Friday, January 18, 2008


This is part seven of a nine-part series of quizzes about the Baby Boomer era. Thiz quiz concerns the top U.S. song hit singles from 1955 to 1970, the top four for each year. (Source is OzNet Music Chart.)

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 quiz begins after the fold. Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.

The list below includes the U.S. song hit singles from 1955 to 1970, the top four for each year. Place these hits from 1955 to 1970 in chronological order (remember, four for each year):

ALL SHOOK UP Elvis Presley
AUTUMN LEAVES - Roger Williams
CATHY'S CLOWN Everly Brothers
CHERISH Association
CRYIN' Roy Orbison
DON'T c/w I BEG OF YOU Elvis Presley
DON'T BE CRUEL Elvis Presley
HELLO DOLLY! Louis Armstrong
HEY JUDE Beatles
HONEY Bobby Goldsboro
LOVE IS BLUE Paul Mauriat
MICHAEL Highwaymen
MY PRAYER Platters
ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK - Bill Haley & the Comets
ROSES ARE RED Bobby Vinton
RUNNING BEAR Johnny Preston
SUGAR SHACK Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs
SURFIN' U.S.A. Beach Boys
VENUS Frankie Avalon
WINDY Association
WITCH DOCTOR David Seville
WOOLY BULLY Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs

Answers are here.



("Lapino Blanco" painted by Grace Slick -- yeah, that Grace Slick)

Here's part six of my nine-part series of quizzes about the Baby Boomer era, right after the fold.

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. Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Boomers are the drug generation. Below is a list of drug nicknames used primarily during the 1960s and 1970s. Match each of them to one of the six main drugs of choice used during that era: Marijuana, amphetamines, LSD, psilocybin, heroin, or amyl nitrate. (Cocaine and crack became easily available somewhat later.)

Maui Wowee
Acapulco Gold
Black beauties
Silly putty
Electric Kool Aid
Purple Hearts
Rainy Day Woman
Alice B. Toklas
California sunshine
Paper-dot hit
Mellow yellow
Texas tea
Orange barrels
Truck drivers
Strawberry fields
Locker room
Aunt Mary
Window pane
Simple Simon

Answers are here.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Here's part five of my nine-part series of quizzes about the Baby Boomer era, right after the fold. No more fluffy questions, this one will be HAAARRRD.

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. Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Place these events in chronological order [for extra points, name the date and other questions in brackets]

1. The Woodstock Music and Art Festival is held, representing the culmination of the counterculture of the 1960s and the ultimate climax of the "hippie era". [How many people attended this rock festival?]
2. The "I Have A Dream Speech" by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the civil rights march in Washington, Dc [Which of these three people were present to hear this speech? Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan]
3. Rosa Parks insists on sitting in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
4. The Governor of Arkansas uses National Guardsmen to prevent nine black schoolchildren from entering a high school in Little Rock. [Which President sent more than 1000 federal troops to escort the children to the school?]
5. President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, the most radical civil rights law in U.S. History. [Name two of the areas in which racial discrimination was prohibited by this Act.]
6. Malcolm X was shot dead at a rally for the OAAU (Organization of Afro-American Unity) in New York City.
7. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defence is organized in Oakland, California. [Who founded the Black Panthers?]
8. American soldiers from Company C, First Battalion, 20th Infantry, and 11th Light Infantry Brigade, unde the command of Lieutenant William Calley, massacre the Vietnamese village of My Lai, killing elderly people, women, children and unarmed men.
9. The USDA suspends the use of DDT.
10. Physicist Werner Heisenberg explains his uncertainty principle.
11. The USS Pueblo, a secret spy ship with a crew of 83, is seized by North Korea in its waters.
12. Jimi Hendrix, age 27, dies in London after taking some sleeping pills prescribed for his girlfriend. He threw up from an apparent allergic reaction to the pills, passed out, inhaled his own vomit, and died.
13. Jim Morrison is found dead in his bathtub in Paris at age 27. Cause of death is the source of many theories and rumors -- his body was discovered by his girlfriend, who is the only person to see him dead aside from a physician who signed a death certificate and has never been located again. Presumed cause of death is likely drug-related.

14. Janis Joplin is found dead at age 27 in Hollywood's Landmark Motor Hotel from a heroin-alcohol overdose the previous day.
15. House Judiciary Committee passes the first of three articles of impeachment, charging obstruction of justice.
16. Richard Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to resign. Vice President Gerald R. Ford assumes the country's highest office. He will later pardon Nixon of all charges related to the Watergate case.
17. Barbie dolls hit the market.
18. Xerox manufactures a plain paper copier.
19. President Nixon declares, "I'm not a crook," maintaining his innocence in the Watergate case.
20. New York Times publishes "The Pentagon Papers", the Defense Department's secret history of the Vietnam War.
21. Ms. Magazine begins regular publication, reaching a circulation of 350,000 within a year.
22. Five men, one of whom says he used to work for the CIA, are arrested at 2:30 a.m. trying to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex. Their actions will eventually be traced to the highest levels of the Republican administration and result in the resignation of President Richard Nixon, who authorized a multitude of illegal activity. [How many of the Watergate burglars can you name?]
23. For the first time, cigarette packages are required to carry a label stating "Smoking can be hazardous to your health".
24. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. [In how many American cities did riots break out in grief in rage after Dr. King's murder? Round off to the nearest ten.]

25. Black American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos who win medals for the 200 meter sprint at the 1868 Olympic Games in Mexico City raised their black-gloved clenched fists high above their heads to salute Black Power. Both medals are stripped from the men and they are banished from the Olympics. [Which medals did they win?]
26. President Lyndon B. Johnson orders the first American Marines into South Vietnam, officially beginning the Vietnam War.
27. The Tet Offensive is launched by North Vietnam onto South Vietnam. [What is Tet?]
28. Jane Fonda visits Hanoi in protest of the Vietnam War.
29. Saigon falls to Communist rule when North Vietnam invades the South.
30. Neil Armstrong becomes the first human being to walk on the Moon. [Who was the second human to walk on the moon?]
31. Quarters stop being made of 90% silver, instead now being made of a clad or "sandwich metal" of 75% copper and 25% nickel, bonded to a pure copper core.
32. The White House "plumbers" unit - named for their orders to plug leaks in the administration - burglarizes a psychiatrist's office to find files on Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers.
33. Tiny Tim (with ukelele in hand) married Miss Vicky live on the Johnny Carson Show.
34. The Child Nutrition Act extends and expands the National School Lunch Program to being providing subsidized lunches for poor children in schools across America, dramatically reducing childhood malnutrition and classroom behavioral problems related to hunger.
35. The Senate Watergate Committee begins its nationally televised hearings.
36. The Watts Riots begin in Los Angeles after an act of police harassment of a black man, lasting six days, in which 34 people were officially reported killed, 1,100 people were injured, 4,000 people were arrested, 600 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and an estimated $200 million in damage was caused. [Name other race riots of the 1960s.]
37. The Kent State shootings, also known the Kent State massacre, occur at Kent State University in Ohio, involving the shooting of students in an anti-war protest by the Ohio National Guard.
38. Anti-war protestors at the Democratic Convention in Chicago are so abused and oppressed by Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Chicago police that The Walker Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence pinned the blame for the violence in the streets on the police, calling it a "police riot."
39. The ARPAnet, precursor of the Internet, is founded as a United States Department of Defense project.
40. The Berlin Wall is built.
41. Washington Post begins Watergate reporting that will bring down the President.
42. Pierre Cardin designs the "Beatles suit" which becomes popular for men, with a single-breasted collarless jacket and slim pants.

43. Patricia Heart (heiress to the Hearts newspaper fortune) is captured by the Symbionese Liberation Army, who are able to brainwash her to such extent that she carried a machine gun and participates in a Hibernia Bank robbery. [What name did she adopt as a member of the SLA?]
44. Punk rock music emerges in Britain, with themes of nihilism, anarchy. [1974]
45. Frances Lappé's Diet for a Small Planet opposes meat, sells 1.5 million copies.
46. The Beatles perform for the first time on American television, on the Ed Sullivan Show, launching Beatlemania in America.
47. John Glenn becomes the first American astronaut to orbit the earth.
48. The U.S.S.R. sends the first woman astronaut into space. [What was her name?]
49. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
50. The Communist Leader of China, Mao Zedong, launches the Cultural Revolution.
51. Space age clothing starts to become popular, using materials such as discs of metal or plastic linked together with wire; leather; and metallic or neon colors.
52. The U.S. Supreme Court hands down the Miranda Decision.
53. Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.
54. Andy Warhol exhibits his paintings of Campbell's soup cans, bringing pop art to national media attention.
55. Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) wins the World Heavyweight Champion title in boxing.
56. The first march from Selma to Montgomery was held, walking with Martin Luther King Jr. and SCLC (The Southern Christian Leadership Conference) leaders. The plan for the march was developed by SNCC (The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).
57. Wilma Rudolph, a black American woman, receives three gold medals in fast running at the Olympics in Rome.
58. The bodies of three civil rights workers were found. Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman had been in Sandtown, Mississippi, volunteering to register African-Americans to vote and inquiring into the burning of a local church.
59. Lasers are invented.
60. Bay of Pigs Invasion fails, wherein the United States sponsors an attempt to overthrow Cuba's socialist government and Fidel Castro.
61. Plate tectonics and the understanding of continental drift comes about most notably because of a paper published by American geologist Harry Hess.
62. The Six-Day War fought between Israel and its Arab neighbors Egypt, Jordan, and Syria results in Israel controlling the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.
63. The Cuban Missile Crisis, a very tense confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States over the Soviet deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba, is regarded as the moment when the Cold War was closest to turning into a nuclear war.

