Friday, October 16, 2009

Maggie's Doing Great

Just talked with the Recovery Room Nurse... Maggie's doing GREAT.

She came through surgery like a champ. She's already talking. I should be speaking with her in another few hours.

Everything went well. Got out the hernias; fixed everything that needed fixing.

Looks to me to be about a five hour surgery, which is really flying. *smiles* Good for the entire team. Well done. And Hot Damn.

I'm so happy. Can't seem to stop smiling. Now Maggie has a decent shot at getting adequately older. *smiles* What a wonderful, beautiful gift.

Cross-posted at Meta Watershed and Group News Blog.

Update Sat 10/17/09 1:00 am PT:

Just finished a 20-30 minute talk with both Maggie and her swing-shift nurse.

Maggie is doing really, really well. Her oxygen level is in the low 90s, her other vital signs are all good. She's not peeing very much yet but it's only about 12 hours after surgery yet so that's fine. The drainage from the the surgical drain looks good (no sign of infection at all) and there's precisely the right amount of drainage (not too much, not too little.) Her mood is good, she's fully present and oriented, for a woman in her early 50s twelve hours after major fracking (emergency) abdominal surgery, Maggie is in such good condition one might think she's a) 30 years younger, b) 200 pounds lighter, c) being watched over and protected by her (deceased) mother as well as other beings beyond our understanding (and in which many people do not believe), d) pick and choose any or all of the above plus more and similar possibilities, and/or e) the best surgical hospital, the best surgical team, best anesthesiology, OR nursing and OR team in Austin, has done some truly remarkable work.

However you want to attribute this. From the ER at University being on diversion so Maggie ended up here, to Maggie shifting her entire public identity by putting in her own NG tube, to the best surgical team deciding this would be an "interesting" case for them to take on, to the best anesthesiology team working with the best surgical team and then Maggie scaring the living hell out of them with her story of the anoxia she suffered in anesthesia in her last surgery, meaning that this time a BUNCH of the best anesthesiologists watched her like hawks all through surgery, all through the recovery room (where normally it's just Recovery Room nurses) and all the way into the ICU step-down unit till she was CLEARLY herself and fine. Plus the nurses hearing all over the place about the NG Tube to the point that it's this BFD (big fracking deal.)

Listen campers... I got on the phone today to talk with Maggie for the first time after her surgery, got her nurse in the ICU step-down, a lovely young woman. After I identified myself (there's a code involved which they verify against the chart; not just anyone can call up and crash the system) I asked for a report. She gave it to me and then, SHE told me about how Maggie put in her own NG tube Thursday. She told me that. Out of nowhere. Then she said, "When I grow up, I want to be like Maggie."


That, my dears, is shifting one's public identity powerfully. No longer the poor fat broad, but the woman who is pure guts and courage to do whatever it takes while being wonderful to the people around her. That... that is Maggie. And these young women in their twenties and thirties are now so clear about who Maggie IS that the fat broad identity is invisible to them (except medically) that all they can see is a hero to live up to, someone who leaves people around them in better shape after every interaction. Which is the canonical definition of Nurse.

We talked till she got tired. We'll talk again in the morning.

A few hundred dollars came in today. We really need a few THOUSAND dollars (at least) in order to meet rent, electric, water, cat food, and other bills. PLEASE please please donate if you haven't yet done so. Subscribing (committing to a monthly $200, $100, or $50) is even better. That way Maggie is assured as she recovers of having her bills paid. This is going to be a slow, long recovery. Maggie's not great at asking for money, and while I have no problem with doing so, I'd like to just have enough coming in that it's done. Please subscribe to Maggie's well-being. If we can get Two Grand in monthly subscriptions we'd be in wonderful shape.

She wasn't quite in shape today for me to read her your various notes. I did make certain she knew how much people are writing to her and how much people love her. She got it COMPLETELY. She wants y'all to know she loves you right back. Really and truly she does. She was very moved and wanted to make certain I made sure you knew how much she loves you. So get it, dammit. *smiles* Tomorrow, depending on her condition, I'll take a shot at reading her specific comments and emails (we shall see) depending on how she's doing.

That's it for tonight. Keep your comments coming, as well as your donations. Even better, take out a Subscription on Maggie's Well-being. *grins* Give her the gift of six months or a year of recovery.

*hugs* to all. Goodnight.


Maggie Jochild to have Surgery Today

Maggie and Mary Jo Atkins Barnett, December 1956, at the British Embassy Christmas Party in Kolkata, India. photo from Meta Watershed,

Donations Still Needed

Maggie's surgery is scheduled for 7:30 am Central Time today (Friday.) It will last quite some time. I will likely speak with her for a minute or so, about 5:30 am just before she's taken to pre-op. If not, we talked at length Thursday.

For those of you new to the story, here is when Maggie was admitted to the hospital

I hold Maggie's medical power-of-attorney, and also am acting as her attorney-in-fact, with her dear friend Martha Legare handling the money (at my request) as while I can do money issues, Martha's much better at that than I am. I do receive daily reports on where we stand financially. So first, before I get into reporting to y'all, I encourage everyone who has not yet made a donation or made a monthly subscription to Maggie, to please, please, PLEASE click on either the Donate button or a Subscribe button. If you're reading this on GNB, they're at the bottom of the post. If you're reading this at Meta Watershed, they're in the top right-corner of the page.

Maggie was in great shape on the phone. She's very much at peace with the surgery, very content that this is what is needed in her life right now. I am THRILLED at the hospital, the anesthesiology team in particular, and think the surgeon is probably pretty damn good, perhaps almost close to being as good as he thinks he is. *laughs* Mostly I'm glad she's in this hospital and not University hospital, as these folks are treating her like a real person and not like poor trash. What a gift it was to have University on ER diversion a few nights ago. Of such things lives are saved, no kidding.

