Henree puts the third beer of the evening in front of Jed Mullins, who is holding up the bar as usual.
Jed: Thanks, Henree.
Jed passes over the coins.
Henree doesn't mind as much as he used to, now that Jed is solvent.
Henree: Any time.
Jed sighs. He misses having Gegg there to socialize with.
Henree misinterprets the sigh.
Henree: Is Maree taking it bad, that Bart's gone?
Jed: She's not real happy about it, but it's what we decided. He'll be back for a bit before he leaves for good. He's just out traveling now.
Jed isn't sure whether the cold silence he's getting a lot of from Ma is worse than the usual bickering.
Henree: With a Sime.
Henree's voice is flat.
Jed: And a Gen. Get to see a bit of the world, eh?
Jed sips his beer.
Jed: More than I got to.
Henree: I've never seen why being somewhere else should make a place more desirable than home, myself.
Jed snorts a laugh.
Jed: Lots of places more desirable than this village, Henree.
Henree: Yes, and half the world wants to live in them. I don't like that kind of traffic, myself. I can't see just dropping everything and going halfway across the Territory for fun. Or even out of the Territory, like your boy, or the Geggs.
Jed shrugs, then decides to plant a barb.
Jed: Well, Henree, you don't have Donor talent like those two.
Henree: Hmpf. I should hope not. "Donor talent" is another word for trouble, in my book.
Henree moves off to polish the other end of his bar.
Ricard, who has been drinking alone in a corner, picks up his beer and diffidently approaches Jed.
Ricard: Uh, Mr. Mullins? Mind if I join you?
Jed: Sure, no problem.
Ricard perches himself on the edge of a bar stool.
Jed: So how's the world treating you, Ricard?
Ricard: Well... to tell you the truth, sometimes I wish I'd never heard of channels. At least being a nobody with no prospects was something I knew how to do.
Jed gives Ricard a none-too-sympathetic look. He doesn't have much use for other people's self-pity.
Jed: Most of Gumgeeville is nobodies with no prospects.
Ricard: Yeah, because most of them never tried donating.
Jed sips his beer.
Jed: You gonna keep it up, after donating to that Zoll guy? Good money, eh?
Ricard: Yeah. But my dad... The next time he sent me into the Ford on some errands, I went to the Sime Center and donated again.
Jed nods and sips again.
Ricard: And dad found out, and now he won't let me go to the Ford alone again.
Jed: Well, you're a man now, aren't you? Seventeen now?
Ricard: Yeah, but as long as I'm under dad's roof...
Jed: You make your decisions, you take responsibility for them, you take the consequences.
Ricard is suddenly hit by an idea.
Ricard: Mr. Mullins, would you have room for a boarder?
Jed: Look, the way my boys are growing, they barely both fit in that bed. I'm sure you won't either.
Jed sips his beer.
Jed: And I'm sure you wouldn't like Ma's cooking, nor would she want you underfoot.
Ricard: Then can you think of anyone else in town who might have space? And who'd be willing to rent to a... a donor?
Jed wonders whether he should recommend Virla and her tiny Church of Unity coterie.
Jed: If you're going to move out, move some place where you can get a job, not friggin Gumgeeville.
Ricard: Like where? I don't know anyplace but here, and the Ford.
Jed: There's all of Gen Territory and all of Sime Territory.
Jed considers recommending Ricard join the army, but he isn't that cruel.
Ricard: Sime Territory? Do they let Gens move there?
Henree moves closer.
Jed: I suppose so. Why not?
Henree: A nice, fat Gen ripe with selyn -- of course they'd let you go there. You're more convenient for them there than here.
Ricard: They don't speak English there, do they?
Jed: Some do, most don't.
Henree: It wouldn't matter to them. They can use your stuff just as well, either way.
Ricard: But it would matter to me, if I couldn't understand.
Henree: That would be your problem, not theirs.
Ricard: And what kind of job can you get, if you can't talk?
Jed: Well, you can learn to talk Simelan. Why not? Bart is.
Jed doesn't point out that Bart is a good deal smarter than Ricard, in his biased opinion, because he knows that everybody in-T speaks Simelan, even the dullards.
Ricard: How's he doing, Mr. Mullins?