64. The Stonewall Riots, a series of violent conflicts between homosexuals resisting arrest and harassment by police officers at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, is generally considered a turning point for the modern gay rights movement worldwide, as it is one of the first times in history a significant body of homosexual people resisted arrest.
65. New York Radical Women protest the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey by throwing high heels and other feminine accoutrements into a freedom garbage bin. The media distort this into "bra burning", which actually did not occur.
66. Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated shortly after delivering a speech celebrating his victory in the 1968 presidential primary of California at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
67. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
68. The Pill is approved by the FDA for clinical use.
69. The Free Speech Movement begins at the University of Berkeley, California. In protests unprecedented at the time, students demanded that the university administration lift a ban on on-campus political activities and recognize the students' right to free speech and academic freedom. Among the participants are Vivian Rothstein and Jo Freeman who later become organizers in the women's liberation movement.
70. The Summer of Love occurs in San Francisco, when the so-called "hippie movement" came to full fruition. [Who wrote the song "San Francisco" whose lyrics include "If you're going to San Francisco / Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair / If you come to San Francisco / Summertime will be a love-in there"?]
71. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin is a Soviet cosmonaut who becomes the first human to travel into space.
72. Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, disrupts a meeting at the United Nations when asked how he could protest Western capitalist imperialism while the Soviet Union was at the same time rapidly assimilating Eastern Europe by becoming enraged, shouting, and removing one of his shoes to pound it on the table. He did NOT, as is widely believed, on this occasion shout "We will bury you!", but the belief that he did becomes a major anti-Communist legend in the U.S.
73. The first geosynchronous satellite is launched, which will revolutionize global communications.
74. The compact audio cassette medium for audio storage was introduced by Philips under the trademark Compact Cassette.
75. Time Magazine publishes an issues whose cover asks "Is God Dead?"
76. President Lyndon Johnson summarizes his goals for the Great Society, a set of domestic programs whose main focus main focus was an "end to poverty and racial injustice". The time when Lyndon Johnson took office until 1970 as the impact of his Great Society programs were felt, the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century. The Great Society was later calculatedly overturned by President Ronald Reagan's first budget.
77. Charles Manson gives up his ambitions of becoming a popular song writer to become a cult leader and mass murderer, culminating in the murder of Sharon Tate and four others.
78. Dr. No is released as the first official James Bond film, starring Sean Connery. [How many of the actors who have played James Bond can you name?]
79. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is published.
80. The Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization, is founded.
81. Congress passes the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.
82. A paper titled "Women's Liberation - a Step Beyond Rights" is laughed off the floor at a Students for a Democratic Society meeting.
83. The National Organization for Women is founded.
84. The Boston Women Health Book Collective publishes Our Bodies, Our Selves: A Book by and for Women.

85. New York Radical Women begins a process of sharing stories that became known as "consciousness-raising." Groups immediately take root coast-to-coast.
86. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) is elected the first African-American woman to the House of Representatives.
87. The first "lesbian purge" of national NOW occurs.
88. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Executive Order 11375, which extends affirmative action to women.
89. The National Abortion Rights Action League is formed.
90. The first national women's liberation conference held in Chicago.
91. The Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution is reintroduced into Congress.
92. The United Nations designates the 1970s as the "Women's Decade."
93. Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison in South Africa.
94. New York City suffers a massive electrical blackout.
95. Mary Quant starts her own label, which will become responsible for designing mini skirts, colored tights, and wet-look vinyl fashions.
96. Che Guevara is killed.
97. Disneyland opens.

98. Dr. Seuss publishes The Cat in the Hat.
99. Psychedelic clothing using acid colors becomes very popular.
100. The Beatles break up.
101. Terrorists attack Israeli athletes at the Winter Olympic Games in Munich, killing 11.
102. Mark Spitz wins seven gold medals in swimming at the Summer Olympic Games.
103. Mattel's Chatty Cathy doll is marketed; she speaks 11 phrases in random order.
104. For the first time, U.S. Presidential debates are televised and Kennedy scores an unexpected victory over Nixon.
105. The ATM is invented by Luther Simjian.
106. Robert Heinlein's publishes his science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.
107. FCC Chairman Newton Minow calls television a "vast wasteland."
108. Harper Lee wins Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird.
109. Maurice Sendak's publishes his prize-winning children's book, Where the Wild Things Are.
110. ZIP codes are introduced by the U.S. Post Office.
111. Instamatic cameras with drop-in cartridges are introduced.
112. The first Super Bowl is played with the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs; the Packers won.
113. Julia Child begins airing The French Chef on public television.
114. The first cash dispensing machine is installed by First Philadelphia Bank.
115. Senator Ted Kennedy, drunk driver, leaves the scene of an accident at Chappaquiddick in which a young woman with whom he was having an affair, Mary Jo Kopechne, is killed. This eliminates his future prospects as President.
116. Congress passes Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments to the Civil Rights Act to enforce sex equity in education.
117. The first hand-held calculator is invented by Texas Instruments, at a cost of $2,500 apiece.
118. Yasser Arafat becomes leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
119. The Equal Rights Amendment passes both houses of Congress. (Ratification by three-fourths of the states is required within seven years.)
120. New York Radical Feminists holds a series of speakouts and a conference on rape and women's treatment by the criminal justice system. Susan Brownmiller's book, Against Our Will, is one result. Another: the establishment of rape crisis centers across the country.
121. The National Black Feminist Organization is established.
122. The Supreme Court decides Roe v. Wade, establishing a woman's right to abortion.
123. Sesame Street goes on the air.

124. Barbara Jordan (D-TX) becomes first Black woman elected to Congress from a Southern state.
125. IBM produces the floppy disk.
126. Ford offers 8-track tape players on next year's model cars.
127. Adult and underground comics arrive with R. Crumb's Zap Comix.
128. Hollywood adopts an age-based rating system: G, PG, R, X.
129. The paper dress is introduced.
130. Go-go boots are introduced.
131. U.S. mandates Daylight Savings Time.
132. Stereo LP records go on sale.
133. Bob Dylan, noted as a composer and writer of poetic folk songs and songs of social protest, appears at the Newport Folk Festival playing electric guitar and backed by an electrified rock band.
134. Tribal rock musical Hair opens on Broadway.
135. The miniskirt is introduced.
136. Sputnik launches, setting off alarm about U.S. math and science education.
137. The Beatles again make history with their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which, in addition to including drug-oriented songs, presents a body of interrelated pieces that constituted an organic whole. This is considered the first “concept album.”
138. The Godfather is published by Mario Puzo.
139. The Lord of the Rings is published.
140. The Paris collections introduce the trouser suit for women to the world, which became an instant universal hit.
141. Billie Jean King scores an enormous victory for female athletes when she beats Bobby Riggs in "The Battle of the Sexes," a televised tennis tournament watched by nearly 48,000,000 people.
142. The U.S. military is integrated when the women-only branches are eliminated.
143. Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, which exposes the dangers of pesticide use and helps launch the modern environmental movement. She is subjected to sexist attacks for her work.
144. Terrorist bomb planted by segregationists kills four girls attending Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama.
145. The North American Indian Women's Association is founded.
146. First national anti-war protest held in Washington D.C.
147. National Organization for Women (NOW) is organized.
148. Redstockings, a radical feminist group organizes. and introduces such terms as "Sisterhood is Powerful" and "The Personal is Political".
149. Lesbian-Feminist Separatist collective The Furies is founded primarily as a reaction to anti-gay attitudes in the feminist movement and anti-woman attitudes in the gay liberation movement and male-dominanted left. Crucial essays by the Furies released in women's periodicals will foster the popularity of separatism, class-consciousness and collectivism in the lesbian movement. Members of this collective will go on to found Olivia Records, among other endeavors.
150. President Richard M. Nixon vetoes the Comprehensive Child Development Act, which would have established federally funded childcare centers.

151. Maggie Kuhn begins the Gray Panthers, dedicated to championing causes of the elderly.
152. Homosexuality removed from list of mental disorders by American Psychiatric Association.
153. Alan Shepard becomes the first American launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Answers are here.



This is the final chapter of 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


Year 577 (Blue 64)

Yoj knocked on the familiar door, heavy zinc decorated top to bottom with a sloping helix pattern and painted bright red every midsummer. She was expected for dinner, but this was the apprentice Genist's residence too, so she never just walked in. It was Prl who opened the door, however, looking elegant and imposing with her hair piled on the back of her head, a stark white silk shati brocaded with gold loose over her very shapely figure. She grabbed Yoj in an enthusiastic hug. She still smelled like the toddler who had sat in Yoj's lap at meals, whispering funny questions to her.

"Did you dress up for me?" asked Yoj. "I'm a bit dusty from the Archives."

"No, I had an appointment that just ended" said Prl. "I like to make granting Leave an occasion for anxious partners, a moment when it all changes for them, as it were. Come on, I have a vegetable stew simmering from earlier -- well, Yerush's recipe, actually. There's a few ears of fresh corn to go with it, and some wonderfully aged sheep cheese -- I want you to take the rest of it back to the abbas when you go."

They loaded trays and carried them into Prl's office, where they always ate on these once-a-week special dinners, leaving the kitchen for the apprentice. Prl set a small table before Yoj at her chair, and cleared her own desk enough to eat there.

Yoj looked at the stack of lineage books on Prl's desk and said "Do you think, if you had a big enough sheet of paper, you could construct a chart that showed everyone on Skene and their relationship to each other?"

Prl grinned at her, a fleck of spinach on one tooth. "It already exists. We just glue on new sections, down and to both sides, as we need room. I'll show it to you sometime."

"How do you handle the cross-relationships, the partnerings back and forth over time?" asked Yoj.

Prl paused. "We don't. It's not about family construction. Our focus is strictly genes handed on. And half the names on it are actually numbers of Contributions -- although by this time, certain numbers sound like names to me, have the familiar feel of someone I might know."

Yoj had bitten into her corn and was lost for a moment to the rich, sweet flavor. After nibbling down a row, she said "You've been at this two years on your own, four since leaving the U. Still as much fun for you?"

