Shorsh enters the Gumgeeville saloon and casually strolls up to the bar, pretending to be oblivious to the stares and muttered comments of the other patrons this evening.
Henree is having a satisfyingly busy evening, and is therefore in a good enough mood not to object to Shorsh's presence, since D'zoll is not with him.
Shorsh is not just seeking respite from the sardine can he shares with D'zoll, nor the relaxation alcohol can bring. He's hoping to drum up a little healing or donation work, to reduce D'zoll's entran, and make him a little easier to get along with.
Henree takes a swipe at the counter.
Henree: Evening. What can I get you?
Shorsh: Evening. A special, please.
Shorsh is careful not to embarrass Henree by referring to it as porstan.
Henree is glad for Shorsh's consideration. He moves off, and shortly returns with a foaming mug.
Henree: Here you be. Your... friend isn't outside, is he?
Henree doesn't want a Sime at his door, scaring off the customers.
Shorsh: No, he's not with me this time.
Henree isn't fast enough to hide his ~~ relief ~~
Shorsh puts the inflated price Henree charged last time on the counter.
Henree makes the payment disappear quickly, before one of his regulars asks an awkward question.
Shorsh takes a careful sip and scans the room.
Shorsh: Full house, tonight, eh?
Henree: Pretty good. Enjoy your beer.
Shorsh: Thanks. I shall.
Henree moves down the bar to take care of another customer, who appears to be in search of a refill.
Shorsh looks for a place to sit. Most tables are fully occupied, but there's a small one in the corner with only a single Gen.
Ricard sits in a corner, nursing his first and only drink of the evening. He isn't nearly drunk enough to forget that this is the only drink he can afford tonight -- or for that matter, for all this week.
Shorsh approaches Ricard's table.
Shorsh: Mind if I join you? Place is pretty full tonight.
Ricard: Be my guest.
Ricard figures any company, even a stranger, is better than none.
Shorsh sets his full mug on the table and sits.
Ricard stares into his nearly empty mug, suddenly shy. He knows that his youth and his shabby farmboy clothes make him look like exactly what he is: a guy with no money and no prospects. He can't imagine what to say to this well-dressed, confident stranger.
Shorsh has a sip of beer.
Shorsh: I'm Shorsh.
Shorsh offers to shake hands.
Ricard: Hi. I'm Ricard.
Ricard shakes the hand carefully. He hasn't done this very often.
Shorsh: Pleased to meet you.
Shorsh smiles in a friendly and encouraging manner.
Ricard: Um... Yeah. Me too.
Shorsh wonders if this young man might be a potential donor. He looks like he could use the money, and is young enough to perhaps be more flexible than most.
Shorsh: This place always so full in the evening?
Ricard: I guess so. I don't get here very often.
Ricard searches for a better conversational topic.
Ricard: So what do you think of Gumgeeville? I mean, you've probably seen lots of different towns.
Shorsh searches for something positive to say about the village.
Shorsh: The mountains are splendid, now that the trees are changing color.
Ricard: Yeah, it's a nice time of year.
Shorsh: Not too cold yet.
Ricard: It will be, though. If you're staying long, I hope you brought a good winter coat.
Henree surveys his domain, and notices Ricard's almost-empty glass.
Shorsh: I hope we won't be here too long. I hear you get a lot of snow, too.
Henree doesn't go over and offer to fill it, though, guessing rightly that the kid doesn't have the cash for another.
Ricard: Once the leaves turn, it could snow any time. This week, even.
Shorsh is pleased that this innocuous talk about weather and scenery is loosening the young man up.
Henree carries a refill over to the table next to Ricard and Shorsh, then shrugs, and stops to ask:
Henree: Another beer, Ricard?
Ricard: Wish I could, Henree. I'm flat.
Henree: Sorry to hear that, Ricard. Harvest's coming; you may get a bit of work, then, once your dad's crops are in.
Henree checks Shorsh's glass.
Ricard: It still won't go to luxuries, Henree. One mug a week is gonna be my limit for a long time.
Shorsh: Give him one on me, Henree.
Ricard smiles, embarrassed but grateful.
Henree: Sure thing, Mister Shorsh.
Ricard: Thank you, sir.
Shorsh: You're welcome.
Shorsh returns a friendly smile.
Shorsh: Work must be hard to find around here, without the pulp mill.
