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#1183255 12/16/22 09:26 PM
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 4,231
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"One Night In Paradise" copyright December 17, 2022, by Gary E. Andrews.

In the Emoilihn language of the natives;
Coblo Ho Gondas.
English translation;
Table Of Contents.

Book Part One;
1. DAMNED PATRICK; Eenunh & Tinunh. Into The Hive.
2. WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE; Greenies, Orangies, And Meatballs! Dream of Earth, Mother.
3. DNA; What In This World?
5. THE BATHS; Chesty and The Thin Man. Thimiannh.
6. YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME CREDIT; Holy Holey Underwear!

Book Part Two;
6. CREDIT PART TWO; Lizard Head Offense.
7. COME THE WRIGGLIES; And A Harvest Of Birds.
8. EVICTION NOTICE; An Unfamiliar Feeling.
9. GROCERIES; The Machinist's Rag Bin.
10. A STAR IS BORING; Zapped!
11. STRINGS AND THINGS; An Alien Arrest!
12. ATTICUS FINCH; The Lawyer. Dodaensus? Sodaensus.
Koobah = Judge. Koobahbahnnh = plural, Judges. Emoilihn = The People. Promina = Lawyer.
Rasamannh = intent, premeditation. Commannh = cops.
14. TREK TO THE PINES; The White Road.
Albanh = wood, tree, forest.
15. THE WHITE ROAD; Into The Pines.
16. BLUEBLOOD BERRIES; Blind Man; No Bluff.
Neh = yes.
17. THE OLD SWIMMIN' HOLE; Naked To The World.
Casah = cold.
18. HOMEWARD BOUND; The White Road. Night Terrors.
19. ALMOST HOME; A Family Proposal.
20. A PRISON VISIT; The Interpreter.
Entemannh Garibe = Entemannh, a man's name, and Garibe = 'city'.
22. THE TERROR WARS; May The System Work For You.
Talah = alright, okay.
23. SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY; Sodaensus Secrets.
24. SODAENSUS SECRETS; Atticus Finch.
26. BLACK MARKET BEAUTY; A Berry Blue Matter.
Hika = Mr. Bah sahn = Thank you.
27. HARD CURRENCY; Whatever Money Will Buy.
Turomay = Appeal. Costaramannh Garibe = Costaramannh City. Costaramannh is a hero of the Terror Wars.
31. ENTEMANNH; The Peacemaker.
Entemannh is a hero of the Terror Wars.
32. HIT THE WHITE ROAD, JACK; And Hit What You Aim At.
33. TREACHERY AFOOT; In Costaramannh!
34. COSTARAMANNH CITY LIMITS; Treachery Unlimited!
35. TREACHERY; The Beneficiary Of Death.
36. MILITARY MISSION; Grocery Shopping In A Wilderness Of Mirrors.
37. GO NORTH ASS OOMAM; And Seek Your Future.
Casah Sagribe Garibe. City Of Strong Cold. Sagribe, a hero of the Terror Wars.
38. GLOOM IN THE ROOM; One Night Stand.
39. Cemetery Reality Check; Homeward Bound.
Aloyan Entemannh.
41. A THICKENING PLOT: Treachery On The Home Front.
42. OCCUPYING TOURISTS; None Of The Government's Business.
43. A TALKING CAMPAIGN; Show Biz Must Go On.
44. TO CASAH SAGRIBE GARIBE; A Lonely Little Caravan.
46. INTERROGATION; Crime Scene Investigation. The Enemy You Know.
47. LOVE IS SLEEP; Sleep Is Love.
48. WEDDINGS FOR SOLIDARITY; Paronde Cos Revondennh! New Beginnings.

"ONE NIGHT IN PARADISE" Copyright December 17, 2022, by Gary E. Andrews.

1. DAMNED PATRICK: Into The Hive

Eenunh's slender green fingers set the bottle upright, deftly snug the cork back in with her right index finger, linger there, then drop to curl 'round the neck of the green bottle, hang there, by middle and ring finger, and thumb, index and pinkie fingers extended. Her nails are short, pointed, but short. Her hand is... proportionally beautiful.

She is focused on the children, toddlers, teens and young adults, I assess, near the opening to the outside. Rain has begun to fall out there in heavy, blowing waves. It hisses on the hot stone of the vast patio. I imagine it soaking in the desert sand. I smell it. A cool mass of air exchanges in the room! Cooler than the summer heat, constant since...we came down. I've never seen it rain here before. She brought me here out of the desert just in time!

The...cave...cavern...room...is full of...people...these...people; these green people. Their strange 'voices' murmur, buzz, rising and falling in unison and in contrast. It's like a... noisy cafeteria, a restaurant, a pub. They laugh! There's no mistaking laughter!

I scan the room, males in pants, pullover shirts; women in pullover dresses; consistently. One style, everything male, everything female. Some females wear pants under their dresses. There are two shades of brown, tan and dark brown, three of green, light, dark, and olive drab, three of blue, light, dark and a pretty azure. There's a flat...gold, or maybe...dull yellow. And that's all.

Attendants in the lighter shade of blue serve from a counter, come out and clear tables when...people...leave. There are green bottles, and blue bottles, brown bottles, gray stone mugs. White plates, white...cutlery.

Leather boots, work shoes, men and women. They have wooly-looking hair, curly, sort of burnt brown. It's...becoming... with their green faces. They're not dark green like...like plants, the...cacti in the desert. It's just a light tint...a...noticeable tint of green. They all wear their hair parted in the middle, men and women, some shorter, some longer, all very...same looking. They're beautiful, symmetrical, smiling, grinning. They laugh. They're...joyous!

I look at the structure of Eenunh's two elbows in her right arm, still hanging off the bottle, the green tint of her skin, the profile of her face. Her face...all their faces, the women anyway, are quite pretty, quite...Human-like. She seems aware of my gaze but doesn't meet it. Her eyelashes flutter down, she lifts her gray stone mug, and sips with shapely lips. I've seen their double knees. Not hers. But others, out in the desert while we were mining.

I lift my mug and sip. It's a sweet wine, a tang of alcohol? Or, just tartness? I look at the children, then at her again.
Eenunh's golden irises shutter, the pupils more open, less open as she watches Tinunh, her small daughter, in the little crowd of young at the opening. I look. They jostle each other, playfully pushing each other out toward the rain. No one tries in earnest. Older ones pull younger ones back. It's very... familial.

Eenunh's the one who came to get me today. She must have known...I was in trouble, and that this rain was coming! I've never seen it rain here.
Tinunh carried a paper box, not like cardboard, more like...like a hornet's nest, gray, maybe woven paper, rectangular, but with rounded corners, looking like it's ragged strips, pieces put together, papier mache' style.

Eenunh's buzzing speech is incomprehensible to me. They came in the barracks. I sat up on my bunk. I had a candle lit. It...it kind of...scared me! There in the dark, by candlelight, they both looked at me, buzzed vocalizations at me, their attempt at my name, learned from a previous 'conversation'. Golden irises, flickering. We had...talked many days ago. They were the only ones who ever came close enough to me to talk, or stayed long enough. I'd seen other crewmen seem to converse with some others, but the conversation never lasted long. At mealtime the men speculated that they were insects, like...like bees or hornets, because of the buzzy voices, the green skin. The gray paper box makes me wonder anew. But...no...they're...people.

Was it Captain Briggs who suggested maybe they had stingers in their tails? I didn't see anything to suggest that in the back of their dresses, Eenunh, and Tinunh. In fact, they had very...nice...figures. Green tint, buzzy voices, and...the hornet's paper box...well... We all make mistakes. We're...Human.

They looked at me, talked, gestured, looked at each other. Finally Tinunh looked away from me and at her mother, her mother looking back, golden irises flickering, like camera shutters, no vocalization, and Tinunh just began putting my books in her box. I watch her empty the shelf. I'd brought ten paperbacks down. I have the entire Pulitzer Prize list up on the Deutche L. A.! I've read most of them, I think. I like to find interesting parts and read them again. They packed everything up around my bunk, my windup alarm clock, my shaving kit, the empty brown bottle I'd brought back from...the hive...when I went there before, and indicated, I perceived, that I was to come with them. Tinunh seems to have no trouble with the weight of the box. She looks like a lean little athlete! She's maybe...eight...nine?

I tucked my two dirty towels and hoodie in my sleeping bag, rolled it, secured it. I pulled on my black cowboy boots, put on my ball cap. I tied the strings of my work boots and draped them around my neck. I picked up my dirty laundry bag. The clothes I have on are no cleaner than the ones in the bag. Tinunh came back around my bunk, set the box on the floor, reached under, picked up my sneakers, put them in the box. She tosses the laundry bag in. I picked up my guitar case. I put my white hat brim in my left hand with the handle of the guitar case, pinched the brim between thumb and forefinger, put on my ball cap, took a look around, dirty mattress with my sweat stain, cold metal walls and floor, empty bedframes, picked up my candle, and went with them. Any option had to be better than staying here...starving...thirsty...alone.

Eenunh led me through the kitchen. The crew hadn't left much, partial food packages mostly. I had rationed it, ate small...meals. Now this was all I had left. Some packaged food; three to be exact. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, mixed fruits. Without refrigeration I wasn't sure it was still edible. I'd been eating it cold, as cold as the refrigeration system had retained. The crew took the batteries when...they left me. Eenunh put it in Tinunh's box and gestured with her head to go.

The hot desert air is stifling. It's late afternoon. I turn to shut the door. I don't know what's going on. I'm too tired and hungry to try to figure it out. But I may want...need... to come back so...

I've listened to Eenunh talking before. She made their names clear days ago, at the...the...hive, where they live, touching her chest, pointing at Tinunh, who touched hers, repeated the sounds, after...the incident.

She pointed at me and I said my name. She tried it a few times, got it right in that buzzing vocalization; then, in a very human voice! Just once, but once was enough. I nodded when she did, grinning like a fool! It wasn't just close; it was perfect! She spoke to Tinunh and mimicked my nodding. She repeated my name, but with the buzz. Tinunh mimicked the nodding. I try their names and they giggle. Ee-nunh. Can't get the nasal 'nunh' they do. And the double E is in there, E-e-nunh. Ti-nunh. Ti-... Can't. It's like the noise someone makes when they're sleeping and you start to wake them up; unh. No. Just...more...vibratory.

When we first came down from the Deutche L. A. cargo ship, Eenunh was the first to try to communicate with me. She came near, stood under a saguaro cactus shade, watched me shoveling, made noises. I hadn't seen... one... up close before. Most of the ones I saw kept their distance. They would return a wave, but soon lost interest and went away, it seemed. I was working away from the others that day, sifting small pieces of lithium ore from the red sand. We'd mined it out in big chunks. Captain Briggs wanted it all, these smaller bits that had broken in the process.

Finally she came right over. I got to see that beautiful face, those scary eyes, golden irises, flickering like a camera shutter. Tinunh was with her. They had bags strapped over their shoulders, tools in hand, trowels. I think they...hunt...gather...in the desert. I don't know what. I walked up out of the pit and watched them when they left, across the desert, stopping here and there near a cactus to poke at the sand. I don't know what they were poking at. Tinunh saw me looking, told her mother. They waved. I waved, went back to work.

After the crew... left me... she came every few days, then every day now for...well...days. She could see I was alone, not working. She talked. One day she came inside, looked around the facility. Some of the others came too, that day, exploring the barracks, the kitchen, sleeping quarters, bathrooms. The crew hadn't left much behind. The barracks pod is pretty much stripped. I think...Briggs probably decided it wasn't worth taking back up, with that last load of lithium ore. Or maybe he's coming back to get it. I don't know. I don't know anything.

Seeing me, candle-lit there in the dark, the visitors would retreat. The males were kind of scary but there was something apologetic in their manner, like they didn't know anyone was still here and were sorry to intrude once they found me. I shouldn't be here. The bastards left me. The bastards left me! The bastards.

While we were mining lots of them would venture closer, out there, up on hills of red sandstone, nearer on the rip rap piles of sandstone Angelo had set aside. They'd watch Angelo on the dozer, their buzzing voices seeming bemused, I thought, at our labors. I could hear the voices change and sound like laughter. I could hear what sounded like questions, an interrogative tone. There was always that 'unh' buzz sprinkled throughout their conversations. And I clearly heard the words...or...sounds, 'Ass Oomamnnh'.

It was a vein of lithium Captain Briggs detected from orbit, shaped like it had been 'splashed there' in sand, he said, a big 'molten teardrop, by some geologic event long past'. I'd never seen lithium. This was a purple crystalline structure, not 'molten'. Angelo broke it off, picked it up with the dozer in big chunks, dropped it to break it, so we could get more in the shuttle holds, more in the holds on the D. L. A. We were 'gleaning' smaller bits out of the sand, trying to fill our last holds with this prize.

Tinunh picked up a piece, a chunk about the size of her two hands, admired it, that first day they talked to me. She kind of gestured to her mother, and me, seeming, I thought, to ask permission. I raised my eyebrows, nodded. I...never thought to smile. Her mother must have given approval. She put it in her bag.

The sand around the site isn't purple; just red sand. It's a lovely hue, and crystalline. Briggs wanted it; all of it. It was fairly easy to mine, breaking easily with just one small dozer, and lots of shoveling to pick up every piece of the light purple crystal ore. I figured one little girl could have a sample for her rock collection. I bet she had a rock collection. She grinned with perfect white teeth, like her mother, golden irises.

Patrick. Damned shovel. Damned Patrick. He was temperamental. He complained daily of the tedium of separating ore from sand. I offered to switch with him, driving the ore cart to the cargo shuttle, and let him shovel. He tried it, but didn't like that either. I was left standing at the shuttle a lot waiting for him to bring a load to sort. Briggs made us switch back. I never had any relationship with Patrick. Well, nobody did. It seemed to me Patrick had a conflict with everybody on the crew at one time or another. He finally got around to me.

I saw the pattern. He always started a conversation, challenging something or nothing. With me it was nothing. I'm going to call it 'nothing'. He wanted to know if I liked rabbits.

I said, "I've never been around rabbits. They seem interesting." What do you say in answer to, "Do you like rabbits?" Yeah. Me neither! LOL

I was going to tell him about seeing a documentary where a rabbit unburied its young to feed them, nurse them, and then they went back in the hole, apparently a burrow, and the mother covered the entrance over again. I never got to.

He started cussing me, saying I didn't know anything about rabbits.

I wanted to tell him that's exactly what I'd said; I'd never been around rabbits. I'd seen them, back on Earth. There's something that bops around in the desert here but I never got close enough to see one. They move like rabbits.

But Patrick was all in his own thing by then, ranting, spitting, incoherent, incomprehensible, waving his free arm around, transferring his shovel to wave the other arm around, same pattern and practice I'd seen or heard or heard about with every other crew member; same-same, except for the shovel in hand.

Damned Patrick! There is something psychologically or organically wrong with that son of a... Ya don't find out about some people until you're out somewhere with them; stuck with them.

Briggs was the only one Patrick paid any deference to, the only one who could calm him down, redirect him, and Briggs was in the cargo shuttle, prepping to leave the planet with our last load, I think, that night or the next day.

Suddenly, the little bastard hit me with the shovel!

I didn't know if the 'bong' sound was in the shovel or in my skull. I had jerked back. It wasn't a super hard hit, but a hit nonetheless!

Suddenly the...local...was there, shrill voice, buzzing!

I didn't see him coming, don't know why he came, but he came too near to suit Patrick. Patrick thought they were creepy. Yeah. He was the one who thought they were bees with stingers. Not Briggs. He swung his shovel and hit the thing in the face! Green blood began to flow down its face and shirtfront. I pushed Patrick. He was drawing back to swing again! He swung, the shovel bouncing off my head again with a resounding bong! I had jerked back but he still caught me pretty good. I threw my left hand in his face and swung with my right!

I knocked the crap out of him! He lost his balance on the gritty slope, kept trying to stay on his feet and he slid down the hill, into the pit. From the bottom he scrambled back up, sans shovel, face contorted in a snarl of anger, mouth, nostrils, eyes of rage!

I stood my ground! I wanted to pound him again! He glared at me just out of fist range!

He backed up and stalked off!

I turned to the bleeding creature. I took it by the wrist and led it through the rip rap, into the desert toward the...the hive. We called it 'the hive', the stony red...mountain. Have you ever seen Uluru? That big...rock...on the continent of Australia? I've seen pictures. It seemed like that to me. Just one big rock sticking out of the ground.

I'd seen the bays and balconies and dark holes up the cliff face. We speculated on their hive-like behavior, 'Waspish things!' I thought, but with very human-like heads, faces, friendly smiles, golden eyes that seemed quite sentient and kind. Their irises that seemed to flicker, opening and closing the pupils rapidly. Scary! Two elbows in each arm; two knees in each leg. Yeah. Freaky. They can hop really high, really far. They usually walk, with no apparent difference from a Human walk, but I've seen them hop. They wear clothes. Females have breasts, nipples that show underneath, even the little girl, thin waists, shapely hips. Males vary in the development of their torsos. They're...some kind of... people.

This one allowed me to lead it, blood in its eyes probably keeping it from seeing. I'll bet it was a good hour and a half walk. The late afternoon heat made it an ordeal. I stopped several times in any shade I could see, to get my breath. It seemed to breathe only a little better than me. I gave it my neckerchief to apply pressure to the forehead with its left hand, where the blood was coming from. I figured it was bleeding good enough none of my sweat or germs would get in, with the blood coming out. I worried about pathogens in its blood getting on me. I hooked its right hand into the crook of my left arm and pulled it on toward the mountain. Fingerprints; I saw fingerprints in the blood on my arm. The green blood was getting on my arm!

As we came near, others came, hopping, from there in the desert, from out of the...hive... and took him by the arms, leading up a path up the slope to an elevated flat level, and into a large oval opening into the base of the...mountain...the rock. I moved back out into the desert to watch them go across the flat, disappear into that hole. There was a rise of buzzing voices. I thought they might...swarm out and...get me.

Eenunh came out to the edge of the flat level. I recognized her; a friendly face. I didn't know what to say...what to...try to say. I figured the guy was still alive and could tell what happened. I don't know why he was there. Damned Patrick!

The Sunstar was going down. A red ball on the western horizon. Night was falling, and falls fast here. She gestured for me to come up off the desert floor, gestured with her left hand, pointed with her right toward the sloping path up, and toward.. the hive. I'm afraid. But I'm more afraid of what wanders around in the dark at night here. I hesitated. Could I run that hour and a half distance back, before dark? Hell no. I turned back toward her. She gestured again, with her hands and head. I came up the slope and stepped on the flat, stony surface, a vast patio of sorts, crushed stone, flattened, packed, almost cement-like but obvious packed aggregate. It looks like the red sandstone, but marbled whitish, like it has been broken, or cut out of the matrix. It was hot. Heat came down from the Sunstar and up off the stone. There was a green blood trail across the patio! Green blood had dried on my arm. I rubbed at it and it flaked off. I worried that rubbing more might rub it into my skin! Germs! Contamination! I wonder if she saw my panic! I know she saw my panic.

She gave up gesturing, went in. I hung around there on the patio, as night fell. It got cooler, but still hot. There was nowhere to sit but on the hot stone. The...people came up out of the desert, and into openings to the left and right, and into this one near me. Some saw me, stopped, stared, went on in. When I saw that there weren't any more coming in out of the desert I moved back out to the edge, sat with my feet down the rip-rap slope. The Sunstar was down, the sky very red, very orange. The distant mountains...they...they look strange, more...uniform along the horizon. I...think it's...it's not the western mountains. It's a cloud mass. We never saw clouds here. We talked about it. Hot. Dry. No clouds. Not one. Now...I'm sure that's a cloud mass, even, north to south, over the distant hills.

Eenunh came out several times, trying to coax me in. I...pouted I guess, ignored her, and she went back in. Then, after dark, I was standing there looking out over the desert, the million stars in the sky, moonlight casting the hive shadow here on the patio, lighting the desert like a painting.

Eenunh came out and took hold of me! She had my left wrist, in her left hand, pulled at my elbow, with her right hand! Very strong! She stepped behind, still securing my left wrist, her right hand pushing on the small of my back, pushing me toward the opening! I was scared by her strength! I stopped resisting.

There was a...a passage about fifteen feet up, a ramp, and...a divider in the middle of the opening. It was dark. It was dark in there. I'd heard lots of voices earlier, sounding like a big room full of people. I noticed it got quieter, then, it sounded like it emptied out in a minute or two. It got totally quiet. Now the room was dark, and empty.

I veered to the left. She let me go. I felt my way around the sandstone wall, came to a rounded corner. I went along that wall, came to the next corner in the back, and sat down on the floor. It was dimly lit by stuff on the walls that glowed when I moved around close to the wall. In that dim light I could see high-top tables, tall chairs. Eenunh came and sat at a nearby table in the dark, and buzzed at me. I didn't make any attempt to listen or talk. The heat had taken a lot out of me. I was very scared.

She went away, came right back with a...a canister. She turned two chairs to face each other, sat in one, reached toward me, waved at the wall. The light came up. She offered her hand. I took it. I stood up, sat in the other chair. She pulled my green-bloody arm away from me, and I felt cool water spill on it. She had some kind of cloths and wiped at my arm in the dark. She wet a clean cloth, wiped lightly at my face, my neck, put the wet cloth in my hand.

She went away again, came back with another bottle. It had a cork in the top. She set it on a table, and filled a mug. I was afraid to drink it. Finally, she left me there. It got dark in the space again. I laid down on the floor and fell asleep. Some time in the night I got up and sat in a chair. It was an odd shape. The chairs sort of let you sit your butt on a platform and then lean with your legs. It must be designed for the comfort of their legs. I get used to it. I managed to sit on it, to lay my head on my forearms on the table and sleep a little better than on the floor. I woke up with a start, in the dark, total blackness, and felt for the bottle, the cork, pulled it out, smelled it. I waved my hand at the wall, and the glow came up. I found the mug, poured from the bottle, sipped. It tasted like grape wine. I took a bigger drink. I emptied the mug. I recorked the bottle, laid my head on my arms, slept.

I wake up! It's morning! There are a couple guys moving around on the other side of the chamber. They had closed up the opening somehow in the night. It may have been the noise of opening it that awakened me now. I heard that noise in the night, in the darkness, saw those...shapes...moving there. There's light coming in. It's morning. I get up, take the brown bottle, go out and across the wide patio. It's early morning, the light kind of white, starting to tint red, the hive shadow stretched long across the desert floor. Coming out and looking back, I notice the oval opening, one of several along the 'patio', is divided by a long wooden wall in the center. That must be the...closure, the door. I have not seen any trees here. We didn't roam around over the month we'd been here; just mined.

I go down the slope, back across the desert. The cargo shuttle...is gone!

Sons-of-bitches! They left me! They left me. They left me.

I'm...reliving...remembering. That...was then. This...is now.

Eenunh and Tinunh have led me up the slope now, this day, across the patio, in past the wooden divider. Inside the large chamber where I spent that other night in... I see it's a...a restaurant... or...something, a pub. There are tables and the oddly tall chairs, people, these...people...sitting, eating, drinking.

There is a rising murmur of their voices as I come in.

Then... near silence!

My skin prickles like a chill. It's still hot this evening. This...is...a fright chill!

The Sunstar shines brightly in the opening, a bright swath of red light, split by the shadow of the divider door, across the middle of the room, on up a ramped passage opposite the...door. It's been overcast all day. Now the Sunstar is shining through an opening in the overcast, setting. In a moment...the light is gone. It's very dim in here.

A pack of males murmur shrilly, immediately rise together from a table to my right at the other side of the cave, and approach us.

Males are smaller than Eenunh, shorter. She's smaller than me, her shorter by about three inches, them shorter by another three. I look around the room. I think mature females are all taller.

Eenunh ignores them, follows Tinunh to a table toward the back of the room, near the passage that ramps up, out of the room, gestures for me to sit. I sit. Tinunh sets the box at my feet. Nudges it with her knees to get it back under the table more. She grins at me, speaks, irises a'flicker. She has perfect white teeth, like her mother. She's beautiful, like her mother. She turns and walks away through the pack of males who have followed us to the table. They get out of her way, opening a path, closing it behind her. I take my work shoes from around my neck, set them on the floor. I try to play it cool; my heart is thumping! I look at their faces, lift my guitar case over the table and down on the left side of my chair. 'Don't mess with my guitar boys!' I try to fix my face like Eenunh's, disinterested.

Eenunh sits, studies her hands. The ones that come closest behave aggressively...I think. They're silhouetted, dark shapes outlined in the yellow light coming off the ceiling. Their voices become louder, in unison at times, like they're saying the same words, and rising to shrill. I hear, "Ass Oomam" several times. Eenunh's voice doesn't change. She doesn't say much; short answers. She seems to calmly tell them in few words how things are, gestures dismissively, I think, with her left hand. Some calm down, walk away. One big guy, bigger than the others, same height, but broader chested, bigger arms, continues to berate her, I think. Two others stay and flank him, one behaving supportively, the other more passive, all vocalizing in unison at times. What are they saying that they can all say it at the same time? It's scary! Their irises flicker, focus, flicker, head-turns from her to me. Arms wave, oddly, two elbows. "Ass Oomam!" I lean forward on my alien elbows.

Eenunh remains steadfast, stops answering, looks about as if they aren't there. Big Chest gets loud, leans toward her over that edge of the table.

Eenunh springs up! It startles me! They all shrink back! Eenunh gives one shrill...chirp!

Conversation over!

They all leave, the passive one up a passageway deeper into the stony mountain. Big-chest guy, Chesty, just goes back to his table on the far side of the room with the other guy. He sits, stares at us, murmurs to his remaining companion. I see his lips moving. His companion doesn't seem to respond, and looks away from our direction.

Eenunh sits. I had stood up too, not...aggressively...just...defensively. She scared me more than they did! I sit. Tinunh returns with the green bottle and two gray stone mugs, friendly grin, touches my forearm. She and Eenunh exchange a couple sentences. She goes away again to join a crowd of five about her size at the door, two boys, three girls, and others, varying sizes, maybe a couple young male adults.

It begins to rain out there! I've never seen it rain here! It's pouring! It's loud! The red light is gone. It's darker, if not dark. I can see out into the desert. The air in the room moves, literally windy, gets cooler, comfortable. The windyness stops, but the air still feels like it's moving.

Soon, we are sipping what tastes like sweet grape wine, I'm admiring the beauty of her hand, listening to the rain. I'm sleepy.

She is watching Tinunh again, in the group of children at the opening, golden irises flickering, smiling. I turn to look that way.

A great bolt of lightning strikes out in the desert!

It is huge! Very wide! Very near! I saw it!

Instant thunder echoes in the room! All the voices scream! My chill is back!

Some of the older ones hop away from the doorway! They hop high, halfway up toward the high ceiling! They're laughing! Some go on up the passage in a hurry, laughing, others just relocating within the room, joining others at tables. The voices seem...exclamatory. Apparently the lightning was phenomenal to them too! The thunder had been instantaneous! Very close! I feel the electricity in the air, in my hair, the hair on my arms!

Tinunh comes out of the little crowd of small ones, arms stiffened at an angle down at her sides, shaking her hands as you might to rinse them in water. I think it's a faux fright gesture! Her face is...comical! Her eyebrows are up, golden irises are fixed, not flickering! Her face is...bemused...not frightened! I laugh. She looks me in the eye. Her small face grins. She comes up on my side, climbs deftly up the right side of my chair, right foot finding purchase somewhere down the side, toe of her left shoe finding space beside my thigh on the seat, heel of her right shoe finding space by my left thigh, her left hand on my right shoulder, grinning, gazes wide-eyed, flickering golden irises, into my eyes as she steps across, to her mother, who lifts her in her hands and settles her on her left leg facing me. They buzz to each other, laughing, faces close together. Tinunh crosses her hands over her chest. Beautiful hands. They have beautiful hands. Eenunh puts her right hand there on Tinunh's chest and they get wide-eyed and laugh again.
They note their brown hair standing out with the electricity. Tinunh touches the hair on my arm, grinning. It stands up like she's 'charged'. Or I am!

The room suddenly goes quiet. Two people, one male, one female, come out of the passage into the room. They're wearing dark blue uniform clothes, yellow symbols on their biceps, left side of their shirtfronts. Not many people wear dark blue. I only saw a couple sitting in the pub earlier. The two men who seem to run the pub, in the lighter shade of blue, come out and converse, in passing, head down the ramped opening, about fifteen feet, the same as the ramp continues beyond the central wooden unit.

I'm studying the two in dark blue...I think they're like cops...when I hear a now-familiar noise to my right. I look to see the wooden divider at the opening being spun on a central spindle. One male pushes near the inside, to the right. Another is out toward the outside, pushing to the left. The wooden barrier pivots, grinds on the sandstone, and closes. A small spindle-door on the left of the big one opens and the one on the outside comes in. Lightning strikes again, somewhere further away, but still powerful, near, loud thunder almost instantaneous with the light.

The cops...I think they're cops... have walked close to the door, turned and are looking back toward the passage. The few people still here are getting up to go up the passage. I'm afraid again. The cops get into the crowd and people step aside to let them go ahead, up the passage. Soon the room is empty but for us and the men in the lighter blue. They clear the tables. They begin picking up chairs and carrying them up the passage. The dim light in the walls gets dimmer except close to where they're moving. Eenunh sets Tinunh on the floor. She stands, taps the cork and gestures with the green bottle in her right hand for me to come with them, throws her head toward the passage way. I tip my mug, empty it. She empties hers.

It slopes up; the passage. I point to the corner where I'd made my bed on the bare floor the night I brought the injured man back. The next day, the shuttle was gone. I'd been out there half expecting them to come back. Half knowing I wasn't worth it to Briggs. Damned Patrick.

Eenunh does a negative nod, left and right. Points to the passage with the bottle in her hand. Tinunh has lifted the box of my things. She grins at me, does the head toss, turns and moves toward the passage.

I stand, drape my work shoes around my neck, pick up my pillow, sleeping bag, guitar, hat. We go... into the hive.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/03/23 03:42 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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Joined: Dec 2006
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2. WELCOME TO OUR HOUSE; Greenies, Orangies, and Meatballs.

I noticed the overcast this morning. I thought it was just early morning twilight darkness. I looked at my clock and wondered if it was right. A twenty-four hour clock doesn't work here. But I used it to keep track of my hours on shift. We worked from Sunstarrise to Sunstarset. I kept track if we went up on the shuttle and unloaded, hours figuring into payday. You lose track of time in space. Not that I didn't trust the company, but...I didn't trust the company.

Coming out I saw the overcast. But the clouds were...turbulent, moving in a roiling fashion, not just blowing across the sky. Weird. There were gusty winds here on the ground. I squinted to keep grit out of my eyes. I went back inside, stood looking around at the darkness, found my way back to my bunk with my pen light. Lit my cut-the-stink candle to see by. Blew it out. Smelled the sweetness in the dark.

It's never been overcast before. Every day has been a sunny day since we came down. No clouds. Not one. We talked about it.

We took breaks during the two hottest hours of the day. I think they do too, the green people. I'd climb on a mound of rip rap and look around. I'd see them moving about the desert in the morning, in the evening, moving around the base of the hive; not in the high heat of noonday. It's just too hot to breathe out there. You have to have shelter; shade. Captain Briggs ordered it and we were glad to obey.

The desert offers no shelter. Saguaro cacti...or what looks like saguaro...I've seen pictures...are big, but the Sunstar seems to move too fast. You no sooner get in the shade than it moves. Briggs told us how many hours are in the day, daylight and dark, but I forget. Less than planet Earth. Twenty-one? The barracks pod is insulated, and has...had... air conditioning, efficient, but spoils you for having to come back outside. Not any more. And no windows to open. It's a sealed pod, emergency quarters if needed in space. Without batteries...it's just a box.

We'd hear things moving around at night, rapid footsteps, snarly growls, loud smacks! Scary sh...stuff. Briggs walked around the perimeter of the camp and brought us out there and showed us tracks of some long-toed, long-tailed lizard or something. Feet big as your hand! We didn't do much stargazing. Ya got in; ya stayed in, at night. The heat hasn't much less outside at night any way. And morning came soon.

Going back to work in the afternoon was tolerable, so dry; so dry.

I think we were on the ground twenty-five days, mining. I've lost track of how many days since they left. Briggs must have had a tale from Patrick, the little prick.

I'm afraid. I don't like being afraid.

Tinunh shifts the box to her left hand underneath, waves her right hand at light-emitting strips low along the passage walls, something applied like paint I think, to the red sandstone. The strip glows brighter ahead and behind us for a distance when she does it. I wave my hand near it. It brightens. Motion activated. We can see our footsteps, the footworn floor of the ramp. The walls are pockmarked as of a tool that cut the stone. The walls arch overhead. It's...a little...claustrophobic. You could drive the small dozer through it without scraping the sides...but...still. The air moves from behind me, just a slight breeze.

The slope is gentle but obviously going up. Ahead I see a lighter place. We come out into a rounded chamber, a cut cave, where there are several openings at intervals along the far wall. People...they...are standing around, buzzing with each other. The voices go quiet. I look around. They're all looking at me. Others, seem to say goodnight, turn in opposite directions, go into and ascend the ramps. I count seven ramps around the chamber. The one directly opposite the one we just came through is larger, level, goes far. I can see people way down there. The others look just big enough for maybe three of them to walk side by side, literally shoulder to shoulder, and ramp up.

Tinunh turns toward the far left. They cross along the wall to an opening there. The ramp in it slopes up a bit steeper, cuts back toward the front of the mountain. I doubt my sense of direction, assure myself I'm right. I need to know how to get back out of here if...

We've come up, I estimate, about ten feet higher, like to a second floor. We come out into a long, straight corridor, left and right, as wide or wider than the big ramp we started out in. It's eight feet wide, at least; less claustrophobic. I look left and right. Directly across the hall a passage slopes down, going about fifty feet out. I see an opening to the outside, flashes of lightning, hear thunder constant! That center divider, spindle door, is open down there. It's probably one of those balconies I've seen from the outside. Rain blows in down there, flows off the face of the cliff, splatters, drains away somewhere. The lightning and thunder are constant, like a firefight of many guns! People are coming out of other openings on the inside wall, going down the hall and disappearing into the inner and outer walls through spindle doors like the one I saw downstairs...downramp.

There's another ramp, beside the one we've come up, going up to the third floor I assume. I never counted the floors before, from the outside.

Tinunh turns left and, balancing the box, opens the first door on the right, beside the ramp to the outside, a thick wooden spindle door. We go in. There's a smell, clean but strong, a sweet, honeyish smell. Some of the men who had gotten close to one of...these...speculated that they were big insects, bees or something, because of the honey smell, the pale green skin, the arms and legs. I smelled it when...the girls came and talked to me. That's where the 'hive' description came from, the 'honeycomb' of openings and balconies, small round, dark holes in the face of the red sandstone cliff, and all of them 'swarming' out in the morning, in at night. They were just walking, but... anyway. I don't like how strong it is. I breathe through my mouth. Soon I'm inhaling through my nose again. It's not as bad. I'm dizzy. My heart's racing. I'm afraid again.

The light comes up as they move about the room, that stuff on the walls. I see hollows carved in the stone wall to my left, filled with straw, or...something like it, colorful blankets. Eenuh points to one, talking to Tinunh. Tinunh sets my box of things in it. She starts pulling blankets out of it. They're knit, with intricate designs, like the natives of the American southwest weave. Straw falls on the floor.

I go to that hollow, set my sleeping bag and pillow in it, lean my guitar in the corner. I look around. All the walls are shelves, hollows about four feet long, some low, some starting about three feet off the floor and alternating up to near where the wall curves into the ceiling. The back wall of the...bed-hollow has shelves. There are some rocks, and things on it. I can't see well in the dark. The piece of lithium ore Tinunh picked up a long time ago is there. This must be her place, her bed.

Eenunh comes close behind me, on my left, reaches into the box, pulls out a book. It's "To Kill A Mockingbird". She holds it in her left hand, her right shoulder brushing mine as she points at the letters with her right hand index finger. A chill runs up between my shoulder blades.

I pronounce the title. She points at individual letters. I pronounce them. She sweeps her finger across them and I say the words again. Her buzzing voice seems to repeat them, roughly.

She takes the book in her right hand, reaches into the box, lifts the food packets, gathers them all in her left hand.

Tinunh has moved into a passage, a small hallway, sloping down from the far right corner, which lights brightly, or...brighter... with her movement. Eenunh crosses behind me, tugs at my shirt. I turn to look over my right shoulder, see her head toss, leading me to the ramp. It is a short passage, ten feet maybe, sloping down. It opens into a long room, white floor, twenty-five by fifteen feet maybe, with furniture, four big, roundish, soft looking white... like tilted lily pads, set out away from the walls; a low, square, wooden central table, same dark wood as the spindle-doors.

The lightning and thunder are constant! Loud! Boom! Baboom! Baboom! Baboom! The room flashes like a strobe with the white lightning coming in a round hole, a window I guess, that slopes out about eight or ten feet to the face of the cliff!

A hall continues on this side of the room, right corner, a ramp going eight or ten feet further down into darkness, beside the long round opening. Down the window hole I see a pivoting closure open to the blowing weather outside. The flashing light is too bright to look at! The thunder is annoyingly loud and constant!

The honey smell is less strong here. From the lightning I see there must be a window tunnel at the other end of the room too! The thunder never stops. It sounds like artillery or some industrial process, hammering, hammering, relentless!

I say, "Do something!" with no real hope of communicating. Eenunh just looks at me, goes on across the room by the wall behind the lily-pad chairs, comes between them, lays the book and three food packets on the central table.

Off the far end of the living room is another opening back into the mountain. Open behind a low wall, it looks like a kitchen, counters all around. Open shelves, stuff on them. Tienunh is setting white plates on a white table there. This should be interesting.

Eenunh comes back across the room, moves to the window opening, the long opening out toward the cliff face. She lifts two sticks of wood, pushing one, pulling the other, and closes a spindle-door in that 'window'. She moves to the other end of the room and starts to close the other. There's some difficulty. She turns and calls to Tinunh. Tinunh comes, hops easily to land on her feet, into the opening, disappears there. The light dims. The sound is muffled but still relentless. Tienunh hops back out and goes back to the kitchen. I'm watching like I'm afraid I'll miss something. FOMO; fear of missing out? Hardly. I just don't know what the hell I've gotten myself into. What if they sting me, paralyze me, lay their eggs in me and the eggs hatch out and eat me!? I laugh to myself, but out loud. Eenunh grins at me; perfect white teeth, flickering golden irises. She's...very pretty, very...calm, serene.

I become aware I'm moving back and forth, a few steps here, and that few steps back. I reach to the back of my neck repeatedly. I'm nervous as hell, twitchy, breathing heavy. I calm myself. I have to deliberately breathe. I'm dizzy.

Eenunh picks up the food packets and goes up a ramp into the 'kitchen'. As I come up she is studying the slide at the top of the packets which opens them, takes it in her fingers and slides it. She points me to a chair at the left end of the table,away from the sink. Tinunh is busy with something, gray canisters, by the sink. There's a sink! Levers, a spout, a faucet. Eenunh takes a white platter off an open shelf full of plates and platters and other vessels, gray stone mugs, lays it on the table, opens and sniffs each packet, squeezes out a reasonable serving of mashed potatoes, one of sweet potatoes, and one of fruit.

She opens a large square lid in a counter under the shelves on the back wall. The lid looks loose, just leans against the back wall. I can see a warm yellow light from inside. In a moment I feel and smell a steamy heat. She places the platter in and closes the lid. She closes the bags and, opening another lid, closer to me, right beside the first, emitting soft white light, she puts them inside the space there. I reach my hand toward it and feel cold air falling off the counter edge. She closes the lid. I wonder what the technology is but know I'll just have to wonder. Trying to ask and comprehend an explanation of something like that would be impossible with the language barrier.

Everything is just carved out of the stony mountain, counters, shelves, the whole...apartment. Every wall is just shelves, about four feet long, carved into the red sandstone. Every other tier is staggered over the dividers of the one below. Corners of the rooms are rounded. Wasted space anyway, I think.

Eenunh dons what looks like an off-white canvas glove on her right hand, opens the warmer lid again with her left, lifts out the platter, sets it on the table. She scrapes the foods off onto a white plate, slides it toward me, sets the platter back on the counter. Tinunh has placed tall gray stone containers on the table, between two plates for them. They sit. Tinunh twists off the lids of the three containers, serves to their plates from them. There are long green vegetables, long orange ones, steaming, and some round brown things. It all smells very good!

There is conversation. They're both looking at me, golden irises flickering, and talk, and look at each other, silently. Eenunh turns, reaches the shelf, gets a small white plate and hands it to Tinunh. Tinunh slips off her chair with a hop, comes to my right side. With a small spoon she takes a spoonful of each of my foods. I think that was the conversation. She wants to sample my food. I nod. She nods, grins, irises flicker. She returns to her side of the table, grinning, golden eyes shuttering, at me, at her mother. Her mother grins. Perfect white teeth. She's...very pretty, very...symmetrical.

I push my plate toward Eenunh. I think I perceive a lightening of her face, perhaps a reverse 'blush'. She reaches to the shelf for a small plate, uses her small spoon (It's a 'spork'! It is both spoon and fork!) to take a sample. They eat the samples. They don't have much reaction that I can read, whether they like them or not. There is conversation, and pointing. I begin to eat the servings of potatoes and fruit. The fruit would have been better served cold. I'll...tell...them that.

Eenunh cuts a piece of her foods and places a sample on my plate! I spork the green thing. It tastes weird! The orange thing tastes weird. Not bad. Just...weird. The brown thing tastes like meat! Fried meat! Eenunh and Tinunh both push the containers closer to me, intending I think that I can have more. I don't want to eat their food. It might be all they have. But the meat is very good. I take a full serving of each dish, one more green, one more orange, two more brown meatbally things, since the canister is full. They're more tasty the second time.

We finish. There is a sink, with running water. Levers instead of knobs. I see steam rising; hot water! Tinunh does the dishes. This kid. She's about the size of...maybe a seven year old human. Maybe eight. But she seems strong, and diligent. Perhaps her mother is directing her but she just seems to do things. She carried the box an hour and a half from the camp. The musculature of her arms, legs, torso is apparent. So is Eenunh's. I got the sense when she made me come in off the patio that, if I resisted, she could have overpowered me, made me do what she wanted. These are lean creatures. I haven't seen any fat ones.

Suddenly, I'm exhausted. The thunder hammers outside. I hear the flowing, blowing rain. Wind sips and rattles at the window closures. I want to sleep. Eenunh stands to put plates and the serving platter in the sink. She leans in the corner of the counters and looks at me, smiling. I stand and go into the living room, try one of the bean-baggy 'lily chairs', but, finding it comfortable, get up before I fall asleep.

I go back up the hall ramp to the chamber at the front door. I open the door by its lever, turning it to my left, push it open, and look up and down the corridor. Empty. I step out and look down the ramp to the balcony. Someone has closed the spindle-door down there. I go back in, close the spindle-door and note there is no lock, no keyhole that I can see. That's a little scary. I remember the menacing males, and...Chesty...the persistent one. His face might be handsome if it wasn't contorted in his displeasure. I wonder how a community of humans would react to me bringing one of these...people into it. Hah! The ones who didn't run away would probably whip out a gun! The Human Phenomenon, for all its centuries, is still a primitive creature.

Eenunh comes up and crosses to the corner at the end of the bed hollows, opens a door. It's...a hinged door, hinged on the left, arched across the top. She points inside. I cross over and see clothes hanging on a rack, behind the door, and inside the door...a bathroom! There is a sink, carved in the stone, the honeycomb of shelves in the walls, stuff on them. Eenunh leads me through an opening around a central pillar, points to a shower head! It points into the stall; no curtain necessary. There's a drain in the floor! She steps out the other side of the pillar back into the sink room. I follow. I'm stunned! I see the levers on the sink, like the one in the kitchen. In a separate alcove on my right, a commode! Carved out of the stone, like in a prison, integral to the wall. The toilet is a toilet, a commode, with water, and a lever to flush! It looks like you could sit there and lean back just a little. I don't know where the water comes from. The lever's just on the wall.

I come out of the bathroom. She is gone. Back down the hall I assume. I retrieve my toiletries from the box, a dirty towel from the sleeping bag roll. I close the door, and undress in the bathroom. Naked I step in the shower. There's an up/down lever to turn the water on and off, higher and lower flows and pressure, and a left right one to adjust hot and cold. It makes perfect sense. I bathe, a luxury I have not had beyond a trickle in the barracks for a month. My tiny bar of soap is hard to hang on to. I keep dropping it. The water pressure is good! I indulge in it, feeling it pummeling my shoulders, my neck, my back. I hope I'm not using too much of their water. It's weird. It's weird. I shut off the water, use my hands to wipe water off of me. I open the door, peek out. My towel's not clean. I wrap it around my waist. I close the door, brush my teeth. I shave my cheeks, leave a fringe of beard, shave my throat, my neck. There's no mirror. I use the small one in my shaving kit. I look into my own eyes. I'm a little freaked out here! I stop looking at that guy. He can freak in seconds and be scared as hell, and it shows! I laugh at myself.

I hear Tinunh's voice. I open the door, peep out. She comes and bends to a space in the wall at the end of the bed hollows, open shelves, and comes up with a towel. I say, "Thank you" and she buzzes what sounds like the same words. She grins, eyebrows go up, grin fades, mouth open. She reaches, touches my elbow. She looks at my knees. She regains her composure. She goes back out of the room. I must look freaky to her, with my single elbows, single knees. I...can easily imagine how strange I must be. I drop my dirty towel, dry off with the clean one. I dress, same dirty underwear, pants, shirt. My other dirty clothes are in the laundry bag. Socks, underwear, my other pants and other shirt. We went up to the ship once this month to do laundry. In the heat, we sweat through our clothes the first workday back on the surface.

At the bed hollow I unroll my sleeping bag. I lay on it. The straw crunches under me. It's comfortable. I figure I'll just rest my eyes. Oh! It feels so good to lay it all down! I start to doze; jerk awake! Myoclonus. I fall fast asleep. I'm aware when they come to bed, but just barely. They may spend some time in the bathroom, but then into the other bed-hollow, a little quiet conversation, and silence. I...am not...afraid. I drift back to sleep.

I dream of Earth,
blue oceans, from orbit,
blue skies, from the ground,
my mother. I sleep.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/26/23 11:44 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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3. DNA; What In This World?

I feel the touch on my shoulder.

I open my eyes. Tinunh's smiling face, head tilted to the right, the angle of mine, lying on my left side, her golden irises, flickering. Her bushy hair falls over her face. She catches it, pushes it back, exposing her grin, perfect white teeth. She says... something.

I feel the chill of the air on my face, around my neck. It's not cold, just cool. She murmurs something, moves toward the bathroom.

I spin to sit on the side of the hollow where I made my sleeping bag bed. Some of the straw falls to the floor and I want to clean it up. I stand, turn, scoop it up in both hands, toss it back at the foot of my sleeping bag. I feel... irrational. Does...this...make sense?

I look toward the bathroom as Tinunh walks that way. Tinunh pulls her tunic over her head. She's naked! Perfect little butt.

Those double jointed limbs are worthy of a stare!

She turns to drape her dress on the bed hollow. I can't help but look at the double joints of arms and knees, and...her small mounds of breasts, a darker hue to the nipples. They're breasts, nipples; not the flat-chested form of a human child that...size. She...her body is...the figure of an adult.

Her vagina! Oh! Like a Human's. She's totally unashamed, or...maybe just...unaware, goes on about her business, getting a towel, finally into the bathroom and closes the door. I can't get the images out of my head. Maybe...maybe...she's...older than a human child that size. But...she had no...pubic hair...that I could see from this angle. I...I don't know. Perhaps they're just...different in sexual...maturity than humans. I...I'm weirded out.

I stand and stretch, put my hands on the curvature of the ceiling over the bed hollow, arch forward. I think I slept well. I don't remember my dreams. I slept in my jeans and shirt. I put on socks, work shoes. Sit on the side of the bed hollow, hang my head, half doze.

Tinunh comes out, dressed, says something. Eenunh's voice calls from below. Tinunh replies, looking at me, head toss, and goes down the ramp.

I splash water on my face at the sink. No mirror. I brush my teeth. I decide not to shave. I don't shave every day. I have a beard started, about a half inch long already, from trying to conserve water in the barracks pod...after...they...left me.

As I cross the room I become aware of the rumble of the thunder. Still? Yes. Still. Going down the hall ramp it is louder, unmistakable. I cross the living room straight to the passage sloping down from the right corner. I hear them buzzing in the kitchen. Down at the end there's a door on the right. I operate a lever like the one on the front of the apartment...but...this is a door hinged on the left, arched at the top, like the bathroom door. I open it just enough to get misted by the falling rain and water running down the face of the cliff. Yes. It's the balcony. There are chairs out there. The blowing turbulence, the constancy of lightning and thunder continue, are..., continuous. The wind sucks the door closed. I hear it latch.

I come back up the passage to the living room. I see from that angle, over the low wall, through the long opening, Eenunh in the kitchen. I cross along the outer wall, cross between two lily-paddy chairs, past the low central table, where "To Kill A Mockingbird" is laying, walk between two more lily pad chairs, over to the far wall and up a short ramp to the kitchen.

She smiles at me, flickering irises, no vocalization. She's busy with bowls. She turns and points to the table. I sit where I sat last night. Whatever she's doing, mixing in a pan on a surface there next to the sink, she's stirring in it, her body vibrating with the rapid motion of her right arm. My eyes fall on her back and shoulders, her slimmer waist, the flare of her hips. I can't help but reimage Tinunh's body in Eenunh. I wonder if Humans and these...things...could... mate. I have to look away.

Across the low wall that separates the higher kitchen level from the lower living room I see light around the window closure at the end of the window passage on the left end of the living room. I wonder at the crude dwelling, in contrast to the seeming technology, hot water plumbing, whatever that hot and cold capability in the kitchen counter is. The crude lighting is obviously some natural luminescence that responds to motion in proximity. Eenunh's work at the sink has it glowing, silhouetting her form.

Asking, again, an impossible conversation.

Tinunh goes out of the kitchen, down into the living room, away, up to the bed-hollow room, I guess, comes back, all grins, flickering eyes. No conversation. Her mother looks toward her, back to her work. The mixing done she opens the warm lid, sets the bowls in. Tinunh sits. There are sporks in the middle of the table. Eenunh leans against the counter, smiles at Tienunh, smiles at me. She crosses her arms, pulling her dress tight across her chest. I can see the outlines of an undergarment, down the front of her dress, a strap exposed at the neck opening. Suddenly I'm obsessed with knowing what her body looks like! I lift my thoughts to wondering about their DNA. Do they have DNA? Living things, even on this planet, probably have DNA. They seem to have reproductive organs, male and female genders. I wonder if anyone's ever been here before to ask and answer such questions. The Deutche L. A. crew were all commercial interests. I never saw or heard anyone express any scientific curiosity beyond the mining. We're supposed to get some percentage of whatever profit we bring back. If I ever get back. I wonder if Briggs will come back, whether he knew he was leaving me behind, or Patrick didn't point it out. No. Everyone had to notice I wasn't there at my bunk that night, in the close quarters of the barracks pod, if they didn't leave that night. Someone should have noticed I wasn't there to pack my stuff, to do my jobs on the shuttle, on the D. L. A., checking hatches, securing panels, doors, loose items. The bastards left me!

Eenunh turns, puts the glove on her right hand and lifts a bowl out of the warmer. She sets it in front of Tinunh. Tinunh's eyebrows go up, looking and grinning at me. She reaches for a spork, just out of reach. I push it toward her. Irises flicker, white teeth gleam. Eenunh turns and brings out another bowl, for me. And a third for herself, closes the lid. She points at the cooler, opens it, looking at me, lifts one of my food packets, as if to ask if I'd prefer them. I figure I'll take a chance on whatever this brown cake-looking thing in the bowl is. It smells like ginger-cake. I wave my left hand in a gesture intended to decline. She sits. Tinunh has cut a bit of the 'cake' and put it in her mouth. She chews, so cute, an ever-present smile. Irises flicker.

I focus on my own, cut a piece loose, put it in my mouth. It's warm. It tastes like gingerbread. As I chew it sort of melts and I swallow. We go on eating. Each time I look at them they're looking at me. I keep my eyes down as I finish, letting them have a good look. I've had a good look at them but want to see more. Their ears are like mine. Their eyebrows, noses, lips, like mine, only that green tint, lips a little darker. I see clavicles, ribs, feet and hands like my own. I noted the three-segment bones of Eenunh's fingers when she rested them on the bottle last night. I think the bones obey the Golden Ratio, the Fibonacci Sequence. I see the fingernails are not thin but clawlike...not...super...animalish...but...stronger.

I finish as Tinunh does. Her mother continues to eat. Tinunh comes around the table, peeps into my empty bowl, looks at me, irises flicker, a squinty smile, and takes my bowl and spork. She draws water at the sink, just tall enough to tiptoe and reach over in it. She sets her clean bowl and the one Eenunh mixed in to the side, leaned against the back wall of the counter. She turns to take her mother's bowl, washes it.

Eenunh rises, motions to me. I get up and follow her. She goes to the living room, pushes the two lily pad chairs that are by the inner wall close together and settles into one, gesturing me to the other. The thunder rumbles. She picks up the book, leans close to me and runs her fingers over the embossed words on the slick cover. I pronounce the title. She points to the smaller letters of the author's name. I pronounce it. There's a picture on the cover, two-fifths filled with a tree with a knothole, a ball of twine, and a pocket-watch in the hole, the other three fifths a bird silhouetted in flight against a blue sky, a nearly 'full' new moon with just a perfect circle of limn light around it, some dark trees on the horizon.

She opens the book, I repeat the title. I turn the page... But she points to the bar code on the inside cover. There are two, one about 3/4 of an inch wide, one about an 8th of an inch, long and thin. The big one has numbers. She pinpoints the numbers with the point of her...index fingernail. I turn the book lengthwise, read the first few..she stops me. Pinpoints them individually.
'four, four, six... Two small lines extend out of the bar code between two numbers. She points at it, draws my attention to two at the beginning of the string of numbers. I don't know what they mean. There's as much mystery to these markings for me as there is to her.

She has me read the title and the reviews; turns the page, another full page of reviews. She points at the names of the newspapers. She notes the repetition of 'Magazine' and 'Tribune', finger hopping down the page to match them up. Another page with the title, the author. The copyright date, publisher's message. She notes the all capitals 'ATTENTION SCHOOLS AND CORPORATIONS' message, offering to sell books in bulk.

A quote; I read it; "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." by Charles Lamb.

The facing page says 'Part One' in large black letters. I turn the page. Eenunh points to a black line that runs across the page to a large number 1. I say it. She flips back to the word 'One' on the previous page. I say it. She points to the number 1. I say it. She holds up her index finger. I say "One". She flips up her middle finger and I say "Two". She extends her thumb; I say "Three". More fingers; Four, Five. I hold my right hand next to hers, flip up my thumb and other fingers, counting 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. She nods, goes back to the page. I begin to read.

When I get to the second paragraph, which begins with 'When', she points to the word 'When' beginning the first and second lines above. I say, 'Yes' and nod, pronounce 'When' again, and two more times, pointing at the words. I fumble with some 'sign language' trying to think of how to explain 'When'. I think of pointing to my wrist, where people might have a watch. Meaningless. How do you explain the concept of time, the ever-elapsing moment of now? The 'When' of memory of the past, or imagining 'When' of the future? I start to go on reading.Then I remember the stop watch in the picture on the cover. I flip back, point to it, say 'When'. Probably meaningless.

When I get to Boo Radley she points to the names, the Ewells, Jem, Dill, Boo Radley. I repeat them. She seems to pinpoint the capitalized names, the capital letters.

We've read a few pages when my stomach rumbles! I feel gas rippling through my bowels! I worried about what their food might do to me!

She looks amused, jumps up, takes my hand and pulls me up. She's very strong. She leads me to the ramp up to the bedroom, pushes me in that direction, comes with me. She pushes me toward the bathroom, closes the door behind me. I don't think I'm quite ready so I simply wash my hands...but...then...I'm ready! I hurry to the commode and strain a bit, relax, strain again, relax, and...kawhoosh! I expel most of what must be in me in one great gush! It's alarming! It's embarrassing! It smells like hell! I reach back and pull the lever. It flushes with a great suctional whoosh!

Good God! Oh! The second coming! Another kawhoosh! More stank. I flush again. I think I'm done. I think again. And again.
Now, I'm pretty sure.

There, in a small alcove in the rock face, are leaves. I see the leaf shape, vein structure, and I'm surprised when I pick one up to find it very soft, but strong. I fold it and use it. Fold another, and another. I hope there are no further surprises. I stand and feel secure. I take two more, step to the sink, pants at my ankles, wet the leaves and sit back down. I clean myself a bit more. Satisfied, I pull up my pants, flush, wash my hands and go out.

Eenunh is across the room by the open front door, turns back to me, arms crossed under her breasts. I'm sure she's laughing, stifled but still laughing, a wonderful, beautiful look on her face. She closes the door, meets me at the middle of the room, buzzes something, head inclined, inquisitively? Consolingly? Something. She reaches and touches my cheek. I pat my stomach. She nods in the affirmative, pats her own.

Tinunh comes up. They grin and buzz. Tinunh pats her stomach and moves quickly to the bathroom! She lets out a chirp, loud, sharp sound. Eenunh laughs! Tinunh comes out holding her nose. She grabs a towel off the shelf, waves it as she closes the door. The door comes back open. I see her going to the alcove. Eenunh goes to the door, head down, left ear near it, and buzzes. I hear Tinunh's faint voice. I realize suddenly that if their food did this to me my food might affect them similarly. I feel guilty. I laugh, quietly, to myself. What a way to... get to know each other.

Eenunh gestures for us to go back down the ramp to the living room.

She returns to the chairs. I go down the ramp to the balcony door, open it a crack again, hear the thunder, not continuous now; intermittent, but substantial. I get a bit of misting, close it, return to the chairs. We read a couple more pages.