"More all the time, emma. You must know how that is -- you were the youngest-ever Dichter of all Skene. I'm sure Raisa never intended me to share a similar title, but it's glorious being on my own" said Prl. She flashed Yoj a smile that was pure Yerush in its ease with power. Yerush, and now Bux, since she had won re-election as Ethicist. "Listen, how are the abbas, really? I noticed last Shmona that Veida is using a chair at the aga for long periods of stirring."

"She'll be 91 at her next birthday" Yoj reminded her. "But she still has most of her teeth, and I don't think she's in real pain. Just aches here and there."

"I hear her tinctures sell out as fast as they arrive at the store" said Prl.

"Yeah. Because of Veida's hand tremor, Halling is the one filling those little bottles now, with Veida breathing down her neck and finding endless fault. Just like Qen questions me two or three times about how I've labeled her seed packets, since even with her new glasses she can't really read print any more. And they both worry endlessly about how Speranz and Tlunu are caring for the cold frames. But Bux had to put her foot down and keep our frail elders off the ladders."

Prl was giggling. "Every time I see abba Qen, she tells me how proud she is that Speranz has become a leraar."

"You know, now that the Manage looks safe to be her inheritance, I'm impressed with how hard Speranz works to keep it in good shape. Qen and Veida still rule over the tillage, but Speranz, and Tlunu too, are learning everything they can from them" said Yoj.

"And what does aggie have to say about that?" wondered Prl slyly.

Yoj looked at her with a smile. "Speranz reminds me often of Bux at that age, newly in love and coming into her power. And their maneuverings remind me of those Bux had with Yerush. Qen and Veida ignore it all. Veida is determined to never leave Qen; they've got each other to themselves, now."

"I wish Veida'd aggied" said Prl. "Those are genes we could use more of."

"Well, Pank and Tu's child, Nk -- Pank will be passing on some of Veida's genes, right?" queried Yoj.

"A few, although the expression of them may not be the same. Pank's aggie, Veida's sib, was only a half-sib, which means Pank had only one-fourth the genes shared by Veida. Which means Nk has one-eighth." Prl waited for the math to make sense to Yoj. Yoj's mind had gone in another direction, however.

"I hope I've expressed to you how grateful I am, we all are, for you spending every other Shmonah with Qen and Veida" said Yoj. "They just can't climb Sigrist Poke any more, and it would be unbearable to leave them behind to go see Ndege and Gerra if you weren't there to eat with them and make it a family day for them."

"It's my complete pleasure" said Prl, meaning it. "Plus, I'm sure you're aware I pick their brains about the families of Skene. Neither of them are malicious gossips, but they seem to know everything about who's done what for the last several decades, especially with regard to the home lives of children. Qen's an irreplaceable resource."

"I couldn't count the number of children she's rescued, one way or another" agreed Yoj. "And yes, I'm aware of your delving, as they are they. But it's all for the good of Skene, right?" She and Prl grinned at each other.

"I know Ndege can't be pried loose from Sigrist Poke, and it truly bothers Veida. Is Dodd bringing Ndege and Gerra's children down for visits often enough, though?" asked Prl.

"The dinners you come share with us weekly plus at least one other day, Dodd meets them at school and brings them to us for homework, play and dinner." said Yoj. "And the last two times, she's brought Briel along with them."

Prl smiled to herself. "Ah, the enticing Briel. I hope she has the sense to return Dodd's feelings for her."

Yoj leaned forward in interest. "Dodd's feelings -- you know for sure Dodd loves her? She's not confided in me, not yet."

"Yes, emma, I'm sure. Dodd is quiet but it's all over her face" said Prl. In their own way, Prl and Dodd had remained emotionally closer than any of the children, even though Dodd was living with Ndege while she went to the U. "In fact -- " Prl paused, choosing her words -- "I predict Dodd will go on living with the Sigrists and become the third shift for them on a permanent basis when Asha finally retires. If Briel loves her, I mean. Briel has one more year before she's a certified curandera, right? Well, they have lots of room up there, and Gerra is her favorite cousin, so I think she and Dodd will stay there, helping raise the children. Dodd can write poems and essays in her head as she looks out on Skene, dreaming up verse or commenting on what she sees. Briel can walk to work easily each day. And Ndege, as obsessed as she is with Gerra, will still always be glad to look after Dodd."

Yoj had a mix of emotions on her face. "I -- could see that working well for Dodd. Briel needs the kind of devotion Dodd would give her. Her mother was Mrand, you know -- do you remember, her dying in childbirth before Veida could get there, out on one of the Western Flings?"

Prl furrowed her brow. "I'm not sure. Maybe."

"Anyhow, I'd rather have Dodd living with us, but she wouldn't have room to bring in a partner and start her own family with us -- not if Speranz and Tlunu go ahead with their plans" said Yoj.

There was an unspoken question in the air, and Prl decided to answer it. "No, they've not applied for Leave yet. Speranz and Tlunu. But you know how Speranz is, she'll wait until the last minute, sure she'll get whatever she really wants." It was said with affection.

There was another silent question, Prl guessed, about Dodd's fertility should she partner with an X. Prl didn't want to answer that one, although she would love seeing Yoj's expression to find out that Dodd was exuberantly fertile, and it was possible that she and Briel could have all the children they wanted, without Leave or Contribution.

Instead, Prl said drily "Emma -- Halling, I mean -- must be over the moons, to have one of her children partnering with the child of Xaya's sib."

"Oh, her passion for Tlunu runs deep in many directions" said Yoj. "She's a gifted pilot, and she's fiery enough to handle even Speranz. But yes, her resemblance to Xaya makes Halling's face melt every time she looks at her."

Prl went into the kitchen and returned with a fresh pot of tea and some apricot bars. After serving Yoj, she said "Listen, emma...My apprentice is only four years younger than me, and it's a toss-up as to which one of us will live longer. Anyhow, she's a good sort, at least so far, but I don't feel like -- confiding in her, about serious questions that have to do with Genist decisions. Not about all of it. So, I'm wondering if -- both as my favorite emma and as the Archivist, could I possibly tell you things that you can swear to not pass on anywhere, not even to my other emmas?"

Yoj was startled. She took a bite of apricot bar and looked at Prl's blue, blue eyes thoughtfully. She loved it when Prl baldly stated Yoj was her favorite emma, but she also felt guilty about it. Swallowing, she said "You won't be passing on personal details about other Skene citizens, will you? I mean, those applying for Leave? -- "

"No, no" assured Prl. "The issues I need to talk over with some are more theoretical. But highly confidential all the same."

"I don't, as a rule, keep secrets from your emmas. Hasn't worked out well for us" said Yoj with a wry grin. "Still, I could tell them your request and my honoring your confidence, and I think they'll understand. We're all influential women now, we don't necessarily share every detail of our responsibilities with one another."

Prl waited. Yoj asked "Will this conflict in any manner with my duties as Archivist?"

"Not that I can see" said Prl. "In fact, it may enhance your understanding. And -- I think it's very possible that buried somewhere in the Archives are personal records which would reveal the secrets I hold."

"At which point, being able to discuss them with you would be a boon" said Yoj, grinning at Prl's subtlety. If she hadn't spent years living with Yerush, she might be taken in by Prl.

Prl grinned back. She counted on Yoj being smarter than her. She paused, then went off on another seeming tangent.

"It's the 20th of next month, right, that Mill, Oby and the other eight are going to fly to Pya?" asked Prl.

Pya was the name being used for the new land masses shown on the map Raisa had given them, before Yerush died. No one had been close enough yet to know if the land actually existed.

"If the weather's good, yes" said Yoj, wondering at this question. "The new power source for the big sinners would allow them to go directly there in around 20 hours, but they're planning to land on the next-nearest secano, to rest a day. In case there's -- trouble. They'll do a survey, maybe set down, but return to the secano and radio back to the Lofthall when the new satellite orbits within range. Halling will make the decision then."

"On her own?" asked Prl.

"No, Bux as Ethicist will be there, plus all the Sheng Zhangs. Plus Qala" said Yoj. "Why -- are you worried about Mill?"

"No more than usual" smiled Prl. "It's just that -- how are decisions going to be made beyond that? If it's a place where we could live, who will determine land use, and what industries are allowed to emigrate, and -- most importantly -- social structure?"

"We haven't reached that point yet" said Yoj, now understanding Prl's drift. "Halling keeps insisting we do things one step at a time. But Bux won't allow anything to occur there, beyond initial exploration, without it being brought to all of Skene for a vote."

"Yet -- even which questions are presented, the very wording of it, will have an influence on people" said Prl.

"And you want to be part of that?" asked Yoj.

"I have to be, emma" said Prl.

"Because if, in fact, migration occurs, you'll have to oversee the transfer of Contributions to halfway around the globe? Maybe allow the establishment of a second Genist?" said Yoj.

"More than that" said Prl. She stopped herself again, and again took an oblique path. "Emma, how would you feel if you knew your children were not just yours as they are now, but also -- descended from you? Containing your genes as much as those of Bux?"

Yoj was completely thrown off guard. "You mean, like -- if I was a Y?"

"That's one example, yes."

"I -- I don't know, Prl. I can't imagine feeling like you kids were any more mine. My connection to you, my sense of responsibility to you -- I honestly think it's as strong as what Bux feels. But how can I know?" said Yoj, a small uneasiness starting inside her.

"Well, then -- what if you, for instance, knew that Bux and Halling had a genetic connection to us but not you? Would that have affected your relationships with us, or with them as the other emmas?" persisted Prl.

Yoj stared into Prl's blue eyes, brighter than Bux's now. She suddenly said, "Lev, I forgot to feed the chickens!"

The Genist and the Archivist shared a small tillage and chicken run which had been mostly unused until their recent tenure. They alternated days tending to it. Yoj stood and said "I'll be just a minute."

"I'll go with you" said Prl, walking with her outside. They fed and watered the chickens, chatting lightly about other things, and looked at the tomato plants briefly. A wide, comfortable stone bench sat at one edge of the tillage, covered by a metal portico. Yoj often sat out here to read. She sat down now, and Prl scooted up next to her.

