidal. You will receive no severance pay, and you are not to ever ask us for references. I demand that whatever work you pursue in the future, you accept no responsibility for the well-being or lives of others, because you are not fit to assume it. If I hear that you have accepted such responsibility, I will use the documentation we have to bring charges before the Ethicist of criminal recklessness. You will now be escorted off the premises by Qala, and you are never to return."

Enyi looked like she might pass out. Every pilot in the room stood, exuding menace, and Qala motioned to her from the doorway. Enyi had to brush past pilots who refused to move out of her way, and a constant deep hiss filled the room. Qala led her out of the canteen, and by the time the door closed, Mill was holding Halling's hand tightly.

Halling looked levelly around her and said "Let me assure you that the battery issues have been resolved, by Qala and Iro. The new arrays will now work without failure. We are about to make even more changes here. We are bound on a course of increasing our service to Skene while incurring no preventable loss of life. We can be heroes without becoming martyrs, and I will accept nothing less. Anyone who thinks they are going to have a problem accepting change, you are free to say so now. You can leave with my blessing, a generous severance and full recommendations. But you need to tell us now."

She waited. The silence was profound. When no one made a move, she said "Good, then." She finally grinned again. "We have a full day's work ahead of us. Tomorrow I'll have something very important to announce to you. In the meantime, carynn bye."

"Carynn bye!" came an answering chorus. Qala returned, and she walked with Mill and Halling to Halling's office.

"You think she's going to make trouble for us?" Halling asked her, once they were alone.

"Not openly" answered Qala. "Lev, but it's good to have you back."

Halling sank gratefully into her office chair. Qala said "Yoj told me I'm to make you take a nap in your office at least once today. You shut the door and I'll field your messages, you just say when it's time."

"All right" said Halling. "In the meantime, I've got packets of tea and tincture Veida gave me this morning -- Mill, would you go get me a pot of hot water and a cup from the canteen? Oh, and honey" she called after Mill's vanishing form.

While Mill was gone, Halling filled Qala in on her plans. Qala grinned and said "At long last. You just tell me what you need from me."

"First off, I should talk with Iro. And -- If we can get a double haul from the kelp sinners today, that would be ideal. You can tell them they likely won't be working tomorrow" said Halling.

"Will do" said Qala, turning to relieve the temporary dispatcher who had been filling in for a week.

Mill returned with a tray outfitted by the canteen, containing not only tea makings for them both but a plate of assorted cakes and fruit. "One cake right now" said Halling, "Otherwise you stick to fruit. We've got a long day ahead of us."

Halling stayed very busy, drawing up schedules, overseeing equipment requests, talking with manufacturers, and doing her best to deal with the stack of papers on her desk. She let Mill run messages for her and bring them both lunch from the canteen.

Right after lunch, as per arrangements with Asha the Sigrist made that morning, Halling went on Sigrist radio and told the story of her crash and rescue. Her account was straightforward and simple, leaving out both her torment afterward and any accusation against Enyi by name. Yoj, Bux and Veida listened to it at home. Yoj felt goosebumps rise on her arms. It was a first for Skene, a watershed event in their long history with leviathans -- and it was her Halling who had experienced it.

Halling never did get a chance to lie down, and when Yoj arrived at 3:00 with the rest of the children, Halling said "I'm going to call it a day. I need another hot soak, every muscle in my body aches."

Prl stared at the tea tray and said "Did you eat cake all day? Did you save some for me?"

"I had fruit" lied Mill. "Emma ate the cake, 'cause she's injured."

They walked slowly home, Halling drawing glad hellos from people on the street. She collapsed on the sofa, looking utterly spent. After a minute she said "I'll have to wait on the bath. Really, all I can manage at the moment is bed." Yoj helped her get under the sheets and shut the door. Heading into the kitchen, she said "Mill, have you taken that guibba off at all today?"

"No" mumbled Mill.

"Well, we've all seen it and it's warm in here, what say you hang it up for the time being?"

Veida was packing her comadrona bag, saying she'd gotten a call and she felt it was now okay for her to leave the Manage. Yoj kissed her goodbye and wished her a good birth. Qen and Yerush were out in the tillage, scrubbing down the duck tank and refilling it. Yerush, as usual, had a pot of harvest cooking on the aga and another pot of water boiling jars for canning. She came back in to put up another half-dozen jars as Yoj began thinking about what to make for dinner.

Halling got up in time to eat, and Bux helped her take another long bath. As she got into bed, Mill came to the door and said "Can I go with you again tomorrow, emma?"

Halling looked at Bux, then at Yoj who came in from her study. Finally Halling said "Tomorrow is a very big day, Mill. I'm going to fly out in the training sinner as a passenger with Lmape, and you cannot go with me, no way. Danaan and Rark are going to be extremely busy, too. And Qala. But -- it's a significant day, and I know you'll regret missing it. So, I'll say yes if you promise to stay in the dispatch room, and help Qala however she needs you."

