Henree is taking advantage of a lull in his bar to sweep the floor of his saloon.
Jed comes in and goes over to the bar.
Jed: Some porstan, when you're ready, Henree.
Henree: I call it my "special brew". Porstan is the stuff the Simes make.
Jed knows very well what Henree calls it -- that's why he calls it porstan.
Jed: If you like. Make it two. Gegg's right behind me. We finally got that maize sheller working, more or less.
Henree: Two specials. Good news about that sheller. Gegg might make a good profit renting it out, come harvest.
Jed: Yup. Clever design to it. Smart lot, them Simes.
Gegg comes in, well ~~ satisfied ~~ with his new acquisition.
Gegg: Ah, good, Jed, you ordered the beer. Thirsty work, these labor-saving devices, don't you think?
Jed: Yeah, but not as thirsty as shelling maize by hand.
Henree: That was good enough for you last year.
Jed: Higher standards, now. Eh, Gegg?
Gegg: Sure. We've come up in the world.
Henree: Humpf. Last I saw, you still live in Gumgeeville.
Jed: Roof don't leak, we've all got some nice new clothes, got more livestock and equipment. Sounds good to me.
Henree: And all it cost you was... well, no point in getting into that again.
Jed: Not to mention that Gegg's got two healthy twins and his wife's in good working condition afterwards too.
Jed has a drink of porstan.
Jed: And our older son has a good trade now. So does Gegg's, matter of fact.
Gegg: Mik's doing well, that's true. He's looking forward to graduating. The way things are going, Sanda's going to have a dowry that'll make her the envy of every girl in Gumgeeville.
Gegg finds the thought ~~ satisfying ~~, although he'd rather not dwell on the fact that his other three children will have to live in Simeland.
Ricard, who's been nursing his one beer of the week in a corner, looks up. With his marriage to Nelbie Jenkins just weeks away, he's given up on his dream of seeing the world. Well, mostly. Anytime soon, anyway. But he hasn't given up on the idea of donating to make some money.
Jed: She's saving up to buy a sewing machine too. Learned to use one in Simeland.
Henree: The way you two go on about Simeland, it's a wonder you can stand coming back to Gumgeeville.
Henree finds this rather ~~ irritating ~~.
Jed: Nice to take the wife and see the world for a bit, eh, Gegg? Then come home.
Ricard picks up his mug and moves a couple of tables closer.
Gegg: Nice to have a wife to come home with. They say Toria wouldn't have survived childbirth here.
Ricard: Everything's better over there, isn't it? Better doctors, better machines.
Henree: There's better doctors and machines in Hannard's Ford. You don't have to go all the way to Simeland for that.
Jed: Dunno how it is for ordinary people back in the Simeland boonies, but what we saw looked pretty good, Ricard.
Ricard: Everybody donates there, so everybody's rich, right? Even folks in little towns like this.
Jed: Half the adults donate. The others have to pay for it.
Ricard hadn't really thought about that.
Ricard: But folks like us. Gens. All get to donate and have money.
Gegg: Yeah, they do. Except they usually have to spend it supporting their Sime family members.
Ricard sighs ~~ enviously ~~ .
Henree: You gonna go kissing the Simes, next, Ricard?
Jed: He's tried it already, Henree. It didn't kill him, did it?
Henree is one of Gumgeeville's wealthier citizens, and as such has less incentive to resort to Simes.
Ricard: Can't do it now. Not till I'm safely married, anyway. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins'd have a fit. And at Nelbie's age, they could still say no to the marriage. Donating might not kill me, but Ma Jenkins would.
Gegg: What does Nelbie think about it?
Ricard: As for Nelbie... she loves me so much, I think she'd agree to anything I want to do. So long as she doesn't have to, too.
Ricard goes a bit starry-eyed as he thinks of his wife-to-be.
Gegg: You don't want to make your woman unhappy with you, Ricard. There's nothing worth that. Better make sure she's all right with it, before you go back.
Jed: Nice to have two good incomes to start up housekeeping with, though.
Jed thinks Ricard should have considered these things in advance.
