Sue Whittle strides down the Sime Center's front walk in the businesslike, but impeccably ladylike, fashion that always makes her church's minister want to duck for cover. She's a solidly proportioned woman with hair just starting to turn silver, under the sunbonnet she habitually wears in all seasons.
Sue is carrying several packages, from some of which are drifting delightful aromas. She looks at the topmost package, which doesn't smell, and frowns thoughtfully. Sue knows that package represents a temporary defeat for her and her friends, but is optimistic enough to believe that they will prevail....eventually.
Sue can be rather like a force of nature when she decides something must be done; her victims have been heard to mutter darkly about harmless-seeming raindrops carving out great canyons, and how did the poor land feel?
Sue climbs up the steps to the Sime Center's front porch, and pauses to announce her presence, her hands being full.
Sue: Oh, Bibi, dear!
Bibi hurries into the reception area and opens the door.
Bibi: Miz Whittle! Hello! Please come in.
Sue: Thank you, dear. Let me just set these down, and then you can tell me all the news. I heard you've got important visitors?
Sue's lively ~~ interest ~~ is unmistakable.
Bibi: Yes. A channel and his Donor were stranded in Gumgeeville when the train couldn't get through the pass. They're staying here for a few days.
Sue: I hope they weren't treated too badly, in Gumgeeville?
Sue shakes her head in ~~ sympathy ~~ as she sets her parcels down on the refreshments table.
Sue: They're not used to Simes, there.
Sue conveniently overlooks the small detail that most of her fellow Fordians aren't any more resigned to their Sime Center.
Bibi: They seem to have done pretty well. Hajene Seruffin recruited some donors, and Sosu Gerrhonot rescued a child in changeover from a cellar where she'd run when her grandfather tried to shoot her. But it was very stressful for the channel to have to stay in a small room most of the time.
Bibi: Would you like some tea?
Sue: Wanted to lock their skeletons in the closet, eh?
Sue: Why, thank you, dear, I'd love some.
Bibi smiles, not quite sure she gets the joke, and pours a cup of tea for her guest.
Sue has set the top bag aside, and is opening up the others.
Sue: Now, there's some of my oatmeal cookies here, and Miz Koller sent a loaf of gingerbread.
Bibi: Oh, thank you. Her gingerbread is wonderful and the donors all like your oatmeal cookies.
Bibi was raised in a similar community, and culturally appropriate small talk is effortless for her.
Sue: There are some more nuts, too, and a few apples from Miz Danna. They're a bit wrinkled, this time of year, but there aren't any with bad spots. I checked.
Bibi: Nattin will be so pleased. He's been longing for some fruit.
Sue arranges the offerings on on the refreshments table with the efficiency of a person who's been handling catering chores all her life. She brushes a few crumbs off the table, sets their containers neatly out of sight under the tablecloth, and gives a satisfied nod.
Sue: None of you eat enough, here. You're all thin as rails, even the Gens.
Sue's tone is affectionately scolding, as befits the mother of five and grandmother of two.
Bibi smiles with an appropriate level of sheepishness.
Sue accepts the cup of tea from Bibi, firmly offering the plate of oatmeal cookies in its stead. She could teach most Donors a thing or two about certain aspects of channel management.
Bibi: Thank you. I'll slice the gingerbread.
Bibi doesn't cringe at Gens using sharp tools, but she really doesn't feel up to eating a whole oatmeal cookie right now. She replaces the cookies on the table, cuts a few slices from the loaf, and sits next to Sue.
Sue: Oh, there's a pile of letters for you. Postmaster was holding them, again.
Bibi: Thanks for bringing them.
Bibi takes the letters from Sue and riffles through the envelopes quickly.
Sue: That fool! He keeps claiming that none of his four stalwart subordinates will volunteer to take the unprecedented risk of doing their jobs. Big, brave men that they are!
Sue's ladylike sniff makes her opinion clear.
