Stranded in Gumgeeville: Episode 4

Seruffin is sitting on the bed in his, rented accommodations...staring ~~ glumly ~~ at the peeling whitewash on the opposite wall. He is not happy with himself, at all. He isn't used to making mistakes, and just hopes that the consequences can be contained.

Gerrhonot waits politely while Jed opens the door of his house. He's surprised at how little five beers has affected Jed's ability to both walk and talk.

Jed is feeling pretty good. Things are looking up, and he got five beers for the price of two. He opens the door and both Gens enter, first stamping the snow off their boots.

Gerrhonot quickly removes his boots and cloak.

Gerrhonot: Um, Mr. Mullins, I better go check on Hajene Seruffin.

Gerrhonot hurries to the bedroom, signals nagerically and enters. He sees Seruffin sitting on the bed, looking not at all happy.

Seruffin looks up with polite, if forced, interest as Gerrhonot enters.

Seruffin: Did you have a pleasant afternoon seeing the town, Gerrhonot?

Gerrhonot can read Seruffin pretty well by now.

Gerrhonot: Well, all I saw was the saloon in the hotel, but that was okay. You don't look too well. Are you all right?

Gerrhonot sits next to Seruffin, puts his arm around him and projects ~~ comfort ~~

Seruffin: Gerrhonot, I have miscalculated badly, and our hostess is the one who suffered for it.

Gerrhonot: ~~ concern ~~ ~~ confidence in his channel ~~ What happened, Hajene?

Seruffin: While you were gone, Miz Mullins finally got up her nerve to donate. Or perhaps she doesn't share her husband's streak of exhibitionism, and this was the only privacy she could manage.

Gerrhonot takes Seruffin's hand, and strokes his back gently as he listens attentively.

Seruffin: Whichever it was, she was quite insistent, and I didn't think it would be diplomatic to refuse her.

Seruffin takes his diplomatic responsibilities quite seriously.

Seruffin: She was afraid, but I thought I could handle her. It started well enough, but halfway through, she lost her nerve and panicked.

Gerrhonot: ~~ concern ~~ ~~ sympathy ~~ ~~ sinking feeling ~~~ Did she hurt you, Hajene?

Seruffin: No, not really, although it wasn't pleasant.

Gerrhonot wishes he had insisted on staying in the house to protect his channel.

Seruffin: I got the selyn flow shut down as quickly as I could manage, without shenning myself. I didn't dare do that, without you there.

Gerrhonot tries not to let the ~~ guilt ~~ into his field. Seruffin has enough of his own, he figures.

Seruffin: I couldn't do it fast enough to stop her from struggling, though. Neither of us suffered any nerve injury, but... I'm afraid I left her with some spectacular bruises. I offered to heal them, but she wouldn't let me. I suppose I can't blame her, but it may cause trouble for us.

Gerrhonot: What can I do for you? Do you want to do an outfunction?

Gerrhonot is more focussed on his channel's problems than on the whole situation and its implications. ~~ sympathy ~~ ~~~ desire to help ~~~ concern ~~

Seruffin: I'm all right. Just stay close. And if you can, try to think how to explain to a town full of out-Territory Gens why a channel hurt one of their own.

Gerrhonot isn't too worried, because his confidence in Seruffin's ability to handle anything is so strong, perhaps unreasonably so. But he's glad to be asked to stay close.

Ma Mullins is in the kitchen, aggressively washing a large pile of dirty laundry in a wooden tub.

Jed: Hey, Ma, how's it going?

Jed puts his arm around Ma and offers her another beery kiss.

Jed: I invited Gegg to bring his kids over for the Sime to check out.

Ma ineffectually-on-purpose pushes at Jed's shirt with a soap-sudded hand.

Jed: Well, shit, it's not like I invited them for supper!

Ma: Jed Mullins! How much beer have you been drinking this afternoon?

Jed: Hey, I bought one for myself and one for Gerrhonot.