Tinunh returns. She is dressed differently, carries a bag strapped around her neck, across her chest to her right side. They converse. Eenunh takes the book, lays it with the pages face down on the table. She rises, motions for me to rise. We go up the ramp. She pulls a bag like Tinunh's from a shelf there. There are things in it. They clank metallically. I can see there's weight. She sets it on the floor, hands me a bag without any things, no weight but the bag. She puts the strap of hers over her head to hang from the neck across to her right side. I do the same with mine. And..., Tinunh opens the door. We're...going somewhere.

Out in the corridor there are people everywhere, going to the ramps and down. Some come down from further up, other floors, all streaming uniformly down. Most, if not all, wear pack-bags like us. There are people in dark brown, some in light brown, a tan. There are some in light blue. Only a few wear a dark blue, and only a couple wear a...richer, more azure blue I've seen, sport-coat style. Dark greens; light greens. Eenunh's tunic-like dress looks a flat...gold...or...dark...yellow in this light. Tinunh's looks olive drab.

We wait a chance to get in line, get in, and trundle down. The walls glow brightly with the movement. The smell is different, not the honey sweet of the apartment, more an odor of bodies, I think, not...unpleasant. Just so many of...us. Their feet make little sound. I notice they pick them up very naturally and set them down. Not much friction. I drag a foot occasionally, unaccustomed to the ramps, and Eenunh looks back and down. I step more carefully.

In the...octo-chamber below, where all the ramps come out, we cross the room close to the wall. Tables from the pub are set up in the room, chairs stacked on them. I look back and recognize the passage we came in yesterday.

I see water! I stop and stare down into the darkness. I go down a ways, flashing my hand at the wall to activate the glow. The passage is flooded down at the bottom! The water must be up over the patio! In the door!

I speculate on the scene out there in the desert, the camp, a flood of this magnitude! The barracks pod would wash away, sealed, and float. Holy [naughty word removed]! I'm afraid again.

This central passage on the other side of the cavern, off this chamber, is large, accommodating the large flow of people. They walk in three lines, not shoulder to shoulder, but in a staggered...left, center, right... uniformity. They seem to avoid getting close to the left wall. Soon I see why. A person passes on the left, coming the other way. Soon two more, going the other way. They were Brownboys, Greengirls, some...kind of...specialized workers I speculate.

Now it seems everyone carries a bag, some two, crisscrossed. We walk a long time, a long way. I'm afraid again, anew. How far into the...big rock mountain are we going? The passage is level, but...will we go deeper? Can I find my way...if...?

Then we're out into a huge cavern, high ceiling. I can see vehicles! A uniform shape, all flat white, all parked with a back end against a...like...a loading dock.
They look like box trucks, or vans, sloping back end, doors standing open like...butterfly wings...on many. People working on things there on the dock, metal on metal, hammering, grinding. White tires. But...they look flat on the bottom.

Then...I see...They're floating! They're boats! They're floating!

What in the world? What...in this world?

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/26/23 11:41 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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Tinunh veers to the left, along the wall along the dock. I see what looks like a...like...a flea market!

It's a broad cavern, going back into the stone. Pillars hold up the roof at regular intervals. It seems to be tiered, another level about a yard higher, and another one a yard higher than that. The lower tier seems to be where most of the activity is. Glowing strips on the low ceiling brighten as people move among tables and stalls full of...all kinds of...stuff! There seem to be clothing on hangers and packages wrapped in the gray hornet's nest-looking paper. Lots of arm-waving and murmuring. There's an...oily smell. Laughter bursts out somewhere! The voices rise and fall.

Down the front edge a cop team, one male, one female, blue uniforms, seems to be telling a woman she can't have stuff across the threshold onto the dock. She's moving stuff in. They move on.

Whoa! Tinunh turns to face us at the edge of the opening into the market. Eenunh stops. I stop. They converse. Tinunh turns, goes ahead, and about a third of the way along the dock, she turns up an aisle. Tables seem to be arranged so the sellers can walk up and down between two rows, selling on both sides. Eenunh lingers, then, touches my arm to go, goes on by me. She passes the aisle where Tinunh has gone, on past another two-table setup and turns up the next aisle. I follow. I can see Tinunh as she seems to shop, stopping and eyeing things on that side, this side. She looks at me, irises flicker, and grins. Then her face becomes blank and she moves on. I think she...deliberately...blanked...her face. I don't know. She finally stops where the table on her left is filled with tools, wooden handles, metal...everything. That's a definite hammer, wooden handle up, standing like a small sledge hammer. There are others in various sizes, different shapes. There are long screwdriver-looking things, pliers or something with two symmetrical 'handles' and a central rivet. There's stuff hanging from a line overhead.

I look away, deeper into the cavern, across the market to my right, at people, strange faces, often catch them looking at me. They smile and look away. I begin to nod. They smile and go about their business. Some mimic the nod, nudge companions and continue to look. I'm suddenly very aware of my hair parted on the right, thankful for my ballcap. All of them part it in the middle, no matter how long they wear it, men and women. Faces can be unique, but hair is very much the same. My hair's different, straight, and I part it on the right. My beard...none of them wears a beard. I...stand out in a crowd.

When I look again Tinunh is handling what looks like a corn knife or big meat-cleaver, long, a machete. She and the person at the table seem to engage in rapid exchange of short communications. He waves his arms, touches his chest, his belly. Tinunh turns the knife and hands it back to him, handle first. He puts it in a sheath and hangs it on the overhead line. There are others hanging there. Tinunh points. He takes a larger one off its hook and unsheathes it, hands it handle first to her. She looks at the handle, points at something there, shows it to him, examines the blade, passing it close across her face. There is arm-waving, on his part. Tinunh stands still. She then spreads her right hand, palm up, and her left, holding the knife at the same level. She stands still. Arm waving. A staggering move. Touch the chest, the belly. And he hands her the belted sheath. Tinunh sheathes the blade and tucks it atop her bag. I look away again.

Eenunh has moved up to the next table. There are lots of leather garments there. She's handling them, holding them up. Just brownish rough leather, pullover shirt, no collar, high at the neck, front and back, long-sleeves. I come closer. I want to keep an eye on Tinunh. This place is bedlam, noisy, scary, the kind of place, if Humans ran it, they would scheme and scam in, where children aren't safe! Where adults aren't safe.

Eenunh pulls on my left shoulder, spinning me to face away from her. Damn! She's strong. Gentle enough, but strong! She has a leathery garment in her left hand and spreads it across my back, with her right. She takes it away. I start to turn but she's taken another one from the table and lays it across my back. When she takes it away I turn my head enough to see she lays it across her arm and pulls up a pair of leggings, like chaps, I think. No! They're just front and back pieces sewn together, leaving chap-like flaps. Eenunh holds them to my waist, from behind. Her foot kicks around the back of my feet, something about the length I assume.

Now...she's...wrapping the waistband of the pants...around my neck! What the...? She takes them down, adds them to her armload. I think I'm getting outfitted! For what, I don't know. I turn. She grins at me, touches my shoulder. She pulls off my ball cap, adds a straw hat, puts it on my head. It must fit. She leaves it there. I tuck my ball cap inside my shirt, on my right shoulder. She has leather gloves. I offer my hands. They fit; thin brown leather. Comfortable fit, loose. They're kind of worn, used, but nice, flexible. It's a flea market. Uh oh! I think I'm going to work! She converses with the man beside the table. They smile, nod their heads once, make a little bow. He's making marks on a pad, makes marks on a second sheet, hands it to her.

When I look over for Tinunh she is not there! Before I can panic I hear her voice and turn to see her grinning up at her mother. She pats her pack-bag in a 'mission accomplished' gesture, grins at me. Her left hand clutches a handful of metal tools, knives, a trowel, atop the corn knife and sheath, atop her bag. Eenunh turns and pushes me, to pass Tinunh and turn back the way we came. I lead them out, stop on the dock, look left and right. They pass me by, leading left, on down the dock. I follow. People are working at the back of most of the water-trucks, on what look like gray sheet metal bins, hammering gingerly at what look like sliding lids, prying at hinges on others. Minor repairs I think.

The interiors of the trucks...boats? Water-trucks? ...are white. I see those bins racked all along both walls, white racking, sheet metal gray bins, some stacked loosely in the floor. Each truck's a little different. Different stuff. I can't tell what it is; just bundles, stuff. There is a cabin at the front, glass windows all around, two seats, an opening in the middle. There's a definite bow, like a boat, in the front.

They've stopped. Eenunh opens the doors of a water-truck. It's like the others, white, the bins on both walls, some on the floor. Eenunh opens my pack-bag, puts the leather pants, shirt, and gloves in. Tinunh drops in her handful of tools. She folds the belt of the corn knife and puts it in, almost too long for the bag, strap to strap.

There is a rise in the cacophony of voices! I look around. People are getting into their trucks. Doors close with a slam or a click. The water-trucks begin to...hum! A low hum. Engines starting?

Eenunh points in to me, right hand, head toss. I go in, only need to duck a little below the roof. She follows, pushes, points to the front. I feel the truck...the...boat, bob in the water with my weight, her weight. There are seats, like the chairs in her apartment kitchen, the ones in the pub, 'leaners' I've come to call them, but thick, leather cushions are on the seat and the back. Same nappy brown leather as the clothes she just got me. There's a wheel, like a truck steering wheel, wooden. I go to the passenger side. Wood trim on the dash. Nothing fancy; just brown wood, like the spindle doors, her coffee table, but with a shiny varnish finish. Everything else is white. Eenunh gets under the wheel. Tinunh stacks two bins and straddles them in the middle, her hands on the backs of both our seats. They converse.

Eenunh flips a lever, slides her window back. The air comes in, cooler. I look at my side and see the window would slide open too, but I don't. I study the structure. Levers. The roof is a hatch. I think it would unlatch here by my right arm and go up, gull-wing style.

Eenunh eases the water-truck away from the dock, into line behind others, and patiently forward. The pilot of another vehicle lets her go ahead. She lets others into line. I can see blue sky through the opening, a big spindle door right on the water, broken white clouds, sunshine, blue sky. No lightning! I don't hear any thunder! I heard thunder, sporadic, when we woke up this morning. Now, none.

We come out facing the rising Sunstar. It is very red, low on the horizon. The red light reflects off the blue water, paints my green companions red. Their hair looks like fire! They are just as beautiful red as green. Such faces! Eenunh goes out a ways, cuts right, to starboard. S-T-A-R-Right. Mnemonic.

Whitecaps on the water show the wind. I think we're on the side of the stony mountain opposite where her apartment is. We must be. East. Sunstarrise. The Sunstar sets in the west. I loved looking at the red sandstone hive from the camp, the setting Sun behind me, everything red-painted, the red sandstone mountain inflamed!

I look to my right and see where I would expect the slope up to a level I imagine is the patio, like over on our side. The water comes right up to the cliff face now, obviously flooding the patio and lower level of the complex, openings, other pubs I assume. The patio must circle the mountain. Small waves break where I think the edge of the patio would be, and go on in to break and shush against the base of the cliff. Pub openings are at regular intervals in the cliff face, and, yes, balconies up. I count five levels; five floors in the hive. It's...it's not a hive; it's an apartment building! A...city...carved in stone!

Truck-boats ahead go off in random directions. Eenunh veers to the right, starboard, just circling the mountain. I watch the cliff face for some clue of where we are. There's a series of big round glass windows, along the south end of the stony mountain...the...rock. It seems all the same after we turn northwest. No! Wait! I...I'm pretty sure that's...our pub...her balcony. She veers left. We're in the shadow of the sandstone mountain. We're heading west. I see the low horizon of the distant mountains I'd seen from the mine pits.

We pass an island. I think it's the hill that was near the camp! Some of the rock shapes at the top look familiar. Angelo and Briggs and I walked up there one day, Briggs prospecting, Angelo and I armed. Those things that snarl and smack in the night are out there, somewhere.

I see no sign of the camp. The barracks-pod was sealed. It would have floated away. The mine strip, rip rap piles, are somewhere underwater.

I feel a little forlorn, stifle it, determine to deal with what is, not what I wish it was. What do I wish? I wonder.

We drive a boring while, turning north, west, north, west and south. I think we're searching for a random island. Water. Islands, some small, others larger. I see a water-truck ease up to the shore of one, and drive right out on the land on those white wheels! Amphibious! I never saw them driving them before in the desert. I wonder why. We go on, south, the Sunstar on our left now. On other islands there are people out on the ground near their trucks...doing something with bins. I wonder where we're going. And what we'll do there. The Sunstar is up! It's getting warm. I slide open my window. Yes, that's better.

Suddenly Eenunh and Tinunh are buzzing!

I'm... calling it buzzing; it's really not. I'm still trying to let go of that 'insect' analogy that took hold in our imaginations before I knew any of them.

Their voices have kind of a... nasal twang, lots of words that sound like a...hum...hence 'buzz'.

They sound excited! There's an island ahead, not very big, or very high out of the water. She goes around it,to starboard; all the way around I think, both of them studying it intently, commenting, pointing. It's longer than it is wide, the angle we approached giving the impression it is small. But it's fairly long. As Eenunh comes full circle at the south end she eases in to the shore; stops with a slight bump! She shifts a lever on the steering column, backs out. They buzz. Tinunh points and Eenunh turns a bit to her left, port, L-E-F-T, four letters, ending in T, P-O-R-T, four letters, ending in T, mnemonic device, and approaches again. This time I feel the wheels hit the ground and spin, and up the 'beach' we go! She finds a place more level than others and stops.

Tinunh is up and to the back. She has taken her two-bin seat with her. She stacks them with others loose on the floor. I hear the doors open. Eenunh opens her gull-wing hatch. I open mine. She throws shapely legs over and slips out over the side and disappears toward the back. I feel less agile, my side sloping uphill, and simply rise and stagger through the back and out the big doors. I jump down onto the red sand.

Tinunh reaches in on the floor for her bag and hands me the large sheath, the wooden handle of the big knife sticking out. I pull it out. She takes it from me, lays it back in the bed. I see a splinter of the handle has broken off, leaving a space about half an inch long. That's what she was looking at when she got it. She wraps the belt of the sheath around my waist, takes it off, makes an adjustment, tries again. It fits. I watch her slip the end through a buckle with two prongs. The holes in the belt are metal rivets, like military gear back...home. I take over, tighten it to suit myself.

She reaches into the water-truck bed and hands me the corn knife. I put it back in the sheath. She hands me my pack-bag,offers to put it around my neck. I take off my straw hat. She reaches in the bag, hands me, wooden handle first, a sort of shaving razor knife, square on the blade end, a leather loop on the handle end. And then she hands me a knife with a tapering, serrated blade, like a drywall knife, leather loop. She points to my bag. I put the two knives back in it. She hands me a pair of the pliers-like tool. I examine them, flex the two sides, put them back in my bag. And...a small hammer, like the people on the dock were using, making repairs. And a trowel. I don't know if we're farming, feasting or laying block!

Eenunh steps up, looking at me, golden irises flickering, looking at Tinunh. She is similarly outfitted, a corn knife belted around her waist, her bag on her shoulder. Tinunh is pulling things from her bag, leather garments like the ones Eenunh was outfitting me with. Mine are laying on the floor in the truck. I see they're both tossing the leathers into the bed of the water-truck, atop mine. Apparently we don't need them. Why do we need a big corn knife? I hope we're harvesting corn. Sugar cane maybe. They keep their gloves. Eenunh hands me my gloves. They put on straw hats, push them to hang from a chin strap down onto their backs. Aren't we a trio? I take my ball cap out of my shirt, toss it in the truck.

They each climb in, one after the other, take a pair of bins from the boat, out of the wall racks, one from each side. I reach in, take two of the loose ones on the floor. Apparently the wrong ones. They talk. Eenunh takes them, steps up into the water-truck, puts them back on the floor. She takes another two out of the walls, very deliberate action, eye contact, one from each side, top row, front end of the racks, talking and looking at me, and hands them to me. I realize that's what they had done, one from each side, top row, front. Why?

I see a difference in the bins. One has a sliding top, with a little door in one end of the sliding part, with a wire handle. I tug at the handle and the little door opens, a 'locking' device on the inside snapping to hold it closed, securely. Okay. Why? The other one is hinged, flips up, the same 'snap' device to hold it closed. Both have handles on each end.

They lead up toward the higher part of the island, not far, stop at some red sandstone rock outcroppings, and sit on that ledge. The rock looks...eroded, like water comes up this high sometimes. They open their hinged bins, on their left. The one that slides open, with the little door on top, is on their left. I set up the same way. They unsheathe and lay their knives on the ledge beside them. I do the same. Hey! We're all right-handed!

And we sit. And we sit. And we wait. And we wait. I wonder what for.

Suddenly they're looping the two knives on their right wrists, dangling down! Something's happening! Eenunh shows me she can flip first one knife, then the other, into her hand. She drops the razor knife and flips up the serrated knife. Drops it and flips up the razor. I try it. I get both handles in my hand at once. Try again. I'm about fifty-fifty for getting one or the other knife in my hand. I keep practicing.

So I'm looking around, and we're sitting there, and suddenly it feels hotter. I think the Sunstar has reached that height where it gets really hot toward midday. Drifting clouds have changed it a little, varying with an offer of some shade, and then the brutal heat, then shade, but...

Suddenly, up out of the water, come these brown crawly things!
Multi-legged centipedey about eight or ten inches long!
And not just one or two! There are dozens of them! Then more and more!
Scares the crap out of me! There are so many of them! And they keep coming! The water's edge is kind of churning with them! They wriggle right up the beach at us! Eenunh hands me my leather gloves. I put them on quickly, wishing there would be no reason why! She shows me her razor knife. I get mine in my hand
The girls begin picking them up; some kind of worm or eel or slug or...something! They use the razor-knife to cut off an end, a head I guess!
Then the serrated knife to split the brown skin down the length of it! They peel the skin off, drop it.

What's left looks like... what I ate!
The green 'vegetable'!
It wasn't a vegetable!
It was these...things!

Eenunh shows me one, points with her gloved finger at a green dot on the head. It wriggles! She processes it, beheads it, skins it, opens her hinged bin, tosses it in, closes the lid to keep live ones from getting in, I think, and picks up another one, shows me an orange dot on its head, opens the little trapdoor on the bin to her left, and drops it in live! They throw these live into the bin with the sliding closure, through the little door on top. What the hell? I think I ate one of those too! I'm hoping some meatballs come rolling up! Those are good!

I begin to do what they do. I'm creeped out at the feel of the wrigglies wriggling but...this is food...I guess. The greenies stop wriggling when I cut the head off. The skin is thin, easy to cut, to pull off. I catch an orange dot, open the little door, pitch it in, close it. Grab another one, check the dot color and proceed as necessary. The ones we don't catch go back under the rock ledge. I bend and look under and watch them disappear into holes back there.

Eenunh and Tinunh are fast! Tinunh skins wrigglies as fast as her mother! I try to be fast, careful but fast. These knives are sharp. Soon I feel at least halfway competitive with their speed.

They've filled their first two bins and check mine, not quite full. Eenunh quickly rearranges my...greenies to lay crossways, likely to get more in the bin than chaos style. They take theirs by the handles to the water-truck and come back with empties, start over again. I finally fill mine. Eenunh inspects, nods, points to the boat. I pick them both up by the handle on one end. They're heavy! Eenunh and Tinunh made it look easy, lifted them with what seemed to be ease, carried them, put them back in their slots in the walls, top row, front. I'm banging my knuckles, damn near dropped a bin. I bring back more bins, and catch more wrigglies. The routine is both relaxing, mindless, just hustle, and tedious, annoyingly repetitive.

Some time in the afternoon we've filled numerous bins. We're pulling bins from the next to the bottom rows.

The Sunstar is long past noon. It's hot, but clouds keep blocking out the direct light for long periods. The straw hat helps. It gets very muggy, humid. The wrigglies keep coming. I look at the girls. They're sweating like I am!

I see Eenunh assess the sky, shading her eyes with her gloved hand, clouds thickening into a more solid overcast. We keep working. Finally we're taking empty bins from the bottom rows. Late that afternoon we begin using just a couple of the loose bins on the floor. Did we fill all the ones from the walls? I don't know. I think so. These bins are all hinged so we don't collect any more live ones. I feel a little pride when mine is full shortly after theirs! I add 'Greenie Wrangler' to my resume'.

The Sunstar is far to the west, behind us, a bright spot in the overcast, which is starting to look solid that direction. It's coming our way, fast.

It begins to rain in the distance, to the west! I can see rain falling, a haze. I worry about the lightning! Surely they wouldn't have us out here if a storm like yesterday is coming!

The wrigglies...stop coming! Late arrivals come on up, disappear under the rock. Some seem to turn back, go back into the water. Soon nothing's moving. I see great piles of brown wriggly skins where we have worked. I take satisfaction that my pile is pretty good, I think as good as theirs!

They pick up everything, tools, sheath their corn knives, making e wonder why we needed them close at hand! They pick up their last bins, move to the water-truck, put them in on the floor, close the gull-wings, bring out the leathery pants and torso garments. We all dress in them. They're heavy. It's too hot for leathers! The top is a long sleeve pullover. The leather is uncomfortable around the back of my neck, and my throat. I turn up the collar of my shirt. Hot, but better. The pants fit over my jeans. I put my straw hat back on.

Tinunh is stretching what look like seat covers over the seats in the cabin. She comes out, stopping on the thresh-hold, reaches to take my hat off, tweaking at the chinstrap, and lays it on the floor with theirs. They close up the water-truck back doors. The rain runs down into the neck of my leather pullover. 'Not the best rain gear', I think. My heads soaked! Their hair hangs down, wet. They're still...beautiful.

Eenunh motions for me to follow Tinunh. Tinunh leads along the beach, past the bow of the water-truck, down the other direction from where we've been working. She has her corn-knife out in her right hand. She steps cautiously, stalking I think, sometimes stamping her right foot lightly. She raises her left arm, like a right turn hand signal!

Eenunh passes me, has her corn knife out, close behind the child! Tinunh edges left, toward the water. I get my corn-knife out.

I don't like the feel of this! What the hell are we...

The sand erupts!

A large black lizardly thing has popped up slinging sand all around! It's frickin'...big as me!

I want to run!

It spits a mouthful of brown and green and orange out with a horrifying sound like vomiting 'Orrrrgggghhh'!

The rain begins to pour heavily!

Tinunh springs in front of it, waving her arms, shouting, seeming to keep it from going toward the water!

'Let the son of a bitch go!' I shout in my head!

Eenunh hops over its back to the other side, turns midair, lands on her feet! It whirls toward her!

She waves her arms, shouts, sidesteps downhill! It turns uphill away from her!

The rain is getting in my eyes! I'm freaking out!

It turns toward me in a flourish, sand flying, and flares a short frill around its head! The frill turns very red!

My life flashes before my eyes! I don't have time to watch it!

Tinunh leaps on it, right on its back! She hacks down on the left side of its great neck with her corn-knife!

It flings her off! It turns toward the water! Tinunh lands on her feet, regains her position ahead of it! It turns back up the hill!

Eenunh springs on it, seizes the frill, lets go, hacks at the neck behind the frill, to the left of the head, twice, then to the right, twice, great, long, violent swings arcing overhead! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Violent! Red blood squirts and splats on the sand, runs away in the rain!

It flings her off! She lands on her feet! It gambols sideways toward me! I hack toward its head, strike it in the middle of its snout! Blood runs! Its mouth snaps open at me, a loud smack! The mouth closes, snaps open again with a loud smack! I jump to my left! It turns away from me, jumps up the hill!

The tail flips and hits me, in the legs, tripping me! I struggle to stay on my feet, fall, slamming my right shoulder against the rock ledge beside its big head! My left leg falls over its back! I bounce off the ledge, pulling my right leg in under it! It twists left and right, up on its hind feet, chest against the rock ledge! I wrap my legs around it! It claws at my calves, the leather pants! I attack its neck, hacking, once! Twice! Three times! I'm not hitting very hard, not...hard enough!

It rears up onto its hind legs, tries to mount the rock ledge! I throw my left arm around the neck, hug the great head to my cheek, hear a great green eye blinking at me! I hear it! I fear it! I hack in at its throat! Not hard enough to break the skin! It falls sideways, and thrusts its head under the rock ledge! It spins and claws toward the water, great legs throwing sand!

Through the rain I see the girls positioning themselves between it and the water! It turns again to try to mount the rock ledge! I hang on, try not to fall off! It seems weaker, struggles against my weight, but is weaker! I run the corn knife in the shallow gash I've inflicted under its throat, above my left arm! I push the blade across, with force, drag it back, pressing into the flesh!

Hot blood flows over my left forearm! I feel it through the leather! Some stings at my wrist!

I feel its heartbeat! It stops moving, raises slowly up, lays its forelegs on the rock ledge, tumbles back, falls on top of me!

It rolls off! I scramble to get up, struggle!

I don't have my knife! There it is! On the ground! I snatch it up! The beast doesn't attack! It drags itself toward the water. There's a gurgling sound. Red blood streams toward the water's edge, just in front of me, reddens the little waves crashing there. I lay my left hand on its back, feel its heart beat! It stops moving. I feel the heartbeat stop. Now I feel my own. It inhales, a shuddering, sucking sound, exhales, inhales, exhales...and stops. I hack again at the back of the neck. The body jumps with the force of my blow! I fear it is a last attempt to get me! But it isn't. Just the force of my hack.

I let go, stagger back. It rallies one last, feeble movement with its left front leg, throws one last handful of sand against my shins. I take hold of its tail. I don't want it to get away now! It doesn't respond. The girls have come up on it, on both sides. They're laughing! Crazy-assed... I can see golden irises flickering, looking at me. They're laughing! I don't see nothin' funny! I stagger back to the rock ledge, sit, leaning, hands on knees, corn knife held in my hand, still.

They drag their knives around its neck. The head finally comes loose from the body, lays still on the sand. I sit on the rock ledge and try to regain my sanity. I'm gasping for breath, realize it and calm myself, taking deep breaths. The cool rain is welcome. I look at the red blood on my left sleeve, my wrist, my glove.

They systematically butcher it, cut legs off, the tail. They're fast. They know where the joints are. They know how. Eenunh rolls the remaining torso onto its back with her foot, right leg. She runs her corn-knife from the throat to the anus, exerting herself to cut through a thick yellow belly hide. Tinunh pulls from one side, Eenunh from the other! I hear it rip open! Tinunh hops, long hops, left foot, right foot, left, back toward the water-truck. She comes back with two bins. Eenunh has cut various organs loose. She carries them to the edge of the water, rinses them, brings them back to the bins.

Soon a gut pile is laid aside, rinsing in the rain, not much in it. They must use almost everything. Eenunh lifts the torso, takes it in knee deep and rinses it in the water, brings it up and lays it on the rock ledge where I'm sitting. She's grinning at me, touches my shoulder. Rain runs down my face. She laughs.

'We are not amused' yet.

Tinunh rinses the legs, one by one, stacks them two by two on the torso. I go down and take hold of the head, drag it into the water, rinse it, bring it back to the rock ledge. It's heavy. The great green eye stares without seeing. They converse, laugh, look at me, flashing golden irises, grinning perfect white teeth.

I'm not laughing! 'You bitches think this is funny?' I indulge in a little anger, put it away. Damn!

Now...now I'm laughing. They look at each other, grinning, but don't converse.

In that moment of calm I listen to the rain, hissing on the water, splattering on the rock and sand. Steam rises from the corpse of the beast. I smell it.

Eenunh and Tinunh remove their leathers, go into the water, rinse them of blood, standing in the water. They toss them to the beach. Their leathers and clothes aren't very bloody. Mine are. The blood got under the leathers at some point, at my throat, at the end of my left sleeve, down in that glove.

Tinunh pulls her dress over her head. She's wearing what look like boxer briefs, shiny white underwear with short legs, and that short upper garment. I see her navel. She goes further into the water, dunks under, comes up dousing her dress in and out of the water, wrings it out, swings it out over her head. She comes out of the water, pulls it back over her head, struggles with the wet fabric sticking to her skin. I reach for the fabric, help her. Her bushy hair clings to her beautiful little head, a lovely shape to her skull. I lift it out of the neck of her dress. She turns to me, smiles, grins, irises a'flicker, slaps me on the bicep, pats me on the chest. She's talking to me, looking closely into my eyes. I fake a smile, grin. It feels like a grimace.

Eenunh goes in, pulls her dress over her head as she gets to deeper water, does the same thing. She has an upper undergarment, and the same style boxer brief underwear. I like...her...shape.

I pull off my leathers. I empty my pockets, lay things on the rock ledge. Wallet's wet! I drop my pants and shirt on the beach at water's edge. I go into the water in my underwear, regular briefs. I dunk under, shake my head in the water. I feel the sticky, stinky blood come out of my hair, off my face and neck. It's an oily sheen on the water, dappled by raindrops. I come out, get and rinse the leather gear, again and again. I can still see the blood on the left sleeve, but I'm worn out. I take it to the beach, get my clothes, the one leather glove. I go back out, dunk under to get the feel of the lizard blood off. It doesn't all come off. I wipe at my left wrist and more comes off, but the red color is still there. It's...oily. I rinse the gloves, turn the left one inside out. I drag my jeans and shirt back and forth in the water, swing them overhead.

Water gets in my mouth. It tastes salty. I wonder if it's the...dragon blood. I step a little further out, dunk again. Still salty.

'Damn! These...people...are crazy!' I think.

I chuckle, then laugh out loud. I hear the girls laugh. I look east, out across the vast stretch of water, and laugh! I feel like I'm recovering from the trauma of what we've just done. Damn! They could have...no...they couldn't have... warned me. If they could I would have been sitting in the water-truck waiting for them to get it done. Crazy! Who attacks giant lizards with corn knives? Is this how they...make a living?

Tinunh is going toward the water-truck. I pick the leathers up, come out of the water. I can see blood still in the leathers, in my shirt. I walk up, lay my clothes on the rock. I look west. The overcast is getting darker. The Sunstar is completely hidden, but there's light sky far off to the east. Eenunh's stopped in the middle of pulling on her dress, watching me closely. Our eyes meet. Golden irises flicker. She grins, says something. She finishes pulling on her dress onto her shoulders. Her underwear cling to her. I look until her head pops out the neck hole. I step closer, help her get the dress down her body. There's a...moment...standing, looking into each others eyes.

Tinunh comes driving the water-truck up the beach, goes into the water, turns it, backs up to the lizard. Eenunh gives a loud. shrill... chirp. Tinunh stops. I dress.

I decide to give a ritual of gratitude for the lizard's sacrifice. They step up beside me, Tinunh laying hands on two legs, but stopping as I reach out and touch it with my right hand. Eenunh has laid hands on the torso. She stops as I touch it with my left hand. They drop their hands to their sides, stand still. I look up into the rain, and speak aloud,
"Thank you for living, and now, dying. We simply need what you have been, that we may continue to be." It's not...something I've ever done before, just a...moment's inspiration. I'm...happy... to be alive.

I take my hands off the leg and torso and stand still, head bowed. I just want to go home! I just want to go to sleep!

They load the lizard. Seeing they've left the head I go get it and put it in the bed of the boat. They shake their heads negatively, point at the head, speak to me about it. I don't know what they're saying. Eenunh reaches in and picks it up, tosses the head unceremoniously out on the beach! They get in, gesture for me to come on. I don't know why! I pick up the head, take it back up to the rock ledge and sit down. I'm pouting! I don't care! I tell them, "I want the head of this damned thing! It's a trophy! I want a picture of me with my head in its mouth!" I sit there. They look at me, converse.
"We killed it!" I say. "We killed it! And I want everyone to see the damned thing we killed! We killed it!"

They laugh and both come out in the rain. Eenunh takes me by the hand, pulls at me, but I resist. She doesn't force me to stand. I think she's strong enough to, if she wants to.

"To kill," she says. Says it again taking the buzz out of her voice, sounding like a human woman. I look in her eyes, say, "To kill." She grins, pats me on the shoulder.

They converse. Tinunh picks up the lizard head and grins at me, takes it down the beach, sets it in on the floor. She climbs in and goes to the cabin. Eenunh tugs at me, and I relent. We go and get in, close the doors. Tinunh drives. Eenunh squeezes into the passenger seat with me. I make room. We all shiver. We leave the windows open a crack. We stink of dragon blood. I do any way.

Night falls on the water. Soon I see the lights of the stony mountain, dim balconies, dim light in the continuous row of windows at the top floor. I wonder who lives up there...in the penthouse.

Eenunh is asleep on my bicep. I hang my head, rest my eyes. I relive the day. Remarkable. Wild west. What in the hell? What...in this world?

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/27/23 03:08 AM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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Joined: Dec 2006
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5. THE BATHS: Chesty and the Thin Man

Windshield wipers! Tinunh has turned them on, I guess. We can see. There's not much to see, the overcast, the steady rain. How does she know which way to go? She notices I'm awake, points at islands, murmurs something. Her mother breathes steadily, asleep. She stirs, wraps her right arm under my left arm, settles, sleeps.

Finally I see light, dim light from the apartments in the cliff face, I hope. It is. Just the balconies. And the top. It...looks like windows up there, from a point and all along the north end where it curves around. Tinunh steers steadily toward them, circles the mountain, approaches the opening into the cavern. There are cops there, one man on the left, woman on the right. We wave, they wave. We're in! Out of the rain! She turns the boat, backs it in between two railings. I feel it bump the dock. The hum of the engine, whatever, wherever it is, stops.

Eenunh rouses, brings a beautiful hand up over her beautiful face, opens her golden eyes, murmurs something, and settles against my arm again. Tinunh is up and out the back. I wait a moment, but then shift my shoulder against Eenunh's face, to rouse her. She sits up, arches her back in a stretch. She spins to her left and rises in one motion, gripping my left shoulder in her hand, moving toward the back. I follow.

On the dock Tinunh has pulled down a cable with a hook. I stop in the truck, look around Eenunh, hands on bins on each side, duplicate her pose, watch as Tinunh slams the hook into the lizard torso! It doesn't stick! Slam! It does! She pulls on the cable. The torso lifts up and swings out!

Eenunh steps out, lifts the lizard legs and leans them against the back of the water-truck. I step forward, take Eenunh's place in the back of the truck. Tinunh stacks the legs under the torso, two by two, like she did back on the island. Eenunh points to loose bins and I lift the ones she indicates, set them, balancing, on the threshhold. Tinunh lifts them, sets them on the dock beside the legs.

'Lizard organs,' I speculate.

I set the lizard head out on the left, away from the legs and torso.

We take our pack-bags out, I, following their lead. They put their leathers atop them, loosely, laying across the top, between the front and back straps. They begin walking further down the dock, to the right. I want to go the other way, back to the apartment, a shower, bed. There is an opening, a ramp. We go up. At the top it is humid, steamy. Eenunh points me to the right where a passage ramps up a little more, turns to the left, into a lit, steamier space. She speaks to an attendant, lighter blue clothes. I think she says, "Ass Oomam." I think so because he repeats it, "Ass Oomam." He looks at me, irises, grins, and turns up the ramp. I watch as Eenunh and Tinunh go left up a similar passage. Women are going into that passage. Men are going into mine. Some carry leathers, packbags; some don't. The Blueboy is motioning for me to follow.

I go up. There's a room, on the left, a passage straight on, a passage on the right. We go in the room. There are sinks, tub sinks, like for scrubbing. People are bent over them, scrubbing leathers with brushes and soap. A man walks away from one, the hot water still running, steam rising. I go to it and drape my leathers on the edges, left and right. I look back to see if he's coming back to the sink. He's leaving. There are brushes to scrub with. I observe that others use them, drop my pack-bag on the floor, start doing the same.

I have to turn my top inside out. There's blood inside the left sleeve there, some up around the neck. I drop the gloves in the sink. The pants aren't too bad. I'm scrubbing and hot water is running over it, the steam feeling good. I'm feeling good. The steam feels good.

Then...a voice, close behind me.

I finally realize it is more... outspoken than the din of voices in the room. Those voices go quiet.

I look around. It's big chest guy, Chesty, from the pub!

He's complaining, by the look and sound of him, to others! I hear it again; 'Ass Oomam.'

He's bare-chested, his muscles pronounced. He flexes them, as he gestures around. He has a towel wrapped around his waist, down to mid shin.

The others seem disinterested, go on about their business, talk quietly among themselves.

One guy at the sink next to mine says something. Chesty seems to berate him. The guy goes about his business at the sink.

He turns sideways to accost them anew. I think. What the hell do I know? I turn back to my work, complete it, gloves, upper, lower garments, the pack-bag itself. Others are scrubbing their tools. I scrub my tools. I turn. Chesty's still there, trying to engage others in his harangue. Others are hanging their leathers along the wall with clips that slide back and forth on metal rails. I hang my pack-bag by its strap, inside out, to drip dry, push it toward the back of the rail, and hang my leathers there, pullover, pants, gloves. There's a bench. I see others arrange their tools in shelves in the wall, some sitting beside their tools arrayed on the bench. I do the same with my tools, on the bench, to my left, sit beside them. I lay my corn knife on my right.

Big chest has followed me, waves his arms, gets shrill! Others watch, seem to question each other about what's going on. Some seem to question him. He doesn't like it! Arms wave, those double elbows interesting to watch. I don't know what to do. I look over my shoulder, up into his eyes, irises flickering, focusing, adjusting. I don't like his ass standing over me, behind me. I stand up straight, turn, look down into them. I like that better. I'm afraid. I feel my knees quiver. I don't like being afraid. But I hold his gaze. I stand my ground, turned, left foot forward, arms ready to make a fist and go. The corn knife no longer seems practical. I know this bastard is stronger than me. I think about poking him in the eyes, busting him in the nuts, assuming they have nuts.

As is typical of men, I think of Eenunh's body. Her clinging underwear...looks like...she's female just like human females. I assume the males are too. If there's a fight I'll fight dirty from the start. I'm out-manned with that musculature. I think of how strong my girls are.

I look him in the eye. His irises flicker. He grins, smirks, and continues in a lower volume. He looks me up and down, glances around. People are watching. Several people have stopped, stand nearer to him, irises flickering, heads turning back and forth between Chesty and me. One guy keeps touching Chesty's right arm, shoulder, seeming to try to dissuade him. Chesty throws his arm, his shoulder, to shake off the guy. After three tries the guy walks away. Chesty turns to face me. I think about my corn-knife, wonder if maybe I should get it in my hand. No. You can't cut this motherf...

Suddenly I'm aware of a man coming through the crowd, coming in out of the passage. He has a towel wrapped around his slim waist, bare green chest. He steps up, grinning broadly at me, saying something, and pushes between us, facing me. I'm wishing I'd picked up my corn knife when I thought of it! Big chest Chesty protests, over this guy's shoulder, but...this guy stops grinning, turns, and Chesty allows himself to be pushed back! I'm sure the guy pushed him. I saw his elbow come up, left arm put left hand on the center of Chesty's chest, push! He's kind of pushed off balance, takes a step back.

He is not happy about that! His face snarls. I think of Damned Patrick!

The man raises his index finger, left hand, points with his right toward the opening on past the tub and rack room. There's light there, a passage, steam. Others are going there. The Blueboy's turning off sinks. The sound in the room goes down. Chesty waves his arms, protests vocally. I don't know who says it first but I hear, "Ass Oomam" again, and a second time. The man does the two gestures again, this time two fingers, left hand, and pointing right. I step a little to my left to see Chesty's face. It has changed, from aggression to compliance. I can tell. He looks at me, eyes, turns and goes, not to the right, but to the left, out into the passages.

The man turns to face me. He grins mightily. He touches his chest, says some words, repeating one, sounding like, "Timmy Anne! Timmy Anne!" I distinguish a nuance of enunciation. He's saying,Thimiannh! Thimiannh!" I touch my chest, say my name. A slight turn of his head seems to ask me to repeat it. I do.

He has a dark green bandage across his forehead. He points to it. I don't understand; then I do!

It's the guy! The guy Patrick hit! I grin. I'm glad to see him! I take his right hand in mine, squeeze and shake it, holding his wrist with my left hand, like politicians do. He doesn't seem to get the idea, but then squeezes my hand like I'm squeezing his. He squeezes firmly. He talks, and grins and talks. I don't understand anything but that he is on my side. That's good enough. I point at the bandage, look up at it. He touches it, talks and talks.

He puts out his left arm, points toward the opening I think he came out of where steam seems to flow from, where he tried to send Chesty. He tosses his head that way. I gesture at my tools, my leathers. He gestures to leave them, speaks to an attendant, pointing at my gear. I guess it's secure. I go through the passage. He follows, still talking.

Inside, a room, there are showers running constantly. Naked men walk away from them, leave them running. It's warm water, not hot water, but warm enough. He steps behind a bench, removes the towel around his waist, hangs it on a hook. I see his genitalia, looking like uncircumcised humans. The vulnerability of Chesty's scrotum imprints for future reference.

He solicits a towel from an attendant there in the room, who brings it, hangs it, and one for me. He points to long benches in the middle of the room, out from the wall. An attendant is wiping one down. I start to undress. I lay my stuff out of my pockets on it, take down my towel and fold it over them. I slip out of my boots. They need cleaning. I think that's dragon blood on the right one, darker than the left. I pull out my belt. I take them to the shower, rinse them, but I need a brush. Thimiannh is in the shower next to mine, calls out. The Blueboy comes, takes my boots, my belt. I take my pants and underwear off, lay them on the bench. I step into the water with my bloody shirt on. Oh! The pleasures of water! I put my head under the water. My friend, Timmy Anne is talking. Thimiannh.

I start to think of him as 'Thin Man'. He is slender, well-muscled, lean, like Eenunh, and his name sounds like 'Thin Man', once I hear the 'h' in it. He talks and talks. I just nod and grin. I pull off my shirt, feel a tug. The attendant is there, the Blueboy, pulling the shirt from my hand. Thin man tugs at the shirt too. I give it to the attendant. He gathers my pants, searches the pockets, underwear, socks. Blue Guy takes them, out into the passages. I trust the process, whatever it is. I step back into the shower. Thin Man stands in his. I give a moan of pleasure. He laughs. The hot water is a glorious feeling. It's not hot-hot; just warm but...glorious! I'm sure I can detect the dragon blood washing away. It is heavy, in my hair, on my arm. It is smelly. There are jars on little shelves carved into the stone, like at Eenunh's apartment bathroom. I open one. It looks like shampoo. I pour a dab in my cupped palm, set it back in the shelf, and put the lid back on, loosely. I wash my hair, thoroughly, my beard. I start to feel human again; until I look around at naked green bodies. Then, I feel like an alien. I rinse, repeat.

There is stick soap, like at Eenunh's, and wash cloths on high shelves. I scrub, more than I've scrubbed in a long time. The stinky dragon blood colors the water that drains off me. Soon I only smell the soap, and not the blood. I step out, dry off. People look at me. I don't look back very long. My clothes are gone. I look around. Thin Man is wrapping his towel around his waist. I do too. He gestures. I follow, carrying my pocket stuff, in my two hands. We go back the way we came, through the tub and rack room. My tools and leathers, pack-bag, still hanging. He turns up the middle ramp. I look back at my leathers, my pack-bag, want that corn-knife in my hand. Chesty's here somewhere. I follow Thimiannh.

We go up a passage, ascending. There's a room. Lots of men are sitting around in towels, talking, drinking, lots of brown bottles, some green bottles, some blue bottles. The talk ceases for a moment, resumes. Some come over to where Thin Man has sat down, gesturing for me to sit too, leathery chairs, tub chairs that fit the natural splay of my arms, a small table. A Blueboy pushes past the men, sets two gray stone mugs on the table, shows two bottles dangling from his left hand, between his fingers, one green, one blue. Thin Man must have indicated blue for the attendant pours from that bottle, displays the bottles to me. I point at the blue too. He pours and steps through the gathered crowd to go away. I look up at the faces. No hostility. Just curious, I think. Thin Man talks. I'm comfortable. I relax. I feel a natural smile on my face. It feels good to relax.

One man says something. Thin Man points to his bandage, talks, gestures. They all murmur, brief, low. Someone else says something. I think I detect an interrogative tone; asking a question. Thin Man talks, like he's answering the question.

An attendant comes in, Greenboy, pushing a cart, calls out. A man turns and goes and collects clothes, turns back to his seat and drops his towel, dresses there. The attendant keeps calling out. Others collect their clothes, dress. The crowd shrinks. Soon I see Chesty at the far end of the room. He has collected his clothes, is finishing dressing, glancing my way; but not staring. He leaves, eyeing me as he passes. Thin Man watches him go. We drink our wine. Thin Man talks.

After some time a Greenboy comes again, has our clothes. My boots, my belt are clean, they look waxed, shined! Dry! My clothes are clean and dry! They smell good! No dragon blood! No stink of me wearing them for weeks. Another Blueboy comes up the ramp with my pack-bag. It's heavy. The leathers are in it. I see the corn knife. I don't search to see if the tools are, feeling that might be offensive. I'm...sure of...these people. Thin Man and the attendant converse. I hear Thin Man say, "Ass Oomam." Thin Man touches his chest, touches my shoulder. The attendant smiles and goes out.

We dress and Thin Man leads the way, talking over his shoulder, back down and past the shower room, the tub room, out the way I came in, into the main passage. Tinunh is there over at the women's entrance. She comes to us, smiling, irises. I love her face! They converse. Her hair is dry and fluffy again. I say, "You look like Tinunh again!", touch her left temple with my fingertips. Her beautiful right hand grips the heel of my hand. She grins. Thin Man asks a question. Tinunh doesn't answer, turns to gesture with her left hand raised by her shoulder, pointing to the passage across the hall. I see Eenunh come out of the passage. She is dry, clean and lovely again, her hair fluffed, symmetrical again. She grins. I love her eyes. They converse, Thin Man talking and talking, Eenunh listening politely, commenting, grinning, laughing. Finally we all begin to go down the passage to the dock.

We come out and there aren't many people there. Not everyone has a lizard torso hanging. The ones that are hanging are small. Mine, ours, would make three of some of these short, skinny ones! Some people ahead are pointing at ours. I wonder what they think of the lizard head. They move on. Thin Man is enthusiastic about ours. His voice becomes shrill. He talks rapidly. I notice no one else has a lizard head. Attendants in green clothes, Greenboys I call them, the lighter green, with clipboards are moving along, making notes I think. The Greenboys up-ramp wore darker green. Brownboys are unloading bins way down at the other end. I wondered if we'd have to unload and do something with the stuff we collected. Apparently we don't. We all turn and start walking.

Thin Man comes with us, talks all the way back to Eenunh's. We come in, set our pack-bags on the bed-hollow room floor, go to the living room, sit. Tinunh and Thin Man converse. Eenunh listens. Talks occasionally. Tinunh gets up, goes to the kitchen, moves around in there. Eenunh says something and Thin Man gets up, gestures to me. He leads down the passage to the back door, goes out on the balcony. The rain has stopped. In the dark we see the million stars. A giant crescent moon grins horizontally on the horizon, soon to set. Eenunh brings us cold drinks, the same wine, I think we had at the steam room, different I'm sure from the wine we had in the cafeteria...the... pub... in the green bottle. It was more tart; the blue more sweet.

We sit quietly now, Thin Man speaking occasionally, pointing out across the water, up at the sky. The rains have stopped. It is...peaceful. We are...at home. Tinunh comes to the door. Thin Man gets up. I get up. We go in. Eenunh is coiled on her chair, not asleep, eyes come open, gestures toward the kitchen, eyes close again. We go into the kitchen. Tinunh serves us. It's something new, a single dish, like rice and vegetables, little bits of meat, I think. It's delicious! There's water to drink. We have our wine too. We eat in silence. Tinunh sits and eats. She smiles, flickering Irises, looking from Thin Man to me. He says something. She bows her head, right cheek tucked toward her right shoulder, closes her eyes, grins. He says something else. She offers her right hand toward him, dangling limply down. He kisses it. They laugh. I laugh.

We finish and get up, go into the living room. Eenunh sleeps. He goes up the ramp. I follow to the front door. He talks. I smile. He goes out. I step out. He reaches and raises my right arm, puts his hand in mine and holds my wrist like I did his. He turns and goes up the ramp to the next level.

People are moving from the passages up and down the corridor, further up the ramps. I smile, grin. They smile, grin. I close the door, turn toward the bed hollows. My dirty clothes are there, folded, clean. Even my laundry bag is clean! Even my sneakers on the floor look like they have been cleaned. The straw in the bed hollow smells fresh, is mounded up more than when I left it. Room service? I'm starting to like this place.

I take my guitar out of the case, sit on the edge of the bed hollow, strum a few chords. It's been a while since it occurred to me to play. Tinunh comes up the ramp, stands silently, leaning on the wall, listens. She gestures for me to come, waits until I rise, leads me down the ramp. I start to put the guitar in the case, but she stops, motions for me to bring it. I do.

In the living room she points to a lily-pad chair, the first one on the left, toward the back of the room, sits in one opposite it, toward the outer wall. Eenunh sleeps in the one nearer the kitchen, toward the inner wall. I begin to strum quietly through a song without singing it, just the chords. Tinunh's face is intent, listening. She turns her head like an inquisitive puppy. I grin at her. She grins back, then her face becomes intent again, studious, flickering golden irises, mouth firmly set.

Eenunh says something. She hasn't moved. Tinunh answers something. Tinunh gestures, waving her hand toward the guitar, eyes on mine. I strum through another one. At one point I start to sing the words,

"I sold my soul, to a love-ly devil!
She said, 'Are you out of control, or are you on the level?'
I had a feeling, something was wrong.
A little voice inside my head said,
'Hey! Shouldn't you be gone?'

Tinunh's eyes are wide, eyebrows up, golden irises flickering. Eenunh rolls over to face our direction, head raised off the chair. I go on;

'I sold my soul, to a love-ly devil.
She let me in out of the cold. She let me play the rebel!
I had a feeling, something was wrong.
A little voice inside my head said,
'Hey! Shouldn't you be gone?'

Tinunh flops back in her chair, grinning. Eenunh sits up.

"I sold my soul, to a love-ly devil!
She said, 'Are you out of control?" I said, 'No! I'm on the level!
I had a feeling...I had a feeling...I had a feeling.
Shouldn't you be gone!"

I stop. They laugh! Tinunh sits up, gets up, talks excitedly. Eenunh is only a little more reserved, acknowledging Tinunh's enthusiasm. They like it; I think. Tinunh goes, sits in her mother's chair. They talk.

I play another song, and another, and another. Suddenly I'm very tired. I stand, tuck my pick in the strings, gesture, guitar in hand toward the ramp. They both nod in the affirmative. I turn and go up. I put the guitar in the case.

I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth. I come back out and they are in the room. Tinunh talks excitedly to me. Her mother tells her to go brush her teeth. I know because that's what she does. She talks with the toothbrush in her mouth. She comes out talking. Her mother goes in, closes the door. She comes out and Tinunh is still talking to me.

Eenunh picks Tinunh up, balances her on her hip, grinning. They converse. Tinunh hugs Eenunh. Eenunh spins! She spins again! She sets Tinunh in their bed hollow, still talking. She smiles at me. I sit on the edge of my hollow, pull off my boots, socks. I take off my shirt. Eenunh talks, quietly, just a few words. I pull off my pants. She sits, pulls her dress over her head, has her top and bottom undergarments on. She looks at me. I look away. Out of the corner of my eye I see her spin into the hollow, hear the straw rustle beneath her bottom blanket. I slip into my sleeping bag. Tinunh talks. Eenunh makes little sounds. Soon they are silent.

I sleep; and dream...
of a dragon!
I slay...the dragon.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/27/23 10:42 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
Joined: Dec 2006
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Top 100 Poster
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 4,231
Likes: 38
6. YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME CREDIT: Holy Holey Underwear.

In the night I awake.

I hear the muted thunder, hold my breath to listen, hear it in the continuous mode.

I need to urinate. I don't want to stir. But I do. I retrieve my pants from where I draped them off the top of my guitar case, leaning in the corner. The silence in the room is deep. I'm aware of the sound of my feet going down the legs of the jeans. I slip step, tiptoe, past their bed hollow, try not to move my arms to not activate the lighting any more than necessary. I quietly close the bathroom door, do my business, and come out.

I turn and go to the ramp, down to the living room, cross to the passage down to the back door. I don't need to open the door to see and hear the storm, but I do, get misted, close it, hear it latch. I ponder the science of the constancy of the lightning and thunder. I saw something sort of like that once or twice on Earth, I think. But not like this. Frequent lightning, spidering across the sky, followed on by another strike, sometimes huge bolts. But here... Constant! Crackling! Continuous! Hours and hours. All day, all night long!

I come back up. Eenunh is coming down the ramp, hair ruffled, sleepy-eyed. She says something, points into the room. She goes and picks up "To Kill A Mockingbird" and sprawls on a lily-pad chair, reaches to the one next to it, pulls it over to hers, like before. She waves her hand vigorously at the ceiling. The light comes up.

She wants to read. I'm okay with that. I go and sprawl in the chair next to her. She passes the book to me. I begin to read. Same routine, she points at intervals to a word, I pronounce it, she points to a sentence and passes her finger along it. I re-read it. When she has stopped doing it, interrupting the read, I look, see she's asleep, hear her steady breathing. I stir a bit, thinking to lay the book on the table as she does, open, pages down, and maybe go back to bed. She snuggles against me. I stop, let her rest there. I like her there. I like her trust in me. I like...I like a lot of things. I wonder if I should be liking things. But...I like things. Sleep takes me.

I awake, see her going toward the ramp, up and out of sight. The thunder rumbles. I like her honey smell, lingering there by my side. There I go liking things again.

There's light in the cracks around the window closures. It must be the early morning. I know from the noise it's overcast. I'm not well-rested, but I feel like I want to explore...something, somewhere. I'm happy to assess that we won't be going wriggly hunting, dragon hunting today. I'm...happy. It's...an unfamiliar feeling.

Eenunh has come back. She reaches for me. I take her hand. She pulls me gently up, allowing me to do the actual work of rising. She lets go of my hand, pushes me toward the ramp. I go up. She pushes me toward my bed hollow, goes to her own. I hear her and Tinunh talk, just a few exchanges; then, silence. She's taking off her dress. I'm watching, taking off my pants. We lay down. I drift off to sleep.

I awake. Tinunh is there, head bent to the right side, her fluffy hair hanging down, hand coming to hold it off her face, golden irises flickering, grin. She must have touched me. She smiles, grins, perfect white teeth. She stands up, calls out. Eenunh replies from somewhere, the bathroom I think. Tinunh is dressed. I sit up on the edge of the hollow, reach for my pants. I think I want more sleep. I lay back down, pull the sleeping bag flap back over me. It's chilly.

Eenunh comes and speaks to me. I open my eyes. I want to see her face. She speaks again, gestures for me to get up. I sit up. I stretch. She's still there, watching me. I stand. She turns, slowly, goes to the ramp. She comes back, picks up my sneakers and places them close to my feet.

"No boots today?" I say aloud. She doesn't respond. "No big lizards trying to eat me?" I say.

She giggles, crosses the room, goes down the ramp. I retrieve a pair of socks from the shelf in the wall, put on the shoes. I wear the same shirt I wore yesterday, after the baths.

Coming out of the ramp passage I hear them in the kitchen. I go there. I wonder what we're going to eat. I'm not ready to face a wriggly. They're seated. There's a bowl in front of each of them and one by an empty chair. I sit, look down. It's some kind of cereal in a white liquid. I let my head hang there, sleepy, comfortable.

'Could be milk,' I think. 'Probably not,' I say in my head.

The handle sticking up is bigger than the sporks. I lift it out of the bowl. It's a genuine spoon! White material like sporks and the table and the chairs, and the bowl, but, a spoon. I put it back in the bowl, fill it about halfway, just the tip of the spoon, and lift a bite toward my mouth. I look up. They're both watching, motionless, irises flickering. I grin at them. I begin to worry. I put it in my mouth.

It's milk! I move it about on my tongue. It's milk! The cereal is flakes and little globs. They taste like...like...kind of like nuts. Some kind of nuts. It's good! I take another spoonful, a spoon, full. It's good. It's crunchy. The milk is cold. It's milk! They converse, a bit, go on eating. I look at them. They're not looking at me.
Tinunh does the dishes. Eenunh talks to her, looks at me, golden irises. I like...her eyes. They laugh, talk, go silent, talk some more, giggle. Tinunh comes and takes my empty bowl.

"Thank you!" I say.

"You're welcome!" she says, little human girl voice. When did she pick that up? I say 'Thank you' and, when I think they're thanking me for anything I do, say, 'You're welcome,' just natural courtesy. Tinunh must 'get it', what I mean by those utterances.

Dishes done, Eenunh motions for me to come with her. We go up the ramp. She goes in the bathroom, brushes her teeth. She comes out. I go in. Tinunh comes in, smiling, as I finish brushing my teeth. I go out. I hear her brushing her teeth. Eenunh is standing by the door. Tinunh comes up behind me, pushes me, as Eenunh opens the door. We're going somewhere!

Out in the corridor people are walking both directions, entering apartments, leaving apartments, going up ramps, coming down ramps.

Tinunh leads to our left, straight down the corridor. We go all the way to the end. It ends with a wall and a ramp up to the right, into the mountain. The ramp turns back on itself, and up. People are going up on the right ahead of us. One man is coming down on our left. The ramp opens on another corridor like ours. We're at the end of it. There's no corridor to the left, just to the right. It's not continuous like running over ours. It goes on the same direction we came down ours. I didn't have to go out into the corridor. They had simply turned across a space between the top and bottom of the ramps. I stepped out to look up the corridor. Lots of people moving.

I'm huffing and puffing. They're trucking on. No wonder they have such beautiful legs! I try not to be obvious but I'm not keeping up.

The ramp turns on itself, and another corridor, this one being above the one we just came from. Two more upramps. Eenunh has stopped, looking back at me from the up-ramp. Tinunh has gone on. The ramp turns on itself, goes up another level. This corridor goes left and right. I see people passing by up there, behind her. I go up. There's another ramp up, but we don't take it. There's a rope across it, to stop anyone from going up. We...must be...on the fifth floor. That ramp goes to the roof...the top of the...mountain.

