MizPane walks quickly up the lane from town to her home. She usually takes the shortcut through the woods but after Sal... She doesn't want to think about Sal. She can't believe a child of hers would...
MizBrown has paused during her morning constitutional to rest on a park bench, as is her habit. She likes to watch the people walking by, and speculate about their errands.
MizPane sees the cause of the downfall of her child sitting smugly on a bench.
MizBrown much prefers to call her attitude "self-respect".
MizPane turns to avoid that self-righteous old biddy. She gets part way down the path before her anger gets the better of her. She turns again and storms right up to the author of her child's destruction.
MizBrown's respect for her own competence doesn't preclude her respecting others, of course--as long as they show themselves worthy of respect. She raises an eyebrow.
MizBrown: Yes, I'm me. Have been for 86 years, now.
MizBrown waits to see if Miz Pane can come up with a more sophisticated observation.
MizPane: I always knew you were a meddlin' busy body Rose Brown. You never could stop gettin' up in other folks' business. And now you done condemned my Sal to the darkness forever!
MizBrown: Now what's got you so riled up, Mora? Your girl's gone to live in Sime Territory, where I expect the sun rises just like it does here.
MizPane: Don't you get funny with me Miz Rose. You know as well as I do that my Sal is damned.
MizBrown: What makes you so sure of that, Mora? Scriptures say Simes that kill are damned, but they don't say anything at all about Simes that have never killed. Now, do they? Seems to me it's killing that's condemned, not just a tentacle here or there.
MizPane: You twisted -- Don't you dare try that on me. Just cause nobody in your family has the guts to stand up to you don't mean the rest of us have to lay down for you. You made my child into a liar! You brought that little Sime whore into this town to corrupt our poor innocent children.
MizBrown: Now, what nonsense are you talking about, now? I haven't spoken with either of your children in months--not since Peet was trying to steal green apples from my tree. I think I stopped him before he ate himself sick. I'd hardly call that making him into a liar. More like, keeping him honest.
MizBrown's tone doesn't quite imply that Peet's mother isn't up to the task.
MizPane: You made my Sal a liar because she didn't tell me she was changin'. She didn't tell me!! She went to that Sime Center to become one of the Damned!! Then my Peet comes home and don't say nothin' to me. I gotta drag it out of him.
MizBrown: Your boy won't talk to you, how's that my fault? And the way I heard it, Sal didn't know she was in changeover until Hajene Bibi told her. So she could hardly have told you, could she?
MizPane: They was good kids before that, that Sime Center. [looking inward and back to a more certain time when her children were still children]
MizBrown: They were kids. Kids grow up, and enter the dangerous years. They start thinking for themselves, and sometimes they try to grab adult privileges early. That's been going on forever. It's got nothing to do with whether or not there's a Sime Center in town.
MizPane: Now I gotta watch my Peet. I can't trust him not to go off to that place like my Sal did. Why Miz Rose, why did you bring the cursed among us?
MizBrown can be annoyingly logical, when it suits her purpose.
MizPane is not logical, at least not at the moment.
MizBrown: I did it because I wanted to stop the killing. I've seen too many kids die, and too many of them were my kids, and grandkids. Since the Sime Center opened, no Gen member of my family has died at a Sime's tentacles, and no Sime child has killed.
MizBrown is ~~ proud ~~ of this achievement.
MizPane slumps dejected on the ground, tears streaming down her face.
MizPane: It ain't right. None of it is right.
MizPane was nearly killed by a cousin. If her Pa hadn't shot the boy she would have died that day.
MizBrown reaches out to pat Miz Pane's shoulder.
MizBrown: Now, Mora, I'm not saying things wouldn't be better if we were all Ancients, and no kid ever turned Sime. But the world is the way it is. If a third of our kids have to turn Sime, don't we owe it to everyone to see that does as little harm as possible?
MizPane: They took her away. They took my baby, my Sal. They made her Sime and took her. Why is that better? I still lose her.
