Shorsh walks up to the Gegg house, dropping his pitcher off at the well. He knocks at the kitchen door, which is closed to exclude flies. He has politely waited until he thinks the Geggs have finished dinner to call on them.
Toria: Hold on, just a minute.
Toria opens the door.
Toria: Oh, hello, Sosu Shorsh.
Shorsh: Good evening, Miz Gegg.
Toria: Come in, come in.
Toria motions for Shorsh to come in and sit down.
Shorsh wipes his feet on the mat and enters.
Gegg looks up from the kitchen table, where he is laboriously engaged in trying to juggle the farm's accounts.
Shorsh: Good evening to you, Mr. Gegg.
Gegg looks ~~ apprehensively ~~ beyond Shorsh, then calms as it appears the Gen is alone.
Toria shuts the door behind Shorsh.
Toria: Please excuse the mess.
Gegg: Hello. Have a seat. There's tea.
Gegg waves Shorsh to the seat that Mik used to use.
Shorsh: Thank you.
Shorsh sits and looks around.
Shorsh: Nice comfortable home you have.
Gegg pushes aside the accounts with some ~~ relief ~~, as he has been trying to figure out how they can afford to buy the supplies the babies will need, and the new wardrobe that Sanda will require, the way she's growing.
Gegg: Thank you. It's not much, but we get by. Somehow.
Toria: Are you comfortable down there? Is there anything we can do for you?
Shorsh: I was admiring your garden. Might we buy some vegetables and eggs from you?
Shorsh still hasn't recovered from watching a Farris channel eat meat stew and claim to enjoy it.
Gegg: I don't see why not. Toria?
Gegg knows his wife is a better bargainer than he is.
Toria: I'm sure we can work something out. It's better than having you eat Henree's slop, that's for sure.
Toria heard about that from Miz Alpher, who heard it from Miz Bethe, who ...
Shorsh: Indeed. We brought some staples with us, but of course no perishables. There's nothing like a fresh homegrown tomato.
Gegg is willing to admit that his perishables perish as fast as anyone's, sometimes before they can be marketed.
Gegg: Well, we've got some of those. We could probably get you some of the new potatoes, too.
Shorsh: Oh, good. And some greens, as well?
Toria: No problem. Umm, is there anything your channel can't eat? I already know about strawberries, not that they're in season.
Shorsh: He can eat most common vegetables, as well as some things that are toxic to Gens.
Shorsh noticed some Sime herbs like foxglove and morning glories in the flower beds. Of course, there's potato and tomato leaves as well. Perhaps a few potato fruits.
Gegg: Well, we can't help you, there.
Shorsh: Don't worry. He can eat what you and I can eat, mostly. Neither of us eats meat, however.
Toria: Really? Is that poison to him too?
Shorsh: No, it's mostly a cultural thing, but it's not good for Sime digestion. Simes eat so little that they need all the roughage they can get.
Gegg: I was wondering.
Gegg is more acquainted with animal food requirements than human, but he nods anyway.
Gegg: I must admit, it's... interesting... having a Sime in my barn.
Shorsh: Your neighbors seem to agree.
Gegg looks up ~~ alertly ~~.
Toria: I'll say they do. Why, Miz Gamow was saying to me ...
Gegg: There hasn't been any trouble, has there?
Toria is mildly offended by the interruption, but wants to hear what Shorsh will say.
Shorsh: We got the impression that there's an assortment of rumors going around, none of them based on fact.
Gegg is ~~ relieved ~~ at that last, and ~~ ashamed ~~ as well. His cowardice might be common knowledge, but it hasn't been common gossip for some time.
Shorsh: None of them showed much hostility, just curiosity and imagination.
Toria smiles at this description of her neighbors' proclivities.
Gegg: Well, that's something. I'm not surprised that the neighbors are curious. Your friend is an, um, unusual man.
Shorsh: That he is. There aren't that many Farris channels.
Gegg: Do they all split their firewood by hand?
Shorsh: That was a pretty silly stunt, wasn't it? Much slower than just chopping it.
Toria: When Gegg told me about it, I wondered if he was doing it slow on purpose.
Gegg: Why did he do it, anyway? Just because he can?
Gegg has been trying to make sense of the encounter all day, it being a way to distract himself from dwelling on the channel's possible future actions.