I come out on a two-way corridor, left and right. People, not a lot, not a crowd, but...several. Men. Women. Children. Families. I have to look the women over to see they're not...my...my girls. I distinguish mine, see them walking, having turned to the right. I feel like a puppy, trying to catch up. I wonder if they think of me as a pet. Eenunh and Tinunh glance back at me at intervals. I feel like a puppy.

There are slatted shutters along the wall. Windows! Glass windows in an outer wall! Glass windows behind slatted shutters inside! The corridor is lit by the lightning, through the slats, flashes of lightning, chronic thunder. The shutters keep it from being aggravating in its constancy, I think. It's gloomy, save for the white light-emitting stuff low on the wall, and overhead. It is white light; not yellow like down in ...our house, the bedroom, the bathroom. Like the white in her living room ceiling, and kitchen. The corridor floor is white, like her living room floor. I look out a crack in a shutter, across the water. Rain pelts the window. The lightning is annoying, flashing, flashing, flashing. They've stopped, looking back at me. Seeing me turn to come along they turn and go ahead.

Now there are more people and...stores! These are stores! We're like... in a mall!

There are smells, like baked stuff, cooked food. There are clothes. There are shoes. There are dishes and cutlery. Some of the people wear the attendant clothes, in the lighter shade of green, the lighter hue of blue. Most...shoppers...are dressed like Tinunh and Eenunh but...there are men in a richer blue, like sport coats and blue pants, black pants, gray pants. The sport coats don't have collars or lapels. They seem to fasten somehow at the edges. I don't see buttons.

Women in knit dresses, form-fitting, more than the A-Line pull over dresses my girls wear all the time. Some of the women...their hair seems... styled, some shorter, more...elegantly. They carry white paper bags, hornet paper wrapped packages, purses. Some earrings, necklaces. Not many. I know they're looking at me while I'm looking at them. Some of the knit dresses are dappled in blue and off-white, others red and off-white. They're knit like... the blankets in the girls' bed-hollow.

Suddenly three little girls pop out of a store and there's some squealing of voices as Tinunh stops to talk with them. They look at me as I pass, rapid golden irises flicker. Eenunh is looking into a store, waiting. I wait with her, sort of back to back, her looking in, me looking out, at the lightning through the shutters, up and down the hall. Tinunh leaves her group, who stand and stare. I grin, wave, turn follow my girls.

We pass them all, people, stores, finally turn into a darker passage, to the right, into the mountain, less well lit, yellow light-emission application, away from the outer corridor. A short way in there's a spindle door on the left. Eenunh pushes the doorway open, and enters. Tinunh follows. There's a man at a machine; dark green attendant color smock. White light-emission here.

He has a magnifying device on his head, his golden eyes looking immense behind it, the magnified flickering...uh...well...just...weird to see. Eenunh speaks to him. He lifts the magnifier up onto his forehead. He hands her a small pad of yellow-orange paper...yellow-orange... color! ...and a stylus of some sort. It looks shiny and black like graphite. It's the size of a pencil or pen, but just one color, graphite. She makes some blue marks on the paper with it. He makes some adjustments to her marks. He tears off that piece and makes marks on a second sheet, shows it to her. Eenunh speaks. He stands and retrieves a rectangular piece of white material. It looks like the stuff the spoons and plates are made of, stiff like plastic. I've seen plastic at the museum. They quit making it in 2097 when the Governments outlawed the Throw Away Commercial Model. They didn't so much 'outlaw' it as require companies that used plastic in packaging or products to have recovery, recycling operations. Rather than comply they simply quit using plastic.

Eenunh speaks. I look at her. Her face is studious, attentive to task. He puts it back, shows a square one. Eenunh points. He shows a piece of the material kind of diamond shaped, with rounded points. It's about three or four inches long, about an inch wide. He turns to a machine on a chest-high counter there, works his foot on a pedal underneath. I see a wheel start to turn there, see the moving connection rods to the pedal. Tinunh moves up to his right elbow; they converse. He hands her a pair of glasses; safety glasses I think. She puts them on. He puts the piece of material in a brace, twist-tightens some clips down on it. He brings up a stylus that pivots in to the piece. It grinds! The grinding stops, starts anew, grinds again, stops, starts anew. More grinding and he frees the piece, wipes at it with his thumb. Bits fall away. He hands it to Ennunh. She smiles. He smiles. He looks at me and smiles. I forget to smile; then do.

Eenunh's introducing me! I hear my name in her buzz-voice, then in her human one.

The man says, "Ass Ooman!" and some other stuff. He reaches out his hand. Before I can grip it to shake he has simply brushed my fingertips and withdrawn it. He's talking to the girls. He and Tinunh talk. Eenunh looks at Tinunh with...great love!

He makes notes on a white paper pad, hands it to Eenunh, makes more marks on a second sheet, puts it in a stack in a wooden drawer. He hands me some coins, five small coins, all the same size. I say, "Thank you!" I can't wait to look at these coins but the girls hustle me on.

We walk out, back to the main corridor. Eenunh hands me the piece of white stuff with the engraving and flips her hands up to shoulder level, and points with both hands all around, sweeping, palms up, left to right. I don't know what she's doing.

We walk down the corridor. She points into a clothing store. She walks to a wall of shelves and picks up some white shiny cloth. She unfolds it. They're like boxer brief underwear, like they wear! She holds them up to my waist. Too small. Folds it, lays it back on the shelf. Picks up another one. Holds it to me. She nods her head. "Yes!" she says in her human voice. She picks up several more. They're all white, shiny material. I think maybe she's seen my holy holey underwear. Women. There are different colors of shirts and pants, the only clothing colors I see here, green, too green, like a green wriggly, darker like cactus, light and dark brown, and light and dark blue. Oh, and that orange pad.

She nods, like she's asking me. I grin and nod. We go to a clerk, a woman who is shorter than Eenunh, taller than Tinunh. Younger than Eenunh, older than Tinunh. Eenunh says, "Ass Oomam," steps around behind me, fishes with her fingers in my left front pocket for the piece of stuff with the marks on it, shows it to the clerk, who marks on a paper, hands it to me, marks again, and puts that one on a stack in a drawer, like the man did. She gives me three coins, like the man did. I'm smiling. She's smiling. I'm acting like I know what the hell I'm doing!

I think... I just got a credit card! Or...debit card?

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/28/23 08:51 AM.

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6. CREDIT PART TWO: Lizard Head Offense.

But where did I get credit? I speculate that some share of yesterday's hunting was mine. I don't know why I think that but I do. The wrigglies and lizard had value and they shared it with me. We just walked away and left it all there on the dock. Lighter green-clothed attendants were making notes. And we didn't unload it. Somebody did. The dark Greenboys, Greengirls. I wondered if we'd have to unload it and take it somewhere for processing. We didn't. We just walked away. I think the girls wrapped some stuff in gray hornet's nest paper, and brought it home in their bags, but not much. We caught a lot. We filled all the bins except a few of the loose ones. It was a hell of a day's work! We didn't quit until we were full and the things quit coming. And then...Whew! The Dragon! I wonder if the meatballs are lizard meat.

They browse along, looking into the small and large caverns of various stores. I look but I'm kind of blinded by all the stuff. I can't tell what everything is. Shoes, and boots, belts. Clothing. I'm fatigued.

There's a bakery. The spindle door is closed. There are glass windows to the walls on both sides of the door. They go in. I follow. It smells great! Baked bread smell.

Tinunh comes back to close the door behind me. I think a woman Eenunh's size asked her to. Tinunh points at some stuff, just displayed on open tables, Eenunh at others. I look away at the baked goods, breads and what looks like glazed donut-stuff. When I look back, a man is handing Tinunh a bag, gray hornet's nest paper, and they turn. I go out ahead of them. When they're out I close the door behind us. There are young people at tables for two by the windows, eating baked goods. I don't stare. Or...do I. I can't help looking long at people, faces, irises, elbows, knees, green. I like their hair, their ears, noses, faces. They're...a beautiful people.

In the corridor the girls browse along again, looking into the small and large caverns of the stores. They converse. I carry my new underwear. I wonder if I really have credit. Perhaps it's a debit card. I wonder about the coins. They're all the same size. I hope the underwear fit. I feel in my shirt pocket for the 'receipt', if that's what it is. If they don't fit maybe I can bring them back. I feel over my pocket for the diamond-shaped thing.

We go along the corridor. We're back at the top of the ramp we came up. They stop, look at me, irises flickering. They converse. Grinning at me, Eenunh turns me with a touch on my right shoulder. We go back, back past the stores, past the bakery, past the passage where the engraver was. The corridor turns at a gentle angle, following the face of the cliff, out onto a promontory, the north end of the red sandstone mountain...or...rock. The floor is painted white. White paint goes up the exterior wall, the window wall, up to the windows. Glow-spots on the ceiling are larger, light the space with a gentle white. A strip of glow-stuff on the walls adds to the brightness.

The stores...more...with windows and hinged doors, double doors, standing open, mannequins, a more...upscale look. Another bakery. Jewelry.

The corridor ends and there is a wide room, windows all along the left side and far end, and along the corridor, to an open doorway. The windows seem to turn with the contour of the cliff face, in here, out there. There are tables with white table cloths, white chairs, a white counter, a bar with white chairs all along it. I notice there aren't any people dressed like my girls inside, and only a couple passing in the white corridor. We're...out of our neighborhood. There are lighter-blue attendants, Blueboys, Bluegirls, and the people in the room, not many, but all are in the blue sport coats, the women in the red and white and blue and white knit dresses. The hairstyles, men and women, more...stylized. Not all, but most. I think these may be rich folks. The girls pass on by. I try not to attract attention. The hallway goes on a bit further, all bright, and white. Then, it gets dimmer, yellow light-emitting stuff, the floor just smoothly worn red sandstone. Windows, slatted shutters.

I peek out. The lightning has stopped. The rain hasn't, washes down the windows.

The girls turn to the right, and we go down a corridor, more stores, come to a ramp. They turn and lead down the ramp, and down the ramps, and down. I'm not having trouble keeping up but I am huffing and puffing a bit. Soon we come out into a corridor, the end of a corridor. I think it's ours. It is. We come to their apartment. They go in. I follow. They go straight to their bed hollow, climb in and lie down, laughing. I laugh. I go, set my package on the shelf, lie down. Sleep comes easy.

Eenunh is bending toward me. I open my eyes. I sit up, stretch. Her face seems stern.

There's...someone at the door. Tinunh is standing there.

I stand up and step that way. There are the man and woman in matching dark blue uniforms, a yellow symbol on the left breast. The cops. They go away. Tinunh closes the door.

Eenunh splashes some water on her face in the bathroom, points for me to do the same, talks. We go out. We go down the ramp past the octo-chamber where we came in, the pub. I look down the passage to the cafeteria. There's still water at the low end of it. We cross the room and follow the long passage back to the boathouse. There I see the lizard head still laying where I left it. The dock is clear, otherwise.

The girls approach, step beyond it, turn and hold their noses, flickering irises at me. I smell it. Nothing like dead lizard head to open the sinuses!

Tinunh goes into the flea market, returns with a roll of gray paper. She unrolls it. Eenunh stands on two corners. Tinunh stands on the other two. Eenunh points at me, at the lizard head. I step over, pick it up, set it on the paper. They fold the corners up over it. Eenunh holds them. Tinunh dips her hand in the water, comes up and wets the paper corners where Eenunh holds them together. Dips again, wets the paper. Eenunh holds it. A minute passes. Maybe more. She finally lets go and the paper seems to stick. She stands.

Tinunh has opened the doors of the water-truck. I set the package in. I stoop and rinse my fingers in the water. They're in. I get in, close the doors. Eenunh drives. I sit in the passenger seat. The seatcovers are gone. Everything looks clean, smells clean. The bins are back in the wall racks, back in a loose stack on the floor. It smells clean, except for my...trophy. The paper wrapping is less than fully adequate to contain the odor. Tinunh pulls two bins up, straddles them between the seats. She pulls up another bin, shows Eenunh the twisted slider lid. Eenunh speaks, a short sentence.

She drives across the cavern. The big spindle-door is opening as we approach, just for us. It's overcast but no lightning. I worry. Out in the water she heads for the nearest island. There she finds a place to drive up on land, stops. Tinunh has opened the back doors. I get up and go back. She gestures toward the lizard package and to the outside, holds her nose. I pick it up, step out with it, carry it up to the rock ledge, set it there, rip the corners open on the top, let Mother Nature in to do what She does with lizard heads, and go back down the hill. I get in. Tinunh closes the doors. We head back. Instead of going directly back Eenunh goes off to starboard, north along the stony mountain, at a distance. There's a separate mount here, on the northeast side, lower than the main stone, protruding north and east, about the same length as the main stone. I see now the glassed in level at the fifth level, all along this side, glass windows at apartments on the fifth floor, some, not as many, on the fourth, fewer still on the third. There's the rich folks' promontory 'restaurant' or 'bar', whatever it was. It's all around up there; the windows, shutters.

There are other...structures on the mountain top. They look like buildings. It's not a mountain by definition. Just a huge...what looks like...a single red stone. There are balconies and windows all along, the entire face of the cliff. I count the five levels, not counting the base of the cliff with the very regular openings, like the one at the west-facing pub where I first entered the...it's not a hive...it's a...city, a town. People..these people...live there, work there, make their lives there. The lower, separate stone only has three levels, glass windows in the cliff face, broader balconies, glass windows, shutters, all along the top. I wonder who lives there. There look like trees on top, along the edge. I can see sky though the trunks, beyond them.

We're headed north. I sense that we're turning and heading west, coming around the mountain. I sing, "She'll be comin' around the mountain..." I stop with them looking at me. I don't make eye contact, keep looking ahead. Stupid, weird...alien.

The lower level is flooded. We're above the patio level. small waves break where I expect the slope up to the patio edge would be, and go on across to crash and foam at the base of the mountain. All the 'pub-level' spindle doors I can see up the passages are closed, their bottoms in water. We're westbound, then south, then angling east again. I'm sure of it. We come around and there's the south-facing round windows on the lowest level, and around, there's the door to the boathouse. We go in, wave to the cops, park the water truck. They get out on the dock. I pull a few of the bins in the wall racks. They're empty, clean. There's no wriggly smell. The bins are clean. There's another damaged hinged one. It hangs up on the rack. I leave it hanging out. I assume we'll have to repair it when...if we have to go hunting again. And we will. I'm sure of it! It's...a way of life. It's...how I earn my living!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/28/23 09:55 AM.

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7. COME THE WRIGGLIES: And A Harvest Of Birds.

That night we eat the baked goods after a wriggly and meatball dinner.

Tinunh brings my guitar case down the ramp. I play for them, because it's fun for me, and they seem to like it.

The night seems to end early, Eenunh ushering us off to bed. I put my guitar up, shower, and go to bed. They shower and do too. Soon it's quiet and sleep comes easy.

Morning comes. They're up. I get up. There's cereal, milk, and a small slice of gingercake for breakfast. I do the dishes. They laugh.

Up in the bed-hollow room they have strapped on their pack-bags. Uh oh! I put on my work shoes. I tuck my leathers in the top of the bag. All the tools should still be there.

Yes; we're going down the ramp, out toward the boathouse, in the crowd. It's a workday. They drop their bags on the dock, open the water-truck doors. They begin pulling out bins, checking hinges, the sliding tops, the little trap doors in the sliding tops. They set damaged ones over toward the back. I bring them out onto the dock. I fish in my packbag for the pliers, the little hammer, begin crimping hinges back into shape, pinching the 'rail' for the sliders, up or down, whatever it takes to make them slide again. Finally they come out and start doing the same thing. We're done in not very much time. They go in and start re-racking the bins. I hand them in, hinges to Tinunh on the left, sliders to Eenunh on the right. We have fewer bins on the floor than we did the other day. I notice it, say so. They nod.

Tinunh goes out the back, comes back with a Greenboy...uh...Greengirl, light green, a clerk more than a laborer. She consults her clipboard. Tinunh has brought back two bins. The Greengirl has one. That seems to settle up. Tinunh climbs in and closes the doors.

Water-trucks are leaving randomly today, not in a crowd like the other time. I think it may have been the first day of the season; something like that. Like I say, I never saw it rain before in the month of being here, and then boom! Rain like an atmospheric river, flooding the desert, or perhaps it's more appropriate to call it a lakebed, maybe an ocean that dries up in season. I keep calling the stony 'hive' a hive and it isn't. I can't settle on what to call the water until I have more information.

I remember some of the crew, talking about the honey smell and buzzy voices of the locals, and speculating the locals were some kind of insect, "Grasshopper green", Angelo, the engine specialist said, and whether they had stingers on their butts. It seems ridiculously humorous to me now, knowing them, living among them even as little as I have.

And the stony mountain isn't a mountain, just a big rock. I don't see cracks in it. It's a bit smoother than red sandstone, a finer grain I think. Where they've 'hived' it out the pockmarks of the tools leave whitish scrape marks. Those tailings are what makes the patio around the outside. They don't seem to make much use of the patio, day or night. And now, it's under water.

It's a strange...world; their world. I think they make do with what they have. Most people do.

Eenunh drives due east, into the red Sunstar. She shades her eyes with her hand. She's beautiful in the red light, her hair afire in it!

Tinunh has turned her back to it, sitting on the bins behind my seat. Her hair fluffs over the seat back, tickles the nape of my neck. I shade my eyes, wish I'd brought my sunglasses, look off to the south. Islands, scattered, the clouds casting shadows that move across the water, crawl up the land and asea again.


I look up as I feel the water-truck come out of the water. We're here! Oh...man! I don't want to hunt a lizard!

We take bins, go to the rock ledge. I peek under at the openings, rounded slits where the wrigglies go if we don't catch them. I wonder what kind of hollows are down there, full of wrigglies, or will be once they start coming. Do they come back out somewhere, back to the water? Eenunh was able to park close to the rock ledge, a place where sitting on it to work is optimal. I put on my leather gloves. They're clean and soft, thin, comfortable. I set my pack-bag on the rock ledge beside me. I'm able to sit on it, reach down where the wrigglies will come and fill my bins.

Suddenly I want my corn-knife on me; lizard fear. What if one...comes out the water, chasing wrigglies? I belt up. It's not comfortable when I test bending over with it. I can't do this a thousand times. I take it off, lay it on the bag. The leathers are in the bag. I remember the great smacking mouth, the clawing at my legs; blood! Lots of red blood! The violence; the hacking! The hopping! The frantic coordination of the three of us, or them and me trying to stay alive! I don't want to catch a lizard! Part of me...starts...to anticipate it...and wants to!

The Sunstar is high, early to mid-morning; hot! Come the wrigglies! The water kind of churns and out they come. I cut and skin greenies; throw the orange dots in live. I get fatigued, make mistakes, throw a live one in among the greens. We go on, as fast as we can. Bins fill. We put them in the water-truck when we have both filled, pull out empties from the top rows, go at it again. The heat is unbearable. Fewer clouds today. Bad enough all the bending over, but breathing this stifling air, and the smell of skinned greenies. I just do it. A break is stopping for a minute or two, sitting brownies crawling over your feet. My straw hat is loosely woven. A bit of breeze is a great comfort. The waters...are pretty to look at. White-caps from the wind.

I see shadows out on the water, look up. A flock of white birds is up there, passes overhead, but then the leading birds apparently turn and come back, landing on the beach around us. The noise is ridiculous! The ones that had not already passed swoop down, find a space, start eating wrigglies. The noise is less while they're eating, flipping the wrigglies up, crunching, crunching again, and again, flipping them, swallowing, head, skin and all! They blink and stand their space in the crowd, and soon dart down for another wriggly.

I'm looking at Eenunh when she reaches out and grabs a bird by the neck, swings its body around! The neck and head come off in her hand!

She tosses it away; such a...casual kill.

Blood spurts from the bird's neck! It runs off, spurting red blood on the white birds!

She goes back to wriggly working. Out of the corner of my eye I'm aware of her doing it again, several times. It seems as natural as...as...wriggly killing. I wonder if she's just...annoyed or...or being mean... or intends to eat them. I think of her character. This gentle...woman...my benefactor. I'm betting we'll have birds to eat.

The hours pass. We're full. We're full. We're carrying, all at the same time, the last full bins into the water-truck. Eenunh's in, takes the bins, slips them into the bottom rows. I realize now working from the top down is a pleasure not to have to lift full bins to the top racks at the end of the day, able to set them on the floor, start them over the rail, slide them in without lifting very high. Whoop! My mistake. Loose bins on the floor. We've all got two and back to the rock ledge. I see a couple more birds get the guillotine of Eenunh's hand. I meet Tinunh's gaze, both of us having watched Eenunh's latest kill. She grins, shakes her head, rolls her eyes, touches her chest, or poses her hand over it, knives dangling.

We fill our bins, rest a bit, standing, me looking at them, them looking at the ground. It begins to rain! Eenunh stirs, goes to her pack-bag, starts putting on her leathers. The wrigglies are fewer now. They kind of kick them out of the way as they step. We're done with wrigglies. Tinunh's her shadow, kicking wrigglies, suiting up. I pull my shirt and pants off, pull my leathers on, put my shoes back on, walk to the edge of the water, rinse my gloves to get the wriggly slime off. I belt on my corn-knife, take it out of the sheath. I pull the sleeves down over my gloves, hoping for a tighter fit. I pull the hem of my top garment down under the corn knife belt, taking out wrinkles.

We all look at each other, no words. Tinunh starts down the beach in front of the water truck. I notice there are no birds in that direction. Perhaps the lizards favor that west-facing beach, and the birds know it. I don't want to catch a lizard! Do I?

She taps with her right foot. Takes a few more steps forward. I'm a nervous wreck! She taps. Takes a few steps. Taps. The sand moves! I see it and point. Tinunh steps slowly, lightly toward the water. Suddenly Eenunh leaps past me and lands on the other side! The sand erupts!

It's...a much smaller lizard!

Still, vomiting the orange and green and brown wrigglie mess with Oooorrrgggh! it's scary big enough!

It turns toward me! I raise my knife! It turns toward the water! Tinunh yells and waves her arms! It turns toward Eenunh! Eenunh closes in! Tinunh comes up on its tail! I step in! It tries to go under and then mount the rock ledge! I whack it in the back of the neck and it rolls over on the ground, four legs flailing at the air! It's smacking open its mouth! It's not as loud as the big one was! It lies there on its back, wriggling, red blood washing down the beach in the rain. I whack it again in the throat and the head comes off! The legs scratch in the air, stop scratching, and it lies still. The girls exult, vocally, at the accomplishment of our task! They're grinning, eyes on me, arms raised in triumph!

I step up, lay my hand on its belly, speak to it, apologize for taking its life, explain that we need what it was for us to be. I lay its head up on the rock ledge.

I had used the word 'kill' in my little ritual. It's my ritual. I don't always say it the same way.

Eenunh says, 'kill'. I look at her. Her irises flicker. She says it again in her very human voice, kill. I look in her eyes. She says 'To kill'. There's an interrogative tone.

"Yes," I say, "Neh," in Emoilihn language, and nod, "To kill." She grins broadly, talks to Tinunh. I grin at them. They grin at me.

Ding dong! The lizard's dead! Poor little lizard.

I take the thing by the tail, drag it through the rain to the back of the boat. Eenunh comes. She takes the tail from my hand and uses it to sling the thing up on the rock ledge. I stand and watch as they cut right in at the shoulder joints of the legs. They know right where the joints are, dismember the little guy. Tail. I force my corn knife in at the throat and split it from the throat to the anus, pull it apart, feel and hear bones cracking, ribs along the spine I think. Tinunh takes hold of it and does a better job splitting it open, bones, cracking, flesh sounding sticky. Eenunh takes over, cutting out organs, rinsing them two at a time at the water's edge. Tinunh is back with a bin; just one. The organs go in. They rinse the legs, tail, and the torso. We load up. We're going home!

We clean our tools, rinse them in water. I scrape my corn knife in the sand, rinse it again. I don't sheathe it. I don't want lizard blood or water inside the sheath.

We take off our leathers, examine them. We're not bloody. We are wet! We lay them atop our pack-bags. Eenunh walks down the beach. The birds fly off ahead of her. She picks up dead birds, the ones she'd killed, rinses them in the water, brings them back. Tinunh has unfolded some gray paper. The birds go on, the edges are wet, held until they stick. We board the water-truck, and I put my clothes back on, and we're off.

It is a good day! Except for a little black lizard, a harvest of birds, and a boatload of wrigglies!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/28/23 10:49 AM.

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8. EVICTION NOTICE; An Unfamiliar Feeling. Eevannh.
Annh = Bye. Omah = Mother.

What...what is...this feeling? I'm not used to feeling like this. I like how I feel!

We've been gathering all day. We filled the bins. New island; just as productive as any other. The lightning storm had started again and lasted about three days. We were idle. We repaired our bins, went to the mall, didn't buy anything, ate pastries with dinner. Drank wine. One day I got a haircut. Eenunh directed the barber, a woman. I looked in my little hand mirror when we got home and saw it was a good haircut. At home, Eenunh trimmed my beard. At home...

We went back to work today. It was... a pleasure to do the work again! I didn't do anything with the lizard but drag it back to the water-truck. They're efficient in the kills, fast in the butchering. It was another small one. I begin to wonder if my first kill was an unusual monster. I never see any on the dock that big.

I play and sing for them. It's an escape for me. I don't think about anything but the song, the fantasy of the Singer-Character's Lyrical tale. When a song ends I sometimes feel distress at my situation. Reality takes more thought than fantasy. It is what it is. I accept it without much regret, when I think about it. When it leaps up, unexpected, when the song ends, I can't philosophize fast enough to not feel some...worry. What am I going to do? Live here until maybe another miner might come? Will Briggs come back?

'Home'. I said, 'At home'. This is home now. I play another song. I have enough 'mind' left over, looking at her, that I think I wouldn't mind settling here forever.

The girls flank me in the lily pad chairs, Tinunh on my left in my chair with me, Eenunh in another chair, pushed against mine, and I read to them. They converse. When they start I stop reading. When they stop talking I start reading again. Eenunh pronounces words...not in the nasal twang buzz, but with a very human voice, a lovely feminine voice, a...breathy voice. I like it. She notes the 'k' in 'kill', the 'k' in 'mockingbird', the 'k' in 'broken', flips back to where we left off, gestures with fingers to read on.

The three little girls Tinunh talked with at the mall are at the door. I...know they're out there. They don't knock. I just know. Then...they knock.

I open the door, pushing out on the left, pulling in by the handle on the right. There they stand. They all speak at once, the same syllables. One speaks again and I think I hear Tinunh's name in there. Tinunh calls from the ramp behind me. I step aside and two run past me, squeally, buzzy voices. The third extends her hand, brushes fingertips, grins, more reserved. Tinunh comes back and makes an air guitar gesture. I take my guitar case down and sit in a lily pad chair. The girls pair up two and two in two other chairs. Eenunh comes and sits in the one to my left. She doesn't lay back, but leans forward, her face cradled in her hands. I wish I had a picture! Her hands are beautiful; her face... She talks to the girls between songs, then puts her face back in her hands, takes her right hand down, wriggles it at me and my guitar, waiting for another song, puts it back. Golden irises flicker all around. Eenunh looks as contented, as...happy...as I feel.

I'm playing a lot today. I feel no compulsion to stop, no desire to do anything else. The lightning is off in the distance, the thunder muted.

Finally Eenunh and the girls all stand up at once and the children begin filing past me toward the ramp, each of them speaking to me as they pass, speaking to Eenunh who smiles benignly, speaks a syllable, the same syllable, "Annh" to each one. Tinunh reaches and touches my cheek as she goes by, beaming grin, perfect white teeth. I raise my eyebrows, grin, look into golden eyes. I think I did well.

The storms come every few days. We work every day, the day after the lightning stops, catching wrigglies, searching, not always finding a lizard. I like those days better. But I wonder about the economics. On the dock I see not many people are catching lizards. The ones they catch are small.

Eenunh makes it routine for Tinunh to steer back. Eenunh falls asleep on my bicep, smelling of honey, feeling warm. I lean my head back, close my eyes, feel the red setting Sunstar on my cheek, if we've gone north. Not so much if we'd gone south in search of an island. Then Tinunh gets the Sun. I see them in their undergarments and notice they have...what on Earth we call a 'Farmer's Tan', the tan lines between darker skin and unexposed skin obvious on their arms and faces.

There are weeks of it, weeks of work. We just do it. It is what we do. This is the work Eenunh does, how she takes care of her family. Tinunh is as skilled and productive as Eenunh, I think. We fill our bins every time, even going back after the rain starts some days to fill the ones they'd put the lizard organs in, if we don't find a lizard on any given day. We go long ways down beaches searching too. One day, they kill a small one. I think to suggest by gestures that we go a little farther and catch another one after we'd caught the first. Eenunh indicates no, holds up her index finger. I think it's a regulation, one a day. That's why the two person team of cops walk along the dock when the water-trucks pull in; checking. Game wardens, as well as 'commanh', cops.

Today, a lightning day, I'm lying in my bed-hollow. We hadn't gone out shopping, walking. Everyone was doing their own thing. Tinunh has touched my shoulder. I open my eyes. Someone's knocking at the door. I don't know...who. Eenunh is going toward it. I sit up, blink my eyes. Tinunh stands halfway between me and the door, her back to me. Her arms are crossed over her chest. I realize Eenunh's face is dark, grim. She crosses her arms over her chest. Irises flicker at me.

She opens the door and two...'cops' are there. I can see the tall female, hear the male's voice, see his hands, a white piece of paper. I stand and step up behind Tinunh. She turns her head up to me, irises, tears running down her cheeks. She puts her forehead against my belly, hugs my waist. I put my arms down over her shoulders, hands on her shoulder blades. What's up little darlin'? It ain't a Lizard Head Offense; I know that!

Eenunh reaches out. He extends the paper to her. She looks it over. No one speaks. The man speaks again. Eenunh speaks, calmly, quietly. Her left hand is on the door and I see it move back and forth an inch, hear it grind on the spindle. She holds the paper in her right hand, gestures with that hand, arm, speaks to each of them, judging by the accompanying movement of her head. The man speaks. The woman speaks. Eenunh speaks, closes the door with them standing there.

She turns, glances at me and away, and goes to the ramp, down to the living room. Tinunh crosses to the ramp, calling out to Eenunh. Tinunh turns and gestures for me to come. I do.

In the living room, Eenunh is in the lily pad chair where she watched me play and sing, with such a beautiful face. Now her face alternately grimaces and looks stern, more grimace than stern, a single tear running down her face! What in the world? I'm afraid! I haven't been afraid for a while. I take the fear off my face. I sit opposite Eenunh and wait to understand. She hands me the paper, talks. I can't make sense of the marks on the paper. There are letters I suppose; maybe numbers. At the top are darker, larger letters. There's the symbol the cops wear on their uniforms, black print instead of the yellow swirl, but the same symbol. Whatever it is it is a police document, a police...order. Trouble!

Lightning days follow. We go to the mall. Their mood is gloomy. I never wanted to kill a lizard more in my life! Eenunh talks to lots of other people, mostly women, some men. They all look at me when she does. I don't like the sound of her voice. She's stressed, distressed. Some women hug her. I see she comes away with tears in her eyes sometimes. Just golden eyes watering. She picks up leaves from the holders on the tables for two by the windows, dabs at her eyes, avoids looking at me. I want to see her face. I want to see golden irises flickering. I want to see her smile. She gives it to me, with her mouth, meets my gaze, no smile in her eyes, but is just as quick to look away.

I'm lying in my bed hollow. There's someone at the door. I know it. They haven't knocked yet. But I know they're there. Doubting my surety I open the door. It's one of Tinunh's friends, the more reserved one. She bursts into tears! Tinunh comes running, thank goodness! They converse, there in the doorway. They look at me, look at each other, look at me. Tinunh is consoling, hugging. I smile at the little girl.They go out in the corridor, close the door behind them. I go back and sit on the edge of the bed hollow. Kids; they get bounced around by life. It makes them stronger, but that's no consolation for adults who have to watch them go through things. I hope it will be okay.

I hear their voices outside. Tinunh's voice rises in volume, shrillness! Alarm? Excitement? Something. I'm up, at the door when Tinunh opens it! She touches my belly, runs past me down the ramp, yelling "Omah!" which I think means 'Mother'. The little girl stands there with me, cries, stamps her foot! Grins. I don't know what's going on. Tinunh comes back, takes her by the hand, pulls her in, closes the door. The little girl is looking at me, steps in my direction, her eyes nearly closed as she cries, tries to speak, her voice distorted from even the usual limits of my comprehension. She spreads her arms, pointing downward, palms toward me. I don't know what's going on. She steps and hugs me. I hug her to me with my left hand on her back. She cries harder. Tinunh comes beside us and hugs us each with one arm. Eenunh and the girls are quiet at dinner. I don't know what the hell's going on. Little sad girl, Eevannh, stays sad, doesn't eat very much.

Time passes. Days of storm. The lightning stops. We go gather wrigglies, catch our lizard. I've never seen one again as big as that first one. Nobody's got one hanging on the dock either. My first lizard was a monster. I want my trophy head. I wonder if it's out there on that island, just a skull by now, picked clean by wrigglies and white birds and whatever snarls in the dark of night.

I'm lying in the bed hollow, napping. There's someone at the door. It's Tinunh's three friends. They knock. Tinunh answers. Two are enthusiastic in greeting. The third is the one who came before, Eevannh. She's friendly, but reserved, brushes fingertips, stamps her foot, crosses her arms. She's grinning, flips her hair back, irises flickering at me. Tinunh comes back with the other two. They hug. She looks my direction, golden irises flickering, raises her right hand in greeting. They go down in single, orderly file into the living room. Soon they come back with Tinunh and all go out the door. I go down and find Eenunh sitting, leaning forward, head in hands. I find her sitting that way a lot these last few days, since the cops came. We talk. She says things anyway, and I say things back. I make faces, mostly trying to express, 'Whaddaya gonna do?'. She doesn't grin. She smiles, but the smile returns to distress.

Suddenly we hear the girls come running back in! Tinunh's voice and one other are jabbering! Eevannh runs to Eenunh! Eenunh stands up, Eevannh pulling at her left hand. Tinunh pulls her by her right hand with both hands toward the ramp. Eenunh looks back at me, tosses her head to follow. They go up the ramp, across the bed-hollow room. The door is standing open. I'm a little afraid! Too much sudden excitement! I wonder if there's a giant lizard in the hall! I want my corn knife! Outside the door, they go right, out of my sight! I get there, step out, pull the door to. They've gone up the hall about twenty feet to the first spindle-door on the left, across the hall. It's open. They go in. I go up the corridor and peek in.

I see a single bed-hollow on the far wall. Shelved walls. There's a wooden coffee table like Eenunh's, only smaller, square. No lily pad chairs. No room for more than one anyway. Maybe two. Off to the right is a table and two chairs, like the ones at the mall. There's a small kitchen, cooler, warmer, sink, all in line along a counter on the right side wall. In the far right corner is a bathroom, no door; I see the sink, the opening to the toilet, the little alcove for the leaves. I assume there's a shower. There is. It's...an efficiency apartment. One room and a bath.

Tinunh's buzzing, vocalizing, all her syllables slurring into one another. Eenunh speaks more slowly, arms crossed, but I like the tone of her voice. I like the studied look on her face. Tinunh hops to me, big grin, takes my hand, pulls me around the room, points out the kitchen, the bathroom, irises a'flicker, talking, talking, talking. She pushes me into the shower stall, one entrance, not the walk-around pillar style at their house. It's a one-room efficiency apartment.

We come out of the bathroom and Eenunh is talking to a woman. The children are attentive, quiet. Eevannh stamps her foot! It's not a hard, violent stamp. I think it's a nervous thing she does. The woman is wearing a knit dress. Her hair is styled. I don't like it. I like her earrings though. Eenunh turns to me, stands close, looks up into my face. She's talking soothingly. I like her face, softer, only a little less distressed. She nods her head. She turns her head to the woman, puts her fingers in my front left pocket, tries to come out with my credit card thingy. I reach in and pull it out. She shows it to me, points to the woman. She's explaining it to the woman...or...to me. I don't know. The woman looks at it, makes a note on one of the yellow-orange pads, hands it past Eenunh to me, marks another one, puts the pad in her purse, grins, reaches and brushes fingertips with Eenunh, then with me, and walks out.

The kids erupt in jubilation! They join hands and do a little circle dance! I wonder what's going on, but don't really care beyond seeing all the little faces smiling!

Eenunh wipes a tear off her cheek. They gather around her, hugging, all except the one little girl, the one who always seems to have tears rolling down her cheeks these days, Eevannh. Tinunh reaches out, pulls her into the hug. They rock their upper bodies and rotate around, turning Eenunh in the middle. Eenunh grins at me, throws her head back, forward, talks to them, strokes the crying little girl's hair.

The kids run out into the corridor. Eenunh comes to me, returns my credit card to my pocket. Without looking at me she lays her head on my chest, talking low, her arms encircling me. I hug her back, put my left cheek on her temple. She hugs me tighter. She sobs! Oh no! What now? She only does it a couple times, then steps back, wipes her tears away, grins, looks up at me, her face very close, very...beautiful, golden irises.

I hear the girls coming back...or...I think...I think I would have kissed her. Eenunh steps away from me, crosses her arms. They come in, Tinunh carrying my guitar case, the others with the hornet's nest paper box, full of my stuff.

I...I think I just got evicted! I think I just...rented this place.

I feel...an unfamiliar feeling. It's...okay. It's...going to be okay.

What...is this feeling?

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/28/23 11:12 AM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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9. GROCERIES; The Machinist's Rag Bin.
Ass Oomam = The Alien.

Many hunts, gatherings, more greenies and orangies than we'll ever eat. I think everything goes into a communal supply center somewhere. We get what we need at a grocery store up on the fourth level. It's back in the mountain, accessible from the cliff-face living quarters.

Somehow I got 'registered', had an account, and that's why I needed the device Eenunh had engraved. It's not a credit card; it's a number, 9-1-1. Since I can't clearly say the numbers, to suit Eenunh, she got me something to show anyone I have to do business with. I'm practicing saying 9-1-1, trying to get the buzz, the hum of a...an alien voice.

Oh. By the way, I'm the alien. 'Ass Oomam' means 'The Alien'. Everybody knows about 'Ass Oomam', 'The Alien' who has come to live among them. I'm not a...a military secret in some Area 51. I'm...a...visitor. An alien, THE Alien, moving around in their society, not so weird as to freak people out, beyond curiosity, not...fear, hopefully not loathing. Ol' Chesty's the only one who really ever showed hostility. Him and a couple of his 'associates' maybe.

There are stone shelves and tables in the grocery store. I see what look like fruits or vegetables. I got fooled with greenies though. I smell them. They smell good; sweet. I show Tienunh, eyebrows raised, nod my head 'yes', hoping the eyebrows are enough of an interrogative expression to convey it as a question. Tinunh calls "Omah!" to her mother who is busy at another table. Eenunh only lets me buy a few of any one thing; three, and only a couple varieties. When I try to add three of a third variety she shakes her head 'no', takes them out of my hands, puts them back on the table. I want to try everything! I trust her guidance. I buy a block of what I think is cheese. I hope it's cheese. Eenunh lets me buy it. I hope it's cheese!

A man wraps birds, like the ones Eenunh killed, seems like weeks ago, and we ate a couple times a week, until they were gone. Eenunh puts them in a pack-bag, a prettier one than the one she takes hunting. It straps over her neck like our hunting pack-bags, but is the darker shade of blue. Eenunh brings out the small coins from her bag, rounding off the bill, I think. I've forgotten to bring mine, stacked on a shelf. She rounds up my bill with her coins. I think the system only wants rounded numbers coming in. So, maybe we're...rounding down, paying off the 'cents' so only the 'dollars' register in the system, easier for the Government to document the economy. Speculation. Maybe this; maybe that.

At the back of the store there are big passages with lots of manual pushing and pulling of carts in and out. We go in one. I don't know why. It doesn't seem like the general public is supposed to use these passages...but...we are. The passage slopes down, flattens, slopes down again, flattens, getting us five floors down, I figure, in tedious repetition, going from the grocery store down to the flea market, if my sense of direction is accurate. I wonder where the other big passages from the back of the store go. Or the ones that branch off from some of the flat landings. It's a catacomb!

We just get out of the way when someone's coming down faster than we're moving, pulling empty carts or carts that smell of garbage. They call out; we flatten against the wall. In the garbage carts, as they pass, I see lots of the fruits or vegetables I bought. They probably go bad quickly and that's why she only let me buy enough to eat today or maybe tomorrow, before they go bad. Or maybe they're expensive! Maybe only rich folks can afford such treats. Maybe this; maybe that.

There are rest areas on some flats, little alcoves with a bench carved out of the stone walls, on one side, a place to park a cart, maybe two, on the other. Some cart-pullers stop there, retie shoes, rest. We stop at one but just long enough to let a few carts go by. I no sooner sit than they step out and leave me behind. I jump up and catch up. Puppy.

The light-emitting application on the walls in the passage is dull; it's dim even with the passage of people. I wave my hand close to it and see a slight brightening, but not much. I get the impression the Government or Company, whoever runs things, doesn't much care about the quality of the light here. They should. These are essential workers. The whole society relies on these men, they all seem to be men, pulling carts full of things up the ramps, bringing empties and garbage down.
Almost all the other people moving in these tunnels, are attendants, in the clothing colors of attendants, dark green, dark brown, some Blueboys in the light blue.

Everyone is friendly. Eenunh and Tinunh are exchanging greetings with everyone and everyone is grinning and smiling. Their voices sound quite happy to be doing what they're doing. I guess things could be worse. It's a contrast with the mall. People seem to keep quiet, speak only to others...I guess...of their own class, judging by the clothing they wear. The men in the nice blue sport coats, and the women in the knit dresses, most with stylized hairdos, are mostly older, some fully white-haired, or with the beginnings of what looks like white hair. Younger men and women are there, in the clothes, but fewer.

The only rooms or facilities along this passage are cops. There was one room at the top, occupied by a one-man/one-woman team. One of them was at a counter, observing the movement in the passage. Cart-pullers stop, or just slow down, exchange information, call out...perhaps...their account number, move on. The other cop was in the back of the space, moving papers on a desk. And here at the bottom, another two-person cop room, just before we come out in the water-truck cavern. We come out in the corridor, near the dock and turn to our left, and we're at the flea market. I look around at the tables, people, the water-trucks parked.

The girls just seem to be browsing, not looking at or for anything. They don't converse. I start doing the same. I look at some clothes. I bought some rugged pants here, and shirts, back when it became apparent that we made our living harvesting greens and oranges and damned lizards. I'm hoping my off-work jeans and shirts will last longer, wearing them only on off days, like today. Eenunh showed me holes in my socks and took me to the mall to get new ones. I kept the old ones to wear to work.

There's a table full of shoes like the girls wear, brogans, we called them, a short chuka boot. My work boots are a bit run down, a hole in the toe, worn from the inside out I think. They were new three years ago when I calculated I had a laborer's future. I hold one to my right foot. It looks like it might fit. I pull off a sneaker and try it on. Nope. My foot's loose in there. There are smaller ones. I try one. Yes! Good fit. I put the other one on, tie them, walk up and down the aisle. Eenunh smiles from across the room. I show the guy my credit... or debit card, whatevs, try to say the numbers. He makes the yellow-orange pad marks, one to me, one to a drawer under the table. No coins.

I've come to the back, where there are rounded steps up to the second level. There's a ramp up too. I go up the steps into the dimness, and find another room of tables. The glow comes up as I walk up a dark aisle, wave my arms. There are two people going slowly up an aisle over near the other side, the glow coming up, dimly, going down behind them.

At the back of the second level, there are steps and a ramp. I climb the steps. It's completely dark, no one moving. But here is light from a passage on my right, a doorway. I go there. There's a guy there in a big room, with a machine, pedaling, grinding on something. It all sounds metallic. I go to see. It's like a machine shop. There are panels and plates of the white material lots of stuff seems to be made of here, my debit card, chairs and tables, plates, sporks, the...shells of the water trucks. He turns, lifts a magnifying glass off his face and smiles. I smile. He stands and offers his hand. I've learned they don't shake hands, taking hold of each other's hands; they just brush fingertips. We do that.

I see coils of wire, metal wire, hanging on pegs. Different thicknesses. There are woven cables of it; just short lengths, a couple sizes. I wonder if he could make a guitar string. I broke the treble E the other night. I've had the same strings on the guitar since before we left Earth. Long before. I play 'em until I break one. Working musicians like the bright sound of new strings and change them more often. I had spares but never broke one in the nearly three year jag we're...we...were... finishing up. I didn't bring any spares down on planet with me. I'll have to bring my guitar. We converse. I know how to make some words and imitate, roughly, their nasal twang. He seems to catch on that I'm not fluent, puts his hand to his ear to prompt me to repeat. He realizes I'm the Ass Oomam! Stands to look me over. He's tall maybe just a little shorter than Eenunh. 'Yeah, I'm the Alien Ass!' I think to myself. I explained that to Eenunh, what the word means in English and she found it very funny, calls me 'Oomam ass', and laughs. I like her laugh. I like...

Again, I don't try to discuss the technicalities of making a guitar string. I'll have to show him. I point to the coils but don't try to talk about them. I look around, browse his tables. I don't think his place is so much a flea market as a supply of stuff he can make into other stuff as the customer desires or requires.

I bump a bin, wheels under it; it moves. I take hold of it, pull it back into place. It's full of cloth. I fish out a piece to confirm it in the dim light. Yes, a rag, probably for cleaning. There's an oily smell here, in this place. Then I notice a blue piece, the more 'royal' blue of the sport-coat guys. I pull it out. It is. It's a sport coat. I hold it up. It's wrinkled. I turn it and see what looks like a burn hole in the back. I fumble through the other rags. I see some knit cloth, a red and white knit dress, but it has a red, oily stain around the bottom.

He's there, in the aisle, motioning. I follow. He opens a spindle door. It's a cave, about like mine, except full of...stuff. There's a dragon head skull! It's as big as the one we killed months ago! I wish to hell I still had mine! It...looks like he lives here. It's an efficiency apartment like mine.

He's removing a brown cloth drape and I see a rack full of blue sport coats. Not full. But five or six. And knit dresses! He pulls off a couple sport coats, holds them toward me. I take them off hangers and try them on. They both fit. He takes the first one I tried and starts examining every inch of it. He waves at his ceiling. The light brightens. It's the white application from the fifth floor and mall level, not the dim yellow everywhere else. He pulls his magnifying device down, keeps examining the garment. He shows me a small hole, a bit of thread sticking out, down near the hem on the right side. Other than that, he seems to indicate, there's nothing wrong with it. He puts it on a hanger, dusts it with the back of his right hand fingers, hands it to me. And it fits me! I think I'll buy it. I wonder how much. He begins examining the other garment, finds a similar small tear under the left armpit. If he hadn't examined it so meticulously I would not have seen them. He has pants, black. I hold them up to me. No way do they fit. Skinny-assed aliens! He seems to be suggesting two pair could be made into one. He knows a guy! LOL. I nod and offer my debit card. He waves it away. I guess we'll settle up if he can get it done.

He pulls off his magnifying device, and motions for me to follow. We go down the ramp. I don't see Eenunh or Tinunh. He leads me to a public ramp, past the showers. I hope we don't run into Chesty. He's a pain in the ass. We go up, me huffing and puffing, to about the third floor. There is another commercial center, more of a factory look, several operations in big open caverns. We go in a spindle door and there's a man with a magnifying device. He stands, grins, they touch finger tips. He gestures to me, shows the sport coats and pants. The man takes the pants, runs his eye over them, holds them upside down, studies the hems, the stitching. He tosses them on a counter, whips out a tape measure. I see the markings on it. He begins taking measurements...of me! He writes on a yellow-orange pad. Waist, chest under the arms, arms. They converse about my elbows. The man handles my arms. They both look, closely. I'm a little embarrassed. They touch fingertips again. I show my credit card but the tailor waves it away. The machinist puts his hand on my shoulder, and we go out.

Back at the flea market I see Eenunh and Tinunh out on the dock. They see me coming and start walking toward me. I tell my new friend these are my friends, in English. He looks at them, grins. As we meet he and Eenunh touch fingertips. He seems to be explaining where we've been, what we're doing. She seems distressed. He seems to assure her. He waves his hands to dismiss her concerns. I hope I haven't committed to something beyond my means. Eenunh is the guardian of my assets, keeping me from spending freely on fruit. How much is this gonna cost me? He's motioning for her to follow. She does. Tinunh pushes me after them. She acts a little miffed, like she's mad. Because I disappeared? Acting on that assumption I look at her and say, "You disappeared too!" She pushes me again, grinning, irises flickering. Her frown now looks put on, faked. I look back and grin at her, go on. I stop and make her push me. She laughs. I don't look at her, so I can do it again.

We go up and up and cross his shop to his... living quarters, if that's what they are. He shows Eenunh the rack of sport coats and knit dresses, begins examining the dresses, finds little unravelings. She looks at them, her face in a frown. He's talking. He knows a guy! LOL She smiles, touches her chest. I think she's either saying she knows a guy or she can repair them herself. She looks around. He steps over toward the door, pushes me that way. I glance over my shoulder to see Eenunh pulling off her dress. She's going to try a dress on. We look out the doorway. I hear the hangers rattle on the rack, empty. Tinunh's talking. Eenunh's trying on another one. Soon she speaks and he turns around, eyebrows raised. He grins. I turn. She's dressed, grinning, and has two knit dresses over her arm. Tinunh's grinning.

I go to the rag bin and pull out the red and white knit dress with the oily red stain. I hold it up to Tinunh. If you could cut off the stain, could it be a dress her size? Eenunh takes it, frowning. Tinunh stands behind it, eyebrows raised. Eenunh grins. Tinunh grins. Machinist grins. He draws gray hornet's nest paper from a roll on a rack, starts to wrap the oily dress in it. Eenunh takes over wraps the oil stain in a layer or two, away from the rest of the dress, and finishes up. There's water in a... like a birdbath. She sticks the edges together. Lots of grinning and talking, fingertip brushing, and the girls turn to go.

I offer my debit card again. He takes it, yellow-orange receipt to me, one in the lizard skull' mouth for him. They're all laughing. I'm laughing. We go out. He holds up two fingers, points up, toward the tailor I presume. The girls lead out and down the ramp. I turn and wave to him. It's a good day.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/28/23 11:55 AM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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10. A STAR IS BORING: Zapped!

I've brought the guitar with me to pick up the suits. The suits aren't ready yet. I show the machinist the broken treble E-string. I show him the ends of the other strings, wound and unwound, coiled on the head of the guitar. I always leave them on there, coiled, as opposed to cutting them off. There's a loss of tone as soon as you cut them off.

He examines the wound strings with his magnifier. He seems excited. He's looking at his wire coils hanging on pegs. He seems to reject them. He's rubbing his chin with the second knuckle of his left index finger. It's a habit I think. I've seen him do it before.

He opens a drawer, pulls out a leather-sheathed tool. It's a micrometer! I know what a micrometer is. I've never used one but we had them in the Air Force. It measures very fine thicknesses. He puts it on every string at intervals from the bridge to the nut, makes marks on a yellow-orange paper pad. I leave him the broken string, in two pieces. He nods. We brush fingertips and part. Another two fingers on the suits.

I've been continuing to play with just five strings. I've written songs with them before, years ago, when I was too poor to get strings, not because they cost so much, they did, but just because the global economic environment on Planet Earth went to hell with Climate Disruption. You just couldn't get stuff. They wanted your money, if you had money. And they had ways for you to send money. They just didn't have ways to get stuff back to you, kinks in the 'supply chain'. After what happened to California ships would sit at anchor longer than it took for them to come across the ocean, waiting to get in to the docks. You could order stuff, pay for it, and sit and wonder when and if you'd get it. Surprise! One day it could come. Other stuff, ordered the same day, a month, two months later!

The girls continue to be entertained. Tinunh's friends too. The one little girl who went sad back when I got evicted, Eevannh, has cheered up a little, but she's become more somber, more...sober...less a little girl, more mature, in a sad way. Life shouldn't be that serious when you're that young. I think she had something to do with the eviction, probably told her parents I was living here. Or maybe it was just the landlady, certain number of people renting and then someone else moves in. I don't know. I don't want the little one to be sad.

It worked out. The girls and I still share meals, spend time together. I grocery shop. Eenunh tells me what to buy. She prepares it. We talk. We read. We...laugh.
Our...relationship...has...blossomed? One night she was at the door. It was late. I knew she was there. I can sense it...sense her. I don't know if they're generating a vibe to me, or I've developed a...a sensory...perception. I opened the door. Tinunh was pushing her toward me. Tinunh turned and went back to their apartment. I heard her lock the door. Eenunh stood there. She paced, once to the left, once to the right, threw her hands up behind her head, swept her hair back, held them there, and came in. She turned and closed the door, turned the lever to the right, which locks it, I've learned. She stepped close to me, hugged me, we began kissing. I wanted those lips for a long time! She took me by the hand, led me to the bed hollow and...we... laid down in it.

I had seven condoms in my shaving kit. I flushed a couple before I started washing them to reuse. When those broke, one by one, I flushed them. Soon I had no condoms. We couldn't stop. We...took other measures but...soon we didn't. I told myself with her green blood and my red blood there was no way I could get her pregnant. That seems to be the case...so far. Disease? We want each other too much to worry, in the moment. We worry...both of us...I think...later. And keep doing it. Any time I want her she seems to want me. Any time she wants me, she...comes to me. Kurt Vonnegut, an author, said, "Sex is like money; only too much is enough." Or was it, 'Money is like sex; only too much is enough.'? Either way, we...get enough, until we want more.

The lightning storms have stopped. There are no clouds...no clouds...in the sky. It got hot. The water went down little by little. We found ourselves finding places to ford the low water to get back one day. We didn't go out again. That last day there weren't any wrigglies anyway. None came out of the water. None. We basked in the sun in our underwear, walked up the beach along the muddy line, looking at rocks. They seemed to have no fear of scaring up a lizard, didn't wear leathers, take their corn knives. I found a fossil of a small wriggly. I gave it to Tinunh for her collection. We got back driving the water-truck through the mud in places and never went again.

It got hot. Hotter than hell. The mud dried up and dust blew around. We'd peek out through the shutters on on the fifth floor. Sometimes it looked like a black blizzard, dark brown 'sea' of dust below, broad daylight above. Sometimes the storm, a haboob, was down low, even below the patio. Some times the house got dusty. We used wet hornet's paper to plug around the windows, the back door.

Attendants, Greenboys/girls, Brownboys/girls, a squad of them, are washing out the lower passage and pub one day, others pushing the mud out and onto the patio with squeegees. They have hoses, and have cleared a channel across and off the edge. The patio is huge! I thought they'd be days at it. But that night we come down there and the room is full of people, laughing, whooping it up; a party! I look outside. The patio was clear. It's still wet in places, clean. The smell of the water is swampy out here. The million stars shine brightly. We drink two bottles, her the green, me the blue. We avoid public displays of affection (PDA) but I can't take my eyes off her. Anyone looking can probably see. Tinunh plays with friends, running out on the patio, back in, up the passage. Eenunh seems okay with it. I guess we're safe. Cops come and go.

The next night, I bring my guitar, at the girls' urging. Ennunh sets a chair over by the open door, right by the edge of the spindle door. I can lean back in the chair and my spine between my shoulder blades lean on the door edge. The acoustics are good, about ten feet down the ramp toward the outside. Tinunh stands at the opening, in front of me, swaying. I begin to play. The place goes quiet; then erupts in voices. People come and look down the passage, go back. I play an extra bar or two until they settle down, then pick up singing again.

"I sold my soul..."

When the song is over Tinunh faces the crowd, and claps her hands. Some of the crowd picks up on it and applauds. Maybe clapping hands isn't something their culture did, but they do now.

I'm a hit! LOL

They're probably bored so probably anything would be a hit. It's been a long wet season. A dry season has begun, not as hot, but dry.

Three men come in on my right, off the patio. I get a bad vibe. I keep playing. I've played about ten more songs and it is hot, for me! I'm perspiring. I feel a nice breeze coming in behind me. I stand, pick up my chair, turn and go out on the patio. The million stars. The breeze. The Sunstarset on the horizon is still lit, rich orange. I set up my chair out about as far out on the patio as I was from the ramp to the inside. People start coming out, everyone laughing, bringing their chairs. The two Blueboys who run it roll out some tables; not all. By request, I figure, I...maybe. I do a lot of maybe-ing.

It seems I've had a good idea! It is so much more comfortable out here, the breeze gentle and constant. I play. They applaud. We drink wine. Tinunh and her friends have joined Eenunh, sitting at her table. She's grinning at me. She nods. I can see her golden irises, her perfect white teeth. I'm feeling that unfamiliar feeling, identifying it as happiness. I'm...happy. I play...with abandon...the...abandon that makes me think, despite mistakes...I'm executing my five-string guitar work and vocalizations and remembering Lyrics well enough, to be giving a good show...by...Oomam standards!

The cops come out of the cafeteria opening. Both step to the left, stand with their backs to the wall. Two more come out, stand on the right.

Suddenly...the three men who had come in off the patio jump up from their chairs and start running off down the patio to the right! The cops all hop over the crowd and land on their feet there. They all stop; don't pursue the runners! I'm wondering...

Suddenly a bolt of electricity shoots out of the device one woman cop wears on her right shoulder! It hits the nearest man, zaps to the next man, and on to the third! It is sustained electricity! A visible bolt! A hella-taser! They all fall down! Face down! Their arms and legs lift up off the patio! Their heads rock upright, back toward their spines! They rock on their bellies! The electricity stops! Scares the hell out of me!