Bibi: Oh, well. Picking up the mail gives Nattin an excuse to walk downtown. And pick up the gossip.
Sue: It's a matter of principle. And cowardice.
Sue well knows who represents which, in this instance.
Bibi makes a hand gesture that could easily be interpreted as "Men. Sheesh."
Sue: Of course, our virtuous postmaster can't spare the time to deliver the mail himself. He's too busy playing checkers with those useless loafers that spend their winters in the post office.
Bibi: Well, it's a good thing the spring thaw is in full swing now. Such a long winter this year. And this last storm....
Sue: Yes. We're still digging out.
Sue sets her cup aside.
Sue: Well, dear, I really must be going. I promised my daughter I'd look after the baby, while she runs some errands. You take care, now, and I'll see you in a week or so.
Bibi: Thank you for bringing the mail and the goodies. And please thank Miz Koller and Miz Danna for their contributions for me.
Sue: I'll surely do that.
Sue collects her containers from under the refreshments table, moves the gingerbread plate two inches to the left to make a more appealing display, and departs.
Bibi takes the mail back to the common room.
Bibi: A letter for you, Hajene.
Seruffin looks up from the book he was reading.
Bibi offers the letter to Seruffin, wondering why she still calls him Hajene after last night.
Seruffin: Thank you, Bibi.
Seruffin takes it and looks at the official Tecton diplomatic seals decorating the envelope.
Bibi distributes the mail into the pigeonholes for Nattin and his students, then sits to read her own mail. She leafs through the ads and flyers, and opens the letter from Marvin.
Seruffin: This looks like it could be important.
Bibi looks up attentively.
Seruffin doesn't add, or at least, its sender wants me to think that he or she is important.
Seruffin opens the envelope neatly, and pulls out the folded paper inside.
Well, the bad news is that I've got a full load, and I'll have to skip our regular visit on this trip. The good news is that I'll be there with bells on on the next loop. (Sing hey! for the life of a mule ...) I hear you have a changeover from Gumgeeville, of all places! I've got word of an opening in an excellent FY camp for her. Let me know how things are going for you there. Any signs of entran yet? :-)
M. the M.
Bibi smiles at Marvin's cheerful style.
Seruffin looks up from his own letter.
Seruffin: Good news, Bibi?
Bibi: Well, Marvin's going to have to skip me this time, so I'll have to ask you to take the selyn, but he's got word of a good placement for Magit.
Seruffin: That's good news. Did he say which one?
Bibi: No, he didn't. But I did tell him that Magit should have access to an expert in transfer pathology for her next transfer, so I assume he has that in mind.
Seruffin: Good. After the rough beginning she had, she deserves for something to go smoothly in her life.
Bibi: I'd hoped we could get her in-T before her turnover, but so it goes.
Seruffin: Is Marvin good at placing the young Simes?
Bibi: Very good. He gets along well with the people he turns them over to, and is a real advocate for them. He's from out-T himself.
Bibi assumes Seruffin knows that most mules are disjuncts.
Seruffin: It seems he's got excellent connections in-Territory, though. Is he a Householder?
Bibi: No, he's not. But he's intelligent and gets along well with people. He has a good sense of humor and that gets people to want to cooperate with him.
Bibi also knows that Marvin has the deep sadness, so common in disjuncts, under his humorous style
Seruffin: Then I'm sorry I won't have the chance to meet him.
Bibi: Perhaps when you're here another time.
Bibi realizes how that sounded and blushes.
Seruffin knows how Tecton schedules are, but one can always hope.
Bibi: Uh, Seruffin, last night was delightful.
Bibi blushes again at her boldness, not only in using Seruffin's name.
Seruffin: For me, as well.
Seruffin's nager warms, in a discreet fashion.
Bibi's nager ~~ warms ~~ as well.
Seruffin: It looks like Gerrhonot and I have been diverted.
Seruffin feels that a change of subject is in order, to avoid having Bibi's cheeks acquire permanent sunburn.