One piece of really good news is due to the bowel being strangulated by the hernia, Maggie's accidentally lost a BUNCH of weight (87 pounds I think was the number) without noticing and is at her lowest weight in years; the bowel simply didn't absorb nutrition properly so its been having much the same impact as if she'd had one of those weight-loss bowel shortening procedures. Hot damn. The lower weight will make the surgery MUCH easier in oh so many many ways, from less need for blood, to faster surgical times (and thus less time under anesthesia), to faster healing times as there was (literally) less stomach to cut through, to making it easier for the surgeons to see the surgical field. Plus the less one weighs in general, the better one's vital signs and other critical internal health values are, both during and post-operatively. Shorter me: this is a good, good "bad" thing. Which obviously needs to be corrected as part of the surgery. But the weight loss is good for our team.

A doctor Maggie really likes and who likes her, whom she used to work for will be in the OR with her, will do a biopsy to make sure there's no cancer (we're not expecting any, but the doc is going to check.) The anesthesia folks will be watching like crazy, especially in the recovery room and the ICU -- she put the fear of God into them; she said his eyes got HUGE when she explained what happened last time with the anoxia -- so hopefully that'll go fine. I expect her to stay in the ICU for several days. She and I talked about what that is like, so she should be as prepared as one can be for that environment. *shudders* I don't like ICUs; the lights are always on, noise, lights and bells and buzzers. It's impossible to rest, however they are important and they do save lives. After she's done there she'll go to surgical step-down unit for another three to four days (I'm guessing) and then back to the surgical ward for another few days before being discharged. Again, the timing of all this is a guess and depends on how she does and how that hospital does stuff.

Mid-afternoon Thursday the nurse tried to put a NG tube -- that's a naso-gastric tube for those of you whom have never had one; it goes through your nose and into your stomach. You take it by quite literally swallowing the tube into your stomach, after it's through your nose, liberally lubricated. NOT fun and assured to trigger every bit of your gag reflex. I know this personally as part of paramedic training is practice inserting these through the nose and into each other's stomach, then inserting a big bolus of normal saline with a syringe down the tube into your classmate's stomach, then drawing it back out again, then removing the tube. And of course, having this done to you. As your classmate tells you "swallow, swallow, swallow, swallow" and shoves a fucking tube the size of the Lincoln Tunnel through your nose and down your throat. -- down into Maggie's stomach. "Swallow, swallow, swallow." Problem is, Maggie doesn't have a swallow reflex precisely. The nurse tried till the one nostril was all bloody. Then, check this, Maggie smiled, took the NG tube all lubed up, and put it down her own other nostril and right into her stomach. The nurse, Maggie reports, her jaw fell to the floor. By now Maggie's reputation on the surgical ward has magically changed from the fat broad to the women who put in her own NG tube. She says all afternoon long people were sticking their head in just to get a look at her, with awe on their expression. She says EVERYONE on the nursing staff is now in her corner. *grins*

Furthermore, the NG tube drained over 2 liters of bile and other gross stuff from her stomach, leaving her feeling really herself for the first time in perhaps a week. What with the hernia having strangled her bowel, everything was blocked all the way back up to her stomach, so anything that went in was just churning around and growing rancid. No wonder she was in so much pain. But now with all that crap out of there, and with the narcotics really taking hold, she's back to her normal self.

I and Maggie are both optimistic in a clear-headed way. That said, this is major abdominal surgery. It will go how it goes. Maggie is clear about that as am I. I am not saying prepare yourself for the worst, because I don't think that will happen, but at least take a moment and know that all outcomes are possible here both during and after surgery. Then breathe and expect that all will go well. That is what I believe, while knowing it is surgery and anything can happen. Life goes how it goes and we are not in control of anything. *breathes*

I will likely speak to Maggie just before she goes in to surgery and then not again till she's either in Recovery or the ICU. (It's possible I may not speak to her for a day or so depending on how she is doing.)

I will put up a new post as soon as I have word, even if it's just a flash update I send from my telephone. Meta Watershed readers: I am not set up to do a telephone update for you; I need to be on a computer and tomorrow I'll be out and about late afternoon Pacific Time. GNB is likely to have the first word, possibly by up to several hours if the word comes when I'm at my own doctor's visit late in the day. If word comes earlier then there won't be any difference and both sites will post more or less at the same time.

This procedure is what needs to happen now and it's happening in the best possible hospital in Austin with a brilliant medical team. I am content, and so is Maggie.

Finally, thank you to everyone whom has donated so far. Please... Maggie is going to be out of work at least two weeks, perhaps more. We need donations or if you will, subscriptions. Please... give generously.

Thank you everyone,


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maggie Jochild in Hospital for Major Abdominal Surgery

Maggie and Mary Jo Atkins Barnett, December 1956, at the British Embassy Christmas Party in Kolkata, India. photo from Meta Watershed,

Donations Needed

Maggie called me two minutes after midnight this morning my time, 2:02 am in Austin, Texas. She was in more pain than I've ever heard her.

Said she'd not been able to eat, drink for two days and was calling 911.

By grace, University Hospital -- a great hospital for emergency care, it's true, however it's the Medical School hospital and thus where all indigents go -- was on diversion for emergencies. Maggie was sent elsewhere, to what I consider a fine, really first-rate hospital, one where someone without health insurance would not normally have a chance of getting inside (unless they were visiting.)

They're treating her wonderfully.

Maggie has a MASSIVE hernia which has managed to wrap itself around ALL her various abdominal organs. Not only does this cause lots (and lots and lots) of pain, but it has clamped off part of her bowel thus impeding digestion. And done other damage.