Mill eagerly agreed.

"Then early bed for you too, sweetheart" said Bux. "You seem to be keeping pilot's hours." Which pleased Mill immensely.

The next morning, Bux and Yoj got up with Halling and helped get Mill dressed for tea. As they all sat with Veida, silent or occasionally whispering in their slowly lightening kitchen, Halling turned to Veida and said "That lev is still out there."

Veida looked at her over the rim of her mug. "The one who brought down Maszon?"

Halling said "That mark on it, which I think of as a sideways H -- I interpret that to mean the wings hit it, searing one arm of the H, then flipped over with a contusion rather than an outright burn making the middle bar, and landing for a second long wing-burn as the second arm of the H. Is that right?"

Veida's face showed sudden memory. "Yes. Is it -- did it kill Xaya, too?"

"No, but it was there that day, I remember. The kelp crew say it did kill Schla" said Halling. Yoj glanced at Bux, but Bux was scanning Mill's face, making sure she wasn't hearing too much.

After a long pause, Halling said "If things go as planned, I'll be on Sigrist radio again today. This time, not until after school lets out."

Yoj felt an old fear creep back along her bones. Bux said "We'll bring the children to the Lofthall to watch you broadcast."

"Good" said Halling. "I'll come home with you afterward." Their carynn byes as Halling and Mill left were charged.

At the Lofthall, Iro was waiting in the dispatch room with Danaan and Rark.

"How's it look?" Halling asked her.

"Like the real thing" said Iro. "I asked Ektr to draw it and pick the paint, she's got an eye for such. Plus -- she wanted to be part of it."

"Let's go have a look" said Halling. They all, including Qala, walked out to the jichang. A few wisps of dawn fog still eddied around their feet. They went to the lighters of Rark and Danaan, parked side by side. On the underside of each wing, four in all, was a jagged, crackling lightning bolt in scarlet and metallic gold.

"Wow" marveled Mill.

"Wow indeed" said Halling, putting her hand on Iro's shoulder. "Please tell Ektr it's perfect."

"She'll be here when you fly back in, you can tell her yourself" grinned Iro.

Halling turned to Rark and Danaan. "Listen, I've thought it over, and I can't let you be the ones to take this step. Even on my command, you'll still be liable, culpable -- I can't risk you being sent into exile. It's my decision, and I need to be the one who does the deed."

Rark's pale face flashed blue-eyed indignation, but Danaan spoke first. "You can't decide that for us. I mean, yes, you can command us not to, but you can't decide what our risk should be. Not when it's us flying lighter patterns day after day. If it's all right to ask that risk of us, then -- I never wanted to do anything more, since I began flying. Me and Rark, we've prepared for this for months. We know what we're doing."

Rark added "Besides, it'll go much worse if there's a miss, or it hits another craft. We know how to use the laser, and frankly, you don't."

Halling still looked stubborn, and Iro faced her. "This is not my child, or your adopted sibemma talking, Halling. This is a woman of Skene, a pilot who wants to execute her full responsibility to the Lofthall. These two, they are the morrie vaseo for this journey."

Halling looked levelly at Danaan, and realized for the first time that when she thought about who would become Sheng Zhang after her, it was Danaan she imagined, not Mill.

Halling's hands where they rested on her crutches were trembling, Qala could see. "Let's get you off your feet. Time to talk to the pilots. If there's a mutiny, the question will be moot." They started back into the Lofthall at Halling's pace.

But there was no objection. After breakfast, after her speech, Halling took care to scan every face in the canteen. She found only relief, anticipation, a kind of righteous determination.

"All right, then" she said. "Let's go."

Mill walked with her to the sinner, carrying the video camera Halling would use. Danaan's and Rark's cameras were already mounted inside their sinners. Halling stood between their lighters for a last word: "Not until I give the go-ahead, right?"

"Yes, Sheng Zhang" they said in unison. Iro opened the case she'd been carrying and handed each of them a modified laser, a kind that didn't exist on Skene outside of Yanja. They each checked to make sure it was fully charged and the safety was on before placing it in their lighters, kissing each other, Mill and Iro, and climbing into their craft.

Halling pulled Mill into a long hug before she got clumsily into her side of the double sinner. She whispered "You'll never forget this day. This is the dividing line between before and after, and people will want to hear your memories of this for the rest of your life. You stay close to Qala, you hear? She'll need you today more than she ever has."

"Yes, emma" whispered Mill, kissing Halling's cheek fervently. She didn't stay to watch them all take off, though she wanted to see the lightning-bolt wings in the air, because Qala was striding back to the Lofthall to be on the radio. She stuck with Qala as she had promised.

However, several hours later, she was part of a small crowd at the jichang, watching the lighters with their gleaming new insignia buzz overhead and circle in for a jaunty landing. She stood with her emmas and sibs, her abbas and Lawa. When Halling's sinner landed, Yoj and Bux both moved to help her from the hatch and onto her crutches.

