Saturday, January 9, 2010


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

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

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


When Pyosz returned to Saya at dawn after seeing Lawa and Qala fly away in the huolon with Maar, she felt lonely in a way she hadn't experienced on her island since the early days after arrival. She milked, returned to Koldok for delivery and ate at the cafe, hoping Uli would wander in. When she didn't. Pyosz went on to Teppe and accepted tasks from the timmers until it was time for Vants to come to her Manage to make lunch. Having Vants in the kitchen spurred Pyosz to wash linens and sweep floors. After lunch she finally started sponges and interspersed baking with glazing pots in her studio.

She was now making enough extra ceramics that even after saving her favorites for gifts or her own kitchen, she had stock to sell. Taamsas was taking the cookware and storage jugs she produced, Klosa the cups, plates, and bowls. Kolm had suggested Pyosz make small round containers to hold feta and prym which could be sold at the djostiker's, and Pyosz was beginning to work on these, with removable lids whose handle was each a different goat from her herd.

For dinner she carried cheese and jam tarts over to Kacang, playing Quackers with the children until bath and bed time. It was pouring rain on her ferry ride home, the kuono choppy enough to make her think about baby leviathans, born with the hunt instinct and a dentigerous gullet to match. On her table she found a pound of smoked bacon and a packet of photographs which turned out to be the series Frahe had shot of Maar. Frahe's note said Naki had insisted copies be sent to the newspaper, and if Pyosz wanted more to mail to Skene, Naki could print them for her. Pyosz sat down and began letters, one katt in each of the chairs before the hearth. When she went to bed, once again upstairs, she found a sprig of rosemary on her pillow with a note from Qala saying "Dream sweet."

It was an anomaly of the huolon that words spoken in the second row of seats carried easily to the pilot, no matter the engine noise. Maar thought it had something to do with the shape of the glass in the windshield and pilot side hatch. On the second leg of the flight back, she clearly overheard Lawa say softly "I want that small back room off the kitchen, where Pyosz slept. What about you?"

"It has a great view, and I like being off the kitchen, too" said Qala. "It won't hold much more than a double bed and a dresser, maybe."

"We'll have that table for writing, and the island for everything else" said Lawa. "It's a thousand Motus, feels like. And we'll need to be on the ground floor eventually."

Qala squeezed her hand. "I don't know what I'll do without Yoj and Halling. I've seen them every day since I was 17 years old."

"But this is where the children will be arriving" said Lawa. "Where we get to be habibis, and never have to move again."

"I know." After a minute Qala said "It's the next chapter in Lofthall leadership, too."

"Who I worry about is Prl" said Lawa, surprising Qala. "Pyosz's pushing herself til she goes too far, she gets that from Prl. And something's been on her mind for years now." Maar memorized it all to tell Pyosz when she got back.

Pyosz hung her Saya map on the wall next to her dining table amd commisioned Uli's emma Udek to weave goathair rugs for several rooms. As part of the cost of her new sideboard, she bartered hand-made tiles for Herne's kitchen backsplash in the bee design Nk had drawn for their planned honey production. She surrounded the bee with a flowing tangled knot like that on Maar's family Manage door. Her vinegars were coming out well and sold at a premium in her own vinegar jugs. Prl had told her to start a savings account at the bank instead of paying her back for the Manage construction right now.

Two weeks after a photograph of Maar lifting a baby leviathan into a mass of adults again captured the front pages of both Pya and Skene newspapers, Tu ran into the barn when Pyosz was milking and began dancing a jig, kicking up hay chaff and causing Killer to frolic around her. "She's coming, she's packing up her kit and moving! I knew if we bought that extra double bed it would be the final lucky lure!"

"Who -- oh, Frank?" Pyosz released her doe and joined Tu in the jig. Later, as Tu helped her load cans in the wain, Pyosz said "So does Vants need a place to stay now?"

"'Course not, we gave her the room we built for future babies" said Tu. "Frank's room is right off the stairs so she can come and go all hours without waking anyone."

"Still, it seems unfair that your Manage is full of people and mine has only me" quipped Pyosz. There was a hint of sadness in her tone that prompted Tu to say to Pank later "If Vants wants to shift over to Pyosz's, I won't fight it."

Frank was only two years older than Pyosz, and the arrival of a cousin in her generation -- Abbo didn't count -- gave Pyosz another immediate friend. Frank made a habit of stopping in for a visit any time she used the ferry. The other comadronas on Pya lived in Pertama and Cogio, so Frank had good territory for her services, and Mill quietly assisted her by offering Lofthall transportation to an impending birth whenever she could. Frank's first client was Ziri's aggie Meko, who spotted and had a day of cramps before rest and Frank's reassurance settled her back into another six days of bulbous pregnancy.

The day Vants moved into the quiet upstairs back bedroom that was Pyosz's second choice for her study, a radio call went out for Frank to rush to Kacang. Pyosz met her at her dock and ferried to Kacang with her. Once it was clear Meko's labor was at last underway and normal, Pyosz packed an overnight bag for the three yougest Heaps and took them to Saya with her. She was exhausted within two hours, hoping Vants would come back from Teppe early. "At least Ziri and Koben will go to school in the morning" she thought, doing yet another head count and wishing Ziri was not such a stream-of-consciousness narrator.

She and Meamea met Koben and Ziri after school the next day and they all went to Kacang to meet their new sibu, Ura. The following week, their three abbas finally moved from Skene, and Kacang was complete. For the time being.

Ziri's abba Uben was the geothermal expert, and within days an ad appeared in Pya's paper seeking apprentices for a new Maanadi Guild. All of Pya was rustling with comment. Yoj laughed hard when Pyosz told her about it, saying "Brilliant coinage of a guild name" -- maanadi translated to underground heartbeat in Skenish. Uben immediately had a dozen applicants, and she rented a room at the school one Sju to hold an introductory seminar which would allow her to whittle down her choice of apprentices to two.

Api occupied herself drafting regulations and a charter for the new field of endeavor which would conveniently not come for a Pya-wide vote until after Pya's contracts with Skene ended in Med. "Ahem" Api would correct those who referred to the contracts ending, "You mean come up for renegotiation."

Dodd and Briel hired Mrebbe's crew three Sjus in a row to rip the old shingles from their Manage's exterior and replace it with tongue-in-groove siding. The following Sju, Dodd and Uli began painting the siding a vibrant celery green. Naki was next to follow suit, converting her Manage's exterior into melon gold. Vants settled on shell pink for her new walls, and Mrebbe reported that the plans for construction on Grasak, another Pea Pod beyond Kacang, would include a plum-colored Manage. Ziri was bitterly disappointed by the plain cedar shakes on Kacang and bemoaned it as often as Meamea complained about the new baby.

Well into Yaomur, Pyosz, Vants, and an on-call Frank were picked up by Dekkan in a sinner to return to Pirinc for rice planting. They joined Poth's crew with Uli, and the last-gasp-of-winter chill of the day combined with frequent reminders to self kept Pyosz focused on the work at hand instead of allowing her imagination to be flooded like the paddies. When she got home that night, after milking and a bowl of barley vegetable stew, Pyosz called the Genist Manage.

Prl's voice was clipped. "Oh, it would be you. Sorry, Pyosz, but this is definitely not a good time to talk."

"All right. How about Qala or Lawa, are they around?"

Prl's laugh was caustic. "Not for long." Her voice grew distant as she apparently handed the radio off, saying "I need to take a walk, I'll be back later." Even from her distance, Pyosz could hear the slam of the front door.

"Hi, sprout" said Lawa.

"Is she all right?"

"Not if you ask her. We were going to call you next: Your offer still open? We're ready to retire to Pya" said Lawa.

Mixed emotions dominated Pyosz's life for the next week as she listened to Prl, Yoj, and Halling's sense of abandonment while moving her worktable up to her third choice room for a study and counting the days until her abbas' arrival. Likewise, there was a new baby next door and increased babysitting with the Heaps children while Maar's face was lined with concern over Thleen, whose grades continued to fall and who was now being punished regularly at school for run-ins with other children. "She's losing ground" Maar said.

On the first day of Nastere, Qala and Lawa arrived with a double bed, a dresser, a night stand, an easy chair, several crates, and Qala's 10-year-old katt Cha. Settling in was swift for the humans, but Cha and Curds went to war over territorial demarcation of the Manage's ground floor. Ember had already staked a claim in Pyosz's new study with its sunny windows next to a table perfect for stretching out. Eventually the right to slink along one wall from the kitchen to the front stairs was won by Cha, Curds claimed the great hall and half of Pyosz's bedroom, and Cha had not only the kitchen and her humans' bedroom but also the windowseat at the front of the upstairs hall.

Lawa resumed her morning fishing and Qala flooded the empty front bedroom downstairs with vegetable starts arrayed over a dropcloth, waiting for a final freeze before going into the tillage. They made breakfast that Pyosz came in to eat each morning before milk delivery, and after lunch most days the elders walked to the hot springs, often joining Tu and Pank there. The roof was on Vants' Manage, the barns were almost finished, and Pyosz had promised her cousin the pick of any two of the news kids plus her good doe Spatter for her herd. In addition, the Botaniste was using Pya's cryochamber to produce a new-line goat from the material Vants had sent from Yagi.

A week after Qala and Lawa had moved in, Pyosz felt like her separation from them the past year had been merely a blip. They spent the afternoon of Market Day washing down the entire Manage with a chemical solution they'd gotten from Taamsas, as well as laundering all linens and treating furious katts, because a lice outbreak had swept through Pya School. It had hit Kacang hard, where all the inhabitants had buzzed their hair short, Meamea weeping inconsolably about loss of her black ringlets. Pyosz was daubing antibiotics on the gashes Curds had just left in her arm when the radio buzzed, revealing Maar calling from Skene.

"Hey, you, how's it -- wait. isn't it like the middle of the night there?" said Pyosz.

"Yeah, I'm calling from the Chloddia jichang. Pyosz, I have a huge favor to ask of you, I want you to say no if there's any doubt in your mind, and I'm terrified it will be seen as an imposition on our friendship" began Maar.

"Whatever is wrong, buddy? Tell me, ask me" said Pyosz, sitting down at the breakfast counter in the kitchen.

"My emmas got called in to the school. Unless Thleen completely turns around her grades and passes an end of year exam, they want to keep her in first grade another year" said Maar. "It will destroy her."

"Oh no no no, Maar" said Pyosz closing her eyes. "My abbas will go talk to the school, my emma, they'll figure out a way to help her with homework -- I know Halling tried to figure out a way to take Thleen home after school each day but it would mean somebody flying her back to Chloddia at dinner -- " Which Halling had asked Tlunu and then Danaan to arrange. When they said it wasn't possible for one child, Halling had been extremely upset, but Pyosz hadn't told Maar about it. She heard Qala come in the back door behind her and come to the aga, looking at her quizzically.

"It's beyond homework now, Pyosz, it's her whole attitude. She's noticeably lost weight, her sleep is bad -- she needs a complete change. I think if I could get her to Pya, to Dodd's tutoring and being in class with Ziri again and sleeping with me at night, feeding her, all the attention she could want, I could get her caught up enough to pass that end of year exam" said Maar.

