Leglow and Struger have been assigned to paint a storage shed, which is about all one can expect until one manages to graduate from the general labor pool.
Leglow, for one, is starting to seriously consider looking for an apprenticeship somewhere. He knows he'll have to work harder and longer most days, but at least it'll be more interesting.
Struger is back to actually painting instead of "supervising", now that Beni, Bil, and Zho have caught on to his Tom Sawyer stunt. He reflects that he's probably better off painting anyhow, given his low mood lately.
Struger: You know what, Leg?
Leglow: What, Struger?
Struger: I've concluded that painting buildings is good for the [English] soul.
Struger: And after talking with Sanda I think I have one.
Leglow: Good for which? They're supposed to be related to selyn production, right? As in, Gens have them, Simes don't, and kids are provisional?
Leglow didn't pay a lot of attention to the out-Territory religions described in his classes.
Struger: Yeah, but Sanda thinks everybody has one. I can't figure out how it's different from just having a mind, but Sanda insists it is. Anyhow, it makes her feel better to think so. And what makes her feel better, makes me feel better. I think.
Leglow: You think?
Struger: Well, every time I try to lead up to anything sexual, she always changes the subject. And yet I'd swear ...
Struger: [resignedly] Well, I just don't know.
Leglow: I've only seen her from a distance, but Wranda said she brought a whole collection of romance novels with her from Gen Territory.
Struger thinks maybe he doesn't measure up to the heroes in those things, but since he's never read one, he can't be too sure.
Struger: Well that's depressing.
Leglow: Cheer up. You're real, and that's something no book hero can match. Surely she'd prefer a real guy to an imaginary one?
Struger: Well, if so, why does she always give me the brush-off?
Struger waves his brush about to make a silent pun.
Struger: Either she's really dumb and doesn't understand what I want, which I can't believe, or she's incredibly clever and knows exactly how to manipulate me.
Leglow: Maybe her parents don't approve of you? Have you met them yet?
Struger: Briefly, yeah. Her mother's really nice. Her father, well, I couldn't tell what he felt.
Leglow: He's the Simephobe that Hajene D'zoll's treating, isn't he?
Leglow has never met a Simephobe before.
Struger: Yes. But it's not his fault, like I told you before. And he's getting better about it, from what Sanda says.
Leglow: I can see why a guy who'd been attacked by junct Simes would be afraid of them, but I can't see why he's afraid of nonjunct Simes who wouldn't hurt him.
Struger: To his undermind one Sime is still like another. Underminds are pretty stupid, from what Sanda says her dad says Hajene D'zoll says.
Struger is getting a pretty garbled view of D'zoll's actual views.
Leglow: Well, I'd guess so, if they can't tell the difference between a junct bandit and Hajene D'zoll.
Struger: Remember, he's a Donor. So it's his automatic Donor response, not just the way somebody looks or anything.
Leglow: It just sounds all backwards, having a Donor who's afraid of Simes.
Struger: It is all backwards, but that's the way things go in Backward Territory.
Leglow: This I've got to hear.
Leglow can tell from the giggles that it's a good story.
Struger scratches his head, getting paint in his hair.
Struger: Hear what?
Leglow: Whatever it is that has you in giggles. What sort of stories has that girl been telling you, anyway?
Struger sobers up.
Struger: It's not really so funny, having to worry all the time whether you're going to change over, and what's going to happen, and should you try to run or let yourself be shot. To be a good kid is to resist Sime instinct and go and tell your parents, or any adult, so they can "take care of you".
Struger speaks this nonchalantly, but underneath he's horrified and trying not to show it.
Struger: I guess it's better to laugh about it than cry about it, is all.
Leglow: It's like one of those stories from long ago. You know, the children's underground and the Licensed Raiders hunting the trails.
Struger: Well, sort of. But at least the Raiders were the bad guys. You were supposed to run away from them. There, the danger comes from the good guys. From your own family. And from yourself, too.
Leglow: I guess they see it a bit differently, don't they? To them, a Sime is the bad guy, even if it's their own kid.
Struger: Right. Which leads us back to Gegg and why he's afraid of all Simes.
Leglow: One Sime tried to hurt him, so all Simes must want to hurt him?
Struger: His overmind knows better, of course. But think about Veena. One dog bit her when she was six natal, and now she's afraid of all dogs. And they know it.
Leglow: Yeah. She's the only one I know of that can be cornered by a lapdog.
Struger starts to laugh again, then suppresses it.
Struger: Well, you think Veena doesn't know that Spotty isn't going to bite her or anybody else? She's got sense.
Leglow: She doesn't have sense, where dogs are concerned.
Struger: No, she just can't help it. Not the same thing.
Leglow: So apart from Simes being considered dangerous monsters, what else is strange about Genland?
Struger: Well, I know it isn't all like this, but Gumgeeville is so poor. And so isolated. I can't believe the Geggs want to go back.
Leglow: Doesn't sound like much of a place, really.
Struger: It really isn't. But they're attached to it, somehow.
Struger shrugs theatrically.
Leglow: I guess they don't have anything that unites their community like a House is united?
Struger: Yeah, well, they do. It's a feeling about one another. Sanda talks about the town almost like we talk about the Householding. But they aren't oath-sworn, or all related, or anything. They trust one another, even though they bicker and quarrel a lot.
Leglow: So what holds them together?
