Travel Broadens: Episode 14

Kayar finishes washing the table tops and setting the chairs straight in his mom's trin shop and gets fresh soapy water for the counter. He wants to get the place to his mom's standards before she returns from shopping, in time for the late afternoon rush when the mill closes for the day. He doesn't want to have to put up with another round of her complaints.

Kayar changed over last spring and really wants to get out of this little town and work in the big city, instead of staying under his mother's thumb all the time.

Magit bounces down the street on her way to the trin shop. She's glad to be let out of First Year camp for a few hours of hard-earned leisure. She particularly enjoys not only the trin and munchies, but the company.

Magit opens the door and is ~~ surprised ~~ to find nobody there -- nobody except the boy who works there, that is.

Kayar looks up from his soapy rag.

Magit walks over to the counter.

Magit: Hi there. I'll take a cup of Special Blend, and one of those, and one of those, and -- and one of those too.

Magit is slightly ~~ embarrassed ~~ by her own ~~ eagerness ~~.

Kayar: Okay. Just let me dry my hands.

Magit: Of course, take your time.

Kayar dries his hands on a linen towel from the local mill, turns up the burner under the kettle and uses tongs to put a raspberry tart, a raisin muffin and a molasses cookie on a plate, which he sets in front of Magit.

Kayar: The trin will be just a minute; the water's almost boiling.

Kayar gets out a small teapot and a cup and measures Special Blend into the pot. He turns and smiles at Magit. She's young and cute, and an only vaguely familiar face. She's probably from the First Year camp.

Magit smiles back. She's never really noticed Kayar before, thanks to spending most of her time here as part of a group of campers.

Magit: I tell you what, why don't you pick out a munchie for yourself, on me?

Kayar: Oh, no thanks. I eat this stuff all the time. I get tired of it.

Kayar hears the water coming to a boil, fills the teapot, and places pot and cup before Magit.

Magit cautiously pours the cup using her tentacles.

Magit: Yeah, I guess you would at that, wouldn't you.

Kayar: I was kind of raised on the leftovers from the shop.

Magit is a very talkative person, as we know, but she's a little at a loss in this situation. She basically knows how to hang around with people that (a) she's known all her life or (b) are going through the same intense experience of First Year camp that she is.

Magit: My granddad runs a bar in Gen Territory, but that's not really the same thing. I wasn't allowed to hang out there.

Kayar thinks a bar would be better than a trin shop, mostly patronized by old biddies who are constantly remarking on how he's grown and what a help he is to his mother.

Magit: Some of the men there were kinda weird, you know? They didn't only drink my granddad's brew.

Kayar: Yeah?

Magit: More like whatever they could get, especially when money was scarce after the big mill burned down. We didn't have a shop for sweet stuff, and of course no trin tea either.

Kayar: Where did you grow up?

Magit: Oh, you wouldn't have heard of it. A little town called Gumgeeville. About the only thing it has is a railway station. That's because it's a little more than halfway between New Washington and the border. Otherwise just farms and a store or two.

Magit: But enough about me, let's talk about you!

Magit has gotten better at using this phrase.

Kayar: Oh, well, I've lived here since I was a little kid. It's my mother's shop.

Magit's eyes twinkle.

Magit: And are you going to go into partnership with her?

Kayar: Shuven, I hope not! ~~ heartfelt ~~

Kayar turns and shuts off the oil burner under the kettle.

Kayar: I want to get out of this place. Go to the city if I can.

Magit: Yeah, I figured. It takes one to know one, I think. But I don't really know yet what I'll do when I get there. Most of the people at the camp seem to have their whole lives plotted out. If you ask me, they're just trying to re-create the lives they would have had out-T as best they can. Not me!

Magit realizes that she's talking about herself again and resolves to shut up.

Kayar: I've heard it's pretty easy to get a job driving a cab in Valzor.

Magit: [English] Cool idea.

Magit: [Simelan] You like horses?

Kayar: It's what I was thinking about doing. I like horses and I'd get to drive around and see the city and meet new people. Maybe find something else to do later, once I'm there.