"But you've said your emmas won't let her come" said Pyosz. Lawa had now trailed in and was also listening.

"They're completely rattled by the idea of one of their children failing a grade. The blame will fall on them. I think that might be my tiny window through -- because if I took her for the rest of the term and THEN she failed, it could be all my fault, see? Something they could hold over my head in all future dealings about Thleen. And a tangible strike against Pya." Maar's voice was ragged.

"A big risk for you to take" said Pyosz. "But I agree, we could do whatever it took here on Pya. If you're asking for my help, of course you've got it, you shouldn't even hesitate, I want her to be okay for MY sake, for hers, not yours."

"Well, here's the thing: I can't move her into the Lofthall. They'll never okay it, and even if I rent a place, I need other adults to live there to help with her..." Maar sounded wretched. Pyosz was sure a deep furrow bisected her brow, and her cheeks would be flaming.

"You want to move her in here with me -- with us, Qala and Lawa as ready-made abbas" said Pyosz, at last comprehending. She saw a grin steal over Qala's face.

"Not just her; I'd have to come, too. I mean, I'll change my schedule so I'm home every weekend, no more huolon flights while she's in Pya, and I'll do everything when I'm not actually at work -- " began Maar.

But Pyosz's heart was doing cartwheels, and her mind was shouting Yes!

"Pyosz, I really need you to hear, this is not in any way why I've supported you building that Manage, I'm not a schemer" Maar continued.

"Oh shut up, rockwit" said Pyosz giddily. "As if I don't know you. I can't think of anything that would please me more, Maar. I'll have to talk with my abbas here, it's their Manage too, but it won't take long, I'm guessing. And your emmas at least know me a smidgen, think I'm not a total idiot, I hope. Plus Qala grew up on Exploit, you can push that aspect. Anyhow, let us talk and I'll call you back at the office there."

Maar sounded like she seriously needed to cry. "I don't know how to thank you -- " she began.

"Stop that" ordered Pyosz. "Drink some sleepytime tea, lots of milk, and calm down. Talk to you again soon."

It took her five minutes to fill in Lawa and Qala. They didn't even look at each other before Lawa said 'All roads lead to Pya. Get her here right away, is what I say. We'll get her back to transplant strength in no time."

Qala's grin was incandescent. She said only the word that was at the front of Pyosz's mind: "Finally."

"Kids are a lot of work" Pyosz began, but Lawa's guffaws drowned her out.

"Okay, then we're agreed? I'm calling her back" announced Pyosz. Qala nudged the radio toward her, leaning in the counter with suppressed excitement.

Maar did cry when she heard the answer. "I thought, when you called back so fast, it was going to be no."

"You need sleep" said Pyosz. "Let's talk strategy for just a minute, then you hit that lumpy couch. I can call Dodd right away, my abbas' Manage around dinner when they'll be up so they can enlist the school there to support this plan -- ". Pyosz was true to her word, she rushed them off the radio and commanded Maar to sleep.

Qala now exploded into leaps around the kitchen, making Pyosz briefly fear for her hips. "Will she be coming back with Maar?" asked Lawa.

"I don't know, it's all still very iffy. Depends on how Maar handles those emmas of hers" said Pyosz. "Is it okay that we made this decision without asking Vants first?"

"She's moving into that finished bedroom in her Manage this week anyhow, she said, the privy is done, the heat is on. She'll be here for meals only" said Lawa.

Pyosz felt like she could hardly bear to wait. "I need to do something. I'll go to the school in person to talk with s'bemma, instead of calling" she decided.

Dodd took Pyosz to her office because Ziri couldn't stop interrupting their conversation. Dodd said she thought it was an excellent idea. "I'll draft a tutoring plan and write a letter to Skene School" she said. "But it's going to be up to you and Maar to work with her every afternoon following school, I can't commit to that, I have music lessons to give. I'll review her progress every Ot."

"Sounds great. And maybe there's a music group she could join as well?" asked Pyosz.

Dodd's face lit up. "We have three pianos and I'm giving lessons at lunch on San to Ziri, maybe she could jump into that. Music completely enhances all aspects of learning. I promise my curriculum will put her ahead of that in Skene."

Pyosz was sure that was true. She stopped at Klosa's to ask about another bed, dresser, and maybe a piano. Klosa said she'd check her contacts for possible trade-ins. Pyosz dropped in at the grocery and bought a dozen lamb chops. Back on Saya, she flushed the privy, turned compost, and hauled a load of wood from her forest before milking to burn off energy. Once the chickens were put away, she walked in the front door yelling "Any calls?"

"No" said Qala, dropping fisk into bowls while Curds and Cha growled at each other near her feet. But at that moment the radio buzzed, and Pyosz's headlong rush to grab it sent hissing katts in all directions.

It was Prl. Pyosz worked hard to not sound disappointed. When she told the latest to her emma, Prl said "Oh, darling, don't get your hopes up. I don't think they're the sort to see that kind of sense, they're very rigid about their children. You need to prepare to hear no. Besides, taking Thleen away from my emmas won't be good for any of them." Pyosz deflated instantly and was in a foul mood the rest of the evening. The lamb chops were wasted on her. She went to bed early, radio in hand, but Maar did not call back.

When she went to milk the next morning, she had to leave the radio in the kitchen because it needed recharging, but she begged Qala to come get her instantly if Maar called. Qala said patiently "I could have guessed as much." She left for Koldok moving at high speed, and made the return trip in record time. Qala shook her head.

Pyosz slammed her bread bowl onto the counter and began sifting. Her first punch-down of the sponges was violent, and she gave Lawa a glare when she quipped "Gonna be like biting into lumber, that loaf." Once the aga was full of baking items, Qala said "Why don't you go hammer nails on Teppe? I'll have Maar call there, you'll only miss it by seconds. I can take this stuff out when it's done."

Pyosz glanced at the clock. It was not yet bedtime in Skene. "I'll strain my latest batch of vinegar first, and pulverize shamsjooz peppers" she said. The mortar and pestle work was gratifying. She wiped down the greenstone before setting her bread and pies to cool -- Cha had a bad habit of napping on the counters to keep watch for Curds. She ate a salad with leftover lamb and sausage in it, and bagged her baked goods before saying to Qala "All right, I'm taking you up on your offer." She was under the stairs looking for her favorite hammer when the radio buzzed again -- 2 a.m. in Skene she thought hopelessly.

But Qala was calling her name, her eyes dancing. Pyosz croaked "What?" into the radio.

"They said yes." Maar's voice was stunned. "All sorts of conditions, and they clearly expect this to fail, but I talked them into it. She has to stay here another week, so they could still go back on it. But they told Thleen about it, which I think means they'll go ahead, they wouldn't have risked the blow-up otherwise."

Here we go thought Pyosz. She didn't realize she'd said it out loud until Maar's wild laughter filled her ear.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, January 8, 2010


("Eggmerica" from the Accidental Geography series at Strange Maps.)

A good short order cook can make eggs you remember the rest of your life. I remember eggs from Buntyn's in Memphis, a diner called Three Sisters in Denton, Texas, Ruby's and Duboce Diner in San Francisco, and the breakfast combo at Biff's in Oakland that came with real grits and Louisiana sausage so hot I had to suck down two fountain cokes to get through it. Lisa Fulton at the still-missed Forray's Diner here in Austin could turn out eggs over medium just exactly to my preference -- she called them Meg's Eggs in my honor. (I was such a regular customer I had a plaque with my name on it marking the stool at the counter where I alway sat.)

But the best eggs in my life remain those my Daddy scrambled. He hated chickens yet loved eggs. After they lost their cotton farm during the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, his mother kept the family alive by starting a small cafe, and she taught Daddy how to cook eggs. Unlike omelets, Daddy said the secret to good scrambled eggs was taking your time, letting them fluff and cook slowly so they came out mounded , creamy, and bounding with moist flavor.

In the morning he'd stand at the stove barefoot and barechested, wearing creased khakis, telling bad jokes in his soft voice while watching his eggs and stirring every now and then. He akways gave me more than he put on his own plate, and I never argued with his generosity.


Thursday, January 7, 2010


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

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

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Because of the huolon schedule, Qala and Lawa had a choice of staying for either four days or eight, the latter of which would mean almost 10 days away from Skene but they opted for more time "at the opposite end of the growing year", as Lawa put it.

They arrived with a list of plans. After a family potluck that first night, Qala asked to take a long soak in "your jewel of a bath room." After a moment, she asked Lawa if she cared to join her, and Lawa accepted with a lidded look.

Pyosz had moved her cabin bed into the small back room off the kitchen that she thought would be her study so she could give her abbas the double bed in her room. She left the door open, sleeping in there the night of her guests' arrival, and enjoyed the occasional pop or creak of the aga as she drifted off. The next morning, she ate tea and toast before going to milk, but was tracked down by Qala as she was loading her cans into the wain. "I made hotcakes and poached eggs, come eat with us and we'll go to town with you."

The older women insisted on stopping in at the grocery, mercantile, and Klosa's in addition to the djostikers, making small purchases and chatting up everyone they met. They also visited Briel at the clinic, Dodd at the school, and the Lofthall office before returning to Saya. Qala poked through the barn store room while Lawa walked over to Herne to visit Tu. She shooed Pyosz on, saying "Go make pots, I'll call you in for lunch."

But ten minutes later, Qala came to the studio to ask "What are you planning to do with all that beeswax in the barn? Is it yours or Pya's?"

"They've already gotten their share, that's all mine. I'd figured on making candles if I ever found the time" said Pyosz.

"Could I -- would you mind if I did that?" asked Qala. There was muted yearning on her face.

"I'd be thrilled. Take all the wood you need from the stack by the compost, there's old pots left in the outdoor kitchen for melting wax in the grill, and molds are in the tool room. If you want colorings and scents, Taamsas can set you up."

Qala's light brown eyes sparkled. "I'm heading back to Koldok, then."

An hour later, Maar stuck her head in the studio. "Hey, you. I brought mussels, and I found Qala, but where's Lawa?"

"Sitting on the northernmost cliff with tackle she's borrowed from Pank, hoping to pull something from that deep blue hole just beyond the surf there" said Pyosz. "I suspect lunch will actually be up to us, come visit a while and I'll cook with you in a bit."

"Qala asked if I could take them to see Pubu Falls this afternoon" said Maar, sitting on a covered bucket of clay.

"Did she now? Well, it's a clear day for it, sounds like fun" said Pyosz. Half a minute later she was sucked back into the plate she was shaping. Maar quietly let herself out and put sweet potatoes to roast in the aga, pulled onions amd greens for braising, and began shucking mussels on the front porch, flanked by winter-furred katts.

Qala came to lunch smelling deliciously of smoke and wax. Lawa was triumphant over her catch of a medium-sized balik which she declared was dinner. They packed a thermos with hot tea for the jaunt to Pubu, accompanied by Vants. By the time they returned, Qala's first candles were cool enough to unmold, and she proudly lit one to place on the tiger maple table for dinner. Pyosz told her "You clearly have a gift for it, so I turn over all my wax to you. Do what you want with the candles, except if you sell them, please go through Taamsas as she already requested the consignment. No, I won't take a percentage, my wages pay for the beeswax harvest and if you wouldn't take interest on the loan you made that developed my geothermal, I'm not about to accept profit from what is entirely your artistry and labor."