Struger shrugs again.
Struger: It's just about being from there, I guess, I don't know.
Leglow: Well, I suppose if there's not all that many people around, the neighbors you do have become more important.
Struger: So outsiders aren't trusted, not deep down anyway, but on the other hand you're supposed to treat them like we treat guests, too.
Leglow: Full hospitality?
Leglow is thinking in terms of traditional Householding hospitality, in which guests are entitled to food, water, selyn, a place to sleep, reprovisioning, defense, legal aid, etc.
Struger: Sometimes. It depends. You might have to pay for it, though. They're poor, like I said. They don't have a lot of extra available calories.
Leglow: It seems funny, to think of a society based entirely on Gen priorities that's short of food.
Struger: They have these complicated rules for dividing the surplus. Some people get way more than they require, some get less, some live totally substandard lives. The more you have, the more people respect you.
Leglow: So being fat is a symbol of success?
Struger: Probably. But it's not just food, it's other things too, like a bigger house or more artworks.
Leglow: Art is considered a sign of wealth? What kind of art do the Geggs collect?
Struger: I don't think they do. Sanda showed me some drawings she made herself. It's weird to think of a channel family being poor, but like I said, Backward Territory.
Struger: Out there,
Struger gestures broadly.
Struger: having lots of channels and Donors is nothing but a liability.
Leglow: I thought Sanda's older brother was a working channel? Surely he sends money home, if his family is that poor?
Struger: He's still in channel camp, from what I make out. But just getting him there involved a whole convoluted routine with getting his cousin to do his farm work, and traveling up and down Gen Territory with a channel, and I don't know what all. Sanda says he would have let himself be shot if it weren't for her.
Leglow: He wouldn't have tried to get to the Sime Center?
Struger: It's hours and hours away, and they don't know to even start until the tentacles become visible under the skin.
Struger: There was another story about a kid who tried to get there in a cart, but the axle broke, and the cart got stuck in the mud, and a Gen tried to give him transfer and got badly burned but both of them survived, just like in the old stories. Sanda described a Householding Dar uniform, but that makes no sense -- what would a Dar be doing out-Territory?
Leglow: Yeah. Sounds like maybe she misunderstood, or you did, and she was telling you about a book she read? That sounds like one of those Adventure Tales selections.
Leglow isn't about to admit that he still reads the things, despite being all grown up, now.
Struger: Hardly that. Gen T books couldn't say much about Householdings, or the Geggs would know at least something about 'em.
Leglow: They have to have known something, even if just from the history of the Unity War.
Struger laughs outright.
Struger: That shows what you know. Their idea of the Unity Wars is that they beat us so bad we don't dare raid them any more. I mean, Sanda knows better, but that's the official story.
Leglow: There's got to be more to their version of the story than that. After all, there's a Sime Center not all that far away, right?
Struger notes that he has painted his half of the shed twice, and drops off the ladder and rolls along the ground.
Struger: Since when are people always consistent?
Leglow: Well, I guess. Still, it seems to me that someone would notice the lapses in the story. I mean, some of their fathers fought in the Unity War, right?
Struger: [vaguely] Yeah, I guess. Mister Gegg's too young for that, though.
Leglow: I guess, if his daughter's just about our age.
Leglow smoothes one more brushful of paint on his half the shed, which is more carefully painted than Struger's.
Struger: Maybe her grandfather.
Leglow figures he'd better show that he can do his work well, if he wants to be given an opportunity to do something more interesting than paint sheds.
Leglow: Has she told you anything about him?
Struger: [sarcastically] Nope. But I suppose she had one. Or two, actually. Anyway, enough about Sanda and me. What about you and that Alys?
Leglow: I really like her, Struger.
Struger: Well, duh. I mean, what about you?
Struger wants to taunt Leglow a bit, but also perversely wants to feed his own sense of envy.
Leglow: We've been talking, a little, about what we want to do in the future. Just so we don't end up at opposite ends of the Territory.
Leglow: I'm thinking of trying to get an apprenticeship, so I can get out of the labor pool. Alys doesn't want a man who can't settle on something, she says.
Struger sighs, wishing he were at that stage with anybody.
Leglow: What about you, Struger? Do you think you'd have a better chance with Sanda, if you were making shoes or something, instead of painting sheds?
Struger: I guess that makes sense, but I still can't figure her out. She, she, doesn't seem to take me seriously, but she isn't telling me she just wants to be friends either.
Leglow thinks this over.
Leglow: Well, all girls are strange, but maybe...
Leglow doesn't look very certain.
Leglow: Maybe they have different ways for a girl to show she's interested, in Genland?
Struger: Umm, they do have the same bodies we do, you know. I'm not blind.
Struger is running a bluff here, but he figures Leglow will assume he knows more than he does.
Leglow: No, just dense. I mean, there are ways a girl lets a guy know she's interested, and vice versa, long before that comes into the picture. Maybe she's telling you that she's interested -- or that she'd rather you'd go find someone else -- but the way she's doing it is so confusing that you don't understand. Or for that matter, maybe she doesn't know you're interested.
Struger: How could that be? Is she blind?! I know she's not dense.
Leglow: Hey, have you ever told her, in so many words, that you like her a lot and want to be more than just a friend to her?
Struger: Well, no. The moment just never seems right.
Struger: ============ incomplete episode ==============