"I'm able to think again" said Yoj. "It's not just a hypothetical question, is it, Prl?"

Prl slid her arm through Yoj's. "No, emma" she said softly.

"How?" asked Yoj.

"Halling, and Lawa, too, were partially created by Ng. Mwezi used a Contribution, yes, but those two pregnancies came about from Ng, who was very fertile" said Prl.

"No wonder Halling looked so much like her emma" breathed Yoj.

"And -- the Contribution collected from Ng when she was 16 -- Raisa used that for all five of us children. Which means, biologically, we're emma's half-sibs" said Prl.

Yoj felt pain in her chest. "I can't believe -- is that done? Is that how the Genist does things?"

"Never" said Prl. "It was Raisa's grand experiment. I don't think Dest would have allowed it, not from what I can read into the philosophy behind her decisions. We're the only five full-sibs on Skene."

For a moment, Yoj wondered if Yerush had known about this, if Yerush had helped plot it with Raisa. But she didn't want to believe Yerush, even power-diseased Yerush, would have taken that kind of risk with her family.

"I guess the experiment panned out" said Yoj slowly, her breathing heavy.

"I'd say so, but I'm not objective" said Prl with a small laugh.

"So Halling's connection to Mill -- it's more than just -- " started Yoj.

"But what about your connection to me, and to Dodd?" interrupted Prl. "It's every bit as strong. That's my question -- would you have felt that, chosen us, if you knew we were connected to Halling in a way we were not to you?"

Yoj still didn't know how to answer that question. She had another thought. "What about me? Do I have any -- partial sibs -- out there among the population?"

"If you did, I couldn't tell you" said Prl. "But, the math, emma -- the genetic sharing changes exponentially with each generation. I mean, we're all cousins here on Skene, many times over. And, almost always, the Genist strives to spread things around, not create pools of connection; it's critical to vigor. Plus -- it was an outgrowth of the Troubles, and the decision to redefine family when fertility stayed different here."

"I know about that" said Yoj. "At least the politics and culture aspects. I really hadn't thought about the -- biology." After a pause, she said "So Ng was your -- I don't have a word for it. She wasn't your emma, she was your abba. But she was -- "

"Contribution works fine" said Prl. "And we loved Qen and Veida as much as Ng, who have no biological link to us. It seems clear to me the way we're doing things is working, extremely well. But -- some new decisions are in the wind, and I want to know how you think it will alter emmas' attachment to their children."

"Is my -- strain, thread, whatever you call it -- completely gone from Skene?" said Yoj. "I mean, Halling's, or Ng's I guess, is thriving. I bet at least four of you will have children, and I bet Ndege isn't the only aggie among you -- well, and Dodd can't aggie, but -- " Yoj looked at Prl questioningly. Prl started to shake her head, and Yoj's expression became urgent. "Please, Prl, please don't deny me this one -- Dodd, is Dodd like Ng? Can she -- " Again, Yoj didn't have the word for it.

Prl sighed. "Yes. She is very capable of assisting an aggie. In fact, I'm going to have to pull her aside and talk to her any day now, since it looks like she and Briel are headed in that direction."

"An unplanned baby? Boggles the mind" said Yoj.

"And yes, we're all five of us fertile and I agree with you, we all seem to want children" said Prl.

Yoj's face showed compassion. "Ah, sweetie -- how unfair, that you the provider of babies for everyone else are prohibited from having your own" she said gently.

"I'm prohibited from using a Contribution" corrected Prl before stopping herself. She didn't want to open that door, not yet. One of the many katts of their combined tillage jumped onto her lap, and she began stroking it. To throw Yoj off the trail, she gave her a different morsel. "And Ng's Contribution didn't stop with us. Danaan is also hers."

"Really?!!" exclaimed Yoj. "So she and Halling are half-sibs, too. Well, that explains a great deal."

Another katt appeared in the dusk and claimed Yoj's lap. There had only been two katts in residence when Yoj became Archivist -- the magnetic content of the rock which comprised the Shatters, and into which the Archives was carved, naturally repelled shu, and katts were not essential here. But once a year, Yoj went to Pomar, selected another kitten, and brought it to the Archive. Katts had a private passageway from the outside into the warren of the Archives, and by the time the number reached 15 or so, the older katts would be dying off. Yoj reasoned she could indulge herself in her quest for a mass of katts.

They were both silent for a while. Prl knew Yoj's mind was digging relentlessly, making connections. She wondered where Yoj would pop up next.

"I gather, then, you're asking about emmas because -- on Pya it might be possible for aggies to not need Contributions?" speculated Yoj. "Except, that would force them to choose Ys as emmas, wouldn't it?" Yoj clearly found that objectionable.

Prl answered indirectly. "Dodd and Ndege are not identical twins because -- they don't come from the same egg. Increasingly, women on Skene are ovulating twice within a few days, dropping two or more eggs. We've known about it for a century, and it seems to be increasing. X's are becoming more fertile as Y's decline. Raisa experimented there as well -- she gave you a double Contribution for that birth, separated by four days, did she not?"

Yoj stared at her. "She said it was because the first batch was not strong, and she was worried about its efficacy" she whispered.

"Well, she lied again. It was to take advantage of Bux's wild fecundity and give her -- you -- twins. Two babies in the same womb. That's why Dodd was smaller, she began developing several days after Ndege" said Prl. "And I have to say, it's simply not recommended. Things could have gone very, very wrong."

"What are you driving at, then?" asked Yoj, saving her anger about the threat to her children for another time.

"We have the means -- have had for a long time -- of using an egg from one woman in the womb of another, to create a baby that is part of both" said Prl. She felt a chill slide over her skin that wasn't from the approaching night. She had just violated her most sacred oath as a Genist.

"Shards" exhaled Yoj. "You mean -- I could have been -- "

Not you thought Prl. You're an XXY, like Qen. Some secrets she would never divulge, however.

"We've not made this public -- not even the Ethicists or Archivists have known -- because, well, it would create a crisis in family construction, wouldn't it? It could launch another period like the Troubles" said Prl.

"I can easily imagine that" said Yoj. "If just any two people could create children, with no Leave and no insistence on stability -- Rosz and Nilma might have had who knows how many."

"Or a single woman could use two of her own eggs and not have another emma at all" said Prl.

Yoj looked at her sharply. "Ah" she said.

Prl shrugged deflectively. "Conversation for another time, emma. I'd need abbas living with me, for one thing."

But Yoj was not going give up that line of thought so quickly. "We -- that tillage is in the blood of Qen and Veida, they'll never leave. And if people go on after death, then Yerush and Ng are still there, too. Bux won't give it up. We can't come here, even moving into the Archivist quarters" she said regretfully.

"I've thought about asking Lawa and Qala, when they retire" said Prl hesitantly. Yoj felt her blood go cold: Giving up primary access to Prl's children to others? Still, if it enabled Prl to aggie -- she'd find a way to be glad for them all.

"Anyhow, emma, the point is: If there's a new place on Skene, with its own government and population, too far away for us to tell them how to do things, they could redefine family without the same level of tumult it would cause here. Maybe" said Prl.

"But everyone here would know about it, and some would clamor for the same access" argued Yoj.

"Hence my question. How would it change our relationships? For better or worse?" said Prl.

Yoj said "I remember something Z'bef once told me: That what she learned from being on Peisuo was the value of not allowing yourself to get cornered. Of choosing to avoid the desperation of battle, which means a kind of thinking ahead, a maturity, that was not passed on to her by her emmas. Training to be a person, not an animal. She said it was ironic she finally acquired that training when she was separated from other people for all time."

After a pause, Prl said "How is she working out as a gakusha?"

"More students sign up for her classes than can be allowed in" smiled Yoj.

"I've found it intriguing that you, of all people, became close friends with an emmacide" said Prl.

"Yeah, it has bothered Halling, too" said Yoj.

"But not aggie?" asked Prl.


Silence pooled around them again for a while. Yoj said "If I may ask you to divulge a confidence about those no longer among us...did Yerush's emmas apply for Leave to have another child, beyond her? Do you know?"

Prl sucked her teeth briefly. "I do know. And yes, they did, but were denied."

Yoj sighed. "Well, my darling child, I don't have an answer inside me at this moment to the big questions you are asking. We'll have to talk this out further. I wish I could take it to Bux and Halling -- "

"Not yet" said Prl. "Eventually, I know. Even though this is a secret no Genist has divulged for generations now."

"Well, circumstances have changed, or are about to. You're right to know that" said Yoj. "I'll think for a week, and we can return to it next Empat." She stood and held out a hand to pull Prl to her feet. "I need to go home."

"Come get that cheese for the abbas" reminded Prl. "And I'll see you at Market, if not before."

"You're quite the groundbreaker" remarked Yoj as she followed Prl inside. "A Genist who does her own marketing, who attends plays and dances, who talks to ordinary people. Folks can't quite get over your combination of high service and everyday life."

"I was raised that way" said Prl, with a wide blue-eyed grin.

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008


(Lily Tomlin as Tommy Velour)

Here's part four of my nine-part series of quizzes about the Baby Boomer era, right after the fold.

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 are 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. Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Each of the stars in the first column were given their first shot at national exposure by appearances on one of the shows in the second column. Match them up.

Carol Burnett
Flip Wilson
Goldie Hawn
Jose Jimenez
Lily Tomlin
Muppets (first Muppet was Rowlf the Dog)
The Osmond Brothers
Pat Paulsen
Regis Philbin
Tiny Tim

The Andy Williams Show
The Dean Martin Show
The Dinah Shore Show
The Garry Moore Show
The Jimmy Dean Show
The Joey Bishop Show
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
The Steve Allen Show
The Tonight Show

Answers are here.