Seruffin: We were supposed to be testifying before one of the Gen Senate's legislative committees. There was an incident last fall, when a Senator's campaign train was diverted during a disaster, and he ended up having to spend a few weeks in-Territory. He was quite upset about it, since his district is very conservative. One of his allies chairs the Joint Committee on InterTerritorial Affairs, and they were planning a thorough investigation into the matter. One in which the Tecton would be painted in the worst light possible, needless to say.
Bibi: ~~ concern ~~
Seruffin: However, it appears that the Senator didn't spend all of his time in-Territory suffering Sime oppression. At least part of it was spent in... um... very close association with a clerk younger than his own daughter.
Bibi: A Sime clerk, perhaps?
Seruffin: Yes. Now his wife is leaving him, his constituents are circulating petitions to demand his resignation, and the newspaper editors are running off special editions every few hours with the latest.
Bibi gets an absurd notion ~~ hilarity ~~
Seruffin: For some odd reason, his ally on the InterTerritorial Affairs committee is no longer interested in investigating the goings-on during his forced stay in-Territory.
Bibi: Perhaps the Tecton should recruit the clerk for out-T Sime Centers? She's got some kind of talent in disarming out-T Gens. ~~ joking ~~
Seruffin: I don't think this particular gentleman was much of a challenge, actually. His anti-Sime stance is more a matter of political necessity than personal prejudice. Personally, I think he has trouble believing that any Sime would dare to attack him.
Bibi makes a tentacle gesture that asks a channel to demonstrate someone else's nager with his showfield.
Seruffin demonstrates, as well as he can on the basis of a half dozen encounters that took place months before.
Bibi: Oh, my. ~~ amused ~~ So what will you do now? Go back to Capital?
Seruffin: No, we're to continue to New Washington. The diplomatic staff there still has to be briefed on current developments in Capital, even though I'm no longer required to play the part of the Evil Sime Monster for the Gen Senate.
Bibi: It must be a bit of a relief, then. Would they really want Gerrhonot to testify?
Seruffin: Possibly. The more reactionary Gens tend to view Donors even more skeptically than they view channels.
Bibi: How do you think they'd take him?
Seruffin: It's hard to say. The idea that a Gen might voluntarily decide to make a career out of helping Simes, and be happy doing so, is so foreign to the expectations of such people that their response isn't predictable. Except that it would probably be negative, of course. I'm very glad that Gerrhonot won't be subjected to the ordeal.
Bibi: Poor man. If only they could zlin him.
Seruffin: If they could zlin, they'd have to believe it when channels tell them that we mean no harm. On the other hand, if Gens could zlin, they'd be Simes, and we'd all be dead of attrition.
Magit bounces into the room, Ghan following. She decides to try out her new Simelan with Bibi.
Magit: Does the new mail arrived already, hears I.
Bibi: Yes, the new mail has arrived.
Bibi speaks slowly and clearly in Simelan.
Magit: Has the new mail arrived already, means I, eh?
Bibi: Here is a letter for you.
Magit: Thanks you.
Bibi: You're welcome, Magit.
Magit: Does the letter be from mother mine, sees I.
Seruffin: Your Simelan vocabulary is improving rapidly, Magit.
Magit: It is. Do many, um, many words know I.
Bibi notes the diplomatic absence of comments on Magit's Simelan grammar.
Ghan: She's learning very quickly.
Ghan: You are learning very fast, Magit.
Magit: Oh. I am. Does I learn much quicklier as before.
Seruffin: Yes, and you'll continue to learn quickly for the next year.
Magit: Anyhow, does mother mine says, um, says ...
Magit drops back to English with relief.
Magit: That she hopes I am doing well, and that everything is the same at home, and that I shouldn't worry about anything, and, well, you know. That kind of stuff.
Magit returns to Simelan.
Magit: And much like those.
Seruffin: She loves you very much, Magit.
Magit: Does she, yes.
