Ma Mullins is stirring a pot of soup on the stove in her kitchen. Her soup pot contains a bit of meat, and vegetables besides cabbage, because they no longer have to sell so much of their produce to cover debts.
Ma has to admit -- grudgingly -- that the family's financial situation is much improved since her husband and sons started donating.
Ma doesn't think that balances the potential financial -- and personal -- disaster, if young Ukoh had attacked and killed Jed, instead of nearly killing that crazy Sime-raised girl. She expects to explain this to her erring spouse -- in detail -- if he ever comes home.
Toria walks up to the Mullins's door, which still has the "Sime Territory" sign hanging on it, if only by one nail.
Toria: Hello the house!
Ma opens the door.
Ma: Toria! Come in, come in.
Toria comes in.
Toria: I wanted to talk to Jed, if he's home yet?
Ma: No, he's still trying to get the wagon repaired. The last I heard, the smith was overwhelmed with emergency orders for repair of fire-fighting equipment.
Toria: Oh, what a shame. Still, I suppose I should tell you about it and then you can tell your husband.
Ma: Tell me about what?
Toria tends to think that all wives are as dominant as she is -- or has been.
Ma definitely wears the skirts in her family.
Ma takes down two cups, and starts measuring tea into them. She gestures for Toria to sit down at the table.
Toria sits down and waits.
Ma picks up the teakettle and pours, stirs her stew one more time, then sits herself, placing one of the steaming cups in front of Toria.
Toria sips her tea.
Ma settles back to listen.
Toria: Well, I had wanted Jed to more or less keep an eye on Gegg's cousin Hitt for a while.
Ma: Hitt? Is he in some sort of trouble?
Toria: Oh no. But I'm going to arrange for him to manage the farm for however long it takes.
Ma: Manage the farm?
Ma jumps to the obvious, if wrong, conclusion.
Ma: Is there some problem with your babies? ~~ concern ~~
Toria: Oh, I thought you knew. No no, we're going away for a while.
Toria assumes that the grapevine is more efficient than it actually has been.
Ma: Going away? To where?
Toria: I don't know yet exactly. Wherever Gegg can get treatment for his Simephobia. Of course that'll take time, so I figured Hitt would be the best candidate to mind things while we're gone.
Ma: Treatment? I didn't know it was a disease.
Toria: No, but Hajene Bibi at the Ford says Gegg can be helped. But it was his own idea to actually do something about it.
Toria figures she's going to have trouble convincing people that anything is Gegg's "own idea".
Ma: After all these years? Why now?
Toria: Well, from what Gegg told me, he's gotten tired of it. And after all, we only just found out that anything could be done at all.
Ma: What can be done about it? I'd always assumed that some people were born brave, and others, well, weren't. Not that your Gegg isn't a sweet man, Toria.
Toria: No, it seems he had a bad experience in the Army that left him -- damaged. But that damage can be undone, somehow, I don't know how yet. After all, he was able to face Bibi several times.
Ma: He was?
Ma isn't sure how she feels about that, given her own dismal record in facing Seruffin.
Toria: Yes. Of course, she wasn't actually trying to do anything with him, just sitting and talking about things.
Ma: I see. So where would you go for this "treatment"? New Washington?
Ma has never been there, but the best doctors are supposed to work there.
Toria: No, unfortunately. Because it's a problem about Simes, the best treatment is, well, in Simeland.
Ma's eyes widen.
Ma: Simeland? You and Gegg are going to go live in Simeland?
Toria: Not live there. Not really. Just stay there for a while.
Ma: How long a while?
Toria: We'll have to find out. Months, I suppose.
Toria decides it's time to make a little joke.
Toria: Well, at least we won't have to worry about berserkers there, eh?
Ma: No, just Simes. Lots of Simes. And, what, a quarter of them needing selyn at any one time?
Ma shudders at the thought.
Ma: You won't even know which ones, so you can be careful.
Toria: Well, of course we'll all be low-field except for Gegg, and who knows, maybe they can lower his field somehow or other as well. So we won't be very ... interesting.
Ma: You'll all be lowfield? You can't mean you're taking Sanda into Simeland with you??!!
Toria: I certainly wouldn't leave her here by herself, at her age! And of course bringing her will help with the expenses.
Ma: But Toria, think. She's already showed bad judgment, where Simes are concerned.
Toria: [grimly] Trust me, she's learned her lesson.