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


Raccolto and New Year rolled around again. After Halling got home from work, she checked the kids' homework, sent Speranz and Prl out front to play in the waning light, and assigned various tillage chores to the older three. Oby was there, as usual, so Halling gave her jobs as well. She ignored their groans and walked out back with them, heading to the duck and goose pen. She emptied the water trough over the fence into the garlic bed and began scrubbing it out. She was tired of how much they crapped in their own water. Another two weeks and it would be time to kill them, dress the carcasses, take a short breather and then plant sugar beets. This year, all five of the kids were going to do the incessant weeding and hoeing of the sugar beets -- let them earn their sugar.

It was also time for Mill to be taught how to slaughter the birds. She sighed, her hands numb from the chilly water as she scrubbed at the metal trough with a piece of steel wool. She wished she didn't have to be the one introducing Mill to adult hardships. But Ng and Mwezi had started her killing chickens when she was 12, so Mill was overdue. She could hear Mill and Oby now at the other end of the tillage, joking with each other as they turned the compost with forks.

Dodd was digging for potatoes and reshaping the hills. Ndege was down at Halling's end, cutting spinach for dinner, pulling onions and setting out a few more cabbage starts while the weather held. When Ndege was done, she rifled hopefully through the blackberry tangle for a few overlooked autumn fruit. She found one, popped it in her mouth, then promptly spit it back out.

Halling chuckled to herself as she began refilling the water trough and opened the feed bin. The ducks and geese set up a cacophony at the prospect of dinner. She poured a can of feed into the second trough, then immediately emptied the scraps bucket over it -- let them work for the good stuff.

When she turned around, Ndege was leaning against the gate into the duck yard. "Don't lean on that, it's not that sturdy" Halling said for the thousandth time. Ndege straightened , her upturned gilet full of yellow onions and dark green leaves. Her long bones seemed to be proportionally lengthening as she got older, and her high cheeks were gorgeous. She was a looker, even when the blank face she had now portended trouble.

"What's up?" said Halling, coming out the gate and latching it carefully. She walked over to the greenhouse door, to make sure it was shut against the cold night. Ndege trailed after her.

"I need to tell you something" Ndege said. Her tone was not one of dread, which meant she didn't think she was in trouble. Tattling, then. Halling tucked her hands into her pockets, seeking warmth, and faced her. "Do you need privacy, or can we do it in the house?" she asked.

Ndege glanced at the end of the tillage and said "I'd rather -- out here."

Halling sat down on one of the Isola Fling chairs they'd scattered around the tillage for Ng long ago, never removed because, in fact, it was nicer for everyone to weed sitting down. She suddenly missed Ng with an ache all the way through her middle. Ndege stood on one leg, then the other, and whispered "I saw Mill and Oby."

"Saw them what?"

Ndege's tone was prurient: "Kissing".

Ah, lev. Mill was 14, Oby 15. Way too early, still.

"And where did you see this, Ndege?"

"I came out here to pick some limes, remember, last weekend for lunch, emma sent me? And, well, I just happened to see inside Mill's window. They were lying on her bed, and Mill was laying on top of Oby, and they were kissing." She gave the final word the same spin as before.

"Did they see you?"

Ndege didn't tumble to the fact that if she wasn't sneaking peaks, the answer to this should be "Yes." She kept whispering to say "No."

"Well...." Halling pulled out her hands and rubbed them together. It was going to be a hard winter, no doubt about it. "First of all, I appreciate you telling me, Ndege. This is a serious matter, for our entire Manage, not just Mill." Ndege looked gratified.

"Have you mentioned this to anyone else?"

Ndege shook her head.

"Not even Gerra?" Halling was watching her closely, for the wide-open eyes and earnestness that would mean she was lying. But Ndege just shook her head again, and said "I wasn't sure which one of you to tell, emmas, I mean."

"Telling any one of us is the same as telling all. We don't keep secrets from each other. The thing is, I'm going to have to address this with Mill and Oby, because they will not be old enough to kiss and have -- intimacy -- of that nature until Mill is 16. I'm also going to have to tell Oby's emmas, one of whom, as you know, is the Ethicist of all Skene. This could mean bad trouble for them both. At the very least, it will hurt their feelings, what we'll have to tell them. It will likely hurt for two years. So if there's any part of you being glad that Mill is in trouble, you need to replace that with concern for your siba. Concern for our entire Manage." Halling's tone was soft and kind -- she imagined how Ng would say this, and tried to emulate that. Ndege's face fell.

"Also, I'm going to have to let Mill know how I found out about this -- that you looked in her window and violated her privacy. She's going to be hurt by that, too. I'll stress to her that you did the right thing, coming to tell me, and hopefully she'll be mature enough to understand that. But maturity is something you need to be trying to acquire for yourself as well. You will be a woman in four years; that may seem a long way off, but it's not, you'll need every minute to get ready." Now Ndege was intrigued and a little apprehensive.

"You must keep this secret, for the sake of our Manage, not just Mill. If it's bothering you, come and talk to any one of us, abbas or emmas. Even if you think we might be busy or have -- other worries, still, talk to us. And -- I want to say, when I was Mill's age, I loved Xaya the way she loves Oby. I had to struggle with what she and Oby are trying to figure out. It was extremely hard, and my heart is going out to her. Mill has pressure on her you don't and I hope you never have. And -- she knows her beloved abba Yerush is dying, we all know that, and she wants some comfort, somewhere. That may be the main reason she and Oby decided to begin kissing now, because they are so scared and bruised by having to watch Yerush die. So, I'll help her find another way to reach comfort, and I want to offer that to you as well. You need your sibs. Some day they will be all you have left of your childhood, as it is for me and my sibs -- we have no emmas any more. And I can't express to you how precious it is to me to be close to them. I wish that for your five, as well."

Halling seldom made a speech this long. Ndege's eyes were now full of tears. Halling pulled her close, the onions bulbous between them, and let Ndege cry on her shoulder. "You are a remarkable child, and I adore you. Thank you for trusting me" she murmured.

When they finally went to the back door, Dodd was already inside. Mill and Oby were finishing putting away the chickens. Halling emptied Ndege's gilet for her onto the table and told her to go wash up. Veida stared after her, noting her puffy eyes, and looked at Halling. "Later" Halling mouthed.

Qen was in bed with Yerush, rubbing her bones and listening to her talk. Halling washed the spinach and set it into a pan to steam. She said to Bux and Yoj at the stove, "We'll need to talk after dinner. With Mill and Oby. I think we'll need to send the other children over to Rark and Danaan's for an hour."

They both looked worried, but Halling said "It's all right. Or it will be." These days, they were each running a full schedule with work, public service, tillage, and Manage. Yoj was doing most of the caretaking of the two youngest children, Halling was handling the elders, and Bux was trying to keep her three emmas from as much heartache as possible. At night before they went to sleep, they listened to each other the dark for a few minutes, glad to be intact, to be still in love, to be healthy and warm and fed. It was a strategy for emergency times, but it kept working. They knew they could lean on one another.

Yerush joined them for dinner, as she did most nights. Veida would give her half a pain pill, enough to keep her from being in torment but not so much that she couldn't converse or eat. Being at the head of the table seemed to stimulate Yerush's appetite, and they were all determined to keep her taking in nourishment. She was becoming gaunt, except for disturbing bulges here and there. Veida said the tumors were consuming her sustenance.

Veida was also focused on keeping Yerush's bowels moving. She knew that intestinal obstruction was common on strong pain medications, and if that occurred, surgery would be out of the question at this advanced stage. She didn't want Yerush to die that particular way. She had created a laxative tea which she laced heavily with sugar and coaxed into Yerush at every meal. A couple of weeks earlier, Speranz had surreptitiously down half a cup of Yerush's undrinken tea, after seeing the sugar spooned into it. She had been up all night with severe diarrhea, which Bux and Halling had found hilarious -- "She won't pull that stunt again", said Bux. Yoj was, however, not entertained, likely because she was the one who had sat up with Speranz and because laundry was her chore.

After dinner, Halling walked over to talk briefly with the Manage behind them. Rark and Danaan looked at one another and said "We had to deal with the same issue. We managed to wait, and it was good for us. We'll be glad to talk to them both, when it's a good time."

Halling thanked them, and Danaan walked back with her to invite the younger children for an hour of play. Once they were out of the house, Mill and Oby -- who had been asked to stay behind -- sat apprehensively at the table with the emmas, Qen and Veida. Yerush had been given her pain injection, the reward she accepted for the ordeal of sitting up through dinner, and was in a drugged sleep.

Halling led the discussion and covered the same ground she had with Ndege. She put her arm around Mill as Mill wept, and when Oby finally broke down, Qen comforted her. Halling ascertained they had, so far, only kissed; they seemed to be not entirely clear on what else they might do with one another.

"Well, and that's the point" Halling said. "When you're ready for this part of your life, you'll be sure about the process. But you have to grow into it. Remember last summer, Mill, when Qala let you try out the training program in that rigged lighter, on the ground? Despite her giving you the easiest tests and being wholly biased in your favor, what happened?"

Mill, redfaced, said "I crashed three times before I finally gave up."

"You're a talented child, with every reason to excel as a pilot. But your body isn't ready to handle the task. Just like when Speranz was a baby, she understood what we were saying yet could not speak in Skenish back to us yet. If you try to become lovers before you're ready for it, you'll crash. It won't take your life, but it might damage your relationship permanently. And if you truly love each other and want to be together forever, you won't take that risk."

"Did you wait with Xaya?" asked Mill.

"I did. We kissed some, and I got -- very scared. And she could tell how scared I was. She loved me more than she -- wanted pleasure. She insisted we hold off until I could be with her, not numb with fear." Halling's eyes filled with tears. "She was so good to me."

After that, it was easy for Halling to extract promises from them that they would not continue kissing, and would hold off becoming lovers until Mill was 16. Halling said to Oby pointedly "This means you will reach the point of readiness ahead of her. I'm counting on your honor as well as your caring for her." Oby's grey eyes flashed as she said "Yes, Nan Halling."

Qen suggested they stop sleeping together almost every night, and limit it to twice a week. Mill and Oby both rebeled at that, outraged, and Qen said "I won't force it on you. But I want you to consider it. Removing yourself from temptation is one of the lessons of adulthood."