The crowd is noisy, shrill! The cops run to the men! It looks like one male cop crouches down and holds the foreheads of two of the men nearest us. A woman runs and holds the third man's forehead. What? The zapped men's arms and legs flop to the patio. The cops lower the men's heads down. Had they not, I suppose they would have flopped down like the arms and legs and been a painful hit. Everyone's talking. The cops let the men lie there, frisk them, take things from their pockets. One is deprived of a necklace around his neck. In a couple minutes the man furthest from me rolls onto his side, waking up. The other two do it, one by one. Finally the cops help them up, hold them up as they seem unable to stand just yet. They begin moving them toward the doorway of the pub, and all disappear into the hive. I sit, begin to play again. Just like playing in bars on Earth! The crap must go down. The show must go on.

Eenunh comes to me, fishes my debit card out of my pocket, holds it up. People look, come closer and look, and go away. She's saying my numbers, quietly. Party over. We pack up and call it a night. But, I think, I made some money tonight! The commannh team comes, the signal to close up for the night.

I don't play my four-string and five-string songs I wrote long ago very often so I didn't think I was prepared to play them now. I started trying songs, seeing if I could make them work without a treble E. I can. Ass Oomam Oomam ass can.

And, that night, I learned that you don't mess around with the cops! 'Cause they won't mess around with you!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 12:46 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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11. STRINGS AND THINGS: An arrest!

The Machinist is excited! He shows me the guitar string. It looks good! It's longer than it needs to be. He has used the brass 'ball' from the old one to secure the bridge end. He shows me several that are kinked or broken near the end with the loop that will be pegged into the bridge. But this one looks good. I didn't bring my guitar. Eenunh converses with him. I show my debit card and he makes marks.

At my cave...apartment... I put the string on. It comes up in tune, slips a little, and seems to stay in tune. I play. It stretches and seems to settle in. I've been playing my four and five string songs, but it's good to have that treble back. My guitar playing is simple, self-taught, simple chords. My forte is words, a lyric and the melody. The guitar work is just backing to enable me to sing the stories.

At her house, later, Eenunh fake applauds, no sound, grinning, before I start. She curls up on one of her lily pad chairs and closes her eyes. I play on. She looks...good lying there.

It's morning! They came and woke me up. It's early! I know it. Eenunh sets out my sneakers, a pair of clean pants, the work pants I bought. I figure, with the sneakers, we aren't going to do any dirty work. We go up to the fourth floor and back into the mountain, all the way across to the east side. Tinunh is going to school!

Lots of kids, different ages, sizes. The 'new' smell of new clothes and other stuff, I figure, is strong. We leave her...she leaves us at the entrance to a large circular cavern, with numerous openings around it, leading, I assume, to classrooms. I can tell different sizes of kids are going into different openings.

I ask Eenunh if I can go to school. She indicates I can but not here. She takes me to another place, not far, and into an office. A woman there listens to Eenunh's explanation, looks at me, Ass Oomam, eyes a'flicker, smiles and leads us up the hall. There's a classroom, adults sitting in chairs behind tables. We sit at a table and a man continues. Above a blue slate board in a wooden rack I see markings, the light-emitting substance, like the alphabet in human schools. It's a hodge podge of shapes. I count forty-four, large and small, upper case, lower case. I doubt I'll ever get them all.

Eenunh pats my arm, points for me to pay attention. I do, but I'm only getting a little bit here and there. Then he starts pointing at the markings with a stick and the students, all adults, start pronouncing them. Their buzzy voices in unison seem to sound out the consonant and vowel sounds more clearly to me as they go. The teacher starts back at the beginning. They run through them again. I'm getting it. I think.

The teacher goes on talking, writes with chalk on the blueboard, words that I can match up with vowel sounds on the strip above the blueboard. Consonants are more elusive but I'm getting some of them.

After maybe a couple hours class is up. I think adults have to get back to work and family duties. The woman out front gives me a thin book with that alphabet and some words in it. We brush fingertips and go.

Eenunh takes me down a passage and past a factory where I see green wrigglies being processed, and orange ones, still alive in big pools. A guy is fishing them out and begins to kill them the way we did, cutting off the head with the orange dot, splitting the brown skin off and peeling it back. But then, he does something we didn't do. He strips out what look like eggs; roe! Maybe caviar! We've never had caviar. It's probably too expensive for us poor folks. That explains that; why we caught them live!

We go up ramps, pass through the mall, past the fine restaurant on the promontory. We go home, my house. We make love!

Later we are... up and waiting in the hall when Tinunh comes home. I go back to my cave. They go in. We have dinner later. Tinunh shows me through my little book. I identify letters, get some wrong. She corrects me. Then she has to do her own homework. Eenunh and I sit and smile at each other. Finally I go home. Eenunh walks me to the door, looks over her shoulder, hugs me. We kiss and say the few things we know how to say to each other.

Morning comes. There's someone knocking at the door. I open it. It's the cops! Four cops. Eenunh is coming up the hall. There's talking. They come in. They're picking up everything I own, packing it in hornet paper boxes. I stand and watch. Am I getting evicted again? Arrested? What the hell? Eenunh comes close. She's pointing, gesturing. I don't know what's up.

We go out, down the ramps, out through the pub, across the patio...and there's the shuttle! The small passenger shuttle; not the large cargo shuttle.

Briggs and the men are standing beside it, several of them armed!

We go down the slope, cross the desert to them. Briggs has come back for me! I figure the cops are making me leave! I...I...I don't want to leave! The whole thing is coercive. I don't want to leave! I don't want to leave. I...I'm not leaving. Eenunh looks panicked!

Two cops approach Patrick, the little prick, who isn't armed, and take hold of his arms. He struggles but they are strong. All the armed men point their weapons around.

I raise my hands, "Stop! Don't...don't point your weapons! Briggs, tell them to put their weapons down! These people are Law Enforcement! They have a zapper that can take you all down before you can blink! Put them down! Point them down! See that thing on that cop's shoulder? The women all have them and they are ready to zap! It's not like a taser! It's a lightning bolt! Point your weapons down! See all the women cops? See the thing on their shoulder? See how they are arrayed so none of the other cops are in their way?"

Two of the three crewmen do it. Angelo, the engine specialist is still looking scared and holding his weapon up too much to suit me. I call him by name, "Angelo, point it down." He does.

I look at Patrick. He keeps pulling but the man and woman who are holding him don't budge. A voice...behind me. I turn. It's Thin Man! He steps toward me. We brush fingertips. There is conversation. He points at Patrick, points at the scar on his forehead. The two cops begin moving toward the hive with Patrick.

"Briggs," I say, "I think Patrick's being arrested. This is the guy he hit with a shovel!"

"When did this happen?" Briggs says, indignant.

Patrick is yelling. He's calling out, "Captain! Captain!" But the cops keep moving him, his feet skidding in the sand.

They've set my guitar and the boxes there on the sand. The other cops step back a few feet and stand as I continue to talk to Briggs. Thin Man stays there with me, talks at intervals. He turns to the cops, points at me, and talks to them. They confer among themselves. One woman finally makes a decision. They pick up my stuff and take it back toward the hive! Thimiannh is pulling at my left shoulder with his left hand, turning me, pointing back.

"Briggs, I'll...I'll see what I can find out. Patrick hit me and this guy with a shovel. This guy bled. I brought him back to the hive and it was too dark to come back to the shuttle. The next day you guys were gone."

"Patrick didn't tell me anything," Briggs says. "We were days out before Cookie noticed you weren't eating."

Sometimes we only saw each other at mealtime, everyone with his own work to do, leisure pursuits when off duty, hibernating, we called it. It wasn't unusual not to see each other. But Cookie kept track of meals for financial reasons.

"This is costing us money!" Briggs says.

"I think my friend here is making it possible for me to stay and see what they're going to do with Patrick. These people are police or security. They have authority. Give me a day to find out what's going on."

"Find out what's going on," Briggs commands. "Come and tell me as soon as you know. We'll stay right here."

I turn. Thin Man turns. Eenunh's face is contorted with stress. I touch her cheek. She seizes my hand, my wrist, almost painfully tight! We run up the slope, Thin Man, Eenunh and me, into the hive. Thin Man knows where to go!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 12:56 PM.

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12. ATTICUS FINCH: The lawyer. Dodaensus? Sodaensus.
Promina = Lawyer.

Thimiannh leads us on a long run across the complex to the east side. We enter an apartment there. It has a hinged door, hinged on the right. Same levered handles, but...hinged. Rounded at the top; same. It's a more elaborate dwelling, a long living room like Eeenunh's but right on the cliff face. It has glass windows! He takes us across the living room, we pass a larger kitchen than Eenunh's, to what looks like a home office. A woman there turns from her desk, a puzzled look on her beautiful face. She stands up. Thimiannh is talking very fast. The woman looks at us, golden irises flickering. She approaches Eenunh, fingertips brush, gestures back down the hall toward the living room. Eenunh leads us into the kitchen. Eenunh sits. We're breathing heavy. I'm exhausted. It was a long run. The woman gives her water, gives me water, gives Thin Man water. We all sit at the table. Thimiannh has not stopped talking. I hear him say my name, Eenunh's name, and, gesturing to the woman, pronounces what I think is her name, Dodaensus. Soda? Sodaensus. I don't try to pronounce it aloud, just say it to myself.

At last the woman speaks, asks, interrogative tone, few words. Thimiannh answers. She asks. Thimiannh answers. She asks. Eenunh answers. Eenunh goes on talking. She seems reluctant to talk, seems to stumble on words, looks at her water, watches the woman. The woman says, "Ass Oomam." They all look at each other, and at me. I want to ease Eenunh's distress.

'Look at me baby,' I think, and she does. 'I'm here. We're going to be alright. We're going to be alright.' She sits up a little straighter, brushes back her hair, releases it to fall like it was. Her face is stronger now. I want to take her hand, think better of it. She'd take mine if it was appropriate.

Eenunh looks at me, leans toward me, gestures...toward the woman.

"Atticus..." she says, "Finch." I get it! She's... a lawyer. I nod in the affirmative. "Ass Promina," she says. 'The Lawyer,' I think. Eenunh returns to her...withdrawn...state...a little, stays a little stronger.

The woman gets up, goes back down the hall past the office. I hear a door close. Thimiannh relaxes, smiles at Eenunh, at me, irises. His face does not look completely relaxed. He studies the floor. Eenunh does not look totally relieved.

The woman comes back out. She's wearing a red and white knit dress. She had on the common dress Eenunh and most women wear, but now she looks more...hoity toity. She wears her hair just like Eenunh's, in the common way. No jewelry. Thimiannh gets up, goes up the hall. The woman sits near Eenunh. They converse in quiet voices, short sentences, long pauses. Eenunh keeps gesturing toward me. I know better than to try to find anything out. I console myself that Eenunh will do her best to explain later. The limits of our language skills worry me but...what can we do?

Thimiannh is back. He's wearing a blue sportcoat, black pants. He seems to be gesturing toward the living room, out. I stand. The woman says something, turning her head, like talking to Thimiannh over her shoulder. He gestures to me. Eenunh and the woman stay at the table. We go out. As we cross the living room I can't help look across the desert below, to the east. It's beautiful. Now we're in the corridor outside the apartment. Thimiannh does a palm down gesture, several up and downs. We wait. He talks, a few words, a sentence, two.

A man comes out of the nearby corridor we came out of to get here. He grins, perfect white teeth. They brush fingertips. Thimiannh introduces me, by name.

"Ass Oomam!" the man says, extends his hand. We brush fingertips. He's very friendly, looks me over. They converse. He raises his right hand, a gesture, grins at me, goes on.

The women come out. Eenunh has been crying. I want to take her in my arms. The woman, Sodaensus, inserts herself between us, gestures down the hall. Thimiannh leads off. Eenunh and the woman walk side by side. I follow. We cross back toward the west, across the mountain by a wide passage. The lighting is better, white lighting, glows more brightly than most corridors. A long walk, at a reasonable pace. We come to an area where there are lots of cops, coming out, going in, coming from other passages, going up passages. There's a counter. Sodaensus approaches, speaks to the cop there. They're grinning, friendly; I think they know each other! The cop leads us to a spindle door, opens it, steps back. Inside we are met by another cop, a man, who takes us down the hall to a room, another spindle door. There's a long table, chairs mostly on one side. On the other side of the narrow room, a low wall with a small opening above it, a little room about half the size of the one we're in. As we walk by the opening I see a bench in there, light from an open spindle door on one end, cops and other people moving around in there. Someone closes the door. We sit along the table away from the opening. We've gone to the far end of the table, Eenunh turns to go behind it, sits at the first chair. The woman sits next to Eenunh before I can. Thimiannh sits next to her. I sit on the other end. We're waiting. Eenunh looks so uncomfortable. I stop trying to look around them at her.

The spindle door by me opens. Two cops come in. The woman stands by a chair over in the corner by the low wall, the opening there. The man sits in a chair down by Eenunh, out at the opposite corner. They all converse, small talk, all except Eenunh. Finally the male cop starts asking Eenunh questions. She seems fearful, answers in short sounds, a couple words, syllables.

The woman interjects before Eenunh can answer sometimes. The cop looks at me, talks to them. I hear 'Ass Oomam'. I start to feel defiant. When I look at the cops they're looking at me. I quit looking at them.

The spindle door in the space behind the low wall opens! I see Patrick, followed by a woman cop! Patrick is cuffed, white material, one piece, no chain; a manacle. The cop at the left stands, moves his chair, turns it to face Patrick.

"What the hell's going on?" Patrick asks me. He goes into one of his incoherent rants. I can only understand a few words, foul words mostly. I'm gesturing for him to settle down; nothing to do but wait for him to do it. He does.

"You've obviously been arrested, Patrick," I tell him. I bump my wrists together, point at him. The cop looks at Patrick, me, back and forth. "This is the man you hit with the shovel." I point to Thimiannh. "See that scar on his forehead? You hit me twice. I don't know know why he came along when he did, but you hit him, gashed open his head. He bled like hell. Now you're...obviously...under arrest."

The woman, Thimiannh's wife, I think, Sodaensus, speaks to the woman cop. She doesn't respond. Sodaensus speaks to Eenunh. Eenuh speaks to me, "What is his name?" Her voice has the buzz. I know she can say those words without it.

"Patrick Haas," I say. Sodaensus, has pulled a white pad from her bag, makes marks on it.

She asks a question. Eenunh asks me, "How...many years?" I don't know what she's saying, the buzz, the question. I ask Patrick, "How old are you Patrick?"

He goes into a rant, shows me his handcuff, looks up at the woman cop, the male cop, leans on the low wall, looks back, asks, "What the hell's wrong with these chairs?" The woman in there with him has her left hand on his right shoulder and sits him down. She keeps hold of him.

There is talking, the woman cop in the room with us, a few words, the male a few words, Sodaensus a few sentences, Eenunh a few words.

"I think this woman is a lawyer, Patrick," I tell him. He listens. "I think she's going to try to sort this out, on your behalf, your lawyer. You have to be cool. Don't mess with anybody. Don't think you're going to bully anybody, push your way through and out of this. They've got your ass and you can only make things worse running your mouth. Any...physical...resistance is likely to get you clocked! They're very strong."

"I know THAT!" he says, looking over his shoulder at the woman. Sodaensus rises, Eenunh and Thimiannh do too, male cop too. I get up. Male cop goes out the door. Woman cop stays. Woman in with Patrick assists Patrick to his feet. Sodaensus goes to the low wall, extends her hand to Patrick.

"Just brush your fingertips on hers!" I instruct him. "It's how they shake hands! I think she's accepting you as her client!" For once in his little asshat life he does something right. Sodaensus turns and she and Thin Man go out the door.

"Tell that guy I'm sorry!" Patrick says. "Tell him I'm sorry." I know how to say it in their language. I tell Eenunh. She tells Thimiannh. We go out. Out in the corridor the three of them converse. Sodaensus and Eenunh hug. She turns to me, fingertips. Thimiannh, fingertips. I like the confidence in his face. They go back the way we came. Eenunh gestures the other direction. We go. In the corridor I try to put my arm around her shoulders. She shrugs me off, gently, looking around. There's no one in the corridor, not near anyway. Far ahead, far behind, yes. She takes me by the elbow, ushers me forward. Her eyes are on the floor most of the time. Every so often she looks at me, smiles with her mouth, not with her eyes.

We come into our corridor. She passes her apartment, goes to mine. Inside she closes the door, grabs me in a hug, begins gasping and sobbing! Its...a horrible sound. She's gasping, trying to speak, crying. She's squeezing me uncomfortably tightly! She's gasping.

Suddenly! ....she goes limp! I catch her, reach and pick her up, lay her in the bed hollow! She comes to, struggles to get back up. I let her. She sits on the edge, gasping, crying. Finally she lies down. She breathes deeply, moans woefully, just once. I don't want to hear that sound a second time, and don't. I stroke her hair, her throat. I rub her shoulder, squeeze it. She calms down, speaks my name, some words, says, "The end." in perfect English. She gasps again, cries, moans. She rolls over on her side, facing the bed-hollow wall. I rub her shoulders, her back, the nape of her neck. She quiets. I think she's asleep.

It's been a hell of a morning. Tinunh's still at school. I feel like hell. I think it's not even high noon yet. I stretch out on the floor beside the bed hollow, lay my head on my hands, stare at the cavern ceiling. They were ejecting me. The shuttle had come. The cops came and got me and my stuff and took me out there. It was their intent to kill two mockingbirds with one stone, get rid of my ass and arrest Patrick. Somebody's been working on this for a while. They know about me, The Alien, being here. Nobody seemed to have a real problem with it. Chesty maybe. Maybe some of his buddies. Most people just accepted me here though. We did business. We talked about the weather, the hunting, the work. We socialized. Hell! I had an audience for my music. I never had an audience before. It was just a hobby. But Eenunh said money, or...value was showing up in my account, tips, people who had my number putting small...donations in my account, coins in my guitar case. That's what I wanted the suits for; to put on a show, to dress up.

Oh! The suits. I need to go see The Machinist. I'm...I'm going to need to make more money! I need a lawyer too!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 01:49 PM.

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13. TO KILL A LANGUAGE BARRIER: The Koobahbahnnh.
Koobah/Koobahbahnnh= Judge/Judges.
Emoilihn = The People.
Rasammannh = Intent, Premeditation.
Commannh = Cops.
Ass Oomamnnh = Aliens, plural.
Sahbakite = Lithium.
Neh = Yes.

Eenunh and I are re-reading "To Kill A Mockingbird". She is learning the meaning of many words. She translates them, once I have explained enough to be sure of the meaning, into their language. Their language is called Emoilihn; E-m-o-i-l-i-h-n. They are The Emoilihn People. She was cognizant of Atticus Finch being a lawyer, representing a person in a legal situation. She had gotten that. She confirms that Sodaensus is a lawyer, a Promina, in Emoilinh. She is Thimiannh's wife. Thimiannh is a legal scholar. He taught Emoilihn Law at a University before coming here to serve with his wife. They talk of the pace of life in the city, and here, where they spend time in the desert, exploring, enjoying their leisure time, "Having leisure time!" Soda clarifies.

Sodaensus says that Patrick's assault on Thimiannh is likely to draw a sentence of three months, since it has not resulted...She speaks. Eenunh and I discussed the conversation later, and this is my reconstruction of it.

"Since it has not resulted in permanent injury, no damage to the bone, only left my beautiful husband scarred..."

Thimiannh grins, runs his right hand over his hair at his temple. I see a few graying hairs there, wonder how old he is, they are. How old is Eenunh?

"...it is not likely he will get a longer sentence. Patrick must appear contrite, appear to have remorse for an unprovoked attack. Thimiannh was able to perceive that Patrick intended to hit you with the shovel. From a distance he could see the movements, detect the...rasammannh, intent, the premeditation. He has made that statement to Commannh (the cops) and we can't undo that to enter a plea of simple loss of control, an action without considering the consequences. Patrick is a violent man. He wants to resort to violence, even now. The Commannh, if they testify, will testify to that. His propensity to violence is perceptible to Emoilihn, even at a distance. Of course his vocalizations are...venomous! You don't have to know what he's saying to perceive the hostility, the violent rasammannh. Thimiannh was simply walking in the desert, coming to see the mining, the...Ass Oomamannh (aliens - plural). He saw Patrick and you, perceived Patrick's intent, and was inspired to intervene."

This was the explanation Sodaensus gave us, and then argued in a trial before six Emoilihn Citizens, a petit jury, and a Koobah, a tie-breaking Judge. The Citizens found Patrick guilty, unanimously, critiqued with compassion, his mental health, demonstrated amply by outbursts and ignorance of my counsel to chill out, and warnings translated clearly that he was putting his...alien ass in a noose, so to speak. The Koobah passed the sentence of three months in jail, and expulsion from the planet, never to return. He says to return would be considered a threat, and dealt with accordingly!

In the same proceeding they address my presence. Sodaensus had explained a more intricate philosophy about me. She submitted that I be allowed to stay, to monitor Patrick's behavior during incarceration, giving me three months to work out the even more intricate argument of why I should be allowed to stay as a refugee from Patrick's violent world! I like her thinking! I was willing to let them argue that, although Patrick is just Patrick and wearing the whole blame for human propensity for violence is unfair. It's too complex an argument to try to make. Besides...I still despise the little sicko!

I laugh out loud! Yes! I can see that argument, can articulate it, can tell of the madness of Earthmen, Earthwomen, our wars and crimes and predatory practices against one another, and societal and institutional indifference to the plight of the poor, the uneducated, the unfortunate in conditions of birth, economic, ideological, physical. Sodaensus and Thimiannh listen, enthralled, as I educate Eenunh, finding the words, translating, and presenting the stories. World wars, slavery, mass shootings, people motivated to throw their own lives away, thinking they can 'fix it with my gun'. Sodaensus whittles it into a concise narrative, rehearses it with me.

We spend a lot of time with them. We go to their house. They come to hers. The Machinist comes with his girlfriend, and her two children, little girls younger than Tinunh. Tinunh is very kind, plays with them, listens more than she talks among the adults. They love her! I do too. I take an undeserved pride in her maturity and personality. She gets it from her mother. We socialize, talk about nothing in particular, life in general. Eenunh shines. She speaks calmly, well-informed, well-educated it seems. They listen when she speaks. She makes them laugh, consistently. She doesn't laugh at her own jokes, simply smiles, beautifully. I am beneficiary of that smile. I...love her.

We don't...make love as often as...we have been...as much...as I want to. I can't take my eyes off her. She has...enriched...my life. My physical desire is simply an expression of my...love for her. I think she's less motivated by her own desire, showing up at opportunities, initiating...things, more than simply to serve my desire. It's an expression of love, on both our parts, I'm sure. I...think...she's holding back, trying not to be in love with me. Is that a...strange thing to say? It...sounds like narcissism. 'Of course she's as in love with me as I am with her! She just isn't giving in to it because of the uncertainty of my future!' No. I'm going to indulge in believing she loves me. When we're together, in bed, there's no holding back. She's passionate, enthusiastic! She cries, sometimes. Usually she's playful. We talk, fall asleep, wake and talk, make love again.

Eenunh has nightmares. She tells them to me. She worries that Sodaensus will not be able to convince a Koobahbahnnh, a panel of three Judges, who will hear the argument, that I should be allowed to stay. She worries that I'll be deported, prohibited from returning like Patrick. She talks about what sounds like a full jury, thirteen Citizens, who will listen to my case, make a judgement, and the Koobahbahnnh panel who will break a tie, or may even counter the jury's decision.

Sodaensus warns, "The Koobabbahnnh can totally disregard the Citizens, if there is legal precedent to cite in the case. And there is. Family visitation, even legal representation has been denied, in cases, once sentence is passed. I will protest to the end of time," Soda ensures me, "to get such a decision reversed."

Eenunh asks about the bigger question, for us, of my being allowed to 'immigrate' here, become an Emoilihn Citizen. Eenunh told me she told Soda all about us, love, sex, and rock n' roll.

Sodaensus argues that we, me, Eenunh, and Tinunh, have formed a 'family', though we are unmarried. She says, "That's the strongest argument, in Emoilihn Law. Family. If it is relevant I always use part of my time to argue for the benefit of the family or the harm to the family of too harsh a ruling regarding Oomam status."

In these discussions I learn that Eenunh's husband died. It left her in financial crisis, with a young daughter to care for. I'm curious about details but they don't go into it, Sodaensus staying focused on a justification for my being allowed to stay. It would be rude to ask my questions. If Eenunh wants me to know she'll tell me.

Tinunh has expressed great affection for me. She tells Soda how happy her mother has been to have me in their lives, how happy she, Tinunh, has been to have a male to relate to. She tells of moments I have forgotten when we laughed together, played, were silly. Tinunh is a delight!

Today...is the day. Will I be allowed to stay, for Patrick's incarceration, to monitor his treatment, since it is an 'international' case, and, further, whether I can be considered an immigrant, perhaps, Sodaensus says, as a refugee, another angle of argument.

I dress in my blue sportcoat, gray pants. Eenunh wears a blue and white knit. She has skillfully repaired ravels. Tinunh goes to school. She assures me, in a Human voice, in English,
"It's going to be okay." And out the door she goes. Confidence is infectious. I smile at Eenunh. She smiles back.

We meet Thin Man and Sodaensus at the hearing room. He's wearing the same outfit as me. She's in a blue and white knit. They're all smiles. Eenunh's smile is less enthusiastic. I imagine my face, try to loosen my muscles, make a smile, try to make it come easy, look natural. It's not easy. It's not natural.

Captain Briggs and Angelo are there. I shake hands with them, try to explain what I know. A bailiff opens the spindle door. We all go in.

In the hearing room, all white, all white, floors, walls, ceiling, furniture, the Koobahbahnnh already seated, in white robes, not the dark brown one of the Judge in Patrick's previous hearing, sits imperiously, elevated like...like...like Judges. There are thirteen Citizens. Sodaensus explains, unlike in Patrick's sentencing, they are there to witness, not necessarily render a verdict. They will, but the Koobahbahnnh have the final authority. Cops stand at the back of the room. Women left and right by the door, men left and right in the corners.

The middle Koobahbahnnh signals to begin.

Sodaensus stands and questions me, seated at a table, Eenunh on my left, Sodaensus at the end of the table, Thimiannh to my right, going through the previously discussed Earth history, demonstrating too well that there are violent people among Earthmen, like Patrick, but making a quick side-argument that I am not one of them. She focuses on the idea that Patrick should have someone here during his incarceration to monitor his safety, his communications. She tells the Judge I can do that...as a 'representative' of our species, and adds, without emphasis, 'of our Government'.

The Koobahbahnnh argues that, "He is not Emoilihn and his presence among The Emoilihn might prove disruptive."

This is an inauspicious start! Eenunh tenses. I feel her emotion. I don't stare at her.

Sodaensus argues, "He has been here five passings of the moon, without incident. He has made friends. He has worked honorably, paid his own way, generated revenue, paid Emoilihn taxes, learned his way around, respected our ways. I have character witnesses who will attest that he is a civilized being, not violent, in fact prone to peacefully living among his neighbors, the community at large. His character does not show any threat of disruption of our way of life. In fact he contributes to the variety of our way of life, enriching the community. He is a musician. The Emoilihn need music in their lives again. It is time."

Sodaensus is aware of Chesty, the day one conflict, ensuing events. She doesn't mention it. I thought she should know, in case someone dragged his ugly little ass into Court. I find it easy to smile thinking of Eenunh shutting his ass down in the pub, by standing up, that loud single blast of her voice. I try not to grin. I want to look relaxed; not insane!

The Koobahbahnnh continues arguments against me. I worry. I won't look at Eenunh because I know, I sense her distress. I think, 'Breathe. Breathe, Eenunh.' I feel like she 'hears' me. I hear her breathe, inhale, exhale. 'Again, Eenunh'.

It's only been about a half hour when the main Koobah calls for a recess. He leaves the room. The other two follow. The thirteen Citizens are taken out by a bailiff. Two cops leave, two stay. I'm aware when they come back and the other two leave. Rest room break, I speculate.

Sodaensus smiles. She is unshaken. But then she is not under the stress of the rest of us. I turn to face Eenunh and Thimiannh. Thimiannh and Sodaensus speak briefly, quietly. He gets up and goes. Sodaensus talks to Eenunh. A tear breaks from her right eye. She wipes it away immediately, smiles at me.

It's not very long, perhaps half an hour, before the Koobahbahnnh returns. The Citizens are returned.

As Sodaensus commences her argument, there is noise at the back of the room. The spindle door is closed. The bailiff crosses the room and a woman cop opens it. They both go out. I hear Thin Man's voice, children, other voices, men, women. The bailiff comes in. The spindle door is left open. It is quiet, completely quiet out there.

The bailiff speaks to the Koobah. He speaks to Sodaensus. She replies. Eenunh leans toward me, whispers, "Character witnesses." We had talked about it, but I forgot about it and it wasn't brought up again.

Apparently the Koobahbahnnh has consented to see and perhaps hear them. They come in. Tinunh! She beams, grins, waves her left hand, golden irises flickering. She's wearing the red and white knit her mother made from the ruined one the machinist had in his rag bin. Her three young friends and a couple others come in, some in the common clothes,some in knits. Eevannh in a blue and white knit, another little girl in a blue and white.

The Machinist! His girlfriend, and her children. There are other people, people from the pub. I recognize two attendants, Blueboys, who have shown attention when I play down there, applauding, initiating the applause, and, I'm pretty sure, profiting from my entertaining. They're always very friendly. There are other people. They look familiar but I can't place where I might have seen them. I worry that some are just 'seat-fillers', people who don't really know me, that they may be called on and they or I won't be able to support their stories.

Sodaensus: "Honorable Koobahbahnnh, these are some of the Emoilihn who have become familiar with Ass Oomam, this human who wishes to live among them. They have welcomed him as Emoilihn do, a stranger in a strange land, who needs friendship to make his life among them. This is Eenunh, who brought the human in when the rainy season came. Her concern for his well-being, a total stranger, a strange...alien creature...that she perceived as sentient...not a mere animal, but a thinking being. She did not know him. She did not know his character, beyond what she perceived of his ways when she tried to talk with him. But she is Emoilihn. And that is her character. She is Emoilihn. Emoilihn are family and see family even in a stranger.

This in Tinunh, Eenunh's daughter. She will tell you of living in her house with Ass Oomam."

The Koobahbahnnh questions Sodaensus, "Ass Oomam lived in the same house with the Emoilihn?" He turns to Eenunh. "Was that wise? You did not know anything about this creature. You brought it into the community, into your house. It is male. Males are erratic! Among the Emoilihn, males are erratic, in various season. Was it wise to take this risk with your young daughter in the house?" he asks, golden irises flickering, directing his gaze to Eenunh.

"I felt it was safe. My perception of him, then...and now...is that he is a rational being, with never a thought to harm anyone. My daughter found him benign, kind, gentle with her. She had no fear. I felt no fear. I had to teach my daughter fear of him, to know he is male and males are unpredictable. But those are Emoilihn males. This Oomam shows a constancy of mood and attitude. He doesn't get upset. He doesn't rant. If a problem arises he responds to the problem, solves the problem without distraction in emotion. I...I like him!"

I wonder at that statement but keep my face blank. I get mad. I guess. she's right. I don't waste emotion being mad. I feel it, pass through it and get on to solving the problem that made me mad.

"He was...simply a fellow being in need of care...of help. He did not know the rainy season was coming. He had no food, no water. No one else was helping, that I knew of. I didn't..." she hesitates, goes on, "I didn't have anyone to...consult with, to...counsel me on what the right thing to do might be. I talked to some Commannh (cops) but they had no advice. I knew it would start raining that day. The first storm is always a violent one. And the flood likely to be immense, in a day, or two or three. It was...it was...the Emoilihn thing to do. I did what my judgment told me was the right thing to do. And," Eenunh adds, "I have no regrets. Ass Oomam, Gary E. Andrews, has proven worthy of my regard, my trust. I honor him as a good man."

She describes my situation, abandoned, my sparse foodstuffs. She describes my bunk with the soiled mattress and no blankets, the heat, my few belongings, my books and our reading, learning each other's language. I hang my head. I can't help grinning. My tragic situation; my benefactor, Ennunh, a green creature, I thought might be a stinging insect. I'm smiling, naturally. I still suppress a grin.

I suddenly become alert! The Koobahbahnnh is addressing me, by name!

"What did you think would happen when you were brought among the Emoilihn?"

Sodaensus had not anticipated this question. We have not rehearsed an answer! Eenunh translates!

I speak in broken Emoilihn, if I know a word, in English, mostly, mixing the two languages.

"I was...I was afraid." I say. Enunh translates. I explain my reluctance to come into...what I thought was a 'hive' like that of insects. The Koob laughs! I go with that. Let's laugh some more!

"I...the men, Ass Oomamannh (plural)...we speculated about what kind of creatures Ass Emoilihn are. Because of the differences in our voices, our skin color, our body structures, some thought the Emoilihn were insects."

Soda interrupts, asks him if he can understand me. He says, "Neh (yes)," tells her he'll let her know if he has questions. He's looking at me, inquisitive, studious.

I go on; "It didn't seem logical to me. I had...talked...with Eenunh... and Tinunh. They had told me their names. I told them mine. We weren't able to talk. But we 'talked' enough for me to see they were not dangerous to me, did not wish to do me harm." He asks for clarification. Eenunh translates, her voice sweet to hear, in Emoilihn. When she stops, looks at me, I go on;

"There are insects here that look like bees or hornets, insects I know from my time on planet Earth. They build hornet or wasp nests, hives." I tell the Koob about my fear of going 'into the hive', of sleeping on the floor of the pub, afraid to go deeper, of Eenunh's kindness, staying with me, trying to encourage me to come to the safety of her home. Of running out as soon as the door was opened in the morning. I tell of my shock when I saw the shuttle was gone. The bastards left me! I don't tell him that, call them that. He doesn't ask.

"Eenunh," I ask her, "what are those insects that build the gray paper nests on the balcony?"

She names them. The Koob studies his hands.

"On Earth there are insects like that," I go on. "They have a stinger, in their tail. If you threaten their nest, their young, they will attack you. They will sting, inject a poison into you with that stinger. The other men talked about that, that the Emoilihn might have stingers. Humans are a rather primitive creature with large vistas of imagination." Eenunh translates, sounds sheepish in saying it all, but says it. People laugh! Not the three Koobs. "So I was...very afraid. How could I know the intellect and kindness of Ass Emoilihn? Now, now I know."

I realize I'm 'prattling', not speaking a focused stream of thought. Eenunh is filling in with a word, a phrase, a sentence, where she can.

Eenunh does not have a word for the poison, for 'vistas', fumbles around Boo Radley's alleged toxicity, trying to arrive at some consensus with me, but the Koobahbahnnh moves on, prompting me to continue.

"We had only our speculations about what the Emoilihn were, and we were imagining things far from what was...real. I wonder what Ass Emoilihn have been thinking of me, Ass Oomam with my skin, my hair, my eyes, my arms and legs."

There is a lull. The Judge studies his hands. When the silence has gone on too long, Sodaensus resumes.

"This is...", she names the Machinist. I turn to look. He stands up. She names his girlfriend and the two children. They stand. She names others, Tinunh's friends, Eevannh, the others, ones whose names I don't know. They stand. Others stand, without being named. "These Emoilihn have interacted with him, and will attest to his character, that he is not a disruptive influence, but an enhancement of the community, consistent in his mood and attitude. He is a musician, playing a stringed instrument, making vocal melodies that all enjoy. He is finding his way to live productively among the Emoilihn. We have not had music in our community since...the Terror Wars.

The violent one, who attacked him and my husband with a tool, has been sentenced. The Koobahbahnnh has authorized this one to stay during the serving of that three month sentence, to monitor the prisoner's treatment, to help translate if any communications are necessary. Eenunh is becoming more proficient in translating, a valuable service in this...international...situation. Gary is learning Emoilihn, as you see in his testimony today, also a valuable translation skill that can benefit ass Emoilihn. Between the two of them we are learning much and able to communicate with the prisoner, Patrick, with the Captain, Briggs, and other members of Ass Oomamannh who operate their ship.

I now petition that you allow this one to stay, temporarily, during the incarceration, three months, and to consider his petition to stay, permanently, to immigrate. To expel him would be to deprive this family, the family he has joined, supported, worked for and with, Eenunh, Tinunh, these friends," she waves her arm across the people behind me, "who have come in as character witnesses, of a person they have come to know and value in their community, in their lives."

The Koobahbahnnh rejects the argument about my value to friends in the community. A wave of his hand. A few words disregarding the point of view. He's nit-picking! Sodaensus focuses on 'family'.

"The family that has formed here, Eenunh, Tinunh, around this human, and he around them, is as strong as any family I have known among the Emoilihn. To deport him...imagine the alternative...if...to keep the family intact...we deport Eenunh and Tinunh with him, to keep their family intact, make Emoilihn abandon The Emoilihn, abandon their home planet, go...to be taken, with the humans, to that violent planet, planet Earth, to live among a people you have heard described as less communally minded, a community where every man struggles for himself to find a place in it, to find work, to make a home for his family. while leadership decision-makers make decisions that mislead the entire planet to be despoiled, to wage war, with people among them who routinely prey on others, where family is often not a respected institution.

Here, the home is found, the family is formed, by the individual wills of the members. The applicant only wishes to continue what has already begun, here, a friend to the Emoilihn, a friend now with some increasing value as a communicator. These...translations are not perfect, but they are a beginning. This is not the last we will see of the humans. They have found us, found our planet. These came to mine Sahbakite (lithium). They'll be back. Others will come. The Emoilihn need translators. An Emoilihn Citizen has begun that process. A human has begun that process."

She gestures toward where Briggs and Angelo are seated. I don't look.

"You were content to let them take the Sahbakite and go. It is not rare here. We can expect commercial exchange with the humans. We can expect their warlike leaders, the leadership decision-makers of their governments and companies and societies to come. We have the makings of an ambassador, a family of ambassadors who can help us communicate and negotiate and assess the intent of the leaders. I feel Ass Oomam is more inclined to serve the Emoilihn interests, to serve us equitably at a negotiating table, than to favor those interests of the humans who will come whose intent is to make the best arrangements for themselves. This man, this family, are well on the way to developing the necessary communications for what will be coming."

The Koobahbahnnh studies his hands. I study mine. The room falls silent. I can hear Eenunh breathing. 'Inhale baby,' I think to her. 'Exhale.' Her breathing becomes quiet. I hear it, but it is not labored. I risk looking at her. She looks at me, beautiful golden irises, steady, not flickering. Perfect white teeth. I grin back at her. She reaches with her right hand, lays it atop the back of my left, weaves her slender green fingers gently among mine, grins. I grin.

The Koobahbahnnh, all three, are watching. And it's okay.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 08:43 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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14. TREK TO THE PINES: The White Road.
Ass Oomam = The Alien.
Ass Oomamannh = plural, The Aliens.
Sahbakite = Lithium.
Albannh = wood, tree, forest.
Omah = Mother.
Casah = Cold.

Three months. While Patrick's in jail I get to stay. An 'ambassador'? Food for thought. Two..nations...are...have...come together in conflict. Over-simplification? It's...interplanetary. Rational discussion...civil exchange is demanded to do less harm, more good. I need to...insert myself...into the middle of it, for my own sake, to influence the...relationship...in my personal favor. We'll see. I'm not a politician, not a lawyer, just an...interested party.

Briggs and crew spent a couple hours that night in the pub with us. The cops escorted them out to the shuttle after dark. They took off shortly after. The cops came back without them.

Briggs told me they were exploring some other sites to mine here, but the holds on the Deutche L. A. were full when he spotted the lithium. We 're-packed' some to make room for the lithium. It's crammed full. That indicates his intent to come back, not for me and Patrick, necessarily, but for more free mining. I know it would take another three months to go all the way to Earth, weeks or a month there to unload, stops at cities in orbit around other planets in our solar system a variable, and then three months back. I wonder if he'll do that or just hang here, waiting for us...not us...Patrick. I'm staying.

Sodaensus advised me later that the main Koob in the white robe is wondering if it should be allowed that Ass Oomamannh (The Aliens) can just come here and take assets, natural resources. He gave himself three months to think about that. It takes me a while to wonder if that's an incentive for Briggs to cut and run. He doesn't have to come back. No one will miss me, or Patrick, or, if they do, be able to interest anyone in authority to do something. The ores might inspire something. We didn't get it all here, all we have in the holds, other planets, moons, several, but lithium's still a prize.

Meanwhile, Eenunh and I are unemployed. Tinunh is in school. Tinunh tells me, "I'd rather be hunting with you and Omah!" I tell her, 'The future belongs to the educated.' It seems to resonate with her. She becomes thoughtful, leans forward, head in her hands, looking into nothing. I like seeing her face, showing the thinking going on behind those golden eyes.

She gets herself up, Eenunh tells me, and goes to school. Eenunh gets up, makes her breakfast, assures her school-bag doesn't leave anything on the coffee table or in the bed-hollow room, that she'll need. But mostly it's this 'responsible' child who takes care of doing what needs to be done when she needs to do it.

Eenunh and I get some snuggle time. She's changed. The light-hearted face that seemed to have it all together, quite content to be a wriggly hunter, lizard killer, mom and...secret alien lover, is now more grim. I don't like it. I don't like it at all. She's too beautiful to be so sad. I've...brought this on her. I didn't think of...consequences. It just seemed like...we were two people...following...our...urges, physical, psychological. I try to break the spell, cheer her.

She's not ticklish. I tried tickling under her arms, the soles of her feet. She realized what I was doing and pesters me, tickling me every chance she gets, sometimes at the most...ticklish moments! But making me jump, making me laugh, softens her face, makes her grin, and laugh, and rest. She settles back against me, rests, nearly sleeps, sleeps.

We're up. We're in work boots. We're unemployed. We have to find a job. The trip to the wriggly processing factory wasn't random. She was referred there by a 'state' job service. I didn't like it. The smell, enclosed all day. Midnight to morning shift. No. That's all they had to offer. I think if I knew that's why we were there I'd have taken the job. The sure thing in the hand.

Eenunh and I put on our pack-bags and wander in the desert, poking into sand with trowels. We scare out small lizards, slay them, eat them for supper. She trades some with neighbors for something, fruits, vegetables. We have plenty of greenies, orangies, some meat balls, part of the 'take' we brought in from the rainy season. The birds she killed were a regular treat about once every ten days. We gathered pieces of dried out...something...and she cooked them out at the edge of the patio. The pub boys rolled a table out there and we ate, watching the western sky. They're all gone now. No, they did not taste like chicken. Kind of...gamey. Quite edible, but...

In the desert we collect small green cactus 'balls'. They're pretty much buried in the sand. Eenunh knows where to probe with her trowel, find them. We clean a couple of those of thorns and she warms them up, serves them with lizard or bird, or, while we had it she did. Tinunh eats whatever is served, without complaint. I don't care for them, the cactus balls. Plenty of greenies, orangies. Meat balls became a little more scarce. We'd each have four, before. Then only three apiece. Then two. Now we give Tinunh two. She cuts one in half and gives us each half. I try to give it back. She insists, eyebrows up, moving her plate out of my reach. We're on the bottom here. Po folk!

I play in the pub every few days. People still applaud. Not much money appears in the account though. Eenunh's the money manager. Everybody's kind of in the same employment situation, after the rainy season.

Eenunh has an idea! Tinunh has some days off school. Teachers doing something, something else. Eenunh says we can walk to...somewhere. She tells me about it but I'm not sure what it is or where. One day, coming in the door, she stops halfway in, turns and slaps her hand on the wooden door. She repeats the word, "Abalnnh. Abalnnh," and slaps lightly on the wood. She gestures with both hands, just sweeping up, moves her arms to the left and sweeps up again, to the right, sweeps up.

Today I want to see her, first thing in the morning. No reason. I come out of my place and to her door. She's there, in the bed-hollow room. I know it. I think she knows I'm here. I don't knock. I open the door. She's kneeling on the floor,sitting on her calves, over by the far wall. She looks back over her shoulder, smiles, grins, reaches up her right arm. I close the door and go to her, kneel, she puts her hand on my neck, pulls me to her mouth. I want to play this game some more. She says, "Stop it!", her go-to phrase lately. I laugh.

She turns back to the work she's doing. She has their pack-bags emptied. The bags are laying behind her. All the tools are displayed from their two bags, on the bottom shelf. The pliers, the serrated knife, the straight-razor knife, the corn-knives in their sheathes, trowels. The little hammers are laid across the back of the shelf. She lays the pliers back there too. There are six little canvas bags, about quart size, with a drawstring. She tucks one into another, repeats it three times. She lifts and lays their hammers and pliers up on the second shelf. She lifts a small broom from an upper shelf, lays it out on the floor with other things.

She lays out their leathers, onto the shelf, top garment, pants. Out on the floor in front of the shelf there is one upper garment like they wear under their dresses, for each of them, one of the leggy underwear, for each of them. There are canvas work pants, like the ones I bought. Their gloves. Their short canvas jackets. Their toothbrushes, a single stick of soap. A towel. A washcloth. Work shoes. Two pairs of socks, each.

There are three, not just two, piles of gray paper packages, Tinunh's a little smaller than Eenunh's, which is a little smaller than...one I think will be mine.

Eenunh stands up, crosses her arms over her chest, looks down at what now looks, to me, like installation art! I laugh, look up at her from the floor. I wrap my arms around her legs, bite at her belly through her dress!

"Stop it!" She giggles. She doesn't make me stop it. She sways a bit, seems to move her foot to catch her balance, hands on my head. She tells me, "Go. Make you...your pack-bag just like this," gesturing with both hands, down, up, down, palms down. "On floor, just like this," she says. I'll come and see.

When I've laid out my stuff, I go to get her. As I approach her door I see a shadow, a change in the light from down the corridor that goes to the balcony on the cliff face. Looking down there I see her on the balcony, walk down. She turns, sees me coming, grins. She turns back to the west, looking out across the red sand desert. I step up behind, beside her, reach my left hand around on her belly. She holds my left wrist, points with her right hand at the horizon. I can see a low blue line. From this vantage I can see a...trace...a path, wide, like a narrow two-lane road, a dirt road, out across the red desert. It weaves around hillocks, rises over the rolling landscape, disappears, appears again to roll over the next one. We've walked on it, crossed it, recrossed it while hunting, gathering.

"Far," she says. "Far, far." She turns into me, reaches up for a kiss, takes my left arm steps under it, pulling me toward her back door. She lets go. Inside, up the ramp to the living room, on up the ramp to the bed-hollow room.

She bends over and retrieves the leathers, puts them in the bags, puts the clothes in, except the jackets, toiletries, lays the tools in, puts the gray paper packages in. I ask about the hammers. She says, "Yes. Your hammer. Maybe need it for something. Your pliers. Your trowel." But she doesn't take theirs.

There's a tall graystone canister like the greenies come in, like the mugs. She puts it in hers. There's a small graystone cannister. She opens it. There's a yellowish blob. She waves her right hand, holding the lid, and it glows! It's like a ball of the wall application material from the hallways, yellow. She puts the lid on, puts it in her bag. She lifts each bag by its strap, yanks at them, settling everything in a bit more I think. There's a short broom, a hand broom.

There are three round canteens on the next shelf up. She lays one on each bag, hands me the third. It's full. It doesn't slosh. Full full.

She turns and crosses the room. In their bed-hollow one of their two blankets is rolled up, tied with hemp rope. My sleeping bag is there! It's tied the same way. My hoodie is hanging out on each end, rolled up in the bag. When did she come in and get that without me knowing? I always know when she comes near. Probably when I was in the bathroom. She comes back, picks up their jackets, rolls hers up in another blanket, ties it. She unrolls the other blanket, puts Tinunh's jacket in, rolls it, ties it.

"Cold," she says, in English, says, "Casah," in Emoilihn. "Going to be cold...at night. Cold nights."

She pushes me toward the door. We go up the hall, into my room, and pack my bag the same way. She brought two of the little canvas bags, the gray-paper packages. She lays it all out, art installation, confirming the items. She mimes brushing her teeth. I go get my necessary toiletries. It occurs to me to take toilet paper leaves. I grab the whole stack, about two inches thick. When I show them to her her mouth drops open, she grins and pulls my wrist, offers her mouth to kiss. I kiss it. And nibble at her lips.

"Stop it!"

Damn it!

Tinunh comes home. She's excited! She puts on the coarse fabric work pants, under her dress, puts on her work shoes. Eenunh doesn't put her canvas pants on. I have mine on, just underwear beneath them. No jeans. Jeans in the bag. A shirt. They strap their pack-bags on, strap their blanket across from the opposite side with the hemp rope. Canteens strap around necks. They look like pack horses! I do the same.

I'm only a little apprehensive about where the hell we're going. I don't care where we're going! I'm happy to be with them, anywhere. I'm happy; that unfamiliar feeling!

I care a little bit about what we're going to do there. The presence of corn knives gives me comfort, for defensive purposes, and apprehension for what we may have to do with them. I never got used to big black lizards hiding in the sand! Or little ones. But we're together.

Tinunh takes off her canteen, her bedroll, her pack-bag, grins, goes to the bathroom.

Eenunh's golden eyes flicker and she smiles, laughs, tickles at me, grins, bumps our packings together, swings around behind me, bites me on the back of my shoulder, whispers my name. She hugs me, lays her cheek between my shoulder blades, holds me there. I don't care where we're going. Lizards don't bother me!

Tinunh comes. She puts her pants in her pack-bag. Bare legs again. Out the door, across the corridor, down the ramps, out through the pub. The Blueboys there talk fast as we pass through, Eenunh responding equally fast, grins all around. They follow us out on the patio, one running ahead of the other to catch up. He has a blue bottle, offering it to me. I take it. Tinunh takes it, grins, puts it in her bag. They brush fingertips. Tinunh hugs him! I brush fingertips. They follow us to the edge, stand watching as we go, stepping sideways down the slope, a little imbalanced with our loads.

We go down the path angling down the slope, set out across the desert, the Sunstar still high in the sky, shortly before or after high noon. It's not as hot. It's bearable, breathe-able. It occurs to me that the season is changing. I wonder if we should have waited and left in the morning. I trust Eenunh...and Tinunh...know what we're doing.

We walk steadily, west, in as straight a line as the lay of the land allows, simply following the trace. It's obvious now, the trace, the road, knowing what it is. Red sand is drifted obscuring its edges in places. We round out the curves, going close to the left 'curb' when the road bends left, close to the right when the road bends right.

Just when I think I need a break they stop, get up close in the shade of a saguaro. Soon, right on time with my feeling of being ready, they stand and we go again. We've walked all afternoon. The Sunstar is getting red, still fairly high off the horizon. I can look right at it, see sunspots, big, triangle-shaped black areas in the red ball. In the distance I see the dark silhouette of a hill, right in line with where we're headed. Dark shapes stick up on it, like...trees. We're bee-lining for it. We're a little off the track. I can see its edges to my left, knowing what I'm looking for.

We get there, that hill, and start up the slope. Rocks are loose, demanding attention to each step. This would have been a pretty tall island in the waters. It's the red sandstone of outcrops like on the islands we hunted on in the rainy season. I don't think we ever came this way. Yes, we come to the rock outcrops that seem to be on every hill, every island, looking water washed, terraced from low to high, once you get off the sandy slope, the...beaches when they're islands. At the top of this one, I look up from watching my footsteps...to see...trees!

I say it; "Trees!"

Ennunh and Tinunh say, "Trees. Abalnnh. Abalnnh." Trees.

Eenunh and Tinunh have stopped, waiting for me. Eenunh takes me by my left hand with her right, leads me to a tree. She lifts my right hand, puts it in her right hand and squeezes them! She's pointing at the tree. I see! Backlit in the red light; Thorns! Tiny short, half-inch needle-like thorns all over it! It's some kind of cactus tree, a grey, gnarled wood, and little thorns everywhere! I look up into the foliage. The air is moving and the leaves flutter in it. Limbs. Definitely a tree. Eenunh reaches and pushes my head down.

Eenunh says, "Don't look up!" she says. "Not to touch anything! Repeats, Anything! Not touch." She points at the tree, the ground. She puts her hand over my eyes, as if to shade them. "Don't look up!" she tells me. "Not to touch anything!" I see thorns littering the ground. I hear them fall as the wind blows! I get it! Damn! What are we doing here?

We go on across terraces of beaches, over sandstone layers, to the very top of the hill. There's a barren red sandstone there, sloping a bit to the west. We can see over most of the thorntrees, all around, only a few taller than the hill, none close to this great expanse of sandstone, littered with smaller stones, and terraced to a final surface about fifteen feet across.

The red light makes everything very beautiful!

They're not stopping to enjoy the aesthetics. Tinunh works, all her strapped equipment dangling awkwardly, making the task look difficult, awkward. She has the small broom. She's sweeping off the raised rock there, about sixteen inches high, sweeping a pile of what look like thorns from the trees from top to bottom, down the slope of the stone, and onto a gray paper. She climbs down off the rock, walks a bit and shakes it out on the ground, comes back, sweeps some more. The trees are back down the hill. I can see over them. I can see the little red bump of the hive half a day's walk back to the east. "Far...Far far." Tinunh hands the broom to Eenunh who sweeps a little more, carries off needles, dumps them at a distance down slope, away from the rock. Tinunh reconnoiters, her thumbs under the straps of her load, circles the entire outcrop.

They kick their shoes at the edge of the rock, before they step up on it and put their blankets down, lay their pack-bags down. They bring their canteens up, and drink. First drink of the day. I wanted a drink all afternoon but since they weren't drinking I didn't either. Now! Gotta have it! Oh! The pleasures of water! The perfect formula of hydrogen and oxygen! Man never improved on it! Tinkered with it a thousand ways! But never made it better than the original!

Eenunh points and spreads her blanket. Tinunh spreads hers atop Eenunh's. The rock slopes toward the Sunstarset. Eenunh looks me in the eye, points to the space to the left of her blanket. I spread my sleeping bag there, set my canteen and pack-bag down at the uphill end. The Sunstar is going below the horizon. Soon it will be dark.

They both go off the rocky top and begin laying stones up all around the edge of the outcrop. They pick them up, knock them on the outcrop or a larger stone in the sand, set them on the edge of the outcrop. Okay. I start doing it too. Eenunh cautions me, "Abalnnh! Thorns!" I nod. She grins at me, perfect white teeth glowing in her face, now half red from the Sunstarset, half green. I see. I feel the thorns laying on some rocks as I pick them up. I'm careful to pick them up, peck them on the outcrop to shake off thorns, move my fingers to let fall any under my fingertips.

Tinunh is a busy little worker. She has a couple layers of stones stacked, starts working around Eenunh's area, stacking more stones. I try to keep up. We have to go a step further downslope to get more rocks. Tinunh comes right on around, passes me, sometimes on my left, sometimes right, stacking stones. They stop, converse, and...squat! They're peeing! They don't just pee. They pee, move a few steps and pee again! They're circling the rock with pee! It's a territorial marking practice among some animals! I've heard of hunters who do it around their camps to deter wolves from coming in. They say the wolves respect it, stay out!

They both kick their shoes on the edge of the rock, beyond the stone piles, step up, settle on their blankets. I need to pee, so I do the thing. They're giggling. I'm able to make a complete circle! Wanted a drink all day. Didn't need a pee until now!

The Sunstar is barely peeking over the horizon. It's becoming pitch black, here on the ground, but the sky is still lit. The brightest stars are shining. Soon the million stars are out. I settle on my sleeping bag. We use our pack-bags to boost our heads a bit. They keep their shoes on so I do too.

The rock is a rock. You talk about comfortable; it ain't.

Tinunh is sitting up, talking quietly. Eenunh is lying on her right side, facing away from me. She and Tinunh are talking. I find it easy not to eavesdrop on their language. I still don't know it well enough to get everything everyone says. And trying becomes exhausting. I get fatigued and simply can't pay attention.

I open my pack-bag, get my corn-knife out, lay it half out of the sheath at my left hand. I don't like that configuration. I want it at my right hand. I stand, lift my sleeping bag, pack-bag, canteen, step over Eenunh's feet to Tinunh's side. I show them my corn-knife belt, in my right hand. I drop my bag and canteen on the rock, demonstrate unsheathing the knife, shake it in my right hand. Golden irises flicker. They converse. They adjust, Tinunh moving to Eenunh's other side. I spread my bag.

I lay down, get 'comfortable' again, look at stars, pick out patterns for constellations. Eenunh stirs, leans on my chest, kisses me, once. Stop it. I begin to sink into sleep; suddenly! Jerk awake! I settle back into that comfortable feeling, surrendering to sleep. Insects begin to chirp out in the desert, up in the trees. I sleep.

I dream.
Stars, the Big Dipper, elegant monster constellation from Earth.
Eenunh is standing in front of me.
I'm hugging her.
Tinunh is standing in front of her.
She's hugging Tinunh.
Tinunh says, in her human voice,
"It's going to be okay."

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 08:45 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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15. THE WHITE ROAD: Into The Pines.

Suddenly, it's morning!

The heavy feel of not having slept, fully, weighs in my head. Yet, I'm not aware of having been awake in the night.

I roll on my left side, just enough to to twist and look to the east. The Sunstar isn't up but it is lighting the sky over that way, back toward the...house. I sit up. The girls are still asleep. This rock is not my favorite place. The air is still, misty, damp. The Abalnnh are dark, still. The girls are huddled together, spooned on and under their blankets. I stand and stretch. I pick up my sleeping bag, unzip it fully, and lay it over them, up over their exposed heads. Eenunh stirs a bit beneath it. The desert is silent, no insects. I need to pee, step over the rocks and down onto the sand. I decide to spread a little around, move around the outcrop. Sprinkling here, there.

Suddenly I get a chill, less physical than psychological! I want my corn-knife! I put things away as I move back and reach up on the rock for it. I don't know what or why, but it...was like a vibe. I'm eyeing everything. It's still dark on the slope down what I can see of the hill. Most of it is out of sight where the hilltop levels off and the slope past the thorny trees begins. I look at the foliage of the thorn trees. There is no movement. No wind. I step back up on the rock. We are literally at the peak. I can see under the trees, over them too. The light improves by the second. Nothing. I sheathe the corn-knife and strap it on, unsheathe it and stand, turn, look, and look. Nothing. I look at the loose stones piled all around the edge of our bed and wonder. I guess I should have asked what they were for.

