Jordy sits on the edge of Dr. Tavis' examination table, dressed in one of those horrid backless gowns that have been de rigeur in clinics since Ancient times.
DrTavis enters the examination room.
DrTavis: Good morning, Jordy.
Jordy: Good morning, Doc.
DrTavis: What can I do for you today?
Jordy: Well, either I've been working too hard, or it's arthritis already. Dad got hit by arthritis pretty bad, but not when he was this young.
DrTavis: Your joints are ailing?
Jordy runs his fingers through his light brown hair, trying not to wince as his shoulder and elbow prove reluctant to cooperate.
Jordy: Seems like, yeah. Not just one or two places, but all over.
DrTavis: Any swelling?
Jordy: Not so's you'd notice. Just stiff, achy.
DrTavis: Worse in bad weather?
Jordy: If it's cold, yeah, or if I'm working outdoors.
Jordy, as a carpenter, often works his entire day outdoors.
DrTavis: How's your range of motion?
Jordy: I can move as far as I ever did, if I have to. It just hurts like hell, is all.
Jordy demonstrates by swinging his arms in a broad arc, but not quite so broad as he would have done a year ago. He winces visibly.
DrTavis: How long has this been going on?
Jordy: Hmm. Few months, I guess. It just kinda crept up on me, you know. It's not like one day it just started.
DrTavis: Any fever? Nausea? Change in weight?
Jordy shakes his head.
Jordy: Nope. Just stiff and sore.
DrTavis: Have you tried willow bark tea?
Jordy: Yeah. Helps a bit, but not enough.
DrTavis: Well, I can give you a stronger painkiller, but you shouldn't use it when you're working, because it might interfere with your coordination. It can probably help you sleep better, though.
Jordy: That would be good.
DrTavis: There's always the chance that it's an infection of some sort, even if you don't have a fever. If so, it may clear up. If it's arthritis, there isn't a whole lot I can do to slow it down.
Jordy: I need to be able to work, Doc. I'm way too young to retire.
Jordy is, in fact, not quite thirty.
DrTavis: With care, you should be able to work quite a while. Stay warm and dry as much as you can, and keep moving the joints even when it hurts.
Jordy: Warm and dry, trying to frame a roof in the rain?
Jordy gives a short, barking laugh.
DrTavis: Wear a slicker. Take breaks to warm up. And think about maybe switching to inside work in the winter. You've got your brother to take some of the outside work, right?
Jordy: Yeah, but a lot of jobs need two guys. One to hold, one to nail. Or two to lift something big.
DrTavis: I know. Isn't your oldest boy old enough by now to help with some of that?
Jordy: Danny? He's almost twelve. Scrawny little thing, though.
DrTavis: He's got two functional hands, doesn't he?
Jordy hesitates. He feels very vulnerable, talking about stuff like this while dressed only in a flimsy, backless bit of cotton.
Jordy: For now, I guess. Um, Doc?
Jordy: Skinny little kid like that... I worry.
DrTavis: He's coming on to the dangerous age.
Jordy imagines he can feel a cold, dangerous breeze chasing itself down his spine.
Jordy: Yeah. He's... He's a good kid, Doc.
DrTavis: I know.
Jordy: I'm not gonna shoot him, you know. When the time comes. Not unless I have to. I'll bring him to you.
DrTavis: For a black pill?
Jordy: Yeah. Unless.
DrTavis: Unless what?
Jordy chews on a chapped lip. He squirms, exposing even more of his back to the chill air. This isn't easy to talk about.
Jordy: Those... folks. You've dealt with them a time or two.
DrTavis: I deal with all kinds of folks.
Jordy: The... them.
Jordy gestures awkwardly, sketching tentacles over his forearm.
DrTavis: The channel over at the Sime Center?
Jordy: Yeah. If it was your boy, and it was a Black Pill or... or them?
DrTavis: What does your boy think about it?
DrTavis doesn't tell parents that he gives the changeovers that are brought to him the choice, no matter what their parents want.
Jordy: Seems the kids have been talking in the schoolyard. There's every kind of story you can think of, going round. From going to Simeland and living like princes, to going straight to hell and being tortured every day. He asks me what to think, and I don't know what to tell him. Except I don't think they'll either put a crown on him, or torture him all day.
DrTavis: Not so far as I've heard.