MizBrown: They took her, yes. But they didn't make her Sime, Mora. She'd have gone into changeover anyway. And without Bibi to give her selyn...well, you'd have been the obvious target.
MizPane: She's still as good as dead! She's gone!
MizBrown: Kids leave home when they're grown, Mora. Sal just left a little earlier than most, that's all. You don't have to lose her, though, unless you want to.
MizPane: Don't you tell me nothin' about kids leavin'!! You got most of yours in arms reach! My Sal is gone!
MizBrown: My kids live here, yes. Those that survived. I've got grandkids on the other side of the border, though. Do you think I don't love them, and wish they were still in Hannard's Ford?
MizPane had dreams of grandchildren, of watching her Sal married and then pregnant. Those dreams are as dead now as if she'd had to shoot Sal herself.
MizPane: It ain't better. It's worse knowin' that she's out there somewhere I can't never see her.
MizBrown: Now, don't say that. If you really want to, you can see her.
MizPane looks up at the old lady on the park bench.
MizBrown: It wouldn't be easy, but you could. And there's always letters.
MizPane's face is tear streaked and her eyes are mirrors of the struggle in her heart between what she's believed all her life and a mother's hope.
MizPane: I don't write so good.
MizPane still can't break with tradition completely.
MizBrown reaches out to pat Miz Pane's shoulder again.
MizPane: I can't go in that Sime Center. Will they let her come out?
MizBrown: She's already been sent to Sime Territory, Mora.
MizBrown's tone is the one she has used to comfort the distressed members of her family for decades.
MizPane doesn't know if she could have stood to see her child as a Sime anyway.
MizPane: Then she really is gone.
MizBrown: But if you want to send her a letter, I'd be glad to help you get it written out properly. And Hajene Bibi will see that it gets to Sal. Once she's settled in, you could even visit her there.
MizPane looks at Miz Brown as if she has well and truly entered her dotage.
MizPane: Go among the damned?!
MizBrown: Well, the tentacled, anyway. Why not? My Saira did it last spring, to visit her youngest.
MizPane rises from the ground.
MizBrown: I'd've gone myself, if I weren't too old to make the train trip. Saira said it was really interesting, and not at all like she'd expected. There are a lot of Gens living in Simeland, for one thing.
MizPane: No, no, no! You almost had me for a moment Rose Brown! You nearly had me believing your lies!
MizBrown: Now, Mora, stands to reason, don't it, that there's be a lot of Gens there?
MizPane: I won't let you have my Peet and I won't let no more of our'n be sucked up by your Sime Center. I swear Rose Brown, I swear by all that's holy I'll see that house of damnation burned to the ground before this is done.
MizBrown's gaze hardens.
MizBrown: So it's arson, now, is it, that you're proposing? You'd behave like a common criminal, endangering the lives of the fire department volunteers?
MizPane backs away. She'd come too close to letting herself be taken in.
MizBrown: At least Peet only steals apples, and the only risk is to his stomach.
MizPane: No decent folk would go anywhere near that unholy place!! The only ones'd get hurt would be the fallen.
MizPane backs further away.
MizBrown: You know better, Mora. The fire volunteers don't play politics with lives.
MizPane: Then send your children to the damned! Not one of mine will go and that's all that matters to me!!
MizPane turns her back on Rose Brown and runs for home as if the very Evil One himself is behind her.
MizBrown looks after her, tut-tutting ruefully. She rather thinks Peet Pane will have ideas of his own about going to the Sime Center, if it comes to that.
MizBrown knows that Bibi can be quite persuasive, and life looks better to a teenager than being murdered.
MizBrown levers herself to her feet, and continues on her way.
MizBrown decides to mention the conversation to her son-in-law, who happens to be the chief of police, and see that Bibi gets word of it, too, just in case. She hopes that Mora will reconsider her arson threat when she calms down, but she hasn't lived as long as she has by being careless.