"Where's Api?" asked Halling, looking around.

"The Ethicist was informed, Qala said, but turns out she's on Exploit today for a meeting. She's started back by ferry, before Qala could offer her a direct flight" said Bux.

"Who are all these people?" said Halling in a low voice, looking at the two dozen or so others around the jichang.

"I'm not sure" said Yoj. "I'm thinking maybe some folks besides Z'bef have figured out the way to set their radio to pick up the Lofthall frequency." Halling raised her eyebrows at that.

Yerush said, also in a quiet voice, "Sigrist reported to Qala that leviathan activity is the lowest they've ever seen." But none of them looked completely reassured at this news.

Rark and Danaan had now landed, and a crowd of exuberant pilots surrounded them. Their rowdy walk into the Lofthall was led by a protective Iro and Ektr.

Everyone gathered in the canteen, where the staff had made stuffed goose and baked ham as if it were a holiday. Once plates were loaded, Halling stood, in obvious pain, to start off the story. All those who had been part of that day's sinning jumped in to help with the recount, and everyone who worked at the Lofthall -- jigong, canteen, and tillage -- crowded into the room to listen.

The cheers were deafening.

After dessert was eaten down to the last crumb, Halling walked with her family back to the dispatch room and sat in the second chair in front of Qala's radio. The children were reminded to stay completely silent while their emma was speaking to all Skene, and the younger ones were pulled onto laps to help remind them if necessary. Qala spoke briefly to Asha on the Lofthall frequency, then set the Sigrist radio mic in front of Halling and whispered, "She's going to announce you now."

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, January 11, 2008


("Veined Splendor", watercolor by Deanna Leonard)

The BBC's Magazine Monitor has a weekly feature, "10 Things We Didn't Know Last Week", featuring interesting and unexpected facts arising from daily news stories. They've compiled a list of 100 Things We Didn't Know Last Year for 2007. Here's several that caught my attention, some with comments by me.

There is mobile phone reception from the summit of Mount Everest.

Martina Navratilova has spent four years secretly working as an artist.

Only about half of China's population can speak the national language, Mandarin. (Useful for throwing back at xenophobes to think America will perish if English-only laws aren't passed.)

Antony and Cleopatra were ugly.

Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry because they can't stop what they're doing should they need to urinate. (That still doesn't explain Lisa Nowak. Also found on her when she was apprehended were a wig, a carbon-dioxide powered BB pistol, a tan trench coat, a new steel mallet, a new folding knife with a 4-inch blade, 3 to 4 feet of rubber tubing, and large plastic garbage bags. My mind keeps wondering about the tubing.)

Adding milk to tea negates the health-giving effects of a hot brew.

The Romans had roadmaps. (But did only the women use them?)

The brain can turn down its ability to see in order to listen to complex sounds like music.

IP addresses will run out in 2010.

A bdelloid rotifer is a pond-dwelling organism that has survived 80 million years without sex. (Now I don't feel so bad...)

In Iceland, 96% of women go to university.

Relocating crocodiles doesn't work -- they come back.

(Another image from the wit of little gator.)

Wired Science has a video of a series of chemical reactions, discovered in 1973 by Thomas Briggs and Warren Rauscher, two high school science teachers, that over 35 years later has chemists still trying to discover how it works. They issue a warning: "This beautiful ballet of chemical reactions could make you trade your lava lamp for a magnetic stirrer."

In follow-up to a recent discussion here about children's books of the 50s and 60s, I discovered a website containing recipes from Trixie Belden characters, entitled Moms Has Outdone Herself Again: A Guide to Cooking the Bob White Way! Let me just ask, if you make the "Bobby's See-Crud No-Bake P.B. Treats", please send me a batch, okay?

A recent article at Utne about a groundbreaking program called Music Together offers a nice adjunct to Kat's recent guest post here about choirs. According to the article, "Music Together cultivates children’s musical development from infancy through kindergarten with classes where parents and kids sing, dance, chant, and play instruments together. Specially trained teachers, exposed to the latest research in early childhood music development, encourage the native ability in all human beings to make music and dance....The truth is that making music and exploring movement is for everyone. It’s not about performance; it’s about expression, celebration, growth, fun, emotional honesty, and community."

In the elementary schools I attended, we sang together often. As did my family. Even more bonding was the singing we did at breaks of lesbian political meetings -- revolutionary and women's music was perhaps the strongest fibers of our subculture, completely ours, not commercialized or altered to fit male perceptions. The only comparison I can made is ethnic music from a small but thriving ethnicity. And singing together made us one.

Cat humor seems to have taken over the internet. It certainly rules at my house. Neatorama has compiled a list of all their stories and videos related to cats in 2007, The Year in Cats and you need to just go there and entertain yourself. Some of them I've already covered at this blog (like Nora, the piano-playing cat), but check out the family of cats performing to a waltz; the Wolverton, UK cat named Macavity who rides the bus to a local fish shop; and Oscar, the nursing home cat who can predict which resident will be the next to die.

