Bart is in the barn, setting up some pens for the goat kids. They have to be strong enough to keep the nannies from getting to their kids, and tight enough to keep the kids from getting to the nannies. His ingenuity is challenged by the lack of suitable materials and the malign deviousness of the caprine mind. He's also getting a bit tired of the sneering comments the goats are making.
Bart: Shut up you stupid animals. You'll be allowed out soon enough.
Mik's voice is heard from outside: "Hellooooo the barn!"
Bart: Mik? Come on in.
Mik opens the barn door just enough to squeeze his thin form in, and pulls it shut quickly.
Bart gathers the scraps of twine and wire and his tools into a box, where they won't get lost.
Mik assists with this effort.
Bart: Hey, Mik. How's it going?
Mik: One day nearer the grave, Bart, one day nearer the grave.
Bart's heart sinks. He really feels terrible about his friend's risky future.
Bart: Here, have a seat. I need a break anyway.
Bart sits on a feed bin.
Mik sits down on the floor of the barn, cross-legged.
Mik: I guess you know what's up with me, huh. After having Hajene Seruffin in your house all that time.
Bart: Yeah. Do you still... feel like you're gonna turn Sime?
Mik: All the time. It's like I can feel it inside. Hajene said there's still no way to be sure, but I can't help being sure no matter what he tells me.
Bart experiences a rush of ~~ compassion ~~. Very strange. He wonders if that's his Donor's talent coming out.
Mik: I heard you might have talent to be a Si-- Donor.
Bart: Hajene Seruffin thinks so. I... I think I might too.
Mik: [in a rush] What's it like? I mean, do you have some kind of feeling inside like I have, or what? ~~ embarrassment ~~
Bart: I dunno... When Hajene took my donation... I wasn't scared at all when he touched me. I... it felt good... I felt really close to him and like I wanted to help him. And afterwards, whenever I saw him looking stressed out... I wanted to do something for him.
Mik: Ummm, ah, umm,
Bart looks away. He's still trying to understand his own feelings.
Mik: [changes tone] Do what for him?
Bart: Just help him somehow. I can't really describe it.
Mik: Do you think you'd feel that way about any channel, or just him?
Bart: I don't know, Mik. The whole thing is so strange. I don't know how much is from finding out that I'm Gen, or from finding out the Donor talent thing. But, I feel like I'm more... I don't know... it's like I notice some things more.
Mik has no shame about asking personal questions; he doesn't expect to have to live with the repercussions.
Mik: What kind of things?
Bart: Like how people feel, stuff like that.
Mik: Yeah. I guess something like that would make you notice, wouldn't it.
Mik: Umm, Bart?
Mik: Do you, do you have any, well, special feeling about me? About me being ... ?
Bart: I dunno, Mik. I feel awful that you're so worried, and I'm afraid that... that you won't be able to get to the Ford in time, if you need to.
Mik: Yeah, doesn't that suck selyn, hey? Here I am, maybe gonna be one a them channels, more valuable to human kind than anybody else, and I'm stuck at the wrong end of a fleckin muddy road.
Bart: Look, Mik, I dunno what your dad told you about this... but my dad said that he told yours that you should go to the Ford with us next week, and see the channel there. You know your dad is pretty nervous about Simes, and he thinks you wouldn't want the channel there to touch you.
Mik: Ha. I'd do anything to do that. But even if my dad would let me, my mom would pitch a fit.
Bart: Hajene Seruffin said that channels can tell a few days in advance if someone is gonna turn Sime.
Mik: Sometimes I think about running away to the Ford and staying at the Sime Center. But if I did, my dad would just come and drag me back home, and wouldn't be anything the channel could do. Not without starting a pogrom, anyway. I'd have to change over pretty shen quick, then.
Bart: Do you... do you have any feeling about when it's gonna happen?
Mik: No. Not a clue.
Bart sighs and slides down onto the floor next to Mik.
Bart: Look... did you know your dad went to talk to the channel when he was in Ford last?
Mik: I knew that, yeah. He gave me some booklets from the channel there. But he didn't tell me word one about what they said. If anything. Why?
Bart: My dad says your dad is really worried about you. He really wants you to turn Gen, but if you don't he... he still wants you to be okay.
Mik sighs deeply.
Mik: Yeah, I know. For being my dad, my dad's okay. But there ain't anything he can do about the fix I'm in.
Bart: What's your ma thinking? She can't want you to die, can she?
Mik: She's being my mom, that's all. All she can think is, Mik's got to be Gen, no matter what. Women just don't let themselves face facts.
Bart: Shit. Don't they remember what it was like being our age?
Mik: I guess not, I dunno.
Mik and Bart reflect briefly on the folly of adults.
Bart: Mik... do you think if you told your dad you thought you were starting to turn Sime, he'd take you to the Ford right away?
Mik: Um. That's a good question. I think he'd try. But I don't think he could make it.
Bart: Why not?
Mik: Too far. Dirt road, sometimes mud road. Channels ... channels change over faster than ordinary Simes. And sometimes one kill isn't enough for them.
Mik is getting the more depressed the more he knows.
Bart: I didn't know that. Was that in the booklets you got?
Bart feels awful about his friend. There must be something he can do for him.
Mik: Yeah. Y'know, Bart, I can see you feel bad cause you wanna help me. And if I were a Sime, it probably would make me feel better. But it doesn't, somehow.