Their second day, Lawa caught two kala "off the point", Qala designed her own Saya Island product label for Taamsas's shelves, and Mrebbe's crew trooped through on their way to Teppe to start work on Vants' Manage and goat barns. Pyosz offered her kitchen and dining room for Vants' use in making lunches for her timmers, and Vants accepted with the admonition that she was buying all ingredients and doing the work.

Their third day, Pyosz heard Lawa shouting at the top of her lungs and met Qala in front of the house as they ran to the point. Lawa was trying to subdue a thrashing red octopus. Qala and Pyosz stood back, leaving her to it. "You'll have to pound the flesh for a while to make it tender, you can use the boulders at the killing field" said Pyosz. Dinner that night was superb, and afterward Tu rubbed arnica on the sucker-shaped bruises on Lawa's arms.

Maar left for Skene, and the next afternoon Vants had an appointment to plan her new herd with Nioma. She invited Pyosz along, who said "Yes but as an apprentice, let's clear." Lawa and Qala went as well, but Lawa soon wandered off to talk with Poth, then followed her outside to visit the nearby greenhouses. Qala left as well, venturing into the shops district where she found Pyosz's small toy store. When they met up again, Lawa had four avocados tucked in the top of her gilet, which Qala said make her look like a six-breasted fantasy. Qala opened her bag and pulled out a miniature wheelbarrow, pail, rake and shovel, cunningly made of metal and wood, painted in primary colors. "For Ehall" she said,

"You're usurping my role as the bringer of magical toys" said Pyosz, not entirely joking.

"I bought a second set, you can give it to Thleen" said Qala.

"No, it will mean as much coming from you" said Pyosz. After dinner that night, Vants and Pyosz kept talking goats. Lawa filled a small tray with sand and played with the ejida toys, harvesting beans and marveling at how the wheelbarrow rolled. Qala said "Be sure to dump that out before bed, Curds is eyeing your tray speculatively."

A few minutes later, Qala interrupted the capristes to say "You know, Pyosz, that area just north of your Manage, outside the kitchen door here, has the perfect exposure for herbs. You should expand your herb growing anyhow, move some of it over here from the tillage."

Lawa, dumping a load of beans into a tea saucer from the wheelbarrow, added "And flowers. You could be growing a lot more flowers."

"Go for it" Pyosz said to Qala. "I have compost out my ears, lay out the beds however you want, I'll follow your plan." Qala borrowed a pad and pencil to begin making a diagram, Lawa scooting beside her, pointing at the paper periodically with her rake to show where something should go.

The next afternoon, Tu and Pank went with Qala and Lawa to another region of ejida, north of Pertama. That morning Qala, having used all the beeswax, began piling soil in new beds. After catching two more kala, Lawa helped her frame the beds with leftover lumber and L-braces at the corner. They returned shortly before dinner in a sinner flown by Dekkan, with flats of starts, bags of bulbs and soil additives, and a four-foot tall redbud tree. The starts were stored on a dropcloth in the empty front bedroom, door shut against the katts. Pank said the redbud would be all right on the porch overnight. Pyosz had baked the kala but also roasted a small turkey with cornbread and current stuffing, and she radioed the other Herne folks to come join them for the meal.

"How's the potting?" Vants asked her around a mouthful of turnips.

"I'm going to fire a load tonight, I can't believe how much I'm getting done" Pyosz answered, grinning at her abbas. "How's Teppe?"

"Xante doesn't understand why I'm asking for both an indoor and an outdoor privy" chuckled Vants. "But if you're mucked up, might as well go outside, I say."

"I still use both" agreed Pyosz. "At least in daylight."

"Mill brought out a couple today who might want to farm the cranberry bog" said Vants. "Course, it's not a full-time or year-round job, they'll need other work, but once my herd is producing, I'll need sinner pick-up of my milk each day, so they could catch a ride at least one leg of the commute. I made it clear I want no Manages built in line of sight of mine. Not while I'm alive."

Nk said to Pyosz "If they're picking up Vants' milk, they could stop here and get yours from the jichang, too, yes?"

"Nope" said Pyosz. "I need to keep the muscles I have from lifting, and I have the wain and carts for the short land hauls. It's different for me. In fact, I'm going to offer to meet that sinner each morning in Koldok with a cart and take Vants' milk to Kolm for them along with mine."

Tu said "Before I forget, we ordered two bee colonies for Herne today at the ejida, one strictly for the greenhouse. You want bees on Teppe?"

"Yes" said Vants. "But I don't know how to manage them."

"I'll teach you" said Pyosz. "Put her down for two right now, and order me two more, I can place them at the other end of the orchard."

The next day after milk delivery, Pyosz ferried with Vants, Lawa and Qala to Arta Island where their fields of winter wheat were ready for harvest. A small combine had been dropped at the jichang along with a large grain crate. Lawa was certified to run a combine and after sharpening its sickle, she declared this one would do. Pyosz and Vants were assigned to level the grain as it came from the hopper and occasionally hand-harvest tight spots. Qala kept hot tea available, called for pick-up of almost full crates and delivery of another empty, and listened to Lawa talk about combine work. Ollow fed them lunch, and they were done by 3:30.

On the ferry home, they ran into Ziri and Koben, and Qala invited all three children over for dinner, going to Kacang to ask emmas and pick up Meamea. Qala let them all help dig a hole for the redbud tree near the corner of the porch and it was planted with applause from Lawa and Pyosz. Vants had gone on to the hot springs.

Pyosz helped Ziri with homework while Qala started dinner and Lawa took the two younger children to visit goats. The Herne crowd, Mill, Oby, Dodd and Briel came for dinner. Following dessert, with a permission call from the emmas, Pyosz let all three children have a bath in the mural room, dressing them afterward in old shatis in lieu of schmattas. They were wrapped in quilts and found laps while music began. Pyosz glanced at the clock, grabbed the radio, and motioned for Ziri to follow her upstairs. She dialed the Manage of Maar's family, and sat happily listening for the next half hour as Ziri and Thleen talked over each other at the tops of their voices.

They carried the children home at 10:00, all three sound asleep, Vants shouldering Ziri. The emmas were in schmattas and effusively grateful. On the ferry back, Qala said "Will Maar be back tomorrow in time for the dance in Pertama?"

"Yes" said Pyosz with satisfaction.

The following night while waltzing, Maar said to Pyosz "That was a really good thing you did, helping Ziri call Thleen."

"I'm sorry I didn't think of it sooner" said Pyosz.

"She failed a spelling test this week. She's never failed a test in her life" said Maar.

"Oh lev" breathed Pyosz.

"Kickball practice is in full swing, so Su and Adon really can't take her home and help her with homework" continued Maar. "She had a bad dream, woke up thrashing around the second night I was there, but she couldn't tell me what it was about."

Pyosz kept worrying about Thleen the rest of the evening. In the morning, eating rice porridge with fermented plum sauce, she said to her abbas "Should I encourage Maar to think about moving back to Skene for a while, several months or even a year, so she can have daily contact with Thleen? I could ask Halling to use her influence with Danaan to ease Maar into the Lofthall there, and I could talk to Mill about keeping the door open for Maar to return here,"

Qala and Lawa looked at each other before Qala said "I can't imagine you have any ideas about helpng Thleen that Maar hasn't already considered and, for whatever reason. rejected as untenable. It dominates her thoughts, and she knows more about it than you do."

Lawa, less tactful, said "She don't need you talking to Halling or Mill, she made her own way with both of them before you ever met her."

"Well Thleen's in trouble and I don't know what to do" retorted Pyosz.

"So deal with your feelings about that, then. Clear your mind so's you can keep listening to Maar as she finds a way through" said Lawa.

Pyosz briefly got a stubborn look on her face that Qala knew well. Unlike Prl, she knew not to push, as Pyosz would simply dig in deeper. But Pyosz surprised her by tugging at the front dread Lawa used to say must be connected to Pyosz's common sense button, it was her inevitable gesture when she'd decided to stop being contrary. She said softly "I keep trying to go forward, hoping it's enough. But then -- things happen I can't fix. Can't even comprehend, really."

"It's terrifying" agreed Qala.

"And as we sit here in this huge Manage at this gorgeous table, Maar is getting ready to fly all the most dangerous crap Pya produces out to a volcano, all by herself, to get rid of it for us." Pyosz finally began crying. "Her emmas are clearly assholes, except once I saw them get alone in that cramped ancient Manage and shut their zinc door, they stopped being so hard and suddenly looked like a couple of women doing the best they could. Maybe I'm being disloyal to Maar to even think that -- "

"I'm willing to bet Maar would love to hear you say it. She took you home hoping you'd love her emmas in ways she can't afford to" said Qala with conviction.

Pyosz washed her face and joined her abbas in making the dishes they were offering for Shmonah. Lawa said "Those Heaps kids are coming here today to eat with us today, right?"

"Yeah, if Ziri has her way they'll be the first to arrive" said Pyosz.

"Well, that huge old chestnut other side of the goat barn, it's got a branch that'd be perfect for a swing" said Lawa.

Pyosz grinned. "Rope and boards are in the barn."

When they began settling down after lunch to make music, Pyosz sat on a cushion to lean against her walnut paneling and set another cushion in front of her, patting it and looking at Maar. Red-cheeked, Maar sat between her legs and let Pyosz pull her back against her chest. After one song, Pyosz whispered "Those begonias beside the door of your Manage on Chloddia, what color do they bloom in?"

"Pink and white" said Maar, craning around to look at her.

"Must be lovely next to the green of the door, can't wait to see it" said Pyosz. She felt Maar relax all the way then.

The next morning a lighter flew low over Saya heading west as Pyosz was ferrying back from delivery. She walked to the point and asked Lawa, fishing, where it had gone. Lawa leaned so far forward Pyosz wanted to grab her back belt, saying "It landed at Teppe, looks like Mill and Api, I think."

Pyosz knew Maar was sinning but still felt a little disappointed. She went to her studio.

Two hours later, Qala burst in and said "Jiips just broadcast on a general frequency that there's a leviathan in Koldok Kuono, north of Saya!" She had the radio in her hand. Pyosz took off in a dead run for the point. Lawa's pole was thrown back into the sand and Lawa had both hands over her brows to shut our glare as she stared along the eastern coast of Teppe.

"I'm not sure where it is" she said. Pyosz thundered in the house to return with her binoculars. Qala had her clasp knife out and the back of the radio was exposed, Qala delicately poking electronic innards with knifetip, volume wide open to static. Pyosz had to hold her breath to steady the glasses, and finally she said "It's not in the same channel as that juvie was -- it's here in the middle, but -- shit, it's a baby! It's trying to get over the reef, or around it maybe, I can't remember the underwater shape of that particular trough."

A wall of lev song reached them, and an instant later Mill's voice blared out of the radio " -- mezi at your discretion when you get here." Qala dialed down the volume. A few sputters later, they heard Maar say "Will do, expect to reach you in two minutes. Fohol, you take north wing, survey the deeps around Shu. Dekkan, circle the Koldok strait."