Henree moves off to fetch the beer, feeling a bit better about having a Simelover in his place.
Ricard: Yeah. I know I shouldn't complain; I'm not the only one who's hurtin'. At least I don't have a wife and kids to support. Nor likely to get any, as long as I'm like this.
Ricard is thinking about all the girls who've turned him down lately, then gone on to date wealthier guys.
Shorsh: I'm surprised more people around here don't donate their selyn. It's good money, to supplement whatever you can make working.
Ricard: Yeah. Look at the Mullinses. Wish I'd done the same.
Shorsh is surprised at this reaction. Is this going to be easier than he expected?
Shorsh: Why not do it, then?
Ricard: Missed my chance, while that guy was here. Won't be able to afford a trip to the Ford till the harvest's in.
Shorsh isn't going to suggest Ricard get a ride in with the Mullinses or Geggs. He wants work for D'zoll, not Bibi.
Shorsh: Well, there's my partner, the channel who's staying at the Gegg farm.
Ricard: I thought he was a doctor, not a ... a donations guy.
Shorsh: Most channels do both donations and healing. Hajene D'zoll would be glad to take your donation, and pay you the same as you'd get at the Ford.
Ricard: He would? Hey, that's great!
Henree sets a filled mug in front of Ricard.
Henree: There you are, Ricard.
Henree turns to Shorsh for payment.
Shorsh: Sure. Come by tomorrow morning if you like. We're set up in Gegg's barn.
Ricard grins, then thinks about it for a moment and frowns. Now that the idea of donating is no longer an abstract, it suddenly seems a lot less simple.
Shorsh: Same as the special?
Shorsh takes out some money.
Shorsh hands over the same overpayment.
Ricard watches the transaction.
Henree expertly makes the cash disappear.
Henree: Enjoy your evening.
Henree moves off to answer a signal from the other side of the room.
Ricard: You know, that's twice what he'd charge anyone else.
Shorsh: Yes. He's taking advantage of us.
Ricard: You know? And you don't mind?
Shorsh: I don't like it, but it's easier than calling him on it. He doesn't like to have me or D'zoll in his saloon.
Shorsh: I'll just drink half as much, right?
Ricard thinks about some of the rumors he's heard.
Ricard: Um... about this donation thing...?
Ricard: Is it true that once you donate, you can't stop yourself? That you have to have it again, like some kind of drug? I wouldn't want to get hooked.
Shorsh: Now that's a rumor I haven't heard before. No, it's no more addictive than any other kind of paycheck, and it takes a lot less time and trouble to get it.
Ricard: Then how come... oh, never mind. I guess the only way to find out is to do it, right?
Shorsh: There's not much to it. The donor doesn't feel a thing. You'll see.
Ricard nods decisively.
Ricard: Okay. I'll do it. What time tomorrow?
Shorsh debates whether to suggest Ricard bring some more potential donors with him, but decides to wait until afterwards to suggest he recruit his friends.
Shorsh: Oh, any time from about dawn until noon or so.
Ricard: I'll be there.
Shorsh gives Ricard an approving smile.
Shorsh: Good man.
Ricard takes a luxurious swallow of beer, figuring soon it might not be such a rare luxury any more.
Shorsh has another sip of the mediocre porstan. Well, it's better than nothing.
Deniel collects a mug of Henree's cheapest beer and looks around for a table where he might be welcome.
Ricard: Den! Over here!
Deniel's family is slightly better off than Ricard's, but that doesn't make the men any more inclined to give him space.
Deniel sees Ricard's wave with ~~ relief ~~ and weaves his way through to the table.
Deniel: Hi, Ricard! I didn't think you'd be here tonight.
Deniel is aware of his friend's financial difficulties.
Ricard: Yeah... well. Things may be looking up soon.
Ricard tries to remember which way around you're supposed to do a formal introduction.
Deniel: Really? You got the job with old man Fithrit?
Ricard: Nope. Discovered a whole new income source.
Deniel: In Gumgeeville? Did the city folks decide to start buying cow patties?
Ricard: Nope. Deniel, say hi to Mister Shorsh. His channel's buying donations.
Deniel gapes at Shorsh.
Shorsh nods politely.
Shorsh: Hello, Deniel.
Deniel manages to get his mouth closed, which is not a bad start in his ongoing effort to look like the adult he'd like to pretend that he is.
Deniel: Er, hi there. You're the Simelover who's staying in Mr. Gegg's barn?