Ma's sleeves are of necessity rolled up, showing purpling bruises spiraling around her wrists, under the suds.

Jed doesn't always answer the question asked.

Ma: What did you do, drink them both?

Ma doesn't approve of Jed's drinking, and it's only been getting worse since he lost his job at the pulp mill.

Jed: Shit, what happened to your arms? That friggin' wringer acting up again? I thought I got it fixed last time.

Ma's fists clench.

Ma: No, it was your precious Sime.

Jed: My Sime? What were the two of you doing while we were out anyway?

Jed is skilled at the art of staying off the point.

Ma: I keep my promises.

Jed: Promises? What, that you were going to donate to him?

Ma: I said I' it, and I did.

Jed: He didn't leave any marks on me. What happened?

Ma shudders.

Ma: It was awful! Those tentacles...and I couldn't get away.

Ma is too upset to be her usual coherent self.

Ma: I don't know how you stood it.

Jed is ~~ puzzled ~~~. He didn't think the experience was particularly awful.

Jed: Didn't you stay still like he said?

Ma: I couldn't, Jed. Those tentacles...

Ma's face twists in disgust.

Jed: Aw, Ma, you should've waited until I could be there with you.

Jed wraps his arms around Ma and hugs her.

Ma leans into Jed.

Jed pats her back.

Jed: Isn't that what a husband's there to do for his wife? Help her through hard times?

Ma: Then the kids would've wanted to watch, too. They're already too interested in the snake.

Jed: I'm proud of you. You didn't have my dad's stories to give you courage. I know you're real nervous about Simes. Oh, well. Done's done.

Ma: I suppose so. The Sime didn't have to cheat me like that, though.

Jed: He cheated you?

Ma: He only gave me half as much money as he gave you, after all I went through.

Jed: Now don't you worry, I'll go talk to him about it.

Jed strokes his wife's hair.

Jed: You're a real brave woman to try that without me there.

Jed is tempted to say "you just don't have the experience to stay still and do nothing that I do" but has a good deal more sense.

Ma is, indeed, not accustomed to standing still and doing nothing: her talents lie more in getting an impossible workload done.

Ma: You be careful, Jed. You're a strong man, but believe me, you wouldn't stand a chance if you got a Sime riled.

Jed: I won't get him riled. Don't worry. You know I never get in fights. I can handle him.

Jed doesn't get into fights because he's so good at talking his way out of tight corners. He figures that should work on Simes too. Well, he hopes so.

Jed: Why don't you make us a pot of tea and I'll go talk to the Sime and we'll get it sorted out. Then you and me can sit down and have some tea together. Okay?

Ma looks at the tub full of dirty laundry, and decides that it can wait a while longer.

Ma: All right, Jed.

Jed gives Ma another hug and lets her go.

Jed: Don't you worry. I'll be just fine.

Jed heads toward the local Sime Territory. He knocks on the door.

Seruffin winces, half at the zlin of Gen knuckles hitting wood, and half at the identity of their owner.

Seruffin: It's our host, Gerrhonot. Perhaps you'd better answer it.

Gerrhonot: Okay.

Gerrhonot opens the door.

Gerrhonot: Hi, Mr. Mullins.

Jed: I want to talk to your boss, Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot looks to Seruffin.

Seruffin considers standing, then decides that he appears less threatening while seated. He doesn't want Jed feeling threatened.

Seruffin: Please, come in.

Jed enters the room, looks around, closes the door and leans against it.

Jed: My wife seems kind of upset, and she's got bruises on her arms. She says she donated to you while I was gone. What happened?

Seruffin sighs.

Jed is surprised that he doesn't feel any real fear or extreme nervousness. Maybe donating once is some kind of inoculation.

Gerrhonot sits on the bed next to Seruffin and provides ~~ support ~~

Seruffin: I underestimated her fear of me, I'm afraid. She panicked halfway through the donation, and bruised herself trying to pull free.

