Eugen sits with a glass of cold cider cooling his hands. It's been a really insane few months. But this last month has been a real corker.
Eugen figures it could have been a lot worse. He still gets the shakes thinking about how close things got to going disastrously wrong here.
Eugen takes a sip and tries to think of something else. Maybe he should go into town or something to get his mind off things. It isn't like he could be a lot of help even under the best of circumstances.
Eugen doesn't really feel like dealing with the locals right now either.
Gerrhonot comes in from the garden with a handful of freshly picked Sime herbs. He plans to make a little miso soup with Sime herbs for Seruffin and Bibi later.
Gerrhonot: Hi, Eugen.
Eugen: Hi yourself, Gerry. What are you getting up to?
Gerrhonot: I picked some Sime herbs to make soup for Hajene Seruffin and Bibi.
Eugen: You cook too?
Eugen groans inwardly. Is there anything the Donor can't do?
Gerrhonot: Well, just simple things. My aunt taught me how to make miso soup with Sime herbs. It's easy -- you just chop the herbs and put them in a cup and pour boiling water in and stir in some miso.
Eugen can't help but feel a bit inadequate around "real" Donors and Firsts, well...
Gerrhonot: It's real good for Simes.
Eugen: I can't boil water without burning it. Marvin does most of the cooking if you can believe it.
Gerrhonot: Really? What does he cook?
Gerrhonot is interested -- maybe he can find out about something else Seruffin would like to eat.
Eugen: He makes a great stone soup.
Gerrhonot: What's that?
Eugen: I'm not quite sure of all the ingredients but he has this stone that he carries around. That's always the first thing he puts in the pot.
Gerrhonot thinks this sounds a bit strange, but listens attentively.
Eugen: Then, he waits for the rest of the ingredients. Someone will come by and ask what's in the pot and he'll say stone soup and then they get curious.
Eugen: Next thing you know they're talkin' about what they like in their soup and givin' Marvin some of it to try.
Eugen: After a while we've got soup and a whole bunch of folks to share it with. I never saw anything like it before in my life. But then Marvin's a real charmer when he gets goin'.
Gerrhonot: Yeah, he is.
Eugen: So's your channel. He's a little intimidating too.
Eugen isn't used to being around Simes over thirty.
Gerrhonot: Well, he does have a big nager, and he has to be formal a lot for his work. But he's a really good man. He's really good to me.
Eugen: How do you manage to get him to behave? You know eat, sleep, not make himself sick.
Gerrhonot: Um. I just offer him food and tell him if I don't think he's getting enough sleep and stuff. He usually goes along with it unless he has a good reason not to.
Eugen considers that for a moment.
Eugen: Well, Marvin's pretty good about it too. I just thought that well, being a First and all he'd be hard to handle. You know you always hear about how hard Donors have to work to keep their channels healthy and stuff. I always thought it was just a lot of hype.
Gerrhonot: I guess Hajene Seruffin is old enough to be sensible about things. And I think he doesn't want to hurt my feelings.
Gerrhonot: Not all Firsts are easy to take care of though. Some of them are real hard to get along with, too. Well, for me they were.
Eugen: Really? Who?
Eugen isn't above a bit of gossip mongering.
Gerrhonot: Well, Hajene Bollitt couldn't stand me. He was always yelling at me. He doesn't have any patience for stupid people.
Eugen: What?! He called you stupid?
Gerrhonot: He called me worse things. But I am stupid, so that's fair.
Eugen does understand that Gerrhonot is a bit slow but he would never consider anyone with Gerry's talents stupid.
Gerrhonot: He didn't like Hajene Seruffin so he sent him out to the Snake River Dam project and sent me with him as extra punishment for him, but it turned out really well for both of us. I really like working for Hajene Seruffin and he likes me too.
Eugen: I'm glad that it did. But Gerry, my friend, you ain't stupid. To be stupid you have to work at it. Stupid people do things they know they shouldn't just cause they can. My Granma used to say that "Stupid is as stupid does."
Gerrhonot: Well, I still do stupid things sometimes. Not on purpose, but sometimes I don't understand things right and don't do the right thing.
Eugen: That's not stupid, that's human. I think that ol' Hajene Bollitt was pretty shenned stupid.
Gerrhonot: He was a really mean guy. All politics and power and stuff.
Eugen shudders, politics!
Gerrhonot: Well, okay, maybe I'm not stupid, but I'm not as smart as most people. But I try to do my best with what brains I've got, and Hajene Seruffin helps me. He explains things to me.
Eugen gets a sort of far away look in his eyes.
Eugen: Gerry, I know how you feel. You can think fast with your nager. I can't. So I guess that makes me stupid. I envy you. There are so many times I would like to be able to do for Marvin things that you could or any other Donor could but I just can't. It bothers me that they would stick him out here with someone like me when he really needs someone like you.
Gerrhonot: He looks in good shape to me. I think you must be taking good care of him.
Eugen: He takes pretty good care of himself most of the time. I think he thinks I don't care about him sometimes. I do -- I just spend so much time trying not to hurt him I don't do a whole lot to help him.
Gerrhonot: You have trouble with control of projection?
Eugen: Yeah, most Gen Mules do.
Gerrhonot: It must be really frustrating.
Eugen: They told us that it's because of the way our fields grow too fast for us to keep up with it.
Gerrhonot: Uh huh.
Eugen: I never know how high I'll be from one day to the next. I've slammed poor Marvin a couple times when I got startled.
Eugen also winces.
Eugen: He bleeds my field every couple days while we're out-T.
Gerrhonot: But you must be giving him really good transfers. He sure looks like he's getting them. Not all Donors can manage that all the time.