Magit: I think horses are pretty special too.

Magit has a romanticized view of them.

Kayar: They're okay. But living in a city would be great.

Magit: I guess you'd have to start out living over the stables or something.

Kayar: Well, it depends. There's boarding houses and hostels and stuff. Valzor's a border town so there'd be all kinds of interesting people taking cabs, you know?

Magit: I guess there would be. I've never been to a city on either side of the Border myself. Only to the next town where the Sime Center was.

Kayar doesn't think to remark on how lucky Magit was that there was a Sime Center in a nearby town, because all the new Simes he's met from the camp had similar luck. This camp doesn't do disjunctions. Besides, there's always a Sime Center nearby, right?

Kayar: Still, you got to travel some. I've never been out of this town, and I'll never go out-T.

Magit sighs ~~ nostalgically ~~

Magit: Yeah, probably not in our lifetimes.

Kayar: I guess you miss your family and friends and stuff.

Magit: I do, but they probably never even think about me. Except my mom. She writes me letters about what's going on at ho -- in Gumgeeville. ~~ mild homesickness ~~

Kayar: ~~ sympathy ~~ I guess my mom will want to keep me up on all the local gossip when I leave town, too.

Kayar can't think of anything he'd want to know less about, except for the case of a few friends and relatives.

Magit returns the ~~ sympathy ~~

Kayar: Um, I'm KR, by the way.

Kayar offers a tentacle to brush.

Magit: Hi, Kayar. My name's Magit.

Kayar: You out-T people have cool names.

Magit brushes tentacles, noting what point Kayar is at in his need cycle.

Magit: Your names seem pretty exotic to us too. My mom burst out laughing when she heard that I was going to be brought in-T by a channel named Marvin. I mean that's such an out-T name.

Kayar: I guess so. He grew up out-T?

Magit: Yeah. He's with the Selyn Transport Service, brings selyn in from the out-T Sime Centers.

Kayar: Uh huh.

Kayar doesn't know much about the workings of the Tecton. Few except for Tecton workers do.

Magit: He's also a magician. I don't mean what out-T people call magic, I mean real magic, you know, tricks. He showed me some on the train.

Kayar: Like with cards and coins and stuff?

Magit: Yeah.

Magit is reminded by the word "coins" that she hasn't paid, and fishes out an appropriate number of them, and some bills too.

Magit: I haven't really got used to this Sime Territory money yet. It's a lot prettier than ours, I mean Gen T's.

Kayar: Thanks. I guess I should have asked you if you wanted some of the stuff wrapped to take with you.

Magit has actually been so distracted by this conversation that she hasn't eaten any of the munchies yet.

Magit: Maybe that would be a good idea. I'll just work on this one.

Magit dunks the cookie in the cooling trin and eats part of it.

Kayar: I guess if they're letting you visit town alone you'll be out of the camp soon. What will you do next?

Magit: Like I said, head for the big city and find a job until I figure out what I'm going to do with my life. Probably not driving, though.

Kayar: You'll have to pick up something pretty fast. If you get behind in your selyn taxes it can be really hard to catch up.

Magit: Yeah, I suppose so. Thanks.

Magit isn't about to admit that her mother is donating to support her.

Kayar isn't about to admit that his mother is keeping him on a short string by paying him barely enough to cover his taxes, plus room and board, of course.

Kayar: I guess you got yours paid for the first few months. Being from out-T.

Magit: Yeah, I think so anyway.

Kayar: I just changed over last spring, and I've had to pay taxes every month since. My mom's a Gen, so they pay her. It doesn't seem fair, really.

Magit: What's really not fair is all the [English] misers [Simelan] out-T whose selyn just goes to waste each month. ~~ vehement ~~

Kayar: It does seem kind of stupid. I mean, it's good money. Why don't they take it?

Magit: It's hard to explain. Fear, embarrassment, and even the feeling that only poor people donate. But in Gumgeeville, we're all poor by city standards, and most people still won't have anything to do with donation. Stick in the muds, you know.