Jed: Why didn't you just let go of her?

Seruffin: I couldn't do that quickly, without injuring one or both of us. I had to stop the selyn flow, first.

Seruffin zlins Jed as closely as he can, without being too obvious about it.

Jed watches both faces to see if what he's hearing is the truth. ~~ open minded ~~~

Seruffin, like most in-Territory raised Simes, never learned how to lie.

Jed thinks Seruffin looks really unhappy about the situation, even guilty. He thinks that's probably appropriate, and sincere.

Jed: I wish she'd waited until I was around.

Jed thinks Gerrhonot looks a bit guilty too.

Jed: Is that how it works, Gerrhonot? he can't just let go?

Gerrhonot: Yes, Mr. Mullins. He could injure his laterals. That could kill him.

Seruffin: And the backlash might well have injured your wife, as well.

Jed is ~~ surprised ~~. He never thought of donation as dangerous for the channel.

Jed: So you really did need me to stay still while you did it.

Seruffin: Well, yes. Although my handling tentacles are strong enough to protect my laterals from being dislodged.

Jed: Then that's how she got the bruises.

Seruffin extends one along the back of one hand, and looks at it in a contemplative fashion.

Seruffin: Yes. Your wife is a strong and determined woman, and she was also very frightened.

Jed sighs.

Seruffin: I offered to heal the bruises for her, but she wasn't in the mood to accept such help from me.

Seruffin smiles ruefully.

Seruffin: I can't blame her.

Jed: She's strong and determined, all right. Maybe more than is good for her. She was determined to keep that promise, that she'd donate if I did.

Jed: So she only got half the money because she panicked before you finished. You only got half the stuff, the selyn.

Seruffin: Yes. I probably shouldn't have tried to take any, but she insisted that she had to.

Seruffin can respect that sort of honor, but he doesn't really approve of Jed extracting such a promise from a Simephobe.

Jed: Yeah. Don't I know how hard it is to turn her down when she's got herself set on something.

Jed doesn't know Simephobia from chopped liver.

Jed: I was hoping we could go to the Ford next month, me and her and Bart, and donate there again.... But even if it's just me, the money will help a whole lot.

Seruffin: If you would accept some unsolicited advice?

Jed: Sure.

Seruffin raises an eyebrow in question.

Jed: I'll listen to it. I won't promise to take it.

Seruffin: That's fair enough. It may be possible for your wife to learn to donate, but she will have to come to it when she is ready. Any pressure you apply may make her fears worse.

Seruffin checks to see if Jed is inclined to take offense.

Jed: ~~ thoughtful ~~ ~~subdued ~~~ I thought if she saw me do it, she'd know it was safe.

Seruffin: She does. At least with her head. It's her emotions that disagree. And emotions are hard to persuade with logic.

Jed: Gerrhonot told me at the saloon that you can read emotions. You knew I was scared, even though I knew from my dad's stories it was safe.

Seruffin: Yes, I did.

Jed: But I decided I was gonna do it, and that carried me through. She's so strong minded, but it didn't work for her.

Seruffin: No, it didn't. Your fear of Simes is at least mostly rational: on this side of the border, most Simes do have to kill. So you were able to tell yourself that you weren't in danger, and believe it.

Seruffin: Your wife's fear is stronger, and much less logical. Much the way some people are afraid of dogs, or ladders, or certain numbers.

Jed: How about Bart? I don't want him to have that kind of fear. He could get it from her now, couldn't he?

Seruffin: That will depend on you and your wife. If he's told what happened in an honest and straightforward fashion, he should be all right. Although he'll probably be a bit more apprehensive than he would have been, otherwise.

Jed: I'd like him to donate to you, get him started right with it. Before he has time to start worrying about it.

Seruffin has his own cold-feet issues to deal with, but the Tecton traditions don't allow him to coddle them.

Jed: You can read my emotions. You know I'm not afraid of you. Not now, anyway.