There's also a project underway to translate the Christian Bible into Lolcat. (I'm keeping the news of this from Dinah.) Here's an example from Genesis: At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.



This is draft one of my sci-fi novel Skene. To read earlier chapters, go to LABELS in the right-hand column on this page, scroll down to the Skene tags and click on the one you want to read. Skene is set on a human-habitable planet in the Alhena star system at least 500 years in the future. There's a considerable amount of appendix material and diagrams also available here as needed:
Map of Riesig (the main island)
Map of The Manage on Riesig
Skene Glossary (Skenish to English)
Skene Cast of Characters
Skene Culture, Calendar, Clothing, and Islands
Map of All Skene
Map of The Lofthall on Riesig


When Yoj walked into the waiting room, all of the children were there and ran to her. Yerush, Qen, Veida, Lawa, Rark, and a very pale Danaan were there as well. Yoj picked up Speranz and hugged each of the other children one-handed. She sat down on a sofa and said "Emma just ate some soup and drank orange juice, and she's gone back to sleep."

"It's not nighttime, why she is sleeping?" asked Prl.

"They are giving her medicine for her hurts and it makes her sleepy. Sleeping is the best thing she can do right now, it lets her body heal faster" said Yoj.

"How is her arm?" asked Veida.

"They say it's fine, no nerve damage, and as long at it doesn't get infected, it'll heal like any other broken bone" said Yoj. "But it was exposed to -- all kinds of things. So she's on lots of antibiotics. The pain stuff has her definitely loopy. And she's -- terrified of being alone."

She turned to look at Rark and said "She keeps bringing you up, how you saved her. It's a miracle, plain and simple."

Rark said "Same as she'd have done. And it was her training made it possible."

"Still..." said Yoj.

"When she wakes up, can she come home?" asked Mill.

"Not tonight" said Yoj. "I don't know about tomorrow, I'll ask the curandera when I see her again."

Yerush stood close to Yoj and said "Bux mentioned she -- got touched. Is that -- can that be possible?"

Yoj looked at her children and wondered what was right. Then she said "Emma was in the water in West Tendril when she crashed, and there were leviathans all around her. Her arm was broken and she kept going down into the water, and one of the times she did, a leviathan touched her leg. It was right after that when Rark pulled her out of the water and brought her back to us."

Their eyes were huge, but not as frightened as the older women's faces. Only Mill seemed to register the real implications. The rest of the children looked impressed at their emma coming so close to a monster. Qen leaned heavily against Veida.

Yoj said "I'm going to the cafeteria because I haven't had lunch yet, who wants to go with me?"

All the children raised their hands. Yoj felt in her pockets for money, and instantly Yerush said "We'll go with you, I've got cash."

Yoj said to Rark and Danaan, "Gonna join us?"

Rark looked at Danaan and said "You should be in bed."

"I wanted to see for myself" said Danaan.

Yoj said "She's all right. I promise. You go home and rest, we'll need you a lot more in a couple of days than we do today. The children will need you, in particular. If anything changes, I'll get word to you right away."

Rark stood up and pulled Danaan to her feet. Yoj said to Rark "We're yours now. You just paid us back double."

Rark grinned and said "All in a day's work." They walked arm in arm toward the front door.

In the cafeteria, Yoj ate some potatoes and eggs while the children had apricot custard and their abbas had tea. It was even more restorative to her to listen to the children talk about school that day, argue with each other and try to talk her into a second dessert. As they walked back down the hall, Yoj pulled Qen aside and said "Mill almost went with Halling this morning. Hall keeps bringing it up, having heebie-jeebies about it, and I think it's going to occur to Mill, too, if it hasn't already. Will you keep an eye on her in particular?"

Qen nodded and said "I'm sleeping with her and Dodd in your bed. Yerush's taking the little ones into our bed, and Veida is going into the loft with Ndege. We'll make a party out of it."

"We'll need a change of clothes, toothbrushes, and some regular clothes for Halling if she's to be discharged tomorrow" said Yoj.

"One of us will bring them back up later" said Qen.

"Come on in the room, we've got a cot in there now, we'll both be with her."

Qen gave her some more money and kissed her cheek, whispering "Don't you have nightmares, not til you can get home and we're all together."

That helped. When Yoj lay down on the cot a few minutes later, Qen's admonition helped her go right to sleep. That plus the sound of Bux's breathing and Halling's soft snoring nearby.

Still, the evening and night offered only interrupted chances at rest for her and Bux. They took turns lying beside Halling, and the regular injections kept Halling fairly sedated. When she woke up, she would pee, drink juice, or say the same things over and over until the next injection kicked in. Veida came after dinner with a big salad, some cheese and bread, and a bag of clothes. Bux and Yoj shared the salad gratefully -- they had fed Halling her light hospital dinner but not yet swapped shifts to go to the cafeteria. As they ate, Veida checked Halling's pulses, sneaked a peek at her chart, and rubbed rosemary oil on her forehead.

