Bibi is shoveling the latest snowfall off the steps and front walk of the Sime Center. Physical activity is a distraction from her increasing tension as her need, with Cristal still recovering, increases.
Codee walks down the road with a rolling gait that's half limp, carrying a small jar. He's carrying the jar in his right hand, as his left hand and wrist are wrapped in a worn, shabby bandage. His clothes have signs of wear, too.
Bibi pauses as she zlins a Gen approaching. He's in some pain from unhealed injuries, but doesn't seem at all troubled by them.
Codee has one shoulder that's a little higher than the rest, as if it had been broken some time. He's quite ~~ cheerful ~~, despite the ~~ ache ~~ of multiple half-healed injuries.
Bibi spots the man approaching. From his clothes, he's not at all prosperous.
Codee pauses a moment to read the Sime Center sign, then approaches Bibi, tipping his broad-brimmed hat.
Codee: Afternoon, Ma'am. Kinda nice, the way the weather's cleared up, ain't it?
Bibi: Good afternoon. Yes, it wasn't as bad a snow storm as we thought it was going to be. Would you like to come in for some tea?
Codee: Well, that's mighty kindly of you, Ma'am.
Bibi figures that even if she won't take a first donation without Cristal, she can at least reward the man for coming here. She leads the way into the waiting room, and gestures to the refreshments table.
Codee: I just came by for my buddy Lermo.
Codee names the farrier who looks after the Sime Center's horse.
Bibi: Is he all right?
Codee: He's fine. He just wanted you to have this -- it's some liniment for that off fore hoof. He swears by it, and it seems to work pretty good for me, so I guess it'll do for a horse.
Bibi: Thank you. And thank him for me.
Codee looks around at the couch covers and other embellishments that the Church Ladies felt necessary to provide the waiting room.
Bibi can zlin that this man is a mass of old injuries. There isn't much she could do for most of them after all this time.
Codee: I will, Ma'am. You sure do have a nice place here.
Bibi: The decor is mostly contributed by the church ladies. They've done a great deal to make the place pleasant and home-like. They bring most of the cookies and other refreshments, too.
Codee: They do look tasty.
Bibi is surprised that the Gen isn't reacting to her as a Sime. Maybe he doesn't realize she's the channel.
Bibi: Please, help yourself. By the way, I'm Hajene Bibi, the channel here.
Bibi braces herself for his reaction, and doesn't offer to shake hands.
Codee looks at Bibi with a little bit of ~ astonishment ~.
Bibi figures that's a lot better than terror or disgust or contempt.
Codee: You are? Well, shucks. Little bitty thing like you, I thought you were someone's kid. Just goes to show.
Bibi smiles her charming dimpled smile and sits at a conversational, but not close, distance.
Codee gathers a plate of goodies, then eyes the sofa ~~ dubiously ~~.
Codee: Maybe I should take this outside? I was helpin' Lermo with the stock this morning, and I'd hate to dirty that purty couch.
Bibi: Here, I'll spread a towel on it.
Codee is feeling ~ a little less achy ~ as the warmth has its effect.
Bibi picks up a towel from the table, cautiously approaches the sofa, and covers a section.
Codee sidesteps to leave Bibi space, but it's the habitual caution of a man who works with large animals, rather than any particular fear. He settles onto the towel with due caution for his injuries.
Bibi: Did you lose an argument with a horse?
Codee: No, Ma'am. I get along pretty good with horses. I get along with the bulls pretty good, too. Good enough to make a living of sorts, anyway.
Bibi is puzzled. Bulls?
Codee sees Bibi's confusion.
Codee: I ride bulls in the rodeos, Ma'am. Bucking bulls.
Bibi: Oh, I see.
Bibi cringes mentally at the thought of being in a crowd of excited out-T Gens watching other Gens get bashed up in dangerous activities like that.
Codee: I've healed up pretty good, considering. I'll be ready to go in spring, when the season starts. Well, the wrist will take a bit longer to heal, but it's only my free hand.
Codee looks at the wrist and shakes his head.
Codee: That one was close. Dandelion Wine may be a tiny thing, but that just means he can turn and twist that much tighter.
Codee's wrist was broken and is now partly healed; the other wrist has been repeatedly sprained, but is currently more or less functional.
Bibi: It seems like a very dangerous occupation.
Bibi can't help zlinning all the injuries, old and new. He's damaged just about every available bone and joint, and nothing has healed perfectly, especially after the second time.