Seruffin: No, you're not.

Seruffin is pretty sure that it would take rather little effort on his part to change that, but the less Jed thinks along those lines, the better for all of them.

Jed: I think Bart would be all right, with the three of us here.

Seruffin considers.

Seruffin: Probably. If he still wants to donate, after he's learned what happened to his mother, that is.

Seruffin believes in informed consent.

Seruffin: You're right that it would probably be easier for him if he doesn't have a month to think it over.

Jed: I'll talk to him. And maybe you can answer any questions he's got too. I didn't know it was dangerous for you. All I know is from my dad's stories, and what everyone knows about berserkers.

Seruffin is aware that it might be easier for him to leave the donation to the channel in Ford, but that's not what Jed asked.

Seruffin: I would be happy to answer his questions, and then take his donation if he wants me to.

Jed: Okay. It's a deal.

Jed offers his hand, out-T style.

Seruffin hesitates, then stands.

Seruffin takes the two steps required to cross the room slowly, to give Jed a chance to back down if he wants to.

Jed steps forward.

Seruffin keeps his tentacles retracted as he reaches out to meet Jed's hand with his own.

Jed takes Seruffin's hand, and is a little ~~amused ~~ by the heat of it, after his story in the saloon.

Jed: I think you're a trustworthy man. Besides, you'd be crazy to kill anybody here in a Gen town, now wouldn't you? [smiles]

Seruffin smiles back.

Seruffin: It wouldn't be healthy, I expect. For me, or Gerrhonot.

Jed squeezes Seruffin's hand and lets go.

Jed: I'll remember what you said about pressuring her. When the weather gets better, I'll invite her along to the Ford, and she can do some shopping. After she does that a few times, she might volunteer to have another try at it.

Seruffin: Irrational fear of Simes can be treated, but it's not a short or pleasant process. I don't know whether the channel in Ford is familiar with the kind of therapy involved, either.

Jed: Well, if me and Bart can do it, we'll be doing better than when I was working at the mill, so we won't need what she could get too. I'll tell her to use the money she made this time to get herself something she wants.

Seruffin takes a moment to untangle the out-Territory usage of the word "need".

Seruffin: The less pressure she feels, the better. If she tries again before she's really ready, it could make matters worse.

Jed: I'll remember that.

Seruffin nods.

Jed: We're going to sit down together and have some tea. I'll talk to her. And I'll try to arrange for Bart later.

Jed nods and exits.

Gerrhonot: Do you think it will be all right now, Hajene?

Seruffin: Well, I don't think we'll have a visit from a friendly lynch mob, at least.

Seruffin: I don't know how young Bart will respond to the news, though.

Gerrhonot: I think Mr. Mullins is okay. I think he's a smart guy, too. He told the people at the saloon the story of how you took his donation and made it sound really exciting. Some people bought him more beer so he would keep talking.

Seruffin groans.

Seruffin: Donations aren't supposed to be exciting, Gerrhonot. Well, general-class donations aren't, anyway.

Gerrhonot: Yeah, but he can sure tell a good story.

Gerrhonot put his arm around Seruffin and thinks about how much he enjoys giving him transfer. ~~ appropriate emotions for such thoughts ~~

Seruffin leans close, trying to prepare himself physically and mentally for working with a Bart who will probably be much less trusting than the night before.

Gerrhonot: ~~ love ~~ trust ~~ comfort ~~~

Seruffin wishes Gerrhonot's trust was contagious, but if wishes were selyn, the government Pens would have carried Prime Kills.

Jed goes into the kitchen, takes the teapot off the stove and pours a mug for himself and for Ma.

Jed: C'mon, old girl, let's sit down and have some tea.

Ma had found herself pacing after Jed went to talk with the Sime, and returned to the laundry as a distraction. She dries her hands on a towel, and sits next to Jed at their battered table.

Ma accepts a mug of tea, inspecting her husband all the while for signs of Sime-inflicted damage or trauma.