When Halling told Veida "One of them touched me, it brushed against my leg", Veida said calmly, "You are the only person in the history of Skene who can say that." Halling said "Huh. That's right."

Veida went on, "You are the Sheng Zhang of the Lofthall, they can't touch you." Halling grinned and said "Well, they can touch me, but they can't eat me." Which made Bux shudder, but Veida and Halling laughed together.

After Veida left and Halling dozed off again, Yoj told Bux about the sleeping arrangements for the children. Bux took a turn on the cot and Yoj curled beside Halling, kissing her cheek several times before closing her own bloodshot eyes.

By the next morning, both Yoj and Bux felt desperate for solid sleep. They took turns washing and dressing in clean clothes, which helped a little. The morning nurse took out Halling's IV and switched her to oral pain pills. Halling ate a regular breakfast and then had to use the bedpain for a bowel movement, which the nurse looked at intently, making Halling laugh again.

Ried returned and talked with Yoj and Bux, saying Halling could be discharged after noon if nothing went wrong. Yoj was so focused on the medical issues, she barely noticed how nervous Ried was around them both. She went to the cafeteria and got breakfast for her and Bux. Not long after they finished, Yerush came tentatively into the room.

"Hey, Yerush!" called out Halling gaily. Yerush chatted with her a few minutes, then told Yoj and Bux how the children were doing -- Dodd and Mill had both had nightmares but had been able to go back to sleep with comforting, and had eaten a normal breakfast. Neighbors had brought over all kinds of food, and Veida was saving some of the desserts for Halling.

Yoj asked Yerush if she would go to the Lofthall and arrange a contingent of pilots to carry Halling home on a stretcher in the early afternoon. Yerush left to run that errand.

The oral pain medication didn't relieve quite as much of the ache, or else it was just worse the day after surgery. Halling became less zany and more cranky. She complained about how Yoj fed her at lunchtime, and groaned bitterly when they helped her get dressed. At 2:00, Rark knocked at the door, then came in and said her ride was here. Ried had already cleared Halling to leave, and their overnight bag was packed, so Rark motioned the pilots in and they lowered the railing on the side of the bed to slide in the stretcher.

Halling refused help getting on the stretcher, even from Yoj, and every jostle on the way home made her cry out in pain. By the time she was finally in her own bed, the pilots looked drawn. Veida took them into the kitchen for tea and cake, and Bux helped Halling strip down to maillot and knickers. Yoj put a chamberpot under the bed, and Veida brought in cake and tea for Halling as well, which made her a little less grumpy.

After the pilots left, Bux and Yoj tossed a coin for who would try to sleep with Halling in their bed, who would go into Prl and Speranz's room for more uninterrupted slumber. Yoj wound up with Halling, and got gratefully into her schmatta, then stretched out with much more room on either side. Halling was restless but after the pain pill kicked in, she dozed off and Yoj was able to sleep almost three hours without waking. When she got up to use the privy, she was swarmed by her children in the living room.

"Is she awake?" demanded Mill in a loud voice.

Yoj shushed them, more for Bux's benefit than Halling's, and said "If you whisper and don't get on the bed, I mean it, no jostling, you can go in to see her. I'll be right there."

Halling didn't want to try getting to the table on her new crutches -- her right shoulder still hurt a great deal -- so Yoj brought her dinner and allowed the children to bring their plates into the bedroom and sit on the floor for their meal as well. She kept everyone away from the room where Bux was still asleep, and Qen saved a plate for Bux later. After dinner, she gave Halling another pain pill and got out one of Bux's calligraphy brushes with a pot of ink, allowing each child to sign Halling's arm cast.

When Halling began dozing again, Yoj took them into the back yard to sit on the grass and tell a round-robin story, carefully steering them away from frightening creatures or situations.

A little past seven, a just-awakened Bux poked her head out the back door and said Qala was here. Yoj corraled the children and told them to wait, Qala would need to visit Halling alone first and she'd bring her out to see them all afterward. Bux was making herself a plate, so Yoj led Qala into the bedroom and woke Halling gently.

Qala had with her two of the flat aluminum cases the Lofthall used to store used fish survey maps. She sat down on the edge of the bed and checked in with Halling. Yoj noticed that Halling was not really asking questions about the functioning of the Lofthall. Bux came in with her dinner and sat on a clothes chest to eat.

Yoj pointed to Qala's boxes and said "What do you have there?"

Qala's face lit up. "Ah. Well, Rark brought me the bag of clothes they pulled off you, Halling" she said. "And we threw everything away except your guibba -- I just couldn't bear to toss that. So I took it to the people who make our guibbas, and they said it could be saved. Except -- the leather had shrunk, and the sheepskin lining was bulging out of it. They picked away the seams, and I peronally helped them clean the leather inside and out. They put in a spanking-new sheepskin, sanded down the buckles so they won't corrode, and were even able to repair the hole in the right sleeve" said Qala proudly.