Halling told them that Rark and Danaan were available for conversation, which mortified Mill. Oby, however, said "That would be good." Then Halling said she was going to have to relay this conversation to Oby's emmas. Oby looked like she might pass out, and Mill began begging Halling to hold off.

"No, they love Oby" said Halling, "and trust me, we all know what this is like. They'll understand, and it will help you both to have them on your side as well." At that point, Halling stood and said "Let's walk Oby home for tonight, Mill. I'll talk with her emmas, and she can sleep at home tonight. You'll see each other at school again tomorrow."

They went out the front door, two of the three wretched. Yoj walked back to their neighbors to bring home the other children and get them ready for bed. As the three of them were finally in the dark together, at the end of another day, Bux said "If you'd said yes, when I was Mill's age, I'd not have waited, I don't think." Yoj answered "I know I wouldn't have. But I wasn't smart in certain ways then. Not yet. I had luck and substitute emmas keeping me from total self-destruction at critical junctures."

"Mill's in good shape" said Halling drowsily. "Thanks to you both."

"What did Api say?" asked Yoj.

"She didn't look surprised. And she's the Ethicist, she doesn't rile easily" murmured Halling.

"Oby's like her. Good choice on Mill's part" observed Bux. But Halling was now asleep.

A week later, Yerush stopped being able to sit up for dinner. Her bones simply wouldn't support her without agony any longer. She told Qen she didn't want to get shut away in the bedroom -- "I don't want to die in here" she whispered, "not in our bed". So Bux and Yoj opened the couch bed, lined it with two extra feather mattresses and a leak-proof pad, and Halling gently carried Yerush into the living room to be with them at all times.

Despite her now having to wear diapers and her frequent moans, Yerush retained her dignity. When the children came home from school, they sat down quietly around her bed and, if she was awake, told her the highlights of their day. Bux and Qen took turns feeding her, when she could eat. Veida bathed her, with Ndege's willing help, and at night Yoj read to her for an hour before bed instead of telling the children stories, the children gathered around to listen.

Eventually Yerush refused to eat any more, claiming it hurt her jaw to chew. Veida arranged for a curandera visit, who set them up with an intravenous line and bottles of clear liquid that dripped slowly into Yerush's thin arm. Finding a vein took 17 tries -- Yoj counted.

Letters were sent to Culisa and Paha. Paha came right away, sleeping in Halling's office at the Lofthall and spending her days at the Manage. Culisa came on the weekend. By that time, the pain medicine Veida was injecting into the line lasted less than two hours before Yerush would begin crying out again, even in her sleep, a sometimes constant low moaning that Yoj heard as a rhythm like breathing. Yerush woke up less and less. When she did, she was usually not clear about who she was talking to, and her mind rummaged around through memory.

She turned to Yoj at one point and said "I didn't want to be pregnant, you know. I was always sick, except with Bux, and it damaged my career at the U for a while. But we tried and tried, and finally they said Qen couldn't have the babies. And there was no question of leaving Qen without babies, was there? So I went to Dest. That's when I began meeting with Raisa. And then I got pregnant with you, Paha, and that's when I met Veida. So it was the right thing, after all, for me to have the babies. But Qen and Veida were far better emmas than me, I know."

She confused Prl with Bux and Yoj with someone in her past named Ubal, a childhood playmate from the sound of it. She said to Halling, "Do you remember the first time we made love, my dear Eeda? You made me cry, I was so surprised by that." She reached out a hand and Halling, with red cheeks, took it gently and kissed it. One afternoon, when the pain shot had worn off way too soon, as Veida came to measure another dose into the syringe, Yerush looked at her with eyes turned dark by wide pupils and said "You remember your promise to me, right, Eeda? You won't let me down?"

"I'll never let you down" said Veida. Bux, the only other person in the room, felt a chill at this exchange.

Two days later, on Roku, the pain shots weren't lasting even an hour. Nobody went to Market. Qala and Lawa were there, along with Paha and Tlochin, Culisa, Iro, Ektr, and Rark. Danaan was out front trying to keep distraught children in play for a bit. Mill and Oby, however, elected to stay in the living room.

That morning, Qen had sent a note by Mill to the Genist. There had been no reply.

Yerush's moans had become sharp cries, ragged and almost continuous. A fine sheen of sweat covered her dark yellow skin. Qen was stretched beside her, one arm under Yerush's neck, and Veida sat on the other side of her, rubbing ointment into spots bulbous with tumor.

Bux got another wet washcloth to wipe Yerush's face. Veida took it from her, however, and began stroking it across Yerush's forehead. Yerush opened her eyes and stared directly in Veida's face. "Oh, my love, I'm so sorry" she breathed. "It's time. I can't bear it."

Yoj thought she saw Veida's spine collapse on itself just a little. Veida kissed Yerush's forehead and said "All right. You've been so brave. Thank you for this year."

Yerush had gone back into her private torment, however, with closed eyes and tossing of her head. Qen turned to wrap herself around Yerush. Paha looked at Oby and said "We're going to need your emma, honey. Do you think you can go find her?"

Oby was on her feet instantly. She paused, bent to kiss Mill's cheek, and went swiftly out the door. Rark followed to call in Danaan and the children. She whispered to them in the doorway, picking up Speranz. Prl and Dodd came to lean on Yoj, and Ndege slid into Lawa's lap. Halling had her arm around Mill.

Veida reached down to her leather bag beside the bed and pulled from it a different syringe, along with a small glass bottle. Qen was whispering "I love you, Yerush, I will always love you." Bux saw Veida's hands trembling as she filled the syringe and held it to the light, making sure of the amount. Suddenly, Bux stood and crossed to her, saying "Emma, I can't let you be the one to do this. She's your sweetheart, and I know she asked you, and we know you'll live up to her trust -- but I don't want you to carry this, you've always been so strong. I'm -- give me the syringe, emma."

Veida looked into Bux's face, a tortured mix of hope and argument there. Bux gently took the syringe from her hands, saying "It's all right. I want to do this for you." The expression on Bux's face was pure Yerush, thought Yoj, except far, far more beautiful.

Veida lay down beside Yerush and Bux tenderly lifted Yerush's arm with the line in it. She leaned forward to look at the line, and once more, Yerush's eyelids flickered open.

"Bux" she said clearly. "You've forgiven me, then."

Bux hesitated before saying "A long time ago, aggie. I forgave you completely." Yoj stopped breathing for a minute. No telling what had come out of Yerush during the last few weeks.

"I never meant you harm" said Yerush.

"I know" said Bux, tears spilling down her cheeks.

"You'll look after them always, you promise?" said Yerush, her breathing almost a gasp.

"I treasure them" said Bux.

"Let's go, then" said Yerush, with her old crisp tone. She closed her eyes and turned to kiss Qen on the lips. Bux carefully slid the needle into the line and, as Yerush turned to kiss Veida, she pushed in the plunger.

Two minutes later, an incomprehensible stillness had settled over Yerush. Speranz wailed, and it was easiest for everyone to join her. When Api walked in, the entire room was in terrible grief. She stood in the doorway, her arms around Oby in front of her, until the coroner arrived.

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.


Monday, January 14, 2008


Here's part three of my nine-part series of quizzes about the Baby Boomer era, right after the fold.

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. Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


1. From what 60's source did the 80's band "Duran Duran" get their name?

2. Why was the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey named HAL?

3. What incident is being referred to in the song "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield which begins "Something's happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear / There's a man with a gun over there / Telling me I got to beware"?

4. Name three of the four members of The Mamas and the Papas.

5. Hermann Hesse, a German-Swiss novelist, poet, and Nobel Prize winner, died in 1962. His writing had a heavy influence on the thinking and art of the 1960s. In particular, one of his books inspired the name of a very popular rock band and also shaped the lyrics of another extremely well-known rock song (not by the same group) that became the soundtrack for an Academy Award-winning movie in 1967. Name both rock groups, the song and the Hesse book.

6. What TV star managed to have strong TV roles from 1954 to 1983, eventually winning an Emmy, in eight very popular shows, including December Bride, Dragnet, and M*A*S*H*? For extra points, name two of his three characters.

7. What was the significance of the Tet Offensive?

8. How many of the Chicago Seven can you name?

Super-duper prestige points if you can answer any of the following:
(a) What December Bride co-star of the star mentioned in Question #6 is reported to have had a torrid affair with Marjorie Main?
(b) Who was the father of Mama Cass's daughter Owen?
(c) What's the difference between Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush?

Answers are here.



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


The month before school let out, it was a burnished blue-sky day, warm and gentle. Bux had promised to harvest tomatoes and can them per Yerush's instructions, while Yerush basked on their patch of grass and let the katts claim her lap in succession. Yoj walked down to the general store to buy more lids for the jars they already had. She had placed them on the counter and was fishing in her pocket for coins when Sigrist radio came on, Kint's voice saying with a tone of disbelief:

"Ethicist to the ferry landing by Bohaira atoll! And -- Sheng Zhang of the Lofthall! There's a -- watercraft -- en route to Skene from Peisuo. Leviathan activity strong, tide is moderate and coming in, all ferries should be stopped and cortices avoided."

Yoj broke and ran out the door, followed by the storeowner. They were immediately part of a throng in the streets, everyone thudding along the cobbles past the U and Lofthall, turning right at the jichang and coming to the rear of a crowd collected by the sewage tanks overlooking the Southern Wasa. Yoj was searching for Halling, not sure if she'd actually come to the edge or stay at the Lofthall to direct activities. She didn't find her, but she saw Veida and they joined arms, pushing their way to the front.

Halling was there, flanked by three off-duty pilots, her binoculars trained on the Southern Wasa. Even from this distance, Yoj could clearly see an impossibly small boat with outriggers on either side and a big square sail billowed out in front. On the sail was reproduced, in vivid color, the lightning-bolt insignia which was painted on the underside of Rark and Danaan's lighters. The figure in the boat was too small to make out, except with that wild white hair and her point of origin, who else could it be but Z'bef?