Ma: I know you can't leave her alone, but I'd be willing to take her in.
Toria: Well, that's very neighborly of you, Maree, but I still think she'd be better off with her family.
Toria is by no means over her prejudices about other Gumgeevilleans. She changes the subject.
Toria: They told me down at the Ford that the best person to help Gegg would be one of those Farrises.
Ma: Farrises? Like that one who stopped the Sime Wars?
Toria: I guess so. One of his relatives, anyway. They're supposed to be the best channels.
Ma shakes her head.
Ma: Toria, if they're the people who are busy running Simeland, what makes you think that they'll be willing to drop what they're doing to help one undistinguished farmer from a town so small it doesn't even have its own market?
Toria: Well, we do have a channel in our family, you know. That's pretty special over there.
Ma: Special enough to demand the attention of one of their leaders for months on end?
Toria: Well, I don't know about "leaders". Just because people belong to a famous family, that doesn't make them politicians. This fellow must be more of a doctor.
Ma: A doctor who treats... apprehensions?
Ma doesn't want to say "cowardice".
Ma: I still don't see how that's possible.
Toria: I don't know either. Maybe it's something to do with how Simes can tell how people are feeling.
Ma: I've always thought that was... unnatural.
Ma thinks it's downright creepy, actually.
Toria: It's what they can do. Mik can do it too: he told me exactly what I was feeling when I went to see him.
Ma: Still, I haven't heard anything about them being able to actually change feelings.
Toria: No, that's true. But they must have some method. That professor down at the Ford told me the channels used to help captured Gens adjust to life in Simeland back in the old days, when there was no way to send them home.
Ma: That must have been awful, to be trapped on the wrong side of the border.
Toria: For sure.
Ma: How did the channels "help them adjust" to something like that?
Toria: Helped them get past their fear of Simes, somehow. After all, Maree, if we knew just how it was done, we probably wouldn't need to go see this Farris doctor, would we.
Ma: No, I don't suppose you would. What'll you do if you can't get one of these doctors to take on Gegg's case?
Toria shrugs again.
Toria: Come back home, I guess. What else is there to do?
Ma: What would that do to Gegg, to not be able to do this when he's so set on it?
Toria: He'll have to do what he can, I suppose. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Ma: Yes. Well, we'll be happy to keep an eye on Hitt, make sure he keeps up your place properly and doesn't let the fields go to weeds.
Toria is pleased to see this assertiveness.
Ma: You concentrate on your husband; it sounds like he'll need all your attention.
Toria: Excellent. I'll go and twist Hitt's arm, then, now that I can be sure of him. I have an idea about how to motivate him....
Ma raises a questioning eyebrow.
Toria: Let's just say I know a thing or two about good old Hitt.
Ma: Other than...?
Toria smiles mysteriously, but remains silent.
Ma shakes her head.
Ma: Be that way, then. As I said, we'll see he does a decent job. You will let us know how things go with you, in Simeland, won't you?
Toria: Of course we will. It'll take getting used to, but what doesn't?
Ma: When will you go?
Toria: It'll take a little while to get things set up over there, I guess. Probably a few weeks, maybe a month. By that time, Mik will be in channeling school.
Ma: Where will they send him. Do you know yet?
Toria: No, I have no idea. Wherever he's best suited for, I should think.
Ma: How long will he be in school?
Toria: A year at least. More, if he wants or needs special training of some kind.
Ma: I suppose he'll end up with a big debt, paying off an education like that.
Toria: Probably. But as long as he doesn't wash out, it's a guaranteed lifetime job with the Sime government, one way or another.
Ma: I suppose it's worth it, then.
Toria doesn't realize that it's a "lifetime" job in the sense that if you quit, your life expectancy is rather short.
Ma: But how will you and Gegg be able to afford months of medical treatment, and living expenses in Simeland? Donation money doesn't pay that much.
Toria: This is important to Gegg, maybe the most important thing. We'll manage somehow.
Ma: I'm sure you'll find a way, Toria.
Ma knows a great deal about "making do", so she can speak with conviction.
Ma: If there's anything else we can do, you let us know.
Toria: Thanks so much, Maree. And thanks for the tea! I understand they only have that rose-hip tea in Simeland -- another thing to get used to, eh?
Ma: Yes. I suppose there will be a lot of strange customs and things.
Toria: I'm sure there will be. Anyhow, I must run, so thanks again, and I'll be in touch.
Toria gets up and sees herself out.