There is no choice but for a highly skilled surgeon to go in, remove the hernia, repair any damage to the bowel (and other organs), and move everything back into place (the hernia having pushed the organs all around, as well as having caused damage.) While they're in there, they plan on taking out the appendix to prevent being required to do so at some later date.

The date and time of the surgery has not yet been set. I think Friday morning would be a good day to operate but it's purely a guess. If they don't operate Friday, they may well wait till Monday rather than operate over the weekend. Or not. *shrugs* That isn't a shrug of who cares. It's a shrug of not being able to predict the surgical team.

This is a major, major procedure which will take a while and require serious planning by the surgical team. Lots of things could go wrong.

If things do go well Maggie will be in the hospital for probably a week or a bit more, post op. I don't know yet if she'll be able to go home after that or if she'll need to go to a step-down facility. You'll know shortly after I know.

What I do know right now is this... Maggie's income is split between donations from readers of Meta Watershed & Group News Blog, and her work as a Medical Transcriptionist. She's on short-term medical leave of absence from her job, that is, while she won't get paid at all, she'll have a job to come back to. But she's not earning anything and she has bills she MUST pay.

Any donations people can make, either one-off or recurring, would be greatly appreciated.

Commentators: If I don't answer your comments right away it isn't that I'm ignoring you; it's that there's only one of me and I have a day job plus taking care of Maggie, plus I'm not well myself and must conserve what energy I have for my own work, doctor's appointments, and taking care of my family (which includes taking care of Maggie.) I'll reply to y'all when I have time.

The single biggest need right now is for cash, money, dough, coin. Maggie will be out (again, I'm guessing) at least several weeks and maybe more, perhaps much more. She has rent to pay, electric bills, phone bills, all of the various bills which still must be paid even though she's in the hospital. Please donate generously.

Oh... her cat is doing fine, and has a generous supply of food and water.

I'll update you more by sometime Friday, or in any event if there's a major condition change or if she has surgery.

Thank you in advance for your donations to Maggie, and for your love, care and concern for her. The donation buttons, both for one-off and on-going subscriptions, are in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Please give generously.

Thank you. (Keep breathing y'all. Keep breathing.)

Cross-posted at Meta Watershed and Group News Blog.


Sunday, October 11, 2009


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

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

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Start of Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Pyosz was breathless when she finally jumped onto the Pomar ferry, but after a few months of being her own faryaste, she felt drawn to stand by the grizzled woman operating a lever which looked exactly like her own. Pyosz introduced herself and said "What do you do if the chain jams?"

"Radio for help" said the faryaste. One thing I don't have on my ferry, a radio thought Pyosz.

"What about if a lev jumped the barrier? How would you know about it?" asked Pyosz.

"Well, if it was one of the northern reefs, I suppose I wouldn't see it" mused the faryaste. "But it'd make a beeline for here, so I'd be aware of it soon enough. Presumably the Sigrist would radio me before then."

"But what would you do?" asked Pyosz.

"Get everybody into the cabin and hang on. Radio my family and tell them I loved them" said the faryaste, starting to look disturbed. "It hasn't happened in a long while, do you have some cause for concern I haven't heard about?"

"No, no" hurriedly said Pyosz. "It's just I get scared alone in my ferry, especially after dark, and I wondered if there was some secret tip you could pass on in case the impossible occurs in my kuono, like a freak high tide, maybe."

"I've heard they're drawn to motion, visually and by sound" said the faryaste. "But of course if you're in the water with them, you either make some kind of motion or drown, so that's no help, really. Aren't you related to the Sheng Zhang?" She looked extremely worried now.

"I am, but they tell me I have no concerns in my ferry. Please, don't read more into in it than that. Look, here we are, I'm off to see my cousin's new baby. Morrie Vaseo!" The last phrase was automatic, but she saw it land uneasily on the faryaste. She tried to look carefree as she strode past the empty children's playground, past a few picnickers and courting couples near the pond, and through the squeaky metal gates that separated Pomar Park from the bulk of the orchards and village adjacent. She turned left; Ehuy's family Manage was not in the picturesque region overlooking Pomar Lagoon, but next to the smelly and noisy warehouse and production bulidings.

Ehuy answered the door, and from behind her came the sounds of two children crying, a baby and a toddler, as if they were competing for volume. Ehuy looked exhausted.

"Oh, she'll be so happy to see you" said Ehuy, looking around at Ehall sitting on the floor and screaming. "See here, it's your cousin Pyosz come to visit from the new world, would you like to give her a hug?"

Ehall declined in favor of continuing her tantrum. Pyosz reached into her carryall and said "I've got dried figs dusted with sugar, and a toy for any child who comes to kiss my cheek."

Ehall was on her feet quickly, although she didn't manage to stop her wails until she reached Pyosz's knee. Pyosz bent to receive a mucousy kiss, handed over the figs and another wooden sailboat like the one she and Maar had given Thleen. Ehall promptly dropped the bag of figs, her fat hands clutching the sailboat in ecstasy.

"Would you look at that!" marveled Ehuy, leaning over to move the tiller and adjust the small sail. She picked up the figs and said "I hear you're making some good products there in Pya."

"It's kinda crazy, I know, bringing fruit to Pomar, but these are from an ancient tree with a singular flavor, I thought you might have a professional appreciation of them" said Pyosz.

"Pyosz, is that you?" came a voice from behind an alcove.

"I'm going to take Ehall outside for some fresh air while you're here, if that's all right with you" said Ehuy.

"Go for it." Pyosz said to Ehall "You can go sail that in the pond if you attach a string to it, would you like that?"