Codee: Oh, most of them bulls is pretty tame. They just like to buck. Why, take Myself. He's got no harm in him at all.
Bibi: You seem to have taken a fair bit of harm over the years, whatever the bulls intended.
Bibi was raised on a dairy farm, and was trained to treat bulls with a great deal of caution and respect.
Codee: It happens. But there's nothing like being on a bull. It's like... if you can stay on for eight seconds, you can do anything. They're nice animals, too. Myself, now. Him and Me and I, they'll come over and ask to be petted when you're feedin' 'em.
Bibi: Yes, they can be friendly. But I'd rather have a good strong fence between me and a bull.
Codee: Well, a little thing like you -- you couldn't get your legs properly around a bull.
Codee surveys Bibi critically.
Bibi realizes that now that she's Sime, she could easily outrun a bull, or leap over one before she'd be gored, but doesn't see the need to point that out.
Codee: Those tentacles might be useful for hangin' on, though. They don't look like they'd slip as easy as fingers.
Bibi looks at her tentacles ~~ doubtfully ~~.
Bibi: I suppose so.
Codee: Though how you'd get the rope around 'em...
Codee takes a bite of gingerbread, ~~ savoring ~~ the spices.
Codee: Now, this is mighty fine gingerbread.
Gitl walks into the waiting room in time to overhear the last remark.
Gitl: Why thank you, young man. It's not up to my best, but it is pretty good, if I do say so myself.
Gitl picks up a small bite and nibbles on it, Sime-style.
Codee stands hastily.
Gitl: Call me Gitl, everybody does. Come to donate, I guess?
Codee: Why, no, Ma'am. Just brought some horse liniment over. Lermo said you have a horse that's coming up a bit lame.
Codee: I been staying with him during the off season.
Gitl: The off season? You with one of those traveling shows, Mr.....?
Codee: Codee Marchi, Ma'am. I ride bulls on the rodeo circuit.
Gitl tips her head back at him, that being her version of rolling her eyes when dealing with taller people.
Gitl: Is it a livin'?
Codee: I make out all right. Another year or two, and I might just have enough to get me a spread and breed up some buckin' bulls of my own. I've got an offer to breed a cow to Myself any time I've got one.
Gitl allows a most unladylike snort to escape her.
Gitl: I suppose that'd be the name of one of the bulls, now? Because otherwise you'd mean something I don't think you'd want to be meanin'.
Gitl's eyes twinkle nevertheless.
Codee: Yup. You see, my buddy Austan got himself three cows -- all daughters of Wasp.
Gitl: Heard of Wasp, yeah.
Bibi is surprised that Gitl would recognize a rodeo bull's name. She didn't know that Gitl is a fan.
Codee: He bred them to Dreamscape, and got three nice little bull calves that he called Me, Myself, and I. Nice lookin' stock: good size, curly hair, and easy to handle as a fat pony on the ground. They sure do buck, though.
Gitl: I'll bet. Still, you look a mite old to be playing about with bulls that way. Get that spread -- but be careful.
Codee: Oh, I admit I've taken some damage, but I'm good for a while yet.
Gitl looks at Bibi.
Gitl: Is he, Hajene?
Bibi is uncomfortable at being put on the spot.
Bibi: He certainly has taken substantial damage.
Codee: Oh, I was pretty beat up by the end of the season, but by spring I should be healed up and ready to ride. Well, except for the wrist, but that's not my riding hand.
Gitl sighs at the folly of men and the overcautiousness of channels.
Gitl: Well, that's fine until you fall on it. Why, I bet if you didn't waste your money on cheap booze and fast women, you could get that spread in one year.
Codee: Now, Ma'am, I don't get drunk all that often -- it interferes with riding. And with enjoyin' those ladies you mentioned.
Gitl blushes, though not quite Bibi-fashion.
Codee does have the ~~ confidence ~~ in his attractiveness of any youngish male in a risky profession who is convinced of his own invulnerability. He perhaps has less excuse to view himself as invulnerable than most, though.
Codee: Truly, Ma'am, injuries are just part of the sport. If you want to ride bulls, you live with 'em.
Gitl mutters something unintelligible ending in "chaynik".
Gitl: Well, when you get that herd -- and the sooner the better, mind you -- you watch out for them rustlers, willya?
Codee: Oh, I will, Ma'am.
