Uncle Tony is sitting on a comfortable park bench near the horse trough at the Hannard's Ford farmers' market. This puts him in a good position to socialize with all the other farmers he's known all his life, on market day.
Tony hasn't brought anything in to sell, he's just there to pick up a few things from the store and meet his colleagues, who come by and chat. He has been letting his nephew take over more of the farm work, and enjoying his semi-retirement.
Tony spots that good-looking young channel who's been working in Gumgeeville and visiting the Ford, accompanied by someone who looks like she's his mother.
D'zoll: What's peculiar to me is how ordinary everything looks and how absolutely foreign it all zlins.
Lusinka is keeping a watchful eye on D'zoll, and a close grip on the ambient nager, as they near the crowded market.
D'zoll's tone is that of one continuing an argument he isn't really all that interested in, but hey, it provides something to do.
Lusinka: Of course it zlins funny to you. There aren't any other Simes here. At least, I hope there aren't, or things could get very unpleasant.
D'zoll: Umm, yes.
Tony thinks the channel's mother is a pretty good-looking woman, for someone almost his own age. A brief and not very detailed fantasy zips through his mind.
D'zoll: But that's my point: a market town out-T should be just a whole lot more different from its in-T counterpart than it actually is.
Lusinka: Why? It serves the same purpose, after all, and people are people. How do you think an out-Territory market should look?
Tony has marriage on the mind, since his niece in-T has set a date, and is writing to him about all the details of her upcoming wedding, which he plans to attend.
D'zoll: Shenned if I know; I'm not an anthropologist. What it tells me is that Nivet and New Washington Territories are really twins -- after all, we've been trading population for centuries.
Lusinka: Yes. And it's worse in the Householdings, because we mixed the populations more openly. How are the locals reacting to your presence?
Lusinka is wondering if she should intensify her ~~ support ~~ .
D'zoll: With suspicion, but I think that's because I'm a stranger, not so much because I'm a Sime. It's hard to be sure through these things.
Lusinka is ~~ sympathetic ~~.
Tony plans to give his niece a bull calf and a couple of heifer calves as a wedding present, or dowry, perhaps. It sounds like his herd is now of much better quality than that of her fiance's family. ~~ pride ~~
Lusinka: In my opinion, Klyd Farris should never have agreed to the shenned things.
D'zoll: Aw, c'mon. If he hadn't, we'd have no presence out-T at all. The only reasons the New Washington Territory government trusted retainers is that they're Gen technology.
Tony watches the Sime approach and thinks what a handsome pair he and Bibi would make. They'd probably have a bunch of good-looking children. He thinks it's high time Bibi found a good man to settle down with, and the Ford could use another channel.
Lusinka: I cherish the fond, idealistic notion that given the choice between facing the entire junct population of Nivet Territory, or allowing Simes with bare tentacles in their Territory, the New Washington government would have chosen to be sensible.
D'zoll decides it's not in his best interests to argue further.
D'zoll: Hey, there's the old guy whose donation I took this morning.
Tony waves, and beckons them to join him.
Lusinka follows D'zoll's gaze.
Lusinka: He seems to want to talk with us. Shall we?
D'zoll: Sure. He's waving at us, and your feet hurt.
Lusinka: Don't ever get old, D'zoll, or no doubt yours will ache, as well.
D'zoll: I'll do my best.
Lusinka has been pushing herself, trying not to hold D'zoll back too obviously, but she's glad of a chance to rest in a fairly safe place.
D'zoll walks over to Uncle Tony's bench and sits down at the other end, leaving room for Lusinka to sit between the two of them.
Tony: G'day, Hajene, Sosu. Nice here in the sun.
Tony's nager is ~~ calm, friendly and welcoming ~~ as is his smile.
Lusinka takes advantage of the chance to rest her feet.
D'zoll is ~~ relieved ~~ that his feet don't hurt by proxy any more.
Lusinka: It is nice to get out in the fresh air.