Ehall was immediately trying to get out the door. Ehuy had to force her into kiatu as Pyosz walked toward the alcove. A double bed was jammed into the space, a crib adjacent leaving only enough room for a single person to approach. Ngall was sitting up in loose clothing, the baby now feeding, with drying tears on its face.

"Oh, she's gorgeous!" raved Pyosz. "Mill said she looked just like you, and she's right. Here." Pyosz spilled out wrapped gifts on the bedspread, putting twists of tissue paper containing gold and silver eks on top of Omill's belly. Ngall had to wait until Omill was full before Pyosz could take her for burping and gooey compliments delivered into Omill's face. Ngall was visibly moved by her family's largesse.

"Abbo was here yesterday evening for a while, and when she gave me only her baby gift, well, I wondered" said Ngall. "Look, this is from Maar! She's as good a sister as Abbo is -- I shouldn't say that, but it's true."

"She's been at the abbas more than once in the last two days" said Pyosz. "She and Halling just had an intense conversation."

"Oh, tell me" said Ngall, her eyes on Omill but avid for news that didn't center around digestive tract issues. Pyosz recounted the story of that morning's sinning, speaking softly and gently so Omill didn't hear anything upsetting. Pyosz kept bending down to kiss the baby's wide forehead and sniff her hair. She felt chemicals surging through her own body, with a sense of intoxication.

"Tlunu's stodgy, to be kind about it" was Ngall's assessment. "Abbo had delusions otherwise, but Maar will almost certainly be the Sheng Zhang in Pya when emma retires. Both my emmas are grooming Maar for the position, although aggie -- Mill -- has trouble admitting it, because then she'd have to admit what a slacker Abbo is."

"Ngall, since it's just us here, I have to confess, I cannot for the life of me understand why Maar is with Abbo" burst out Pyosz. Omill blinked at her, and Pyosz realized there had been fervid disappointment in her tone.

"What do you mean, with?" asked Ngall.

"You know -- well, the're not partners, obviously, but lovers, however they define it" said Pyosz.

Ngall gaped at her. "They're not lovers. I thought you were close friends with Maar -- I mean, unless something's changed since the last time I talked with emma, which was yesterday. Yeah, they were involved briefly back when Abbo was still in high school, but she screwed that up very fast, and Maar had a doorway out. They're just friends --and work partners, of course, they work together well."

Pyosz gaped back at Ngall. "That can't be right..." Her mind was moving at lightspeed, going over everything Maar had ever said to her. She felt like the pulse in her neck must be audible to Omill, if not to Ngall. "She told me she wasn't available" she whispered.

"Well, it's not because of Abbo. Abbo's got a lover in the Lofthall here she's always shacking up with, and another one or two on Pya. I think she has some idea that Maar will eventually relent and they'll get back together, but from what I've seen, the Southern Wasa will go bone dry before that ever happens. My guess is that Maar was letting you know she's got her sib to raise, and that comes before all else" said Ngall. "Is she wet, her diaper looks damp from here."

Pyosz was have trouble tracking. In dumb slow motion, she handed Omill to Ngall, who pulled a diaper bag from under the bed and began changing the baby. "She's much more of a squirter than Ehall was, you have be careful when you first uncov -- oops, there she goes. Use a clean diaper to wipe off your shati, Pyosz." Pyosz dabbed at her clothing, handed Ngall the powder, and walked to the bath room with the dirty diaper to put it in the pail. When she returned, she said "Can I hold her again?"

"Of course" said Ngall. "So, you've been assuming Maar is off limits? I wondered what was going on, from what emma has said, Maar's over on Saya Island most all her free time."

"My dear cousin, I have been a complete and utter fool" said Pyosz in a low voice. "Which I seem to need to revisit every so often. Yes, I've been seething with jealousy about Abbo."

"And she's been seething about you, no doubt" said Ngall, laughing. "Abbo is always unhappy when she isn't the focus of everyone's attention, and she's resented your place with our abbas ever since you were babies."

"Is that why she seldom visits them?" asked Pyosz, briefly diverted. "Because it makes no sense to me, how she avoids them."

"Oh, it's complicated" said Ngall. "But I mean for my children to have their habibis, and the abbas are doing more than their share of making that possible. We can't go on living her indefinitely, me and Ehuy, not with a growing family. Her siba has the loft directly over us with her new partner, and she's been overt about her intention to inherit this Manage. There isn't another one available on Pomar, so if we have to move and commute anyhow, we're talking about relocating to Riesig. Abba Bux is scouting around for a Manage for us."

"That's wonderful news" said Pyosz. "Except for the part where you're not returning to Pya, of course."

"We've discussed that too" said Ngall, looking at her quizzically. "But that would mean you and I would still be separated, when you come back to Riesig, right?" When Pyosz didn't answer, Ngall said "So...Are you going to approach Maar now, then?"

"I can't. She flat out told me she wasn't available. I just misunderstood the reason why" said Pyosz. She cooed at Omill "Your cousin can be a cobbletop, yes, she can."

"Well, not at the moment. But she's clearly interested" said Ngall.

"If I haven't misconstrued that as well" said Pyosz. "Maybe it really is all about friendship."

"Or maybe she's hoping you'll wait for her. That would be utterly romantic, you keeping a dampered flame for her until Thleen is grown and then, flash, the two of you finally admit your passion for one another" said Ngall dreamily. Pyosz thought Guess who's body is awash in a hormone stew at the moment?

"Wait for her..." she repeated. In her mind, clear as cold water, she heard Prl's voice say Don't you dare. After a minute, she asked Ngall "How did Abbo screw it up with Maar?"