Kayar shakes his head. Why would anybody be afraid of a channel? And what's to be embarrassed about? And if they're poor, all the more reason to get the money.

Magit: We, make that they, have this saying, the only good Sime is a dead Sime. For years and years, the only live Simes were berserkers. Where I came from, good kids were supposed to go to their parents to be murdered as soon as they thought they were in changeover. ~~ disgust ~~

Magit: Some of my friends say they were taught only bad kids change over. That's even worse.

Kayar: Ugh. No wonder everybody says they're barbarians. But I guess kids like you are smart enough to go to a channel even if their parents are stupid that way.

Magit: ~~ annoyed ~~ Barbarians, my left outer lateral. When there were no channels, well, which would you rather have, a nice quick gunshot, or shidoni?

Kayar: I'd rather live in civilization where there's channels when you need them.

Kayar uses "need" perfectly. He's a native Simelan speaker.

Magit: Well, yeah. But there aren't nearly enough channels to go around. After all, New Washington Territory is a lot bigger than Nivet, and Nivet's probably the biggest Sime Territory in the world.

Kayar: I guess so.

Magit: It was just dumb luck that I changed over when a channel was stuck in town because a snowstorm was blocking the tracks.

Kayar: I guess you couldn't get to the Sime Center with the trains stuck. That was good luck. Although wouldn't a sleigh or something get through, even if the train couldn't?

Magit: Too far away.

Kayar: It takes like six hours to get to the next town?

Magit: No-o. But it just wouldn't occur to my family to try. And with no Simes around, you don't have six hours warning or anything like it.

Kayar: But even with no Simes, you'd know that far in advance. I mean, it's the first thing they teach you in changeover training. And most people take eight or ten hours after the first symptoms. Like I told my mom I was feeling funny at breakfast, and I didn't break out until after dark.

Magit laughs.

Magit: Changeover training? What changeover training? No such thing out-Territory. That's to help people survive changeover, but out-T Simes don't survive it.

Kayar: That's crazy. Why do parents want their kids to die? Or worse, kill somebody and have to disjunct? It's irresponsible. It's just cruel and stupid.

Kayar is getting fairly vehement himself.

Magit: Of course my mom and granddad didn't want me to die. They just didn't see any other choice. And until Unity, there really wasn't any.

Kayar: Well, before Unity, it was pretty bad for Gens here, but that was a long time ago. And parents used to sneak their Gen kids across the border a lot too, so they weren't killed.

Kayar believes that was the fate of most kids who established. He can't imagine a parent wanting their kid to die.

Magit: Things really changed a lot here at Unity, according to what they've been telling us. Out-T just didn't change that much. No more raiding and a few Sime Centers, mostly in cities, that's all.

Kayar: It's a good thing you're living here now, instead of with those... those...

Magit fixes Kayar with the hairy eyeball.

Magit: Don't say it. You're talking about my people.

Kayar: Well, it sounds like your mother and grandfather are okay. I don't know about the rest of them though. I mean, they're worse than lorshes, aren't they?

Magit: My grandfather was getting ready to shoot me, except I hid in the basement, so he locked me in. Okay, he didn't know any better then. But otherwise I would have killed and then died.

Kayar is ~~ revolted ~~. Magit seemed like a normal sort of person, but coming from a crazy place like that, where your family shoots you, or locks you up to die of attrition, when there's a channel right in the next town, or even in town like she said...

Kayar: Well, it's a good thing your mother got you out, if your grandfather was so crazy.

Magit is thoroughly ~~ disgusted ~~ by this remark.

Magit: I tell you what. How about if you just package up my stuff there, and I'll take my revolting nager out of your shop.

Kayar: Oh, your nager is okay. I'm sorry that you had to go through all that while you were in changeover.

Kayar gets a sheet of newspaper to wrap Magit's uneaten purchases.

Magit: [still ~~ miffed ~~] So'm I. But you could be a little more clueful about how tough things really are in Gen T. It's just people doing the best they know how for their kids, same as here, I'm sure.