Pyosz turned her glasses toward Koldok and saw people beginning to line the cliffs. She recognized Uli and her aggie. Dodd would be keeping order at the school, and Briel getting the clinic prepared.

"We can't see well enough here" she said, running again, this time toward the kissing gate where she met the Herne cousins and yelled "Follow me." She loped to the bulge mid-Saya north of her clay field and had caught her breath by the time everyone else reached her.

Qala's rigged radio had Maar's voice narrating as Maar zoomed into view flying a heavy-duty deep ocean sinner. She rattled off coordinates and asked for a "topo read". Jiip replied "Uli just walked in, give us a sec." Maar continued "Extreme juvenile, no typical grey stria yet, length just under six feet. No visible damage. Fohol, what you got?"

Before Fohol could answer, Uli's voice said "Length of that channel 121 meters, deepest section 7 meters but at southeastern end it's 3 meters. Reef comes to 18 inches of surface at high tide, down to 1.5 meters of surface at low tide. And at the southeastern corner, there's a ridge that's 2 meters wide but if something could shimmy across that, channels at least 3 meters deep go all the way past Koldok into all of the Pea Pod zone."

"Tide is currently receding" observed Pyosz grimly.

Fohol broke in. "There's a mass of 40 to 50 levs at the point where the baby must have slipped over. They are flank to flank and seemed to be moving in waves. I can feel percussion, Maar, and the water is bright red with extrusion but I'm also seeing swirls of grey fluid."

"Blood" confirmed Maar. "Are you saying they're ramming the reef at that end?"

"I believe they're trying to" said Fohol.

"Request suggestions" Maar said.

Mill said "I see two options. Kill the baby and hope that interrupts the adults' behavior, or wait to see if either the baby retreats, dies on its own eventually, and/or the adults give up on it." She named another pilots in the air and sent them to patrol the reefs on the Pea Pods' other borders.

"These levs are not going to stop, in my opinion" said Fohol. "There's a hundred more congregated east of Shu that I can visibly count, without radar."

Maar said "I concur. I was going to report that there was nearly no leviathan presence during today's sinning. I suspect this is the reason why, although cause and effect is not determinable at this point."

Lawa turned a stricken face to Qala. "Please tell me I didn't attract that baby by my fishing!"

"No, that's not what she's talking about" said Qala. "It's possible the leviathans congregated near Shu for some reason -- which was NOT your reeling in an occasional kala, trust me -- and their concentration allowed a baby to slip away and explore where they couldn't follow. Or they are here to rescue an errant baby. I think that's what Maar meant. Questions we'll have to try to answer but not right now."

Mill said "Query to experienced sinners: Have you ever witnessed the death or remains of a baby lev? If so, what was the behavior of adults in the vicinity?"

Before anyone could answer, Uli said "I've determined the reef where the mass of levs is reported to be is tufa that is possible to fracture under stress. According to the mineral survey."

"So they know the weak point" said Tu. "Interesting they haven't exploited that knowledge before now." Pyosz gave her a disturbed glance.

Fohol said "I've never seen a dead or dying baby." The other pilots echoed this, and Lawa said "Mill wouldn't have asked that question if she knew, either."

Maar said "We have the current response as evidence they react in an unprecented fashion to the distress of juveniles, that's enough for me to extrapolate. With all respect, Sheng Zhang, I believe assaulting the baby will be interpreted by the leviathans as a unilateral act of aggression and likely some other humans will agree. Further, the death and decomposition of a leviathan in Koldok Kuono will have untoward environmental consequences that could endure for days or weeks. I suggest we rescue the baby ourselves and remove it from vicinity to inhabited Pya."

There was an incredulous silence. Pyosz swung her glasses toward Teppe, looking for Mill's face.

Mill's voice was neutral as she said "Do you have a strategy for accomplishing this?"

"I have sinner nets on board. I can drop mine with a single grapple, I have charge and lift enough to transport this much additional weight. If the bottom doesn't present insurmountable obstacles, I can close around the lev and shift it" said Maar. "Me alone -- this is not a team endeavor."

Pank's arm suddenly went over Pyosz's shoulders.

"Leviathans lifted from the ocean die quickly, especially babies" said Mill. With firsthand knowledge thought Pyosz, remembering how Mill had been present as a child when Halling had brought the first dead leviathan back to Skene for actual scientific examination.

"Agreed. I propose to drag it slowly through the channel back to the reef and briefly lift it over into outside water" said Maar.

"What outside water?" said Mill.

"Into the mass at the reef" said Maar.

"No!" shouted Pyosz. "No no NO!"

"You'll be a doomed target" said Mill.

"I don't think so" said Maar. "The baby will be communicating distress and alarm, but their echolocation is phenomenal, the others will know it's heading in their direction. And that it's alive. They won't attack a sinner holding a live baby without a few seconds of visual confirmation. And in a mass like that, they can't generate velocity or dive enough to leap. If I lay the baby gently on top of the mass and release, then retreat instantly, I'll catch them unable to attack -- and. I think, unwilling to risk killing the baby until it's rescued. It'll actually be safer than trying to take it elsewhere to clear deep water."

"Pure supposition" broke in Oby's voice on the Lofthall radio.

"Based on established leviathan patterns from decades of observation" replied Maar. "But I need a read on the path to follow, to keep from having my net snagged on underwater projections."

"I cannot order you to take this action" said Mill. "I agree with most of your conclusions, but it's still a profound risk and you have people who depend on you."

"Thleen!" shouted Pyosz at Maar's sinner.

"Not a reminder I need" said Maar. "Pya also depends on me. I believe this incident is somehow a larger territorial issue we need to comprehend, with the input of others. I'm volunteering with sober mind, Sheng Zhang."

Pyosz began pounding her own thigh with her fist.

Uli's voice said "I can talk you through the channel, Maar."

"I have an additional request" said Maar. "I'd like Fohol to stay open channel and her broadcast to be continously taped. Someday we're going to be able to decode lev communication, and this is an important resource,"

After a few seconds, Jiips replied "We're setting it up here."

Mill ordered every craft into the air with rescue netting, grapples, and rafts on board. "Are you geared up?" she asked Maar.

"All set."

"Fohol, level at 35 meters and hover just north of Maar's target destination. Open your hatch and deploy the mezi. Report any alteration in lev configuration instantly" said Mill.

"Got that" said Fohol.

Abbo's voice came through. "Request permission to serve as back-up to Fohol, Sheng Zhang."

"Take eastern point" agreed Mill. "But your priority is pilot rescue. Fohol, you have leave to use the mezi at your discretion. Uli, are you ready?"

"Yes, Sheng Zhang" said Uli in a husky voice.

"Maar, you have go... Carynn bye." Pyosz saw Mill make the pilot's sign.

"Thank you, Sheng Zhang" said Maar. Pyosz suddenly couldn't stand any more. She sat down heavily on a rock. Killer began nibbling at the binoculars strap, and Pyosz handed the glasses to Lawa, since she couldn't see Maar's face from this angle. Qala came to stand close behind her.

Time seemed tp go in slow motion. Pyosz didn't notice when Frahe left or when she returned with a camera; later Frahe said "Maar's talking about recording it made me realize, well, in case..."

Maar and Uli conversed in geography and numbers, Maar patiently tracking the baby leviathan on radar until it bumbled into a zone that felt clear to her. A shimmer of rusting metal fell like bangles onto the kuono, sending up an irregular plume of spash. Pyosz saw the sinner rock ever so slightly. She heard the drop after a second, and then a whine she realized must be the grapple as Maar closed the bottom of the net.

Two heartbeats later, all the distant lev song stopped. Pyosz clamped her lips tight, fighting the urge to heave. One thin high wail could be heard intermittently. Maar said "Fohol, checking in."

"They're not moving. The water is barely rippling" said Fohol. Abbo added "Over here, near the periphery, anything recognizably juvenile has just submerged."

Pyosz saw Maar's sinner creep forward. The high wail changed in intensity, and Uli's voice gave steady feedback with an occasional "Got that" from Maar. Every minute she'd ask "Fohol?" and Fohol would answer "No change."

"Do me a favor, Fohol" Maar said suddenly. "Shift seven degrees west of where you are, they're problem-solvers and they'll guess you're providing cover. I'll track toward you until the last minute. Gives me a little more surprise time."

Pyosz wished she could see inside Maar's mind right now, all the different demands being made on it. While she was wishing, she'd rather be in that sinner with her right now. She saw Maar slide open her hatch and the end of her mezi poked out at lap level. All four limbs on controls, eyes scanning several instruments, computing the meaning of Uli's instructions -- pure adrenaline thought Pyosz.

Finally Maar was a meter from what must be the reef, because even from this distance Pyosz could see a blurry line of difference from -- what, extrusion, body temperature, blocked current? Or maybe I'm just imagining it. The sinner rose languidly, easily, the net shedding water like someone standing from a bath. Until abruptly there was a writhing pinkness right below the surface, starting to be enmeshed by the metal links.

"Here she goes" said Maar. The sideways hop combined with thrust and lift was familiar to Pyosz from how hauling pallets were dropped and taken away at small jichangs, and nobody did it more elegantly than Maar. She zigged to the right, the baby's screams loud and crisp in the air, and immediately eased the mesh into what looked like a solid surface. There was a delayed clunk, and by the time Pyosz registered the sound, Maar was banking like a dragonfly back and even more to the right, the bottom of her net skiffing the surface for several yards. The baby leviathan slowly subsided, but it was in Pyosz's peripheral vision -- she couldn't look away from Maar's sinner streaking down the kuono, her net crawling back up like rolled skarpetki.

Fohol said "They're trying to separate and dive. The baby looks viable."

"Ascend and follow Maar" said Mill. "You too, Abbo. Requesting fresh volunteers to fly perimeter around inner Pya waters for the next two hours."

Dekkan was the first to say "Count me in" which Pyosz was sure would bother Uli, she'd rather have Dekkan back at the Lofthall right now. But then Maar broke through, an exuberant tenor singing

I embrace this good green earth
Rising safe I am this hour
Above the ocean's salty scour

Multiple voiced joined her, including Mill, and at the end, everyone on Saya shoved their fists in the air to shout "To Pya!"

Pyosz started back to the kissing gate. Mill's voice suggested that Oby go tell Dodd she could release early any child who had adults who wanted them home. Qala said to Lawa "Let's go ferry over to Kacang and offer to get their kids for them, prove it's safe to be on the kuono again."

"Yeah, they must be counting their pubic hairs right about now" agreed Lawa. She turned to Pyosz. "You okay?"

"I need toast and tea" Pyosz said. "I think I'll call abba. Is that radio usable for calling out now?"

"Yeah. But don't share around what I did to it" said Qala. "You might want a second radio here anyhow."

Pyosz walked slowly into her Manage, still weak in the knees. She lay a slice of bread in the aga and poured boiling water over tea in a pot. She decided to start a sponge before calling Skene and sifted flour into her wide wooden bowl. She was dropping in salt when she smelled the toast and pulled it out by fingertip, slathering it with butter, then blackberry jam. She cut it corner to corner, reliving in her mind Maar's zig into easy reach of malevolent death. She was pouring milk into her tea when she heard the front door open.