"Oh, well, she went off to flight school here after graduating high school, and in less than a week had begun an affair with another pilot. Not someone also in flight school, but someone older, barely within her sui, close to being scandalous" said Ngall. "But she didn't tell Maar, she let Maar hear about it through the Lofthall grapevine. And when Maar called her about it, she acted like Maar was being possessive, hinting that if Maar wanted to join in the fun, the other pilot was open to a three-way. Which is not Maar's style. Maar had already taken a lot of heat from my emmas about being a year older than Abbo, and she was never in love to begin with, so she told Abbo to go have fun, their affair was done. By the time Abbo got back at the end of the summer, Maar was having an affair with someone else, Uli, you know Uli? Everybody except Abbo and emma, Mill I mean, thought it was sorta funny. Emma though thought it was why Abbo turned in such a lackluster performance at flight school -- completely ignoring the fact that Abbo was consumed with another pilot's ginny the whole time." Ngall was highly amused. The reminder about Uli, however, and Maar's propensity for affairs in general, seemed to reinforce in Pyosz's head that voice telling her not to wait on Maar. Because Maar certainly doesn't wait on folks she thought. Not when it comes to sex.

Pyosz decided to shake off her distraction about Maar and keep focused on Ngall, not to mention the baby in her arms. They talked about Mchele Fair, Ngall expressing envy at missing how thoroughly Pya celebrated it; Ngall's labor; Ehall's reaction to a sib; and how ossified the ejida/huerta structure was on Pomar. An hour later, Ehuy returned with a sopping Ehall clutching her boat. Ehuy reported the string had slid from Ehall's grasp and she had dove in after her sailboat. Ehuy began running a hot bath, and Ngall started to look drowsy. Pyosz took her leave, promising to visit whenever she was back in Skene and to send copies of the photographs she'd taken of the new emma with Omill.

The same faryaste was on duty. Pyosz had hoped for a quiet ride back with time to consider the earth-shifting news about Maar, but the faryaste said belligerently "I hear there was an incident with a lev during today's sinning. What are you not telling me?"

Pyosz sighed. "Nothing. But that's what I'd say if I were keeping something from you, right? The fact is, I operate a ferry twice a day by myself and I simply wanted to hear inside information from a professional. I understand your paranoia, I have it myself."

The faryaste glared at her and walked to the other end of the boat. I've prodded the beach rubble with this one, for sure Pyosz thought.

Instead of going directly back to her abbas' Manage, Pyosz went downtown and found the silversmith shop still open. "I'm here to buy a service bracelet for a pilot" she announced. "Has to be Chloddia silver, and I need to look at all your available designs."

The smith began pulling trays from under the counter as she asked "Which pilot?"

"Sinner Maar, of Pya" said Pyosz. To her surprise, the smith said "Oh, yes, she's a good customer. In fact, she has full credit with us, are you putting this on her tab?"

Credit was extremely rare on Skene, and Pyosz had never heard of it being extended by a jeweler. She had a fleeting thought that she wished Prl had been here to witness this exchange. "No, I'm buying it as a gift, so if she should happen to come in for herself, please stall her somehow" said Pyosz. They began examining bracelets. Half an hour later, she arrived at the Manage just as a full table was sitting down to dinner. They talked about the baby and Ehall during the meal. After dessert of Saya figs, Speranz and Tlunu left to visit friends, and Xunu retired to her room behind the main house, citing the need to set her leraar records in order before the upcoming school break.

The rest of the family settled around the table with tea. Lawa opened Pyosz's logbook again and said "We've been going over this. It's a thing of beauty."

"We also fingered through that sample of clay you brought back from Saya" said Moasi. "I haven't seen finer. Emma could tell you all about it."

"She'd be so happy to have another keramiker in the family" agreed Halling. "I have something to pass on to you, with Moasi and Lawa's approval." She lifted a small, stained notebook from the sideboard. "This was Ng's. Whenever she had an idea for a design or pattern, she'd sketch it in here first, with ideas for glaze and form. It's her artist journal. All we ask is that you either hand it on to another family member when you feel done with it, or donate it to the Archives."

Pyosz had to lean to one side as she leafed slowly through the pages, because tears were dripping from her cheeks. "This is unbelievably precious to me" she said in a choked voice.

"I also have a lead on a wheel" added Lawa. "If I have your consent to barter, I'll try to get it down to a price that won't be exorbitant with shipping to Pya added on."

"Just don't finalize the deal before talking with me" asked Pyosz. "The rest of this week is Mchele Fair, and next week I'll be consumed with renovations, but call me whenever you want. So far Klosa hasn't located any kind of wheel on Pya, although she may turn up a kiln."

"Did I hear you right, that Tu is going to be walking on stilts as part of a parade during your version of the fair?" asked Moasi. Pyosz told them stories about Tu and Pank's activities, eliciting much laughter. She segued into descriptions of the fair itself -- all second-hand and anticipatory, but it didn't feel that way to her. "Dodd's band will be competing for the black ribbon as Pya's favorite, and I predict they'll be using some of the music you've been sending her."

"What's the band called?" asked Moasi.

"Cawl Ffa" grinned Pyosz. This was the name of a popular bean stew, and referenced to Koldok's proximity to the Pea Pods. "I'm looking forward to the music as much as any part of the Fair, even though I'm a wretched dancer."

"You're what?" exclaimed Yoj. "You've been going to every dance they have there, right? Has someone criticized your dancing?"

"No, they've been extremely kind, despite my sending at least partner crashing to the floor" said Pyosz ruefully. "I may have inherited a propensity for working with clay, but I have none of your genes for grace."

"Nonsense" said Halling, pushing back her chair and standing stiffly by leaning on the table. "Yoj, will you provide us with some music? I refuse to allow my grandchild to remain ignorant of the joys of dancing."