Eenunh stirs under the sleeping bag, stays under. I breathe the morning air. It's too cool, too damp, but so fresh. It's good to be out of the hive, out of the caves and passages. It's a good way to live in a land where lightning becomes a constant for a couple months of the year, where cooler air stays trapped, an island in the heat of day. But out here, even hunting wrigglies, is better. I step quietly around the edge of our rock, eye the landscape, nudge rocks with my toe closer to the others. The Sunstar keeps coming. Eenunh's voice draws my attention. She is peeping from under the sleeping bag. I don't know what she said. She smiles, grins, eyes flicker. She goes back under. I go back to looking, looking. Everything...is beautiful in red morning light. The desert to the east is rimmed with red light, dark shadows, white mist, every shape, every hill, every curvature of sand, the saguaros, the barrel cacti, the beaver-tail cacti. The thorn trees light up. A slight breeze rustles the leaves. It is a good day!

It's a long while before the girls stir. Tinunh pokes her head out, murmurs something, covers up again. Shortly Eenunh flips the sleeping bag off, tucks her blanket around Tinunh, brings the bag up with her. She comes to me, wraps it around us, drops her right arm around my waist, reaches across my belly with her left hand to close the bag around us. I reach across the nape of her neck, hold the bag in front of her, wrapped back across her throat. We stand that way a long time. I have no urge...am in no hurry...to change anything. The Sunstar rises. Finally Tinunh is up, wrapped in her blanket. She's sleepy-eyed, slithers in under the sleeping bag, leans into her mother, buries her face in Eenunh's bosom. I open the bag to more fully engulf Tinunh. Eenunh's arms go around her. We stand, looking.

As if by signal they break our little huddle, begin to roll up blankets, tie them. There's some peeing; one-place peeing, not round-about peeing. I mind my business. They tap shoes on the rock, climb back up, strap on pack-bags, bedrolls, canteens. I follow. They step over the rockpiles, jump down, and head across the hill top toward the west, and down. I take a last look around the rock to see we've left nothing behind. I wonder about the rock piles. I step over them, head off and down the slope. Under the Albalnh I don't look up. The desert smells good. There is a minty smell in places, sweet smells others, sour smells. Nothing is overwhelming. It becomes a pleasure to breathe the good air, to smell whatever comes next. They've stopped.

Coming to them I see where Tinunh is pointing down. She comes to meet me, points again, on the ground where I've stopped. There are big three-toe tracks. It looks like the black lizard tracks! But...no... they're splayed more I think, maybe bigger. I take hold of the handle of my corn-knife. Eenunh motions for us to go on, speaks quietly to Tinunh. Tinunh murmurs back. I can't hear what they say. I scan the landscape. No surprises. No surprises today.

We're walking about half the day. I can't look up to see the Sunstar. It's pretty much high noon or later. It's not hot-hot. It's mild enough. It's comfortable.

I'm on constant alert, looking around, looking back, looking at the ground for tracks, seeing them. Eenunh has stopped, turned sideways, looking back at me, pointing ahead. I see a dark line; trees! More thorn trees I imagine. But there are more of them. The dark line goes left and right of where we're headed. She turns, we keep going. In about an hour we're close enough that I see what looks like a forest. They look like pine trees, evergreens of some kind! It's still a ways off. I'm looking beyond the trees thinking I'm looking at a dark cloud. Then I realize it is mountains, dark blue, stony looking mountain range, another further back, lighter blue through mists in the air! I'm anxious to get there and see.

The sand...the sand is now more brown, like any stream or river or beach sand on Earth. I look back. I don't know where red sand stopped and brown sand began. I can see red hillocks back to the east. I can't see the red bump, the hive. There are vines growing out of the sand, with red blossoms, and, what looks like the same vine, with white flowers, that look like the same shape, leaves and flowers. There is a low wall of thick fog over in the western distance, below the treeline.

They turn off to the right a bit, go behind a little hill with woody bushes, big green leaves. There's...it...looks like a cairn, a pile of stones, a marker. It's not for marking the trail. I think... it's... a grave. They stand looking, Tinunh with her little arms crossed, Eenunh behind her, same pose. Eenunh reaches and touches her shoulder. Tinunh, turns her head, speaks. They begin gathering more stones. I pick up stones, bring them, add them to the pile. These are not stones for ringing a camp bed. This is something else. I don't know what. They are... solemn. I maintain that decorum. They stop gathering stones. I stand back. Tinunh is weeping. Eenunh hugs her to her belly, strokes her hair, pulls it away to put her hand on Tinunh's ear, and cheek. Tinunh dries her tears on the backs of her hands. She's done. Straight faced she passes me, doesn't look at me but touches my arm as she passes. Eenunh comes, touches my cheek in passing, smiles, says nothing, golden irises flickering. They return to the track, the trace we left, and keep going, ever west.

The Sunstar is hotter now. It shines under my ballcap, on my face, in my eyes. The mist has burned off. There are no clouds. We keep trekking. They've shed the jackets they slept in. I never put on my hoodie last night, plan on doing tonight. In a couple hours the desert becomes an upward slope, slight but ever upward, a little more ground cover, cacti, grasses, tall weeds, reedy bushes with tiny leaves, woody bushes with big ones. The ground...is a yellow...shale, or clay. They get to a point a little higher up and stop, turn back to me. As I come up I see they're standing on a white surface.

It...looks like...a road!

It comes around the trees, looks like pine trees, from the left, south, and goes to the right, north, over a low hill. It's about as wide as a one-lane road. Here where we're standing is a wider place, wide as a two-lane road, but...this side...this looks like it was a road coming off...an intersection. Yes! I can see broken pieces of the white surface in gulleys down the hill. I can see the trace leading to that location. The road was washed out long ago, perhaps reached the trace, but the trace was never...paved.

The surface looks like asphalt, conglomerate, but white. The edges are buried a bit in a yellow shale or clay. I see one place where the edge is exposed. It's about six inches thick. To the left, south, it curves west, into the pines. I think I see it rolling over hills further south, disappearing and reappearing along the edge of the forest. To the right, north it goes over the rise, disappearing, reappearing, following the edge of the pine forest, rolling with the landscape, widening on some crests to left and right.

Eenunh points up the hill, into the woods. She seems in a hurry!

"Up there," she says. We go. I turn to look back at the road. When we get under the trees I see needles on the ground, like long-needles from pine trees, that rusty red color. There's amber sap seeping from the bark on them. I see pine cones! On the ground. In the trees. These are pine trees. Plain old Earthy coniferous trees! It's cool here in the forest, out of the Sun. They head up and up hill, turning to the right to keep climbing up. Soon they're at a top, a small, flat peak among the trees. I walk around it. I can see downhill under trees all around. The Sunstarlight dapples in through the trees. It's warm here.

They've set their pack-bags and blankets on the ground. No thorny abalnnh here, I guess. Tinunh is sweeping. I think we're making camp. There's dirt underneath, but when she exposes it, Tinunh stops and covers it back up. I see she's only sweeping out twigs and tossing out pine cones. She pulls small stones loose, lays them nearby. We settle in, just setting our pack-bags and bedrolls together in the middle. They strap on their corn-knives and I begin to worry. We go off, down off the peak, uphill again. But we only seem to be sight-seeing. There are blue stone rock outcrops further into the forest. There are trails, like animal trails. I see what looks like a deer...or pig...track. It's not very big. There's only one...several distinct tracks...but only one animal.

We've come in a loop back to our camp. They pick up smooth blue stones as we come up the hill, start laying them in piles. I get busy with that. I don't know what we need them for but I know we need them. Night is falling. It's darker earlier here under the trees. I can see through the pines, back to the east, the lit desert. From this elevation I think I can make out the little red bump I think is the hive, the...complex.

We arrange our bedrolls on the mound. I go to the right of theirs where I can have my corn-knife at my right hand overnight. The pine needles promise a more comfortable surface. We sit. Eenunh shows us what's in the gray paper packets. A meat ball, a greenie, an orangie, and one of the yellow fruits I like. We each open our own and all eat in silence. The Sunstarlight suddenly comes through the forest, low to the west, and south, redding everything. I look at their faces. I like their faces. I love their faces. They're red instead of green and I love them. I'd love them purple. The Sunstarlight almost accommodates my musing with purple hues. Darkness comes almost suddenly. We settle into our beds. I wonder about the rocks back out in the desert. If there was a reason to have them out there, wouldn't there be a reason here? Do we have enough? I don't ask, don't want to second-guess them or arouse fears that aren't already there. I'm very glad to see Eenunh's face relaxed, confident, like I'm used to it. Worries are left behind. I still lay out my corn-knife sheathe by my right hand.

They pee around. I pee around, a little further out than they did last night. They lay down. I lay down.

We watch the stars. They talk, and, I think Eenunh's telling Tinunh about her father, and being here, years ago. It's just a sentence, or two, a question, or two, answered, I pick up in my evesdropping. Eenunh turns toward me, kisses me. We kiss some more, talk, kiss some more. Tinunh sits up, reaches over, pushes me, laughing, says, "Stop it!", pulls at her mother. We're all laughing. Tinunh lays back down. I reach over Eenunh and push her. She bursts out laughing! Sleep claims them, tries to claim me. Insects chirp and hum and buzz. I sleep.

I dream...
of a place on Earth,
pine trees,
a woman I... knew.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 09:10 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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16. BLUE BLOOD BERRIES: Blind Man; No Bluff!
'Neh' = 'Yes'.

In the night I awake. Eenunh is sitting up, her face turned up at the moon, directly above us, shining down through the opening in the trees. I don't need to see the moon. I need to see that face.

I look out around the forest, eerie in the moonlight. I am not afraid. I feel for the handle of my corn-knife, find it. I am not afraid.

She doesn't speak, reaches, touches my cheek. We sit there a long time. The chirp and answer insects have quieted. There's one sound, something making one constant tone. I perceive that it is not one creature, one insect, but many that hum together, some continuing as others quit. Tinunh sits up, leaning on her hands. I see her brush her hair back, look over her shoulder at Eenunh. Eenunh pulls Tinunh's hair off the right side of her face, strokes her back beneath the blanket. She settles back down. Eenunh adjusts their blanket, pulls it, tucks it around her.

"Sleep," she whispers, tapping at me. I lay down, pull my sleeping bag over me, zip it up a little, not all the way, so I can get out quickly if...I place my corn-knife sheath back under my right thigh, practice pressing the sheath against the ground, pulling the knife out.

When I settle down, Eenunh moves over, kisses me on the mouth, once, twice, again. She whispers, "Stop it!" I laugh. She lies back, rolls over to spoon against Tinunh. I reach, tuck the blanket around her neck, shoulder.

I lie awake a long time, the moonlight in my eyes. I cover my eyes with my right forearm, thinking staring at the moonlight might make it harder to see if I suddenly need to see in the darkness here on the ground. I roll on my side, adjust my pack-bag pillow. The tools grind together under the leathers.

The mind fills with things in the night, doesn't it? This...situation. I...want this woman, this green woman, in my life. I'd rather live out my life here with her than go back to Earth, rather than travel with this mining company for...what...the rest of my life? If they make me go...can I ask Eenunh to bring her daughter and go with me? We'd have to figure out life on Earth. Could we be hunters there? Work in a factory? Be a circus freak? Would humans be as accepting of her and Tinunh...as the Emoilihn have been of me? I don't think so. The racists, the uneducated, the idle intolerant with their ready opinions would be vocal, demonstrating against us at the grocery store, the neighborhood. The media would smell blood. Could Tinunh...go to school...go out to play...grow up there? Thinking of the work we've done, the life we're living, I know my girls can do anything they have to do. I don't want them to have to do that, on Earth.

Can I even ask Eenunh to come away if I have to go? I can't ask her to subject Tinunh to the madness of Earthmen. I can't stand the thought of them...there.
I have to figure out the ideology of what Sodaensus has already told the Koob, the Koobahbahnnh. She talked about family, and keeping them together. She emphasized it, repeating reference to family a couple more times. It's not some radical...new...idea. Family...love...respect...is a principle of Emoilihn philosophy, ideology, culture.

We've formed a family. I never thought that deeply about it. But now, with...our sex life...she's my...my woman. Tinunh is her daughter. I love her like I think I would a child of my own. She seems very fond of me. We're...a family. We have to keep our family together! They...the Koobs... should...respect that!

The thoughts go on into the night. I don't know when I finally sleep. Then, it's morning.

The girls are up. I see their blankets are rolled, laying atop their pack-bags. I hear their voices, quietly conversing. When I look they're standing over under the trees. They're dressed in leathers! Uh oh! Eenunh notices I'm awake. She comes to me, kneels, probes into my pack-bag under my head. I sit up. She pulls out the leathers, and searches, comes out with the two knives, the straight razor one and the serrated one. Gloves. Three little white canvas bags I didn't know were in there.

"Greenies?" I say, interrogative tone. She doesn't answer. She turns, pulling at my hand, lets go, goes back to Tinunh. They begin to walk into the forest. I strap on my corn-knife, follow. The pine trees give out and there are deciduous...I think...trees. There are leaves on the ground, brown ones, a few red and yellow, green leaves in the trees, some red and yellow up there too.

Tinunh is pointing up into a tree. Eenunh is saying, "Neh. Neh." "Yes. Yes."

Tinunh begins climbing the tree. Eenunh speaks to Tinunh, telling her to, "Cut a sprig. Toss it down so I can show him." Show me?

Tinunh continues to climb. The leaves are nearer the top, a canopy. I can see light all around this tree, its foliage stopping where it comes close to that of other trees. Inside the tree I can see limbs, all the way to the canopy. Tinunh seems to find limbs to grasp and step on, going continuously up. There on a limb, too high for a child to be climbing on, Tinunh pulls her knife out of her pants, loops it on her wrist, and saws at something. It's like a cluster of light green, different than the chlorophyll green of the tree leaves. There's just one growth like it in the tree. She tosses it. It falls in the leaf litter. I step toward it, start to reach for it. Eenunh stops me, urgently! Eenunh puts on her gloves, picks it up. She points to the canvas bag in my hand. I open it. She shows me the stuff, pale green succulent petal-like leaves on whitish stems, and plucks off little whitish berries. A blue liquid runs where the berry was attached to the sprig. The blue stains Eenunh's glove. I reach for it but she pulls it away. She says,
"Boo Radley! Poison!" She plucks the rest of the berries, large white ones, not small green ones, drops them into the bag. There aren't many on the small sprig. She tugs at my gloves out from my corn-knife belt, bids me put them on. I do. She hands me the bag, hangs the sprig on a shag of tree bark. She walks to another tree, points up. I see the growth up there, like a parasite I think, like mistletoe. There's only one.

"Just pick. Don't cut," she says. "Just pick. Don't get blue blood on you. Careful be." She demonstrates picking, fingers and thumb bunched together. "Just pick. Big white ones. Big white ones."

I climb. It doesn't feel as easy as Tinunh made it look. She's stronger than I am. I pick every berry I can. I drop some. My gloves get little blue marks on them. I try to be careful and avoid touching where the blue 'blood' leaks out, even with my gloves.

Climbing down I see Tinunh going up another tree. Eenunh has been up one, is looking for another one, finds it, begins to climb. I go across the forest floor, find one, climb up. The Sunstar crosses the sky. Up in my third tree my bag is nearly full and there are still berries in the growth. I pull the drawstring. I think a few more will fit and still enable me to tie the bag. I fill it, pull the drawstring. I tie the drawstring around my corn-knife belt. I climb down. Tinunh is on the ground, looking up. I stand beside her, see Eenunh up a tree pulling berries. I look down at Tinunh, show her my bag is full. She raises hers up, looking full too.

I hear Eenunh screech!

Looking up I see she's hugging the tree trunk!

I don't know what's happening! I set my bag on the ground!

Eenunh stays still there. Suddenly I see movement on the other side of the trunk! There's...something there! I see reddish fur! Tinunh has dropped her bag, begun to climb. I do the same, climb. I keep looking up. Tinunh is above me, crosses over towards the furry thing! Bark falls in my face! I sputter it out of my mouth. I can't see! I can't see! I stop where I am. Tinunh's back down beside me! I feel her take my corn-knife! She climbs again. I can only feel my way and climb down!

I hear them crying out, back and forth! Eenunh calling Tinunh's name! Tinunh doesn't answer!

There's a 'Thwack!', a strange shriek, another 'Thwack'!

Something falls, slapping on branches on the way down! It's not one of them! I'm on the ground. It flops onto the ground near me! I can't see!

I hear the girls, their feet on the limbs, their voices, both voices, closer, closer, coming down. I'm bent over, feel stuff grinding on my cheeks, against the backs of my hands. I touch my eyes with my finger tips, feel stuff fall away. It's in my eyes!

Eenunh is at my side, footsteps crunching in the leaves. She's running her thumb gently over my eyes. I feel stuff fall away. I bend over. I blink. I can't blink! It hurts. There's stuff still there, in my lashes, in my eyes. It hurts like hell!

Eenunh says, "Stay!", runs away through the leaves! Tinunh takes hold of my left arm. She lets go.

There's another 'thwack'! I hear Tinunh's footsteps in the leaves. Tinunh is talking; she takes my hand, leads me slowly over the uneven ground. Not far. I hear Eenunh coming back. They're talking. "Water," someone says. Tinunh has gotten behind me, bumps her knees into the back of mine, making them buckle. I go down on my knees. Eenunh is twisting my head sideways. I feel water splash on the right side of my head! I hear the canteen slosh. It washes out my right eye. It still hurts. I can't see. She turns my head gently to the other side, splashes the water. I hang my head face down, blink a couple times. There's more in my right eye. I turn my head, point. Water splashes. I'm clear. My eyes hurt. But I don't feel any grit in them.

She pulls my head up by my chin. Beautiful golden irises flicker, focus, flicker. Great concern eases, she smiles. She kisses me. I'm numb. I don't kiss back, but gladly receive her kiss. My damned eyes hurt!

Tinunh calls from a distance. Rising to my feet I see her holding the bushy tail of what looks like a squirrel, but it's the size of a house-cat! She holds it against the tree, whacks, and the head comes off, rolls through the leaves.

That night we build a fire in a low, rocky place off in the woods, away from our camp, and cook a...looks like a squirrel! We pass the blue bottle around. Tinunh takes little sips, makes a sneery face, but takes the bottle when it comes around. Full of delicious meat I watch the fire die down, look at my girls in the firelight, love their faces. They converse. I don't intrude. Eenunh goes away, comes back with the sprig from the berry bush, tosses it in the fire. I think it is toxic and she doesn't leave it out there for some creature to find out the hard way. I think, 'She's good people!', laugh to myself. She grins at me, irises a'flicker.

We scatter the coals in the fireplace, snug up the stones around it. Tinunh buries it a little with loose yellow shale. We hike back to camp, make our beds on the hill, on the pine needles. The million stars. My girls asleep at my side. My corn-knife ready for any night-roaming killer squirrels. Sleep tries me. I resist. Sleep wins.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 10:27 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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17. THE OLD SWIMMIN' HOLE: Naked To The World!
Casah = cold.
Albanh = Tree, singular, or trees, plural. Could mean 'forest'.

The next morning we hike further up the hill, into the forest. We stop at the site of last night's squirrel roast. Tinunh begins returning the stones we, mostly she, had gathered for the fire-pit, back to the places she found them. I pick some up, follow her, let her place them back in the ground, scatter some leaves to make it look undisturbed. I'm getting the sense we're not supposed to be here. Eenunh scatters the ashes a bit, sprinkles pine needles over them, some leaves. She tosses bones down the hill into a ravine.

We start hiking. In about an hour the stones, loose ones, bedrock outcrops, become more granite, less sandstone. The soil is more of the yellow shale, then just rocky, blue stone, mossy outcrops, and lots of pine needles and leaf litter. The deciduous trees are changing color. It's just a tint here and there in the trees, a few scattered red and yellow leaves on the ground. The Sunstar gets higher, almost high noon. The air is warm; not hot, but very warm, comfortable.

I begin hearing a sound. Is it a wind in the foliage? It doesn't fluctuate, steady, ssssss! I can't see any wind, some movement in the trees, not the source of the sound. The air moves down here, leaves flutter up there, but no wind here on the ground, no major movement in the leaves above. We come out from under the trees. There is a stony creek, spilling from a little higher up! There's a waterfall, a small one washing over the stones, splashing here and there on the way down, and just about a six foot drop, obviously by the sound, into a pool! I can't see the pool yet, big blue boulders ahead. It's noisy! On up the hill and there it is! A round pool, clear water, rounded boulders, water glistening, sparkling in the Sunstarlight.

The girls set their pack-bags, canteens and bed-rolls down in a grassy area at the crest of the hill. They unstrap their corn-knives. They converse. Tinunh strips off her dress. She wears the upper body undergarment. She takes off her shoes and socks, takes off her canvas pants, has on the underwear. She goes closer to the water. She crosses her harms, takes hold of the bottom of her top garment, stops, turns and looks at me. I'm looking at her.

Eenunh says, "Turn around, please." I do.

Soon I hear a bit of the water splashing, Tinunh saying, "Casah! Casah!" 'Cold! Cold!'

I forget I'm not supposed to be watching and glance, look away. Tinunh is in the water up to her waist, her back to us. I saw her underclothes on a rock there.

Eenunh says, "Okay," touches my arm. She sits, takes off her socks and shoes, her pants. I look at Tinunh, moving across the pool, neck deep, moving off to the right side and continuing toward the waterfall.

Eenunh stands and pulls her dress over her head. She's wearing the undergarments. She spreads a single blanket on the pine needles, opens their pack-bags, hers, and gets out her change of undergarments, lays them on her pack-bag. She opens Tinunh's and gets out the fresh underwear. I'm a little unsure if I'm expected to skinny-dip too, but she did make me bring a change of underwear, and now seems to be her chosen time for that change.

"You can watch me," she says, in her...breathy...human voice, crosses her arms to take hold of her top, reaches up, closes her golden eyes, kisses me, and pulls her top off.

Yes! I'll watch! She wriggles out of the underwear. She's grinning at me, touches my cheek. She turns and steps gingerly through the grass, over the stones, to the water and eases in.

"Casah!" she squeals, quietly. Tinunh looks back. Eenunh falls forward, green buttocks sink in the water, moves toward Tinunh, swimming rather than walking as Tinunh did.

I spread my sleeping bag, sit on it. Watch them neck-deep in the water. They move under the waterfall, let it splatter off their heads. They make quiet squeals! I pull off my shoes, my socks. I take off my shirt, my pants. I get my change of underwear out. I walk to the edge of the water. Eenunh turns Tinunh to face the other way. I lay my clean underwear on a boulder, take off the ones I'm wearing. I go back up the hill, get my corn-knife, bring it to the edge of the water, lay it with my underwear. Eenunh's telling Tinunh. Eenunh grins at me. I ease in, and when the water gets up to my...my...I confirm 'Casah!', even though I don't say so.

One of life's great pleasures, Benjamin Franklin said, is to fully immerse oneself in water. I perch, squatting on a submerged boulder, water up to my neck. Soon the water doesn't seem so cold. Eenunh and Tinunh are splashing each other, stop and start splashing water on the bluish stones, turning them dark. I turn my face to the Sun, love the hot rays. It's almost...almost as if our troubles are washed away. Just for a moment I'm not stressed. The contrast, of course, brings it all back to my consciousness. I strive for that...ignorance...again...that lack of concern that wears on me every minute. I'm almost there, almost dozing. The hot Sun. The cool water. The girls talking, water noises from them, the falls. I doze, sink my ears under the water. I hear their voices, muted, water over my ears. Meditate. Moments.

I fall off my perch into the water! I'm awake now. I find my footing, bob in the water. Eenunh is laughing, looking my way. The Sunstar's a little different. How long was I asleep? Tinunh is laying up on a boulder, her forehead on her forearms, a little green lizard in the Sun.

Eenunh's looking at her, talking to her. She begins wading across the pool toward me. She seems to swim a few strokes out in the middle. I speculate it must be deeper there. Soon she's walking, wading again. I'm just crouched under the water. She comes closer, her body rising out of the water. I look. She's standing now, the water splashing between her thighs. I stand up and reach toward her. She grins, brushes my fingertips. She takes hold of my right hand with hers, grips my wrist with her left, shakes it. She laughs at her joke. Her breasts are...bunched by her arms, unbunch as she lets go! I just grin. She steps closer, offers her face up. I take it, kiss her closed eyes, the bridge of her nose, find her lips and pinch them with mine.

"Stop it!" I whisper. She giggles. She stops it, turns and steps to get out of the water. I raise my right hand to steady her. I want to call her back but can only watch her climb the hill. She's in our three pack-bags, comes up with our gloves, wraps them in gray paper. She pulls a towel out of her pack-bag, comes back with the stick of soap, wrapped in a washcloth, the towel, the gloves package. Sitting beside me at the spillway she bathes herself. I watch the soapy water sip into the spillway. She hands the washcloth and soap to me, goes into the water. I wash myself. She comes back, takes the soap stick, washes her face with soap on her hands.

She's watching Tinunh, unmoving on the rock, and grinning at me. She takes the soap and washcloth and pulls me off my stone, to rinse. I do, swimming, or just pushing myself off rocks on the bottom. She's pulling me over to the waterfall. I let it spatter on my head. We turn to come back. We go over the spillway to a small pool there. She washes the blue out of the gloves. We...spend some time down there, her peeping to keep an eye on Tinunh, me just lying on a boulder, in the Sun.

We come back up. Up the hill she goes. I watch. She dries off, grins at me. She's pulling on her clean underwear, which does nothing to conceal her body. She puts on the upper garment, and it's just as sensual as her naked. She comes to the edge of the water, motions for me to come out. I do. She dries my head a bit, wipes down my chest, my belly, my shoulders and arms, pats my genitals dry. She turns me, gently, dries my back, my butt, my legs. She throws the towel over her shoulder, points to my underwear. I put them on. She steadies me to stand.

"Get dressed," she says, pointing up the hill. I turn, pull her to me, look in her eyes, half-closed, kiss her.

"Don't tell me what to do!" I say and let her go, walk up the hill to get dressed.

"Don't tell me what to do!" she says, giggling.

I hear her call to Tinunh, Tinunh answer, a moment later, a splash! I pull on my socks, jeans, shoes, facing away from the pool, looking down the hill, under the trees. Out of the corner of my eye I can see her bathing Tinunh. The Sunstarlight feels good on my skin. I don't put on my shirt.

Eenunh and Tinunh have come up the hill, Tinunh wrapped in the towel. Their hair is fluffed out again. Tinunh shivers, perfect white teeth chatter. I think she's playing with it, chattering just for the fun of it. I spin on my butt, scoot to the other end of the blanket, turn my back to them again, look off down the hill at the pool. What a wonderful place! Eenunh seems to know where she is. She's been here before. I wonder if I should ask about it. Sometime. Not now. Now is just for us, now, the ever-elapsing moment of now. A cool breeze blows from under the albanh.

We wander around in the woods, around our camp area, look up in the trees that have the berries. More up there. We don't climb though. Our bags are full. That night I ask if we'll have a fire. Eenunh says, "No.", points to her two eyes, and out all around. "See us," she says.

'Someone might see us?' I think. So what? I guess I don't want any intrusions either. Or maybe... we're not supposed to be here.

Night falls. The million stars. Sleep. No resistance.

A dream... of Eenunh.

She's grinning...
with tears running down her cheeks...
then I'm still 'here' in a city in the dream...
and she's walking across the street...
in a crosswalk...
at a distance from me...
with lots of other people.

I walk that way but don't seem to arrive at the place where she crossed!

I don't see her!

Where's Tinunh?

My eyes open. It's morning.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 10:55 PM.

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18. HOMEWARD BOUND: A Vehicle On The White Road; Night Terrors!

We're up and moving back down through the forest. At the squirrel roast site Eenunh tries to conceal the fire pit a bit more, pine needles, old pine cones, a stick, a rock.

As we go on she selects pine cones, studies them, discusses them with Tinunh. Just a few, dropped into Tinunh's bag. At the deciduous trees, Eenunh strips off her gear, loops her knives on her wrist, and climbs. She drops a sprig of the parasite. We don't try to pick it up, watch her come back down. She picks it up, wraps it in gray paper. Puts it in her bag. We're going again.

We're back at first camp, the pine-needled peak, near the road. We pass it by. Eenunh motions for us to wait, goes back to the peak of it, looks around, all around. She comes on the run and we go on, down the hill, toward the road!

There's a sound, a hum, a swish of air! Hum like a water-truck engine! They pull me down in the tall grass! We lie flat! I'm facing Eenunh. I see Tinunh's right arm come over Eenunh's pelvic bone.

Eenunh's eyes are wide! Her left hand comes up to my lips! I have to trust her!

I can see Tinunh's blanket, sticking up. I reach past Eenunh and push it down. The sound comes closer, the hum louder, the swish of air! Then it gets less loud, going on by. I no longer hear the air, just the hum. Eenunh tells Tinunh to 'Look'. Tinunh rustles in the grass. I see her raise up from behind Eenunh, looking north, the way the sound went. She says, 'Going'. Eenunh sits up, leaning on her right hand, looking north. I stay still, looking up at her face. She sits up, pulls at me. I sit up. Tinunh rises, in a crouch. Eenunh rises, in a crouch. I get up on my hands and knees. Looking north I see a white vehicle far away on the road. It looks like the back of a water-truck. It disappears down, comes back up, at an angle, white tires, silhouetted, goes a ways, disappears again, the rolling landscape along the edge of the forest.

Eenunh takes my hand,pulls me up. We hurry across the road, down the slope toward the desert. Eenunh's constantly looking back toward the road, the forest, scanning the landscape south, and then north, south, and north. We jog for a good hundred yards. They slow to a fast walk, still vigilant to the landscape behind us. They maneuver around a low hill, straighten back to due east and keep on truckin'! I'm huffing and puffing. They don't seem to be. I don't know what we just did but I don't think we were supposed to do it! They keep maneuvering behind hills, little 'islands'. I can see the trace, the edges of it, off to my left. I don't know why we're not on it.

The morning mist has burned away, out in the desert ahead. The red Sunstar is climbing the sky. I look back, rest a moment, adjust my load. There's a fog laying back there, near the white road. It wasn't as obvious when we were in it. The pine trees are a swath of green. The deciduous trees, are obvious on up the hill, now that I know what I'm looking at. The blue mountains, misty, layered, two, three ranges deep.

It's easy to keep my head bowed beneath the bill of my ball cap, the rising Sunstar out of my eyes, watching Eenunh's hips twitching beneath her dress. I scan the ground for tracks, see tiny three toe tracks, a line like a tail dragging.

In an hour I adjust my ball cap. The Sunstar is higher. The desert smells sweet. The sand is hard, most places. Sometimes it is softer, harder to walk in, my feet displacing sand, so it seems I'm slipping, not making as good a time as I was on the hard sand. Looking back, I see our tracks. If...someone was following...we'd be easy to track.

This sand is brown but soon I see it turns red. It's hard sand again. l can look back, see the brown sand, and ahead, the red sand. We keep moving. At high noon we stop to rest in a saguaro shade. We stay about an hour, and they're up and going again. I'm okay. I'm ready. We trek into the afternoon. Eenunh stops to probe with her trowel, comes up with some of the cactus balls. She de-thorns them, drops them in her bag. No lizards. No lunch.

Ahead I see the albanh, the thorn trees, the hill we camped on. The Sunstar is behind us. There's a tint of red. The little red sunlit bump in the distance is easy to see, sunlit on the horizon.

We climb up, past thorn trees, to the rock outcrop at the top. Our stone piles have been disturbed, in two places, one completely bare, all the stones knocked off, the other with stones knocked in on the rock.

By the time I top the slope, Tinunh is up on the rock, sweeping. Eenunh is looking around the whole place, circling, and circling again. Tinunh takes off her bedroll, sets her pack-bag down, squats down, sighs. Eenunh sets her blanket and pack-bag over the loose stones. I do too. She starts setting stones up in the place where they've been...knocked out...dragged out... She pecks them twice on the red sandstone wall, sets them on the stacks.

What's...been here to disturb these stones, some laid three layers high, stones big as a baseball, a softball? I don't like not knowing. I don't want to ask. Tinunh gets up, jumps off the edge of the stone, comes to help. I help. Soon we have our...whatever it is...stone ring...rebuilt...restocked.

It's still quite light in the sky, the red just beginning to tint from golden yellow. Eenunh motions, to me, points out over the tops of the thorn trees. Tinunh has headed down the hill. We follow. Out in the desert Tinunh is going south. She comes to a point, stops, waits. The lay of the land slopes down into shadow. As we arrive Tinunh goes on down and we follow. At the bottom it is flat, and...white. Eenunh pulls her corn-knife and chops a little, turns and chops across where she started, the opposite direction. She scrapes the loose stuff aside, punches the corner of the corn-knife blade into what she's exposed, and twists it. She comes up with her hand. I see what looks like sand on her green fingertips. She puts them in my mouth. Salt! It's salt! We have salt with some meals but not all. At...home...with some meals, she brings out a box, flips up the lid, and pinches it out, adds it to some of the food before she puts it in the warmer, the cooker thingie. She has the gray-stone canister she brought the greenies in, unscrews the lid, begins chopping the salt down into small pieces, putting them in the canister. Tinunh starts dipping the end of her corn-knife into the salt, lays it on the mouth of the canister, and Eenunh shoves it with her finger, to fall in. She uses the handle of her razor knife to crush it up in the canister. Team work! Filled, a grin, and we go back the way we came.

The red light is on everything again, saguaros, the girls, the red bump across the desert in the distance. It took us half a day to come from there to here. We should be there again, by noon tomorrow. Climbing the hill, a cold wind blows. I think I hear the thorns falling from the trees. Eenunh turns, bends my head down, making sure I don't look up.

We're exhausted. No supper. Sleep.

In the night, Eenunh grabs my left leg!

She sits up! Tinunh sits up, jumps up, starts grabbing stones and throwing them randomly into the dark!

Eenunh does the same, in another direction! I decide the direction on my side needs a few stones too!

I throw as often as they do, randomly, occasionally, not wildly or constantly. I am afraid! What in the hell is out there that they knew was out there and might come? Is this what dragged stones in and out off the rock? The spaces where the rocks had been disturbed were big...big as...big as the big lizard we killed! It's cold. Not just chilly, but cold. They stop throwing rocks. I stop throwing rocks.

I start to say something but Eenunh's fingers on my lips stop me after one syllable. She shushes me, "Shhhh! Shhh!"

We stand in the dark, in the cold, for a while,stones in hand. They start to lay down. I fish out my hoodie, my leathers and put them on, my gloves. I take off my hoodie. It's a snug fit over my shirt, the pants over my jeans. I put my hoodie back on. I must have had a good idea; they get their leathers on too. They share one blanket under them, one over. I unzip my bag, cover them and me, lay on the bare rock. I pull my corn-knife part way out of the sheath, put my hand on the handle. Its cold. I reach and get a few more rocks to lay close at hand. Every sound has to be confirmed as to source. There aren't any sounds but the girls, a cough, a murmur, the rustle of an adjustment of the blanket and sleeping bag. I get up, go around, tuck the bottom blanket in over their feet, up over Tinunh, bring the top blanket down the outside, tuck it slightly under her. I lay back down and Eenunh pushes the edge of the top blanket over me, her hand finding my belt, pulling me toward her, under the sleeping bag. I scootch in against her. She holds me there a long while; finally lets go.

Somehow, sleep.

Morning. Nobody's moving. It's too cold. Their heads are under the sleeping bag. Mine must have been, but now I'm looking out at red light on the top of the thorn trees, on everything out in the desert to the south. A chill wind blows.

Finally, they stir. In minutes we're packed, and down the hill we go. Near the bottom they stop, Eenunh pointing at the ground. Tinunh exclaims something. I don't know what. I get down there and see tracks. These look like clawed footprints, not three-toed lizard tail-dragging prints, but something with a paw! Mammalian maybe. Like a big dog. Maybe a small bear. Here and there are stones, loose stones, and gouges in the sand where they hit, our stones. I am afraid again. I don't mind tellin' ya! I scan the landscape.

I'm done here. I set out toward the hive. For once in this expedition I'm in the lead. I look back. They're following me. I turn my head just enough to confirm that, every so often. After a couple hours I'm huffing and puffing. They come up to where I've squatted down. Eenunh stands close, puts her hand on my head, my shoulder. A moment, and Tinunh's leading off again. Eenunh reaches for my hand, pulls, and I stand. She leans into me, offers her mouth. I take it. We go. Home is near.

Home...is near.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/29/23 11:12 PM.

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19. ALMOST HOME: A Family Proposal. Home.
Talah = Alright (Okay).

We're almost there!

I've taken the lead again. Tinunh stops, drops back, smiles at me in passing. We brush left-hand fingertips, grin.

I'm worn the hell out! I want something to drink, something to eat, a shower and a place to lay it all down. The very thought of stripping off the baggage makes me want to lay it down in the desert and come back for it later! I keep trudging. Suddenly I'm aware, the girls aren't right behind me. I look back. They've stopped out there about fifty yards back. I start walking back. Eenunh turns her back to me. Tinunh looks in my direction, back up at her mother, touches her back consolingly.

As I step up from beside her, turn to face her, Eenunh is wiping tears off her cheeks! She looks distressed, again. She's kind of gasping for air. I'm afraid she'll hyperventilate and collapse, again. I look her in the eye. She looks away. She lets me take her in my arms. She folds her arms between us, holds them up our chests.

I shush her, "Shhhhhhhh."

Holding her, gently, with her head under my chin, we simply stand there, pack-bags and bedrolls, canteens and Sunstarset red. I look north, up the desert along the patio. We're almost home.

I see Tinunh, her face concerned but stern. She gestures, points toward the hive, turns and goes on. I watch her go up the slope, across the patio, into the pub.

After a few minutes Eenunh is breathing normally. She sniffles. I release her, put my hands on her shoulders, drop them to her waist. My thumbs feel her belly. My fingertips feel her back. She's hard and lean. She's strong. She looks at me, golden irises, touches my right cheek with the back of her left hand. I have leaves in my shirt pocket. She notices, takes one, wipes her eyes, dabs at her nose. She inhales, sighs.

"We're going to be okay, alright, okay," I say, in English. I find the word in Emoilihn, repeat it, "Talah. Talah." She smiles with her mouth, not with her eyes.

"I'm afraid," she says. "I don't know. We don't know."

"We can't know," I tell her. "We have to wait and see. Other people will decide. We have to convince them that what we want to do with our lives is the right thing for them to decide, and that they have to support us, respect us, respect our decisions...respect our family."

"I want to know," she says. "I need to know. I don't like...not knowing. Why can other people decide for me? It's mine to decide. Why don't they leave us alone?"

Eenunh's face clouds a bit, not into deeper emotional upset, but intellectual consideration. I see wheels turning in her pretty face.

"Sodaensus," she says. "Sodaensus can convince them. We have to think and help her think of words to convince them."

"Yes!" I say, gesturing with my right hand, index finger. "That's the same conclusion I have reached. We...you and me, Tinunh, are family. Sodaensus already put that idea into the record. It's a strong argument, isn't it, among the Emoilihn? Family is important. Family takes care of family! The Emoilihn value families. Families are the basic unit of Emoilihn society. People respect each other's families. People know that all families are valuable. The rich people in their blue suits and knit dresses know their children mean the world to them, and that it must be so with the poor people in their..." I tug at my shirt, go on, "ragged clothes. We are family."

"Emoilihn are family," she says.

In an impulse, I watch her face, as I kneel, take a knee. She tries to stop me from going down as if concerned that I'm falling. Her face is puzzled. I know what I'm doing.

"We should marry," I tell her. "We should marry by Emoilihn Law."

Her face goes rather blank, eyebrows up, mouth partially open, golden irises shuttering rapidly.

"Can you marry me? Will you?" I'm befuddled! I'm panting for air! There are stars in the sky above her head. Night has come creeping across the sky. Her face turns from concern to consternation. She's pulling at my hands. If I don't get up she'll pull me up! I get up. She touches my cheek. Suddenly she laughs! Tears come out of her eyes, but she's not crying.

"You," she says. And nothing else, grinning, golden irises.

She takes my right hand in both of hers, leads me toward the slope. The moon is rising over the hive. She lets go, climbs the single file path ahead of me.

An old singer said, 'One of the great pleasures of making love to a woman is watching her climb the stairs ahead of you.'

I'm thinking about that, watching her body beneath her clothes. Then I think about her reply, 'You.'

'That's not an answer,' I think. But I'm sure there will be an answer. I've asked.

A woman needs time to think.

Was it the wrong time and place? No. There's no wrong time and place. You shouldn't ask such a question from the toilet of course, or in a printed electronic communication, or by phone.

But, if you truly love someone, and are confident they...truly...love you...there's no wrong time or place.

From the patio I glance back at the desert, stop, turn to gaze back. The White Road. The forest. Swimming. Off to the west the Sunstarlight is orange, a low band over the blue mountains. The saguaros and barrel and beavertail cacti are rimmed in red.

I think I can pick out the thorn tree hill. Farther on the peaks of the hills, a dark silhouette are obvious, now that I've been there, now that I know what I'm looking at.

I wonder at the white road, the vehicle, the paw prints, the swimming hole. It's...it's a world of possibilities, and I choose to think they're positive possibilities.

I turn to cross the patio. Tinunh is running toward me, arms flung wide! She slams into me with such force I nearly fall back down the hill! She's hugging me tightly, literally painfully tightly! She leans back, holding onto me, looks up, tears spill from the corners of her golden eyes. She's laughing to the sky, lets go of me, wipes the tears with her index fingers, the heel of her hands. She's laughing. She takes my right hand in both of hers. We walk toward the doorway. She stumbles!

"I can't see!" she says, in English.

I see Eenunh, sitting across the first table inside, painted orange in the Sunstarset light, then green in my shadow, a beautiful smile, breaks into a grin of perfect white teeth.

We come in just as the Blueboys come to the table, one with two blue bottles, graystone mugs, the good stuff. The other has a large platter with the rice-like dish, vegetables and bits of meat, steam rising from the top. The bottle guy sets three plates around the table, deftly, one, two, three, lays three sporks and a large wooden fork on the table.

They back away, stand looking at us, grinning. I'm grinning. I start to sit down, my sleeping bag and pack-bag still around my neck. The boys come, quickly, before I can sit, strip me of them. Eenunh's watching, grinning. Tinunh's grinning. I'm grinning. I start to sit, again, but Eenunh stands up, steps between my chair and the table, takes my face in her hands, offers her mouth. I take it.

"Neh," she says, in breathy human voice. "We can marry."

One of the boys runs back to the counter, comes running back with leaves. He sets them on the table, strips one off the top, hands it to me. I dry my tears. I dry Eenunh's. Tinunh dries her own!

Yes. We can marry.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 12:02 AM.

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20. A PRISON VISIT: The Interpreter.
Entemannh Garibe = Entemannh City.

I go to their house, first, to unload stuff I carried back.

Eenunh opens her pack and I realize she carried all three of the bags of blue berries; not blueberries, but blue berries, white actually, but with blue juice. Eenunh sets them on the floor, and puts another canvas bag down over the top of them, tugs the drawstring closed, and flips them so the new bag is...on the bottom. She sets them on a bottom shelf, covers them with a towel.

Eenunh had been careful to wash out the blue stains on Tinunh's and my gloves, sitting naked by the stream flowing out of the swimming hole. I was simply lusting nearby. But I noticed the meticulous inspection, making sure those stains were clearly gone. Finally she rinsed her own gloves, taking the right one off, keeping one on, working the leather with a small stone in her bare hand. She lathers up with the stick-soap, washes both hands and up her wrists. When her visual inspection satisfied her, she put the cleaned glove on and washed the other one, opposite hand, left hand doing the scrubbing, letting the water flow over it, draped underwater on a stone at the edge of the stream. She's careful not to have her foot in the water, cautions me when I get too close to suit her with my own naked feet. There's something important about those berries or she wouldn't have collected them. I think they're the reason we came here; the main reason. There may be other reasons. Sitting naked in the Sun with her would have been the only reason I needed. I lay my head back, lean on a boulder. It's hot; the stone. I splash a bit of water, upstream from where Eenunh's working, and lay back on it. I close my eyes. The Sun on my face, my shoulders and chest. I worry that my white skin will burn, worry that theirs will. I cover my genitals with my hands, worry about burning. I...feel a little perverse, open my eyes, a bit sunblind, to look at her. She looks at me, smiles, that wonderful face relieved of all tension. I lay back.

The sense that I haven't a care in the world counters with cares I have in the world. If I don't have to leave with Briggs and the L. A., how can I get paid for this three-years of work? I could set up an account, on Earth, have the money put in it there. How would that do me any good here? I could...order stuff...if a future engagement between our peoples is arranged. And surely it will be. I see dollar signs in Briggs' eyes! Hey! The guy came back, not for money; for me! I gotta give him credit! I apologize for all the terrible names I called him that he need never know about! And to his mother. And aspersions on his character and personality. LOL

I need to find out a...a system of...exchange...Emoilihn money system with Earth money system. I could put some money there, some money here. I could import... something...if I can figure out what, something they desire or demand that we have on Earth. I don't know if any alien society has done this before. Surely they have. The dozen civilizations discovered by human explorers in the nearest Sunstar system alone, thanks to the light-drive engine, must surely have...money relations...if not diplomatic relations. I know most are stand-offish, seeing us, the 'invaders' as being an unknown...potential threat!

Briggs can start marketing the cargo at the first orbiting city he comes to, around Mars, others, around Earth or the Moon. If we've got some special stuff it can go to the Earth's surface. But most of it is ores for metals, and...fossil fuels, and having them already in space is far more valuable than putting them down on Earth. They're even profitable setting them down at specific locations on Earth, rather than trying to transport them over the tectonic mess of land masses, the disturbances that erupt at sea at unpredictable moments. Earth's a freakin' mess! You can still burn coal there, for smelting. Not for electricity generation though. We have some coal on the D.L.A. Briggs didn't tell us but I think he found oil on another planet's moon. The planet was too big to land on. But one of its moons wasn't. He did the work himself, machines, impact devices, feedback. We all just stood around, watching, guarding in case something came out of the wild. Nothing did. But...he may know where there's oil. Oil makes humans crazy. They'll go to war for oil, send the children of the poor into the face of guns for oil.

I wonder about the white road, The White Road. Is there a city...are there cities up and down that road to whom Briggs might make a deal right now? Can we do it here, with the authority of our Governments, us as...as representatives? He's a Government-licensed Captain in the Merchant Marine. Does that mean anything in this context? If we can establish a rate of exchange I could have a nice little payday right here! Something to think about. That white vehicle that went by hummed like a water-truck, possibly the same engine, the same power source. I never smell any exhaust fumes. Maybe they don't need to burn things to power vehicles. Maybe they don't need anything Briggs has. Maybe they don't need a money exchange. I'm stuck with money on Earth I can't spend here and don't need there. I'm swatting at ideas I can't know anything definitive about. I chuckle at myself. Mr. Maybe!

Eenunh's there, settling beside me on the boulder. I reach and splash water where she wants to lay. She watches, her naked green body in bright Sunstarlight. She must have heard me chuckle at myself.

"It's funny?" she says, interrogative tone. I open my eyes enough to see her, snuggling in beside me, throwing her left leg over mine.

"Yes, funny," I say, hugging her gently, my arm down her side, my hand settling on her pelvic bone. The Sun is wonderful, warm, not too hot. I worry about sunburn. I doze a bit, awake when my corn-knife falls out of the sheath beneath my right thigh. Eenunh's been dozing too. She looks behind us, says, "Tinunh." rises and steps across me, right hand on my left shoulder, left hand full of gloves. I reach to support her, my left hand on her waist, right on her belly. I hear her go back in the water, regular 'sploosh' noises. She's walking around the edge of the pool, grace, beauty, my mind's eye. I pick up my knife, put it back in the sheath, stand, lean on the boulder. Eenunh is standing by the boulder where Tinunh has rolled onto her back, her right knees up, to Eenunh's left, foot flat on the rock. They're talking, laughing. Tinunh has her left arm folded over her face, to Eenunh's right. I go, step across the dry boulders, get to my underwear, put it on. Eenunh looks over her shoulder. I go up the hill, find my clean socks. Put on my jeans. Tie my work shoes.

It's a memory, but vivid.

Now I'm looking at the dark ceiling of my bed hollow, showered, shaven, having known the pleasures of sitting for a toilet instead of squatting in the woods. Sleep wanted me. I wanted sleep. Now I'm awake, staring. Eenunh's at the door! I know...how do I know? She doesn't knock. She comes in. People don't seem to lock their doors here. She comes over, lays next to me.

"You have to visit Patrick," she says. "It is in the order of the Koobahbahnnh." I know this. Part of the deal is that I will visit Patrick. "Now's a good time to go," she says. I don't want to get up and go anywhere. I want to sleep. I want to kiss Eenunh. Now sleep wants me, and I can't have it. She kisses me on the left corner of my mouth, sits up, tugs at my hand. I spin, sit up. "I'll go with you," she says. Of course. Without a guide I'd get lost and never be found again.

Down the corridor to the ramps, down to the central chamber, off down the long corridor toward the water-truck cavern. Lots of people coming and going, ahead and behind us. At the boathouse and flea market we turn to our right, instead of straight out onto the dock, by the flea market, onto the same size 'dock' that goes south across the space. I look back. The flea market is dark, like there's no one there to brighten the stuff. The water trucks are up on blocks, wheels off the ground. There's a small pool of water out in the center of the floor. Some people are out there, splashing at the edges, fishing with nets! I see greenies, orangies, skinned, and something silvery! Fish fish? Maybe!

We cross by that dock-size walkway to the far side of the cavern, south end of the complex. On the other side there are several water-trucks, the white wheels on them, ramps up out of the floor area, onto a wide three tiered dock there. We go through a large, open spindle-door and through a short corridor. There's bright light, natural light from an opening on the right, from outside, a big round glass window in a long corridor there, off to the right! I see other big round windows down the corridor. There are cops, coming and going, like at the Court facilities. We keep going straight ahead.

A spindle-door is opened for us, Commannh team, and closed behind us. Through the first door we are given bins at a counter, to empty our pockets in. Eenunh puts her purse in mine. The woman cop takes it out, puts it back in the one they gave specifically to her. She blushes, darker green. I think she's already 'greener', perhaps the effect of the sunbathing. There's a conversation. I don't catch it. I put everything but my handkerchief out of my left hip pocket in my bin. The woman takes the bins to two tables. She starts searching through my stuff, taking out my driver's license, looking at the picture, looking at me. I wonder whether it has expired. She's laying things out on the table, Amero bills, ones, fives and tens. My library card. My Veteran's ID. I wonder if she'll find...she's found my 'mad money, five twenty Amero bills.

The man on her team has laid out all Eenunh's things. There's not much. He looks at a white paper, shows it to the woman. He looks at my stuff while she's reading, handles the money, the ID. She speaks to Eenunh. Eenunh speaks to her. He comes to the counter, reaches under, hands us two tags on lanyards. Eenunh puts hers around her neck. I do the same.

Another team comes out of the spindle-door to our right and stands, indicating by arm gestures we are to come through. We go. The man stops me, points to my belt, says something, again I don't catch, but I take it off and hand it to him. That seems to be it. He goes back to the counter with it. The woman gestures for us to go. On we go, corridors, dark, dingy wall application that doesn't brighten unless you wave your hand at it, vigorously, close to it. On the left, spindle-door, cop team outside, cop team inside, a room, tables, a few people sitting in canvas clothes, regular shirts, pants, dresses. One lady and one man in the knit dress and sport-coat attire of the more well-to-do, a despondent young man across the table from them. Cop teams, man, woman, stand against the wall near each table. There are women, children, visitors. The lighting is better, on the walls, the ceiling, the white stuff.

Patrick comes through a spindle-door, cuffed with the one piece cuffing device, is 'placed', bodily, in a seat on a bench at a table by a man, a woman cop watching him, watching us. I go, sit on a bench on the near side, and Eenunh sits, facing away from the table, her left leg at my left hip.

The cops who brought him stand against the wall.

"Who's this?" Patrick asks. I don't like his voice.

"This is...an interpreter..." I tell him, "for the Emoilihn, in case we have to tell them anything."

He doesn't deserve to know her name, or who she is. Who she is? She's my fiance'. I'm not telling his ass that! Eff him!

"Tell 'em I want to get the hell out of this place!" he says, obviously not expecting any answer. Eenunh makes eye contact with me, looks away.

"How are you...housed?" I asked. "Do you have a decent bed? Is the food edible? Do you have any freedom to move around?"

"Yeah, we're all in a barracks, like the pod we brought down," he says. "About seven of these...things... and me. Sucks just like the barracks pod." He pauses, looks around, looks at Eenunh.

The woman cop, comes and speaks to Eenunh. She stands up, goes and stands between them. She's repeating everything we've said so far, condensed version, somewhat. What do I know? See? I told you she was an interpreter!

"Any trouble with how you're treated?" I ask.

"You mean other than being buried in this hole? There ain't no air down here. It stinks! They push me everywhere they want me to go! I can't understand them and they can't understand me!" he says. Eenunh is speaking in a quiet voice, repeating interpreting.

"Yes, they should air the place out a little," I say, looking up at the ceiling. I hear Eenunh's voice. "The food?" I ask.

"Green vegetables. Orange vegetables. Some kind of meat. It tastes weird. The meat's okay. Today we had some stuff, looked like rice, with vegetables and little bits of meat. It was good," he says. Eenunh's repeating.

"Yeah!" I say, "I've eaten all of that! It's nutritious. Keep yourself healthy!"

"Can you get me out of here?" Patrick asks.

"I don't see how," I tell him.

"Ask her," he says, pointing with his two cuffed hands toward Eenunh. I don't look in Eenunh's direction, look the opposite way in fact. I notice none of the other canvas-clad prisoners are in cuffs.

"Why are you in cuffs?" I ask.

"They like to push me places! I push back!" Patrick says, grinning. 'Such a clever boy!' I think.

"Well, you'll likely be in cuffs as long as you display any threat to the officers, or other prisoners. You need to chill and do your time. You've got three months, three lunar cycles. They're 27 days here. You've already got some down. You need to cooperate, sleep, eat, work if they offer you work. Ask about it. Your time will pass more quickly if you have something to do. Do you read?" I ask.

"Yeah, yeah I can read," he says.

"I have some books. I can bring you some books maybe. You can read them, pass the time. See if you can work. There's got to be a kitchen," I'm telling him, then worrying about Patrick and knives in a kitchen. "There's probably a laundry. You know how things go in prison." I wonder how he can eff things up in a laundry, sure he can find a way.

"Ask 'em?" he repeats. "How 'na hell am I 'sposed to ask 'em!" he says. I see the signs of an emotive eruption, gesture with my hands for him to settle down. He looks around the room, near and far, settles down. The manacle clicks on the table as he moves his hands.

I ask Eenunh for the word for work, get it, try to teach Patrick to pronounce it. He won't even try.

Speaking to Eenunh, I get the message to the commannh, "His time will pass faster for him if he can work in a laundry."

"What kind of books?" Patrick asks, doesn't wait for an answer, waves his cuffed hands, "Never mind."
"I want out of here!" he says, a bit more loudly.

"Yeah, I don't blame you. But...you know what they say, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Eenunh's interpreting. The cops at the wall are asking Eenunh questions. I listen, can't hear what they say. They go silent again. "She's interpreting what we're saying. They'll probably take you somewhere to work, if it's available. Don't make them push you. Go where they indicate. If it's work, take it. Do it. Pass the time. Don't sit in the barracks and get frustrated."

"Okay, man, just...", I search for words, "Just cooperate, eat, sleep, work if you can. I'll bring you some books. I'm pretty sure they'll let you go at the end of three months. You split that guy's head open. I haven't seen green blood before, or since!" I add. "I saw a lot of it that day. So did lots of other people! You made quite an impression!"

I wonder if part of his sentence should be for hitting me, twice. Maybe they'll keep him six months and give us more time to strategize. No. I can't do that to the little ugly bastard. Give him some hope, some help. Let him get through this and go on to hell.

"Anything else you want to talk about? Anything else I can...do...for ya?" I ask.

"Nah! You ain't done nothin' for me yet!" he says and stands up. He turns and starts walking toward the spindle-door. The man goes after him. The woman is talking with Eenunh, turns to me, gestures toward the door, and follows us out, back the way we came. Back at the counter we're collecting our things. My wallet is put back together. I check for my mad money. It's there. Hundred bucks! By God better be!

The cop team there at the counter and the woman who came out with us are in conversation. A white pad is produced, marks made, a copy given to Eenunh, another copy made. She puts it in her purse. They're all smiling. I smile too, gesture for Eenunh to precede me out. She takes my lanyard off of me. I point at hers. She pats it, keeps it, and we leave. Outside again she turns left through that large corridor next to the big round window, glass window. The corridor runs parallel to the one we come through from the apartment to the water-truck cavern, but it has windows! Only cops are moving here. They speak to Eenunh, eye me. I look at her and see the cops stop and look after us. They're either checking out my girl or the alien, Ass Oomam. Either way, an 'ass' is involved. I feel jealousy! LOL. That's okay! You can't have a beautiful woman and expect men not to look!

There are more big round glass windows at intervals. The natural light, to the south, is an aesthetic pleasure. We come finally to an opening out onto the patio. The spindle-door is wide, as wide as the one the water-trucks go out. We turn up another corridor, off to the right, north, back toward our apartments. Few people, no cops. A little ways up, Eenunh turns and hugs me. We stop, stand. She shows me the lanyard with the tag, says, "I get paid...to interpret!" She grins! There's genuine joy in her face. I reach and touch her right cheek. She takes my hand and kisses the heel, the palm. She keeps grinning, turns, heads home. "We can visit every fourth day. We should do it. I get paid! I know Patrick is not your friend, and he is...ugly to you... but..." She leaves that hanging.

