Hiram tops up Shorsh's tea mug, then sits back in his worn but comfortable desk chair.
Shorsh nods his thanks, leans back as well, and sips his tea.
Hiram: It's been days since we've had a moment to relax together like this. So tell me, Shorsh, how are our various hot spots looking from your point of view?
Shorsh smiles. ~~ calm ~~
Shorsh: No disasters. Not a catastrophe in sight. Overall, all is well. Or at least as well as can be expected.
Hiram relaxes even farther, basking in the comfortable nager.
Hiram: Nick's settling in, then?
Shorsh: Yes. He's doing very good work, too. Learning fast.
Hiram: You think he'll be a keeper?
Shorsh: Nick and the House could do good things for each other. ~~ noncommittal ~~
Hiram: I'm inclined to want to keep him. But I want to make sure I'm not just thinking with my laterals.
Shorsh: The Tecton hasn't given us a deadline. There's time for us to get to know each other.
Hiram: We'll leave that be for the moment, then.
Shorsh thinks joining the House could improve Nick's life as a Donor substantially, but it remains for Nick to understand that, and accept the less personally compatible aspects of membership.
Hiram takes another sip of tea.
Hiram: Did you get that mess sorted out with the repair crew on the west staircase?
Shorsh: They've agreed to make a point of always leaving the stairs in safely usable condition when they stop work in the evening.
Hiram: Did it really take an Authority Figure to make them understand the importance of that?
Shorsh: There are some interpersonal tensions in Physical Plant these days. It didn't help that Souro and Nerket were both in need.
Hiram: So a little of that wonderful calm nager of yours was just what the moment demanded?
Shorsh: It's always easier to back down and compromise when you're calm.
Hiram: Calm, and convinced that Sectuib's personal representative has listened?
Hiram's smile is a bit ironic.
Shorsh nods and makes a dismissive gesture.
Hiram: As if either you or I know anything about construction work.
Shorsh: We know that leaving obstacles on a staircase at night is a bad idea.
Hiram: True. But so does any ten-year-old.
Shorsh wonders why Hiram is belaboring this minor event.
Hiram: Anyway, on to things you and I might have some special expertise in. I've scarcely had time to think about the Gegg family since they got here. How are they doing?
Shorsh: They seem to be doing well. Toria has been doing some light work repairing clothing in the laundry, and as far as I know her pregnancy is progressing with no apparent problems. Nick has been with D'zoll for most of his recent sessions with Gegg, so I can't give you a current report on how the therapy is progressing. Sanda is getting along well with the other young people. She's started a craze for "Gen knitting" among the young Gens.
Hiram: That's a lot more innocuous than some of the things she might have done.
Shorsh: I think that particular area of cultural differences has been sorted out, now that her mother understands them.
Hiram: I trust Gegg has been learning as much from his students about cultural differences, as they're learning from him?
Shorsh: As far as I know, he's doing well with the kids. They're interested in his life out-T.
Gegg is trying to explain to a class of ten year olds how the people of Gumgeeville get along without Simes to do the heavy work. He's finding it heavy going, as the kids seem not to believe that a normal adult Gen can chop enough wood to keep the cookstove running, much less get the fields plowed and harvested.
Gegg is arguing from the disadvantage of addressing kids who don't think it's reasonable for a Gen to suffer the kind of chronic wear and tear he takes for granted. He's trying to explain that tentacles aren't required to handle an axe when the door opens.
Gegg: So two hands is plenty, and you build up the muscle fast enough if you want to stay warm....
Gegg breaks off, as he recognizes Hiram.
Gegg: Is something wrong? ~~ apprehension ~~
Gegg is hoping it isn't a problem with Toria's pregnancy, or a change in his therapy. He finds the current schedule intensive enough, thank you very much.
Hiram: Not at all. I just thought I'd drop in to see how you're doing. Don't let me interrupt your class.
Shorsh reinforces that with a friendly smile to Gegg.
Gegg is ~~ cautiously relieved ~~.
Gegg: We were almost done, anyway.
Gegg dismisses the class with a wave towards the door.
Hiram: I take it your students are having trouble imagining an out-Territory farm?
Gegg waits for the students to leave, then approaches to what for him is a comfortable distance: the point at which he can hear and speak almost comfortably, but his nager doesn't respond all that strongly to Sime nearness.
Gegg: I was trying to describe a typical day's work on my farm, and I couldn't get them past chopping the kindling for the breakfast fire.
Hiram notes that Gegg is standing several inches closer than he would have before coming to Sat'htine.
Gegg: They seemed convinced that if I were telling the truth, I'd have chopped off my own feet long since.
Gegg hasn't hurt himself with an axe for years, and the thumbnail he hit with a hammer a few months ago is growing back in nicely.
Hiram: It is a rather large cultural gap, isn't it?
Gegg: Very. I can't get over the way that your Gen members seem to think that they can't do anything that requires physical effort. Why would anyone want to consider himself incapable of doing the simplest tasks?