At the last remark, Bux set down her fork, looking a little queasy.

Qala opened the top box and pulled out a guibba that looked virtually new, except the shiny leather was noticeably softer and most lustrous than new guibbas. Halling stared at it, her eyes flat, and said "But -- it's way too small."

"I know" said Qala. "I thought you'd want to give it to Mill, she's planned on having it her whole life, from what I remember. It should fit her very well now."

Halling clapped her hand over her mouth and began heaving. Yoj got her the thankfully empty chamberpot just in time. Halling threw up her entire dinner. Bux left and returned with a wet washcloth to wipe Halling's face. Qala was stricken, and Yoj put the chamberpot on the floor, then led Qala next door to her study, taking the boxes with her.

"I'm so sorry" said Qala, "They were up all night with it, I thought it would be the best gift ever."

"It is" said Yoj, "It will make Mill the happiest kid on Skene. But Halling's not -- quite back with us yet. She's still floating with the levs, and the medication she's on is not letting her move through it very fast. She'll recover eventually, and when she does, she'll want to give her guibba to Mill, I'm certain." She hugged Qala, then asked "What's in the second box?"

Qala pulled up the lid. "A new guibba for Halling. They still had her measurements, but we went up a size because she's a mature woman now." It was beautiful, and smelled heavenly. Yoj hugged Qala again and said "You're an incredible friend. How did you manage this plus all the duties of the Lofthall?"

Qala smiled, and Yoj suddenly saw the exhaustion in her face. "Oh...I wasn't going to sleep last night anyhow" she said. "Everybody is pitching in, and tomorrow should be easier."

"Well, any time you want to stop in here for a meal, some conversation, anything you need, don't hesitate" said Yoj. "Now, the children are out back and wild to see you. But let's limit it to ten minutes, okay, so you can maybe get an early night's sleep." Yoj stored the boxes on a top shelf in her study and put some stacked books in front of them so nosy little eyes didn't discover them.

She sat with Qala and the children in the back yard, bringing Qala tea and a piece of pie. After ten minutes, she said firmly "Qala is having to be Sheng Zhang while emma is injured, so she has to go back to the Lofthall now. We'll see her again soon, I promise. Mill, would you do the courtesy of escorting the interim Sheng Zhang back to her offices?"

Mill stood up with pride and tucked in her shati. After they left, Yoj said "It's a bath night. Prl and Speranz, you're first."

An hour later, all five of them were in bed. Bux had scrubbed out the chamber pot and said Halling was asleep again. They decided to leave her on the side of the bed, her casted arm away from them to minimize jostling her, and Bux offered to sleep next to Halling in case someone needed to wake up with her.

The next morning, Yoj and Bux both felt more able to handle the new routine. Yoj insisted Bux go do her Sheng Zhang work -- she and Veida could handle looking after Halling. School would be out in four more days, which meant the children and Qen would be home all day, and the week after that, the University let out for the summer. Yoj thought by that time, Halling would be itching to return to activity.

At noon, when Yoj answered a knock at the front door, there stood Szebel and Wiaki. Szebel had on silks and her long red braid was frizzed thick from ferry rides. She said "I hope this isn't intrusion, but I've been little too frantic for just letters."

"Come in" said Yoj, hugging them both. She warned them about Halling's state of mind, adding "If you can get her to process any of what happened, it'll be a good thing."

Halling's face registered recognition and gladness to see Szebel. She refused a hug, however, saying "Everything hurts." Szebel sat on the edge of the bed, and after a brief visit, Wiaki came into the kitchen to talk with Yoj and Bux.

After half an hour, Szebel joined them, saying "She went to sleep." Her face was troubled. "She seems so -- passive. I don't know her well enough, honestly, to know if this is as strange as it feels to me."

"It is" said Bux shortly. "We're just trying to follow her lead at the moment."

Yoj said "We don't have extra room at the moment, but we can use my cubicle or we'll get you bunks at the Lofthall if you want to stay a while. Maybe tomorrow she'll be more receptive."

Sjebel thought for a moment. "No, I think I'd rather give her a chance to heal. She needs you all more, you're the ones deep inside her heart. We have business in Verzin, and from what I've seen in other injuries like this, she likely won't remember I was here at all. Please write me and keep me posted, and let me know when a visit will mean something to her. I just had to see for myself, that she was really alive."

The undercurrent of emotion in her final sentence prompted Bux to give Szebel a hug. She said softly "We almost lost her. When she can retain it, I'll make sure she knows you came."

Szebel and Wiaki took their leave. Yoj said to Bux "That was nice of you."

"Everything seems changed now" said Bux. "All I really need is for none of you to die."

But even when the pain pills stopped and Halling was not sleeping all the time, she refused to leave the bed, for meals or using the privy. At Veida's insistence, she gave a brief try on her crutches but after two steps, hopped back to the bed and said it was too hard on her shoulder. She refused to see any visitors except, briefly, Rark, Danaan or Qala. She remained incurious about the Lofthall and turned down all Yoj's offers of books, preferring to lie on their bed and stare at the sky through the clerestory.