Kayar: I guess so. ~~ unconvinced ~~

Zlotti, Kayar's mother, enters through the back door and comes forward into the shop. She surveys the scene.

Zlotti: You didn't finish washing all the cups, did you, Klyd Riso?

Magit's jaw drops.

Kayar cringes a little. He really really hates his name.

Kayar: I washed them all. There's still a few in the rinse water. I was cleaning up out here. And looking after this customer.

Kayar gestures to Magit.

Zlotti eyeballs Magit, wondering if she's really a paying customer or just hanging around her son, sponging treats and making passes at him.

Magit: I just had some trin tea and a cookie and got a few tarts to go. I've been here before but not by myself. Your food is really good.

Zlotti: Thank you. It's all made fresh here every day. I suppose everybody at that... camp... knows about it.

Magit: Yeah, I can tell. We never had anything like this back home.

Zlotti: I guess you wouldn't, out-T.

Zlotti figures they probably don't have real cooking out there; they just slaughter animals and gnaw chunks of carrion, maybe charring them over a fire to kill parasites first.

Magit chuckles.

Magit: The portions would have to be three times as big. Or five times, even! But your munchies are definitely worth the money even though they still look small to me.

Zlotti: Well, I do have many Gen customers. They just buy a larger selection if they're hungry.

Magit: My eyes are way bigger than my stomach, as we say.

Zlotti thinks that's a peculiar turn of phrase, but out-T Gens would know their anatomy better than she does, considering what they do to animals.

Zlotti: Well, I'm happy to give you and the other young Simes an opportunity to learn what good food is like, young lady.

Magit: Thanks. I was always a big food hound even as a child, so I'm glad to find out there are good cooks on this side of the Border too.

Kayar is really glad that Magit is handling his mother without getting offended. He isn't wishing he could sink through the floor.

Zlotti: Nice meeting you. I have work to do. Klyd Riso, be sure to get the large kettle boiling in time for the ladies from the mill.

Zlotti nods to Magit and sails back into the kitchen.

Magit mops her brow theatrically.

Kayar smirks.

Kayar: You can kind of see why I want to get out of here.

Magit: Wow. I can't believe your name is really --

Magit cuts it off before blurting out Kayar's name.

Kayar: It's just shendi-fleckin awful, isn't it? Please, Magit, call me KR.

Magit: Oh, I thought that was your name. I mean, not your initials. Like, Kayar, not K [pause] R, you know what I mean? I figured it was just another in-T name.

Kayar: Yeah. All my friends call me KR now, but I don't think my mother will ever change.

Magit: It's like my friend Josh, that I used to have; everybody calls him Josh, but his parents still insist on calling him Danny even though he hates it.

Kayar is ~~ puzzled ~~. He doesn't see what the problem is with a name like Danny, and how did the guy come up with Josh, which seems like a kind of funny name?

Kayar: Yeah, I guess so. I hoped if I used my initials like that, my mom would be more willing to go along with it, but no luck.

Magit: Moms never think you've grown up. Except mine but she's a special case, because she was just so happy that I was still alive even after I changed over she really changed too.

Kayar: I don't think my mom will believe I'm grown up until I leave town completely. I mean, here I am, tentacles and all, selyn taxes to pay, almost fourteen natal years, and she still acts like I'm in diapers.

Magit: ~~ sympathy ~~ That's how old I am too. I still think of myself as fourteen, not, umm, four months.

Magit is not going to make a fuss about the distinction between fourteen and almost fourteen.

Kayar: I want to get out of here while I've still got most of my First Year. I figure in Valzor I can pick up Genlan, much easier than if I learned it later. That should be useful, even if I just drive cabs, right?

Kayar looks down.

Kayar: And maybe I can still get an apprenticeship or something, while I'm still in First Year. I sure as shen won't get one after.

Magit nods.

Kayar: I don't want to end up spending my whole life here, washing shedoni-doomed trin cups! ~~ anger ~~ frustration ~~

Magit: Y'know, I could help you learn Genlan some. It is my native language, after all.