Jordy: I mean, if it was me, I'd run straight the other way. But then, I'm not the one that's going to be...
Jordy gestures to his forearm again.
DrTavis: You don't know that, yet. Lots of scrawny kids out there that don't sprout tentacles.
Jordy: And lots of fat ones that do. I've got four other kids, Doc. At least one of them's gonna go.
DrTavis: Probably. Not sure, mind you, but probably. The smart thing to do is have a plan.
Jordy: That's why I'm asking you. I'm not a smart man, Doc. Not educated. But I trust you. So tell me. About them. About what they're like, about what they'll do for my boy. Or to him.
DrTavis: The channel, Bibi, seems to be a competent enough physician. I hear most of the kids brought to her survive, and are sent to live in Simeland.
Jordy listens avidly.
DrTavis: So don't take your kid to her if you don't want that.
Jordy: Are they... are they good people, Doc? Are they demons just making nice, or are they like regular people? Is it better to live and be one of them, or... or not?
DrTavis: That's a question the philosophers are still trying to work out. I'm just a country doctor. From what I've seen, they're pretty much like regular people -- that is to say, amazingly different from anyone else.
Jordy frowns. This bit of philosophy seems to be going over his head.
Jordy: How different, Doc?
DrTavis: They weren't born and raised in Hannard's Ford, for one thing. They see things a bit differently, because of what they do. Maybe you should go over and talk with them a bit, make up your own mind.'
Jordy: Me, walk in there?
DrTavis: Why not? Your legs aren't that stiff, are they?'
Jordy: I'm not a brave man, Doc. If I was, I just woulda gone in there and looked them over in the first place. I can't see myself just walking in there, all by myself. It's not about my legs being stiff, it's about them freezing up or running the other way.
DrTavis: This from the man who crawls around on roofs for a living? In the rain?
Jordy: Roofs are easy. S-- Simes aren't.
DrTavis: Look at it this way. Statistically speaking, you're safer at the Sime Center than in your own home, until your kids pass the dangerous age. At least from Sime attack.
Jordy: But... folks that go in there, they never come out without letting them have their... their... y'know.
Jordy has never heard the word "selyn", but "stuff" seems a bit uneducated to say in front of a doctor.
DrTavis: I've been there. And the channel's never laid a tentacle on me. If you don't volunteer, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do.
Jordy: And they don't... don't make you want to? With their powers?
Jordy almost said "satanic powers". But he's trying to be open-minded. he really is.
DrTavis: I've never experienced any overwhelming desire to hold hands with a Sime. Mind you, Hajene Bibi is an attractive young woman, and I'm not so old that I can't appreciate that.
Jordy: My wife would kill me, if I appreciated that out loud.
DrTavis: Mine would also, if she were still alive.
Jordy: So you really think I'd be okay going in there, then?
DrTavis: They wouldn't hurt you, or force you to do anything.
DrTavis thinks that Jordy's preconceptions might, in fact, be damaged, but that's the whole point of the exercise, after all.
Jordy: Doc, is it okay if I tell them you sent me? So they know there's someone who knows where I am?
DrTavis: Sure, if it makes you feel more comfortable. Although they're hardly going to keep you prisoner.
Jordy: So you're really sure I'll be okay, then?
DrTavis: I'm sure. Just go and tell them you want information, because your boy's approaching the dangerous age. They'll be happy to answer your questions.
Jordy very much wants Dr. Tavis' opinion, as an Authority Figure.
Jordy: Okay. I'll...
Jordy bravely squares his shoulders, then winces when they twinge.
Jordy: I'll go.
DrTavis: Good. And if you still want my help with your boy, just bring him in.
Jordy hopes he'll feel a bit braver when he has real clothes on, again.
Jordy: Thanks. Doc. I -- it's good to know I still have all my options. I really hate shotguns. For this, I mean. They're okay for critters.
Jordy realizes he's babbling.
DrTavis: I agree. There are gentler ways, no matter what you want.
Jordy: What I want? I want a world where no one has to die. Not till they're old and arthritic.
Jordy pales as he realizes he already qualifies for half of that.
DrTavis: Even the Ancients couldn't manage that.
Jordy: They couldn't. No miracles, eh, Doc? No miracles, then or now.
DrTavis: No. Just people, doing the best they can for themselves and their families.
Jordy: That's all I'm trying to do here. That's all I'm trying to do.