Ricard: Oh, she's not like her folks. She doesn't think Simes suck out your soul. I can't see her wanting to donate, though. But even if it's just me... think of the things we could do with a bit of money. Can't till we're safely married, though.
Gegg: You're after a bit of land of your own, then?
Ricard: Well, our farm -- Dad's farm -- isn't much. If I could add a bit of better land... and have a place to live for now, if my folks get too upset with me...
Ricard: Besides, it'd be nice to have a little house of our own. Not always have Mom and Dad sleeping just the other side of the wall.
Ricard's dreams may have changed since last fall, but he still wants to get out from under his father's thumb.
Henree: Independence can be highly overrated.
Henree did the smart thing, and ended up with the saloon.
Jed got along well with his own father.
Ricard shrugs. This isn't really what he wanted to talk about.
Ricard: So tell me about the trip. Where did you go? What did you see? How's Bart?
Jed: Bart's good. Real good. Me and Ma are real proud of him.
Ricard's curiosity about Bart is sincere; he always liked his former schoolmate.
Ricard: He's happy there, then?
Jed remembers Bart and the channel hugging each other, weeping with joy, after their transfer.
Jed: Real happy. He's like a journeyman now. Knows the trade, but still learning the finer points. He's going to their big city now to work with the experts.
Ricard: Good. And you and his mom are really okay with what he's doing? That's good, too.
Henree: I still don't see why you allowed it, Jed.
Jed turns to Henree.
Jed: He wanted it. He waited until he was sixteen and did it. Now he's got a good trade, one of the most respected, and it pays real good too. Plus he loves the work. What the hell was he gonna do in Gumgeeville?
Jed turns to Ricard.
Jed: You know Maree doesn't like Simes, but she was eager to go see Bart graduate. Does that sound like she's not okay with it?
Ricard: Bart's lucky. Got good parents.
Ricard is, again, a bit ~~ envious ~~ .
Henree: Got parents who were keeping their farm mostly because the bank didn't want it, you mean.
Jed: Farm's paid for. Inherited from my father. You know that. Been in the family for generations.
Jed doesn't mention that it's the remnant of a much larger, more economically viable farm that his family lost over two generations of terribly bad luck. Henree and Gegg know that, too.
Ricard: And he did something about the money problem, Henree. He saw a chance and he took it. Not like my folks.
Henree: He did pay off his bar tab, and I didn't think that'd ever happen, to be sure.
Ricard stares sadly at his one beer of the week, more than half gone already. It would really be nice to have a bit of money.
Ricard: So aren't you glad Jed donates, then?
Henree considers the question.
Henree: I don't see how it matter what I think about it, now, does it?
Ricard: Well, you have a lot of influence, Henree. Men like my dad listen to you.
Henree: Dunno about that. Your Pa does drink my beer, though, that's true enough.
Ricard: And he listens. He talks like he respects what you say.
Gegg takes a good slurp of his beer.
Gegg: Kid, if you want to go donate, do it because you want to and your girl doesn't mind. Nobody else's opinion matters.
Ricard: Dad could still toss us out. It's still his farm.
Gegg: There are other ways to make a living. Not in Gumgeeville, but if you aren't speaking to your dad, there's no reason to stay. If that's what you want to do. Either way, it's your choice -- and your responsibility to deal with the consequences, whatever they are.
Ricard: I'd have to talk to Nelbie, before making a move like that.
Gegg: Smart move.
Ricard squares his shoulders a bit, feeling very grown-up.
Jed sighs, and sips some porstan. He doubts Ricard will ever have the gumption to do anything unless everyone he can think of approves. Last fall Jed tried to explain to him that his father needs his work, and should be made to compromise, but Ricard just didn't get it, and wanted to run away from home instead.
Ricard: Jed, you must have come back from that trip with all sorts of stories. Tell us some of them. What did you see out there?
Ricard wants, if he can't travel for real anytime soon, to at least do a bit of vicarious sightseeing. And Jed's stories are always entertaining.
Gegg settles back to enjoy the story.
Jed: Well, it was real interesting to see the big towns they got there, and see all them Simes running around with their tentacles hanging out and nobody minding a bit. Now of course I don't speak the language, but I managed to get along more or less except a few times....