Jed strokes Ma's hair, pushing a lock off her forehead and behind her ear.

Ma: You all right, Jed?

Jed: I'm fine. How are you doing?

Ma stares into her tea.

Ma: I'll live. My arms hurt, though.

Jed strokes Ma's wrist and takes her hand.

Jed: I'm sorry. I shouldn't have tricked you into agreeing to it like I did.

Ma: I'm not like you, Jed. I don't have your...

Ma knows her husband too well to call it courage, and "bravado" sounds tactless.

Jed: It's okay. I didn't know you felt so strong about Simes.

Ma settles for making a vague gesture with the hand that isn't being held.

Jed: It was real brave of you to try anyway.

Ma: I should have left the cheating snake alone.

Jed: He only gave you half the money because he only took half the stuff. I want you to use that money to buy yourself something you really want. You sure earned it the hard way.

Ma, unlike her husband, didn't stick around long enough for explanations.

Ma: We've got debts, Jed. How're we going to pay them, if I go buying...

Ma closes her mouth firmly before she can describe the calico print that would be perfect for a new summer dress.

Jed: Look, this rent, and what I got from donating, it's a real windfall. We're doing real well now, we're gonna make a big dent in them debts this month.

Ma knows guilt when she sees it, and she wouldn't put it past Jed to go and get her enough cloth for a whole new wardrobe, and damn the creditors.

Jed: If you hadn't taken in them two, we wouldn't have none of it, so it's all due to you. And we'll keep doing all right, too.

Ma: The Sime will be gone when the pass gets shoveled clear, and then we won't have that rent money coming in.

Jed: But I'm gonna go up the line to the Ford every month and bring in another windfall. Every month.

Ma: Jed, no! It's not worth it. You'll find another job. You don't have to do...that.

Jed: If I find another job, we'll make twice as much. You saw me do it. It didn't hurt me none. Maybe it's one thing I've got talent for. Like I said, sitting still doing nothing - I'm good at it.

Ma gives a weak smile.

Jed strokes Ma's hand again.

Ma: I've never been any good at doing nothing. Drives me crazy.

Ma: I don't know how you do it, especially when that Sime...

Ma shudders.

Jed: You're good at making do on nothing. We never been hungry or cold since we got married. And you sure made a couple of fine boys for me.

Ma: They are good boys.

Jed: They sure are. You do good work.

Jed: You know how your cousin can't stand to see a spider? She knows they don't do no harm, but she can't stand 'em. Maybe you're like that with Simes, but we didn't know until we had a Sime here. Nobody knows why that sort of thing happens. It's not your fault.

Jed: I promise I'll never ask you to touch a Sime again, okay?

Jed puts his arm around Ma and kisses her forehead.

Ma kisses Jed back.

Ma: All right, Jed.

Ma: And if you really want to go to Ford to give your...stuff, I won't object.

Jed: Good. It ain't like working, but it's something I can do for us. And that money you got for what you did is yours. i don't want you spending it on me nor the boys nor the debts.

Ma: Jed...what you got from the Sime will help, and the rent we're charging, too. But that won't stretch far enough to keep us out of trouble. Maybe if I'd been able to do what you did...but I can't.

Jed: You tried your best, more than your best. That Sime feels real bad about what happened. You put up such a good front he didn't know you were that scared. He said if he knew he wouldn't have tried, but you were so determined.

Jed: I told him I know what you're like when you're real determined. You're real strong, Ma, stronger than is good for you, this time.

Jed hugs Ma harder.

Jed: I'm real proud of you for trying, but you don't have to do that again.

Ma: I wasn't strong enough. Those tentacles--I couldn't even twitch my arms, they were grabbing me so hard.

Ma: He could've killed me, and I still wouldn't have been able to pull free.