"Oh, abba, it'll hurt your joints" protested Pyosz. "Plus, I'm a hopeless case, I truly am."

"It will loosen my joints, I haven't moved all day" insisted Halling. "Yoj, I didn't mean you standing in the corner singing, I'm hoping for a recording of a real band. With percussion."

"I get the turn with her after you" Bux said to Halling, going to clear chairs from the middle of the living room.

"Me next" said Qala. "You can warm up with me" Lawa said to her as one of Yoj's tapes began filling the room with the bars of a reel.

Bux bowed to Prl, who accepted the offer to dance, and they glided out beside Lawa and Qala. Pyosz felt sudden excitement at the slim hope that maybe she could shuck her klutz image. She placed her palms into Halling's gnarled hands, but Halling paused, looking down at the floor.

"You're dancing in those otos? They're the size of butter churns" said Halling.

"They're all I have on Pya" confessed Pyosz.

"Well, no wonder" said Yoj. "A beginner trying for agility in those would be like wearing gloves to dice garlic. Pull 'em off, sokken will do for now."

"You have beautiful zaoxue at home" remarked Prl, bobbing by with her emma.

"All right" said Halling, once Pyosz was rid of her otos. "You've got a visual mind, we'll approach this as geometry. We're going to make shapes and claim space in a series of planes."

An hour later, having moved through the attentions of each of her abbas and emma in turn, Pyosz was drenched in sweat but something inside had clicked and she felt as confident moving her body to music as she did milking or kneading bread. Not with as much expertise, still, but the confidence was the major barrier. She begged for a break, drinking down two glasses of cold Skene water from the tap, then bursting into a long bout of laughter. "They won't believe it's me, at the Mchele Fair dance!" she said gleefully.

"And you have new silks to wear" added Prl, her cheeks radiant as she, too, came for a drink.

Bux turned to look at Halling and said "Do you ever wear that blue outfit -- the one you say is too baggy in front?"

"No. It's in my press, wrapped in tissue paper" said Halling. Yoj stood and went to their bedroom. She returned with a slender box, which Pyosz opened standing at the table, her abbas looking on. The dubikun and hanshan under the aged paper were of opulent cerulean blue silk in a pattern of stars and phases of the moon. Pyosz gasped. She ran the silk over her hands, saying "How old is this?"

"Oh, older than Prl" said Yoj. "My aggie wove that silk, and Qen helped Bux stitch it for Halling."

"But it bloused in the front and sagged in the seat on me" said Halling. "Go try it on."

"I'm afraid it will rip with too much motion" said Pyosz.

"It won't" promised Yoj. "Not the way Rosz made fabric."

When Pyosz emerged from the bath room, they all exclaimed at the perfect fit. "She's got your height and bones" Bux said to Halling. "But your fleshly delights" replied Halling. "And eyes, to match that blue" added Yoj.

"Take lots of photos at the dance, or rather, have someone else take photos of you" pleaded Prl.

"Come back with me for the week" suggested Pyosz. "We'll find you a room and you can go to every event with me." She was quite serious, but Prl brushed her off. Pyosz noticed Halling rubbing her knees under the table, and she said "Abba, where's that liniment you use at night? Let me ease the ache I've caused, I have very strong hands now."

"You never caused me a single ache in my life" retorted Halling. "But I'll accept the massage, especially of my feet."

Pyosz rubbed every joint on Halling's body, working the herbal emollient deep into bone and tissue, until Halling was stretched on the couch asleep. She took a turn with Moasi as well, listening to Yoj and Bux reminisce about dances of the past, or Lawa and Qala making notes in her logbook about her tillage. She didn't want this to be her last night on Skene. Szebel's death reminded her that her own abbas were of the same age. When Speranz and Tlunu returned, however, and looked pointedly at the clock, Prl said "Let's go home. We'll be back after breakfast, we'll see you all then."

It was raining and windy outside. Pyosz hoped the rain had held off long enough for the Chloddia kickball championship to be settled. She shared an umbrella with Qala, who walked with her arm around Pyosz's waist. In the privacy under the canvas convexity, Qala murmured "Your Maar is most impressive."

"She's not mine, not -- Abba, I've been believing all this time that she was lovers with Abbo" confided Pyosz. "Ngall set me straight about it today. But Maar isn't free, all the same. Thleen has first claim on her."

"Which is just" said Qala. "Thleen has a need I hope you never have to feel."

"Oh, I'd never compete with Thleen. Rather, I want to meet her need as well. I can't believe how far astray my thinking about Maar has been, though" said Pyosz.

"Stakes were high, huh" said Qala. "I could have told you Abbo would never hold the interest of someone like Maar."

At the Manage, they gathered around the kitchen table where Pyosz ate more dried cherries, trying to contend with the bone-deep weariness she was feeling. They talked about Halling and Moasi, Ngall and her family, and people on Pya. At one point, Pyosz said "I have such strong feelings for Omill, even more than I felt for Ehall. Maybe because she resembles Ngall so much. I want to be close enough to see how she grows day by day, like my own future is at stake in it."

"It is at stake" said Lawa. "I don't think why we love the children who arrive in our family is completely self-centered, but ego is mixed in there. They're one of ours, you know."

"All decisions to have a child involve ego" said Prl. "That's a given. The question is whether it's balanced by other desires."

Pyosz looked at her with interest. "A question I guess you have to answer for each set of emmas coming to you for a Contribution."

"To the best of my ability, yes" said Prl. "I'm frequently wrong."

"It just occurred to me -- you must have knowledge about Ngall and Ehuy's children that no one else possesses" mused Pyosz. "Is it awkward when it's family coming to you for their children?"