"Vants?" she yelled, leaning around the aga to look down the great hall. But it was Maar, her hair stiff with sweat, her face ghostly. Pyosz leaped toward her and wrapped her arms around her waist, under Maar's guibba. Maar reeked of fear and ketone, and she was shivering.

"I didn't hear your sinner" Pyosz whispered.

"I ferried over...Not safe to fly right now" answered Maar.

"Here, eat this. Drink. I'll be right back." Pyosz ran to the bathroom and started hot water in the tub, dropping a handful of lemon salts into the froth. When Maar had finished the toast, Pyosz walked her to the bath room, undressed her, then stripped herself and sat down in the tub first. Maar leaned against her sideways, knees pulled up in a fetal position, and began sobbing.

"You did it, buddy. You did it" murmured Pyosz. "We'll figure the rest out." After Maar went abruptly to sleep, Pyosz used her big limber feet to keep adding hot water to the tub so it stayed toasty. When she heard Qala and Lawa come home, she woke Maar and said "Come on, I'll dry you off and get you into bed. Do I need to call your emmas?"

"No" said Maar groggily. "I'll do it later." She dried herself, trying to comb flat her hair, and looking at herself in the mirror she whispered "Pax Piscata." Pyosz felt a chill down her spine, and turned to take the schmatta Lawa was handing in the door.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.



(Hubble Space Telescope Photo of NGC 4710)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite, followed by poetry after the jump.


by Mary Oliver

All winter
two blue herons
hunkered in the frozen marsh,
like two columns of blue smoke.

What they ate
I can't imagine,
unless it was the small laces
of snow that settled

in the ruckus of the cattails,
or the glazed windows of ice
under the tired
pitchforks of their feet—

so the answer is
they ate nothing,
and nothing good could come of that.
They were mired in nature, and starving.

Still, every morning
they shrugged the rime from their shoulders,
and all day they
stood to attention

in the stubbled desolation.
I was filled with admiration,
and, of course, empathy.

It called for a miracle.
Finally the marsh softened,
and their wings cranked open
revealing the old blue light,

so that I thought: how could this possibly be
the blunt, dark finish?
First one, then the other, vanished
into the ditches and upheavals.

All spring, I watched the rising blue-green grass,
above its gleaming and substantial shadows,
toss in the breeze,
like wings.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010


("Blue Moon", photo copyrighted to Oak S. LoGalbo)

Some of the morning routine is under my belt -- the Dinah greeting and dispensing of treats, hydration, eating while reading Brilliant at Breakfast (I enjoy the irony), some meds and a prune, and then a dribble of nip for my Devoted Companion. Who is now cavorting in chemically-induced euphoria.

I had trouble going to sleep, my mind on overdrive. Part of me was occupied with plotting issues for Pya, which is autobahning along on a multithread track and allows no room for fudge or dither. But I've also been standing under the canopy of a PBS docu I saw last week, What Darwin Never Knew, and relocating current issues in my firmament based on the new thinking the show stimulated in me: How to effectively respond to the utter repudiation of the Obama administration of the core values on which it ran; how to deal with a sizable percentage of the population which is functionally deranged from race, class, and gender conditioning; how to survive when I have no income, no health insurance, and no mobility/transportation in the midst of capitalism's collapse. Stuff like that.

Since getting up and going to another room requires an effort of muscle and will that leaves me weak to the point of lightheadedness and a fever spike, my ability to lead, inspire, or even respond is often measured in minims these days. I'm bored with this reality, the current moment by moment journey. It feels like there is no more to be learned from it. I'm old enough to know that in itself is a clue, that appearance of stasis. Oh, add it to the list of what I need to fix, will you?

To quote myself from the finale I wrote for Actual Lives' performance at the VSA International Festival in D.C. 2004: What if I don't get better?

I guess I'll find out.

On the fun-to-think-about screen is last night's episode of The Good Wife which completely tore apart a Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh hatemongering TV host hiding behind the right to free speech with the assistance of a liberal judge afraid to require accountability from those who are not journalists but instead are deliberately getting rich from inciting lie-based violence. It was an unequivocal expose of how this form of media among us is destroying lives, trust, and community health -- done with great writing and acting in the middle of a hour-long drama series. Wahoo.

Well, that's all the time and energy I can spare today for reporting. I have difficult items on my To Do list (as usual) and no immediate reward in sight. Except that the motivation is, at bedrock, love of self, and that's a return I can bank against tomorrow. Catch you later, sportsfans.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010


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

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

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Vants of course stayed the night at the Genist Manage, and after a quick meal of eggs and toast, she asked for a long bath followed by bed. She looked overwhelmed. Pyosz and Prl went on to bed themselves to chat.

"I can't believe they took away the career she's been devoted to for 30 years" said Prl furiously. "My s'bemma Culisa was a capriste, but Vants has been legendary, a real boon to Skene in ways most capristes are not."

"Once again, I have to wonder if Mill suspected this might be coming Pya's way" mused Pyosz. "Teppe's pasturage is actually superior to that of Saya's, you know. When both are in full production, we'll dominate the industry for all of Skene. Seems like someone in that guild could have foreseen such and insisted they not toss Vants to the wind, because she had bedrock on which to land."

Prl looked at her child appraisingly. "If they retract their stupidity and beg to reinstate her, do you think she'll accept? Perhaps all this sudden decision by Vants is designed to force just that realization on her colleagues, she's quite adept at politics, our Vants."

This had not occurred to Pyosz, and she didn't much like it. "Well, but on Pya she'll have 2/3 of a huge island to herself, she'll have a Manage, and she can provide for her aggie. Skene can't match that."

"Vants is not just starting out, she's my age, immigration is wrenching at our age. Even moreso for Moasi, who would be leaving behind her other children, her grandchildren, two of her sibs, and her friends. Not to mention Motu Fling" argued Prl. "I'm not convinced she really will go to Pya."

"You heard Vants, she's requesting packed gravel paths all over the upper end of Teppe, a ramp into her Manage, and all the bigger sinners have ramps. With an electric cart, Moasi will be able to get around her own home and outdoors with ease, on her own -- and a quick flight to Dvareka will give her independent access to the entire island." Pyosz didn't add Plus she has one sib and much other family already there, and if Lawa emigrates also, it'll be three sibs within an easy walk of one another.

As if reading her mind, Prl said "It will flatten Halling, this possibility."

Pyosz didn't want to face that. There were too many people in her life whose very well-being was being eroded by sudden death, and she didn't know what to do about it. After a minute she said "I'm not worried about the ferry link between Saya and Teppe any more, there's that. Vants and I can pick up the slack for each other. Oh, and lots of new goats for me to know and love! Most of whom will not have to face slaughter for meat."

"What do you mean, she'll have mixed herds of does and bucks? And the elderly will die on their feet?" asked Prl, who had paid attention.

Another reality Pyosz had not explored fully, and here she was a capriste.

"Oh, emma. It's been such a hard visit, I'm fearfully tired. Can I just curl up in front of you and go to sleep now?"

Prl clicked off the lamp. "I love you, child, dream sweet."

Pyosz spent most of the following day at her abbas. Halling was jolted by Vants' news, and when Vants joined them for lunch, Halling grilled her about the financial sense of starting over at her time of life in the new world, especially spending her savings on a Manage when she had no heirs. Vants finally said "Perhaps if I live in a place where access to town life is half an hour away, I could actually make my own family, at least join in to one already started." Which made Halling blink and her face go kinder.

Vants still had belongings stored on Yagi to retrieve, and a lot of seeing folks to do, she said, so she did not intend to travel to Pya immediately. Prl glanced significantly at Pyosz, as if to say So they can woo her back to Yagi. Pyosz ignored her, but cast her own look at Prl when Vants said "At least I'll be on hand when your herd starts kidding, it's a 24 hour job for days on end, exhilirating but exhausting for one person."

Yoj asked Pyosz "Who's going to look after Thleen after school each day, now that Gusu's gone?"

"Ah, that's one of Maar's worries. Dru has arranged for Thleen to be dropped by the school sinner on Exploit where her sib lives and go to their house, where an abba that isn't any kin to Thleen will keep her until Dru and Adnes are off work."

"She's talked about those Exploit cousins, I think" said Halling. "They're all much older than her and pick on her, she said."

"Yes" said Pyosz grimly. "But Dru scoffs at it, says it's time Thleen toughens up."

"So no Ziri at school, a hostile environment until dinner, and then going to bed alone" said Halling. "At least Yoj and I have each other, and control over how we spend our time."

Prl asked astutely "Is that how Maar managed it, then, when she was little? By toughening up?"

"I suppose so" said Pyosz. "I wish I'd paid more attention to her when we were in school. And then, at 12, Thleen was born and Maar had a repository for all her hidden tenderness."

"We'll do what we can" Halling told Pyosz, and Pyosz realized Thleen was more of a healthy diversion than the book Yoj was helping Halling assemble.

Still, all the goodbyes that day felt fundamentally wrong. Maar, blotchy-faced, asked Abbo to take the first leg, and once they were underway, she slid into the back seat beside Pyosz and cried harder than Pyosz had ever seen her. Abbo looked panicked in the rearview mirror. When Maar was emptied, Pyosz wiped her face and made her a sleeping nest again. Despite the frequent clamor from a pair of piglets in a nearby crate, Maar dropped off as Pyosz returned to the passenger seat.

"Big news about Vants, huh" said Abbo.

"Yeah. I need to make a count, but at some point we're going to have more family in Pya than in Skene" said Pyosz. Abbo grinned at her happily, and Pyosz grinned back. Abbo then set her head spinning with the remark "Emma says Vants was in love with Gerra way back in the day, and when Gerra chose Ndege instead, that's when Vants dropped out of the U and became a capriste. Not exactly the same as you -- "

"What is the attraction with Gerra?" burst out Pyosz.

Abbo's eyes went wide. "Dunno, never thought about it." She offered no further conversation, and Pyosz pulled out her pillow to nap.

Over the next week, Pyosz worked without a break, spending late evenings on her mural tiles. She did make sure to write an illustrated letter to Thleen, boxing it with a tin of jam tarts and six pairs of new sokken she had dyed "kickball" green. She sent Adon a music disk she'd heard her mention wanting, and Su a pair of sheepskin-lined gloves made from her leather allotment because Su's mittens had a hole in one palm. She filled the envelope to her abbas with photographs and a draft of the planting scheme for her spring tillage, asking their advice. She called Prl twice as she was going to bed, drained but needing to hear news of Skene.

Klosa sent a request through Mrebbe that Pyosz stop by to discuss furniture for the new Manage. Pyosz did so, beginning with "I'm going to keep the aga I have now, it's working wonderfully. But I want to trade in this current coldbox for the biggest you can locate, preferably with double the freezer capacity."

"To hold carcasses" said Klosa knowingly. Pyosz winced. "And I hear your cousins are making your table and chairs."

"Yes, plus we're working on designs for a custom sideboard and a real dresser in my bedroom" said Pyosz. "But that will take a while, and until they're done, I'm considering buying a rocker or two for the front porch, easy chairs for the main hall, and a worktable for my study."

Klosa was making notes. "What about your bed?" she asked.

"I figured it would do for now" said Pyosz.

