A Walk in the Woods: Episode 17

Gitl leaves the kitchen, now that the breakfast is cleaned up after and lunch is well underway, to go in search of her employer.

Bibi is in her office, chewing on a pencil and trying to find her error in addition.

Gitl checks the common room, the donation room, and finally makes her way to Bibi's office. The door is shut, but she's learned to scratch on it rather than knocking and making Bibi zlin the minor pain, since she doesn't know how to give a nageric signal.

Bibi: Come in, Gitl.

Bibi is relieved to have a break. Maybe it will come out right if she ignores it for a while.

Gitl sees that Bibi's been adding up numbers, and ~~ sympathizes ~~ with her. Gitl is actually quite good at arithmetic, but doesn't think it's her place to suggest that she do it. Besides, she can't read Simelan, although numbers are the same for everyone.

Bibi: What can I do for you?

Gitl: I wanted to talk to you about our food supplies. We're running low on those Sime things you import, and even for plain old flour and sugar and salt, the stock is running low.

Bibi gestures to invite Gitl to sit.

Bibi: Do we need to increase the food budget, then? Have prices been going up?

Gitl: They have, and that's another thing. I know it costs money to bring things in by rail, and you can't count on the quality, but...

Gitl sits down, a ~~ relief ~~ to her ~~ weary feet ~~.

Gitl: I think we're being overcharged, almost like we were five years ago when I first came here. I put a stop to it then, but ...

Bibi hopes she isn't going to have to go through a bunch of invoices looking for errors and omissions, intentional or otherwise.

Gitl: It's not the books, I'm sure of that. It's the people. Mister Rizzy at the mill, and that man Stoke that sells us the eggs ... they're all claiming "shortages". I ask you, how can an egg man have a shortage of eggs, unless his hens all stop laying at once! ~~ indignant ~~

Bibi: Maybe it's the demand side rather than the supply side? Are more people eating more eggs? Of course, hens don't lay well in the dead of winter.

Gitl nods.

Gitl: That's only to be expected. And unless you count that Colonel Pistachio, there's nobody new in town to be eating them. No, I think he's lying to me.

Gitl detests liars as much as any in-T Gen could, despite having lived all her life out-T.

Bibi: Well, I suppose we could get eggs from somebody else if he's cheating us. But you said the miller is doing it too. What do you think is behind it?

Gitl: I think they think that if they make things unpleasant enough for Professor Nattin and Sosu Cristal and me, we won't be able to keep on going. And what's the best place to hit Gens except in the breadbasket?

Gitl smiles sardonically.

Bibi sighs.

Gitl: But what I don't know is, who's behind it? Is anyone behind it? Or is it just a bunch of ignorant fools talking to each other?

Bibi: See if you can get eggs and whatever from people who aren't opposed to the Sime Center. Surely some of our donors have surpluses they'd be willing to sell us.

Gitl: I'll certainly talk to everyone when they come in, if that's all right with you. I don't want to intrude.

Bibi: Maybe you can ask some of the farmers you already know well. But the idea that there's an organized opposition is unpleasant.

Gitl nods. ~~ sympathy ~~ worry ~~

Bibi: I wonder why it would start up now? Most people here are pretty much willing to let us continue, even if they don't want to donate themselves.

Bibi has a sudden ~~ sinking feeling ~~. Has word gotten out about her and Seruffin in a way that would make people think the Sime Center is a moral sink, other than the Sime aspects?

Gitl notices Bibi's facial expression, and thinks her boss might need a little moral support.

Gitl: What's wrong, Bibi dear?

Bibi: Well, you remember how Patience was leading a campaign to get Hajene Seruffin to marry me? I hope the story didn't get scrambled to the point where people think... um... that we aren't respectable here.

Gitl: ~~ appalled ~~ How dreadful!

Gitl's sympathy is mostly for Bibi and Seruffin, who surely aren't at fault -- what business is it of anyone else's? -- but also partly for herself: if the Sime Center is being smeared, the grease will have a tendency to spread.

Bibi: Do you think... have you heard anything?

Gitl shakes her head vigorously.

Gitl: No, really.

Bibi: Oh, good.

Gitl: But if they think that of you, I'd be included. So I wouldn't be told anything.

Bibi: Yes, there's that. Oh, dear.

Bibi is glad that she's pre-turnover -- if she were in need, she'd find this much harder to cope with. She runs her tentacles through her hair.