Tony: Old farmer like me is glad to get out of it, sometimes.
Lusinka: I'm sure. It's variety that makes life pleasant, after all.
D'zoll listens to the two old farts exchanging platitudes with more ~~ relief ~~ that he himself is off platitude duty for a while.
Tony: I guess so. Hajene Zoll is the fourth channel I've donated to now, but none of them are as nice to kiss as Bibi. ~~ twinkles ~~
Lusinka chuckles politely at what's obviously intended as a joke, although she's too much an in-Territory Gen to consider a transfer lip contact as "kissing".
Lusinka: You like Hajene Bibi, then?
Tony: Oh, yes, lovely young woman. She brought my niece through changeover and I've been donating ever since. She knows a lot about dairy cattle, too.
Lusinka: Dairy cows?
Lusinka has heard of a lot of Tecton personnel who had odd hobbies, but this one is odder than usual.
Tony: I've been a dairyman all my life, like most farmers around here, and Bibi was raised on a dairy farm out the other side of New Washington. So she knows what we mostly do around here.
Tony hopes this Zoll is listening to his praises of Bibi's accomplishments.
Lusinka: She is an interesting person.
Tony: She delivered a pair of twin calves for my nephew that none of us farmers could figure. Their legs were all mixed up but she could zlin how to sort them out.
Lusinka: She made a veterinary house call?
Lusinka doesn't think that sounds like a very sensible thing to do, for the sole channel in an isolated Sime Center.
Tony: Well, she had one of them traveling channels staying with her so it was safe for her to come help us for a little bit. That was a valuable heifer she worked on for us, one of the founders of the herd we got now. Bought good stock from our donation money, you see.
D'zoll: No doubt that was that Marvin that Sanda mentioned.
Tony: They was two good heifer calves, too. Good cows now. ~~ pride ~~ satisfaction ~~ happiness ~~
Lusinka sees that Bibi has found effective, if unorthodox, ways to integrate herself into what must have been a very difficult community.
Tony: No, wasn't that Marvin. Some other channel, a woman. It was some years ago.
D'zoll: Ah. Sorry to interrupt.
Tony: No, no, that's fine. You're new around here. Don't expect you to know everybody.
Tony also expects people to interrupt his stories, since they've usually heard them before, several times.
Tony: So what do you think of Bibi? We all like her here.
D'zoll: I think the job she's been doing here is nothing short of amazing, frankly.
Lusinka is glad that D'zoll has developed the sophistication to appreciate exactly what Bibi has accomplished. She thinks that however the Gegg thing works out, the expansion of D'zoll's horizons will probably make the whole adventure profitable. In the long run, of course.
Tony: I'll tell you, Hannard's Ford is a much better place to live since she's been here. It's a big load off every father, that he doesn't have to shoot his child. Every mother too.
Lusinka: I'm sure it is. At least, I remember how relieved we all were at Unity.
Tony thinks about Lusinka as a kid afraid of turning Gen in-T before Unity and is a bit ~~ startled ~~ at the idea of this mirror-image problem.
D'zoll: [hastily] That is, the Simelanders in general, not the people from the Householdings like us.
Lusinka: Believe me, D'zoll, not having to worry constantly about junct Simes coming over the walls was a very big relief.
D'zoll: [embarrassed] Well, uh, sure. I don't remember any of it myself, of course.
Lusinka: There are times when I envy you that, D'zoll.
Tony: Glad it's not like that any more. I'm going in-T in a couple months for my niece's wedding. She's marrying a Gen boy whose family has a dairy herd. She's the checker at the cheese factory there. ~~ pride ~~
Tony leans forward to look into D'zoll's face.
Tony: If it wasn't for Bibi, my niece would be dead now. I'd have had to shoot her like I shot all my own children. Except for my daughter. My son killed her before I shot him. ~~ sincerity ~~ old pain ~~
D'zoll: I'm terribly sorry, Mister Grelbix.