Deniel has yet to understand the principle of basic tact.
Shorsh ignores the implied insult, figuring the young man doesn't realize that he's not using appropriate terminology.
Shorsh: Yes. I'm Hajene D'zoll's Companion. We're staying at the Gegg farm.
Deniel has been thinking about the Sime visitors a lot, as they are the first really interesting thing that's happened in Gumgeeville since that business with the dead skunk.
Deniel: Do Simes really see through walls? And can they read minds?
Shorsh: Well, not really to both of those questions. They can perceive your emotions, but they have to figure out why you feel that way the same as the rest of us do.
Ricard: And they're not addictive, either. I asked.
Deniel: Well, I never really believed Halbert on that one. I mean, tentacles have to be kind of yucky, right?
Shorsh: Depends on what you're used to. My mother had tentacles, so I got used to them right from the start.
Deniel: Your mother is a Sime?
Deniel has heard that accusation in the schoolyard, but one doesn't expect schoolyard taunts to have a basis in reality.
Shorsh: Yes. A channel.
Ricard struggles with the idea that anyone would admit such a thing, even if it's true.
Deniel: Somehow, you don't think about Simes being mothers.
Shorsh: Well, some of them are grandmothers, too. And some are fathers and grandfathers.
Ricard: Is your dad a Sime, too?
Shorsh: No, he's a Gen. A Companion like me.
Deniel: He keeps Simes company?
Shorsh: We have the same kind of job -- looking after channels and helping them accomplish their work.
Ricard: Is that what Bart's gonna do? And Mari?
Shorsh: If they take the training, and qualify, they will.
Deniel: Wouldn't they qualify before they take the training?
Deniel is ~~ puzzled ~~
Shorsh: Maybe I used the wrong word. If they pass their exams and demonstrate adequate skill and talent, they'll get work as Donors.
Ricard: If you're right that it's not addictive, why would anyone want to?
Shorsh: It's interesting and gratifying work. It also pays very well. Something like being a doctor here.
Ricard: Oh. So you have to be really smart, then?
Shorsh: It helps. But you have to have the talent, too.
Deniel: That guy who was with the channel this spring wasn't smart at all, Ricard.
Shorsh: Yes, but he was very talented.
Deniel: Talented at what, exactly?
Shorsh: It's something like musical talent perhaps. If you have it, you know it, and people listening to the music you make know it too.
Deniel: And if you're tone deaf, you'll never understand?
Shorsh smiles and nods.
Ricard: And if you don't but think you do, you make a godawful racket, and your friends cringe and try to say something polite?
Shorsh: There's that as well. But a real musician knows it's a racket and isn't going to stake his life on it to be polite.
Ricard: His life?
Shorsh: Yes. A channel depends on his Donor for his life, so the Donor has to be well-trained and competent.
Deniel: You mean, when the Sime wants to kill?
Ralf walks over (carrying a mug of sarsaparilla) to listen to this interesting conversation.
Shorsh: They never want to kill, unless they're junct. But they need to take transfer, or they'll die.
Ralf: So when these boys donorate, if they don't do it right, your channel could die? I don't get it. Why'd you wanna risk his life that way?
Shorsh: Donation is another thing altogether. There's no risk to the donor and very little to the channel.
Ralf scratches his head.
Ralf: I thought you just said channels depended on their donors.
Shorsh hates the standard English terminology. It's much clearer in Simelan, where you can hear capital letters pronounced.
Shorsh: In Simelan, we have two different words -- one for people like me who work with channels and serve their personal need, and the other for ordinary Gens who donate their selyn to channels, for transfer to other Simes. Unfortunately, in English, they sound about the same.
Ralf: Oh. Huh. So this donoratin' you do is the special kind, and what you want these b'ys to do is the safe kind. But what for? If you got money to throw away, I can sure think of better places for it to go!
Shorsh: Well, they can use the money, can't they? And Simes can use the selyn. Everybody benefits.
Ralf: Fair 'nuff. But why now?
Deniel: Yeah, I thought your guy was here just to treat Mr. Gegg?
Shorsh: We have a lot of free time, so we're offering our services to people here. We'll do healing, take donations, tell young people whether they've become Gens yet, and look after any child who's turning Sime.
Deniel: Not much work for a doctor, here. Most people can't afford it, or they go to Hannard's Ford.