She let Bux give her a sponge bath each evening, and she ate every meal, though not with her normal appetite once the pain pills stopped. Veida began giving her tinctures and special teas, and her breaks were knitting well enough, no sign of infection anywhere. She simply wanted to be left alone.

The day after Qala brought the guibbas, Iro returned to the jichang and at lunch, she appeared in Qala's office asking for a word. When Qala agreed, Iro closed the door and stood in front of her desk, clasping and unclasping her hands together.

"Rumor has it that the Sheng Zhang -- Halling, I mean -- has said her battery failed and that's why she went down" began Iro.

Qala felt suddenly acutely interested, but tried to mask it. "Yes, she told me and Yoj both that the indicator went flat and she was unable to restart her engine. It had happened the day before as well, though that time it recovered without a problem."

"And -- apparently she asked Enyi to check it out. Enyi says she installed those batteries the week before, a new array" continued Iro without emotion.

"Yes, that's correct. I've checked the records, and it was a brand new array. Enyi documented her work, both the install and the recheck. She thinks it was a loose connection that recurred because of motion" said Qala. "I've requested that every wire in every battery array be double-checked today before any of the sinners with new arrays are used."

"Well, that's what we're doing right now" confirmed Iro. "'s the thing. We've found two more arrays with the same problem."

Qala leaned forward now, staring at Iro, and said "You mean the same loose wire? Possibly leading to a crash?"

"Well,'s not a loose wire. That's not the problem" temporized Iro.

"What is the problem, then?" demanded Qala.

"A while back, one of the fadians at the plant where we get our batteries...well, she and I got to talking about voltage and the like, and she said we could increase the longevity of our batteries by changing the load of the wiring we used. Both by altering the metal composition and -- well, it's all technical, but we drew some diagrams and eventually we took it to the Sheng Zhang" said Iro.

Qala just waited.

"See, it wasn't a brand new idea" continued Ior, "The fadian is about to retire and she said they'd brought it up in the past, the idea of increasing battery range. But it would mean retooling, and expense, and the previous Sheng Zhang decided against it because she said we didn't need longer-range batteries, we weren't having problems getting craft back in time and everybody was used to the parameters we had. The fadian explained all that to Halling, and they talked over the new ranges possible, and, well, Halling said to retool, the Lofthall would foot the bill, she wanted the new batteries" said Iro.

"I remember Halling telling me about it, and it's certainly included in this year's budget" said Qala. "Are you trying to tell me the new batteries aren't working right after all?"

"No -- they're working like a charm. As long as they're installed right. See, there's a crucial wire change, that's different from anything we've ever done. It's actually a reversal of two wires. And if you don't do it that way, they work okay until enough cells die, and then -- well, the battery is gone. All of a sudden" said Iro.

Qala looked at her for a long minute and said "Who's installing the wires wrong, then?"

"I couldn't say" hedged Iro. "There's a diagram in every new case, and the change is marked in red. The two jigongs and I who're doing the review things today -- we talked it over when the first array arrived, and we've been double-checking each other's work, with a double signature. Just in case, like. Because it's -- well, you saw what happened if it gets done wrong."

"I see" said Qala, and she was beginning to see. "Did you happen, today, to bring this to the attention of Enyi, your chief?"

"One of the others did, yes" said Iro, her hands now frankly wringing each other. "She got -- angry, Sheng Zhang. She blew her stack about how changes are sneaked in behind her back and the old ways were good enough, things like that. And she left for lunch still mad. So...I decided to come tell you about it." Iro's voice wasn't quite anxious, but there was an edge to it.

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate your confidence, Iro" said Qala. "I'll come down to the jigong shed later and have a look around. After Enyi is back."

"I'd appreciate it, Sheng Zhang, if you wouldn't -- " Iro paused.

Qala said "This is between you and me, Iro, don't worry. And Halling, of course. Before you leave for the day, would you stop by and give me a report on what you think the status of the battery arrays are?"

Iro finally met her eyes completely. "I will. My child flies those craft, and there's not a one going out until I can risk her life on it."

"Good enough" said Qala. She stood up and shook Iro's hand. "Go get something to eat before you return to work, don't worry if you're a little late."

Qala herself got only a cup of tea and sat at her desk, trying to calm down. The rage inside her was as great as anything she'd ever felt. Mill's face kept coming into her mind. Finally she walked down to the fish docks and waited until the sinners dropped today's load, sitting near the cliff edge and looking out over West Tendril. She could see the spot where Halling had crashed, knew it to the yard from charts although there was no sign of it now.

She stopped at a stall and grabbed a sandwich, eating it standing nearby. She brushed crumbs from her gilet, retied her yellow scarf, and walked casually to the jichang. Enyi was standing over Iro and two other jigongs as they pulled batteries from a lighter. Qala walked up behind her without greeting and said, almost at her shoulder, "How's it going?"

