Miz Mertell dusts the shelves to within an inch of their lives. It just wouldn't do to have a customer pick up a dusty can of beans. While the variety of her stock is limited she prides herself on having a pleasant place to come to. Especially on a dreary day like today.
Miz Mertell checks the stove where a pot of coffee (something of a luxury) is warming happily. The cups are clean and within easy reach. She nods her approval at the cheery yellow walls and feels ready to welcome customers or guests.
Miz Mertell is not one to go around spreading rumors. Why, really, she's just not the gossiping kind. She would never be caught dead repeating gossip. So you'd better be sure and listen close the first time.
Shorsh is heading for the local general store to pick up a few edibles and a raincoat for D'zoll, who forgot to pack his. He figures his channel will be okay in the barn, with the nagerless Petunia for company.
Gegg leads the way, trudging through the rain in his slicker. He's been given the mission of replenishing Toria's supply of pins and thread.
Gegg is looking a bit less haggard today, thanks to the dreaded sleeping pills, which Toria insisted that he take.
Shorsh: Did you find the pill helpful, Mr. Gegg?
Gegg: I did sleep longer.
Gegg finds it a bit ~~ spooky ~~, the way it knocked him out. He leads the way up the steps of the general store.
Miz Mertell looks up to see two men enter.
Miz Mertell: Welcome gentlemen. What can Mertell's Mercantile do for you this fine wet day?
Gegg: Toria needs some pins and white thread.
Gegg wipes his boots carefully on the mat, to minimize the amount of mud he tracks in.
Miz Mertell bustles around from behind the counter picking up the mop on the way to the door. It just won't do to have muddy tracks on the floor.
Shorsh waits patiently for Gegg's order to be filled.
Miz Mertell finishes getting up the surprisingly small puddles with her mop, bustles back to the counter and turns to get the items requested.
Gegg digs in his pocket for a bit of cash, always in short supply in a semi-barter economy like Gumgeeville's.
Miz Mertell: [with seeming off handedness] Why Gegg, where are your manners? A gentleman should introduce a stranger to a lady.
Miz Mertell has already heard about the "stranger" but a little prodding never hurt.
Gegg: Excuse me, Miz Mertell. This is Sosu Shorsh, who's staying with us for a while.
Shorsh: Good day, Miz Mertell.
Miz Mertell puts the items requested into a small cloth pouch and hands them to Gegg as she smiles innocuously at Shorsh.
Miz Mertell: Pleased to make your acquaintance, I'm sure.
Miz Mertell holds out her hand palm down in an oddly Simeland like gesture.
Gegg sets out a few coins, and puts his purchases in the pocket of his slicker.
Shorsh tries to figure out whether she wants to brush fingers with him or if there's some other meaning to the gesture. He decides not to take a chance.
Shorsh: I'd like about a half kilo of hard cheese if you have it.
Miz Mertell brings her hand down on the coins on the counter as if this stranger hasn't just insulted her. She smiles and walks a few steps down the counter to uncover a wheel of cheese.
Miz Mertell expertly cuts the cheese and tries to wave the smell away while not appearing to do so.
Shorsh looks around, wondering if there are any raincoats here that would fit D'zoll.
Miz Mertell wraps the cheese and sets it down on the counter in front of Shorsh.
Miz Mertell: Will that be all sir?
Shorsh: Thank you. I'm also looking for a raincoat for my partner. He's a bit shorter than I am and more slightly built.
Miz Mertell: Ah, just a moment.
Miz Mertell walks to the back of the store, climbs a short ladder and finds the box she is looking for. She frowns at it. This will be the ninth time she has tried to sell it.
Miz Mertell climbs down from the ladder, carefully balancing the box, and walks over to the counter and sets it down.
Gegg looks at the stack of cloth bolts nearby, wondering if he'll be able to afford enough for Sanda's new wardrobe.
Miz Mertell: This is all that I have that might fit but it isn't a proper slicker. It doesn't have any sleeves.