Lusinka has known stories like this all her life, but that doesn't make them easier to hear.
Tony: Must have been as bad in-T before Unity. Worse maybe, with all them Simes killing all the time.
Lusinka: In some ways. On the other hand, berserkers have always been rare, in Sime Territory. Given a choice, Simes won't let themselves get into such hard need that they attack indiscriminately. There wasn't any of the uncertainty you face, as to when a new Sime will become a danger.
D'zoll: Most of them were Pen Gens, more like your people's meat animals than like people. Simes are no more fond of murder than Gens are.
Tony: Well, it was the same for parents, losing their children. And the Simes did kill each others' children, and the people they caught in raids. But them days are over and we can all be glad about it.
Lusinka: Indeed. ~~ heartfelt agreement ~~
Tony: So what do you think of our little town here?
D'zoll: It's a very pretty town, a lot like market towns I've seen in Simeland. But of course with no Simes.
Tony: I think we could do with a few more Simes here.
Lusinka: You feel Hajene Bibi is overworked?
Tony: Well, it would be nice if she could get out and about a bit more. She won't leave that Sime Center unless there's another channel there, just in case.
Lusinka: She takes her responsibilities seriously.
Tony: She does. She sure does.
D'zoll: Tomorrow I'll undertake to persuade her to take a walk, then.
Lusinka privately wonders just how much Bibi really wants to wander around this town of untrained Gens.
Tony: Too bad you can't take a nice walk with her. Lovely weather. Nice for a little picnic.
Tony winks at D'zoll.
D'zoll: Well, it'd be too much to ask for Marvin to arrive off-schedule, I'm afraid. So when she's out, I'm in.
Lusinka reminds herself to double-check with Bibi's Donor to make sure that Sat'htine isn't grabbing all the available work, leaving their hostess with entran.
Tony: That Marvin seems like a good fellow, but Bibi says he has to travel -- they won't let him settle down like her. Now, a channel like you, they'd let you settle down, wouldn't they?
D'zoll: Well, I am rather settled down, since I'm more of a -- well, a doctor and counselor, as far as what I do every day. My patients come to me, mostly.
Tony: Ever think of settling down in a nice town like this one, with a good woman like Bibi? Give your mother here some good-looking grandchildren, the two of you together.
D'zoll sighs deeply.
Lusinka decides to let D'zoll handle this one.
D'zoll: Mister Grelbix, I don't have what it takes to live in a town like this. Not many channels do -- Bibi is really exceptional.
D'zoll: Mother? Oh. No, she's my third cousin twice removed one way, and ... well, anyhow, she's not my mother.
Lusinka: I'm not D'zoll's mother, although we are related.
D'zoll: My mother's a Sime, for one thing. But we Farrises all do look much alike.
Lusinka doesn't bother to add that the nageric resemblance is even stronger.
Tony is ~~ mildly embarrassed ~~. It's not that often that you see people that look so much like they came from the same herd, and aren't the closest of relatives. Oh, well.
D'zoll smiles slightly.
D'zoll: Never mind, it's a natural mistake. But no, while Bibi is very attractive, I know she's not attracted to me. Simes read emotions, you know.
Tony: Well, you think about it. I'm just an old man and I may speak too plainly, but this love at first sight thing is just magazine stories. It takes some work to get a woman to fall in love with you, once you pick her out.
D'zoll recognizes invincible ignorance when he sees it, but he doesn't intend to argue.
D'zoll: Well, I'll think about it. By the way, Sosu here is far too polite to say so, but she's getting hungry, and I wouldn't mind a little something either. What do you suggest?
Tony thinks about the best the town can offer, what will give a good impression, make the channel think about living here.
Tony: Do you like ice cream?
D'zoll: All Simes have sweet tooths. Sweet teeth? Whatever. Absolutely I like ice cream.
Lusinka: So do I.
Tony: Good. You want the best ice cream you've ever had, you go to Violet's ice cream parlor. You're in good time, she's going to close for the season next week.