Z'bef, trying to sail back to Skene.

The water around her was so thick with leviathans, it was already turning ruddy. She looked straight ahead, trying to adjust her sail with some kind of pole. There was a small chop, and Yoj couldn't tell if the bobbing of the boat was due to that or, sickeningly, levis bumping against it.

Halling looked at Yoj, handed her the binoculars, then said to two of the pilots: "Get in the air. Escort her. Light for her. But no lasers." They plunged into the crowd behind them.

Yoj was gazing through the glasses at Z'bef's face. Terror and grim determination were there in equal measure. Yoj could see that stretching from each side of the boat to the pontoon were other pieces of cloth, and from the bleed-through on the back of it, she realized the lightning-bolt symbols were also displayed there, facing down into the water: Z'bef was making the bluff of a lifetime.

Yoj handed the binoculars to Veida and said to Halling, "I -- how has she made it this far? How did she do this?"

"Desperation" said Halling. "Listen, I think I need to be on the radio with those two in the air, I'm sure the Sigrist will give me a running description. Can I leave you here?" Just then, the Ethicist reached them. Veida handed over the binoculars to Api, and Yoj said "We've got it covered. Go be Sheng Zhang."

The Ethicist studied the boat for several minutes. Finally she said "It's corrugated metal sheets from the chicken coop, folded and pinched. I have no idea how she's made it watertight. The sail is one of her bedsheets. I don't see any weapons; indeed, there's nothing in the boat at all except her."

"It looks to me like she's trying to get it to come in this direction, but something's fighting her -- the tide, I guess" said Veida. She looked to their left and said "There's a strong current going into the mesh gates at the atoll, I bet that's got ahold of her."

"At what point will it be too shallow for the levs to keep beside her?" Yoj asked Api.

"Usually it's ten meters out from an atoll. But -- " She didn't need to finish. That wouldn't stop a reckless juvenile. And they were also less likely to be intimidated by the lightning bolt.

Yoj turned and began threading her way toward the atoll wall. She could feel Veida right behind her. She heard Api say "What do you have in mind?" but neither of them answered.

When she got to the atoll, it was a 1.5 meter drop to its surface from where she stood on the paving, and the wall's top surface was covered with lichen and sea-lice. Wavelets regularly splashed over it, and it was only half a meter wide. But Z'bef was now 15 meters away from the center of the atoll, and it was clear she was going to bang up against it, hard. Yoj saw Z'bef's face turned toward her. Two glittery lighers suddenly dropped into view, buzzing the water behind the boat and doing a tail-flash away from Skene. A few leviathans were seen to give chase. But most did not.

Yoj pointed to the atoll wall and said to Veida "Help me get down there."

Veida's strong arms wrapped around her wrists, no questions asked, and Yoj slid down facing the yanja wall of the jetty until she felt the atoll under her otos. She got her footing and turned to look at her path. The smell of ketone was strong. She heard Veida say "Hey, give me a hand, too." She turned back and saw Veida preparing to scramble down, to join her. She put her hands on Veida's ass and balanced her, until they were standing together on the wall.

"We're gonna make a giant mouthful" said Veida. Pilot humor thought Yoj, but she laughed and felt stronger. She began walking, carefully but steadily, toward the point where Z'bef was going to reach the atoll. Veida had one hand on her back waistband of her ku. She was glad Bux and the children were not here to watch this. She laughed again, thinking she was just as scared of Bux at the moment as of the leviathans.

Z'bef's small, irregular prow hit the atoll with a metallic crash, and the boat was immediately swept sideways, repeatedly banging the rock and tilting the outrigger up so that Z'bef almost fell out the other side. She leaned toward the atoll to balance herself, but the current was relentless and it was all she could do to stay more or less upright on her knees. When Yoj got level with her, she sat down on the wall facing the side of the boat. Z'bef was three feet away. She reached out a hand, and their fingertips touched.

"You're going to have to jump for it" she said.

Z'bef looked crazed. She glanced to her left, and Yoj saw a baby lev was in the water right next to the atoll. It was a foot longer than she was, and much thicker around the middle. She could see its eyes, two slanting rows of them, looking at her keenly. Veida said "Let me get past you" and she came to straddle the wall on Yoj's other side, away from the lev, lowering her legs into the water a foot and anchoring herself with her thighs.

"Okay" Veida said to Z'bef. "You've come this far."

Without warning, Z'bef lunged herself upwards and leaped toward them. Yoj caught her just as she used to catch her children jumping from the ladder. Z'bef's legs went into the water past her knees, but she flung her arms around Yoj's waist and Yoj pulled her upward, Veida's powerful arm grabbing Z'bef's pants at the back and almost sending them all tumbling over the other side. It took a few terrifying seconds for Z'bef to get stable, sitting between them as Veida scooted back. The baby lev was motionless, still watching.

Yoj leaned on Z'bef to stand up, then pulled her shakily to her feet. Yoj said "If we move slowly, maybe its pursuit instinct won't get triggered." Veida said "Go on, give me a few feet clearance." Z'bef now holding onto Yoj's waistband, they began walking back to the landing. Yoj could tell there was a huge, silent crowd there, but she dared not look up and meet their gaze. After several steps, Veida said "Hang on." Yoj looked carefully around and saw Veida muscle the boat up over the wall, into the atoll, and drop it in Bohaira. Then she stood and came to meet them, her hand on Z'bef's back. They continued their linked progress to the landing.

The baby lev turned around effortlessly, with a single rippling sound, and glided along beside them. Yoj was aware of it as a pinky-grey fluidity in her left peripheral vision. She kept focused on the surface beneath her feet, and her own breath. Suddenly, the yanja face of the landing was in front of her. She was able to look up, then, and Halling's eyes filled her with light.

Halling was lying down, both arms over the edge, and said "Give me your hands." Yoj gladly reached up, and Halling pulled her onto the landing with a grunt. Yoj got to her feet and turned to help, but Halling already had Z'bef halfway up. Yoj got out of the way. There was a clear space around them; except for Api, no one wanted to get near the edge of the landing.

Yoj turned to look at the baby levi. What she had thought was waves lapping at the edge of the baugey, she now realized, was the sound of water being moved in and out of the leviathan's mouth: She remembered Halling once telling her it was something to do with how they treaded water. A few meters beyond it were several huge leviathans, also watching her. She stayed near the edge, not afraid.

Veida used her otos on the yanja wall to help lift herself, and she arrived beside Halling, upright and grinning ferally. Halling stood, also, and locked an arm around Yoj's neck, whispering "Lev you, that was magnificent, don't you ever do that again without me!"

Api, too, was right there among them. Z'bef faced her and looked her in the eyes, then dropped to her knees with an audible impact. She put her hands on Api's feet, and burst into tears.

The crowd behind them exhaled in unison, as if everyone had been holding their breath. Api put her hand on Z'bef's hair, bent over and said "Stand. You're back on Skene, we stand on Skene." She helped Z'bef upright again, and put her arm through Z'bef's -- not in a custodial way, but supportively.

The baby levi suddenly leaped, in an arc away from the landing and toward the row of adult levs, almost coming down on top of her elders. The height of her jump made it clear she would have found it easy to attack them. The crowd screamed and some of them actually fell down backwards. Yoj was still not afraid.

"Let's go to the Lofthall, it's closest" offered Halling. The crowd parted, and they began walking. Halling said to a couple of jigongs nearby "Please pull that boat out of Bohaira and bring it to the jichang, intact. No risks, mind you." The two lighters buzzed the crowd on their way back to the jichang, landing seconds later.

A kelp sinning crew had come in, and by the time they got to the Lofthall, they were entirely surrounded by yellow and blue uniforms. Z'bef was visibly shaking. Halling directed her contingent into the dispatch room but closed the door on everyone else except to ask one pilot to bring them a tray with tea and food. Qala stood from the radio to present a chair to Z'bef, and she sat down, her eyes showing a great deal of white.

Yoj was the first to speak. She said "Nice painting on that sail. Apparently as good as the real thing."

Z'bef met her eyes, and the wildness of her expression vanished as she burst into laughter. Everyone else laughed too, in hysterical release. Api stepped toward Z'bef, and Veida came up behind her chair in a protective stance. Api, however, shook her hand and said "I'm Api, Ethicist of all Skene."

"I know" said Z'bef. "I am Z'bef, exile of Peisuo."

"Not really any more" said Api, and they all laughed again.

Api pulled a chair beside her and said "Well, the question now is, what do we do with you? There is no provision in the law for this. No one has ever escaped from Peisuo."

"I know" said Z'bef, her voice rusty. "I read the entire legal code of Skene. You can make an interim decision but it will have to come to a Vote. In the meantime, technically I'm not a citizen so I can't be detained under any legitimate authority. However, in my own best interests, I'd rather surrender to your judgment, let you reassure the populace, and find safe haven until the next Vote is due."

Api gaped at her. "You prepared well" she said, finally. "But the Vote isn't for months."

"My cousin's offer still stands" said Z'bef. "Bosco is sparse, and is my home community. If I can make it there, I'll pose no risk to greater Skene."

Api began laughing again. A knock came at the door, and Halling answered it, bringing in the tray. She began pouring tea and handed Z'bef a plate with a lamb and tomato sandwich. Qala continued to answer radio calls, terse and unflappable.

Yoj said "She can come home with us tonight. We'll get you some clothes and a haircut, you look like a storm ghost. We'll vouch for her until her cousin gets here" she said to Api. Halling and Veida nodded.

"Impressive allies" Api said to Z'bef, who was eating her sandwich with intense relish.

"I leave it to you. If you'd rather lock me up here, I'll be fine" said Z'bef, her mouth full. "I do ask, however, that someone go to Peisuo and feed my katts, put away the chickens tonight. Their roost is, for the time being, in the storage shed."

"I'll find a caretaker" said Api. "Eat your fill, and let think a minute."