Jed: You know nobody can fight off a Sime. Look, I didn't know this, but he couldn't let go of you as soon as you tried to get away. It takes a little time before he can let go even if he wants to. He feels real bad that he hurt you, about the bruises.

Jed: And he feels worse that you were so scared. That's one sad and guilty Sime in there, Ma.

Ma bites back her first response, which was to say, "Good."

Ma instead says, "I suppose he meant well."

Jed: He didn't expect what happened no more than you did, but he blames himself for it. See, you bamboozled a Sime into doing what you wanted against his better judgment.

Jed: You're a real shrewd woman, Ma. I'm proud of you.

Ma: Humpf. Next time, maybe we should follow his judgment.

Jed: You want me to promise to go along with that? I will.

Jed figures this will help in the effort to get Bart in there donating.

Jed: Here, Ma, you've had a rough day....

Jed gets the bottle of medicinal brandy from the back of the top shelf. This sacred bottle is reserved for emergency situations. Jed drinks beer.

Jed: I think you should have a little of this in your tea.

Ma: Jed, I'm all right.

Jed pours a bit in Ma's cup, and recorks the bottle.

Jed: I know you are. This is to settle your nerves.

Ma's objection is a bit half-hearted, which in itself is evidence that she could use medicating.

Ma takes a sip of the concoction, grimacing a bit at the taste of the liquor, which isn't completely disguised by the tea.

Jed: Come on, drink up. You want a little honey with it?

Jed pushes the honey jar closer to her.

Ma is in the mood to be coddled, and so she puts a dollop of honey in her tea. She takes another sip, larger this time.

Jed puts his arm around her and kisses her forehead again.

Ma's normal alcohol consumption is limited to nonexistent, so the brandy acts quickly. She's soon feeling more relaxed.

Jed: Feeling better now? I wish I could do more for you than just tea with honey.

Ma: Mmmm. Much better.

Jed: Good, good. More tea?

Ma isn't opposed to more than tea and honey, but not when the boys are due back before she can enjoy it properly. She holds out her mug for a refill.

Jed refills the mug, and uncorks the bottle.

Jed: A bit more medicine?

Ma: No, Jed. I don't have your head for it.

Jed: Okay then.

Jed recorks the bottle.

Jed: But you'll have more honey. Sweets for the sweet.

Jed stirs some honey into Ma's tea.

Ma smiles, and lifts her mug in a toast.

Jed refills his own mug and lifts it to her.

Ma's bruised arm gives a twinge at the movement, and she frowns.

Ma: Debts or not, I wish the Sime was gone. The boys were far too interested in him.

Jed: They weren't afraid of him, much.

Ma: I don't want them getting into something they can't handle, on a dare. Especially Bart. He was real proud that he's a Gen. And he really wants a gun of his own.

Jed: Well, even if he is a Gen, we don't have to give him a gun until he's sixteen. Maybe by next year we can afford it.

Ma: Maybe. It'll be hard, finding that kind of money. Guns aren't cheap.

Jed: Ma, even if that Sime hadn't given us money for rent and for donating, just to know that Bart's safe...

Ma: Yes. It's worth a great deal.

Jed: I been thinking, Ma. I can get to the Ford in a couple hours in good weather, if I push it. That horse we got is no racer, but he can move when he wants to. If Vrian.... if Vrian needs....

Ma's eyes widen.

Ma: But Jed, what if he were to...while you were still trying to take him...?

Jed: He's a good boy. I don't want to shoot him, but I will if I have to. I want to give him a chance.

Ma: If that happens, and the weather permits...I don't want him to be dead, either.

Jed: Good. I'll talk to him about it. Let him know we both want the best for him.

Ma: You'd better tell both boys. I wouldn't put it past Bart to try to help his brother himself, and without a gun, that could be fatal.

Jed: You're right. He pushes Vrian around a bit, but he really does love his brother. If they know I'll try to get him to the Ford, they'll be more likely to tell us in time.

Ma: I wish there was a way to tell, ahead of time.