Yes, an interpreter, a valuable skill, a person you don't want to make leave your planet as you open diplomatic relations with...ass oomamnnh, the aliens!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 08:17 AM.

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We go to school every chance we get. We're on a mission now, to learn each other's language. I can approximate the sound, can make myself understood when we shop, almost, and converse with our friends. They get to talking fast and lose me, but I'm getting more adept. It's...ear training...listening for vowels, words in context, pitch variations, lots of 'clues'.

Eenunh's reading "Of Human Bondage", by herself!

Well, she comes to me and needs words explained, but she's doing okay with it. To find out how she's doing she tells the story to me. It's more of a human psychology novel than "Mockingbird", with its 'action' events. She notes the 'psychological' nuances of an ancient society, England. So our discussion leads into psychology, which she says helps her 'read' Patrick!

She read "To Kill A Mockingbird", aloud, to me, in bed. If I doze off, she wakes me up with a kiss, tells me, "Wake up Andrews!" or, an alternate address, "Wake up Oomam ass!" I explained the meaning in English and she laughed for days! She still breaks out in a giggle and explains that as the thought that came to mind.

Tinunh's speaking in a human voice too, using phrases Eenunh uses talking to me. "Stop it!" has become a favorite of hers too, when I'm trying to be too silly! "Don't gulp your milk!" came at me at the breakfast table the other day. I nearly squirted it out my nose! LOL

Eenunh got a job in a plant nursery, out on the top of the hive rock, or the part of it that goes out to the northeast. There's a lower part there, just down below the fancy-smancy restaurant. Sometimes, when I'm up that way, I go look out the window there, try to see her. Sometimes I do! They're bringing plants in, she tells me, rotating them in the sunstarlight at the right time of day. There are long greenhouses there.

She took them the pine cones she collected, asked if they could be grown and planted anywhere near the...they don't call it the hive; they call it Entemannh Garibe, Entemannh City. Entemannh was a leader in resisting and ending the Terror Wars, leading people to stop leadership decision-makers on both sides from engaging in terrorism, which led militaries to stop waging war. Peace, came, and, for now, has stayed.

They liked the idea, growing pine trees for planting here. They liked her. They hired her. She likes the work. She comes home smiling, tells me about her day. WE have houseplants! We take them out to the balcony, bring them in at night. Soon it may be too cool to take them out, too dark in here to keep them here. She'll take them back to the nursery.

We...take a nap... before Tinunh comes home. I put on my blue sportcoat, gray pants, and make the rounds of the pubs in the nearby entrances, an hour here, an hour there, and then everyone leaves and goes home to rest for the next day's work. I go further afield, along the patio, go through the closed spindle-door. I have to buy a bottle of wine, I think, until I realize some folk only buy a glass, and then I do that too, just to wet my whistle while I play. I don't need to drink while I'm playing, and it's illegal, a nice Commannh lady explained, when I tried to leave a pub with half a bottle to go to another pub.

Some places like me. Some don't. I make a little money in most of them, according to my money manager fiance'. Sometimes people buy me bottles of green or blue wine. I come home with one or two or three sometimes. I'm getting quite a stock. Eenunh sells them to the neighbors; brings them when we go visiting The Machinist at his girlfriend's house. Soda and Thin Man have a wine cellar of sorts, well-stocked. The Machinist lives in that 'hole' at the flea market. His girlfriend lives on the east side. She loves him like...like Eenunh loves me. They embrace, kiss, right in front of us and her kids. The kids think he's the greatest guy in the world, and they're probably right.

Eenunh worried about my wine 'tips' being 'off the books', her 'wine sales' too, and getting us in trouble. "The Government's watching," she says. Sodaensus told her not to worry about it until it did. She keeps track anyway, counting it as part of my performance compensation, making a record, and the sales. If they confront us, she has a record to refer to. We'll...pay our Taxes or...whatevs.

We visit Patrick about every four days. No. Not 'about'. Eenunh got a more official lanyard and Identification placard. She's very pleased with the extra income. We visit every four days. Patrick's settling in, doing his time. They still have him manacled. He says they take them off back in the secure part of the prison. He says he's not having any trouble with anybody, and the 'pushing' is now replaced with 'gesturing'. He complies.

I awake, at night, and worry.

We have a positive vision of how we're going to make them see things our way.

But there's no guarantee our 'reasoning' will fit the point of view of the Koobahbahnnh.

Sodaensus advises that it will likely be a three-judge panel, thirteen irrelevant Citizens. The matrix of possibilities increases, exponentially, to the negative.

I stay cheerful, positive vibing, with Eenunh, with Soda. We shall prevail. Our family shall prevail.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 09:36 AM.

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22. THE TERROR WARS: May The System Work For You.
Talah = alright, okay.
Corribannh = A penal colony (The Hive).

With Eenunh working I'm left to figure out my day. She tells me to check in with the job referral lady every day, so I do. She's got nothing. Unemployment must be very high in the off-season. All those water-trucks, teams of two and three, families, with children, gathering greenies, meant lots of jobs out in the waters...they call it 'The Waters', a seasonal flooding...what is a desert now is a great lake in the wet season, lots of jobs here at home, gathering, processing the harvest.

I wonder about how quickly we 'got poor', started rationing greenies, orangies, meatballs. I'd like to check into it. We went out about three out of every nine or ten days, whenever the lightning stopped. We filled our bins most days. Days we didn't were rare enough to be unremarkable, so I don't vividly remember them.

It's hard work, bending, processing, just as fast as you can go. Because shortly after the rain starts, and it starts about the same time every day, the greenies, the brown things, quit coming. The lizards; we might be over-harvesting. That son-of-a-bitch I killed was huge, compared to anything else I ever saw on the docks. Only The Machinist's trophy skull is anywhere close. I'd like to check into that. Maybe we need a size limit. I think the one per day is a rule, a regulation. But they seemed to grow more scarce as time went on, and smaller. We skinned them out and took them home to eat on days when we only caught a small one.

Now, the dry season returns, and autumnal weather coming on... I think some folks have lived like this so long they know how to budget, when to quit hunting, if that's an option in the regimentation of this society, and go find their autumn job early, how to make it through to the next season, and the next. Mom knew how many quarts of green beans, tomatoes, to 'put up' to get her through until the next summer began supplying fresh ones.

My status as an interpreter is confused by my involvement with Patrick. Sodaensus suggested that I might qualify too, after Eenunh and the lady cop established her services for pay. Turns out the lady cop wasn't 'authorized' to make her a paid interpreter, but through a licensing process it worked out and she got paid from that day on. Nice little payday when it came through. I applied, trying to get a modest income, something to...cobble together a living with my music income. They're considering it. Am I just a court-ordered visitor? Does that make me an interpreter, an interrogator, an investigator? I'm just trying for interpreter. Surely there's something to my status in service to the society that is worth compensation. In our visits if I hear Eenunh struggling with interpretation I turn to her and clarify, in Emoilihn and English. She seems pleased and so do the cops.

After supper Tinunh goes to her friend's house to do schoolwork. She comes to my door. I know she's coming. I wait for her to knock. I open it, she gives me a hug. smiles up to me, grins, golden irises flicker. She says, "See ya; wouldn't wanna be ya!" in a human voice. I have to be careful what I say around them! I think that was her whole purpose for coming! They asked for an interpretation, we worked it out, and now they use it against me! I explained it only works because it rhymes. They say it in Emoilihn, and it doesn't rhyme. She laughs. I laugh. She goes up the corridor at a run, slowing to pass people, striking up conversations, running again. Tinunh talks. To everybody.

Eenunh is depressed. She wants to go for a walk. She has on her heavy coat, so I put mine on too. Hers is more stylish. Mine's an oil-stained, hooded parka that will zip right up my chin. When I saw it at the flea market I knew we were made for each other.

We go out through the pub, through the little door. It's been snowing. The desert is white.

"My..." she hesitates, "...husband," she goes on, "knew how to take care of us. He knew what to do and when to do it. His father taught him where they lived, in Costaramannh. He saw it growing up. His father was up in the morning, kissed his wife goodbye, went to work, came home, taught...what a boy needed to know. It was still a matter of seasons for lots of it. Growing things, agriculture, was the main job for most people. Everyone had gardens around their house. They lived in the middle. They grew food, grew plants and trees to try to restore what The Terror Wars had destroyed in the city, Costaramannh. It was just 'life' in those days. The Terror Wars didn't come...didn't...begin... in his time. They were here, happening when he was born. He, we, grew up with war."

'The Terror Wars'? I want to question her about that, more than I have just to get a translation. But, she goes...on,

"He was killed." She stops. Stops walking. Stops talking. She looks out across the desert. There's nothing to see. The snow blows out there, up above, white out conditions. Even the red sandstone cliff is dimmed by the blowing snow. The cold wind tosses her hair. She crosses her arms over her chest, tucks her hands under her biceps. It twists her coat open at the collar. I reach and tuck the right lapel under the left. I want to make her close it up. It has little wooden 'barrel-shaped' devices that push through loops. She could be warmer.

"He was killed," she repeats. "One day...we...were sitting at the breakfast table. He was going to work. Tinunh was still asleep. She and I would spend the morning doing whatever we needed to do, grocery shopping...we called it grocery hunting...there wasn't much on the shelves and tables in the stores. We lived simply, hoping the leaders would make better decisions. My husband..."

She stops again, talking, keeps walking. Just saying the words seems to choke her up. I get the impression I'm hearing a story she has not told often. Who do you tell your stories to? They're not just for anyone's ears. Other people are not interested in listening to your tale of woe when they live one of their own. Children born and growing up with constant terror, constant war, means everyone has their story. Other people will interrupt to try to...'fix' you, advise you how to get over it and move on. Those are usually the ones who somehow don't have a story. They can't handle your distress. Or just want to help. She goes on, picking up her sentence,

"...and I...were...sitting at the breakfast table. I heard Tinunh call out, just waking up. She...might have had a bad dream. She wasn't just...fussing. She was screaming! I got up and went to get her. Just as I got to her door the explosion...threw me all the way up to the other end of the hall, into our bed-room! We had rooms, in buildings, there...in the city. Not...caves, like here. I grew up here, in caves. He...came here looking for work. I was working serving food in a restaurant. He drew a picture of me on the white tablecloth. It was good! I liked seeing myself! I sneaked it out of the wash bin and the boss saw me. I lost my job! I ran into him...in the corridor, in the corridor outside the restaurant. It was where the bakery is now. I told him what had happened. I was smiling, telling it. He asked me why. I told him I liked it. No one ever showed me what I looked like before. He told me there he was going to marry me and take me back to the city where he grew up. I laughed at him. He laughed too, but he found out where I lived. I told my Mother and Father. They came to me a couple days later, told me they thought it could be a better life, in the city. It wasn't. We left here, trekked across the desert to The White Road. People on the road would give us rides to wherever they were turning off on side roads into the pine forests, the hills. The desert ends if you go far enough south, or north I'm told. I've never been up there.

We got to the city, went to his parents' house. We got married there. By the spring I was pregnant, with Tinunh. We lived there...we were very happy there...until... The Terror Wars shifted and came there. He worked in the government, a...voice for stopping war. He said, "It's time for poor people to stop killing each other's children." and soon everyone was quoting it. He said you can build up a...force for war, soldiers, weapons, and then you can go away, retire, get killed, simply die, and someone else comes and commands your soldiers and their weapons and machines. They came, the new leaders, and commanded some of us to wage war on others. City against city; poor people against poor people. Weapons at your back, weapons in front of you. All you can do is try to stay alive. Everyone saw the truth of it, quoted him, promoted his ideas. War slowed down, and stopped! People wouldn't tolerate anyone advocating war, wouldn't follow, wouldn't obey an order to go wage war. Soldiers would tell invaders to stop or they would be overwhelmed and no mercy shown. It was demonstrated. We learned how to talk and get them to stop, to go home, to leave us in peace.

"The...explosion," I prompt her. She goes on,

"He was killed. I was deafened! My back hurt! The backs of my arms hurt! The blast...I was stinging all over.
I scrambled on my hands and knees to Tinunh. She was screaming, terrified! I could see her mouth! I could barely hear her voice! I picked her up, turned to go back across the room, down to the room where...I'd left...my husband sitting, smiling, at our table. There was no room. I was looking out at the sky! Down at the street! The whole side of the building was gone. There were two floors above us, three below, before...and now, sky, and billowing smoke.

I barely heard the guns fire again! But I heard them! I turned and ran out in the hall. People were saying things, screaming in agony I thought, running one way, running back, running up ramps, down ramps. I went back in our...our house, and started packing clothes and anything we had, his...his tools, Tinunh's toys, my clothes. It was..."

She explains the word for winter, that it was time for cold weather. You would need...she called it 'energy clothing' to survive in a cold city.

"I rolled our two blankets, found string on the floor...I don't even know where it came from. It was like...I see why people believe in a supernatural...caring...entity, that would provide in such a situation. I tied the blankets, in a roll, like we did to go gather berries, put on the pack-bag. It was too heavy. I took things out, my dresses. I had many dresses...seven, I remember. I thought I was a rich woman! I took most of them out, kept just my durable work clothes, my canvas pants and shirts, underwear.

Rocks...bits of wood from the building...were falling out of my sleeves! I pulled my dress off. It was full of holes in the back where the blast hit me. There were things embedded through the dress...splinters...rocks...in the back of my arms, my back, my butt, the backs of my legs. It stung! Tinunh was calm now. She saw what was going on, got behind me. One little scream and she started picking splinters and rocks out of my skin. She was thorough. It took a long time. I felt better the colder I got. She searched in the bathroom for ointment, found it, applied it. She took care of me. She was so tiny. She was five solar cycles old. Children...babies...should not have to grow up with war.

I kept one knit dress. I was...stupefied...I...remember...trying to decide, 'Red one? Blue one? Red? Blue?' I had the blue one, I remember, later, and wore it over my work dress, to keep warm. I made a dress for Tinunh out of it when it wore out for me. I could carry her in a sling, under my coat. She was so cold...for..for a couple lunar cycles. But she...She adapted to our new reality better than I did. I...I took strength from her. If she could think there was...nothing normal or abnormal...just another day and doing what you do to survive...I could..."

She stops, again. Looks across the desert. The cold wind makes my eyes water. Hers too. I turn her to walk with the wind at our backs, north up the patio. I position myself to take the brunt of the wind, gusts sometimes pushing me to make a little hop instead of a step.

"We lived in bombed out buildings for many days," she goes on. We found food. People gave us food. We boiled water to drink. It...it was dangerous to have a fire. There were soldiers fighting in the streets. I think they shot at us just for entertainment. You didn't know it until the first projectile hit something...someone.

"One evening I was looking for a place to spend the night. We were near the river, out on the last loop around Costaramannh. I saw a line of people, and big white trucks, like the water-trucks, but longer. I saw the trucks fill up, people in the windows, putting packages up over their heads, finding seats. The truck would pull out, and go past the broken buildings, cross the bridge over the river, north, up The White Road, disappear over the hills among the pine trees. Another truck, another load, up The White Road. It was late when we got on. Tinunh was excited, looking out the window, standing on the seat, looking over the peoples' heads, looking around, looking, looking, listening, listening, talking. She talked to everybody. They talked to her, smiled. She made jokes and laughed. They laughed. I hadn't laughed or heard laughter for many days. I could hear again, and laughter was...was like medicine.

It...seemed like just an adventure! People were happy to be going somewhere, vacation, a trip, hopefully an escape from The Terror Wars. I was scared because last time we were on The White Road it was The Terror Wars perpetrated from up north. We came south trying to get away from the ones from the north that were closing in here. He...brought us...took us from Entemannh Garibe to Costaramannh Garibe. This time they came from the south. It could happen either way. He...my husband told people, "If you're not at war, your leaders build up armies and make war on someone else. It's madness. The Emoilihn family is at war with itself! The children of the poor against the children of the poor!" They listened.

Again, it became a...a point of view spoken everywhere. The Emoilihn spoke of him as the leader they wanted to wield government authority, to stop the terrorism.

It got dark. Tinunh finally settled down, arranged my pack against the cold truck wall, made me lie against it. Once she had supervised me, covered me with a blanket, she snuggled under against me, and went to sleep. I woke up. My blanket was gone. I looked on the floor, didn't see it. I had to raise up to look in the aisle. It wasn't there, but I saw it. I made that blanket. I knew the design, the colors, off-white natural, my orange-dyed and red-dyed yarns. Tinunh woke up, shivering. She asked where the blanket was. I told her,

"Someone else needed it for their family."

She said, "You gave it away?"

I said, "No. They...just needed it... and took it. We have to be careful," I told her, "just like in the city. People are desperate. The rules don't apply sometimes. They have to think of themselves, their families. She got in the pack-bag, fished out her small blanket, covered me with it. "Who took it?" she asked me. I pointed to the people ahead on the right, my blanket over the shoulder of an old woman.

Tinunh said, "We need it for our family," very simple, very factual. Five year old Tinunh. She walked down the aisle, me calling her name, telling her to come back. I was exhausted, physically, emotionally, drained. I...could... no longer...function. People were watching. She went to the seat where our blanket was. There was a man there, but he wasn't under the blanket. An old woman and two tiny children were. Tinunh talked to the man. He hung his head, sobbed. She touched his shoulder, talked to him, for a long time. The truck bounced, swerved, and she staggered, held on to seat backs and armrests. She put her hand back on his shoulder, talked. She came back and told me who had our blanket. I knew who had it, I mean, where it was, but she knew his name, knew his wife's name, knew the children's names, their two grandchildren, knew where they had lived in the city, knew the names of the children's parents, that he had gone to war, never came back, and she went looking for him, and never came back.

"They need it," she said.

"She climbed onto the seat, told me all, and fell asleep. It was okay. She told me it was 'talah' that they stole our blanket. She told me 'It's okay (She uses the Emoilihn word, 'ta-lah', accent on the second syllable, like 'alright' or 'okay'). Because they needed it. 'We needed it,' tiny Tinunh said, 'but the old grandmother and the tiny children needed it. The old grandfather needed it for his family.' "We have each other," Tinunh told me. "We have each other."

The Sunstar came up. There was snow falling, snow across the desert landscape, like today, but already deeper. No pine trees on the right, only on the left. Desert on the right. Hills on the left. They were putting us out on The White Road. I knew where we were. I knew my home. I knew my Mother and Father were there, across the desert. I thought I was almost home! I could see where the trucks had let people out, turned, and gone back to Costaramannh. I thought we could do it too. We could go to Entemannh Garibe. It wasn't...called that then. It was Corribannh, a penal colony where they sent criminals. They built it, the criminals, cut it out of the stone. But they said it was a city now, and we could live there, away from the Terror War to the south.

People were bundling up. Picking up their sacks, sorting through sacks, offering things to other people, leaving things on the road, and setting off, across the snowy desert. There were tracks where other trucks had left earlier transports. Everyone just followed the foot tracks of other people. The snow was covering them up, but there were so many people.

The wind came into us, into our faces, blew into my clothes, from the northeast, blowing southwest. The wind never stopped. Never stopped. See how it blows today, but from the southwest, but constant, unrelenting, cold and hard.

People stopped to rest. Others passed them by. I looked back. I could see my blanket, the old man, old woman, each of them with a child tucked inside their coats. We stopped to rest. Tinunh got up and was ready to go on. I said we would wait for her friends. She said, "What friends?" They were there by now, the old woman clutching the blanket around her, a curious little face peeping out at her collar. "We'll walk with you," I told them. Tinunh and I walked in front of them, blocked the wind a little I thought.

The Sunstar was going down, shining somewhere above the snow clouds. Tinunh said, to the old man, "We should find a place to stop for the night." She was five solar circuits (years) old. She became an adult. She had to do it so she did. Her vocabulary grew. She talked to everybody, listened attentively, made them laugh. I'd hear laughter, look and there would be my daughter, little...ambassador, cheerleader, comedian. She would come back, all business, do what we had to do.

"It was the desert, there," Eenunh said, stopping, pointing across the desert, "where we went to get the berries. That's where we were, in the snow and cold. We put on all the clothes we had, looked like round people, big round arms and legs and bodies. Tinunh made jokes about it. I laughed, but cried when I laughed, so she stopped making jokes for me. I couldn't...manage two emotions.

We slept in the desert. We got behind a little hill, an outcrop of rock and woody bushes, where the wind was not as hard but just as constant, just as cold! We kicked out the snowdrift, trampled it down. The old people and their children laid down with us, wrapped in our blanket. Other people stopped and 'camped' too.

When...we woke up, just a little light in the east, Sunstarrise, some people were getting up, picking up, going on. The sky was red to the east. People began to walk by. The ground was frozen. Their feet crunched in the icy snow. People had to pull their blankets and clothes loose from the frozen ground! We had chosen...Tinunh had chosen... a spot behind a little hill, a sand dune with a woody bush on top, a low rock ridge. Tinunh had bade the old man, old woman, with the children, to lay down there with us. She helped them lay out the blanket on the ground, pulled it up over them, tucked them in. Five year old Tinunh.

Tinunh went to wake them. They could not wake. The blanket was not over them. It was under them and where they had folded it over it had fallen down beside them. Tinunh...I saw...I saw her, reach inside the old peoples' coats, pushing, pulling, where the children were. She came back.

"They're all dead," she said. "They won't be walking today." She looked back toward them...was...thinking. She didn't want to say it; then said it. "They won't need our blanket any more."

I got up. We worked to roll them off of it, then to carefully pull the blanket loose from the ground. Tinunh tucked their clothes around them, like that mattered to them any more. It mattered to her. The old man had a corn-knife. She took it, strapped it across her chest. She looked across the desert, started walking. I looked at the bodies there on the ground, and followed. We were one more night in the desert. The next day we were... here. Soldiers had been here. The dead were piled on the patio, stacked like...like greenies in a bin.

My parents were not in their house. We had to register to live here. Everyone everywhere was standing in lines. Lines to register for housing. Lines for food. Lines for work. Lines. We got my parents' apartment. They owned it. There were records. So I got to own it.

"She was five years old." Eenunh speaks the words like a drunk woman. I'm...afraid.

Someone's calling my name! I turn back, scan the windswept patio through the driving snow. I see movement in a balcony up on the second floor

"That's the balcony by your house," I tell Eenunh.

"Timiannh!" she says. We both break into a rapid walk, slipping in the snow, going as fast as we can. Eenunh veers to the face of the cliff. The wind is less there, sort of a vacuum, it seems. I look up. He's gone from the balcony. We're at the pub, in, and he's coming down the ramp, points us back out.

"Briggs! Your Briggs," he says, wants to bring the crew down here to wait the three months. They're bored up there. Men are fighting. The three Koobahbahnnh panel are going up, to see the ship, to make a decision! Sodaensus is out there. She insisted it was part of her investigation into what happened down here with Patrick, and...that she needs...has to have...the two interpreters. The Koobahbahnnh agreed. They want interpreters too! They're out there!" he says, pointing off the patio into the desert. "Right now! Ready to go! Come on!"

Fresh Hell Hotline: 1-800-OH-POOP!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 12:35 PM.

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23. SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY: Sodaensus Secrets.
Colfax= The Medical Officer.

We slip and slide across the patio, down the ramp-path to the desert floor, jog out to where the Shuttle is sitting. It's not the cargo shuttle with holds for ore. It's the passenger shuttle. Will there be room? Briggs, maybe other crew, three Koobs, Sodaensus, Thimiannh, Eenunh, me. We come to the door. Sodaensus is peering out the port. She steps away. The door comes down. We go up. Angelo! He closes the door. Briggs is at the cabin. Angelo joins him, co-pilot. Three Koobs are strapped in. Soda and Thin Man strap in. Eenunh and I.

Boombo! We're aloft. Oh...uh...there's...there's no 'Boombo' sound. That's...just something I say when we simply go from sitting in gravity to the ship lifting off. We still feel gravity, but, apparently, the shuttle doesn't.

The hum of the engine makes conversation difficult, during takeoff, so, luckily, no one's trying to talk. It gets quieter after we gain momentum. The Koobs are looking at each other, out the cabin windows at the front, out the ports by their seats. The one in the middle is craning his neck, left, right, straight ahead. He seems to be the top dog of the three, and that's why he's in the middle.

They start to murmur, talking among themselves. Eenunh is attentive. I wonder what they're saying. She looks at Soda. Soda grins. When Eenunh turns to look forward again I see she's grinning too. Thin Man looks astonished, frenetic, stares out the port, up through the cabin, squirms in his seat. We accelerate, feel the crush of gravity. Murmuring. Boombo! I feel gravity let go. Shouts! Shrill shouts! All the Emoilihn are commenting! We're weightless!

Briggs didn't have to ascend this fast! We usually don't. It's kind of uncomfortable to be 'crushed' and then released.

I can't see Koob faces but I'm pretty sure everyone's freaking out a little. Soda is calm, cool, collected. She always is. Thin Man looks at her. His fright turns to a grin. He runs his hands through his hair, takes hold of his hair and pulls it, a faux fright gesture I think. Soda looks like she's sitting on one of Eenunh's lily pad chairs, legs crossing, leaning to look out the port past Thimiannh. Eenunh turns from the port on her side, takes my right hand with her left, reaches over her seatback with her right and wipes down my face, forehead, over my nose and mouth. Soda's watching. She and Soda laugh! I laugh. The Koobs laugh! They don't know what we're laughing about. I think it's just nervous laughter on their part.

There's the D. L. A.! Briggs has it in geosynchronous orbit, over Entemannh Garibe. More specifically, over the lithium deposit. We...didn't get it all.

Briggs is talking about the cargo vessel, weight, water displacement; this bad boy will float! We've mined sea floors, great lakes. Eenunh is speaking, low, just behind the Koobs, interpreting what anybody says. I hope she's finding words for the jargon. I can only hear some of what she says. I don't try to interpret Koob questions, comments, into English. Briggs and Angelo need to pay attention to their panels. The Koobs are mostly just expressing amazement anyway.

We're encircling the ship, across the bow, and heading down the port side. Briggs is pointing out the various segments. These cargo holds lock together and can separate from a central spine, to be dropped off at various ports of call. The cargo shuttle is in its bay where they can't see it.

I stand corrected!

Briggs is opening the bay doors. He noses the shuttle around so they can see in. I narrate, "This is the cargo ship we load on the surface, and bring ore up to lock in to the ship. We load an empty bay and go back down." Eenunh interprets.

Briggs turns the ship, goes on toward the stern, crosses the stern, starts coming back up the starboard side to the docking port. It's impressive, to me, a 'great' space traveler who has seen it numerous times. It reminds me of my first time standing on the Ulysses S. Grant/Robert E. Lee Peace Bridge over the Ohio River at Portsmouth, Ohio, my hometown, watching a raft of fifteen barges pushed by a river boat. Impressive. That was, back when the Ohio was still navigable, before the climate drought. My father told of seasonal drought. This wasn't seasonal. This was 'permanent', twenty-five years now. The hardwood forests dried up, he told me, and blew away. I saw pictures of people posing in front of tree-covered hills, and second poses of those same hills, denuded of any foliage plants, just grass-planted slopes, trying to prevent further erosion. The hills are constantly collapsing. I saw pictures of a great flowing river, nothing like the little stream that sometimes runs through the forests of river willows and other trees that grow in the riverbed now.

I was despondent when I saw the ad to sign on for the Deutche Los Angeles. I didn't care where it went when I signed up. Three years, a definite salary at the end, all expenses paid, a share of the haul, and away from The Human Phenomenon and its history of low-quality Leadership Decision-Makers who had rendered Planet Earth scarcely habitable. We have our own Terror Wars, each side willing to believe absurdities and commit atrocities equal to the others, no one able to pinpoint a start to credibly lay blame or conceive of diplomatic means to an end, constant revelations of money motives. 'Money changes everything', the singer says.

All the Emoilihn aboard are completely silent, except Eenunh who keeps up a narration of her own if any human speaks, adding in comments from Briggs, replies by Angelo, if any. She's doing remarkably well! I don't interrupt to modify her interpretations with clarifications. She's doing well enough.

Briggs is telling us of closing the cargo shuttle bay doors, as we watch, and opening the passenger transport bay. He puts the shuttle on autopilot. Takes his hands off the controls, holds them in the air, explaining autopilot. The shuttle eases steadily and swiftly in, lugs lock, a slight bump, and the doors close overhead.

Angelo has left his co-pilot seat, demonstrates the slow, deliberate movement necessary when you no longer have the familiarity of gravity, grasping guide rails on the walls, the ceiling, hooking his foot under those under the seats. He could be wearing magnet-boots but isn't.

Soda undoes her harness, holds on to her right armrest, reaches for the guide-rails overhead with her left, transfers her anchor to the one on the port-side wall, and is gone to the hatch by the door that will enable us to float down into the D. L. A. Angelo is there, tells her, "Like this!" and goes headfirst into the hatch! I interpret.

Briggs shows the Koobs how to swivel their seats, to watch. He speaks in short sentences, which Eenunh translates easily. Her translations now are perfect. Note to self; Keep it simple, stupid!

Thin Man follows. His legs float off the deck. He pulls himself over. He's less graceful than Soda. He looks afraid to let go of things. Angelo has come back, is suggesting options,

"You can go feet first, to suit our sense of not falling headfirst into a hole. Or head first, to enable you to pull yourself forward, eyes front." I interpret.

Angelo goes in again, head first. I'm up and looking down the hatch. Soda grins from down there at Thin Man, reaches out as if to catch him when he comes. Thin Man looks at me, grins, goes in, head first. The free float surprises him. He grabs onto rails, looks back. He's not grinning! LOL. Then he must be because Soda grins, laughs.

Briggs is ushering the Koobs, up out of their seats, guides hands to guide rails, and they come. Eenunh is out of her harness, avails herself of rails, grins at me, takes my hand. The Koobs go in, one, two, and the main man, three. Briggs, in. Eenunh, me. Angelo, Soda and Thin Man have gone through the air lock. It's empty. We all crowd in, Koobs, Briggs, me and...my fiance'.

The airlock opens into the ship. The crewmen are there, applying mag-shoe fittings to Soda and Thin Man's shoes. Eenunh is explaining what the crewmen are saying. The Koobs cooperate. Soon we're all slide-walking down the corridor, some clickety clack as we get used to the shoe devices, light weight, light strength magnets to enable you to walk, instead of float. I prefer to float, pulling myself along. Eenunh took the shoes, but adopts the Andrewsian method, bringing up the rear behind the Koobs.

We go through the engine room. Angelo is talking, Eenunh trying to interpret. She keeps apologizing, technical language is beyond her skill level. Mine too. She simply explains it is units of light energy that power...thrust... the Light Drive Engine. Photons isn't in the vocabulary we've shared.

On up, past the crew quarters. Briggs is explaining our sleep pods, for cryo-sleep if a member wants it, or simply a bunk if they intend to stay awake. If you're not a reader, or a guitar player, or have some way to occupy your time, the months between jobs can be tedious. I enjoyed the solitude. I've been awake for three years. Not constantly, I mean. Just...on a regular wake/sleep schedule. I've written songs, read dozens of books, looked at the galaxy, stars, planets, moons, asteroids. I've examined the ores. There are fossils in some, obviously organic things that got 'documented' in stone. The Fibonacci-sequenced snail shell fossil I found should be in my locker. We found that ore on a moon. I want to be sure and identify that cargo, to be able to tell where. I plan on sending the fossil to the Smithsonian Institution. I didn't think about that Scientific 'value' before. I was just...a kid at heart...collecting cool rocks.

Captain's quarters. Koobs look around. Maps. Globes of Earth, the Moon, our solar system with a mechanical hand crank to see the relative orbits of planets and their moons. Briggs likes physical stuff. He is adept with digitals but he likes globes and maps, charts. He was an ocean sailor, a Turkish Admiral, before becoming a commercial space pilot. They're entering the Bridge. The technology center. Screens show space, and the planet below. The Koobs are fascinated. Soda and Thin Man seem transfixed. I've never seen Soda's face amazed before, gawking. She notices me, grins, establishes a more reserved facial expression. Eenunh keeps calmly interpreting anything anyone says. I love her! She's a professional!

Suddenly the Koobs are asking questions. My turn to try to interpret. It's fairly simple. I can explain electronics in simple terms. None of these boys is gonna come to your house and hook up your stereo. But they get the idea. Eenunh supplements my interpretations. Their questions are simple. Briggs gives simple answers. If someone has followup questions Eenunh and I try to figure out the words for the answers. I like that the Koobs are privy to our back and forth. I think it's going well.

The Koobs become bored with the technology, I think. They suggest we go back to crew's quarters. That's the question at hand. Can these 'aliens'. these oomamnnh, come down, find housing, live among the Emoilihn for the remainder of Patrick's time, and get off the ship? Going into cryo-sleep for short periods is hard on you. Reversing the shutdown so soon after going in is a double-whammy on the physiology, the psychology. If you sleep for six months or a year, your body has time to normalize to that condition. Waking up then or after a longer period is less...debilitating. Everyone has to be awake when the ship launches for the journey home. Work to do, systems to check, repairs may need to be made, the ship set on course with confidence before anyone could go into cryo-sleep. But three months in and out again is not advised, too hard on the body and mind. And you don't just wake up and go to work that day, or the next. It takes about two weeks to normalize, to regain physical agility, mental acuity. Tricky sh...stuff. Colfax, the medical officer is discussing our physical differences. Briggs tells them something I can't hear.

They all turn to look at Eenunh. She stands up straight. She seems to look over her shoulder toward me, not directly at me. They all look at me.

"You intend to marry..." Colfax is saying, interrogative tone, eyes on me, "...one of...these..." He hesitates.

I hope he doesn't say 'things'.

He does. "...things?"

Eenunh doesn't interpret. She simply stops at 'marry'.

I say, "Sir, they are a people. As you see they are very much like us. The skeletal differences, as extensive as they are, are not significant. The eyes, very different, but not a significant difference. We..." I look at Eenunh. "...have become great and good friends." Eenunh is interpreting. The Koobs are looking, listening. Soda and Thin Man are beside us. They remain very passive in stance. I can tell Soda is on high alert, but outwardly calm. At a glance I see the faces of the Koobs are simple, like this is not anything out of the ordinary. "She came and got me when the rainy season began. You may have observed the lightning storms. Intense. That whole desert floods. Had she not come for me I...don't know what might have happened. I think the barracks pod floated away."

"I know where it is," Briggs says. "I didn't want to bring it up because the ship is..." he hesitates..."is full. We'll get it on our next trip."

A Koob asks, "So you intend to continue to come here, to mine?"

I interpret. Briggs hesitates. I think he has given an answer without realizing the significance. The 'right' to mine natural resources on a sovereign planet is an issue of diplomatic concern.

"I think there are...resources here...that...my people can use," he picks his way through words. Eenunh's on it.

"We may be able to negotiate some... values of... exchange," the Koob says. The others affirm that, verbally. Money talks!

The Koob, THE Koob, says, "I think we can find accommodation for your crew on the surface. I don't think I'd like to be confined in these quarters any longer than necessary." The other Koobs affirm agreement, yes man poses, arms crossed at the wrists behind their backs. I laugh a little, just try to keep grinning, smiling, when they look at me.

Eenunh is volunteering the information that humans shake hands to conclude agreements, that Emoilihn brush fingertips.

I explain it in English. Briggs and the Koobs do both, all laughing. Colfax joins in the handiwork, the laughing.

Cookie, the crew Cook is asking, "When will we be able to go down, Captain? I like it down there!" The crew laugh. Eenunh interprets. The Koobs laugh.

"Tomorrow," the head Koob says. "I'll have quarters secured by tomorrow. There...will be...rules to follow. Any disruptive behavior like that of the man in my jail, will result in similar confinement, or expulsion back to here."

I interpret. Enunh confirms my interpretation with a smile. The men nod.

Briggs and the Koobs start to go back through the spinal passage. I tell Briggs I want to get my stuff, clean out my locker. Briggs tells Angelo to guide the tour. He comes with me. Eenunh looks uncertain, then goes with Angelo and the Koobs.

"You're sure of what you're doing?" Briggs asks.

"I...think so," I tell him.

My doubts must be there, in me, waiting for such a question to be asked, waiting for me to ask it of myself.

"I've fallen in love with an alien woman!" I say. "I've been...happier here than I have in years. I don't want to go back to Earth. The climate disruption...it's barely habitable. The politicians. It's an Idiocracy in America now. I...don't want to take another three-year jag with you horse's asses either!" I say.

He laughs. Whew! I'm glad he laughs.

"Sir, my contract reads that I have to finish the trip, can't bail out on the way, to get full compensation, a full share of the cargo value. We're pretty much at the end of the trip. The holds are full. I'd ask that you consider granting me my full share. All the crew will do going back is hanging out while you stop off at the orbiting cities, and sell what we brought back, or bring it on down to Earth, and we all go our own way until next expedition. I won't have much more than daily duties on the D. L. A. to do with finishing the trip. Just consider it. Don't leave me out in the cold. I'm starting a new life here. I'll need money."

"I think that's reasonable," Briggs says. He goes to catch up with the tour. Good enough. The matter is on the table.

My pack-bag...duffel bag... is full, clothes, shirts, good jeans, black dress shoes, bought in Columbus, Ohio, still in the box! A heavy load of Pulitzer Prize winning books! Guitar strings! Picks! A tuner! My rock collection. My locker is empty. I have two clean towels! Washcloths. Newer work boots than the ones I had down on planet. I have black dress shoes, still in the box. I'll wear my blue blazer, black pants, black shoes, and...

this special little box right here; my Mother's wedding ring, and my Father's.

I'm...getting married!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 02:31 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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24. SODAENSUS SECRETS: Atticus Finch.

Soda and Thin Man brush fingertips with us and go off up the ramp with the Koobs. Eenunh and I embrace, before they're out of sight. She kisses me, indifferent to other people in the pub. She grins.

"That went well," she says. "I think we did a good job. She's looking up the ramp, like she's expecting someone. Here comes the someone; Soda and Thimiannh.

Soda embraces Eenunh. They're laughing! Thin Man is ordering wine, hand gestures, to the Blueboys. We move to the corner table, our corner, away from the counter and side where people are already sitting. We have this side to ourselves. A Blueboy brings two bottles of blue, with four mugs. He smiles at me, I at he, we brush fingertips. He goes back to work.

We all sit. The joy on Soda's face is rare. She folds her hands, intertwines her fingers.

"What we just did was witness a representative of your Government, a Government-Licensed Captain, conclude a Diplomatic Agreement with representatives of Emoilihn Government. There will be a rate of exchange established. They're not going to 'give' housing and other resources to Briggs and your people. They're going to charge them something...somehow. It's agreed on and may all be on paper at this time tomorrow. The Koobs will take care of documenting the agreement. The Koobs were talking about it when we left them. Some hard currency may change hands. But quantities of equal value, values of equal quantity, will be agreed upon, established. The Koobs are talking about negotiating mining rights; more establishment by diplomatic agreement of values.

You," she points to me, "have gained a diplomatic status, in the eyes of the Koobs. You're not just an alien visitor. You're a diplomat, an interpreter, a negotiation authority, by the time I get through with you! Personally,that gives you income, here, and from your country if you can negotiate it. But already established here by having served the Koobs today. Your language skills are much improved! They heard you, understood you."

She fishes a white paper out of her pocket. "This is their receipt for today's services." There are two pieces of paper. She hands them to Eenunh.
"Deposit those," she tells Eenunh, "...today if you can get there in time. First thing tomorrow if not. Establish your earnings as employees of this Government in this capacity. The head Koob was filling this out for your interpreter services, Eenunh, and I pointed out that Gary also made diplomatic service in keeping our Government represented in good faith with the representative of your Government. He didn't question it at all. He wrote it in. It is official. The sooner we get it in the system, recorded, documented, the more solid it will become. If he thinks it over he could change his mind. Once payment is billed for, and made, it establishes the fact."

Thin Man is pouring, grinning, laughs. We all raise our mugs. We toast to anything and everything. It is a good day. I take a long draught of the wine, swallow.
Another toast? Yes. They raise their glasses to Eenunh, then to me, and say, "To your wedding!"

"Now," Sodaensus says, leaning in toward the center of the table. Thin Man looks over his shoulder, scans the room, shifts his chair to face out that way a bit more. He turns to Soda, nods. Enunh leans in. I lean in. She begins, "We need to keep this to ourselves. This is our strategy. If they know how we're thinking they can outmaneuver us. They are setting..." She searches for a word, Eenunh and Thin Man, joining in. Eenunh puts her right hand on my left forearm, says,

"Something they have done before, with legal matters, so it makes it logical to do it again?" Interrogative tone.

"Precedent," I offer. "The 'preceding' decision, under the Law of the Land, makes it...legal, logically legal, to do it that way again."

She interprets, in Emoilihn. Soda asks for it in English. She had the Emoilihn word; she wanted the English. She pronounces it, buzzy voice, then human voice. She tries again, gets it right. We three say it together. Thin Man shushes us, grinning. The Blueboys are cleaning tables and chairs at the far end of the room. People are talking, laughing with the Blueboys, paying no attention to us.

"When, if, I am making this point, in Court," she says, "I want to hit both the Koobs and the Captain or any other representative of your Government or mine with the concept at the same time, have them all thinking at the same time, arguing any differences among themselves, not with us. Precedent in Emoilihn Law is strong. I suspect it is in your Courts as well."

"I'm not trained in Law but I know that precedent figures in," I say. "To 'set' a precedent is to establish it as the way to do things."

"So it is of strategic importance that we document the...precedent... they are setting, diplomatic relations, with you in an unofficial...quasi-official... diplomatic role...that's how we will cast it...a representative concerned with assuring the well-being of a prisoner...serving both Governments in that capacity, so each Government certifying you in that role...we don't tell them that now...you have to be careful who you talk to...and where," she gestures around us.

There's no one here but us and the Blueboys now. They're busy in the back, getting food ready for tonight's usual gathering. "Don't talk in front of children. Don't confide in friends. Talk between the two of you. Get words you think will apply interpreted as best you can. We'll discuss them and match up Emoilihn legal concepts and... Earthian... concepts.

We'll be prepared to argue that you should be permitted to immigrate, to become an Emoilihn Citizen, to keep your family together. If they give you no other alternative, we will argue the case for Eenunh...and Tinunh...the hardship of compelling them to immigrate to Earth, become Citizens there, just to keep your family together. I hope it won't come to that.

We need you here, the first interpreters for what looks like it will become relations between our peoples, commercial relations, governmental relations, people to people relations. You want to be here. You're willing to do that work for all concerned. We may be doing historic work here, today. I am documenting my time on this. I'll submit a bill to you, further establishing legal precedent, commercial legitimacy, financial security, every angle I can think of. I won't submit for full compensation until the precedents are established, and not then if they're seeing things our way. If I never have to submit a full billing to you I'll be happy! If I do, don't worry about it. We'll work it out."

She reaches and takes Eenunh's left hand in her right.

"If we get what we want, and all we want is for you two to be happy," she reaches, takes my right hand in her left, "there will be no need for my compensation. I will only bill if that serves our case, emphasizing that this work, my representation of your interests, was legal under our Laws, and yours, and that I acted with the authority of our Laws, therefore, our government. Precedent!"

I like my lawyer! I like the scheme, the theme of letting powers that be beyond our control, Government, Captain Briggs, the panel of Koobahbahnnh, Law Enforcement, the prison system, banking, all do what they do, interacting, settling, negotiating, establishing precedent. Even as a layman I can see the legal logic. And Soda is studious. She will build her argument, our case. I'm finding comfort in the hope she's giving me. I take Eenunh's right hand in my left. She's looking at me; worry in her eyes. It may never go away. I'm smiling. Her mouth is smiling. Her eyes change a bit, calmer, happier, more comfortable. I tell her, "I like our Lawyer!"

"Atticus Finch," she says, in her human voice, grins, and I love her face!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 09:35 PM.

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25. SODA SCHEMES: I've Got A Gig!

Sodaensus and Thimiannh come to Eenuh's, bring wine, food gifts. After they've gone Eenuh frets in pillow talk about cost. She says Sodaensus ensures her her fee will be nominal, and simply for Tax and Legal purposes. She says Soda finally tells her she's truly enjoying the challenge of thinking through this, that being the lawyer who argues my case for immigration, our marriage, interplanetary diplomacy, will make her career.

"She says, 'I should be paying you!'" Eenunh is quiet a moment, says, "I trust her."

We dine, sip wine, laugh a lot over the nonsense of life. Tinunh and her friends sit, listen, look, learn, become conversant in matters in general.

Sodaensus is quick to put a finger to her lips, to shush any of us who broach tactics and strategy, keep us just talking life, the life of people, making their own decisions about love and marriage and consideration for rights for families to make our own decisions, independent of what Governments do; family.

"There is precedent in the Terror Wars," she philosophizes. The south comes up and terrorizes us all, and the north comes down and drives them back. Then the north terrorizes us all and the south comes back. We're in what should be a neutral zone, respected by all sides. But a high ranking civilian in Government gets caught in a scandal, some...young fool rises to wield Government authority, north or south, and a whole new level of stupidity breaks out. Then a high-ranking military man gets ideas and makes it worse! We need the freedom to make our own decisions, not to be misled into places and conditions we don't want to be in!"

The children are growing. Still tiny children, I see their bodies maturing, see their faces become more stern, lovely when they brighten with smiles, capable of being silly, making jokes, getting jokes, but capable of having deep thoughts, and expressing them; young adults. The present, a precedent for the future, is theirs. They will inherit what we are able to give them.

Some visits...we meet Tinunh's little troupe after school and go to Soda and Thin Man's house, by invitation, and the children there too are integral to the conversation. They do their homework on the floor around the coffee table, or in the adjacent dining room. They gaze out to the east where darkness rises on the horizon, over distant mountains, while red Sunstarset light paints the desert floor, casts a black shadow of the hive... of Entemannh Garibe... across the desert to the east. Just when I think they're not paying attention, Tinunh or Eevannh, who lives here, on the east side, an upper middle class neighborhood, will come out of the dining room, or look up from the floor, and make a comment, or ask a question of such cogency that Soda sits upright, queries, back and forth. Soda picks up her white pad, makes copious notes. I get the gist of what they're saying, and see the anthropological argument, what Soda feels is a strong line of argument, and how it links with her Legal arguments; family, love, matters beyond Government interference. She notes that people do crazy things for love. Love is powerful, and real. We love our families.

One day I arrive to find her with the children, kneeling on the floor by the coffee table, showing the children the menu from the fancy-smancy restaurant. I wonder why.

I marvel. Eevannh comes to me to say goodbye, hugs me, consistently. She's no longer sad; just reserved, serious, mature, a lady. The other two are more reserved, smiles, grins, waves, brush fingertips. Tinunh hugs me consistently, to say farewell at any juncture of separation, just as her Mother does. And...we...just live. Soda tells us, "Just live. Be careful what you say. Be careful what you do. But just live. Let the Emoilihn see you living, loving, a family. Go out. Attend school functions. Go to the restaurant at the mall. Bring your receipts and I'll put the cost on my account, to be deducted from my bill, at the end. It's a defense expense. I can write it off. I'll make my money on the back end. Now is no time to be conservative, that conservative, with money. We want the Emoilihn to know us, not just about us, but us." She turns to me one day, saying,

"Attract attention. You with your hair and your crazy arms and legs, your hairy face, those eyes; you attract attention when they see you. Keep playing your guitar. Make a circuit. Go into every pub around Entemannh Garibe. When you get back to your home pub, start another round."

I've been doing that on a smaller, local scale, playing a set list in one pub, sometimes a different set list in the next one, and a third session, repeating one of the earlier set lists in a third pub. That's about all I can get in in one evening. I haven't been all around the city, but, I can do that. Pubs are numbered. I'll keep track. I'll replay pubs where I seem to go over well.

Soda arranges for me to show up at the restaurant, in the middle of a day. It is the 9th day, a day when no one works, the 9th day out of three 9-day weeks, 27 days in a lunar month. She tells me to dress in my blue suit, black pants, black cowboy boots, wear my cowboy hat. It's not so much a cowboy hat as just a men's summer hat. Eenunh read one of my books about cowboys.

I go; we go, Eenunh and I. We walk in, order a lunch meal. I have my guitar case, as instructed, set it on the window sill by the shutters, my stenciled website on the lid, facing out into the room. I wonder when the inter-planetary-wide-web (i-pww.com) will get here.

We gaze out to the north where a darkness as of an overcast seems to be.

"It may be smoke from the Terror Wars in the north," she says. "They flare up from time to time. But we shouldn't be able to see it from here. The nearest city, Casah Sagribe Garibe, is far from Entemannh Garibe."

Nothing dampens our mood. Eenunh is resplendent, resplendently beautiful, her hair tied behind her in a bushy pony tail. She is quite lively, humorous, affectionate. She reaches to dab at my mouth with a leaf, laughs, strokes my cheek, makes me want to bite her, but I don't.

I see her look up behind me, wonder who's coming. We've eaten. Perhaps the waitress is coming to see if we want something more. She doesn't need the table. There are only two other couples at tables, the dozens of tables with their white table cloths and white cutlery wrapped in lavender leaves awaiting diners.

Eenunh's smile brightens her face. I hear Sodaensus, inquiring about my guitar. It's a question she knows the answer to. I stand, we brush fingertips. Soda is behaving oddly, as if we're just meeting.

"Will you play your instrument?" she asks. I agree to. Never ask a Song-Writer to play for you unless you expect him to do it. Show-offs, we are easy prey for anyone who expresses a desire to listen. I play along, pick up my case, set it on a raised area there where there are only two tables in an alcove, like THE special tables in the room, a roughly triangular space, simply going out with the shape of the cliff, I think. It occurs to me a large grand piano would fit the space, perhaps with no room for the player to sit! I'm able to look down on the desert floor, through the windows. I know on the east side I could look down into the plant nursery where Eenunh works. I turn my chair, there on the main floor, not the foot-high raised floor with the special tables. I sit, begin to play "Blackbird" by The Beatles, an ancient song that still resonates in the ears and minds of Humans back on Earth. I play through it, instrumentally. I play with the chord positions, incorporating my own composition. I end.

Soda asks, in Emoilihn, the answer she already knows, "Are there words?" She's heard them before. Her waitress looks to hear me answer, "Neh!"

I sing. The waitresses stand at the bar and look and listen.

A maitre d', dressed in his blue sport-coat and black pants, comes from what must be a lower floor, stands, joined by Blueboys, Bluegirls, just four, a bartender, but forming a crowd, listening. I end my song and Soda, applauds. No one else does. Eenunh does.

Soda turns, motions to a waitress to come, orders a drink, and begins looking at a menu. She commands, "Play some more." I do.

In the middle of the song I see The Machinist! He, his lovely girlfriend, her two children! Out in the hall. I think to stop and go to them, invite them in, treat them to a meal, but they come to the doorway, stand looking, listening. I'm playing a full set of his strings now!

The maitre d' goes to them, leads them to a table. He is dressed in common clothes. His girlfriend is in a knit dress, and so are both the children. He asks for another table, closer to us. The maitre d' seems glad to accommodate. The people at the other tables are finishing their meals. The maitre d' goes to the other tables, turns each time from the conversation there to look at me. The people are looking too. My song ends. I play another. Eenunh applauds. Soda is served and dining, stops to applaud. The Machinist and company applaud. I can't help grinning.

Tinunh and her three friends are out in the hall!

I look at Eenunh. She is aware! She glances at me, stands, raises her arm to greet them. They come in, met in the middle of the room by the maitre d', Tinunh gestures toward our table, smiling with charm. He spins his arm toward us, grinning, lets them by. They're all wearing knit dresses, looking like a little cheer-leading squad of ladies. They greet us with hugs, those who hug, others with smiles, brush fingertips, take seats, laying their school satchels on the tabletop. A waitress comes. They order from the menu. They're quick to determine what they want. As if they've seen this menu before! And they have!

There's Thin Man and two other men! Out in the hall! They come to the door, blue blazers, black trousers, sharp-dressed men! The maitre d' hurries to them, brings them to the middle of the room. Thin Man gestures to come one table closer, still out in the middle of the room. I play. Others come, common people in common work dresses and shoes, canvas pants. The maitre d' seats them. One man is gesturing at his pants and shoes, seeming to indicate he's coming from work and unclean. The maitre d' gestures to the bar. The man goes there, sits, is served. Two other men come by, out in the hall, stop and come to the door. The man at the bar waves to them. They come in, sit at the bar. The place buzzes.

I play an instrumental composition, followed by several songs I sing. I play this pattern, instrumental, songs, instrumental, several songs. The applause is still just my friends, but others seem to notice. In a while more clap their hands at the ends of songs. I hear Eenunh pay our bill with my account number, gesture to me, talk to the waitress. She gets up, strides with grace and confidence toward the maitre d' over at the end of the bar. They talk. She turns to look and listen. He stands and looks, and listens. I'm pretty sure I read his lips saying 'Ass oomam!' She talks to him. They brush fingertips.

Soda comes to our table, brushes fingertips with Eenunh. I end the song I'm playing, she comes and brushes fingertips with me, turns, and goes to the maitre d'. Now, she's coming back. She tells me,

"You should go home and rest now. You can come back here and play for the evening meal, and make a living!"

She's excited! I can see her enthusiasm. Just as quickly, she hides it. That's my lawyer!

"I have negotiated a nice base pay for the evening. And you can solicit the audience directly by displaying your account number! It will be a wealthier crowd, more...economically secure, able to pay, this evening. I think today's crowd shows a general interest. We used to have music. They want to hear it again!"

She hides her enthusiasm as I stand and she turns a little toward the bar where the maitre d' stands watching. She turns to brush fingertips with Eenunh again.

"I told Eenunh I was going to make a contract to represent you, to manage your earnings. I hope we can get together some time soon, tomorrow," she grins, specifying, "to negotiate that and get it on record." She grins, waves at Eenunh. She walks away, ignores the grinning Thin Man, walks past him with a sling of her left hand to tap his back by his left shoulder. I saw that!

The girls have brought out their homework, are doing it at the table. They all look up, grin, get up, put their things in their satchels. Eenunh rises. I stand, put my guitar in my case. There is applause. Soda stops at the exit, turns, applauds, looks toward the maitre d'. He's watching her. She waves. He waves.

He comes to me as we start walking through the tables, brushes fingertips, turns and announces to the crowd that I will be back this evening! Some applaud. We brush fingertips again. He turns. I go. Thin Man stops me to talk.

"Isn't she an amazing woman?" he says, eyes a'flicker. I assume he means the amazing Sodaensus, MY lawyer. My manager.

"Yes," I tell him. "I have always thought so!" We grin at each other. He starts to shake my hand, interrupts and simply brushes fingertips. The other men are looking, golden irises flicker, smiles, grins, lofting their mugs in a toast. I say, "Thank you," in Emoilihn.

"She'll make a great Mother," Thin Man says.

"What?" I inquire.

"Sodaensus is pregnant!" Thin Man says. His grin is now ebullient. "She decided," he says. "She decided. She wants to have a baby now. It's all those children in the house. Tinunh, her friends. Soda wants to have her baby before we get much older. I'm going to be the father of a beautiful little girl, or a beautiful little boy. He...or she...is going to make me old before my time, and I'm going to love it!"

This demands a human handshake of congratulations!

I go on toward the door. Strangers speak to me, praise the music. They don't want a long conversation, and I work my way to the door, wave to The Machinist and his girlfriend. Out in the hall I walk past the shops. I think I'm grinning like a demented man. Soda set this up! I'll bet she's the one who 'notified' The Machinist. I'll bet some of these people are her friends, his friends. Thin Man brought two friends.

And...Dude! I've got a gig!

In the hall I see Eevannh's mother walking away toward the east side with her and the other two girls.

Almost at the end of the corridor down the west side I see the prettiest two girls on planet; Eenunh and Tinunh. Perfect white teeth and golden irises can be seen from here. They wait for me, let me gently crash into their hugs. Eenunh kisses me gently, hands on my cheeks, says, "I can say I knew you before you were famous!" Tinunh laughs, hanging on us, glorious little up-turned face, eyes a' flicker, joyous!

I've...never...been happier...in my life.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 09:54 PM.

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26. BLACK MARKET BEAUTY; A Berry Blue Matter.
Hika Andrews = Mr. Andrews.
Bah sanh = thank you.

I come in from some random wandering around, not very productive. Eenunh has left a note under one of my sneakers laying on the edge of the bed hollow.

I'm able to read, "Meet. Soda's. Quit time."

Meeting at Soda's at the time Eenunh gets off.

She came all the way here from the plant nursery on the east side, to leave a note?

I decide not to worry...yet...I worry. Words on paper. No...urgency. When and where, and who. Neither what nor why. The thought of Soda and Thin Man balances my care with the pleasure of their company.

I'm able to read the numbering of passage-ways now so I get lost less often. Getting lost, finding my way back, I'm learning Entemannh Garibe. I'm able to go straight there, with one stop-off in Ravenswood, West Virginia...LOL... meaning I still got lost. I got turned around, found my path again, and there at the end of the passage-way, silhouetted in blue sky light, I see the shapely form of Eenunh...pacing, arms crossed.

I come out, take her in my arms and we spin twice like ball-room dancers! She goes with me, plays along, is full of grace! Her beautiful face is smiling, receives my kiss...and stops. She says, in English, her human voice, quietly, in my right ear,

"There's...something...I told Soda...so she would know...that...I didn't tell you."

The words hang in the air. 'Something'. 'Told'. 'Didn't tell.' 'Told'. 'Didn't tell.'

She leans back, looking in my eyes. She's taking my right hand, towing me casually toward Soda's door. She's prattling about her day. I'm sure I'm not expected to respond. It's prattle for any listeners. There are people moving in the halls. We go right in. I admire the finish on their spindle-door, the smooth operation as I close it. Ours scrape.

Soda is her usual smiling self. Thin Man's not in the room. Tinuh and Eevannh are. I get double hugged!

Eenunh sits. Soda leans forward. She and Eenunh, and Tinunh, are looking at Eevannh. What is up?

"I heard...my Mother...talking," the little girl says, "to my father. The commannh (police) are looking for someone who sold..." and she describes the berries we...my family collected!