"Well, I got something in that made me think of you" said Klosa, leading her into the side room. In the corner was a double bedstead made of iron which had once been painted white but was flaked now to a dappled appearance. The frame was sturdy and showed only spots of rust. The uprights and posts were all chased with a pattern of baby squashes and flambouyant blossoms.

"Oh, it's beautiful" breathed Pyosz, bending over to trace with her fingers a squash vine curling around a post. "Who would have painted over this, it's dulled the clarity of the carving?"

"You could strip it to an original finish, cover it with lacquer to keep the gleam" said Klosa. Pyosz smiled at her: "You know how to tempt me. I won't have time to refinish it until the Manage is done, but I would like to have a spacious bed to go in my big new rooms. I'll need a real mattress, too, though, can you use your connections to get me a discount?"

"Let's barter" said Klosa, sitting down on a nearby chair.

The cold of Kall continued into Jian for two weeks. The third Sju of Jian, Pyosz ferried with Tu and Pank to Koldok to meet the huolon as it landed. Vants was first out the hatch, her smile a little bleak. Abbo called out the door "Grab a handcart, will you, Pyosz, she's got several crates we'll need to drop off later." Dodd and Briel appeared in the next minute, inviting everyone for tea. After a tour of Koldok and a rest at Dodd's, they all went on to Saya, now joined by Maar and Mill.

Vants was starting to look tired but perked up once in the pasture amid the herd. She picked up Killer, nimbly dodged Molars, and paid appropriate attention to Boulder. Vants wanted to at least lay eyes on Teppe, so they walked to the hot springs and gazed across the strait. Vants heaved a long sigh and said "Lovely. I studied the map you sent, Mill, I know where I want the Manage and the goat barns to be."

"Mrebbe says they'll be done with my place in two weeks" said Pyosz.

"We can do basic excavation next week, and use that rock to lay down trails" said Mill. "We'll need 'em to move building materials around Teppe."

"Come on" said Tu. "We've got baked beans and a shoulder roast in the aga, let's get you settled in at Herne." She had to reach up to put her arm over Vants' wide shoulders, but Vants let herself be led like a child.

On Shmonah, when Pyosz left Arta Island for milking, Maar went with her. They sat at the table after eating, talking for hours about how unhappy Thleen was. The following afternoon Vants came through the kissing gate right after lunch, in very muddy work clothes and caked otos.

"Whatcha been doing on Herne to get so bedaubed?" asked Pyosz.

"Not on Herne" replied Vants cheerfully. "On Teppe. I just took our ferry for the first time. Tough current but way nicer than the Western Flings. I was wondering if I could milk with you this evening, I need tp keep my hands in practice and, well, I just miss goats."

"Happy to share what there is" said Pyosz. "Right now, I'm about to lay out my mural in the great hall for the tilers, they're starting on the bath room."

A dropcloth was already protecting the parquet floors Nk and Frahe had laid in her Manage, and crates of tiles were stacked along one wall. Pyosz used a tape measure to chalk the dimensions of each wall on the cloth and, rubbing her hands, unlatched the first crate.

"I'll hand 'em to you two at a time" offered Vants. At first, it was only Mrebbe, Xante, and the two tilers looking on, but slowly the rest of the timmers set down their tools and came to watch the murals unfold in hushed silence.

Pyosz had not left out the morrie strati in a rough perimeter around Skene. Bright blue waters swirling with current was a contrast to the rich rainbow of colors on the islands, the hues of rice paddies, sheepfolds, orchards and goat-dotted hills anchored by maroon walls and sloping black roofs of little buldings everywhere. A kickball game was in progress on the field between Chloddia and Exploit, and if you leaned very close to one tile, you could just make out the scoreboard showing Chloddia far ahead. A sinner was dumping a silver heap of fish at the docks on Riesig, and the glint seemed to show them flapping around. Olive growers were picking trees on Yanja, wheat fields were being neatly mowed on Isola, and bright daubs of lilac speckled Motu Fling. The apple tree at her abbas' Manage was in full bloom -- seasons were all represented concurrently in the magical mural -- and a heavy rainstorm had just hit Peisuo.

"Thunder me down" breathed Xante as the last of Skene was laid into place. "It's alive, it's like you expect that ferry to begin creaking along to Byli, there."

"I'd ask how in the stars did you do this" said Vants, "but I remember what abba Ng could do with plain clay. Except you've taken another leap, with your gift."

Pyosz was too caught up in seeing the whole to take in the comments. She was spotting flaws everywhere, things she should have done differently. Maybe Pya had come out better. She reached for the next row of crates.

She was even less satisfied when the larger mural was assembled, showing squirrels leaping from tree to tree on Chwet, the silvery marshes of Zhao Ze, salt ponds in Cogio, a small black kid standing up to bleat through the kissing gate on Saya. But everyone else in the room was ecstatic. Xante turned to the tilers and said "You break one of these, I'll fire you myself" which made Mrebbe roll her eyes.

Pyosz shrugged and said irritably "I need to go start rice for dinner." After she strode out, Mrebbe said "Let's stack those crates around this area, keep anyone from walking through. Everybody get back to it." But that evening after dinner, when Pyosz brought Maar to the Manage under protest to let her have a look, Pyosz finally saw the splendor of what she had done when she flicked on lights in the great hall. "Wow" she said in unison with Maar. By the time they left, Pyosz was trembling from the responsibility inherent in this Manage.

The following Moja, Vants and Pyosz met Poth near Pertama and rode in a truck with the rest of their shearing crew to the sheep pens near Fjer. Because of their inexperience, they were relegated to carrying fleece to washing bins or helping herd frantic animals into pens. Still, it was a change in labor, and extremely interesting to watch the shearers separate wool from twitching skin without a nick. They were covered in lanolin by the end of the day, and after milking, they grabbed a sandwich and rushed to the hot springs for a soak.

It was still cold enough to necessitate huddling down in the water for the first half hour. Her chin touching the surface, Pyosz asked "You having second thoughts about all this, cousin?"

"I had those before I gave you the contributions" said Vants. "I decided to do what was clearly right, and if my way was blocked, it meant I was on the wrong path. It's like how goats graze anything they can with no upper set of teeth, you know? More than one way to chew through a barrier. Pya sits here as a beckoning contradiction to Skene's terror of making a mistake. The wonder is that more folks aren't emigrating."

"There's a dance next weekend, you wanna go with me?" asked Pyosz.

"As long as it's okay if I don't leave with you" grinned Vants.

Pyosz cracked up, thought one part of her mind wished her emma could take the risks Vants was.

A massive copper tub went into the bathroom under the Pya mural, and twin lustrous stainless sinks under Skene. The constellations overhead, based on Qoj's photographs, were painted with luminescent tint. The walnut-paneled walls upstairs and down were stained and sealed, gleaming under the new nickel light sconces. Bedroom walls had been plastered and painted with colors mixed by Pyosz herself. Pyosz's iron bed and new mattress were put in the largest bedroom upstairs, the only furniture so far on that entire story.

Two slabs of plywood were still serving as the front doors into the great hall, because Mrebbe had taken on those doors as her particular project and she was fashioning them in her shop at home. One afternoon a sinner appeared overhead with a swaying pallet below, and Mrebbe went excitedly toward the jichang, calling out to Xante "It's here!"

The doors were of dark cherry, with nickel hinges and latches, a trio of divided-light panes in the upper section at eye level. Below the windows was inset a roosting owl carved from soft gold, surrounded by a circle of bees with gold and ebony abdomens.

Pyosz wept when she saw them. Nk and Frahe had come out of the sinner with Maar, and Pyosz wept again when she saw what they had brought: Carvings to tuck under the eaves at either end of the porch depicting a doe leaning on a cherry tree, her lips parted to close over ripe fruit.

The following morning, they began painting the outside walls, which caused people in Koldok to openly stand at cliffside with binoculars, unable to stop watching a house go blue. Pyosz's studio had been shingled as was every other structure on Pya. Her kiln and wheel were installed, her tools and clay moved to the commodious cupboards. She hung her sketches of the tile murals on the blank back wall.

The new coldbox was delivered and hooked up, and that sinner, flown by Dekkan, went on to Herne to bring back the tiger maple table in three sections, along with two dining chairs. A pair of overstuffed chairs upholstered in a faded rose and buttercup fabric were set in front of the hearth. Nk had persuaded Pyosz to commision a long curved settee from her and Frahe, and against its eventual arrival, Pyosz bought a dozen thick silk cushions in rich tones to pile on the floor where the settee would go in the great hall. At last the aga was moved into the new kitchen, and when it and the hearth were turned on, the Manage's heart began beating.

Pyosz refused to sleep or eat in her new place yet, however, because Maar was on a run to Skene. She fed the timmers on her porch or in the old kitchen while they stayed on to finish painting, hang bright copper gutters connected to a rainwater tank Pyosz had insisted on, and clean up the grounds. She slept with her katts in the tiny metal cabin, telling them "The new place has litter boxes in the storeroom under the stairs, your version of an indoor privy, eh?"

Finally, the next Shmonah, Pyosz went to Owl Manage after milking and began cooking for the party that day, when not only family but the timmers, Klosa, Gitta, Taamsas, Kolm, Uli, Dekkan, and all of Poth's family were invited. Maar landed after her toxics run with a sinner full of Koldok and Pertama guests, to find music in full swing and Nk sitting by the front door to make sure everyone wiped their otos. The celebration continued when Pyosz and Vants slipped away at dusk to milk. When the Dvareka crowd at last left, Pyosz's family carried her belongings from the metal cabin to her new bedroom, hanging her clothes in the closet, stacking books on the floor, and making her bed with new sheets and beloved blankets. Pyosz and Maar carried the katts, who separated to find hiding places until exploration could be done in the solitude of deep night.

Maar looked out the curved expanse of windows in the upstairs hall toward Dvareka and asked Pyosz "Are you going to feel strange with all this sudden room?"

"I don't think so" said Pyosz. "I'm going to fill every corner with family in due time." She looked out the window with Maar, not touching and not meeting each other's eyes.

She left her bedroom door open so the katts could join her. She had hidden the rice paddy workers novel in her pack and put it under the new mattress, but she went easily to sleep looking at the stars over Puaa Woods.

The next morning, she missed the timmers, missed cooking for ten instead of only herself. She started sponges, wiped down her new greenstone counters a second time, and decided to go to her studio. Before she was out the front doors, the radio buzzed. When she answered, Qala said "You up for another visit from me and Lawa next week, or you need more time alone in your new place?"

Pyosz leaned against the larder door, a little lightheaded, to answer "As soon as you can get here, I want you."

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild



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


Monday, January 4, 2010


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

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

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Pyosz got only four hours sleep because she felt compelled to make a double batch of bread to leave for Gitta. While it was rising, she stewed chickens to make stews and casseroles that could be heated up for the timmers' lunch for the next three days. She had left her second set of funeral silks at the Genist Manage, but she'd need to change immediately after they landed at Yanja so she packed her original silks -- which she was glad about, she didn't want to wear the clothes she'd said goodbye to her abba in anytime soon.

She took extra blankets and pillows to make a nest for Maar in the second seat before wrapping herself in a warm cocoon in the passenger seat. For once Abbo didn't wake them up early. After switching and eating, Maar became increasingly terse as they closed the gap to Skene. Pyosz rested her hand lightly on the back of Maar's seat, not touching or talking but radiating comfort in her direction.