Shorsh: Partly, he wanted to do something together with you, work together on something cooperatively.
Gegg: Well, there's plenty of work on a farm. How's he at mending fences?
Shorsh: I doubt he's done it before, but he learns fast. However, I really don't like to see him do things that require twisting the wrist while he's wearing retainers. He could injure himself seriously.
Gegg: Really? I'd've thought those things would protect him from injury.
Shorsh: Unfortunately, the design is based on the restraints the Gen army used on Sime prisoners. They aren't much different from those torture devices. They force the tentacles out and constrain them in metal grooves. They're extremely uncomfortable, especially in heat or cold, and they also distort Sime perceptions. Overall, it's much like having sand in your eyes.
Gegg relaxes. Sand in the eyes is a nuisance, but he knows what real torture is like.
Shorsh: An incautious move can cause severe pain and even serious injury.
Toria: I heard Hajene Seruffin said wearing 'em in the winter was like getting your tongue stuck to a fencepost.
Gegg: I suppose he's glad to get back in that room you made, and get them off?
Shorsh: Yes, it's quite stressful to wear them for very long. Traveling here was difficult for him.
Toria: I think it's terrible that they make Simes ride in the baggage cars, just because some people ..
Toria: ... can't remember their manners.
Gegg tries to imagine spending hours on the train with a Sime in the next seat, and his skin crawls. He remembers that he's agreed to travel into Sime Territory, where Simes do ride the regular passenger cars, and the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
Shorsh: It can be easier to sit on a wooden crate in a baggage car than in a comfortable seat surrounded by fear and hostility.
Toria: I s'pose. But isn't that where you come in, Sosu?
Shorsh: Yes. I can protect him quite a bit, but he's still aware of it.
Gegg is reminded by this that Simes can read a Gen's emotions, and his face turns red as he remembers how alarmed he's been in D'zoll's presence.
Gegg shoots a look at Toria, and prudently deletes the expletive before he finds his mouth being washed out with soap.
Toria reads Gegg's mind anyhow.
Toria: Now Gegg, you know not everybody takes it as hard as you do.
Gegg: That's for sure.
Gegg finds it ~~ humiliating ~~.
Shorsh: Donor talent can be a very mixed blessing. In your case, it probably saved your life, but it made the torture you experienced far more excruciating.
Shorsh states this calmly.
Gegg: I've wondered at times whether it wouldn't have been better if I hadn't had that "blessing".
Toria: [lovingly] Silly Gegg, of course it wouldn't.
Toria smiles at him.
Gegg tries his best to smile back, but it's a pretty pathetic effort.
Shorsh: The juncts would probably have killed you immediately, as they did your comrades.
Gegg: And the Army would have sent a medal home to my family, instead of giving me a psychiatric discharge.
Toria: You mean because he has "Donor talent", they couldn't have killed him even if they'd a-had time to?
Shorsh: No, they would have killed him eventually, but his talent made him very attractive as a subject for prolonged torture.
Toria shudders this time.
Gegg wonders how Shorsh can talk about such things so calmly. His own tension is betrayed by his stiffness, and his clenched fists.
Gegg: That they did.
Toria walks around to behind Gegg and begins massaging his shoulders and neck.
Gegg tries to relax, without a whole lot of success.
Toria: Force yourself to relax, Gegg. That's an order.
Gegg, unlike a real Donor, has never been taught how to relax on cue.
Shorsh: D'zoll and I will teach you some methods that will make it easier to relax, even when you're under stress, or thinking of distressing things.
Gegg does succeed in reducing the tension in his shoulders, but that's about it, and it wouldn't fool a Gen, much less a Sime.
Toria attempts to catch Shorsh's eye.
Toria: Maybe you could teach me a few of those too?
Shorsh: Of course.
Gegg: I just don't know, Toria. This all seemed more straightforward when we talked about it with Hajene Bibi.
Gegg has not only been having nightmares, but his barn is no longer the refuge it used to be, before there was a Sime living there.
Shorsh: Mr. Gegg, D'zoll and I are humbled by your courage in wanting to confront and resolve your problem.
Toria: [tartly] Oh nonsense, Gegg. At that time you were prepared to march off to Sime Territory all by yourself, on the spot. And here you are, in the bosom of your family, with two top specialists from Simeland here to give you all the help you need, whenever you need it, full time. And you're still living on your own farm, spending most of your time doing what you've always done. What on earth do you have to complain about?