Shorsh: Well, all our services are free. And we pay standard rates for donations.
Deniel: Free doctoring?
Deniel is highly ~~ skeptical ~~
Ricard is thinking about the fact that he never asked what the standard rates are.
Deniel has little experience of real doctors, but the snake oil guys usually offer "free" diagnoses, although the medicines to "treat" the discovered problems is rather pricey.
Deniel: With doctors, you usually get what you pay for. At least out here.
Shorsh: Well, we're not setting up in business here. And it's our pledged duty to help when asked.
Deniel: How can you make a living, if too many people start asking?
Ricard: And how much of a living will we make donating?
Shorsh: It's not the same here as in-T. At home, we get paid by the Tecton, which is financed by selyn taxes paid by Simes. As for donation payments to Gens, it depends on how much selyn you donate. For a first time donation, hmm...
Shorsh thinks about what he saw in Bibi's records for first donations from adult Gens, and gives a low-ball estimate.
Shorsh: Of course, with subsequent donations, you'll be able to give more, especially since you're still young and adaptable.
Deniel hadn't actually been considering donating, despite Ralf's assumption, but this is a lot more money than he'd thought. His ~~ interest ~~ therefore increases.
Deniel: Really? I didn't think it was that much.
Shorsh: The idea is to provide Gens with the basic necessities of life, in exchange for them providing Simes with their basic necessity of life.
Shorsh is pleased to express this ideologically pure, if not completely accurate, explanation.
Shorsh: Of course, if you already have the basic necessities, the cash is very nice to have in addition.
Ricard knows high finance is beyond him. But new wagon wheels and a new shirt are things he understands.
Ralf begins to think that maybe donation would be a good idea for him to consider too, although he's doing better now that his income isn't disappearing down an alcoholic hole.
Ricard: Uh, there are a few other guys I know.... would you have enough money to, uh...?
Ricard wants his friends to be in on this windfall, but he's not altruistic enough to give up his share of it if there's not enough to go around.
Shorsh: We're well supplied, and we can draw more at the Ford. Your friends are welcome.
Ricard: I'll talk to a few people.
Shorsh is amused. D'zoll was dubious that he could recruit any donors at the saloon, or that they'd show up after their heads cleared.
Deniel: Do you really think Nate and Sten would go for something like this?
Ricard: I'm pretty sure Sten would. Dunno about Nate. How about Kirby?
Deniel: His dad would be mad, but he's sweet on Jenna. I dunno. Depends on whether he could keep it secret, I guess.
Deniel looks at Shorsh in ~~ question ~~.
Shorsh: We wouldn't have any reason to tell anyone who has donated. But everyone should be sixteen or older, so they can legally consent, as adults.
Ricard: How would anyone keep that much money secret?
Deniel: Well, if he wants to marry his girl, he'll have to keep it secret at least until he's got enough to do that. He won't be spending it, which'll help.
Ricard: True. At least my dad won't be a problem, I don't think... hey, maybe he'd go for this too.
Deniel: Dunno. He's pretty traditional.
Ricard: Wouldn't hurt to ask. I know he wouldn't forbid me, anyway.
Deniel: Better you than me. My mom doesn't like Simes, and my dad doesn't like to upset her.
Ricard: Dad told me on my sixteenth birthday, there's only two things I could do that would make him kick me out: knock up a girl and refuse to marry her, or murder.
Shorsh wonders how typical such a... moral stance is out-T.
Ricard drains the last of his mug.
Ricard: Anyway, it's getting late. I should get home. Thanks for the beer, Mr. Shorsh, and I'll see you tomorrow morning.
Deniel finishes his own beer.
Deniel: I'd better go, too. My folks will be expecting me.
Shorsh: Nice meeting you two. See you tomorrow, Ricard, and perhaps you, Deniel.
Deniel doesn't make any promises about the following morning, either way.
Deniel figures he just might go along to give Ricard moral support, and then decide what he wants to do.
Shorsh: And if any younger people want to know whether or not they're Gen, we'd be glad to tell them.
Ricard: Good night, Mr. Shorsh. Den, I'll walk you as far as the east forks.
Shorsh: Good night.
Deniel waves, and follows Ricard towards the door.
Shorsh is rather pleased with himself, and has another sip of porstan. He wonders whether he should keep recruiting tonight, or get back to D'zoll. Tomorrow morning will tell the true tale of success or otherwise.