Shorsh wonders what good a raincoat with no sleeves is. He wonders if he should just get a length of oil cloth and let D'zoll cut a hole in the middle for his head.
Miz Mertell pulls it out of the box.
Miz Mertell: It's more like a cape.
Shorsh: A cape might do.
Shorsh reaches for the wad of stiff heavy slick material and shakes it out.
Miz Mertell: It does have a hood and slits that you can put your hands through
Gegg: Come on, Miz Mertell. Surely you have a proper slicker?
Miz Mertell worries about this.
Miz Mertell: Not in the size he's talking about.
Shorsh holds it up to himself to estimate the length.
Gegg is as ready as the next subsistence farmer to soak wealthy out-of-towners, but Shorsh is his guest.
Shorsh imagines D'zoll parading around in this tent, dragging the bottom through the mud.
Shorsh: It is a bit large.
Miz Mertell: Well, you could cut it off at the bottom -- this stuff won't ravel.
Shorsh: I suppose.
Miz Mertell: In fact I'd be happy to do it for you.
Shorsh figures it would be big on him, let alone D'zoll's lanky Sime build, but if the channel is going to forget to pack his raincoat, he'll have to accept the consequences.
Shorsh: Oh, well, if this is all you have...
Miz Mertell: Why don't you have your partner come in and I'll get Miz Rabins to take it up. She can work magic with a needle.
Miz Mertell seems totally committed to kindness but she's been hearing rumors and she wants to see the "partner" with her own eyes.
Shorsh doesn't want to commit D'zoll to any more exposure to potentially hostile or panicky Gens than is necessary.
Gegg: He can't wear it like that, that's for sure.
Shorsh: I suppose we can hack the bottom off, and he can decide if he wants a nicer job.
Miz Mertell: He must be right thin then.
Shorsh: Yes, he's very thin. Fortunately a cape like this doesn't have to fit very well.
Shorsh: I don't think he'll like this... unusual... color either, but I suppose if he gets lost he'll be easy to find.
Shorsh puts the cape back on the counter and takes out his wallet.
Shorsh: Oh! Might you have some cookies or candy for sale?
Miz Mertell's eyes light up at the sight of all that ready cash!
Gegg knew Shorsh and D'zoll have more money than most Gumgeevillians, but he hadn't realized just how much, if this is their walking-around cash.
Shorsh really enjoyed the out-T goodies offered to donors at the Hannard's Ford Sime Center, and hopes for similar here.
Miz Mertell: Why yes, I do. In fact I just got these delivered. Miz Mugwire makes them up fresh every day for me. Would you like to sample them?
Shorsh: May I?
Gegg wonders what it would be like, to feel free to indulge in luxuries every day.
Miz Mertell: Why don't you gentlemen have a seat at the table and I'll bring them right over.
Shorsh looks to Gegg to see if he wants to do this.
Gegg is quite happy to have a treat, although he feels a bit guilty that he can't include the rest of his family. He does not feel too guilty to participate, however.
Gegg: Sure, Miz Mertell.
Shorsh goes to the table and sits.
Gegg sits down on the side nearest the stove, and stretches one booted leg out to dry.
Miz Mertell bustles off to pour two cups of coffee and puts them on a tray with a small plate of oatmeal cookies, and fresh milk in a creamer and some maple sugar (all things she sells).
Shorsh realizes he's being taken advantage of, but doesn't feel the need to argue.
Miz Mertell takes the tray over to the table and sets it down and places a cup of coffee in front of each customer. She then places the milk and sugar within reach and sets the plate of cookies on the table between them.
Shorsh: Thank you, Miz Mertell, but I don't drink coffee.
Miz Mertell: Oh, well... I have some ginger tea if you'd like. It would go well with the cookies.
Gegg accepts the coffee, doctoring it with a bit of sweetener.
Shorsh: Yes, I'd prefer the tea.
Shorsh picks up a cookie and nibbles a bit. It has too much soda and is much inferior to what he had hoped for.