Magit: Anyhow, is Ghan very helpful with explains things.
Bibi: Magit, I've heard from Hajene Marvin. It turns out you won't be going in-T until his next circuit. You can invite your mother to visit you here before you leave, if you want to.
Magit: Umm, is Marvin not comings yet, eh? Am I not understand rest. Often is I not understand Ghan two, three times saying.
Bibi: Marvin will come in about eight or ten days. If you want your mother to come here to visit you, you can ask her to come.
Magit: Anyhow, Marvin come eight or ten days, good.
Magit: Is mother can visit come here me? Shuven!
Bibi: I see your vocabulary is growing. Yes. You can write to your mother and ask her to come here and see you.
Seruffin hopes Magit won't be devastated if her mother declines the invitation.
Magit: Doesn't I write English, anyhow. Does I read it, doesn't I write it. Is I very confused English writing, anyhow.
Seruffin: You don't write English very well?
Magit: Isn't I spell English well, is words very difficult I.
Magit says "spell" in English, not knowing the Simelan for it. ~~ embarrassment ~~
Seruffin provides the Simelan verb for "spell".
Magit: Yes, isn't I spell English, um, badly.
Seruffin: It is a difficult language to spell properly.
Magit: It is.
Magit: [in English] I guess I can try.
Ghan: I will help you spell, Magit, if you like.
Magit: Is you help me spell English well, Ghan? Thanks!
Ghan is one of those people with an innate perfect-speller ability.
Magit: Does mail can send when, Hajene Bibi?
Bibi: Gitl usually drops off our mail at the postoffice on her way home.
Magit: So if does I write now, anyhow, then does Gitl take today letter mine? Is mother mine get letter when?
Bibi: If you write your letter today, your mother will get it tomorrow or the day after probably.
Magit: Am not understand, does mother mine get letter when?
Bibi: If you write today, Gitl will take your letter to the post office tonight.
Magit: Yes, understand I. But not understand I, ...
Bibi: Then your letter will go to Gumgeeville tomorrow.
Magit: [switching to English] when my mother is going to get the letter.
Bibi: [persisting in Simelan] So your mother will get your letter tomorrow or the next day.
Magit: Tomorrow or what?'
Bibi: Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
Magit: Oh, anyhow, day after day tomorrow, tomorrow or. Good. So anyhow, is Marvin come eight days, ten maybe, does my mother come see I four, five days, all good.
Magit: Is I tell mother mine -- my mother -- come see I four days.
Bibi: Yes, good.
Bibi figures that the visit will go better before Magit's turnover.
Magit: Is you think, not flipped over yet I. Is Ghan -- Ghan is tell me.
Bibi: You will enjoy the visit more before your turnover.
Magit: Yes, enjoy. Not-have-to-be-so-bloody-shen-careful-all-the-time! Umm, sorry I.
Seruffin: Magit, you should ask Ghan to explain what Simelan words and phrases are swearing. That way, you won't use them accidently when you shouldn't.
Ghan smiles a bit sheepishly.
Magit: Oh, anyhow. Will I try better.
Bibi: I'm sure you will. You're doing very well, Magit.
Magit: Does Ghan explained, anyhow, just remember, say I all words one big mess together. Especially when excited I. "Excited", is that right, eh?
Magit: Good. Excited, excited, gotcha.
Bibi: Thank you, Ghan, you're doing a good job teaching her.
Ghan: Thanks, Hajene. She's a good learner.
Magit: Always is I one big talk-ist at home, anyhow. Sime, as Sime still I.
Ghan smiles affectionately at Magit, and thinks that early Simelan acquisition in out-T Simes will be a good thesis topic.
Magit: Is I zlin, is you like the way I talk, feel, eh? [to Ghan]
Ghan: Yes, you zlin correctly.
Magit: You know, Hajene Bibi, is be Sime anyhow one big [in English] relief.
Bibi: How do you mean, Magit?