Jed: He's doing fine. He's traveling out towards New Washington, or probably on his way back by now.
Ricard: So he isn't in Simeland yet?
Jed: No. He'll be going to school there in a few weeks, though.
Ricard isn't thrilled by the thought of more school.
Ricard: Rather Bart than me, then.
Jed doesn't bother to reply to that. He's proud that Bart is going to get more education than he himself ever had a chance to, and that Bart is eager for it.
Ricard: Besides, I'll never make that kind of Donor.
Jed: Few do.
Henree: Who'd want to? It's not normal, following a Sime around all day.
Jed is also proud that Bart has a rare talent, especially one that he can enjoy using and that will bring in good money.
Ricard: I wonder what it's like, sometimes, feeling more than just... well, just nothing when you donate.
Henree: I can see why that fellow who was staying with you would do it, Jed. He was nice enough, but it was obvious that he didn't have what it takes to learn a real trade.
Jed: Well, I suppose being an assistant to a diplomat is more interesting than shoveling shit or tending bar in Gumgeeville.
Ricard's thoughts return to the question of earning a living.
Jed: And that Shorsh guy seemed to be pretty quick off the mark.
Henree: Yeah, but he was hardly what I'd call normal, now, was he?
Jed: Who, Shorsh? Normal enough. Better class than most around here.
Ricard: I thought he was okay. Smart, too.
Jed: Seemed to do okay for himself in that battle of wits with your dad and Deniel's, Ricard. Two against one, with his hands behind his back.
Ricard: Yeah, he knew how to talk my dad down out of a temper.
Jed has of course by now heard many versions of that discussion on the main street of Gumgeeville.
Henree: I hear Simes get real temperamental when they're... hungry. I bet he's had lots of practice.
Jed figures that most men get that kind of practice with their wives, independent of larity. Ma, for example.
Ricard: Henree, maybe you'd have some ideas. Where does a guy go, to find a job these days?
Henree: I'm sure your Pa can find something for you to do, if you've got the spare time.
Ricard: A paying job. Besides, dad won't let me donate.
Henree: And letting some Sime suck your selyn out is more important than your family?
Ricard: It's good money. And there's nothing wrong with it.
Henree: So now, money's more important than family? I thought your Pa raised you better than that.
Ricard: How am I gonna get a family if I don't have money? Girls want a guy with prospects.
Henree: You're going to have a whole farm, some day. That's plenty to marry.
Ricard: It's one of the worst chunks of gravel and clay in Gumgeeville. Some farm!
Jed: You think he should sit around for twenty or thirty years waiting to inherit, Henree? He'll be older than you by the time he gets married.
Henree: Not necessarily. I'm just saying he shouldn't throw away his family in hopes of impressing Nelbie Jergens with a new ribbon.
Jed acknowledges the point and sips some more beer.
Ricard: It's not just courtin'. It's having the money to raise kids, and feed them. It's being able to give your wife and kids a decent life
Henree: Nelbie's parents aren't all that keen on Simes, themselves. If you court her with Sime money, boy, they're likely to refuse the match out of hand.
Ricard: I've heard...
Ricard hesitates, not sure he wants to admit his defeat.
Ricard: I've heard I'm already too late for Nelbie. I've heard she's takin' up with Samm.
Jed: Well, there's more than one fish in the sea.
Ricard: And none of them will bite a hook with no bait on it.
Jed gets an idea.
Jed: What you need to find is a woman who already thinks it's all right to donate. One who donates herself.
Ricard: Like who?
Jed: Well, stop thinking of these flirty young girls and think of somebody a bit older. Somebody who's already settled.
Ricard: You think I should go to Sime Territory and track down Magit?
Jed: One thing Magit doesn't do is donate, Ricard.
Ricard: No, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind a guy who does.
Jed: There's that.
Ricard: Well, who were you thinking of, then?
Jed sips his beer, and waits.
Jed: I was thinking of Henree's daughter.
Henree turns ~~ startled ~~ eyes on Jed.
Ricard: Miz Virla? But she's....
Ricard realizes at the last moment that calling a woman ancient isn't smart in front of her father.
Henree: Now, just wait a moment, Jed Mullins! I don't need you to go interfering with my family.