Gegg takes a cookie.
Gegg: They're not bad.
Shorsh: [sotto voce] Nor are they good.
Gegg: Well, what do you expect? Miz Mugwire can't afford not to skimp here and there.
Shorsh concedes with a hand gesture that would be more expressive with tentacles.
Miz Mertell smiles to herself as she pours tea into a fresh cup and pours the coffee back into the pot (waste not want not). She returns in time to hear the stranger disparage her friend's cookies. However she can't defend them. She just buys them to help out.
Shorsh: I'll take some maple sugar for D'zoll.
Miz Mertell: How much would you like?
Shorsh: Four of these little squares, please.
Gegg: Do Simes eat a lot of sugar?
Miz Mertell: I'm afraid the smallest quantity we sell is the half kilo box.
Shorsh doesn't mind letting people take advantage of him a bit, but doesn't want to let them go too far.
Shorsh: I see. I'll pass on the maple sugar then. Thank you.
Shorsh: [to Gegg] Most Simes like sweets, but they're no better for Simes than they are for Gens.
Miz Mertell hadn't missed the reference to Simes. So the rumors were true. It was almost worth the loss of a sale.
Gegg has never had access to enough sugar to do much damage.
Gegg: I see.
Miz Mertell: I do have some wild honey. If your Sime friend likes sweets this shouldn't hurt him.
Miz Mertell subscribes to the universal code of merchants: if they won't buy shoes sell them a hat.
Shorsh: No, not honey, thank you.
Shorsh doesn't want to risk the honey containing pollen from any of the plants that give D'zoll hay fever.
Gegg takes a big swallow of coffee: one night's decent sleep can't make up for weeks of nightmares and insomnia.
Shorsh sips his tea. It's not bad. Hot, at least.
Shorsh: Oh! I wanted to buy some laundry soap.
Miz Mertell: Ah, yes. What brand would you like?
Shorsh has no idea what brands of soap are available out-T. He spreads his hands.
Shorsh: What would you recommend?
Miz Mertell: Well, [pauses as she reviews her stock and picks the most expensive brand she sells] I would recommend Snow Drift.
Shorsh: All right. A quarter kilo, please.
Miz Mertell: Mister, we don't stock things in small sizes since most folks have a lot of laundry to do. The smallest we have is the 1 kilo box. Believe me. If you stay here more than a couple weeks you'll need it.
Gegg finishes his coffee and eyes the pot, wondering if he can cadge another cup.
Miz Mertell notices the direction of Gegg's gaze.
Miz Mertell: Would you like another cup, Gegg?
Miz Mertell thinks he looks like he's had too much coffee and not enough sleep.
Gegg: Don't mind if I do.
Gegg extends his cup out for refilling.
Shorsh: Well, if the least you'll sell is a kilo, I'll have to get a kilo then.
Miz Mertell smiles at both men. She gets the pot and pours Gegg another cup. This time she leaves the pot on the table, setting it on a trivet, of course.
Miz Mertell: Gegg, if you don't mind me saying it, you look kind of tired. Is Toria having trouble with the baby?
Shorsh drinks more tea.
Gegg: No, she's well.
Miz Mertell nods.
Miz Mertell: Well, that's good to hear. Crops coming in all right? I know you've been short handed lately.
Gegg: I just... haven't been sleeping very well.
Miz Mertell: Well, then you should ease up on that coffee. It will keep you awake.
Gegg: It'll wear off by night.
Gegg wonders if Toria will insist that he take a second pill tonight. He can't fault the pills' efficacy, although it does raise unsettling possibilities.
Miz Mertell: Still if you're having trouble with sleep... How about some ginger tea?
Shorsh: Miz Mertell, my partner D'zoll Farris is a channel. If you know of anyone who needs medical care, he can provide it free of charge. Or if anyone would like him to tell them if their child has turned Gen yet, or is about to turn Sime, he can do that too.
Miz Mertell nods slowly and thoughtfully, but remains inwardly skeptical.