D'zoll: I appreciate the recommendation, really. Thanks.
Lusinka: Will she allow a Sime in her place?
D'zoll kicks himself for not thinking of that.
Tony: Oh, she sure will. She and her man worked hard to get the Sime Center here. ~~ sudden sadness ~~ Too bad it didn't get here quite soon enough for them.
D'zoll's eyebrows go up again.
Tony: Bibi did save her second son, though.
Lusinka: I'm glad for that.
Tony: See, the summer before Bibi came here, her older boy changed over and her husband shot him. We already knew a channel was coming in a few months, so it hit them real hard.
Lusinka discovers that time has blunted her expectation that every adult has a tragedy in their past.
Tony: He was a carpenter, and after that he kind of gave up. Wasn't careful with his life, you know what I mean?
D'zoll: Unfortunately, I know exactly what you mean.
Tony: So he was working on a barn the next spring and fell off the roof and broke himself up and died a few days later.
D'zoll winces; his imagination for that sort of thing is quite vivid.
Tony: He didn't do it on purpose, he was just not careful with his life any more.
Lusinka: Were there other children, beyond the two?
Tony: No, but the younger boy changed over the year after that, and Bibi looked after him, and he's got a good job in Simeland now. He wanted to be a carpenter like his dad, but he was kind of weak in the legs. Had the summer paralysis when he was young.
Lusinka: Do you get a lot of that, here?
Tony: Seems to come through every so often. Doesn't happen for years, then one summer... a bunch of kids get it.
Lusinka nods in understanding.
Tony: But Violet's boy Rital is doing real good. He apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, and he's a journeyman now. You don't need strong legs to do cabinetry.
D'zoll: He's lucky. In Simeland we can treat it -- but it takes a whole channel just to treat one victim.
Tony: Most of our kids make it through. Only a few, when the paralysis goes to the lungs -- well, there's not much anybody can do then.
Lusinka decides not to detail how much a competent First Order channel can do for such victims; it would be cruel to all concerned, under the circumstances.
Lusinka: So, where would we find this ice cream parlor?
Tony: It's real easy to find. You can see the sign from here. See the picture of the red cup with the striped ice cream over there?
Lusinka is glad that it isn't far. She gets to her feet, which hurt a little less after the rest.
Lusinka: What flavor of ice cream is best, Mr. Grelbix?
Tony: Well, they're all good. She may have some blackberry this time of year, but I like the black walnut myself. Bibi is partial to the maple, if you think you can get some back to her before it melts. Ask Violet to wrap it up for you.
Lusinka: We'll do that.
D'zoll: Will do.
D'zoll looks at Tony, then at Lusinka, and smiles.
Lusinka leads the way over to the sign, and looks through the window to judge how crowded the place is.
D'zoll: What do you think? Can we risk it?
D'zoll salivates, mentally speaking.
Violet's shop is only about half full, now that the weather is cooling off towards fall.
Lusinka: It's not very crowded at the moment.
Lusinka leads the way inside, the better to block the fields.
D'zoll follows, slowly and cautiously, Gen-style.
Lusinka's attention is on the other Gens, as she tries to determine their reaction to D'zoll's presence.
Violet reaches up with a damp cloth to wipe "horehound" off the list of flavors.
D'zoll dances -- even in slow motion, he still looks like a Sime -- up to the menu board at the back of the store.
D'zoll: [softly but audibly in the sudden hush] Hmm, blackberry, strawberry, mint chip ...
Lusinka: There's the walnut, and the maple.
D'zoll: Lickerish -- I think that says "lickerish", English spelling is so strange -- And that one there, sassa-something.
Lusinka: I have no idea what that is.
D'zoll: Well, anyhow, no nightshade, which as you probably remember is my absolute favorite.
Violet turns, ~~ surprised ~~ to see strangers, then ~~ even more surprised ~~ that one is a Sime. He must be one of those new channels that have been showing up at the Sime Center on and off all summer.