Jed: I'll talk to our Sime, have him talk to Vrian. Find out if there's any warning signs to let him know it's starting.

Ma is mellowed enough, thanks to the brandy, not to object to the reference to "our" Sime.

Jed: My dad was never the same after he shot my sister.

Ma is pretty sure Jed wouldn't be the same after shooting Vrian, either.

Jed: I guess I wasn't either. Dammit, they're good boys. They deserve to live.

Ma: The world doesn't care about who deserves what, most times. Not really.

Jed: Yeah.

Ma: If it did, there'd be a good job waiting for Bart.

Jed: You know what Gerrhonot said at the saloon? He said that Gens are safer in-T than out, because they don't have berserkers there.

Ma: No, Jed. We're not moving to live with the Simes.

Jed: Don't worry. I'm not leaving this place. Five generations of Mullinses on this little piece of land, and I won't be the last. The boys may have to go to the city to find work, but one'll be back.

Jed: Ma, I talked to the Sime about Bart donating.

Ma stiffens.

Ma: No, Jed! He's too young to be doing that.

Jed: I promised I'd go by the Sime's judgment, didn't I?

Ma: He's a Sime. He'll take any Gen he can get his tentacles on. What does he know about our boy?

Jed: You know what they say about Simes reading minds?

Ma: Yes. They say you can't lie to them, no matter how much you try.

Jed: Well, they can't read thoughts, but they can read feelings.

Ma: What's that got to do with Bart?

Ma is familiar with her husband's habit of misdirecting any discussion that isn't going in his preferred direction.

Jed: He said that if we talked to Bart, and told him about what happened to you today, and Bart still sincerely wanted to donate, he would be willing to take his donation.

Jed: Bart really wanted to last night. After he saw me do it, he wasn't afraid at all.

Ma: Bart's still more boy than man. He'd do it on a dare, or because you did.

Jed: The Sime can tell if he's doing it on a dare. He won't do it unless he's sure it's what Bart really wants to do. He'll start him off right. He can start helping the family, bringing in a man's wage.

Ma: And what if Bart changes his mind in the middle? What will your Sime do then? It's too risky. I don't want our boy going through what I did.

Jed: Neither do I. I want him going through what I went through, what my dad went through, but even easier.

Jed: If he has to wait until next month, he'll just worry and get himself all knotted up about it. The longer he waits, the more he'll build it up in his mind as some big thing, not just an easy way to make a lot of money in a couple minutes, like it was for me

Ma: Jed...he doesn't have to do it at all. Most folks don't, after all.

Jed: No, he doesn't have to. And I'm not going to tell him he has to. It's up to him to decide whether he wants to.

Ma has always been a strong believer in self-determination, which is a huge disadvantage in discussions of this sort.

Jed: You know he's a good boy, a young man now, and he has the right to make decisions for himself.

Ma: If it's really his choice, I won't forbid it. But only if we show him what can happen, first. The bad, as well as the good.

Ma looks at her bruised arms.

Jed: Right. That's what Mr. Hajene in there said. He said he won't do it unless we tell Bart what happened today.

Ma finds it ~~ disquieting ~~ to find a Sime siding with her side of the argument, but she can't exactly object, can she?

Jed wishes he could think of a way to talk Ma into letting Seruffin heal her arms, but he's already involved in one complicated feat of persuasion.

Ma: All right, then. You've convinced me. Although how you manage to talk me around like that, I don't know.

Jed: It's because you're a smart woman, and a reasonable one.

Jed hugs Ma and kisses her forehead again.

Ma: Jed Mullins, you'll drive me crazy, yet.

Ma yawns widely, no longer able to hold out against the brandy.

Jed: Why don't you lie down and take a little nap? Me and the boys can heat up that cabbage soup for supper ourselves.

Ma: I think I will.

Ma yawns again, then stands and makes her way towards the alcove that hides their bed.

Jed: [calls] I'm sure glad I married you!

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