What's...the problem?

She goes on.

"Once they started asking questions they found three pharmacies had the pain medicine people were looking for, but the records didn't match up with what they got, officially from..." she names what I take to be a city (Something Garibe; I don't interrupt to ask), and an official...source...for pharmaceuticals.

I knew about your trek to the mountains." She looks at Eenunh, Tinunh and me. "I suspected maybe that was why, and you...were who.

I didn't say anything to my Mother. I learned that lesson when I spoke openly about you, Hika (Mr.) Andrews, and it turned into you having to move out of Tinunh's house. My apologies for that. It still bothers me that talking too freely, even with my Mother, could cause such problems. I've known Tinunh all my life. I'd never seen her so consistently happy, so light-hearted for her own self. She's always positive in her outlook, always makes people laugh, but...this was something more. When I found out you were the reason why I was very happy for...the family.

I've learned to be more attentive to what is said, without appearing to be. I don't casually make inquiries to elicit more information. Often the question I don't ask gets answered if I'm patient to let someone talk and tell it. I think and pretend not to be too interested. Mother wants to talk about what my father tells her. I listen...I didn't used to...It was boring. Now I encourage her with simple comments, casual comments. She likes to talk. My Mother has become more inquisitive, since I stopped telling her everything about my life. I'm learning to... give her more information about my day without telling ANYTHING about anyone else! I don't think she's completely fooled but..."

They all laugh! Eevannh just grins, her joke having landed!

Soda seems to be hearing this for a second time. Either she's not surprised, or just a good poker player. But Eenunh told me in the hall that she had told Soda something she didn't tell me. Soda questions our little friend. Apparently this conversation was overheard today. Her father is a prosecutor, or something, affiliated with the Police Courts, the Koobahbahnnh. Table talk, 'How was your day dear?' discussion, something casually mentioned.

"Tinunh and I tell each other everything," the girl goes on. "She told me about your trek. I noticed her skin was darker and she told me about sunbathing. She didn't tell me about the berries. We came to my house after school today, and I told her what my father told my mother. She stopped dead in her tracks! I bumped into her! I knew. I pushed her and we went to the living room and listened, pretending to do homework. I made sure Tinunh was facing away from my parents. She wears her heart in her face. My father didn't seem to have anything more to say on the subject. We waited for a quiet moment. I just looked in her eyes and I knew. I made a fake...happy...face. She got control of her face, which was not a pretty sight!" She pushes Tinunh's head at the temple! They all laugh!

"We didn't say anything else about it there. You never know who is listening and where your words might go without you."

Soda grins broadly. It's a verbatim quote of the warning she gave us all, more than once.

"We visited Eenunh at the nursery. Tinunh told her enough to alert her. She told us to come to Soda's, told her. And...here we are."

She sits back. Soda sits back. Almost immediately she sits forward.

"This is why we're secretive," she says. "A word, a single word, can go from your mouth to a random ear, be spoken anew somewhere, and circle around to find you."

'Loose lips sink ships!' I think to myself.

She pauses. "You girls have done us great service by getting this news to us immediately.
Now, ...you won't speak of it outside this room, of course, and what I need to talk about is something you don't need to know.
So I want you to go now while the adults talk."

She stands, brushes fingertips, formally, with the little girls. I think I see a... respectful exchange of faces, Soda and Eevannh, like two professionals meeting at work. Then they hug. I see a little girl, and a loving adult. The little girl looks up at Soda, adds, "Congratulations!" touches Soda's stomach, as they part. She knows. Soda grins, touches her shoulder. Eenunh is looking at the floor, looks concerned. I wonder if she knows...about Soda and Thin Man. In all the rush I forgot to tell her. Of course she knows. She and Soda have become more than attorney/client; they're friends. I wonder...if she knows. Tinunh's face is concerned, brightens when our eyes meet.

I get double-hugged. "Bah sahn," (Thank you,)" I say quietly to Eevannh. Tinunh stands back, arms akimbo on her hips, grinning, watching another hug. Eevannh steps back. Tinunh hugs me again. They go. I sit.

Soda smiles at us. She's quiet.

Eenunh speaks, looking at me, saying, "I sold the berries. We...had three bags, full, a lot of berries. I had...remembered...making that trek...with my husband, at that time of year. We...needed value...in the system. He...knew how to get some. The berries were most abundant then. I don't remember collecting as many when we went...back then. But I remember he made me be quiet about it, in the doing and after we came home. He took small amounts and sold them. He told me he sold them to pharmacies." She looks at me, explains,

"They're...very...potent chemistry. People use them for...for recreation...to get out of their heads, just silly with a little of the blue juice, totally...unconscious with too much.
I had to get rid of them quickly while they were fresh!
I went to the first pharmacy, asked for the pain medicine. He said he had it but only a little, because of the war, and they would only sell it if I really needed it. Everyone wants to ease their aches and pains, but some need it more than others. Who can tell who is who? Pharmacists have to make that judgment, often without a doctor's analysis. There are only two doctors here, because of the war.
That pharmacist didn't seem...the type to...make a deal with. I didn't get a...good feeling with him. I told him I'd get over my aches without it.
So I went to another one. We talked, and I did get a good feeling. She told me she only had a little, some people really need it. I liked her concern for the Emoilihn, that she couldn't give them what they needed. I told her I could get berries.
She looked around to see that people were busy, consumers, co-workers, not listening. She invited me to come to the back. It's not unusual to consult with a consumer about their needs, to determine what medication might be best, what a doctor recommended if they'd consulted one. She said she could set up her lab to process them. I told her I had the berries with me. She wanted them. I said, 'All of them?' She said, 'Yes, of course.'
Then I pulled out the bag and she...her eyes got very big! She expected...I think other people do it...bring berries illegally...but not bags full as big as that one. She got over her shock, said she'd process them that night. We agreed on a price, a...very good price. She...She paid me, partially, with credits. I saw that she got them from her own purse. She said she'd have to pay me each week and we agreed not to write anything down, just to keep it in our heads."

I'd seen Eenunh spending credits, little coins, at the grocery store, the bakery. It took a lot of them to buy anything, and time, having to look at each one to confirm its value, which made the 'account system' practical. She was adept at putting a handful on a counter, sorting them. It seemed to be a less common way of transacting business, the debit 'card' account number being 'easier' somehow. But people seemed to round up their charges with credits, the coins. I wondered at all those receipts, how they stored them, where they 'paid' the debt, or how we received payment for work out in the waters, my 'tips' at the pub. When she paid with credits, exclusively, I didn't see receipts made, slipped into a drawer, handed to a...consumer. Sometimes you got credits in change. The account system likes round numbers. 'Keep the change!' is often heard, credits viewed as more trouble than they're worth.

"I didn't want to go through the stress with other pharmacists," Eenunh says, "so I told her I had some more. She asked how much. I told her two more bags. She was scared then. I thought she might back out of the whole deal. She settled down. She said she would contact another pharmacist and see... She did. I came back the next day with another bag. She sent me home for the third one. We got the value in our heads. I go back occasionally to get paid. It became cumbersome. I changed bags of berries to bags of credits, and hid them on a top shelf in the end of the bed hollow. It was just a supplement to income. I had to manage income to pay services, trash, laundry, cleaning, water, keep most of my shopping in the documented commerce. I found ways to use the credits, small grocery trips, luxuries like baked goods. A pair of socks, underwear. But...it has been stressful. Shop-keepers ask why I use so many. I tell them I saved them up too long."

She turns to Soda, apologizes for throwing this...this...curve ball, this new problem in the mix.

Soda smiles, says, "We'll work through it. Everyone understands desperation. We've all been there. You didn't sell them to just anyone for 'recreational' use. You put them into the system. Everyone complains that all the pharmaceuticals go to the cities, tribute north and south, and out in the country we get very little."

It was some days later Eenunh comes home with Soda. She stays for dinner, and tells us,

"I...visited your pharmacist after you told me about it, and planted the story in her head that two soldiers had come with berries to sell. There were a hundred soldiers here before The Waters. She said she had the medicine, but only a little, and some needed it badly. I told her I'd get over my aches and pains and left. I never go to that pharmacy. The one I do go to, and went to a few days later, told me the story of the two soldiers. She told me she only had a little. I waited a long time to go to a third pharmacy. She said she only had a little, what they sent us. I told her the two soldiers story. She said she had heard it but that would be illegal. I'm pretty sure that story will come back, if we're ever questioned. We'll deal with whatever comes."

I look upon my beautiful Black Marketer with renewed awe. I wonder why she didn't take me into her confidence. I realize only now that I never knew what happened to the berries, obtained at such price, the overnight trek, to and from. A pack of pawed threats in the desert! Killer squirrel! We were...covert...with our fire, Tinunh even taking great pains to return the stones she'd gathered to the holes where she found them laying, scattering ashes. Hiding from the passing vehicle on the foggy White Road.

I take her hand. "We're going to be okay," I tell her, in Emoilihn. I repeat it in English.

She is not comforted, a smile that consoles me... but not herself. We're going to be okay.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 10:31 PM.

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27. HARD CURRENCY; Whatever Money Will Buy.

Briggs is here to see Patrick on visiting day. Serendipity brought us together! We shake hands, smile, grin at each other. My wheels are turning wondering about getting paid, now, here, even if I have to pay a price. I don't know what he's thinking. We're early. We're standing around in the lobby while the cops look over the contents of our pockets. I decided to bring my wallet and let them go through it again and see money, to let just a couple more Emoilihn know and think and maybe talk about the equivalency of values of our two cultures. It's an abstract idea that may do nothing, may do something. I brought one 'credit' coin of each denomination, and my 'debit card' thingy, to establish that I'm 'in' the local economy.

Briggs broaches the subject on my mind.

"I've been thinking about your question about getting paid," he says. "I think we can arrange that. But, caveat, the rate I was able to negotiate to lease our housing and any commercial engagement we undertake while we're down here isn't very good. Our money's worthless to them, so, just to get something I agreed to a rate. I figured we wouldn't spend much. We brought down food from the D.L.A. The men are trying the local food but...it gives them the shivering fits so they're not 'spending' much. They like to go to restaurants though, mostly to ogle the...aliens. They don't have any trouble with the wine so they drink it. It doesn't seem to intoxicate them so I don't have that concern."

"Where are you housed?" I ask, my wheels turning on the financial matter.

"Up here, uh...on the...east side," he says pointing. "Sunrise every morning."

"Glass windows?" I ask.

"What? Glass windows?" he asks. "Yes, of course."

I don't explain my cavern dweller conditions on the west side, the lower level residential districts.

"So what can we do?" I ask. "Can you authorize payment here, into an account, at that rate of exchange?"

"We did for our financing," he says, and...produces a piece of the white material, with markings, a debit card! "Each man got one of these to show when making purchases. I put value in each account, not much, because I wanted to keep control of how much money they had to spend, at the direction of the...what-a-ya call-its, the Koobers who run things. They established the rate and I paid it, in hard currency. Still about fifty Ameros per man. That's just their per diem, not per day, but to start out. If they start spending it I'll put more in but I wanted to see how it went first. They're not spending much. My master account isn't going down much. The lease is paid up to Patrick's release date, if he doesn't screw it up. I'm leaving without him if he does.
So, if you want I can put some of your money in your account, here. I can put most of it in an account back on Earth, if you want to. Whatever you want."

He speaks the words I know Soda will want to hear.

"The rate of exchange has been established. If anyone wants to renegotiate it they can. I'd prefer you didn't try to. It was hard enough without an interpreter."

The rate...an established...Government-approved...rate of exchange.

"I'll have my lawyer check it out," I tell him.

Eenunh shows up, offers a kiss there with the crowd in the lobby watching, Briggs, watching. We talk, mixing English and Emoilihn. People listen. Briggs listens. The spindle-door opens, and we go in. Patrick is his joyous self. Eenunh stands with the commannh against the wall, interpreting. I find opportunities to consult with her on words she has trouble with. She's interpreting pretty much verbatim, but human accents and slurs from one word to the next make it difficult. Stuff she leaves out isn't important most of the time. Patrick's rambling on about freedom and justice and authority and how his hands hurt from being manacled any time he is moved. They take him up a level to a large open 'hole', he calls it, open to the sky, but it sounds like a recreation yard. They make him walk around it, with an escort. They unmanacle him there and he finds a way to get himself manacled again. He's apparently learning because, after the man sits him down, places him at the table, he removes the cuff. Briggs talks sense to him;

"You've got some of it behind you already! Just play it calm and let the time pass. Don't make trouble for yourself. Trouble for you is trouble for me."

Patrick's sneery face, narrowed eyes, pursed lips, show disdain for the advice.

"You ought to get me out of here!" he tells Briggs. "We're losing time and money sitting around here!"

"Yes!" Briggs says, enthusiastically. "I know exactly how much we're losing. That's why you...you're the pivot man in this situation..and that's why you have to do your time and get us all out of here. If you don't keep it together I may have to charge our losses against your pay!"

"You can't do that!" Patrick protests, loudly. The commannh come closer to the table. Patrick calms down.

"I don't intend to, unless you cause me more trouble!" Briggs tells him. "If you handle yourself and get through this, without further delay, I'll absorb this extra time in transit. Piss me off!..." Briggs, says, firmly, not loud, "and I'll see to it the losses fall on you!"

"What about him?" Patrick says, left arm extended to point at me. "He's keeping you here too!"

Briggs folds his hands, says, "No. Andrews wants to be here. He wants to stay here when we leave. We're just waiting for you to pay the consequences of being an [naughty word removed]!" Briggs is losing his patience. Eenunh is stifling a laugh, trying not to interpret. The female commannh insists. We're silent at the table. Patrick's turning red. The commannh and Eenunh discuss the metaphor and have it right, behaviorial qualifications comparative to an anus and the product thereof. Now I'm laughing! Briggs is looking at me funny. Patrick's folded his hands, studying them. The commannh are laughing, trying to stifle themselves!

"I just wanna go home," he says. It's a vulnerable moment. The boy's young. He's in a sticky situation and he's never been a good manager in the best of situations.

"Time passes pretty quickly," I tell him. "A day is 21 hours long. So the days of the month...the month is 27 days. So it's not like doing Earth time."

He looks away at Eenunh and the commannh. I know he's hearing, even if he's not listening. I go on,

"You can do this time, and not suffer much for it if you can manage your emotions. I notice you're out of your cuffs while we're sitting here. That's an improvement. Do they take them off of you while you're in there?"

He doesn't answer. I go on,

"Did you ask about work?"

"Food is catered in," he says. "They don't have a kitchen here. Some of the prisoners go out, get it, bring it back. These are bunch of criminals!" he says. "I have to watch my food or they'll snatch every thing on my tray! I'm sick of these green things, orange things. It's all we eat, every day." He seems to stop himself, "Well...that and...these meatball things...but they're getting old too! And...and that rice food. I like...it's okay. But we only get it every once in a while." He goes on to describe pastries, and that he likes them. He's easily distracted. That's how Briggs always managed him, I realize now. He would pick him up in mid rant and ask about something he knew Patrick was interested in, sports, food, girls. It worked.

"If there's any work in the jail to do, volunteer to do it, just to stay occupied and make the time pass," I tell him. "Did you read that book?"

"Yeah," he says, "I'm readin' it! I...I never liked to read but...this is pretty interesting."

Patrick remains calm, composed, for the rest of the visit. He and Briggs talk about things back on Earth, things they've done in the past, places, people, how good it will be to get back. I'm eye-checking with Eenunh. She smiles, golden irises flicker. She's doing fine on interpretation. The commannh are focused, attentive. I'm fairly certain by the flickering irises that they're not missing anything or letting it go in one ear and out the other. It may mean something; it may mean nothing. But they will be able to make a report and let others decide.

We leave Patrick, re-manacled, and go out. Briggs turns in his Visitor lanyard, we pick up our pockets, and go. We walk with him to a fifth level apartment on the east side. Most of the men are there, Cookie and Angelo out somewhere. We talk a bit. They all look at Eenunh at every break in the conversation. She stands, confident, comfortable, arms crossed over her chest, listens, speaks in Emoilihn with the buzz, just to tell me what to tell them if they ask questions. And they do. Where's this? Why's that? Soon, I look at my wrist, as if there's a watch there, and tell them we have to go.

Out in the corridor Eenunh takes my arm. We stroll comfortably along, look out over the desert where there are windows in alcoves between apartments or stores. The Sunstar casts the shadow of Entemannh Garibe close on the desert floor. Soon we are at Soda and Thin Man's house. She looks back and ahead, before entering.

"It's best your friends don't know where our lawyer lives," she comments, inside. "No reason other than privacy, secrecy," she adds.

Soda is very excited to hear the rate of exchange has been established. She is not surprised but pleased that the Emoilihn hunger for hard currency, and the opportunity to engage in commerce with Captain Briggs for...whatever money will buy.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/30/23 10:40 PM.

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Turomay = Appeal.
Neh = Yes.
Anehya = No.

Sodaensus is at my door! She knocks.

I open it, and there she is. Her face is stern. I get an 'Uh oh!' attack.

"The Koobahbahnnh want to have a hearing on your request to immigrate," she says, without delay. "Tomorrow!" she adds.

She goes to my table, sets it out from the wall a bit, and pulls out a chair. "I could protest and say we need more time. But my instinct is that there's something working on their end of things, making them want to get this in the books sooner. I think they're talking with Briggs, in simple terms, without interpreters, because value is involved, and the only interpreters are you and Eenunh.
Your discussion with Briggs about being paid, apparently a more substantial deal than the hard currency of the crew's living arrangements...they're spending their money quite freely in restaurants and pubs, the stores...apparently our underwear are quite comfortable..."

She laughs! She pulls her pads from her satchel and reads from one and then another.

"Cookie is buying lots of groceries and learning from our cooks how to prepare them. Angelo is studying technology of heating and cooling food. He wants to know about the plumbing. He goes to the water-truck cavern and wants to know where he can see an engine. Engines that need work are taken south to Costaramannh Garibe. They don't want their mechanics to come north for fear of northern terrorists. Northern mechanics won't come south. He...Angelo...and Cookie spend a lot of time together. They're...well behaved...show an interest in women, avoid conflict with men. Women show an interest in them."

She's reading notes. They sound like surveillance reports. My lawyer!

She looks at me, golden irises a'flicker.

"I think we're ready, enough, to argue your case," she says. "I think we can use the money motives of the Koobs to argue your case, and get them to see things your way, our way. I think they'll grant you immigration status, with financial motivation. They want your value in our system, which they can then use in negotiations and commerce with Briggs. If you have to convert it back...if...things...don't go our way...you will likely lose value. I estimate about 30%, at the rate Briggs has agreed to."

"How was that rate arrived at?" I ask. "Do you know?"

"My...sources tell me they simply called numbers back and forth, without interpreters, using credit coins in 10, 30, 50, 70, and 90 units, and a 350 round number. It was very...manipulative on the part of the Koobs, my...source says, because Briggs really showed limited comprehension of the values. My source says his calculations are that there is a 30% value advantage to Emoilihn values. I need more detail on his calculations."

"I think we should estimate the Amero value from what I might pay for a dinner in a restaurant, or groceries in a grocery store, or for underwear, or shoes, or for rent, a variety of things, on Earth, and what I might pay here, for those same products and services, and renegotiate the exchange rate. The Koobs won't like evening out that 30% advantage, but they will like getting my values into my account. Let me get this right; once my values are in my account, the Koobs will exchange it for Emoilihn values, and use the Amero hard currency to buy something Briggs will bring back from Earth."

Soda looks at me, eyes a'flicker. I ask, "Neh?" (yes) "Or anehya?" (No.)

"Neh! Neh!" she says, as if my question has become clear to her. She's making notes, dinner, rent, underwear.

"Neh," I repeat. "So they want that value in their hands now, so they can make purchases with Briggs. I wonder what they want to buy. Should we," I ask Sodaensus, "try to get into their negotiations as interpreters?"

"I don't know," she says. "Should we do that now, or after we get what we want?"

"I think we should negotiate before I agree to the transfer of funds," to even up the exchange rate for all concerns, "the Earth aliens' side and the Emoilihn side. If I accept the imbalance I doubt I'll ever have a chance to recover. I could accept a twenty percent difference, leave ten percent as incentive for them to accept it. But I'll only get once chance."

"I don't know," I say. We sit in silence a while. Thin Man and Eenunh are coming. I know...somehow. Eenunh opens the door. They come in, close it. Eenunh comes and kisses me.

Soda teases Thin Man, "Why don't you kiss me like that?" He comes and kisses her. They laugh. There's some private conversation. He goes to the lily-pad chair and sits. Eenunh squeezes in to lean in my lap. Soda catches them up on our conversation with a remarkable succinctness! I love my lawyer!

We all agree on the strategy. We will attend the hearing, tomorrow. Soda will complain of the...lack of notice...but agree to go forward. It will be a simple, single diversionary tactics, to give the impression we are not prepared. But...we are...prepared. I hug Eenunh, feel her ribs. She's lost weight. I try to think positive, that this is going to work, that I am going to...become...an Emoilihn Citizen. Distracted by this warm green woman in my arms, in my lap, I'm not hearing Soda, until she says the word for 'appeal', 'turomay' and repeats the name Costaramannh Garibe. I perk up, pay attention, repeat turomay and Costaramannh Garibe.

We...may...lose...here...and have to...turomay...to a body of Koobahbahnnh of higher...authority...in...the city to the south, Costaramannh Garibe.

Soda and Thin Man leave. We have much to think about...between now...and tomorrow.

In bed, my house grows dark as the light-emitting substances detect the lack of movement in the room. Eenunh laid with me a while, dozed, went home to Tinunh. Soda and Thin Man went home. Suddenly, being alone is...oppressive. I had not counted on an appeal, and having to travel to some new body of Koobs who have not had first hand experience with what we're doing. I scheme that Briggs has to go there, take the new group up in the shuttle to the Deutche L. A., wine and dine them, so to speak, make new deals with a whole new gang of Emoilihn political types. It...is hardship. It is...a whole new level of...uncertainty. My hopes lifted in scheming with Sodaensus evaporate. I think optimistically, that we have rehearsed here, and will simply replay our game there...if it even happens. We'll see.

Eenunh is at my door. I sit up. She comes in, comes to the bed, kisses me, goes to the bathroom, comes back with my toothbrush, takes my hand and leads me to the door, out, closes the door, takes me home with her. We go to bed. We go to sleep.

"It's going to be alright," she says, her lips lifting off mine just enough to say it. She spoons against me, makes my arm hug her, and falls asleep. Her breathing assures me it is so, and I fall asleep.

I dream of a foreign city,
and Eenunh...crossing a street at an intersection, a crosswalk,
lots of other people,
and I get there and can't find her.

I awake. It is morning. Tinunh is leaning over her mother to hug me, climbs into the bed and spoons against her mother. I make room, Eenunh makes room, they talk, they laugh. We're all quiet. Sleep. Tinunh stirs, starts getting ready for school. Our day begins.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/31/23 01:44 PM.

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29. Hell Hath No Fury...LIKE A MOTHER'S IRE: The White Road.
Turomay = Appeal.

"All I want is a simple life!" I heard the girl in the tattoo parlor in Portsmouth, Ohio tell the boy who was bloodying her arm with a tattoo device.

I heard her tell him what the tattoo would say, "Follow your bliss!"

Life is never that simple, is it? We aspire to simplicity. We live simply when it is our choice. We aspired to bliss. We can clutter life with ambitions and desire, things we want, things we want to do, things imposed on us by circumstances beyond our control. Bliss is elusive, an unspecified 'condition' we don't know until we experience it.

The Koobs made it short and sweet. They were referring my case, as Soda 'knew' they would, my case presented eloquently by Sodaensus, in a brief that took about thirty minutes, now referred, as an appeal, turomay, to the higher authority who could authorize my immigration, as a minor technicality, and discussion, but no decision, about the hard currency exchange of my pay from the D. L. A. that was their real motivation. When Soda mentioned renegotiating the rate of exchange I perceived the main Koob's desire to move on, off that issue. It's not uncommon for Leadership Decision-Makers to be more interested in the money angle than the lives of real people. We threw it out there, bait. They made a ruling, against me, explained as necessary to then refer the case for appeal.

So...we're going to...what the hell was the name of it? Costaramannh? Garibe. A city.

"Entemannh is a...a village...by comparison," Eenunh tells me. "We... lived there for four years. Tinunh was born here, and lived her first year here, and then my husband took us to Costaramannh, where he lived before, fleeing violence from armies of the north. We lived there, Costaramannh, three years before violence came up from southern terrorists, armies of them, mercenaries, prisoners forced to come out of prison and wage terrorist war, door to door, in the city. After...my husband's death, I brought Tinunh...home...hoping for security. I figured it couldn't be any worse than Costaramannh. They wouldn't let anyone leave until that night I just happened to stumble into the transports. They just wanted to get rid of us, the...terrorists who were trying to run Costaramannh.

On the patio, stacked with other bodies, I saw, and recognized, my mother's leg, a scar. I assumed my father was somewhere in the piles too. I wanted to get her out of the piles! To find my father and get him... But it was winter. The bodies were frozen. No one knew how long they had lain there. One day they were gone. I wondered where they buried them, a mass grave somewhere, but I never asked."

I'm not happy about this. I...don't like the uncertainty of security. In a world where terror can come, in force, armed like a nation's military, but...barbaric... not... under military control, even the horrors military commanders can order, but the barbarities, atrocities an armed mob can inflict, at any time, from the north or the south, but...is that so different from times and places on planet Earth? The Human Phenomenon has a history of madmen and madwomen, ascending to wield Government authority, commanding the economic resources of a nation, waging industrial war, commanding the military, the common man, the children of the poor, to go into the fields, the jungles, the deserts on some pretense of right and might over some dispute. It often turned out to be a financed tactics to depopulate a region, so companies could raid natural resources; Resource Wars the honest journalists called them. 'For the women and children, victims', the perpetrators propagandized, to 'justify' in the minds of the naive. And the women and children suffered for the offense and defense of the two sides, whose Leadership Decision-Makers came home richer on both sides, when they were...done...with their...Terror Wars.

Briggs will fly the contingent from here, south to Costa...marannh...Costa...ramannh? What...what is it? I have to ask Eenunh to repeat it more than once.

Briggs and Angelo, the three-Koobahbahnnh panel, Sodaensus, me, and Eenunh, who insists Tinunh will go with us.

"I'm not leaving my daughter here, going far away in a country where you can not guarantee her safety or mine!" she spoke, out of turn, in the Courtroom.

The prosecutor had blandly said, "The child can stay with friends!" as a solution. Eenunh was on her feet then, paraphrasing his words with,

"No! 'The Child'," she says, coldly, menacingly, "can NOT stay here with friends! Your Government can not guarantee 'The Child's' security."

She makes the words, 'The Child' stand out stronger in every sentence. "Armies of the north or the south could overwhelm Entemannh Garibe at will any day or night! This is how we live every day and night! If 'the child'...my child... is to be murdered it will be in my arms with the murderer's blood in my eyes, on my hands!"

Her outburst silences the Courtroom! The Koobs sit, mouths agape, each of them. Soda lets the silence go on. I don't move. I'm afraid to move. I want to see Eenunh but I will not turn to her. I see her, from the corner of my eye. She stands, not moving. The only sound I hear is the prosecutor shuffling papers on his table, indifferent to the emotion. His casualness annoys me! I'm sure he's waiting for the main Koob to object, to...call for order..to treat the mother of 'The Child' with cold disdain. The commannh don't move. The silence, the still, goes on. I stand up. At last, Soda, without having turned to look at Eenunh, addresses the Koobs, saying, "The mother of...", and singles out the words, 'The Child', "will not be separated from..." and she singles out the words, "her family. It must be so."

The Koobs begin murmuring, from the left, then the right to the main guy. He folds his hands, studies them.
"If..." he begins, his voice cracking...I can tell...then sternly..."the mother of the child insists on taking her daughter she will have to arrange her own transport."

He says it. It is a decision, done, not subject to discussion or appeal. No 'why', no reason why is given. No gavel falls. The main Koob arises, turns to go. The other two look surprised, the one on the left always a second slower than the other. They rise, the one on the right, then the other, and go out. The commannh open the doors behind us. We stand. We don't look at each other. I'm looking at them all, Soda, Eenunh, Thin Man. They don't look at me.

Soda explains, at her house, afterward, "My... source advises that he, the main man, and the others want to take along members of their families, which makes the D. L. A. passenger transport shuttle unable to transport more people than necessary. You saw how suddenly, with suddenness, the hearing ended, they walked out and we all, even the prosecutor and the commannh were left sitting there. That's unusual, an unusual departure from decorum. This is getting emotional, which means, less rational. That decision was made before that moment, before the hearing began."

The arbitrary wielding of the power...the authority...of Government, putting us out in the cold, gives me chills, literal chills, that we are on our own, that only Sodaensus stands between us as hapless, helpless victims and any semblance of respect for our being, our safety. I feel the 'family' argument at once denigrated and emphasized.

Eenunh rises with the suddenness I witnessed in the pub that night she brought me in. She is livid! She paces, arms crossed, rapidly. She talks fast! Her voice doesn't get shrill. She talks rapidly, rationally, decries the indifference of the Koobs to our hardship. Soda simply listens, watches her.

Just remembering the shrillness of her voice, from that night when she confronted the pack of males in the pub, and hearing the word by word delivery of her declaration in the courtroom, and now, the low pitch, deliberate comments, succinct, concisely on the points she makes, sends those chills over me. I quickly feel her... urgency, her distress and anger, her emotions, ranging far and wide. She weakens for moments, tears, and then resolve takes her face. Finally there is a stern and resolute expression on her face.

"We'll get there if we have to walk The White Road! I will tell the Costaramannh Koobahbahnnh of our journey, whatever befalls us, whatever the story is!" she says.

There is silence in the room, Soda, Thin Man, me, Eenunh. Thin Man breaks it.

"I will arrange for the militia to transport us," he says. "We will refit and take three water-trucks, my troops in front and behind, armed. We will be in the second truck, also armed. We will drive across the desert...to The White Road to Costaramannh."

And so it is. In the cavern I watch as Thimiannh directs three trucks to be fitted with tires. The Greenboys discuss it with each other, with Thimiannh. They brush fingertips with him, each of them. I have a sense of The Emoilihn, The People, in support of us, on our side. This is not mere formality, obedience, commercial cooperation. This is a genuine alliance of...Emoilihn family allegiance to each other.

The water-truck tires are designed in two lobes, with a webbed 'slit' which, apparently, is what makes them suited for spinning in the water, propelling the vehicle in the wet season.

These tires they're installing now are treaded, like you might expect for rolling over the ground, or...down a road; The White Road.

At home, Eenunh's kiss is perfunctory, she receives mine with grace, but is obviously in no mood to 'make out'. She breaks from my embrace suddenly, goes to the bedroom, comes back before I can think to do anything else. She kneels on the floor by the coffee table, begins to make marks on white sheets of paper. I sit in a lily-pad chair close to her. She is drawing lines, circles, 'fan-like' webbing between them. It looks like streets, curving streets that go from circle to circle, to a center. She is writing in letters. I see some numbers. She puts symbols, letters, at the top, the bottom, the left...It's a map! A map, of Costaramannh!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/31/23 02:05 PM.

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30. THE SNOWY WHITE ROAD; South To Costaramannh!
Hika = Mr.
Commannh = Police.
Havar ass Coban Sahm arrale. = Bring the Music Man home.
Paronde cos ravonnde. = Family will prevail.

Commannh are out in force, this day of the departure of our transport convoy. Coming out of my...house...to go to Eenunh's I see them in the hall, idling at the far end to the right, two more just standing at intervals to my left. Many neighbors are in the hall, going to ramps. I can't tell if they're going up or down. I wonder. Some call out, call me by name, my first name, or Hika Andrews. I go into Eenunh's.

They are kneeling on the floor, pack-bags at hand, look up as I come in. Eenunh brought my pack-bag and sleeping bag with her when...she left my house last night. Everything we'd packed in it last night is here on the floor, everything laid out, another check to see.

There are many voices in the corridor as we pack. It's...unusual. Folks are generally quiet in the hall.

I tell Eenunh, "I want my corn knife. I don't want to go without that...weapon." Her eyes are stern. She studies me. I don't think I need anything more to be said. I await her decision.

Tinunh says, "I want my corn knife!" She awaits Eenunh's decision. Without looking at Tinunh I offer my right hand for a high five, get it, a swiping slap from Tinunh's right hand. I put my left arm around Tinunh's waist, and we stare at Eenunh, awaiting the decision. Eenunh makes it. She points at us, says,

"You two!"

We pack our corn knives, our two greenie knives. I, again, bring a hammer and pliers, contingency tools. They leave theirs.

"Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them," I tell the girls. They repeat it word for word, laughing as they do and boisterously when they finish! I get some kisses from Eenunh! Tinunh teases, "Stop it!" Eenunh playfully scolds,

"Only I can tell Gary to stop it!" Tinunh throws up her hands in playful surrender! I laugh! They push each other, laugh, Tinunh gives another surrender, and they turn back to packing.

Tinunh says, "Sometimes even you can't tell Gary to stop it!" They laugh. I'm embarrassed! LOL

We pack our leathers. Our gloves, with knit inserts for winter insulation. I bought those for all of us at the flea market! They loved them the first time we went out in this cold weather! I got hugs and kisses that day! They were a bit tight on Eenunh, so she bought larger leather gloves. Tinunh's fit well. She was able to flex her fingers to her satisfaction.

We wear undergarments, and them a dark green cloth pants suit, one piece, over their regular underwear. They don canvas workshirts and pants. I wear jeans over my underwear, a pullover shirt, and canvas workclothes. Workboots. I pack my dress shoes, and blue suit, as directed by Soda. They pack their knit dresses, several regular commonwear dresses, inspecting for wear, rejecting only one of Tinuh's, two of Eenunh's.

They wear workboots, and pack their other shoes, which are only a little less of a workboot, the common Emoilihn shoestyle. All our socks, all our other underwear. We're...apparently...going to be gone a few days. Canteens, filled. Some gray paper packages, food I assume.

"We're taking more things with us than we're leaving at home!" I comment. They seem to ponder that assessment, ultimately agreeing. "What about towels, washcloths, soap, toilet leaves. Eenunh looks surprised, says,

"Neh! Neh! We must be prepared! We don't know how we will be accommodated in Costaramannh! They're supposed to have made arrangements, but they could easily leave us out in the cold, unwashed, unfed. Hell!" she says, a word I've often used to open a sentence, "They could betray us altogether. They don't need us! We're...a...a side deal now."

She jumps to her feet, bends over and, with her head upside down, I get kisses! I'll take an upside down kiss any time! LOL

We seem to be ready. We don winter coats, carry lighter jackets, knit hats, toboggan style, with short bills on them. Eenunh puts my sunglasses in my inside coat pocket. More stuff than we're leaving at home. Home.

I wonder, aloud, "Should we take all our coins?" Her face brightens!

Eenunh ponders, a moment, says, "They would be a liquid asset that may be easy to spend in the city. Yes!"

"Does everyone have their maps?" Eenunh asks. Tinunh and I pat our chest pockets. High five!

I get more kisses. Me and my good ideas! I go out, back to my house, put the canvas bag I store them in...I have a bunch, into my pack-bag. I come out, back into Eenunh's. We're ready!

Out in the hall, struggling like pack mules, we are greeted by a universal shout, up and down the hall! The girls wave, call out to close neighbors. The commannh teams are in their places, idling. As we head for the ramp they begin coming our way. The people get out of their way. Some of the neighbors seem to have been waiting too and come now, a growing crowd behind the commannh. Everyone is quiet as we go down the ramp, down the ramp, into the central chamber, where commannh teams are abundant at the other ramp entrances. Lots of people! Heading for the pub. The commannh shut down traffic, give us the...the right-of-way.

The pub is packed. Commannh teams are present, more than one. There is a murmur, suppressed conversation, then...a single shout, and all voices shout! The crowd gets to its feet! People pull back, open a pathway to the spindle-door. The blue-boys are there, swing the spindle-door open. Cold air rushes in, cold in our faces! I see a light snow falling, snowflakes floating, more than falling. It's overcast, gray, white out to the west in the desert!

Snow has come and lain on the ground for many days now, the white desert looking pristine, windswept, drifts, a crystalline icyness the Sunstar paints some days when the overcast parts, melts some, refreezes. No one ventures out on the desert floor on foot, most days, except children who play nearby, under the watchful eye of parents, and commannh patrols.

But...there's a huge crowd out on the patio today! They turn toward the noise of the crowd coming out behind us, raise their own voices! A cacophonous shout goes up! Voices blend, low pitch, high pitch, a vibrato low to shrill and back again! I get a spinal chill. The crowd parts like Moses at the Red Sea! Eenunh leads us in.

Looking over the crowd's heads I see three water-trucks are parked side by side on the patio, angled, facing where I know a wide ramp goes down into the desert. The girls and I have come up that ramp several times during the dry season, after wandering, hunting, gathering in the desert. It's seventy yards away and the crowd fills the entire space.

We reach the far edge of the crowd and come out across an imaginary line established by the commannh. Thimiannh is off to our left, coming, points toward the trucks. Eenunh leads us there, the center truck. We set our bags in on the floor. Tinunh climbs in, begins setting her bag and gear on the racks. I see the bins are gone from the racks, except the bottom row. There are two canvas...benches with x'ed wooden legs, one on each side. Tinunh struggles to reach over the benches to set our pack-bags up there as we hand them in. There are green canvas bags on the racks. What I take to be Thin Man and Soda's personal luggage is on the racks. Eenunh and I look at each other, turn back toward the crowd and stand there, observing.

Thin Man's militia...he's obviously in charge...dressed in a military uniform...dark green... is twelve people, men and women. I can't count the ratio from here. They're moving about, mixing with an equal number of commanh in blue uniforms. It looks formal but friendly, men, women.

I recognize the two men who came to my first show...my audition...with Thimiannh, at the restaurant. Those two are in charge of five 'men' each. Men and women, the women taller, but some short ones too, younger I speculate. I can see them fall into line at their command, two lines, at the back of another truck the commannh seem so concerned with, in force, back close to the large spindle-door that opens onto the corridor with the big round windows. Yes, it is three women in each squad, two men and their male commander, six. A dozen.

Out of that water-truck, I guess...they're...just trucks now... turned back toward the cliff face...there on the patio outside the corridor, the one Eenunh and I walked down when her lanyard as an official...an interpreter... gave her authority to walk there, the commannh are issuing rifles!

Each...soldier takes one, straps it across his or her chest.

A cold wind picks up! I pull Eenunh in to stand between the open doors. Tinunh stands up in the truck, her hands on the overhead sill. I'm tired already. I didn't sleep soundly, pondering what today would bring.

People coming from the other side of the patio, around the mountain, are filing past the front of that truck, the commannh gesturing for them to do so, pointing to where the crowd is, watching them carefully, as if they fear...and I think they do...the presence of the weapons, projectile weapons of some kind, they are issuing each of Thimiannh's men. They strap them across their chests. Ammo boxes...those... have to be ammo boxes. Each man and woman is taking two, one in each hand, struggling with the weight I believe, and coming to the two trucks on each side of ours in the middle. They go back for two more! Good. Ain't nothin' worse than an empty gun when the [naughty word removed] gets pretty! Oh! Two more, each. Splendid! Six cans per soldier.

I look at the noisy crowd. Blueboys, Greenboys, Brownboys, and girls, the children of the poor, are the crowd. There aren't any children. Some young women, young men, but none Tinunh's age. I see some poorly dressed, shivering in the cold. More well-to-do people, by their clothing, are fewer, but there. Voices are low, in volume, but constant. What a crowd! The grapevine must have spread the word that we were going. We seem to have popular support. I wonder what they know about our business! I wonder if Soda can explain it.

The commannh seem to have a suppressing effect as they patrol the edge of the crowd. My sense of a militarized society is increased. The commannh are Citizens, just like the rest of... I start to say 'us', but...I am not yet a Citizen. But the commannh are also obedient to the power structures. I have a sense that, should anyone make any move of physical protest, the commannh would zap them! I see the device on the women commannh's shoulders. I think they're the carriers, maybe just because they're taller, get a better angle on the target.

At a quiet moment, a single voice shouts, "Havar ass coban sahm arrale!"

I know the words, in Emoilihn, and he's saying, 'Bring the Music Man home!'

A shout goes up!

Others pick it up, chant, and soon it seems the whole crowd are chanting, "Havar ass coban sahm arrale!". I see few who aren't. I look for the first voice that said it, can't pick anyone out of the crowd. We're at the back of the three trucks pointed out toward the desert. I look at Soda. She seems stunned. Thimiannh is there, at my back, by the open doors of our middle truck.

"Get up inside here!" he orders. "Stand there!"

Tinunh steps to the left. I look. Thin Man's pointing to the inside of the water-truck, the...truck..., the doors standing open, where the back slopes toward the front. I step up there, steady myself on the rim of the opening where Tinunh had her hands. Elevated, a cheer goes up. I raise my arm, numbly, wave without knowing what else to do. I see Soda and Thimiannh in close conference, look to the crowd, wave again. Looking back I see Thimiannh has taken two rifles from a man and a woman, dispatched those two soldiers through the crowd. The crowd parts for them! They go to the spindle-door of the pub and in, on the double.

Sodaensus steps up near me, below me on the patio. Eenunh is there beside Soda, grinning up at me. I glance behind, and see Tinunh is grinning,

Soda says, "Tell them you will come back!"

I say it, but no one can hear me. I shout it! The crowd quiets, slowly. Soda says, "Tell them you will come...home!" I shout it again! I hear them repeat my words among the chant. It is spine-tingling to hear a hundred voices say words I've just spoken!

Soda prompts me, "Tell them 'Family will prevail!'" Another of her oft repeated advisories, encouragements. 'Family will prevail.'

I yell it, "Paronde cos revondnnh! Paronde cos revondnnh!" They take up the chant! It begins, grows, replaces the other chants.

Soda is ushering Eenunh up into the truck! The cheers ripple with female voices saying other things! Eenunh steps to me puts her arms around my waist. I stop waving with my right arm, put it around her waist. The crowd responds. I'm waving with my left hand now, without stopping. Eenunh's just grinning, looking at the crowd. I don't know what else to do! How do you respond to such an accolade? Me neither. Eenunh pulls Tinunh over to stand in front of us. Tinunh puts her right foot up on the thresh-hold, her right hand on her knee, Miss Casual, lifts her right hand to wave. I perceive a response from the crowd, a short surge of sound, although the din is unrelenting!

Thimiannh's two men are back. The tall woman holds my guitar aloft! The crowd parts and lets them through. I hadn't considered taking it. Hell! Just getting myself and my...family...here has been an alarming worry. Thin Man takes it, hands it up to me! I take it, bang it on the door to my left, hold it aloft! Eenunh steadies me! The crowd roars! Tinunh's looking up at the guitar, grinning.

'Ass Coban Sahm!' 'The Music Man.' I'm laughing! I'm genuinely laughing!

The girls duck into the truck. Eenunh is touching my back, saying, "Give me your guitar!" I give it to her.

It's time to go!

Soda offers her hand and I take it. She steps up, waves to the crowd, just once, goes in.

The roar is now just noise! I can't hear words, but the voices are shrill, and loud! And numerous!

Thin Man is watching his men, assisting in closing the other truck doors as they go in. He comes to ours and in without stopping to wave. I see a sternness in his face.

I step in, sit. The bins are gone, the empty upper four racks, two benches accommodate my girls on the left, Soda on the right. The commannh close the doors on the armory truck and drive it into the corridor. Commannh close the spindle door behind it. The crowd swirls around on the patio, the voices vibrating the very skin of the truck! The truck insulates us but we can hear the voice of the crowd. Eenunh looks distressed, then, smiles beautifully, struggles against my shoulder to kiss my cheek. Tinunh's grinning, reaches across her mother to take my right hand. Soda is grinning! Her smile is always beautiful, but I don't often see her grin. Thin Man has moved to the passenger seat.

"Gary," he says, "Come and drive."

"What?" I say. Did he say...?

He repeats the command, a smile visible in his profile. 'Come...and...drive!' He leans over the driver's seat, flips levers and opens the gull-wing!

It's colder than day old dog [naughty word removed]! What is he doing?

I do as bid, with the girls all smiling, grinning! Seated I look at the wheel, wonder at the gear levers. Thin Man shifts. We're rolling! I apply my foot to the brake. We're aimed at the ramp down into the desert, but Thimiannh tells me, "Turn right, toward the crowd!" He pulls at the wheel. I ease from between the other two trucks, turn, and come near the edge of the patio, turn back along the edge of the crowd. A commannh team step closer into the crowd to make room. People are touching the bow of the water-truck. I hear them slapping hands on the side as I go slowly by! They're reaching in, touching me, brushing my left-hand finger-tips!

The female commannh is grinning, raises her hand in greeting. The male's facing into the crowd, turns, grins. Usually standoffish commannh are friendly today!

Tinunh comes between the seats, her lovely little face glowing with a grin, those wonderful golden eyes, those perfect white teeth, the maturity of her visage both a joy and a concern to me. She's a child, caught in the middle of this... drama! I'm moved to tears. My blurred vision makes me get control of my emotions. This is no time to run over a bunch of people! Eenunh is at my right elbow, kneeling, leaning between Tinunh and me, waving.

The Peoples' faces are ebullient, joyous, the noise deafening! I go as slowly as possible past them, waving, driving, smiling, waving.

When I've passed the end of the crowd near the cliff-face, I turn right, stop, to close the gull-wing. It's colder than hell! I see the Sunstar, a fuzzy bright spot through the overcast, the falling snow.

Looking up...I see...on a balcony above...the three Koobs!

I know those faces!

They're in blue blazers, not white gowns, robes.

They're watching, faces impassive, looking inward I muse, as much as outward. I make eye contact with the main Koob, golden irises flickering.

He turns and disappears from the balcony. The one on the right, turns his head, watches the main man go, looks back down at me, golden irises flickering, disappears, touching the shoulder of the one on the left, who looks at me, eye contact, and disappears.

I turn toward the other two trucks.

"Follow this one," Thin Man commands, pointing to the one on the left. I pull up behind it, no need to stop, keep rolling as it rolls off the patio and down the slope, skidding a bit in the snow. I stop before I go over the edge, give it time to clear the bottom of the ramp, then follow, steer into the skid. My fear is intense. I haven't driven in...years. I assume the third truck is behind me. We have gone right, following to the trace, under the snow along the patio, turn left onto the packed 'roadway' across the frozen desert. We pick up speed!

Snow thrown up by the truck ahead makes me slow down. I can't see!

I find a distance where the snow from the truck in front has settled, blown off to the right, northeast, in the wind, before I get there. Thimiannh nods. We hit a steady speed, not fast, but steady. It's a slalom, around the low, frozen dunes, the rock outcrops, snow-covered cacti. Walking, you don't notice all the turnings. The trace is visible, beneath the snow, the raised edges I'm familiar with, but...even at this speed, I bump those frozen 'curbs' occasionally. I worry about my passengers, bouncing around back there. Thin Man doesn't give me any instruction, keeps his eyes ahead on the lead vehicle, which sets the pace. Soon I'm settled into a middle 'lane' and don't bump curbs...much.

Driving, in all these conditions, weather, curves, up and down, seems pleasurable...for a long time; then...it becomes tedious. I can do it. I settle in and do what is demanded of me.

It seems a long time but, then again, soon, when I see the thorn trees, the hill where...an expedition of secret purpose spent the night. It's a cold, desolate looking place. I hear Eenunh telling Soda about our trek. So much for secrets. Tinunh supplements with the facts of the return journey, pawed footprints, throwing the rocks. I relive it in memory, the swimming hole, squirrel for supper! The cairn. They don't mention the cairn.

It is a long drive after that, the slalom of weaving, up small dunes, down again, skidding, steering, slowing, going.

I'm grateful for the overcast. In Sunstarlight the snow-glare would be unbearable. I have my sunglasses but don't need them...today.

Long, tiring drive, no conversation. There's snow falling, hypnotic. I keep refocusing my mind not to be distracted by the illusion of the snow going by.

Finally, through the snow, I begin to see the blue mountains, the pine forest! We'll be there in a while. The White Road. Costaramannh Garibe. I wonder what a city will...feel like in this winter world.

The desert slopes up. The lead vehicle has stopped. I come close, stop. The green pines across the road are laden with white snow, drooping toward the ground. I wonder, foolishly if the road has been plowed, cleared of snow.

Soldiers are getting out, armed, walking past the vehicle, testing the ground left and right. One falls! Oh! She stands, dusting herself off. She's down in a ravine! She struggles to climb out, slipping, solves her problem, is up again. Oh yeah! I remember gullies among the tall weeds and bushes growing there on the slope up to the road. I can see the pines. Remember the swimming hole, naked Eenunh cleaning blue out of our gloves.

The man on the right is stepping out a zig zag up what appears to be a wide ridge between two gullies. His right leg sinks in on the right, up to his thigh. He has not fallen, simply squatted on his left leg, pulls himself back up, goes ahead, stepping, stepping. The other soldier has joined him, crossing his trail in a zigzag. They're defining that ridge. It looks plenty wide enough for the trucks. No surprises in the middle. They're both up now, on the level where The White Road is!

They're coming back, testing, stepping, testing. They converse with the driver through the window, come and get back in their truck, close the doors. The driver goes forward at a steady pace, slips a little, goes up onto the road, turns left, south. I follow his track, up, and up, slip, up, and up, turn south. We roll forward. Out to my left I see the third truck coming, having a little trouble, almost a full stop, getting started again, and up behind us. The men in the truck ahead open the doors. Thimiannh waves forward. They close the doors.

Off we go, on the snowy White Road, to Costaramannh!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 03/31/23 11:29 PM.

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31. ENTEMANNH; The Peacemaker.
Carba = mirror, singular and plural.
Aloyan Entemannh = Entemannh The Peacemaker.
Corrimannh = Former name of Entemannh Garibe, a penal colony.

The White Road is under the snow. No track of a vehicle defines it for us, only the truck in front of me for me. They go at a slow pace. cautious. The road is endless. It turns toward the pines and blue mountains occasionally, then back toward the desert, a scenic view that refreshes, only to be resumed by the monotony of left and right, up and down over the rolling landscape. We traveled faster out in the desert! Or perhaps it was the constancy of left and right, up and down, there that made it seem so. I wonder how far this city is, how long it will take, at this pace.

After many hours the pines become more prevalent on both sides of the road. The desert is left behind. The terrain goes more uphill, through the snow, climbing, leveling out, climbing again. I can see out over the pines on my left, east, nothing but pines, distant mountains. Then nothing but forest on both sides of the road, pines, leafless trees. Staying in the middle of the road becomes easier. The monotony of driving doesn't.

After interminable hours the truck in front comes slowly to a stop atop a hillock, just over it so that I have room to stop on the peak. I stop. Thimiannh tells me to change places with him. I glance to my left. It's getting dark on the horizon, night coming up in the east. To my right, west through the pine trees, I see occasional glimpses of a reddish hue in the overcast, Sunstarset.

Soda is up, says, "Let me sit up front a while." We dance around each other, get where we're going.

In the back Eenunh is re-rigging the bench on the left as a cot, the old x-leg style I'm familiar with on Earth. It fills the space, leaving a narrow aisle on the right by the other bench. She unrolls one of her blankets over it. Tinunh climbs in, boots and coat and all! Enunh covers her with another blanket, points for me to lay down. I see another roll of two blankets on the bin rack. My sleeping bag. I take off my bulky coat, lay it open over the foot of the cot.

I lay down, and groan with the pleasure of laying it all down!

"Oh Lawd!" I say, "Let these old people lay down!" Eenunh laughs, interprets. The others laugh. I'm too tired to laugh.

Long assed drive! I groan again, and again, with each deep breath and exhale.

Thin Man laughs, yells, "Long road for old people!"

I laugh. Eenunh squeezes in beside me, her back to me, adjusts the blanket over us. The truck begins to move. I feel the now familiar slipping of the white tires, feel them grip, slowly accelerate to the snail's pace we've been at all day. Tinunh raises up, looks at her mother, past me, says,

"Mother, tell Gary about the Terror Wars." She kind of...smiles at me, eyes a'flicker, lays on her right side, snuggles her face under the top of the blanket so all I can see is her parted hair. There was something...some...kindness in her face.

"Why?" Eenunh asks her.

"Because he needs to know...the danger...we're going into," Tinunh answers. I see Soda out of the corner of my eye, look back toward us.

Eenunh rolls toward me, throws her knee over my left leg, kisses me. Kisses me again. And again. Her face is cold! I think to say, 'Stop it!' but I don't want to. I don't want her to. She settles, her mouth at my shoulder, her arms around mine. She begins, her voice audible over the hum of the truck engine, which seems to be transmitted through the legs of the cot, its taut canvas at my back. I want to 'hum' with it.

"When the terror," she says, and I hear 'The Terror', "came down from the north, they were...zealots. They had ideas about themselves and their...righteousness. They believed they knew how to live and so how everyone else should live. We had carba before they came. The terrorists from the south weren't as...intrusive into such personal matters. They were bad enough. Always looking for someone, always suspicious. Always checking."

Eenunh has called my small mirror in my shaving kit a 'carba'; mirrors. They had...mirrors. I've never seen one here.

"We had music in those days. We lost a lot of people when The Terror had come up from the south, a lot of workers in every field, and musicians, just to the violence. But The Terror from the north were crazed! 'Mirrors were not good for peoples' sense of themselves,' they said. 'People shouldn't see themselves!' They took all the mirrors.

'Music was not good for Emoilihn mental health', they decided. And musicians were rounded up and deported. We don't know where they took them. No one ever heard from them again, or heard of them. In Costaramannh there are musicians and mirrors again! You'll love Emoilihn music...if...they've learned to play it again; if they have instruments. I hope they have instruments.

The single costume for men, for women was imposed by the northern terrorists. No one had knit dresses. No one had blue blazers. Everyone looked the same. Not much has changed.

Visual art...we had painters, innovative painters who used color and light and shadow and shapes to make interesting visual art. There was art in our homes, pictures of families going back many solar cycles. There was art in the places we worked, the shops and stores, public art, sculpture in the streets, murals on walls. The Terror from the south had no interest in doing away with all that. The Terror from the north didn't like art, so it was gone.

The leaders and soldiers from the south could be terrorists too. No one was safe. But art and music and mirrors and clothes were not a concern of theirs. They wanted control, power, which they abused, hurting people, often the whim of a single soldier. They punished those soldiers if they could find them, teaching intolerance for such abuse. But it went on. When you put ten thousand soldiers, men in the field, in a city, many from other places who didn't grow up there, you can't control them all all of the time. They were mostly men, only some women. The women could be as abusive as the men!

We went home after work, did our shopping on a daytime schedule, got off the streets and locked our doors in the evenings. We'd watch the sun go down from our windows, sometimes in the street outside the building, close to the door, so if commannh or soldiers or gangs came we could get in, quickly, go to our apartment, lock the door. The commannh could be abusers too. No one trusted anyone. They promised us security from the terrorists but they could be terrorists too.

Not that locking the door made you safe. People quit locking their doors, just to keep the impatient domestic terrorists from breaking the doors, too violent to wait for you to respond to a knock, if they even knocked. My neighbor said she was right by the door when she heard someone try the lever. Before she could reach and open it they kicked it in. Her house was always cold. They promised to come and fix the door. They never did. We learned to live like that, hiding, just trying to get to work, get home again, find food, not attract attention.

The Terror from the north...they...they were...you could look in their eyes and see this same...dark...look...like they just knew you were...the enemy. Maybe you did art or music or were a southern terrorist sympathizer! Or any other reason that came into their heads to justify whatever they wanted to do next."

Tinunh raises up, looks into my eyes, says, "Children weren't safe. One night three men came to our apartment. One of them told the other two, 'Get that little girl for me!'"

Eenunh says, "Tinunh!" quietly, but...with a suddenness.

Tinunh finishes, "My mother did not let them take me." She lays back down, looking across my chest at her mother.

I stare down at her. I slip my right arm under her head. She settles on my shoulder. Her hair tickles my face. She brushes it away, under her own head.

I slip my other arm out from Eenunh's hold, up and over and under her head. She settles there.

They're looking into each other's faces. The image of Eenunh in the pub that first night, springing to her feet when Chesty and his friends had reached the end of her patience, comes to mind. My girl will only take so much.

I snug the blanket under both of them, stare at the roof of the truck, wonder what horrors they...my girls...the Emoilihn as a race...have suffered. 'Man's inhumanity to man'. Emoilihn are capable of the same...madness...subject to the whims of madmen, madwomen, violence, invasion, predation, on a large scale, and...on a small, personal scale, no one safe from the predations of a militarized government...a militarized populace... militarized police. People...turn predatory...desperate... prey on other people in desperate straits. Madmen ascending to Leadership Decision-Making positions. The children of the poor, preying on the children of the poor, a gun at their backs... 'Hurt people, hurt people,' they say. The rules of civilization fall away when common men, boys, girls, children are made desperate... empowered... a 'badge of authority...given weapons of enforcement...and...little or no supervision.

Eenunh goes on;

"The Terror Warriors from the north spoke of 'The Common Good', but they simply took care of themselves. The rest of us fended for ourselves. They took plenty of food. We struggled to find enough. Their banquets were the stuff of gossip that rippled through the city. People who worked in their kitchens told of stocks of food far more substantial than anyone else they knew, more than the grocery stores where we shopped. We didn't call it 'shopping for food'. We called it 'hunting for food'.

Entemannh... was a good man. He... rose up, gathered an army, men, women, children, from among the Citizens, deserters from north and south, people who still had a sense of Emoilihn honor and integrity, intelligence, kindness, family, hearts and souls in them!

We got weapons, made weapons, learned...to set traps...all kinds of traps, ambushes. There was...much...violence. Perpetrators of crimes, if caught and accused and witnesses found to...justify it...predators...abusers... were killed in the streets, in their homes or wherever they were found once 'convicted', often without letting the Government know. They began to patrol in larger groups, but Entemannh marshaled even larger groups to monitor their movements. The Emoilihn began to know who was an honest commannh, who were honest soldiers.