Lusinka: It would hardly be available out here.
Violet: Good afternoon, Hajene and is it Sosu?
D'zoll: It is. This is Lusinka, and I'm D'zoll.
Lusinka: Pleased to meet you.
Violet: You're very welcome here. Please, have a seat.
Violet examines the table of young teens and figures they won't cause any trouble. All of them are children of donors.
Lusinka slides into an empty stool at the counter, one with plenty of space between it and the nearest local citizen.
D'zoll sits down too.
Lusinka: Your ice cream comes highly recommended.
Violet smiles, ~~ gratified and proud ~~.
D'zoll: By Tony Grelbix, to be exact. Though it would be better for him if he didn't, medically speaking.
Violet: I make the best ice cream in the area. I grow the fruit myself and use only good heavy cream.
D'zoll: It's the last ingredient that's hard on Mister Grelbix's heart. But I'm sure it makes the flavor excellent!
Violet: Certainly just a little can't do much harm.
D'zoll: What do you recommend for us?
Violet: Well, Hajene Bibi is very fond of the maple. The syrup is from my brother's sugar bush.
Lusinka: I think I'd like to try a scoop of the blackberry, please. I'm very fond of blackberries, as long as someone else picks them.
Lusinka has been known to take shameless advantage of her status as First Companion in Sat'htine to sample the fruits of other people's labor.
D'zoll smiles and remembers blackberry-picking expeditions before his changeover.
Violet: I'm sure you'll like it. I picked the berries this morning.
Violet fetches a generous scoop of blackberry ice cream for Lusinka, in a red china bowl.
D'zoll: What is this mint chip, anyhow? I didn't think mint came in, well, chips. Isn't it a kind of leaf?
Violet: Well, we have a kind of mint candy here, it's in red and white striped sticks? The ice cream has chips of that in it.
D'zoll: Sounds yummy. I'll try it.
Violet fetches a small scoop for D'zoll.
Violet: Let me know if you want more. I know Simes don't eat as much as Gens do.
Lusinka is ~~ pleasantly surprised ~~ at the gesture, even if Violet's idea of a Sime-sized portion is a bit off.
D'zoll: No, no, not at all. You may need to get a Sime-sized scoop eventually -- it's about half that big or so.
Lusinka resigns herself to finishing off the rest of D'zoll's portion, when he's done. She reflects that not all of a Companion's duties are onerous.
D'zoll pitches into the mint chip and finds it every bit as good as he expected, and then some.
Lusinka is making headway on her blackberry, in the mean time.
D'zoll: You recognized us as a channel and Donor pair, and you know about Sime appetites. Do you get a lot of Simes in here?
Violet: Well, Hajene Bibi hardly ever leaves the Sime Center, but occasionally one of the traveling channels comes here, and always with a Donor. I'm only open in summer, of course.
D'zoll: I've been living in Gumgeeville for the past month, and I've more or less gotten used to -- well, ignorance.
Violet: Well, not everyone in town is as... accepting of Simes. My husband and I worked on the campaign to get the Sime Center here, that Miz Brown started. He was her grandson.
D'zoll nods and smiles.
Violet: And now my son is a Sime, living in-T, so I can hardly hate Simes and love my son!
D'zoll: I'm certainly glad you feel that way. But you'd be surprised how people can cut themselves in half, emotionally. Even Simes, who can feel other people's emotions, can be pretty good at fooling themselves.
Violet: Rital's a good boy. A good young man, that is. Turning Sime hasn't changed him in the important ways.
Lusinka: No, it wouldn't. Particularly if he doesn't have to live with the guilt of having killed.
Violet: He says he misses my ice cream. He can't get ice cream as good in Capital.
D'zoll: He certainly couldn't. Did you ever consider moving in-T yourself? I think you could make a, hmm, mint.
Lusinka winces at the pun.
D'zoll waves his hand.
