Ralf wakes up in the bed at the Hannard's Ford Sime Center, rubs his aching head, and groans. It's evening.
Dolmada shifts on her chair next to the bed.
Dolmada: Are you in pain?
Ralf thinks about that for a long time.
Ralf mumbles to himself for a bit.
Ralf: Isn't everybody?
Dolmada: A philosopher, I see.
Ralf decides the safest thing is to ignore that.
Ralf: M'head hurts.
Dolmada: Any chest pains to go with them?
Dolmada reaches out to take Ralf's wrist, the better to check his heart rate.
Ralf: How is it?
Ralf's been through this ritual a lot lately.
Dolmada: A little fast, but not dangerously so.
Ralf: 'Sgood. Thanks, Dolmada.
Gerrhonot hears the voices, taps the door and enters.
Gerrhonot: I brought some tea and stuff.
Gerrhonot sets the tray down.
Ralf has a firm grip on her name now. He's still very much a dry drunk, but is beginning to recover at least partly from all the insults he's subjected his brain to.
Ralf: Thanks, Gerry.
Dolmada: Thanks, Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot: How are you feeling, Mr. Ralf?
Ralf: M'head hurts, like I was saying.
Gerrhonot: Uh huh. Tea, everybody? It's peppermint.
Dolmada: Don't mind if I do.
Gerrhonot pours for her and himself.
Gerrhonot: Want some, Mr. Ralf?
Ralf: Yeah. Smells good.
Gerrhonot: Want honey in it?
Ralf: Can't hurt, huh?
Gerrhonot pours another mug, stirs in some honey and hands it over.
Gerrhonot: Careful, it's hot.
Dolmada sips her own glass.
Ralf slurps his glass noisily, introducing enough air that it won't burn him.
Ralf fortunately doesn't have the kind of reaction to essential oils that D'zoll does. He puts down the glass, rubs his head more thoroughly, and goes back to slurping.
Ralf: Huh. So you guys are both Donors, huh?
Dolmada: Yes, although Sosu Gerrhonot is a First, not a Second.
Ralf looks from Gerrhonot to Dolmada, counts on his fingers, looks back to Gerrhonot.
Ralf: Huh. What's it like?
Ralf addresses his question impartially to both Donors.
Gerrhonot makes a gesture deferring to Dolmada, whom he is sure is more articulate.
Dolmada: Busy, mostly. Varying amounts of travel and responsibility, a lot of paperwork, and occasional moments of interest.
Ralf: No, no. I mean donorating. Actually, like, doing it with a Sime.
Ralf realizes what he's said and winces.
Ralf: Sorry, miz.
Dolmada: Giving transfer, you mean?
Ralf: Yeah, that.
Dolmada: Ask a poet. I'm not enough of one to describe the facts of life to a virgin.
Ralf: So it is like -- that?
Dolmada considers for moment.
Dolmada: Usually better. Simes can't afford to be as... difficult... as your average man.
Gerrhonot figures Dolmada hasn't met some of the channels he has, like Arat and Neptude and Bollit.
Dolmada: And if they try, you can always talk to your Controller and get reassigned.
Ralf shakes his head, regrets it.
Ralf: Ow. Umm, if he controls you, don't you have to do what he says?
Dolmada: As far as work hours and assignments, it's like any other job where you have a boss. But unlike some bosses, a Controller really can't afford to have the people who work for her unhappy. And being a channel, she can't ignore it, either.
Ralf: You mean because you can quit and go to another one?
Dolmada: No, because if you're unhappy, she'll feel it just as much as you will. More, if you choose. Very few channels are so stubborn that they'll keep a Donor around against her will. At least, not if there's any other possibility. On the contrary, most channels go to considerable effort to keep their Donors happy.
Dolmada: Right, Gerrhonot?
Gerrhonot: Hajene Seruffin does.
Ralf: Sounds like a good job, yeah, but of course you got no choice when it comes down to it, do ya, since you gotta be born to it.
Dolmada: How is that different from being an artist, or a musician? Or a really good carpenter or smith?
Ralf: Most anyone can play the drums, even if not the fiddle, or rassle together a table, even if it rocks on its legs some.
Ralf is so interested in this conversation, he's forgotten about his head.
Dolmada: And most Gens can learn to get along with Simes just fine, even if they can't handle a channel in transfer.
Ralf: Yeah, but that's not a job, y'know? It's just what you Simelanders do.
Dolmada: Well, most people wouldn't pay someone for that table that rocks on its legs, or to hear that drummer who's not very good.
Ralf rubs his head again.
Ralf: Well, whatever.
Ralf waves his hand in dismissal of this thought.
Dolmada: You can only turn a common skill into a job if you're very good at it.
Ralf smiles crookedly.
Ralf: I used to be pretty good at drinking, but nobody paid me for it.
Dolmada: All right then, you have to be good at it, and someone has to want you to do it for them. Most folks would rather drink their beer themselves.
Gerrhonot finishes his tea and gathers the empty cups onto his tray.
Gerrhonot: Um. See you guys.
Gerrhonot wants to get back to his channel, whose had a hard train trip getting here. Unless Bibi is looking after him, of course.
Ralf: G'night, Gerry. Catchyalater.
Gerrhonot: G'night Ralf, Dolmada.
Gerrhonot leaves, with the tray.
Dolmada settles back to monitor her patient.
Ralf drifts back to sleep before he's able to tell Dolmada what's really on his mind.