"It has been" said Prl. "I was spared by the presence of fertile Y's with Mill and Dodd's families. And by the time Speranz and Tlunu applied, I had enough experience to not be swamped by emotion. But it was -- painful, I'd have to say -- with Ndege and Gerra. Their request came so soon after I began being Genist." Pyosz wondered at that choice of words, painful. She said slowly, with sympathy "Every social interaction you have, maybe every new person you meet, has a backstory none of us can share. It hardly seems fair to you, emma. I mean, what do you see when you look at, say, Thleen?"

"I had no role in her -- " began Prl, before stopping herself. Now that's interesting thought Pyosz, as Qala stepped in to change the subject. She and Prl began bickering gently about Tlunu's behavior that day. Pyosz lay her head onto her arms on the table. Within a minute, they heard Pyosz's breathing change.

"She's fallen asleep" said Lawa quietly. "Pyosz, honey, do you want help getting to bed?"

There was no response from Pyosz. Qala said to Prl "She's handling more of a load than I think we realize."

"What's up with her and that pilot? And now the pilot's child, more or less" said Prl without rancor. Qala considered, and Prl said "I saw you two whispering under the umbrella."

Qala decided it wasn't a secret Pyosz intended to keep. "She's thought all this time that Maar and Abbo were together. Still a couple, from years ago. Just found out the truth today."

Lawa and Prl looked at her in astonishment, then at Pyosz's sleeping head. "She must have been tormented" said Prl with extreme empathy in her voice.

"So does this mean an explosive love affair is about to begin?" wondered Lawa.

"No, because Maar has been unequivocal in saying she's not available for it" said Qala.

"Maybe in saying it, but longing leaks from her every pore" said Lawa. After a long pause, Prl said "Abba -- Bux -- told me that Sey has made an application to change her citizenship from Skene to Pya. She's planning to emigrate and take a job in Koldok, of all places."

Lawa looked furious. "Does Pyosz know about this?"

"Emma said yes. Said Mill had told her Pyosz doesn't care" said Prl.

"Do we believe that?" Lawa asked Qala. Qala's eyes had remained on Pyosz. "I believe whatever Pyosz tells me" said Qala. She finally turned her gaze to Prl, saying "Why would Sey feel the need to transfer citizenship? I doubt she's come into a new appreciation of Pyosz, she wasn't that sort to begin with."

Prl looked away. "Another lesson for me to learn about meddling, I suppose. I'll ask her about it tomorrow. I wish she were staying longer, not just for my sake but for emma Halling's. She's been distracted from her own grief by Moasi's visit, which is all to the good, of course. But then Pyosz and Moasi are both gone..."

"We'll step in" said Lawa firmly. Pyosz shifted, her neck now bent at an uncomfortable angle. Prl shook her gently and said "My darling, let me help you to bed." As they diappeared into the bedroom, Qala did the few dishes and Lawa looked in the larder, thinking about a special breakfast the next day. After Qala and Lawa left for next door, Prl read through the notes left by her apprentice, sipping more tea and savoring the idea that Pyosz was under her roof again. Half an hour later, the bedroom door opened and Pyosz, almost sleep-walking, said "Emma, are you coming in with me tonight?"

"Of course" said Prl, getting swiftly to her feet. "I'll be there as soon as I change into my schmatta." Pyosz stumbled back to her bed. When Prl joined her, Pyosz didn't reawaken but Prl heard from her the soft sigh she had always given as a child when she sensed her emma's proximity.

"She's good enough for you" Prl whispered to the back of Pyosz's head. "I can see that, and I want you to know it."

The next morning, breakfast was quiet. Everyone was up by 6:00, to spend all the time they could with Pyosz, who felt real grief at leaving this particular Manage behind again. Prl helped her pack her carryall plus a borrowed bag to hold all her new clothes, tucking hangers and small treats in among the garments. As she set the bag in the front foyer, a knock came at the door. She opened it to discover Thleen, bright-cheeked with excitement, and Maar behind her in a mustard-colored burzaka.

"I have a present for Pyosz!" announced Thleen, giving Prl a quick hug before rushing past her. "Wait until you're asked in!" yelled Maar after her.

"Come in" said Prl with humor. Thleen was already in Pyosz's lap at the kitchen table, her wet burzaka being ignored by both her and Pyosz. "We went shopping yesterday and -- oh, wait, look at my new shati" said Thleen, standing to pull her burzaka over her head.

"What a beautiful print!" exclaimed Pyosz. "I didn't know they made fabric showing kickball scenes. Which reminds me, who won?"

"Not the team I like" said Thleen, her face suddenly tragic. "But we got to have spun sugar and chicken buns at the game. Do you want me to show you the best play? See, there was this big player -- "

"Thleen, you have to be at school in five minutes" interrupted Maar. She said apologetically to Pyosz, "She found this and wanted to get it for you, and she insisted she had to deliver it herself."

"You have a surprise for me?" Pyosz asked Thleen, who pulled a small box from her pocket. She'd clearly wrapped it herself, and she couldn't keep from helping Pyosz now undo the string and open the lid. Inside, on crumpled tissue paper, was a tiny silver lighter that twinkled under the kitchen lamp.

Maar, her tone again apologetic, "I know lighters may not mean as much to you as they do to Thleen -- "

"Are you kidding me, I love it!" said Pyosz. "I come from a Lofthall family, I first flew in a lighter when I was a baby too young to remember it." She hugged Thleen exuberantly.

Qala said "I remember, Halling carried you to the jichang strapped in a yameen facing outward. She said your face got very serious when she started the engines, but as soon as she lifted off, you began squealing with delight. She toured the entirety of Skene, banking every chance she could so you had a good view of your home. When she finally landed, you wailed because it was over."