D'zoll: Never mind my Companion. She thinks puns are beneath the dignity of a channel.
Lusinka thinks puns are beneath the dignity of a human being, for that matter. Of either larity.
Violet: I have thought about moving, but I've lived here all my life... I hope to go visit Rital some time. He's invited me. He wants me to meet a certain young woman.
D'zoll breaks into a broad grin.
D'zoll: I'll just bet he does. And who knows, maybe you'll like Nivet more than you think.
Violet: But will she like to have her mother-in-law so close? ~~ humor ~~
Lusinka: I'm sure she expects her mother-in-law to attend any weddings or engagement parties.
D'zoll: Besides, I'm sure you could get an apartment in the next block. That should be far enough away!
Violet: Let me show you something.
Violet brings out a small round box. It's made of walnut, with an intricate inlay of other woods, forming a wreath of violets.
Violet opens the box. Inside, nested in velvet, is the same wreath as a silver pin, with the flowers and leaves enameled in natural looking colors.
Lusinka: Its beautiful. Did your son make it?
Violet: Yes. ~~ pride ~~ And the silver work is by his friend. Her parents are jewelers. They've been commissioning presentation boxes like this from him for their store.
Lusinka: It sounds like a good match, then.
D'zoll: It's certainly very fine work.
Violet: Rital always loved wood, and admired his father so much. His father would be very happy to see what his son can do.
D'zoll: [quietly] I'm sure he would have been.
Violet: I suppose Bibi or Uncle Tony told you about my family. My husband didn't mean to fall off that roof.
D'zoll nods, but with a mental reservation. For a farmer, Uncle Tony is a pretty shrewd jackleg psychologist.
Lusinka: I'm sure he didn't.
Lusinka isn't, actually, but it would cause needless hurt to say so.
Violet: It was so close -- the Sime Center opened not two months after. ~~ tightly held control ~~
D'zoll: [fully sympathetic] At least that can't happen here any more.
Lusinka suspects it still does, however. She has a healthy respect for the human capacity to reject change out of hand, even when obviously beneficial to everybody.
Violet: Not everybody is willing to take their child to Bibi. More all the time, but still, not everybody. And not all the children are willing to go against their parents' belief, even if it means their lives.
D'zoll: I understand. Hmm, we need to get back to the Sime Center. Two things, Miz Violet?
D'zoll: Could you wrap up some of that maple for Bibi? And I understand you're closing down in a few days. Could you come to the Sime Center? I'd like to talk to you a little bit.
Violet: I'll pack up some for everybody there. Professor Nattin is rather fond of the black walnut. And a liter of ice cream will stay frozen longer than a Sime sized scoop.
Lusinka raises an eyebrow in ~~ curiosity ~~
Violet gets a sawdust-insulated box and some small containers and begins to fill them.
D'zoll: [Simelan] I know, I know, I'm not supposed to be working. But when I see someone in such pain ....
Lusinka: [also Simelan] Just remember, you probably won't be able to have more than one or two sessions, before you have to leave.
D'zoll: I understand that.
Violet puts the insulated box on the counter and ties it shut.
Violet: My next donation will be in three days. I suppose you can zlin that?
D'zoll: That will be fine. Come in, give me your donation, or Hajene Bibi if you prefer, and then we'll have a bit of a chat.
Violet is a bit ~~ puzzled ~~ by the invitation, but assumes D'zoll wants to hear more about the community.
D'zoll looks at the board again, figures the bill in his head -- he's always been good at mental arithmetic -- and pays Violet for everything.
Violet: No, no. Tecton employees eat free here!
D'zoll: Let's go, Sosu. The quicker the better with ice cream, you know.
D'zoll leaves the money on the counter anyhow.
Lusinka: Indeed. It was nice meeting you. [to Violet]
Violet nods and smiles. She's a little ~~ offended ~~ by D'zoll's insistence on payment, but she can always contribute the money to some charity, perhaps to buy clothing and supplies for a new Sime whose parents reject him.