Gitl turns to Bibi and changes her whole demeanor as well as her accent.
Gitl: Anyhow, Hajene, I wanted to ask you what you think you and Hajene Seruffin would like for dinner next week, but it can wait.
Bibi: I'll think about it, Gitl. Thanks.
Bibi hasn't much appetite, this close to hard need.
Gitl: Well, I know you don't like to think about it before he gets here, that's understandable, but the sooner I know, the sooner I can get anything I'll need to make something special.
Bibi: He is rather fond of your chocolate cake.
Codee: A nice grilled steak with sauce is always good, Ma'am, with a tater and some butter.
Codee is trying to be ~~ helpful ~~.
Bibi nods, rather than explain about Sime dietary habits.
Gitl: No food with a face served in this house, Mister Marchi.
Codee: And if you don't have time for the cake, this gingerbread would make any man... frisky... if you get my meaning.
Bibi tries to imagine "frisky" applied to the dignified Seruffin.
Gitl: Chocolate cake it is.
Gitl gives Codee her version of The Look.
Codee tries for ~~ innocence ~~ and fails.
Codee: Well, I suppose it's a good thing we don't all like the same things, I guess. If we did, I guess it'd be real hard to get a chance at a really good bull.
Codee sets his empty plate aside.
Codee: I better be getting back. Lermo will want help shoeing some mules. Thank you ladies kindly for your hospitality.
Bibi: Thanks for delivering the liniment, and give Lermo my regards.
Gitl: Nice talkin' to you, then. Remember what I said.
Codee: I will, Ma'am. Ma'am.
Codee doffs his hat to Gitl and Bibi, then walks for the door, limping a little less than when he arrived, thanks to the warmth.
Bibi watches him go, then turns to Gitl.
Bibi: That young man has had more injuries than any half dozen elderly farmers around here put together.
Gitl sighs again.
Bibi shivers, glad that the pain that had been affecting the ambient is gone.
Gitl: Well, I believe it. It's a very dangerous living, very dangerous. And poor Bibi, it must have been doubly hard on you, with Cristal not here! ~~ sympathy ~~
Bibi: Well, Codee's in pain, but he's used to it, and is determined not to let it bother him.
Gitl: You really should leave the callers to the rest of us, well, except the changeovers. But you'd zlin them coming, wouldn't you?
Bibi: I was out shoveling the walk, so I had to talk to him.
Bibi shakes her head.
Bibi: What kind of work will he be able to do once he gets so badly injured he'll have to give up the bulls?
Gitl shakes her head doubtfully.
Bibi isn't going to tell Gitl that in Nivet, a Gen would never be allowed to get into such a job, because they'd never allow a show the attraction of which is watching Gens get injured.
Gitl: Well, some do give it up, it's true, and become ranchers. But not commonly. Most times they have to be put in a bowl to beg, and that's a fact. The ones that do live, that is.
Bibi: Well, a Gen can always live off donation payments, at least.
Bibi: Cristal is recovering well, but not fast enough to suit him. I think if we do have a changeover, he'll be able to help me a little.
Gitl: That's something at least.
Bibi: I think in a day or two he can spend some time in the common room, and come out to help me a little with donations when I need it. It will be good for him -- he feels guilty that he can't help me now.
Bibi sighs again.
Bibi: I suppose Virginia won't be as comfortable downstairs, though.
Gitl: True. Still, will he really need that kind of special high-powered nursing, or can Ghan and I do the rest?
Bibi: Virginia needs the money. I'd like to give her at least a few more days' work. And she knows how to handle a patient -- I think Cristal is more comfortable with her helping him with his physical requirements than he would be with you or Ghan.
Gitl: Silly boy. He hasn't got anything I haven't seen before.
Bibi shrugs and smiles. Nudity is less taboo in-T, but physical contact is still another matter.
Gitl: He wouldn't be the first grown man I'd had to take care of, either.
Gitl has no actual designs on Cristal, even when he's healthy, of course. She just likes being out from under the Gen Territory speech taboos a bit.
Bibi: Well, we'll see what happens, and what he wants.
Gitl: Of course. I'll be back to work, then. But do try to keep in mind that if you want pickles and ice cream, I'll need to know at least a few days in advance.
Bibi: Sure, Gitl.
Gitl returns to seriousness -- and the kitchen. She thinks what a nice person Bibi is, and what a pity it is that she can't really enjoy life when she's in need.