Jed: She's got a good house, money in the bank, and she thinks donation is what God wants from you.
Jed maintains his poker face.
Jed: She's a grown woman and she knows it -- doesn't let her father order her around. Does what she wants.
Henree: He's young enough to be her son, Jed.
Jed: You're old enough to be her father.
Ricard: I... I was really thinkin' more of marryin' someone who.... well, who hasn't already had what kids she's gonna have.
Jed: She's still young enough to have more kids.
Jed sips his beer.
Jed: And she won't be expecting you to shoot them, either.
Ricard puts a mental picture of Virla alongside one of Nelbie Jenkins.
Henree is spluttering, not completely sure whether Jed is serious or pulling both their legs.
Ricard: I, uh. I think maybe I'm too young to be settlin' down just yet, after all.
Jed: What, wouldn't want a fine well-to-do man like Henree for a father-in-law?
Ricard begins to suspect that Jed has been pulling his leg.
Ricard: Would it mean free beer for life?
Henree: Not hardly.
Henree is sure of that much, at least.
Jed: Henree might even give you a job. It's how he got his job.
Ricard isn't so sure that even a lifetime of free beer would be worth that price.
Ricard: You think I'd enjoy being the one to mop up every time a drunk can't hold it?
Jed: Every job has parts you won't like but somebody's got to do it. More to life than enjoyment.
Henree looks at Ricard ~~ thoughtfully ~~, considering how much (free) labor he could provide.
Ricard reflects that mopping up after drunks probably isn't that much worse than mucking out the barn. But there's still the matter of Virla.
Ricard: I'm thinking, at my age I should really get out and see the world.
Jed again refrains from suggesting the army. He wouldn't wish what Gegg went through on anybody.
Henree is thinking that Ricard might start seeing the world from the front steps of the bar, and the sooner the better.
Jed: Not the best time of year to be traveling, unless you go south for the harvest.
Ricard: Might not be a bad way to start.
Henree: Yeah. You can do the exact same work you do at home, but live in the shed instead of the house, and not enjoy the profits after the crop is sold.
Ricard: It would be a start, to get me away from here. Then I could go to the city for the winter. Any place there's a Sime Center.
Jed: Leave your dad with all them cows and pigs to deal with himself over the winter. All that wood to chop and haul.
Ricard: There's that. But spring wouldn't be any better.
Henree: Yeah. He wouldn't be able to put the crops in on time, alone. He might even lose the farm.
Ricard feels the jaws of the trap starting to close around him.
Jed: So you got a bargaining chip right there, don't you?
Jed: Well, you can leave home, or you can stay. He can let you make a man's decisions, or make you obey him in everything.
Ricard: There's no letting about it. I hadn't thought before that I'm old enough to leave.
Henree: Just be ready with an alternative plan if he decides to take you up on your offer to leave.
Jed: You can stay as a man, or you can stay as a boy. You're a man now, you got to work these things out for yourself.
Ricard: I want to leave. You're the one trying to talk me out of it.
Jed: I'm only trying to help you think about it. What you do is up to you, and none of my business.
Jed finishes his beer.
Ricard: I've thought. I've decided. I'm going.
Jed: Well, I better head home. Ricard, I'd recommend you think about that a little more, so you're running to something instead of away from something. Good night, Henree. See you tomorrow.
Jed gets up, retrieves his coat from the pegs and departs.
Ricard: Uh, Henree?
Henree looks at Ricard and raises one eyebrow.
Ricard: In case I don't see Jed again before I go, will you tell him thanks from me for helping me work things out?
Henree: Sure, Ricard.
Ricard doesn't even notice that he's now thinking "Jed" instead of "Mr. Mullins"
Ricard: Thank you, too, Henree.
Henree is of two minds about Ricard's proposed defection from Gumgeeville: he thinks it's an insane idea, but at least the kid didn't take Jed up on the suggestion to court Virla.
Henree: Any time.
Henree goes back to polishing the bar.
Ricard: Bye, Henree.
Jed trudges home, glad it's Bart who's his son, not Ricard.
Ricard leaves the bar, and pauses to look around.
Ricard: Bye, Gumgeeville.