Magit: No kill I, no die I, no need I tell lies any more. Is child I, tell I lies, no think I anyhow. [in English] Automatically.
Magit: All Simes know how I think, feel now. Can I just-as-well tell truth, anyhow.
Magit: Is I zlin -- zlinning -- you are confused.
Magit: [in English] It's a strain to have to tell lies all the time about how I am feeling. In Simelan I just say exactly what I feel. Why not? You all know how I feel already!
Seruffin chuckles as well.
Seruffin: Yes, in that respect, Simelan is more straightforward.
Magit: Is Simes more forward straight, think I. I zlin you use [in English] tact [in Simelan], no say thing, not say lie.
Seruffin: That works in English, too, you know.
Magit: Yes, works, but not-the-same. Not saying is not enough.
Seruffin: Well, adults are usually more free not to answer questions.
Magit: True, true anyhow. Also but have I secret, people can see my face, figure it out.
Seruffin: That's a risk, on either side of the border.
Magit: Here in Simeland, no secrets, no lies, no strain. [in English] Freedom.
Seruffin: Well, there are other kinds of strain, that you'll find in Sime Territory.
Magit: Sure, sure, am I not a dumb [in English] teenager [in Simelan], eh? But for now, one big ... how-do-you-say "relief" in Simelan?
Seruffin obliges with the proper term.
Magit: Anyhow, enough am I -- I am talking about me, now are we talk about you, ho. ~~ laughter ~~
Seruffin obligingly chuckles, even if it was a pretty lame joke.
Bibi beckons Magit to come over to her.
Magit comes over.
Bibi offers a hug.
Magit hugs Bibi
Bibi: ~~ affection ~~ happiness ~~ I'm glad you're here with us, Magit.
Magit: ~~ suppressed worry ~~
Magit is not as free of emotional repression as she'd like to think. She begins to follow Bibi's emotional field, as the ~~ worry ~~ recedes somewhat.
Magit: [in English] I feel better, Hajene Bibi, but I still wonder what's going to become of me. Now that I'm Sime and all.
Bibi offers ~~ support ~~ encouragement ~~ comfort ~~
Bibi: You're doing very well. It will take time to get used to being Sime, and to learn Simelan, and to learn to live happily in-T. But everyone does it. You'll see.
Magit is glad Bibi has switched back to English too.
Bibi: Point to Gumgeeville, Magit.
Magit points thataway.
Bibi: Isn't that great?
Magit: Huh? I ought to know which way my home is, shouldn't I? Or should I say [in Simelan] should I, eh?
Bibi: Do you think you could have done that before you changed over?
Magit: ~~ mildly indignant ~~ You know, we do learn some map-reading, even in primitive Gumgeeville, Hajene! Every child knows which way Ford is.
Bibi: Yes, but now you won't need a map, to know where any place you've been is.
Bibi: You'll see when you travel more. It's one of the talents Simes have.
Seruffin reflects that this particular "talent" can be a curse, when you know exactly how far away from home you are, and how long it will be before you zlin it again.
Magit: ~~ sympathy ~~ What's the matter, Hajene? [in Simelan] Is you zlin home pain.
Magit: [in English] Homesick, I mean.
Magit: [in Simelan] Should I feel home pain, ho.
Magit: [in English] Home seems awfully far away, all of a sudden.
Bibi offers ~~ comfort ~~~
Magit: ~~ sadness; mild homesickness ~~
Seruffin: Homesickness passes, Magit. And you will make a new home for yourself, just as any adult must.
Magit: Is you give should comfort Hajene Seruffin, eh?
Magit: ~~ recognition ~~ Ha, I zlin! Is you want give should Hajene Seruffin comfort! ~~ sudden change of mood to teen glee ~~
Seruffin thinks that Magit has an awful lot to learn about tact, even in Simelan.
Magit: Is not hide you from me, no no no. Zlin I much. You think, zlin I too much, ha!
Magit: ~~ happy ~~ Have I much to learn, know I.