Hiram: Well, speaking as a Sime...
Hiram glances at Shorsh to see if he'd rather pick up the question, then continues.
Hiram: Why ask someone else to do a task that's difficult for them, when it's so much easier for me?
Gegg: Oh, I can see your side of it. What I don't see is why all the Gens are willing to go along with it.
Gegg is making progress in tolerating Simes around him, but he is still far from adopting the view that this is a preferred state.
Shorsh: Out-T, people divide work by whether men or women do it. In-T, we tend to divide it by larity.
Gegg: I noticed. Doesn't make sense to me, having women out doing the heavy work, even if they have tentacles, but I guess Gumgeeville doesn't make any more sense to you?
Gegg has lost a touch of his provincialism, although he's far from a sophisticate.
Shorsh: Why shouldn't a man cook, or sew, or care for children if he has the ability and interest?
Gegg: It's more a matter of doing the things that your wife can't, at least if you want a family.
Hiram: Both cultures have their stereotypes about who has what abilities. The stereotypes are different, that's all.
Gegg: I suppose so.
Hiram: If Toria were Sime, for example, she probably would be stronger than you are. Not that you'd be weak, just that she'd be stronger.
Gegg is still ~~ not completely comfortable ~~ with Sime strength.
Gegg: I wouldn't think that even a Sime in Toria's condition should be splitting wood and running a plow. I guess here, where you have more than one family to run the farm, that's less of an issue.
Hiram notes that Gegg seems to have avoided picturing Toria with tentacles.
Gegg shifts his weight to take the pressure off the ankle that never quite healed after he twisted it chasing that silly cow out of the woods.
Hiram zlins the discomfort.
Hiram: Would you like to sit down for a while, Mr. Gegg, or would you rather that we walk you back to your cabin?
Gegg: I'd better get back -- Toria will be waiting with lunch.
Hiram: Let's go, then.
Gegg steps out, with due care for the ankle. He has lived with the ankle for so long that he hardly recognizes it consciously; it's just part of the general "not as young as I used to be" thing.
Hiram's laterals itch to do some healing work on the ankle, but he knows it's far too soon to make such an offer.
Gegg: How's Toria doing, really? She hasn't told me much, but she's been going in every other day for a check-up. ~~ worry ~~
Gegg thinks of visits to the doctor as last-resort responses to life-threatening emergencies, not a routine preventative measure.
Hiram: It's as normal a pregnancy as you could ask for, given that she's carrying at least one channel.
Gegg: Which I gather makes it anything but "normal"?
Hiram: Well, it does mean that we want to keep a close eye on it.
Hiram knows better than to say, "keep a lateral on it".
Hiram: I understand that Toria's doing quite well at her Companion's training, too, even though she did get a bit of a late start.
Gegg: She says its an interesting challenge.
Hiram: A diplomatic choice of phrase.
Gegg: She hasn't told me what it involves; she says that can wait until I've made more progress myself.
Hiram: Then I shall respect the lady's judgment.
Gegg: That's usually best, with Toria. Or at least safest.
Gegg gives the wry smile of experience.
Hiram: Are you hoping to be able to sit in on the delivery? Or is that too much, too soon?
Gegg: I wouldn't desert Toria at a time like that!
Hiram: You're aware that there'll be at least two channels present?
Gegg hesitates, then nods, ~~ unsure ~~ how he will cope.
Gegg: Yes. D'zoll said I couldn't do much damage, if I was lowfield.
Gegg isn't looking forward to that process, which still bothers him a great deal, but he's learned it can be survived.
Hiram: You're a courageous man, Mr. Gegg. And a very loving husband and father.
Gegg: With Sanda growing up so fast, and Mik gone, Toria is all I have.
Hiram: And your babies, very soon.
Gegg: But I'll lose at least one of them, as I lost Mik. An occasional letter is scant comfort, when he should be helping me run the farm.
Hiram: By the time they're grown, you'll be as comfortable around Simes as around Gens. You may not have your children stay on the farm, but you don't have to lose them from your life.
Gegg hesitates, then tackles a question that he hasn't been able to get a clear answer to, so far.
Gegg: Do you think it will be possible for us to visit Mik, before we go back home?
Hiram: That was your goal, in coming here, wasn't it? Logistically, it shouldn't present a problem. As a channel, he'll be in First Year camp for the entire year. He's not going to be assigned halfway across the Territory just yet.
Gegg: So I've got that long to be ready?
Hiram: That's the key, Mr. Gegg. Whether you'll be ready.
Gegg: I've made some progress, but... I don't know.
Hiram: Love is the strongest human emotion, Mr. Gegg. Stronger than fear. Stronger even, I think, than all your scars.
Gegg has been able to force himself to endure D'zoll's proximity, but he's aware that more is required.
Gegg grasps at the ~~ hope ~~ that Hiram is right.