Kayar: Could you? But you'll be gone in a few weeks, anyway. But maybe I can pick up enough that I'd get hired as a cab driver. ~~ hopeful ~~

Magit: Sure. I'm free for 2 hours and 13 minutes. We could do a little bit now, if you wanted to.

Kayar: ~~ eager ~~ I already know a couple of words, like if you don't like something you say it's a friggin. And if you're disgusted you say sheet.

Magit winces and presses one hand over her solar plexus.

Kayar: I'm not pronouncing them right?

Magit: Yes. But those are curse words, like shenshay and shidoni. And in particular you can't use them around women. Don't ask me why.

Kayar: Um, okay. ~~ puzzled ~~

Magit: It's like here in Sime Territory you have to be careful to call people Tuib or Hajene or Sosu or whatever. In New Washington Territory we just call men Mister and women Miz, period. Unless you're in the army or something.

Kayar thinks this is strange. After all, you can zlin whether somebody's a channel or has a Donor nager, but almost everybody is just Tuib.

Magit: Anyhow what you need is to learn to talk politely to people if you're going to drive a cab. Otherwise they'll get mad and you won't get any money from them.

Kayar: Okay. What do you call children?

Magit: First names. You know all out-T people have family names?

Kayar: I guess so.

Magit: So adults -- that means over sixteen natal years -- are Mister or Miz with the last name. Never the first name. If you don't know the last name you say just Mister or Miz.

Kayar: How do you know how old they are? I mean, if they've established but they're not sixteen and you call them Mister or Miz...

Magit: Hmm. If you're not sure use the title. It can't hurt and it might help. At most you'd make somebody laugh.

Kayar would really rather not have people laugh at him. His name is bad enough.

Magit: That's a whole lot better than making them angry.

Kayar: Yeah, that makes sense.

Kayar thinks about this.

Kayar: But suppose there's like two sisters, do they call both of them Miz Last Name? How do they tell them apart?

Magit: Well, the rule is that the older one would be Miz Jone and the younger one would be Miz Sary Jone. But for you that wouldn't be a big problem, because you mostly won't know customer's names anyhow. Unless they are your regulars, I guess.

Magit: Oh yeah. Women change their last names to be the same as their husband's when they get married. At least most of the time.

Kayar: ~~ surprised ~~ confused ~~ So how do you tell a guy's sister from his wife?

Magit: It's not much of a problem most of the time. Of course people use first names with people in their own families, just like here.

Kayar: Okay. I guess if all I really have to do is call the men Mister and the women Miz, it's not much different than just calling everybody Tuib.

Magit: Mostly yeah. When you get better at English then you can learn more details. And of course numbers are the same anywhere, so you can handle the money all right.

Magit: Can you say "Where to, Miz"? That's what you'd say to ask someone where they want to go.

Kayar: Ooair du Miz?

Magit: Close. Say "tu", not "du".

Kayar: Du. Ooair du.

Kayar puts a heavier emphasis on the 'd'.

Magit: No, no. "Tu".

Kayar: Du!

Magit: Hmmp. Well, we'll work on it another day, I guess.

Kayar is still ~~ puzzled ~~. He thought he was saying it the same way Magit was.

Zlotti: Klyd Riso! The kindling basket is almost empty again!

Kayar doesn't bother wondering why his mother needs kindling when the stove has been burning steadily all day. He knows she just wants him back under her thumb.

Magit: Hmm. Time for me to leave, I think? I don't want to get your mother mad at me.

Kayar: Yeah, I guess so.

Magit picks up her package deftly with her left tentacles and heads for the door.

Kayar: Uh.. maybe we can get together again? Not here?

Magit: Um, sure. Gotta work on that English pronunciation.

Magit: Or as we say out-T, [English] Catchyalater, kiddo.

Magit lets the door close behind her, cutting off any possible reply.

Kayar mutters "geshalaydr giddu".

Magit heads off down the street, thinking how cute Kayar really is.

Kayar sighs and heads for the kitchen.

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