There was a decent-sized crowd next to the jichang. Pyosz spotted Thleen's upturned face, and then was stunned to recognize Prl standing behind her. Beside Prl were Qala, Lawa, and oh my stars, Yoj.

Pyosz was first out the hatch, heading toward her family but then remembering to go to Maar's family first to express her sorrow. She picked up Thleen and leaned in to kiss Su and Adon's cheeks. When Maar reached them, Pyosz handed over a now sobbing Thleen and moved quietly to Prl. "I didn't know you were attending the funeral" she whispered.

"I asked us to come" said Yoj. "She's from my generation, and -- well, I wanted to honor her family."

"Where's abba -- Halling? Is she too ill?" asked Pyosz in sudden alarm.

"No. It was simply too soon to be here for her" said Yoj, deep lines of pain in her face.

"Oh, abba" breathed Pyosz, hugging her. She excused herself after a minute to go change her clothes. Maar and Thleen followed her into the jichang office, where Abbo was emerging in her own set of white silks. Seeing Abbo dress for Maar's family moved Pyosz deeply.

There were a few pilots from the Lofthall in the funeral procession, some cousins and sibs from Maar's emma Adnes's side of the family, and a few friends of Dru and Adnes. The presence of the Genist and Archivist was impressive, Pyosz was upset to see -- Personage shouldn't be counted at a funeral, only the loss of a loved life. She linked her arm through Yoj's and subtly shifted her weight to hold up her emma as they began the walk through Yanja.

The remarks were short. Maar was tight-jawed but eloquent, speaking of the values Gusu had passed on to her: Perseverance, industry, humor. Pyosz ached for her, for Thleen's ravaged face, for the fact that she never got to meet the woman who had passed on her looks to Maar abd Thleen.

Near the end, Yoj faced the gathering and said "I met Gusu when we were in first grade. I remember her as very active, very verbal, and especially involved in the games we all played. On at least one memorable occasion, she brought out the best in me. Clearly she did the same with her family, giving Skene four extraordinary grandhildren. I regret not having had the opportunity to thank her for them."

Pyosz saw something pass between Lawa and Qala, but refocused on Maar. When Gusu's body was dropped, Maar's emmas wept in each other's arms, while Maar tried to wrap herself around all three of her sibs. Pyosz rushed forward to embrace Adon and Su from behind, and they leaned against her as they wailed.

The wake afterward was to be at the family Manage on Chloddia. Abbo had a sinner ready to fky them all. Yoj made her apologies, saying she needed to get home to Halling, and Prl, Lawa, and Qala went with her on a sinner returning to the Lofthall. They took Pyosz's bag and crate, leaving her with only her pack. She promised to call Prl later when she knew how she was getting home from Chloddia.

The short flight north was silent. Pyosz had sat on the right next to a window so she could look down on Isola Fling, The deep dark blue waters of the Eastern Tendril was jarringly interrupted here and there with massive pinky-grey shapes. As they circled to land at Chloddia, she was struck by how dingy it was, and she could not call up a memory of ever having been there before, which shamed her.

The jichang was at Chloddia's western center, adjacent to the paved area of mine pits and vent shafts. The five pits, ringed with massive elevators for both humans and ore, went down at least a mile, to countless subterranean chambers and tunnels, a labyrinth of various mines that snaked out in all directions under the surrounding oean. The blowers from the vents were powerful enough to blow over a person walking too close to them, and the vegetation planted nearby in hopes of scrubbing the fume-laden Chloddia air suffered greatly from assorted assaults.

They walked the truck road around the center, past the teeming dorms for miners without children, to the place where ferry lanes intersected at the edge of the small shops district. Along the island's eastern cliff, which had once overlooked Exploit Lagoon before it was filled in during Prl's childhood, was the lane of Manages available to families on Chloddia. With reclamation of the lagoon, several more Manages plus a desperately needed public park and kickball field had become available -- paid for by Halling's Lofthall in exchange for the rights to use the grassy sward for parachute training -- but the oldest lineages on Chloddia still had Manages among those occupied by Maar's family.

As with most ancient structures on land-pinched Skene, the Manages were tiny and relied heavily on lofts for sleeping space. The tillages were unusually large but almost half of these curtilages were given over to what Pyosz thought of as scrub and ground cover. Lawa had told her it was a local ordinance to insure air quality, rain access to the troubled water table, and acknowledgement of the unspoken fact that produce grown in Chloddia tillages would never be accepted in barter off-island -- it didn't grow with vigor or always taste very good.

The ferry lane was a steep climb. Before they reached the intersection, everyone turned into an alley between shops, accessed a small side lane, and reached the Manages via level paths, saving themselves a few steps and heavy breathing. Pyosz thought This is a shortcut Maar, and now Thleen, took every schoolday.

Begonias, rendered to stalks in winter, framed the doorway of Maar's Manage. Pyosz wondered what color they were in bloom. The front door dropped them into the left side of the living room. Directly across was the entry to the dining area and kitchen. Along the left wall were doors to the bath room, laundry room, and larder. In the right front corner of the living room, a couch was against the wall with a pull out screen on one side and a clothes chest on the other: Thleen's bedroom when not in use by the family. Two comfortable old chairs sat in front of the hearth. The dining table had room for eight chairs, though one was permanently set aside because the ladder to the loft over the kitchen occupied that spot. Both sleeping lofts were wide enough for only a double bed and a row of clothes chests. Pyosz wondered at what age Maar had been old enough to sleep in a loft instead of with her abba. Her departure for the Lofthall must have been silently welcomed by Adon and Su simply for the space it would give them.

Once inside the Manage, Dru and Adnes visibly relaxed, hanging their manteaus and starting tea. An array of food lined the kitchen counters, and the teenagers went to lift lids, sample surreptitiously. Thleen said to Pyosz "Do you want to see my kickball net?"

"I'd love to" said Pyosz, taking her hand. Out back, between the tillage and the house, a wide strip of bare sand had a clothesline pole at one end and a metal-framed kickball goal at the other. Pyosz cast a quick look at the tillage: Not thriving, but respectable. The privy was a two-holer and the chicken run generous. Thleen turned on the outside light, got a ball from the shed underneath the greywater tank, then stopped in her tracks, saying "Oh. We can't play because..." Her brown eyes filled with tears.

Pyosz picked her up and carried her to the rongyan wall to sit, saying "It's okay that you forgot for a minute. It's such a hard thing to remember, somebody dying. It takes practice."

Maar came out the back door, looking for them. Thleen said "Me and you, we both have dead abbas now."

"Yes" said Pyosz, hugging her. "We're sharing how it hurts."

"But you have four more" said Thleen.

"I do, and I share them completely with you" said Pyosz.

"Why wasn't Halling at abba's funeral?" asked Thleen.

"She is still missing Bux so badly, she didn't think she could bear coming back this soon to the place where she had to say goodbye to her. But she wants to see you right away" said Pyosz.

"Yoj came. And Prl, Bux was her aggie" pointed out Thleen.

"People don't all hurt the same way" said Maar. "And it was very hard for Yoj to be there, we owe her much thanks."

"She knew abba in school" said Thleen. "Do you think they were good friends, like me and Ziri?"

"Not close like that, no, or else they would have still been visiting each other" said Maar.

"But me and Ziri don't get to visit any more" argued Thleen.

"You will. She'll come back to Skene for visits, and we're going to get you to Pya, too" said Maar.

"It's not enough" said Thleen, starting to cry.

"No, it's not" whispered Pyosz, holding her tight. Maar looked anguished. After Thleen snuffled her way to a stop, Maar said "Listen, if you promise not to shout, how about if you show Pyosz one time how you can kick down the field to the net? I'll guard, okay?"

Thleen lit up. Maar did a masterful job of appearing to menace her as guard while not atually obstructing her, and Thleen darted past to land a solid goal. She cheered, then instantly clapped her hands over her mouth. Adnes appeared at the back door and said "Wash up, people are arriving."

Over the next two hours, Pyosz and Abbo remained the only attendees who were not from either Chloddia or Exploit. Pyosz talked with everyone who approached her, asking questions about Gusu and her life which drew interesting stories she memorized to share with Maar and Thleen if they were not in listening range. She paid attention to the nearby onversations of Adon and Su with their friends, to find out what interested or irritated them.

She noticed whenever, in response to a polite question, she relayed what she did on Pya, there were never any follow-up questions, but there was no curiosity expressed about Maar's life, either. The most animated interaction she had with Dru, Maar's aggie, was when she asked about the symbol engraved on the Manage front door, a sort of fluid closed knot.

"I don't know what it means, it's been there for centuries" said Dru. "That door is solid zinc, can you feature it? We had to have it rehung when I was little, cost a fortune but it keeps out sound and weather like nothing else. One of my ancestors was a zinc miner, I've been told."

"And that lovely green you've painted it, reminds me of ripe broccoli florets" saidPyosz.

Dru looked at her sharply to see if she was joking. "The kids asked for that -- it's the kickball team color."

At 9:30, Sigrist radio announced all ferries in the Eastern Tendril had stopped running. Abbo turned to Pyosz and said "I guess I'm your ride back to Riesig, I've got a small lighter." Pyosz felt the overwhelning urge to flee, back to her familiar kin and the space of the Genist Manage. Instead, she asked Maar "What are you doing tomorrow?"

"My sibs are staying home from school, mostly just because they have permission, I think. We don't have any plans yet. My emmas are taking a half-day off work, going in at noon, and I figure I'll take my sibs somewhere for the afteernoon" said Maar, exhaustion showing.

"Do you think I could borrow that couch in the jichang office for the night?" asked Pyosz. "I mean, if you want me here in the morning. I'll make you all breakfast, and catch a ride to Riesig later."

"Seriously? I'd love it" said Maar. "But aren't they expecting you tonight?"

"They'll understand. I should call, though, could I do that from the office?"

"Yeah, let me walk you down there. I'll grab an extra quilt from our closet" said Maar. Pyosz made her goodbyes, promising to make Thleen an extra-special breakfast in the morning. It was a profound relief to step out into the night air, despite a fog that smelled faintly of chemicals. She put her arm through Maar's and said "How are you doing?"

"Better than I thought I would. I attribute that to your being here, I don't feel so crazy when I've got a friend around my family" said Maar.

The central area around the mines was brilliantly lit and throbbed with machinery. "That couch faces an unshaded window, you'll need to put something over your eyes to sleep" warned Maar.

"I have my cap, I'll pull down the front. Got my silk pillow from home, too, I'll be fine." Don't worry about MY bed tonight thought Pyosz. Maar said she'd be back at 6:00 "but the office clerk usually shows up by 5:30, I'll leave a note on her desk vouching for you." Maar's shoulders hunched up again as she headed out into the bright night.

Pyosz washed and changed into her regular clothes before calling Prl. "I gave up on you when I heard the ferry announcement" said Prl. "Tell me how you are, how they are."

Pyosz made tea on the hot plate, not needing to turn on a lamp to see, as she poured out a stream-of-consciousness account to her emma. It helped ground her. The couch wasn't quite long enough, so she lay on her side, pulling up her knees, and tried to pretend the sound of engines was surf on the cliffs. She fell asleep thinking about Maar's courage, wondering why some people seemed to be born with more of it than others.