Gegg winces at Toria's bluntness, but he can't fault her reasoning. He just wishes his emotions were more amenable to reason.
Gegg: Well, nothing, I guess. When you put it that way.
Gegg's tone lacks conviction, not that he shouldn't do this, but that he has the wherewithal to follow through.
Gegg's shoulders hunch in ~~ shame ~~.
Toria: One of these days, my lad, you're going to stop pretending that you lack backbone. And then God help us all.
Toria indulges in a brief and highly uncharacteristic fantasy of Gegg for President, or Gegg Enterprises, or even Doctor Gegg.
Shorsh observes Toria's interaction with her husband carefully, so he can describe it to D'zoll. He's glad she's supportive, but not sure her methods are the most suitable ones.
Gegg finds Toria's competence reassuring, but it also makes him feel inadequate.
Toria steps back and grabs Gegg's shoulders and crrrunches them backwards. She takes Gegg's left hand and wraps it over his head and around his right ear.
Toria: Okay, let your head hang down on the left.
Gegg learned to follow orders in the Army, and Toria's are more sensible than his drill sergeant's.
Shorsh watches these strange manipulations with bemusement.
Toria hears a satisfying set of cra-a-a-a-acks in Gegg's neck.
Toria: Okay, now the other way about. You know the drill.
Gegg does, and he was always good at drill, in the Army.
Toria is trying to use non-verbal means to get Gegg out of his current stubborn mood.
Shorsh wishes D'zoll were here to zlin this, but of course, if he were here, it would happen quite differently.
Gegg is at least less hunched over, which would probably not have happened had D'zoll been present.
Gegg: Thanks, Toria.
Toria ruffles Gegg's hair, what there is of it.
Shorsh: Mr. Gegg, we're concerned that you aren't sleeping well, so I'd like you to have these pills. Take one about a half hour before you want to fall asleep, but don't take more than one a night.
Shorsh takes a small vial from his pocket. It's labeled in Simelan and contains five tablets.
Gegg's eyes widen, showing the whites clearly. He has, of course, heard lots of stories about Sime drugs.
Gegg: How... how did he know... I never told him I was having trouble sleeping.
Gegg is visibly ~~ shaken ~~. He has a lot to learn about Simes, as should be obvious.
Shorsh: You don't look to me like you're sleeping well either.
Shorsh isn't going to point out the dark circles under the bloodshot eyes.
Shorsh: You don't have to take one every night, just when you feel it would be helpful.
Gegg: Well, I have been dreaming of... that time.
Gegg isn't about to admit that he's awakened Toria with his thrashing and moans for the last three nights running.
Shorsh: I understand.
Shorsh's dark Farris eyes express sympathy and compassion.
Gegg looks at the glass vial ~~ uneasily ~~.
Gegg: You say all they'll do is make me sleep?
Shorsh: They'll help you sleep.
Shorsh makes the distinction to underline that it's Gegg in control, not the pills.
Toria: No, umm, side effects?
Shorsh: No, they should just assist unbroken sleep, and wear off by morning. But don't take more than one per night without consulting us.
Gegg hesitates a long moment, then reaches out a hand for the vial.
Shorsh gives it to him.
Gegg isn't convinced the things are harmless, but he is pretty sure Toria isn't going to let him get out of at least trying them. He can't blame her: she needs sleep even worse than he does, carrying twins.
Toria winks at Shorsh.
Shorsh nods slightly to her.
Gegg puts the pill vial in his shirt pocket.
Shorsh will be sure to tell D'zoll in detail how reluctant Gegg was to accept Simeland drugs.
Toria: As for the vegetables, take whatever you need, let us know, and we'll charge you the regular wholesale price. Agreed?
Shorsh: Yes. Thank you.
Shorsh: Good evening then.
Gegg: Good evening.
Toria: Sleep well, Sosu Shorsh. And my best to Hajene D'zoll, too.
Shorsh nods, turns and leaves, heading for the pump and then the barn, for trin and arguments with his channel.
Gegg looks at the account books, and decides that depressing as the farm's financial situation might be, he'd rather face them than the pills in his pocket.
Toria is going to make sure that Gegg takes his medicine tonight, no matter what.