Bart: Look, if you want to go to the Ford with us, and your dad says no, you sneak away and come with us anyway, okay? Maybe the channel can figure something out.
Mik: Yeah, maybe. I guess I do need to see that channel. D'you know anything about him?
Bart: Your dad says the channel's a woman. A young one, not old and dignified like Hajene Seruffin.
Mik: Whoo. He didn't say that to me. Guess he wouldn't admit it in front of my mom.
Mik's thoughts go off in very strange directions.
Bart: My dad says your dad said she's pretty too, but he couldn't overlook the tentacles.
Mik: I bet he could make himself try.
Bart: If you're gonna be a Sime-kisser....
Mik bursts into shocked laughter.
Mik: You are eeeeeeevil.
Bart is glad he's got Mik feeling better, even if he didn't do it by the mysterious methods Gerrhonot uses.
Mik: I guess there's more ways than one to be a demon-spawn lover, huh Bart?
Bart: Well, I'm looking forward to doing some Sime-kissing.
Mik didn't expect that response.
Mik: You mean ... ?
Bart giggles too, and then bursts out laughing.
Bart: I guess it will be a little different than with Hajene Seruffin!
Mik: Well, the booklet says that in Simeland they call you an adult when you establish as a Gen, so I guess you c'n do what you want.
Bart blushes, his man-of-the-world act collapsed.
Bart: Naw, Mik, I'm just gonna give a donation like before. Make some money for the family.
Mik: Money is good, I guess.
Bart: It really is, Mik. I could never get that kind of money otherwise. Not in Gumgeeville, not when I'm still legally a child.
Mik: [impressed] Shen.
Bart doesn't think it would be very tactful to mention it, but if Mik's parents would donate, they could board him in the Ford, hire someone to do his work, and have money left over.
Bart: It's making a big difference for us. We'll be out of debt in a few months, and we've got money to keep the farm up. You saw we got the roof fixed.
Mik looks up.
Mik: Yeah. I guess if my folks had some of that money, they'd have more choices too. About me and all. But that's as likely as a long day in winter.
Mik: What is it with Gumgeeville folks anyhow. Money growin on trees, and most of 'em too scared or too proud to pull down a branch!
Bart: I dunno. My dad figured it would be okay because his dad did it in the war. He also figured, what was Hajene gonna do -- kill him? He'd be shot for sure. But you know how he is -- he drives people crazy by being logical like that.
Mik: Look, Bart, I don't wanna be rude or nothing. But everybody knows your family is -- was -- close to the edge.
Bart: Yeah. It was getting really bad. And no change in sight.
Mik: If people hafta be worried about where their next meal is coming from before they'll take a trip to the money tree, it's, well, its ...
Mik is rather proud of this conceit, but runs out of words to support it.
Bart: Look, it's not just money. People could have brought their kids by to find out if they were Gens yet, but nobody did.
Mik: Yeah. That's just plain dumb.
Bart: They were too afraid to get close to Hajene, and here he is a big diplomat, who talks to all the big wheels in New Washington!
Mik: Well, you know, city folks.
Mik doesn't know how to articulate his mixed feelings.
Bart: So there's all these kids in town who are Gen and don't know it, so they're still worrying, and their parents are still worrying too, and all they had to do was come by and ask, but they wouldn't. It's just stupid, Mik. People in this town are just backward and stupid.
Mik thinks this goes just too fleckin far.
Mik: Oh yeah? All except Bart the perfect, I suppose!
Bart: You know what I mean.
Mik: Maybe I do. But it wasn't so long ago you -- and me -- were just like everybody else in this town. And you know it.
Bart: Well, maybe it's time for everybody else to wake up too. We've had Unity for almost forty years now, and everybody's still acting like it's the dark ages.
Mik thinks it will always be the dark ages in Gumgeeville as long as that dirt road's there.
Mik: Y'know, Bart, wouldn't it be cool if I changed over and got to be a channel, and you got Donor training, and we set up a Sime Center right here in Gumgeeville?
Bart: I don't think it works like that. But yeah, it would be cool if you were my channel and I was your Donor.
Mik is simultaneously crushed and elated, a state of mind typical of early adolescence.
Mik decides to try arguing his case.
Mik: But why not? Who'd know things in Gumgeeville better than us? Who'd be more likely to be accepted, us or some outsiders?
Bart: My dad said Gerrhonot told the guys in the saloon that they could probably get a Sime Center here because of the railroad.
Bart: Maybe when we go to the Ford, we can talk to the people there about how it works.
Bart wants to offer to help Mik if he's afraid to go to his father if he suspects his changeover is starting, but he doesn't have a rifle. What if Mik kills him on the way? Seruffin told him he could injure a Sime by tying him up.
Vrian enters the barn, carrying the pitchfork in anticipation of mucking out the horse's stall.
Vrian: Hi, Bart. Hi, Mik. How's things?
Vrian wouldn't normally be so casual about addressing the older Mik, but hey, he is an adult Gen now, while Mik is still a child.
Mik shrugs expressively.
Vrian: You gonna come along when we go to the Ford?
Mik decides it's time to commit itself.
Mik: Yeah. I gotta. I've got to find a way out of my -- problem, no matter what my mom and dad think about it.
Vrian: You'd run away, if you had to? I mean, even before anything actually...happens?
Mik: No, that won't work. Like I was telling Bart, I'd be dragged back. There's gotta be another way. There's gotta.