The jichang clerk turned out to be someone Pyosz remembered from school, not a friend but still friendly. They chatted until Maar arrived, a pillow crease still in her cheek and her hair in every direction. On the walk back, Pyosz asked about likely ingredients in the Manage larder, and Maar said they should stop at the grocery. There were hothouse tomatoes, cabbage from Byli, fresh milk and oranges, and strands of Bosco sausage, all at a premium expense. Pyosz and Maar squabbled over who was going to pay for it, but Pyosz won, handing Maar a gallon pail of cold milk and a 20-lb bag of new potatoes to carry.

Everyone was up at the Manage, making runs to the privy or starting baths. Maar stood at Pyosz's elbow in the kitchen, asking "What next?" as the cooking chores progressed. Pyosz fried a pound of bacon and set this on the table with a pitcher of orange juice as "starters". She caramelized onions in the bacon drippings, added an entire head of minced garlic, then layered thick shreds of cabbage on top of it all. She sliced tomatoes over that, with a drizzle of shamzjooz-fortified zayit, and set it in the aga to bake.

She cut the new potatoes in half and simmered them in milk until nearly tender, adding a thickener of rice flour and grated cheese before transferring it to the aga as well. Maar had made a quick bread with walnuts, gouging two deep trenches in the top before baking. She fried the sausages in butter with mushrooms while a syrup of orange juice and sugar reduced in a pan. At the last minute, Pyosz made divots in the cabbage-tomato casserole into which she broke whole eggs, letting them cook again until set. Maar took the hot walnut loaf, pierced the top furrows with a fork, and poured the orange syrup into the grooves to soak down through it all.

The bacon was long gone, and Adon's hunger had been channeled into table setting, by the time Maar and Pyosz, sweaty and triumphant, set their dishes on the table. Pyosz told Thleen "That cabbage and egg casserole is my favorite breakfast ever, and my abba Bux made it for me the morning I left to live on Pya." Maar looked at her with recognition and said "Again, what a levvin' idiot I was."

"Agreed" said Pyosz cheerfully.

Adnes and Dru both commented on how accomplished a cook Maar had become. The food vanished, every crumb, even the entire gallon of milk. Thleen said "And we still have all those other pies and things for later" before giving a long burp. She was not so contented when Maar set her at the sink to wash dishes with Su.

"I cooked, remember?" said Maar in answer to her grumbling. "And I'm about to do five loads of laundry, half of which appears to be yours."

"I know abba always says 'You can daydream just as well while' -- " retorted Thleen before stopping in horror. The whole family looked at her, and Maar finished gently " -- while sweeping as while sitting on your ass.' And she was right about that. I plan to keep on quoting her the rest of my days, don't you feel bad about remembering her." She rumpled Thleen's hair and the tension dissipated.

Pyosz went to the privy and then decided to turn the compost, which was overdue. That brought her close enough to the chicken yard to realize it was overdue for cleaning as well. She was getting a rake and shovel from the shed when Adon said from her elbow "You don't have to do that, you're a guest."

"Your sib works all the time on Saya, least I can do is return the favor" said Pyosz, handing the rake to Adon. They were still at it when Maar brought out a basket of wet clothes to hang, grinning at Pyosz with a happiness she seldom showed so freely.

By 11:00, the entire Manage had been set to order and smelled of the lemon suds Maar had used to mop the floor. They heated a meal from the wake leftovers and the chatter around the table seemed unrestrained by Pyosz's presence. She was gratified that the few jokes she made were now drawing smiles from Dru and Adnes as well as their children, The giant laughs, however, came from Adnes starting a story from a few years earlier, when a terrible explosion in the part of the mine where Dru worked had collapsed a shaft, killing two and injuring more.

Pyosz was mystified at the giggles that broke out as Adnes began telling of hearing the news and riding her elevator to the disperal room, desperate for news of Dru. She was almost bowled over by relief when she saw Dru being treated for a few cuts from being in the percussion's path.

"I ran up to her and said 'Oh, sweetheart, I heard about the explosion, are you all right?'" said Adnes, looking at Dru.

On cue, Dru picked up the story with an exaggerated blank expression, shouting "What?"

Adnes raised her voice to repeat "I heard about the explosion, are you all right?"

Dru shook her head and yelled "You need to speak up."

Adnes was now screaming and exaggerating every word: "I heard about the explosion, are you ALL RIGHT?"

Dru screamed back "There was an explosion, I can't hear a word you're saying!"

The whole family collapsed in hysterics, and Pyosz joined them, feeling release of some taut horror inside. They kept setting each other off, and were all still grinning as they left the Manage together for the central district. By the time they got there, however, everyone but Pyosz and Thleen had become somber-faced again. The children said goodbye at the mine entrance with shy hugs.

At the jichang, the clerk was apologetic about no craft large enough to carry five extra being available for at least an hour. "It's a busy day -- " she started,

"No, I forgot to arrange it in advance, not your fault" assured Maar. She faced Pyosz. "It takes an hour and 20 to ride the ferries to Riesig on a clear midday like this, and it's morrie vaseo for two hours yet. You up for seeing the northern half of the Eastern Tendril?"

"Absolutely" said Pyosz, sliding both arms into her pack straps. She made a quick call to Prl to let her know their plan. Maar said to her sibs "We're going to point out everything interesting thing along the way, make a total adventure of it, okay?"

"Can we get ices on Abfall?" asked Thleen, who had just had both cake and pie.

"Yes!" said Maar. She said to Pyosz "You wouldn't think stinky Abfall has the best ices on Skene, but they do." And she was right. They stopped on Abfall, then began the ferry hops to Eyja, Ada, Inish and Refugio Flings, where they had to disembark at each fling, walk across its public path, and catch another ferry on the other side. "Way deep on either side of these ferry reefs" said Maar, "Levs all around us."

Their ices had run out by the time they reached Inish Fling but this left their hands free to pet a horde of katts who ran to greet them. "They LOVE visitors" explained Thleen. "Sometimes we remember to bring fisk in our pockets,"

As the ferry docked on Refugio, however, Maar said "Get ready to run." At the crest above the dock, a flock of large geese set up a hissing clamor, and they were chased all the way to the dock on the other side, one goose landing a nab and twist on Pyosz's calf that she was sure would bruise. They were laughing breathlessly as they filed onto the next ferry.

On Juh, they stopped to pet half-year lambs. Pyosz bought two haunches of mutton, insisting Maar take one home with her, the other for next Shmonah on Pya.

Their trek down the length of Verzin zigzagged back and forth between the two main streets as one or another sib remembered something "Pyosz has to see". It was a little as if Pyosz had not grown up on Skene, and too much of what she was being shown was, in fact, new to her. They bought small presents here and there, dropped coin into the hat of a corner busker playing accordion, and whispered outside one Manage where, Thleen assured Pyosz, none of the inhabitants wore any clothes inside on warm days. "Nekkid all the time" she reveled.

"Must save on clothing costs" remarked Pyosz, which Adon found especially funny.

They stopped at the Lofthall so Maar could arrange a sinner back for 5:30. Thleen said "Can't we stay and have dinner with the abbas?"

"That would mean our emmas would eat all alone, missing abba by themselves" said Maar. Su thumped Thleen on the head and said "Don't be so selfish", but before Thleen could fly at her in a rage Maar stepped between them with a curt "Cool it." Light spirits returned until Thleen pushed open the copper door and spotted Halling. She suddenly burst into tears and all but collapsed into Halling's lap, saying "My abba died, just like Bux!"

Yoj came to hug Adon, Su and Maar before grabbing Pyosz. They had a snack of cheese puffs warm from the oven with cinnamon milk as Thleen and Halling communed. After eating, Lawa said to Su "Would like to see the machinery shed at the ejida? They're tearing apart the hopper they use to grind and mix fertilizer, and I can make sure you get your hands on the tools. You too, Adon."

They accepted swiftly and Qala went with them. Yoj produced drawing paper and crayons which Thleen and Pyosz shared as Pyosz talked to her abbas. Maar leaned back in a chair and quietly dozed off. After a few minutes, Prl woke her gently and coaxed her to the couch, covering her with a quilt.

At one point, Halling said to Thleen "I'm wondering if you and I can make a change in our lunch schedule during the week?" As panic hit Thleen's face, Halling hastened "Instead of Iki and Empat, could we switch to Moja, San and Ot?"

"Three days a week instead of two?" asked Thleen. "Really?"

"I'll arrange it with your leraar and ask your emmas" offered Halling.

"Moja used to be my best day because I got to see Ziri again. But then it got bad. Nobody is a friend like her. But now I'll know I'm having lunch here that day."

"Sums it up" agreed Halling.

After Adon and Su returned, and Maar had joined them at the table, Pyosz said "Tell them that story your emmas told, about the mine accident?" Prl's face went smooth with surprise when Maar began laughing and Pyosz joined her. Su and Adon took the roles of Adnes and Dru, delivering the exchange flawlessly. By the end, Yoj, Halling, and Qala were roaring and pounding on the table along with Maar and her sibs. Prl and Lawa were less swept away. Qala looked at Lawa and said "It's like pilot humor, you know, like that time I referred to Halling as leviathan's version of sushi?"

"Exactly!" said Maar as Qala slapped Adon on the back.

It was hard to say goodbye to them at the jichang. "What are you doing tomorrow?" asked Pyosz.

"I don't want to go back to school yet" said Su. Thleen looked hopeful. Adon added "There's an afternoon game on Yanja between them and Verzin. We could watch it before you take off, I'll get 'em back home by dinner." Thleen began hopping up and down, and Pyosz knew this was the last time she'd see them for this visit. Except at the jichang on Yanja. She hugged them all and walked back to her abbas, suddenly feeling the loss of Bux all over again.

After dinner, she and Prl left to go back to the Genist Manage for some alone time. Pyosz confessed that she had wondered whether Prl's unrequited love was Nioma, which made Prl laugh merrily. She then talked at length about her unresolved feelings toward Ndege.

"Do you think Mill or Speranz know?" asked Pyosz.

"Lev I hope not" said Prl. There was a knock at the door. Prl raised her eyebrows at Pyosz and went to answer it, letting in Vants carrying a large crate and with two bags slung over her shoulders.

"What's wrong?" said Pyosz, coming to take the crate from Vants and almost staggering at the weight -- Must be all books.

Vants dropped her bags on the floor and sat dpwn tiredly in a chair. If she lugged that on the Western Tendril ferry route...thought Pyosz with recent comprehension. Prl handed Vants a cup of tea, who drank down half of it with a long sigh before speaking.

"They found out about what I sent you. They took away my herd and reduced me to barn work. I called Mill this morning and she offered me Teppe for whatever kind of herd I want. I'm going to build a Manage and live with s'bemma Tu until it's ready, then I'll get emma to come live with me one way or another. Can you handle not being the only capriste on Pya?" asked Vants.

Pyosz was on her feet instantly, yelling with joy. Neither Vants nor Pyosz noticed Prl's face, who didn't want to be the one to tell Halling but knew she probably would be.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.