Bibi: I've been hoping it would all just blow over...

Gitl shakes her head slowly.

Gitl: Of course we can't be sure that's what it's about. Have any of the regular donors stopped showing up or anything?

Bibi: No, no more turnover than usual.

Bibi hopes the success of her mission here isn't going to be compromised by her one stab at having something for herself, her relationship with Seruffin.

Gitl pulls her chair over beside the desk, with some effort, and extends a comforting hand to Bibi, leaving it up to the Sime whether to accept it or not.

Bibi squeezes Gitl's hand, ~~ touched ~~ by the gesture.

Gitl sighs too.

Gitl: We'll work something out. There are plenty of people in this town that support us, and the Colonel's talks at the school will certainly help with the children.

Bibi: Let Nattin know how much more you need for the food budget.

Bibi wonders how gleeful Nattin will be at a new aspect of the sociology of the town.

Gitl: Okay, I will. But there may be some -- well, drop-off in quality for a while. Of course I'll do my very best, you know that.

Bibi: I'm sure we can put up with a reduction in quality from your amazingly high standard.

Gitl ~~ blushes ~~, even though she's heard plenty of raves, including from Marvin and Seruffin.

Gitl: That brings up another thing. Strictly it's not really my business, but I thought it's something you might not have considered, at least not just yet....

Bibi: Yes?

Gitl: Well, you heard about that earthquake way up in Cottonwood City, didn't you, the one that knocked down all the buildings and killed all those people?

Bibi nods.

Gitl: Well, you know that Virginia Reel went to work there, and they say Doctor Tavis is there too? He could be there for weeks, maybe longer.

Bibi: Cristal told me about Virginia. Certainly Dr. Tavis won't stay away from his family and practice that long, will he?

Gitl shrugs.

Gitl: I guess it depends on how long they need him there, and how badly. They're saying it's the worst disaster in the history of the Territory.

Bibi: I've heard that Householding Sat'htine sent a group up there to help out.

Bibi thinks the Gens of Cottonwood City must have been desperate to turn to channels for help.

Gitl: Really? What do they do?

Gitl knows that different Householdings specialize in different things.

Bibi: They're medical specialists. The leader of the group was a Farris channel. They're the best at medical work.

Gitl: Oh, good. That must have been helpful.

Bibi: I wonder how the people there reacted to them. I hope they didn't have too much trouble.

Gitl makes a maybe-yes-maybe-no gesture. She gestures more, as a rule, than other Ford residents, though not as much as people from in-T do.

Gitl: I hope not either, but I bet things didn't come out the way they expected.

Bibi laughs, but doesn't quote the aphorism about how you can never tell what a Wild Gen will do.

Bibi: I can believe that.

Gitl: That's something I know all about, even just in my kitchen. But anyhow, there isn't anyone here to take care of really sick people except their families. And you. I think we should start spreading it about a bit more actively that you can help sick and injured people.

Bibi: I'm certainly willing to do so. I don't know if anyone other than our donors would be willing to try channel's methods.

Gitl: Well, we can start with them and their families, at least some of their families, can't we?

Bibi: Yes. I'm already doing a bit for some people with chronic problems like bad backs and arthritis.

Gitl raises her eyebrows.

Gitl: Really. No wonder my hands have been aching less. Can you work on a Gen more than once a month, then? ~~ hopeful ~~

Bibi: Sure, if you like. But don't expect miracles. A lot of the benefit you're getting is just from regular donation, which is good for a Gen's health in general.

Gitl: Ah. ~~ mild disappointment ~~

Bibi: Your arthritis is still in an early stage -- mostly we can keep it from getting worse very fast, and give you some pain relief. You've noticed that already.

Gitl: Thanks, Hajene.

Bibi makes a casting away tentacle gesture.

Bibi: Part of the job.

Bibi smiles.

Bibi: A part I enjoy.

Gitl: Well, then, how about you work on me and then I do that arithmetic for you? ~~ daring ~~

Bibi: I'll work on you a little after lunch. I think I'll have the columns adding up to the right totals by then.

Bibi is balancing the money paid to donors against the amount of selyn collected for the month.

Gitl: If you like. But I did get very good grades in arithmetic at dame school.

Bibi: I believe you -- your kitchen accounts are impeccable. But I'd rather not turn such a culinary artist into a mere clerical worker.

Gitl: Okay, Hajene. I'll see you at lunch then.

Bibi: Sure.

Return to Table of Contents