Qala said "We actually have a pair of new pilots we could send out there. They're trained enough to fly, but we don't have craft for them to use this week because two lighters are in the jigong shop. We could drop them off by sinner."

Api looked at her, then Halling who nodded, and said "That would be ideal."

As Halling went to the door to notify the trainees of their new posting, Z'bef said to Qala "You're Qala, I recognize your voice. You are a real comfort, you'll never know."

Qala's eyes grew soft. Yoj said "She is a comfort, to all of Skene."

After Z'bef was done eating, Api stood and said "Is Yerush able to receive visitors at the moment?"

"She will be for this" said Veida, smiling.

"Let's go to your Manage, then. Yoj, I like your suggestion of making Z'bef look more like a citizen, less like -- an exile. And I could use Yerush's insight" said Api. Qala arranged a replacement for her at the radio; she wasn't about to miss this. Api requested a passenger lighter be sent to pick up Z'bef's cousin -- "Just the cousin, mind" -- and bring her back to the Lofthall.

When they emerged from the Lofthall, a crowd was still gathered, staring at the outrigger boat which was dripping seawater onto the jichang. Halling instructed a few pilots to put it into the main hall and keep hands off it until Api could investigate it. Api said to Z'bef conversationally, "How did you know to build it?"

"Years of reading" said Z'bef, jittery at all the people lining the lane to watch her pass by. "You'd be surprised what details are available in ancient poetry."

"What surprises me is your ability to put it all together. Not to mention the courage" said Api.

"I didn't really think I'd make it" said Z'bef faintly. "It just reached the point where I had to try." Api glanced at her sideways, and put her arm through Z'bef's again.

When Veida walked in the front door of the Manage, Yerush was sitting at the dining table in her wheelchair, arguing with Bux that Bux should go to the Lofthall, she'd be fine on her own. Bux heaved a sigh of relief and raced across the room when she saw Yoj, throwing herself into Yoj's arms. She whispered to her fiercely, "Did you really go out on that baugey with leviathans at your fingertips?"

Yoj said "I did. Guess I'm not as afraid of them as I thought I was." Bux's grip on her was almost painful. Yoj added "I was thinking about you the whole time -- I think you were my safety rope."

But their attention was caught by Yerush's face, illuminated with delight and interest, when she saw Z'bef with Api. "Come here and sit down, welcome" called out Yerush. Veida kissed her before she began assembling tea -- no matter what, Skeners made tea.

Z'bef sat down in Qen's chair and said "You are the famous Nan Yerush, I recognize you from your photos. I hope Yoj conveyed to you my gratitude for the law revision you attempted years ago."

"She did, but it was my honor to perform. I'm sorry it didn't pass; it's a change Skene needs to make for its own good" answered Yerush.

A knock came at the door, but before anyone could answer it, Rark and Danaan let themselves in, their hair unkempt, their eyes huge. "We thought you might want us" Rark said, trying to be apologetic even as she stared at Z'bef.

"Come on in" said Halling. Api sat on the other side of Z'bef. Halling, Bux and Yoj took their usual places. The pilots opted to stand in a row behind Halling. Seeing Yerush more closely, Yoj could tell she had not taken any pain medication lately. The veins of her neck and forehead were clearly showing, an indication of strain.

Veida set down plates and a cherry pie she'd been saving for the weekend, as well as tea. Z'bef looked at the pie, and Yerush said "Cut yourself a piece, don't wait for us." Under Z'bef's baggy and threadbare clothes, she looked painfully thin.

Api repeated to Yerush the legal assessment Z'bef had given her, adding "I can't find fault with it. How about you?"

Yerush was having the time of her life. "I agree. But when law goes against public sentiment on Skene, the dissonance is extremely problematic, and will undo the good work of any Ethicist who ignores it." Api grinned and cut herself a piece of pie as well. Yerush continued "So the puzzle is, how to determine the will of Skene, how to balance that with the law, and how to do justice by Z'bef in the process. Correct?"

"In a nutshell" said Api.

Yerush said to Z'bef, "Are you truly reformed, or merely at the end of your wits?"

Z'bef laughed explosively, blowing a crumb toward Yerush, who ignored it. "I believe I was reformed within my first month on Peisuo. But I'd say that in any event, wouldn't I?"

Yoj looked down the table at Yoj and said "What do you think?"

"I trust her to be in this Manage when my children come home" said Yoj.

"And you waded lev broth to go pluck her back among us" mused Yerush. "How many people saw you do that?"

"Most of Riesig" said Api. She told Yerush what Z'bef had done when she reached solid land as well.

"Well-played" Yerush said to Z'bef. "Not that it was playing, necessarily." Yerush picked up a spoon and helped herself to a mouthful of pie from the dish, something they hadn't seen her do in weeks. Her appetite was whetted.

"What day is today?" Yerush asked Veida. It was a minor jolt, realizing Yerush had lost track of time.

"Empat" Veida answered tenderly.

"Good" said Yerush, speaking with crisp collection. "I suggest you announce on Sigrist radio that you will conduct an open forum on Sju, starting at noon, for anyone who wishes to argue for or against reinstatement of citizenship for Z'bef. Hold it here, at the U or Lofthall, to dissociate it from her previous trial and to give it a different kind of authority. In the meantime, announce she is residing here with us until noon tomorrow, which will give residents of Bosco time to register a protest against her returning there to stay with her cousin. If there is no objection -- and there won't be, because Bosco will be overcome with curiosity and will want to lay eyes on her, they'll relish the fame of housing her and that will win out over any residual worries -- be sure to announce over Sigrist by Roku that Bosco has accepted Z'bef living among them. It might be prudent to place her on some kind of trial, a six-month period of accountability, to be reviewed at the end of that and decisions made final. How does that sound?" Yerush was clearly pleased with her mind's abilities. She took another bite of pie.

Before Api could answer, Veida said "We can't ask her here until we consult with Qen. She'll say yes, but -- "

"Oh, of course" said Yerush. Danaan said "I'll run to the school and ask her, if you wish. She ought to be informed about what's occurring, anyhow, she'll be avid for information."

"Thanks" said Halling. "And if you see any of the children, tell them we're all okay and to come straight home after school."

Qala headed out the door.

Z'bef cleared her throat again and said "I have -- an amendment. I'd like to stay here, meet the children, have dinner with you. But -- I'm overwhelmed with all the -- liberty and faces. Could I possibly sleep somewhere enclosed and private tonight?"

"I'll give you my room at the Lofthall, it has a cot and a locking door" offered Halling. "If that's agreeable to Qala, her room opens off the same office."

Qala grinned and said it was fine by her. Api put down her fork and said "It's an excellent plan. If you are reformed and pull this off, it will coax Skene into a change of view. If you misbehave, I'll be voted out of office swiftly and the next Ethicist will deal with you extremely harshly." She was smiling to take some of the bite from her words, but Yoj knew she was quite right.

Bux stood up and said "We're going about this meal backwards. It's past lunch, I'll get us something solid to eat." Yoj went to help her. Veida reached to the sideboard for Yerush's pills, but Yerush said "Not yet. I want a chance to talk with Z'bef, if she's willing, about the reality of exile." When Z'bef nodded, Veida grabbed the ointment instead and said "Let me at least massage the worst places." However, Z'bef offered "I'd like to do that, if I may. I'm rather good at -- touch."

"How you have been wasted" said Yerush softly. She handed the ointment to Z'bef and rolled up her sleeves, saying "Wrists first. They're in agony."

Qala returned to the Lofthall to escort Z'bef's cousin to the Manage. Danaan returned with Qen's consent and a plea to not let Z'bef leave until she got home, which tickled Yerush. After lunch, Api aired a smoothly-worded announcement from the Manage over Sigrist radio. Yoj and Z'bef's cousin collaborated on cutting her hair and choosing clothes for her from Yerush's chest, at Yerush's insistence.

When Z'bef emerged from the bath room, she looked ten years younger. But the hurt in her eyes was still unlike anything Yoj had ever seen. Halling and the pilots returned to the Lofthall, removing public perception that Z'bef needed to be guarded while at their Manage. The rumor mills were in overdrive.

As Yerush had predicted, Bosco escorted Z'bef home in grand style. On Sju, Z'bef was reinstated as a "newborn citizen", the only objection coming in written form from a crank on Juh who wrote angry letters about almost everything that happened on Skene. Their children, plus Oby, basked in glamor for weeks at school with stories of how the exile knew them all by name, how their emma and abba had walked the atoll next to leviathans, and how they would be going to Bosco monthly to visit Z'bef.

The chickens and katts of Peisuo were delivered to Z'bef on Bosco, along with crates of her drawings and journals. She had requested that all the books and art supplies remain on Peisuo, for whatever unfortunate arrived there next -- except Yoj's volume of songs, she asked for that returned to her. Yoj was the one who flew out to Peisuo and boxed up her belongings -- Z'bef fell into severe trembling at the mention of her returning to sort through her things. Yoj also harvested all she could from the fine tillage Z'bef had created and donated the food to the school. Z'bef herself began to eat and put on weight.

Yerush, once the challenge was over, did not.

Yoj had a private conversation with Veida about nutrition and the favorite dishes of both Yerush and Qen. She began writing out a weekly menu for all 24 meals at the Manage, with lists of what they didn't grow themselves. She gave copies to Qala and Lawa, as well as herself, and rarer items began appearing regularly: Avocado, pork roasts, goose livers, whole milk custards, strawberries, hazelnuts, plus fresh oranges every day. Yoj walked the kids to school and on the way talked about how Qen and Yerush were going to be given first and extra helpings to "help their bodies", enlisting their secret help.

The regimen worked with Qen. Her gaunt cheeks, emphasizing her large nose, began slowly filling back in. Her color was better, and although she rapidly caught on to the ruse -- Speranz and Prl's whispers about "give abba the avocado salad bowl first" were loud and clumsy -- she didn't fight it. She was using everything she had on Yerush's behalf, which was a just excuse in her opinion.

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.