"I was nearly unconscious from worry" added Prl. "You didn't want to come into my arms, you wanted more flying, even though you'd filled your diaper and you urped on me a minute later."

"You could wear it as a necklace, or maybe an earring" suggested Thleen, tracing the intricate lines of the pendant with some cupidity.

"Oh, no, it's going to hang from the end of one of my dreads here at the front of my face" declared Pyosz. "See, I already have a goat and a sun, this will be the perfect third thing, to make it all balanced. Emma, will you get some silk thread to tie it on for me?"

Maar let them remain long enough to see the lighter attached, Pyosz demonstrating how she could make it soar by tossing her head. Then she rushed Thleen through hugs and out the door, saying "We'll have to run if we're to beat the bell." She called over her shoulder to Pyosz "See you at noon." A reminder which helped ease some of the misery of departure.

At 10:00, they walked together to the abbas' Manage, which smelled deliciously of an early lunch plus food to pack a hamper for Pyosz's return flight. Bux announced "We had a visit from Qoj this morning, and guess what? She's flying back to Pya with you for Mchele Fair!"

"Oh, glorious" said Pyosz. "Do her emmas know?"

"She made the decision last night and called them. They've already given her room away to Pank and Tu, but she said she doesn't care, she'll only be home long enough to sleep anyhow and the couch will be fine. Apparently Mchele Fair is something not to be missed" said Yoj.

"Well, and I think Uli is also a draw" reminded Halling. "What's that in your hair, child?"

An hour and a half later, Pyosz wept as she said goodbye to her abbas. Lawa, Qala and Prl insisted on carrying her bags and hamper to the Lofthall with her, where a lighter would take her to Yanja to rendezvous with the huolon. "I'll be hard to reach for the next several days, but Mill will always know how to find me if you need me" she told her emma. "And I'll call you all Shmonah evening, I promise."

The lighter stopped briefly on Verzin to pick up Qoj, which made Pyosz wipe her tears and focus on the flight ahead. Abbo was taking the first leg and asked Qoj to sit up front with her. Pyosz helped Maar make a nest against the window in her second-row seat, worried that she wouldn't sleep well enough sitting up, but Maar dropped off quickly as the huolon ate daylight. By the time Maar was awakened for dinner and her turn at piloting, it was full dark. Without being asked, Pyosz changed seats to where Qoj had been, sitting beside Maar in the front. She handed her second pillow back to Qoj, saying "If you feel like sleeping." Qoj wrapped her own manteau around her like a blanket and leaned back, eyes closed.

Once it had been quiet for a while, Pyosz leaned toward Maar and said softly "Be sure to tell Thleen that Halling noticed my lighter and thought it was wonderful."

Maar's face lit briefly. "She couldn't stop talking about you. And your emma."

"My emma was impressed with you both as well" said Pyosz.

They were silent for a couple of minutes. Maar cleared her throat and said "I have a big favor to ask of you. And I really want you to say no if that's your choice."

Pyosz nodded.

"If something should happen to me...I have a will and instructions all spelled out, but...I'd like it if you stayed in Thleen's life, made sure she kept connections to your family. I don't know how she would make it, without me, but she'll need your help to make it possible." Maar's face was grave and very pale.

"Oh, Maar -- this is because of the lev attack, isn't it?"

"Not entirely. I worry about it a lot of the time" said Maar. "But it's my worry, you don't have to take it on -- "

"Of course I'll keep her close" said Pyosz. "For my sake, as well as hers. We'll grieve your absence together every day. But that's not going to happen, I refuse to consider it a possibility."

Maar placed two fingers from each hand across each other in the symbol for luck. "You know, Pyosz...I was thinking about Tu and Pank, at the funeral, how elderly they are, and then I looked around at all your abbas...The bulk of your family, the ones you love most -- the truth is, 10 or 20 years from now, they may all be gone."

Pyosz felt cold at her core. "I try not to think about that. I want them to be around to pass on their love and wisdom to my children."

"That is to be hoped" agreed Maar. "What I mean to say is, when the time comes to let go of them, I'll be there for you. I'll share the load."

Pyosz slid her hand into Maar's. "I'll need you" she whispered.

They sat, hands linked, through another long silence. Pyosz thought about asking Maar how Thleen had been conceived, but decided to sit on that information a while longer. Eventually Maar said "What's in the wrapped bundles you brought on board, looks like plants?"

"They're a gift from Moasi to Tu. It's cuttings from the massive lilac bush on Motu Fling, perhaps older than they are. It's why Halling wears lilac scent. Moasi's sending them to plant on Herne Island" said Pyosz. Maar's hand felt different to her now -- now that it belongs in no shape or form to Abbo she thought.

She asked Maar "This may be intrusive, but how many lovers have you had? And how often have you been in love?"

Maar glanced at her, then in the rearview mirror. "Eight lovers. Never in love...with any of them."

"Eight in what, three years?" said Pyosz, shocked.

"Four years. My first was when I was 15. That's not so many" argued Maar. "Why, how many have you had besides Sey?"

"None" said Pyosz in a low voice. Now it was Maar's turn to be shocked. Pyosz decided she wasn't ready to confide to Maar how wrong she'd been about her and Abbo; not yet.

Maar said "Well, let me know if you have trouble with Sey once she gets to Pya."

"Thanks, but I can handle Sey" said Pyosz with a grin. "She knows it, too. I think her being afraid of my about-to-emerge adult power is part of why she ditched me."

"Moron" whispered Maar to herself, but Pyosz heard it and squeezed her hand. She wanted to take a nap. However, she forced herself to stay awake, chatting with Maar often enough to keep Maar alert as dawn hurtled in their direction.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.