Eugen: Yeah, well that is the one thing I can do.
Gerrhonot: Um... Eugen...
Eugen comes back from fond memories of transfers gone by.
Gerrhonot: That time in Gumgeeville, with Fridda... where were you all night?
Eugen is ~~ embarrassed ~~ about those events.
Eugen: Well, to be honest a lot of it is a blur.
Gerrhonot waits patiently and politely for Eugen to either explicate or change the subject.
Eugen: I was trying to find some donors for Marvin to tap. I saw this group of fellas standing around and well when I asked them if they knew anybody that could help they said, "Sure do. And we'll take ya to 'em"
Eugen: So I went with them. After a while it dawned on me that I was probably being taken snipe hunting. I tried to do a quick back track and that was the last thing I remember.
Eugen: I woke up in the woods without my clothes. But I did have a huge headache and a bad case of poison ivy.
Eugen: I spent the rest of the day wandering around looking for something to put on. To make matters worse I was lost and if some cow hadn't wandered by I might have stayed lost.
Eugen: I followed the cow home and what should I find hanging on the line but my clothes. I never did get my ring back but I found my boots on the back porch.
Eugen: Please don't tell anyone.
Eugen scratches unconsciously at the back of his neck.
Gerrhonot: Um, okay.
Gerrhonot has heard stranger stories, some of them even more evasive, and doesn't expect to get any more information.
Eugen does feel better having finally told someone. Marvin hasn't pushed him for the story but maybe it's time he told him.
Gerrhonot: It was lucky Sanda showed up.
Eugen is ~~ even more embarrassed ~~ that a little girl had to do what he failed to.
Eugen: So you see Gerry, I know what it is to be human. It ain't pretty.
Gerrhonot: Well, everybody screws up sometimes. We just have to try not to as much as possible.
Eugen: So, miso soup. Show me how to make it?
Gerrhonot: Um, it's best fresh, but I'll show you later, okay? There's nothing to it, you just boil water.
Eugen: Okay later then.
Eugen smiles too. He feels much better now.
Gerrhonot: Hajene Seruffin looked so happy and relaxed when I took the food and tea up to them. He works too hard, so I'm glad he has good things like this happening sometimes. I think he enjoyed riding the horse coming here, even if we both have sore muscles from it.
Eugen: That must have been some trip. I'm glad you got through.
Gerrhonot: Well, it wasn't all that long, but those draft horses are really wide to ride bareback. The train trip was the usual, but the train was real late.
Gerrhonot: Poor Bibi was in bad shape. I'm really glad Hajene Seruffin was able to give her a good transfer. They like each other a lot, but this is the first time they've managed to be together when they are both pre-turnover.
Eugen: Yes, I'm sure that might go a long way to making up for the suffering she endured.
Eugen notices that his glass is nearly empty and gets up to pour himself another one.
Eugen: Would you like some cider Gerry?
Gerrhonot: Um, okay.
Eugen pours a second glass and brings it to the table to give to Gerrhonot.
Eugen: There are times when I would just love to know what it's like to have full control of my nager. I've never even come close. But I've heard that there are some Mules who have. You know we go to the same schools that other Donors do. That is until we wash out. Or spike a gradient and they pull us out.
Gerrhonot: Uh huh.
Eugen: But I can't complain. I like the work, I like my channels, most of the time, and I get to see new places and new faces.
Gerrhonot: Traveling is interesting, but it's hard on Hajene Seruffin. I try to stay real close to him as much as possible when we're outside the Embassy and Sime Center.
Eugen: Yeah, traveling in the baggage cars isn't fun. But this last trip we had a real passenger car all to ourselves. I got to sit and watch the countryside go by.
Gerrhonot: That's great.
Eugen: Yeah. I guess if I wasn't a mule I'd be stuck babysitting some high First Order channel prone to nervous fits. Wiping one end or the other for him.
Gerrhonot smiles, imagining Eugen as Arat's Donor.
Eugen has a dim view of some of the antics he's seen some channels get up to.
Gerrhonot: You might get a good one like I did. I love Hajene Seruffin. He reminds me of my grandpa.
Eugen smiles. Seruffin doesn't strike him as quite that old. More fatherly than grandfatherly.
Gerrhonot: When I was a kid I had coughing sickness real bad and went into a coma. When I came out I couldn't talk or understand what anybody said and I forgot how to read, too. I wasn't stupid before I got sick.
Gerrhonot: But my grandpa stuck by me and helped me and put up with me when I got frustrated and taught me to talk and read again.
Eugen: Oh, man! That's a tough break. But it sounds like your grandpa was really good people.
Gerrhonot: Yeah. He died after I came in-T but before I established. He'd have been real happy to know I'm a Donor. He's the one who brought the Church of Unity in, him and my other grandpa. They learned about it when they were in the army together in the Unity War.
Gerrhonot: They got us a missionary so my uncle could change over and be nonjunct and us kids could go live with him so we'd be safe if we changed over too.
Gerrhonot: Hajene Seruffin is a good man like my grandpa and he helps me a lot. When we were first assigned, on the way to the Dam site, he told me that if I took care of him, he'd take care of me, and I have and he has. So it's worked out well.
Eugen: Sounds like we both lucked out. I like Marvin. He's a good fella if a bit different. I just wish I could do better by him.
Gerrhonot: I wish I could help Hajene Seruffin more with paperwork and diplomat stuff, but I can't. He knows I'm doing my best, and I can't do better, so that's okay with him.
Eugen: I guess we all do what we can and hope to do better as we go along. Yup, all told not a bad life.