Enyi jumped and wheeled, saying "Lev -- I mean, oceans, you startled me, Qala. I mean, Sheng Zhang."

"Is that one of the new battery arrays, then?" said Qala with interest, leaning over and fingering the shiny panel on its side.

"Yes" answered Enyi, "And we're finding and correcting problems as we go" she said officiously. "I'll have a full report for you at the end of the day."

"Problems with what?" said Qala innocently.

"Well, these are configured differently, turns out" said Enyi. "The manufacturer has changed things around, the usual way apparently wouldn't do any more, but we weren't notified of some important new elements."

Qala looked serious. "That's a grave problem, Enyi. Did you keep the cases they came in, and all the paperwork that accompanied them?"

"Of course" said Enyi, "It'll all be in my report, but I haven't had time yet -- "

"Are they in the shed, then?" interrupted Qala. "The cases and whatever diagrams came with them?"

Enyi now looked nervous. "I imagine, unless someone's been stupid enough to throw them away. I'll have a good search and tell you later -- "

"I'm walking on to the Lofthall, the shed's on my way. Coming back from a lunch out. Sometimes having lunch elsewhere is a nice change" said Qala blandly. "Anyhow, if you're too caught up here to help me out, I'll just stop in at the shed and take a peek for myself, see what I can find."

"No, no" said Enyi, "They've got it under control, I'm sure, I"ll check their work later. I'll be glad to walk back with you."

In the shed, Qala immediately strolled over to a case and said "I recognize the serial number, this is one of the new ones, isn't it? I remember when Sheng Zhang put the order through. If you don't mind, I'd like to take this case with me, because we may have to present this foul-up to the Ethicist. Since a life was nearly lost, and the failure occurred on a sinner about to pick up schoolchildren. This could mean exile for whoever is responsible" she said in a confidential tone.

Enyi was now sweating. Qala continued "And the files you've got, showing shipments and receipts? May I see those?"

Enyi led her to her desk, stacked with papers and tools. She found the file and began pulling out bills of lading. But Qala reached out her hand and said "May I?" Enyi, with desperate reluctance, finally gave it to her. Qala flipped through it and said "Oh, good, there's installation records in here as well. Perfect. I'll take this, then, and put it under lock and key. Just so we're covered here."

"But what about today's review, I'll need the file to add that paperwork -- " began Enyi.

"Just start a new file. Be sure to keep meticulous records, of course" said Qala. "Thanks for your help." She slid the file under her arm, next to the battery case, and strolled back to the Lofthall. She did, in fact, lock them both in the archive cupboard, but only after she went over the work orders in great detail and confirmed Iro's story.

After dinner, she walked to the Manage. She visited briefly with Halling, then played with the children in the lane for an hour, working out the tension in her body during a vigorous game of tag. Begging for a chance to rest, she went back in and asked to speak with Yoj alone. After glancing at Bux, Yoj took her into her study.

Qala gave her the whole story. She saw Yoj become as dangerously angry as she had been. Yoj took Qala's hand and said "Do we go to the Ethicist right now?"

Qala grinned, showing her canines, and said "Or just track Enyi down and throw her over the cliff into West Tendril?"

"Even better" said Yoj, not smiling.

"I thought about it all afternoon" said Qala. "And I think the right course here is to let Halling deal with it, when she returns. From how she's functioning at the moment, I think we shouldn't tell her yet. In the meantime, Iro has signed off on all the new batteries, and I've asked her to give me a daily report, on the quiet, of what's going on with the jigongs. If Iro had not been out sick, this would have been caught in the first place, I think. So -- we can wait to give Halling her satisfaction."

"I'm going to need to tell the rest of my family" said Yoj.

"I imagined you would" said Qala. "Rest assured, all the paperwork is out of Enyi's reach."

Yoj leaned over, then, and kissed Qala on the mouth. It wasn't a romantic kiss, but it was something more than merely a friend. "You are a prize" said Yoj softly. "If I hadn't found Halling and Bux, you would have made me very happy."

"In that case -- got any dessert?" grinned Qala.

Yoj stood up and walked her, arm in arm, to the kitchen. The children were still playing in the lane, and after getting Qala some cake and tea, Yoj repeated her story to the rest of the adults. The shared outrage was cleansing. They discussed it until Dodd and Speranz darted through to use the privy. Then Qen went to the door and called the rest of the children in because it was getting too late for loud play in the lane, some people were going to bed.

Mill was again allowed to walk Qala back to the Lofthall, while the other children were set to their chores. As they got ready for bed later, Bux whispered to Yoj "I miss being able to sort this out with her", nodding at Halling lying with her eyes closed.

"I know" answered Yoj. "I have more feelings inside me than I quite know what to do with. I reckon she must, too, a different set of 'em."

"Will you spoon me tonight?" asked Bux.

"Mm-hmmm" said Yoj.

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.