The anti-terror revolution brought new rounds of finger-pointing and accusations and denouncements and claims of injustice. But the terrorists began to fear us, the Emoilihn, The People. We weren't easy to abuse any more. We were watching them in the streets, in the homes. They could no longer come and drag someone off in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. The alarm went up and people came out of their houses, armed, and made the terrorists leave people alone. If they demonstrated someone was a criminal, made legitimate charges, with witnesses, evidence, proof, just like we would do, we would let them take people, but a contingent of Emoilihn would go, make sure the prisoner got to the justice system. We checked on them. People stopped just disappearing. Abuse in the jails stopped. People went to trial, had their plea heard. If they could be proven guilty they went to jail or longer to prison. If they had remorse they could be released, let to return to society. If they committed crimes again... there was no forgiveness. It was hard Law, but it was Law. It was justice.

Entemannh, Aloyan... was elected to Government, representative of the Emoilihn, seated among those representing commercial interests, military interests, religious interests, interests of the Government itself. He told them he only represented the Emoilihn, any single man, woman or child, any family, The Emoilihn People. We had a better apartment, better food. We felt safer. He thought he could keep helping all the Emoilihn from there, inside the Government...and he did...until...

But the terrorists were no longer free to take Emoilihn off and never bring them back. Convicted murderers were held, with intent to hold them the rest of their lives. The terrorists, those...holy men...always men...argued that there was no reason to keep murderers alive since they could never be trusted in free society again.

But, often, people were exonerated, proven innocent as they said they were, by new information, witnesses, evidence. So killing a man or woman based on what we thought we knew did not seem justified. Enough innocent people were found often enough, some after a lifetime in prison, that we could never be sure justice was done by execution; we could not kill people for punishment.

Rabid terrorists were a different story. Those were the ones who were killed wherever they were found. People knew them, knew their names, their faces, their crimes, and found them. There was still a...street justice, a street 'trial' of sorts, but Government executions were common until word got around that The People would no longer tolerate terrorism. Even...especially...state-sponsored terrorism. The trail of justice could come back to the highest levels of Government if the evidence led there.

Entemannh tried to control it, punishing those who submitted to his authority just like any others if injustice was alleged and could be proven. He made the policy widely known. If you were a predator, an abuser, you could expect justice to come down on you, in the Courts or in the streets.

Soon the control enabled people to go to work, to be out in the evening without fear of roving commannh or terrorist soldiers whose conduct could be dangerous.

Entemannh Garibe was a penal colony first, called Corrimannh, a place for imprisonment, the workers, prisoners, men and women, cutting the first corridors, housing, common areas.

The water-truck garage...that's a natural cavern. That's where they started. They dumped the cut stone out along the cliff face, and later compacted it into the patio. If there are corridors or dwellings inside there is a patio outside. They dumped it off the balconies. People who could not live peaceably in the colony were jailed there or sent elsewhere...still are. You remember the three men arrested when you played out on the patio at the pub." The zapped! Yeah, I remember!

Suddenly Chesty's nasty ass comes to mind. I'd like to see his ass shipped off somewhere. Patrick. I wonder how he's doing. He has no idea the [naughty word removed]-storm of Emoilihn reality he's in.

"After Entemannh was killed..." Eenunh stops. I feel her throat tighten against my chest. She doesn't start again for a long time. I just wait. Tinunh is asleep.

"After Entemannh was killed there was turmoil, but the people who thought as Entemannh did, that the Emoilihn should not be threatened by northern terrorists or southern terrorists, or domestic terrorists, that we should be protected by Government, by commannh, by soldiers, that we had to band together in mutual aid and self-defense, began to dominate, to enforce that dictum that all Emoilihn have rights of privacy, rights to think as they choose, to make their own decisions about intensely personal matters, to expect freedom and justice and equality. The idea that Emoilihn are family is old, a philosophy as old as the race. But we had become divided, and conquered.

And that became the norm. Terror Wars came up from the south, down from the north and Entemannh's legacy was that the Emoilihn would not tolerate it, would mobilize, men, women, children would go to meet the enemy in the field, in the streets, on the patio, in the corridors, in our living rooms, if they got this far, persuade them it would be costly to keep coming. It worked. We knew peace, a long and lasting peace. Soldiers went home, north and south, and promoted the peace, stifled the terrorists among them.

People spoke of, 'Entemannh! The Peacemaker!'

We could never relax fully. The Terror Wars would come, but they got smaller, small bands of violent men, sometimes soldiers, then, just bandits. But we knew that if they came we all knew what to do and would do it, die fighting rather than let them just run over our bodies and take us, dead and alive.

In the settling of the chaos...it wasn't...immediate...it...took time to...get normal life going again... Then...Entemannh was...assassinated. They targeted the building. I...have no proof but...it wasn't just a random shot of artillery. Northern terrorists? Southern? No one knew. We found the artillery, three guns, but not who they belonged to, who brought them, who fired them. They came off The White Road, but from which direction, north, or south? They set them up, fired one shot each, and people saw them flee, leaving the guns behind. Three shots hit our building, each higher than the one before it. It took planning.

Chaos reigned. We were out in the winter streets. That's when I brought Tinunh back to Entemannh Garibe. It was just a prison, not a village then, still a penal colony. No one called it Entemannh Garibe."

Tinunh's awake, reaches across my chest to her mother, somewhere under the blanket. Eenunh's left arm comes up, holds Tinunh's hand on my chest. I open my eyes to see their faces, lovely at this angle, all eyes closed.

It is warm. Eenunh is quiet. I'm falling asleep, that wonderful surrender to the feeling, letting it take me. I guess I drove about ten hours, with one stop for taking a pee. Eenunh speaks, quietly, says,

"Entemannh...was my husband."

I'm asleep. I've heard the words! I'm stimulated somewhere psychologically! But can't stir physically.
I fall...literally...it seems, to sleep,
see a man's face, a green face, a stern face...
golden irises, hair, cut...short...
green...blood on his cheek...
smeared by the back of his hand...
He...smiles...nods...affirmation...looks away.
I sleep.

"Entemannh...was my husband."

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/01/23 09:39 PM.

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I awake!

The truck is rolling, fast! Is it safe...in the snow...to go so fast?

I raise my head, see nothing out the back windows. It's daylight, overcast, but daylight.

Soda and Thin Man are talking, quiet voices, back and forth, a few words, a few words, silence, a few words, a few words, silence.

Tinunh stirs, sits up, her back to me, looks toward the front. She rolls away, tucks the blanket down off herself, I close my eyes, she steps across with her right leg, her arms, and hops down to the floor. I see Eenuh's right hand reach out to her, Tinunh's left hand take her mother's, eyes flickering, scanning out the front windows. She lets go, steps to lean on the driver's seat-back, kneels. Eenunh rolls off her left side, onto her right, throws her left leg over mine, raises her head, looks into my eyes.

"You're awake," she murmurs, closes her eyes and lays there. I feel myself wanting sleep. The truck is rolling, a good pace, the hum of the engine, the wheels on The White Road, hypnotic.

We're slowing. Soda and Thin Man are talking about a 'good place'. I like the sound of 'a good place'. Eenunh rolls, spins, sits up on the edge, looks out the front. The cold air comes in on me. If she gets up I'll wrap myself in the blanket! Go back to sleep! No. She's sitting there. She reaches with her left hand and shakes me at my chest. Her hand comes to my throat, lays there, warm.

"Get up, Gary," she says, quietly, no urgency. She turns off the cot to sit on the end of the bench behind Soda's seat. I throw my legs out, stretch my arms, my torso. It makes me want to lie down again. I do. Stretch again. "Get up, Gary," she says again. I do. Out the front windows I see the other truck stopped, just over a rise. There's no snow! Out the back windows I see the other truck, easing up. No snow!

Thin Man stops, has stood, comes back, Tinunh leading him. Tinunh opens the doors, goes out, the cold rushes in. She closes the doors. Thin Man reaches for the green canvas bags on the bin racks, sets them down, one by one, five of them, on the cot and bench.

Some of his men come and stand outside the doors. He opens them, lifts out the bags, handing them to the men. They turn away, go...somewhere. He closes the doors. He tosses me my coat, fallen to the floor. Eenunh is pulling hers on. I'm up, coat on. Thin Man fastens his coat, pulls on a toboggin. He opens the doors, goes out, leaves them open. Eenunh goes before me, takes my hand, lets it go, goes out. I go out. Soda is coming, offers her hand. I take it. She jumps down. I close the doors. I put on my leather gloves, with the soft inserts I bought at the flea market. It's not as cold as yesterday, not as windy, but still cold.

Some of the militia are standing at the sides of the road, by the truck behind us, looking back the way we came...like...sentries. Others are going further back that way, armed. I look ahead of us and a similar action is there, two by the truck, four going on down the road.

No snow! There are deciduous trees, no foliage, brown leaves among yellow weeds, grasses, on a gentle slope from The White Road up to the forest.

The bags, green, canvas bags, are laid at intervals, about five feet apart, at the west edge of the road. All my people are standing about the middle of the road, looking out to the west into the forest there.

Thin Man turns, comes back toward me, eye contact, and is opening a bag. Tinunh steps up. He hands her...a rifle!

A gun!

She takes the strap and puts it over her shoulder, as casually as...I might. He hands her...a clip! She holds it in her gloved hand.

Thin Man opens another bag. Eenunh steps up. He hands her a gun, and a clip.

He opens the third bag. He stands with a rifle and clip, looks at me, golden irises. He extends the rifle to me. I step over into the space between the bags, take it. He doesn't give me a clip, keeps it in his hand.
Soda is opening a bag at the end of the lineup, behind Thin Man, straps on a rifle, slaps in a clip. Good form. She keeps her finger on the trigger guard, not on the trigger. I think to advise my girls of that practice, look before I speak, see they both have their trigger finger on the trigger guard, not the trigger. They know. Thin Man straps up from the second bag. The girls are side by side, facing up the hill. Eenunh suggests to Tinunh,

"Let's target those rocks sticking up among the weeds." She and Tinunh slap clips in, raise their weapons, aim, and fire!

It's not a loud noise, just a click, or...small...pop! It sounds like double shots; 'Thip! Thip!', a pause, and 'Thip! Thip!' I see the debris pop up from where the rocks are hit, two, close to each other. They fire again! And again! Eenunh suggests two other rocks. They fire, hit their marks. They've...they've done this before. Soda is firing to my left. Debris pops up, from what I assume is her target.

Thin Man shows me the open end of the clip. I see small...flechettes...little...rocket finned things about an inch long! I look at the size of the clip, and think there must be a lot of them in there. He gestures to a space closer to the edge of The White Road. I step into it. He tells me,

"Keep your weapon pointed down range." He chops with his left hand toward the weedy slope up toward the trees.

I'm...dizzy...like...in a dream, just...a daze. His voice seems distant. He hands me the clip. I see the direction of the flechettes, turn the clip and pop it in, pop it with the heel of my hand again, to make sure it's seated. I raise it, sight, and shoot. 'Thip! Thip!' One trigger pull, two shots! I miss my target, to the left. I hadn't really thought of it as a target, just a big rock there. I jerked the trigger. It's a comfortable pull, neither hair-trigger, nor hard to pull, "Just Goldilocks right", my buddy Kevin, in Basic Training in Texas would say.

I aim again, pull more carefully, 'Thip! Thip!', miss again! The others are firing, regular intervals. I fire again, hit! Again, hit! Again, miss.

Thin Man is shooting. I get back to my own practice, slow, aim, inhale, hold, squeeze. I begin to get consistent hits, zeroing in on smaller targets, and hit them. I don't know how many times I've fired. The others have stopped, popped out their clips, put them in a pocket, so I start looking for how to do that too. I see them...slap a slide on the top of the rifle, ejecting a single flechette into the palm of the hand holding the bottom of the rifle. They put it carefully back in the clip. Thin Man reaches toward my rifle. I extend it to him. Instead of taking it he shows me how to extract the clip, a two-pronged 'lever' I twist. I pop it out. He pops it back in, points to the release mechanism again. I pop out the clip again.

"Slap it!" he commands, pointing at the slide. I do, like I saw my girls do, feel the flechette fall into my hand, from where the clip was. He points and I put it back in the clip. He reaches, again, shows me the safety. I flip it to the safe position.

Eenunh and Tinunh stoop, open a buttoned flap on the end of the bags their rifles came out of, and put the used clip in it. I follow suit. Soda passes me, bag in hand, goes back to the truck, in. Thin Man is watching me, nodding as I do what the others have done. Opening the loose edges of the bag I see another rifle, and the bag is full of clips, laid side by side, all over the bottom of the bag! Dozens! Maybe sixty or more, two layers! There's a sheathed knife, a canteen, smaller than the big round ones the girls and I have, other bags and bundles.

I begin to worry about what we're going into!

I remember Eenunh's words of the...Entemannh 'Plan', 'women, children', everyone a soldier, necessary to resist the terrorists, from wherever they come, whenever they come, to die resisting rather than letting it happen. Nothing to lose. Die fighting, not on your knees. Fight. Hope someone survives and the terrorists are...eliminated...or...turned back, go home to tell others not to try it. The rifle in, I snap the bag closed. Each person takes responsibility for their own weapons, and the bag. Tinunh is headed for the truck. Eenunh too.

Thin Man is looking at me, golden irises. He is not smiling, stern, slaps my shoulder, points at...my bag...and goes to the truck. I follow. The wind is cold on my face. I pick up my bag, look down the road. The soldiers are standing where they've stopped. The two by the truck are getting in. Turning to go to the back of my truck I see the two near the truck going to the back.

I step up through the open doors, inside, stow my bag on a bin rack, on the right, with my pack-bag. Where they were all together before, now each person's seems to be close at hand, Eenunh's in the middle between the seats, her at the wheel, Soda's next to it. Soda looks from the passenger seat at me, says,

"Eenunh knows the city. She'll take us in. There may be some changes, but the main roads and Government buildings should be the same. This might be a good time to study your maps."

Eenunh shifts. We're rolling! I look ahead, The White Road, up and down, curving, left and right, ever southward. No snow!

"You can sleep some more," Eenunh says, over her shoulder. "We're still a good distance out."

I consider it, but know I'm too wired by the...target practice, tales of terror, Tinunh's 'need to know' assessment. Tinunh moves to the bench with Thin Man, points to the cot, golden irises, raised eyebrows. I decline. I didn't know that was my last chance! She flips up the cot, turns it back into a bench. Earth cots don't work like that!

My guitar is there on the floor. I uncase it, strum it. The hum of the engine and vibration of the wheels make it hard to sing so I stop trying almost as soon as I start. I continue playing, picking out Christmas Carol melodies, strumming through songs without singing them. Thin Man is on the bench right behind Soda. They converse in short, quiet sentences.

Tinunh has been exploring the bass line of "Hit The Road Jack". I pass the guitar to her and she plays it. She doesn't sing it yet, but it's just a matter of time.

She also likes "Fools Rush In (Can't Help Falling In Love)" and is learning to sing it with an Emoilihn translation.

I feel like a family man.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 12:08 AM.

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33. TREACHERY AFOOT; In Costaramannh!

Trees are tall and overhang the road, making a tunnel in places. Inside one of these the lead truck is slowing. Tinunh hands me my guitar and I put it away. When I look up from that I see the lead truck pull nose first, bow first, half off the road under some trees, and stop.

There is a man there!

They converse through the window. The man walks back into the woods. The truck follows, goes deeper in, into the woods. Eenunh follows. Out the back windows I see the truck behind bobbling over the uneven ground, hang on to bin racks to steady myself.

More people! There are soldiers, civilians. Several. We go on, come up on a level, and there are more people. The lead truck turns, loops around, tight turn, mudholes in the track, full of yellow clay water, comes back past us. Eenunh makes the same loop, comes back past the third truck. I look out the back and see them turn and come up behind us again.

Doors pop open, ahead, and ours. Everyone is quiet. I'm up and out first, offer my hand to Tinunh. She doesn't take it, jumps down. Eenunh does, steps down. Soda. Thin Man. Still, everyone is quiet.

A small troop of men and women, led by a woman, comes in formation up out of the woods behind the last truck. I don't know where they came from.

I think I see some kind of salute. The right hand is almost cupped, palm up, and brought to the middle of the chest. Thimiannh is doing the same thing, I see, as he turns toward the woman. Faces are stern but soften into smiles. Thimiannh speaks, "We made good time."

The woman speaks, "Yes, you did." Their voices are quiet, covert. They go to the last truck where her troops have stopped, waiting. We all follow.

The militia are unloading cases of ammunition. I see one of our men pulling the bins on the bottom row of the racks on the left, opening sliding lids, and removing two ammo cases from each one. It is a very efficient operation. The ammo cases come out, are passed to the back of the truck, and handed to people there, who, once they have two, go off back into the woods with them.

There...there are...far more ammo cases...than...I saw issued by the commanh and loaded in the trucks.

Ammo gone, there are other packages. A different crew takes those, food perhaps, medical supplies, I speculate. I think...these are militia...but...in guerrilla mode.

I look ahead. The other truck is getting similar treatment, but the relay line is going back uphill instead of into the woods behind the trucks.

A squad is at our truck, relay line, downhill.

The woman and Thimiannh are talking. He gestures to Eenunh. She goes to them. The women brush fingertips.

They turn, Thimiannh and the woman, and go off the direction she came from. Eenunh gestures for Tinunh and Soda and I to follow.

It is a tedious path, up, down, around rock outcrops, blue stone. Suddenly, they're going through a spindle door, but it is made of blue stone. We go in. The light-emitting substance is dull in a passageway, a ramp up, then brightens as we come into a room. Men, women, sit about, casual, but rise to their feet when the woman comes out of the passage.

They speak, only a little louder. I hear Thimiannh's name. And then, Eenunh's...and there is a cacophony of voices, all speaking at once! People begin coming to her, Eenunh, brushing fingertips. There are grins. My girl grins beautifully. She calls to Tinunh, introduces her. There's lots of doting vocalization. I hear Entemannh mentioned.

Eenunh comes to me, and turns back to them, takes my hand, introduces me, "This is my fiance'," she tells them, "ass oomam, Gary E. Andrews."

I feel my face flush! There is silence. Then laughter! It subsides, possibly from the look of their commander, her look and hand gestures working together.

"Show us your hair," a woman says. I don't know which one said it. I grin. Eenunh grins. She pushes my hood off my head. I reach and take off my ball cap. There's not much comment. Eenunh's face is calming. She runs her right hand through my hair on the left side. I hear them talk of my eyes.

"Show us your arms," another voice says. I see him. He looks a little spooked. The commander says, "No! No! No! Leave him alone. This isn't a circus!"

She goes to the wall to our left. There's a map there. A map...of Costaramannh! I pull out my map, unfold it and compare. She explains,

"The main road..." she points to the middle road The White Road ends at, or...turns into...and says, "has been destroyed for some time. The bridge over the river is damaged; foot traffic only. The east road is intact. We favor it. The west road is usually guarded and the factions there can be difficult. Some violent extremists contrive to dominate the security whenever possible. And it's rather unpredictable. I suggest some of us go in both ways. Our main body will go in by the east bridge. What we send in by the west road will be all test. We'll risk some ammunition, some supplies, but mainly we'll be in force but with not much detectable weaponry...unless... we need it."

I'm orienting the map. It has the north at the bottom, showing The White Road coming up, the way we've just come, entering the city. That bridge is out. There are roads angling off The White Road, to east and west, to two other bridges as this outer 'loop' begins to turn further south, encircling the city.

"I don't recommend trying to go around to other entry points. It raises suspicion as to why you would come off The White Road by any but the nearest entry."

I see the logic. As soon as any entry gets you across the river into the city, the interior roads do long spirals in across concentric circles, intersecting. To get to anywhere in the city you only have to get in and it's easy to get anywhere by a series of turns onto circle routes, left or right, and spiral routes between concentric loops. Everyone is making marks on their map. Tinunh sees I'm not and offers her stylus. I mark off The White Road bridge, hand it back. The commander is advising of other trouble spots, damaged and blocked sections of the city. The same features that make the circles and spiral design a good one, make it a bad one if something gets blocked. You have to backtrack, find alternate routes. We mark our maps.

"Your unit will go in on the west road," the commander is telling Thimiannh. The west road! I don't like that! "They're expecting you so we'll give them what they're expecting. Do you know your destination...your lodging?"

"Yes," Thin Man says, and tells her. She looks at the map, says,

"No! That's...that whole area, for blocks...there was a battle there. Artillery. We stopped them but the whole area was damaged...there's...that can't be! Who made those arrangements?"

"The Koobs," Soda says.

"That's...that's...a trap," the commander says. "Look at the ways in, one way in or out here, and one there, and that second one is down to one lane. I don't like that at all. Why would they put you in there? There's...there's no running water in that area." She turns, inquires of another soldier, who confirms all she has said. Soldiers look closely at our maps, concur that the lodging the Koobs arranged are in the middle of a no-man's land!

"This...might literally be a trap!" she says. "Why aren't you in the middle of the city? There are good hotels there. That's where the Koobs and their guests will be. They're already there. There is security, dining, music. Out here," she points to the area under discussion...you're camping!"

A murmur runs throughout the room, dies down as quickly.

"We knew there would be treachery," Thimiannh says. "Soda, speculated, and...saw some...signs. There may be some factions from up our way too. Money changes everything."

The logistics of just getting into the city continue to be discussed.

"The west road contingent will make a close pass to the designated area, but try to maneuver back around, go to the center of the city and find accommodation there," Thin Man says.

"They'll expect that," the commander says. "Once you're in at a certain point they can block you, make you turn into their..." She doesn't finish the sentence.

"We'll have to come in by the east road, and get people down to you, to strengthen your troops. If we have to fight our way in we will! That will be our first mission inside the city; to get back to you at that location. We won't need to hide what we're doing at that point. If it's a trap they'll be watching for us but..." Again, she doesn't finish the sentence.

There's a twinge of genuine anger in her voice. She is stern. She uses a word referring to the mothers of the Koobs.

Eenunh's face is just as stern. Soda's too. Tinunh is expressionless.

Thimiannh starts mapping some routes to dispatch squads along, all ending up at the same general area, covering us, covering each other, alternative routes to regroup at various points, if we have to.

There is treachery afoot, in Costaramannh!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 12:22 AM.

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34. COSTARAMANNH CITY LIMITS: Treachery Unlimited.

Oh! To sleep, perchance to dream. But, no. We're going! We're going right now!

We move our trucks out on The White Road again. The lead truck pulls out, stops, and Eenunh pulls up behind it. The truck bringing up the rear point pulls out, and backs up! We back up! The lead truck backs up.

Now, I'm watching a string of trucks, coming from somewhere in the woods where we were, unseen by me, and going down The White Road, south toward Costaramannh! They're leaving a muddy track on The White Road!

We sit. I start counting after about eleven trucks have come out. We pull forward, roll down The White Road. I start with that number and count eight more coming out behind us. They stop coming out of the woods. I look ahead. We're going slower. Trucks in front of us are pulling away, widening the gap between us and them. The trucks behind us are going slower still, letting the gap widen behind us. Thin Man must perceive my curiosity. He explains,

"We'll arrive at the west entry gate a little later than some of the ones ahead of us. We're hoping seeing the line of traffic will make them less likely to inspect us all too closely. The first trucks in will submit to whatever inspection the guard want. When we start lining up, hopefully, they'll stop being meticulous and let us through. They may know who we are, our three trucks. We're a little cleaner now than when we left." Thinking of the muddy road and how our own wheels and undercarriage might be muddied I take 'cleaner' to have a different meaning.

"I saw a lot more ammunition unloaded than I saw loaded on the patio," I tell him. "Is that what you mean by cleaner?"

"Neh," 'Yes', he says. "We brought a resupply of ammunition, food and medical supplies. "Gary, we're...going into a war zone. Entemannh City is in the zone. There's no place on the planet that isn't in the zone, subject to incursion by soldiers, some acting as terrorists, State-Sponsored terrorists, some with personal motives, money, ideology, but...terrorists. We have to be prepared to go on the offensive if necessary to defend ourselves. We are...prepared. Your personal quest and interests won't matter if we get involved in hostilities. It will be terrorist war and no man, woman or child will be safe. Prepare yourself for that possibility, maybe...inevitability.
The commander says the factions that want to resort to violence are prevalent, but subdued by a majority of Citizens who won't tolerate it. But there are always the few who will be incited...radicalized...to think...'I can fix it with my weapons!' 'I can provoke some action that favors my agenda.' 'I can get away with it.'
The simple fact we are coming is known, and that makes us a target for their ambitions. Intelligence reports chatter that the extremists may try to use us to...divide...and conquer. That's their agenda. That central thought makes everything else...every other Citizen's aspirations for peace and safety...irrelevant.
So we are prepared to counter that. We may not succeed. They don't seem to have overwhelming numbers, but they believe a skirmish, where they CAN overwhelm another force, is just as...desirable...to advance their agenda...as a full scale outbreak of war."

I shudder! It's an overwhelming fear! I try to get a grip. I can't think of anything to say. Thimiannh perceives my distress. He turns away, looks out the windshield, down The White Road. I look too. I don't see the trucks that went before us. I do see their muddy track, fainter but perceptible. I look behind, see a single truck top a rise far back there, and sink out of sight again.

We're slowing! Ahead I see two trucks, stopped in a low spot on the road. There's one in each lane! One facing away, one back toward us. Roadblock?

Off to the left I see troops with large buckets, coming up from a creek near the road. Eenunh takes signals from a soldier on the road, pulls past the truck parked facing us, across the left lane, behind it. She pulls into a creek gravel area, just wide enough to pull into, and stay facing down the road, stops. The troops just seem to dash buckets of water on our truck, right bow, not left. I hear splashes at the right tires. Eenunh gestures with her left hand, pulls back onto The White Road, passes the parked truck in the right lane, and we're rolling again!

No one's talking. The hum of the truck is hypnotic. I want to sleep. I'm afraid to sleep!

I would guess about twenty minutes have passed when Thimiannh says, "Here!"

"Here's our turn," Eenunh announces. I want to see her face, to look in her eyes, to...know...and let her know...I'm ready to do whatever it takes...to advance our agenda, our personal...family agenda. I console myself that she knows.

As if to share that feeling, Tinunh scoots closer on the bench, from behind me, and intertwines her arm with mine. I look and can't help but smile at her. She's not smiling, then does. She pats my arm with her right hand. My fear returns! Tinunh, a child, caught in this...this...terror.

I look away, out the windshield. The road goes right, west, the loop, an outer 'belt' that circles the city. I see a similar turn angling to the left, east. The main White Road goes to a damaged bridge! I see holes in its floor. The trestle above the roadway is twisted, leaning to the left. No foot traffic.

I see the river! It's substantial! Briggs must have seen this from orbit!

Rolling over the hilly landscape, along the river, the highway has long runs uphill, long runs down. I see water-trucks moving on the river.

Another bridge ahead, the west entry! I see it. Trucks are lined up there, just three. I worry for our safety, look at Tinunh again. She's looking out the back. There are two trucks coming! They're pretty far back, but coming. I wonder if they see us, the drivers on the road, the people at the bridge. I feel very...out in the open.

Eenunh stops at the intersection where the bridge approach is. I see back up a smaller road there, not a white pavement, just what...looks like brown creek gravel sloping up into the forested hills. The loop goes on ahead. She turns left, pulls up to the back of the trucks already ahead of us. Soda says,

"The one in front of us and the one behind are ours. Ours are cleaner than that one. I don't think the one they're looking at now is with us, just random traffic."

The gull wings are up on that truck. It looks like the back doors are standing open. Armed men stand around, looking only mildly interested in whatever is going on in the truck.

I see the two trucks pull off the loop, in behind us. I think about being blocked in, unable to move, to maneuver and escape. Everyone remains calm.

Out the back I see another truck, out on The White Road, at the intersection, unable to turn in. It sits there a long moment, then goes, goes on down the loop.

The two new trucks behind us...are they ours? I think so. They're cleaner than the one up ahead, cleaner than the one I saw go on by. A flash of white, another truck goes by behind us, and another stops at the intersection. I move across to the right side bench, see that two trucks are stopped on The White Road. They seem to be waiting to turn in. Tinunh rejoins me, takes my arm.

"We're rolling!" Eenunh says. I look, see the trucks in front of us moving up. The lead crosses the bridge. The second stops, gull wing up, conversation, gull wing down! He goes. Eenunh pulls up. Gull wing up. Conversation.

No go! We're sitting.

Thimiannh goes to the back, opens the doors. Tinunh tightens her grip on my arm, lets go, sits back, wraps her hands around her right knee, rocks. Miss Casual.

"If we get out," Tinunh says, starts again, "If they make us get out, let's you and I stay close together. Put your hood up." I do. Ballcap. Human hair. White skin. "Put your gloves on!" she commands.

The guards come to the back. Yes, we're getting out. They're courteous. Soda comes past us, quick eye contact. Tinunh jumps up behind her, pulls at me, turns. I'm up behind her, look back toward the front to see Eenunh going out the gull wing, a smooth leap!

Outside the wind is cold, coming up off the river. I can smell the river! They don't show much interest in us. Tinunh takes my hand, leads me to the right side of the road. She looks up at me. "Let's look at the river," she says. We do. I look at the woods across The White Road, wonder if I got into them if I could walk back to the guerrilla camp...if...I have to.

I glance over my shoulder at where Soda and Thimiannh are standing by the back of the truck. Eenunh is standing about five feet out, facing into the truck. She raises her voice, the guards apparently up in the back of the truck. Thimiannh has his left hand up holding the top of the door, casual, left arm crooked, fist on waist, casual. I tug at Tinunh. She takes hold of my hand, eyes a'flicker, lets me lead her back toward The White Road. I want a better angle on our truck. I point at a weed,

"Look at that growth on that one weed," I'm saying, quietly. "I wonder if that's an insect egg case." I start to tell her about the preying mantis, but she shushes me, her finger on my lips. She simply nods. I turn back to look in the back of the truck. Two guards are simply sitting there, on the back end of the cots. Tinunh squeezes my hand.

"Maybe friendlies!" she says. "Maybe they're with us! Still, look away."

I look at the girl in the passenger seat of the truck behind us. She doesn't look at me. She looks like the young girl who sold me underwear. I'm pretty sure she is that girl. I thought so on the patio before we left, no longer a cute little shop girl, now a precision-moving soldier. The driver, yes,one of the commanders of Thimianh's militia. I wasn't entirely sure this was one of our trucks until now.

Tinunh pulls at me, holding onto my hand, leads me back to stand beside Soda. What's happening? I keep my head down. The flare of Soda's hips is a delight to stare at. Eenunh is there, close enough to touch. I don't look at her. Tinunh steps in front of me, brings my gloved hand up across her throat. She begins to shiver, and...then...to chatter her teeth. The men in the truck seem to notice, suddenly step out. All my people step back towards us, give the guards room to go to the left side of the road, away from us. A little more conversation. Eenunh, Thin Man and Soda sort of crowd them toward the left side of the road, form a shield for me and Tinunh. They give the salute. Thimiannh returns it. They go on to the next truck. Tinunh pulls me to the back of the truck, hops up and in, turns to me, reaching for my hand. I step up, in. She sits toward the front of the left bench. Eenunh comes and pushes at me to sit beside Tinunh, sits beside me. Soda prefers to sit by Tinunh too, goes past us, squeezes in behind the driver's seat. Thimiannh is in, closes the doors, the space darkens. He sits by the doors, looking out the windows, some hand signals. He gets up, goes to the passenger seat. I look around Eenunh, see the doors open on the truck behind. Not much movement. Tick tock, tick tock. The doors close, the guards come forward. Thimiannh says Eenunh's name. She turns to me, kisses in the general area of my mouth, goes quickly to the driver's seat. After some words from outside, Eenunh closes the gull-wing. Starts the engine. We roll, and...cross...the bridge into Costaramannh. A broken sign says "Welc...", just enough letters to maybe have said 'Welcome', in Emoilihn, and, on the other side of a big hole, "...ramannh." Yeah. Welcome!

There is a long ramp down from the end of the bridge. I see a levee along the river, water-trucks cutting through the water. Eenunh stops at the bottom of the ramp. She twists to look back up the ramp and across the bridge. We all look. The other truck isn't coming. Gull-wings up, back doors open. Men out on the ground! They're armed, hopefully intimidating. Some are facing back toward the other trucks, some forward, dealing with the bridge guards.

We sit. I get nervous! I look around in front of us. "Eenunh, watch out front. This could be an ambush! We're sitting pretty much out in the open. Tinunh! Go up and help watch. Thimiannh, keep an eye on what's happening back here! There's room to turn in this intersection and go back if there's something going on back there!"

Thimiannh says, "I like the way you think!", comes back, sits on the other bench, golden irises flickering back across the bridge. A long moment, watching. I open one of the back doors, just wide enough to step out on the roadway, armed! I want the bastards back there to see me if they're pulling some [naughty word removed]!

The men are getting in. I see the cabin darken as the back doors close. Gull-wings down! They're rolling! I get in, close our doors, sit on the end of the left bench. Tinunh sits on the right.

"Wait until they get here," Thimiannh is telling Eenunh, as he gets back to the passenger seat. "I want to know what the delay was."

The truck pulls up, the commander out the passenger side gull-wing, where the girl was sitting before, comes to Thimiannh's window. I see the girl in the driver's seat.

"They tried to tell us we'd need a full inspection, and it was going to take a while," he reports. "The attitude was very cold, indifferent to our travel order. He didn't even look at it! He started barking orders and treating us like we weren't uniforms. I didn't like it. We armed up and cooperated to a point. But they started yanking out bins and I let them get close to our ammo and told them to stop! I told them they were bending up the bins and that was bad for the hunters who would need them in the season of The Waters! We had our weapons aimed in their direction and they stood there in the truck a while. The one in charge finally waved the other two out. We kept them covered as we pulled away."

"Okay," Thin Man says, grimly. "Trust no one! I think they were trying to separate us. They were friendly to us. You saw that. I didn't tell them you were with us, but I think they knew. They know now. There's treachery afoot! Trust no one!" The commander goes back, climbs in the gull-wing, and closes it.

Eenunh turns left, onto what I remember from the map is the outermost loop inside the city limits. It goes all the way around Costaramannh. After about a hundred yards, she turns right. The street is long, wide, curves left and over a long arc that goes out of sight to the right in the far distance. Every building, looking like individual homes, most once behind stone walls, some lower, some higher, is damaged! Every one!

"Is this the route the Koobs told us to take?" I ask. Eenunh and Thimiannh, Soda, all answer, "Neh!"

I turn, find my bag, get out my other rifle, pop in a clip, check the safety. Tinunh follows my lead. She lays both hers on the bench on the right, pointing back. I see her tiny green finger check the safeties, on. She goes forward and kneels, opens Eenunh's bag, lifts two rifle barrels, and tucks the end of the bag under them. I hear her pop in a clip, then another clip. She does the same for the bag beside Thimiannh. Soda, now on the bench behind Thimiannh, has one of hers out, clipped, and pops a clip into the other one, in the bag. I grab a handful, four more clips. Put them in every pocket of my coat, outer pockets, two, inner pockets two. I think I can get one more in each pocket, but everyone else, thanks to covert Tinunh, is getting single clips for pockets. I don't know if they're following my lead or just...live like this...prepared to fight for their lives! What a world! What a shitstorm I'm into, neck deep! Fear chills me! I warm myself up with anger! Common people shouldn't have to live like... No. Common people have always... lived like this. The only defense has always been self-defense. The powers that be have always been as much a threat as any uprising, any insurgency, any madman or madwoman with a 'fix it with my gun' incitement.

But this, this is palpable treachery, organized treachery. We're conspiring against a power structure that is conspiring against us. I sense it. It is very covert, but there. As if I need confirmation, we're there. Eenunh says,

"This is it! This is the lodging they sent us to. It looks like there's no one here, no vehicles, no security, no one out, walking in or out or about! It looks abandoned. Look at the weeds growing! The whole neighborhood's destroyed."

"I can see out Eenunh's window through the end of the long building and out the back of it. the front windows there are blown out! The back's been blown away!

Suddenly I see a truck through that hole, coming out of what may be an alley behind it! I wonder if this is the beginning of an attack!

The truck stops, over there just at the end of the building. Eenunh keeps cruising, slow, slowly, her right hand drifting down to touch her rifles. The gull-wing of the passenger side of the other truck goes up! Eenunh throws up hers! Thimiannh says, "That's our man!" I see the passenger come out, armed, and start walking quickly across the weed-lot under the trees between the alley and the street. The truck rolls on, comes out on the street. The commander of our other squad keeps coming, bee-lining afoot down the roadway. The truck pulls forward, reverses, comes back to in front of us, convoy renewed! Eenunh rolls forward as the man comes quickly, up to Eenunh's side.

"The backs of the roofs are more damaged than intact!" he's telling Thimiannh. "I had a man inside a while ago. There's no running water. The place has been open to the weather. There aren't any rooms, any rooms," he emphasizes, "fit to house us! We're in their trap, Captain!"

Suddenly I see a white truck rounding the distant curve!

"Look!" I shout, pointing!

Another truck comes from behind a ruin, bounces over the curb into the street in front of the first one and the two keep coming!

I look out the back, two more white trucks, at a distance, coming behind!

Our crew behind are out on the ground, armed, arrayed three and three on the street behind the truck!

I open the back doors, stay in, waiting for someone to tell me what to do! Our men in the truck ahead of us are out, armed, two on the left, three on the right. I see them pointing to the right! I think they're deciding where to take cover if this turns into a fire-fight!

The trucks come, ahead, behind! They slow as they get closer. Stop. They're sitting. Our people are standing their ground! I think we should all be finding cover, finding it in shelled out buildings and behind debris. Eight men, and women, behind us. Eight ahead. Us, four adults and a child! My heart is pounding! I have to get out!

"I'm getting out!" I announce, and step just behind the truck.

"Stay right there, Gary!" Eenunh shouts. "Stay right there! If we have to run you get your oomam ass back in! If we have to fight here we'll all get out together and go to my right, to that ruin with the green awning! I look through the crack of the door on the right, see the awning, not much building around it.

Suddenly from behind I see two more trucks coming behind the two that came before!

Where did they come from? They didn't come from far up the curving street!

They speed to the curbs, left and right, angle in toward the center of the street, lurch to a halt!

A dozen men pour out the back of each one, armed! Two more come out the gull-wings. They don't go for cover, but kneel in rows right there on the street, beside the trucks they came in, some covered by the bows of the trucks, which is no cover at all! But they have eyes on the other two trucks!

The two trucks that came before have not disgorged any troops. And don't. They sit.

I look through our front windshield and see the same thing has happened out that way! There are two dozen soldiers, out, on the ground, some on the sides of the road with cover, most simply kneeling in the snow in the street, weapons at the ready. The two trucks ahead of them, idle, no activity.

Movement on the ground behind catches my eye as I turn back to look that way. A single soldier is coming forward, from the second set of trucks, to the passenger side of the truck closest to where his stopped. The gull wing goes up. He...She! It's the guerilla commander from the woods! She stands back, conversing from an angle behind the passenger. Suddenly the butt of a rifle comes out the truck window! The soldier stands still, reaches, takes it. I can see the back doors through the windshield, see them open. Soldiers on the ground change positions, come in with sight lines on the back of the truck. The walls of these trucks might not be much use against the flechettes, but, a direct shot, into the back of one, doors open, would be hard to hide from!

He flags his troops to come forward, gathering tightly behind the rearmost truck, more coming on to lay siege to the one closest to us. A glance up the street, same scenario.

The commander on the ground backs toward the back of the truck. Two soldiers, each side, shoulder their weapons, come forward, disappear behind the second truck. They come away, laden with rifles! They go back to their own trucks, and in. I look in front of us, see a similar scene has played out there!

"We're secure!" Thimiannh says. "My team! Her team! I love them each and every one!"

He laughs! I laugh. The girls don't laugh, but there's a sense of relief, a physical...relaxation I can sense. We're secure!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 02:12 PM.

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35. TREACHERY; The Beneficiary Of Death.

The disarming of whoever is in these trucks goes on. The teams are very security conscious. I never see them take it for granted that the unknowns are surrendering. Some walk away, staggering under the load of rifles! Others have guns aimed into the backs of the trucks, constantly. It occurs to me that keeping them bunched up makes them easy to guard, less likely to make a move. A shooter could spray Thip-Thip into the truck and would or kill them all in seconds!

I walk over to the right end of the building, look through the front windows there, see the trees in the forested area out back through big blown-out holes in the back. The window frame on the left hangs on the lower hinge, twisted into a trapezoid. The right window frame is embedded in the dirt, at the edge of the sidewalk, twisted. I go to the next door down, push it open. Yes. The roof toward the back hangs down in a hole in the back wall. There's no furniture. I turn, leave the door open, come back toward the street. The tree...the young tree there, near the street where the window frame is embedded in the yard...the wood...it's... white... like it got blasted...broken...not long ago.

I hear a dull poof sound, then...a whistle...artillery!

I start running toward the truck! Eenunh is closing her gull-wing. I stumble on debris! I fall on the street!

The blast hits the building behind me! I hear debris splatter on the trucks! I jump up and run to the doors! The left one is closed by the blast! I fall in, reach, pull the right door closed. I can barely hear Tinunh's and Soda's voices, but see their mouths moving!

Our truck in front rolls! Eenunh rolls! Everyone is getting their weapon strapped on their bodies. The two rescue trucks ahead are pulling forward around the two unknowns! Our friendlies are loading up, whip around in front of us, turn back up the street. I look out the back. Our two friendlies are gathering the last of their troops and coming around the two unknowns! I look back. The two unknowns facing back down toward the building are turning, coming after us. The other two are on the roll too!

Another shell hits! The last truck of unknowns swerves to the left, lurches to a halt! Men pour out the back! They run toward the other truck but it keeps rolling!

We're going at a pretty good rate of speed! Suddenly the lead truck of friendlies slows, brakes, turns left, climbs carefully over the curb, and accelerates through the weeds of a yard, between two ruined houses, into a woods, stops! The second friendly climbs the curb, and men jump out. They flag the two unknowns on past us, out on the road, weapons threatening if they don't go on by!

They obey, go by quickly! The last unknown behind us follows the others. The friendlies mount up, roll! Eenunh follows. Our other team follows. The ground is uneven. We bounce around. We're rolling through a weedy pathway, tree limbs slapping at the windshield, scraping the sides.

"Safties!" Thimiannh calls out. Everyone checks their weapon.

We come out into a weedy field. The truck ahead has cut a path through the brown weeds! We're among ruins again! Out...onto another long curving street! We're rolling, fast! We come to another loop, cross the intersection at high speed. There are seven loops to the center of the city. This is only number two. The curvature of the street goes in that long arc to the left, and far ahead, back to the right.

There is less destruction here, occasional building ruins, others intact, looking lived in, cared for. Some trees are broken, old damage, gray wood. Most are not. They're like...an urban forest, housing among the trees. We roll. We slow. I look ahead. There are people on the sidewalks. There are cars; not water-trucks. Cars. Same flat white color, white tires, white road surfaces. But small, passenger vehicles, parked on the street, in driveways, driving. Suddenly we're just in traffic, not in flight! I look out the back windows, the front windows. Costaramannh, the Capital city!

Another loop, another intersection. We seem to have the right of way. We maintain speed. I see what look like shopping malls, mini-malls, many store fronts all in a row, shared walls. More residential. More trees. Trees abundant.

The next loop has what looks like shell craters, right in the middle. Traffic moves around the two holes, the barricades. The buildings, houses, stores, along the street don't look damaged, the trees either. Steady roll. Cars and trucks pull off, turn left, turn right, we roll steady on through. Another loop. Is that five?

I count the sixth loop and see a tall red building, red sandstone like Entemannh Garibe, but...built, courses of block. It's far away, but stands high, over the low one-story houses.

The stores are more sophisticated, more...upscale I think. Mannequins in the windows! People on the streets in colorful clothes! Yellows! Some red! Blue, green and brown common, but others! Patterns, stripes and checks, and polka dots!

We roll ever closer, finally come to the seventh loop, and there stands the building. It goes left and right, along the loop, walls that go for a distance, straight, then the next section angled in a little more, and another long straight section. 'Like the Pentagon,' I think, only more 'sides'. I wonder how many.

Our friendly escort stops on the loop, the two trucks blocking the road on the right. Our lead truck turns into an entrance, with a pedestrian passage overhead,people moving through it, lots of people. Soldiers at the pike gates. Cars, trucks coming out the left side. We're in the right. The lead truck gull-wing, up, papers presented. The guard looks back at us. He salutes, hands the paper back. Gull-wing down, rolling. Eenunh rolls, slows, but the guard flags us in without stopping. I look back. Our following unit is in. The other two friendlies go on by, out on the loop, disappear from view.

Across a broad courtyard I see the building encircles us. It's taller on that side, six stories. I think the front we just came through was four. There are some cars parked, some looking like limousines, big, stylish! All white. Trees, landscaping. Some evergreens. Some deciduous. The lead truck goes to the far side, curves around, and into a ramp, leads Eenunh up, turn, up, turn, a parking garage, up and up and comes out on top, open to the sky.

The driver slows, stops, backs in toward the inner wall. Eenunh does the same. The following unit does the same.

Everyone is on their feet. Thin Man and Eenunh go out the gull-wings, lift their weapons bags out, close the gull-wings. When Soda, Tinunh and I open the back doors they are there. Tinunh hands them their luggage. We all...my family... strap our pack-bags and store our weapons in our armor bags. I do what they do. I trust my girls.

Coming from between the trucks I see the two units of soldiers reconnoitering the perimeter of the building. They circle, every one of them looking over the outer parapet, the inner, down into the courtyard. I decide to do the same. Tinunh follows. Eenunh and Soda too. Thimiannh is talking to each troop as they go by behind the trucks. I hear him praise their performance today. If we are secure, they're the reason why. We are secure.

"This way," Eenunh says, and leads us toward a structure the the inner corner away from the ramp we came up. She opens a door, hinged on the left, like Earth doors.

Ramps, steeper than usual, down. We go down two floors, come out in a hallway. Three troops get in front of Eenunh. She directs them down the hall to the right. The hall follows the straight line a ways, and the angle takes another turn. There...Eenunh stops. The troops continue on. They realize she's stopped and come back, take stations, eyes down the hall, back. Eenunh opens a door, on the right, the outer side of the building. I can see inside, darkness. She opens it wider. Daylight! Tinunh steps as if to go in. Eenunh closes the door, goes on. On the left, the inner side of the building, she opens another door. The troops go in, stack-up style. Eenunh waits. They come out. She goes in. We go in. All the furniture is covered with brown tarps, green tarps. It looks like Eenunh's living room, lily-pad chairs, end tables, central coffee table.

There's a dining room off the right end of the living room, tarped table and eight chairs, a kitchen across the living room, dish cabinet, no dishes, tarped table with four chairs. Big windows out on the courtyard. Off the kitchen is a hallway to the right. Eenunh goes down it. Following I see a doorway opens back into the living room, and a hallway parallels this one, divided by a central wall going on beyond the dining room. Soda and Thin Man come behind me, through the doorway into the living room, go down that hall. The white-light-emitting substance is in the ceiling, low on the walls, brightens as feet move by. Eenunh opens a door on the left, a room, brightly lit from the windows. Bedroom, adjoining bath on the right. I go on down to another door, open it. Bedroom, and a bathroom in the far left corner, close to the outer wall, where the one in the first bedroom was to the inner wall. Every bedroom has its own bath! I like this place!

I pass Tinunh, coming back. She goes to the next bedroom, in. I come back to the one Eenunh's in. She's sprawled on the bed, on the brown tarp. Her weapons bag is on a chest of drawers, and her pack-bag is still strapped on her. I set my stuff on the floor, go to her, strip off the pack-bag strap, set it with her weapons bag. She barely opens her eyes. I lift my canteen, slosh it. She opens her eyes. I uncap it, hold it toward her mouth. She raises up on her elbow, takes hold of it. I hang on to it, let her tip it to her lips. She lets go, puts the cap back on.

"Gary, I'm very sorry this is the way things are," she says. "I didn't think any of this out. I just..."

"Neh," I say, and, in Emoilihn, say, "Me too. And now, it's just the way things are. And we keep moving forward."

She lays back on the bed. I don't annoy her with the kiss I want. She closes her eyes. A tear runs from her left eye. She wipes it with the knuckle of her index finger.

"Rest," I tell her, in Emoilihn. "Rest."

I sit and watch her. I love her face. It's weary. It's worried. Slowly it softens. She breathes regularly.

Tinunh is coming. I don't hear her, see anything. I just...know. I turn to see her as she comes to the open doorway. I gesture index finger to lips. She nods, stands there. I get up, go to her. She turns, goes down the hall, gesturing me to follow.

In the living room she says, "I want to see where we lived."

I don't know what to say.

"I remember this place," she says. "This is where I lived when I was a baby. Not this apartment, but...the one down and across the hall. We'd go out to shop, to meet my father for lunch sometimes. I remember when the Terror Wars came. It was like...suddenly...I was paying attention to everything. It wasn't...just...routine...daily life...any more. My mother carried a rifle when we went shopping, or to meet my father. We never went out at night any more. It was big change. I noticed. I remember."

Eenunh is here at my back! She wraps her arms around me, lays her head on my back. "Okay," she says, in English, "Let's go." She steps around me, steps close and offers her mouth to kiss. I do. She takes my left hand in her right. Tinunh turns toward the door, goes, opens it, and we follow her into the hall. The soldiers are there, armed, stationed at the angle junctions, left and right in the hall. Some are coming in with their weapons bags, going into apartments on both sides of ours.

Eenunh goes to the door she had opened before. She looks at it, doesn't open it, then...does.

Inside there are clothes on the floor, debris. There's a crib against the wall, a bed across the room, and...where I might expect a hall out to the rest of the apartment, a gaping hole!

I can see out to the buildings across the street! I get closer. There's rubble piled below. There's nothing above. Three floors below. Two above. Nothing. The whole side of the building is gone for six stories!

The girls are quiet, but their breathing is labored! I see the distress in Eenunh's face. Tinunh turns, buries her face in Eenunh's breast, weeps. Eenunh speaks quietly to her, strokes her hair, gathers it in a pony tail in her hand. Tinunh quakes, sobs!

"I'm sorry mother," she says, audibly. "I cry for you. Your life...you nearly died...here...in this room...in this house. And me, you saved me, took me out of here, kept me alive."

"You kept yourself alive," Eenunh tells her. "You were braver than I was. You kept going and that kept me going. You never complained. You took every hardship with acceptance, helped me think through it, and do what we had to do. You were my hero!"

They laugh. I'm crying. I turn back toward the hole, look out across the city. I see other damaged buildings, to the south. Terror Wars. Wars of terror, state-sponsored terror, organized terror, disorganized in the field to just whatever terror madmen unleashed might decide to wreak on the civilians. And then the terror became the Government, and it was how the people lived, in a state of siege, struggling for food, for shelter, for safety, subject to the whims of whatever individual or group who came along might do. I look down in the rubble on the floor, find myself looking at two little golden eyes, and a downturned mouth, little point of a nose. I reach and pull it out of the rubble. It's a tiny cloth doll, double elbowed arms, double kneed legs, springy brown hair, in a little blue dress, no pants.

I turn, step to the girls. "Who is this?" I ask.

"Blink!" they both scream. "Blink!" They're laughing and crying, hugging. They step apart, start examining...Blink...head to toe, talking about how dirty 'he' is.

Tinunh turns to me, introduces me, "Blink, this is Gary! He's our new friend! He found you and brought you home to us!"

Blink doesn't say a word, but I feel compelled to say, "Hello Blink!" Tinunh steps to me, hugs me with one arm, holding Blink between us. She stands that way a long time. Eenunh's smiling, beautifully, looking at her daughter. "Is Blink a boy?" I ask Tinunh. "Why is he wearing a dress?"

Tinunh cries, saying, "It was bedtime. That's his night shirt! It was cold. I couldn't let him sleep naked!" She laughs, crying. She lets go of me. Says, "Where is his blanket?" She's toeing at the rubble.

Eenunh turns, begins lifting things from the rubble, clothing, a hair brush. She opens the bathroom door, waves her hand. The light comes up dully. She reaches, turns back out, holding a hand mirror.

She moves toward the door. Tinunh has found Blink's blanket, has him wrapped in it, shows me. She goes to Eenunh. They hug. Eenunh goes out behind Tinunh. I stand a moment, wondering at the closeness of...death. Terror was here. It took a life. It spared two.

And I am the beneficiary of...death.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 01:45 PM.

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36. MILITARY MISSION; Grocery Shopping In A Wilderness Of Mirrors.

"We have commandeered this part of the building," Thimiannh tells me, in the hall. Eenunh and TInunh have gone in. He has come out. "We need to go out and get food. It's getting dark. Do you want to come with us?"

"Yes," I say, without thinking about it. I realize that I'll be leaving the girls. I want to tell them. I tell him.

"No," he says. He lowers his voice, sounds conspiratorial! "We're all going. Two of my troops will conceal themselves here, to see if anyone comes. We're not separating at any time we're here, any more than we have to. Bring your weapons bag!"

"Why did you ask me if I wanted to go, if we're all going?" I ask him, quietly. Was he going to leave me here if I said 'No'?

"Because you're the head of your family," he says. He smiles. "I want you to get used to being asked, and making family decisions. And...because...Soda told me to."

I go in, tell Eenunh the plan. Everyone gets their bags. On an impulse I open my pack-bag, arrange my corn-knife and two knives at right angles, to detect it if anyone disturbs it. I don't mention it to Eenunh.

Seeing my coin bag, I bring it, bulky, heavy, but hopeful I can spend some of it. I've wrapped different denominations in gray paper, wet it to hold the coins in rolls. The night I did mine I started to do the girls' coins too, but they were more efficient so I stopped and played guitar while they wrapped coins. I remember that night, at home, comfortable with...my family.

"Eenunh," I say, "I'm bringing my coins. All my coins. If we get a chance to spend them we should."

"Neh!" she says. I get kisses for my good idea! LOL She tells Tinunh, and Soda.

We go out. All the troops are in the halls. I do a head count. One to the right, at the turning point of the hall. I look back down the empty hall, one at the turning point there. Six here. Two behind us, two ahead, one and Thimiannh. I wonder where the missing two are concealed. I know two are out with the trucks.

We go up the ramps, and the troops stand aside, inside. Soda leads us out on the top floor of the parking garage.

"Step over here!" Thimiannh commands, and Soda and the girls and I do, hiding behind the ramp structure. I can't see over the parapets for a long way in the distance. We're six floors up, rooftop level. I see other parking garages on each side at the other entrance, and another one across the entrance below us.

The drivers come out, go at a run to the trucks, get in the back doors, leave them open, start the engines. Eenunh leaves us, at a run. She'll be driving. The three trucks pull out in the usual formation, ours in the middle, stop out toward the middle of the floor aimed toward the vehicle ramps. The drivers flip up the passenger gull-wings.

Thimiannh, comes out, behind one of his commanders, followed by the other. They go at a run and hop deftly in the gull-wings, all the other troops on their tails, hopping one after the other into the backs of their assigned trucks. We run, me a little less efficiently, perhaps, and jump into ours. I turn to close the doors but one soldier is coming in behind me! He closes the doors.

We're rolling! Trucks down the ramps, too fast to suit me!

"Everyone arm up!" Thimannh commands. We do, rifles strapped over our shoulders. "Safeties!" he commands. We all check; safeties on.

We turn left at the bottom of the ramps, take the exit opposite the one across the courtyard where we came in. There's no guard check for us leaving. There's a guard shack on the other side of the entrance, like the one where we came in. Traffic is pretty heavy on the street, the loop. They defer to us, let us out, in convoy.

The lead truck turns right, starts cruising slowly around, with the flow of traffic. I'm looking ahead and behind at the streets, people walking, cars parked and driving, store fronts, just what you'd expect in a city!

Hey! There's a fat guy! First fat Emoilihn I've seen!

We pass the entrance we came in. There are people on the sidewalks, lots of cars; quitting time! Everyone's going home, home to family, to rest, to renew for tomorrow.

Ahead I see two white trucks pull out from the right curb ahead of us. Our friendlies? The lead follows them and keeps circling on the loop. We're coming back by the exit we just came out of. I'm looking out the front window and see the damage to the building. Out the back I can look up and see the vertical strip of damage. There's no other damage to the building; just this one section. They must have hit it with artillery in several places to bring it down, accurately in that one spot, that one place where Entemannh sat having breakfast with...his wife, his baby daughter asleep in another room. An assassination! It was carried out with horrible efficiency, collateral damage be damned!

Two white trucks come out of the side street across from where we came out, crowd into traffic, pull in behind our back unit. Friendlies. I'm sure of it. And unsure of it, I ask, "Are those our rescue people, ahead and behind, again? Two trucks."

Thimiannh says, "Yes. These are the people from out in the woods. And some of them are deployed out around us, on the streets, using the loops to stay close to where we are. We planned this excursion, another test for treachery. We may get attacked. They may go in our rooms. We're testing everything we can to get a feel for who's on our side and who might be plotting against us."

I suspected that!

"We simply commandeered that space" Thimianh explains, "the apartments. We didn't ask anyone. I told the guard at the gate. He just took my command. I'm sure he reported it. We're not invisible here. They know who we are, and where we are. We just need to find out who THEY are. And that means just doing what we have to do, and seeing what they do. We need groceries, supplies, so we'll make this one trip out, hopefully stock up for three days. The hearing is tomorrow. It may only take one day. If it takes more than three we'll stock up again."

I tell Thimianh of our coins. He approves. Soda shakes her bag, loose coins. I don't mention my bag being much fuller.

Our convoy goes southwest at the next arc-road, crosses two loops, to a large building, big parking lot, lots of cars, trucks! We park as close to an entrance as three trucks can. Our friendlies deploy nearby, two close to an entrance off the road. One truck faces in; the other faces out. They're not real...obvious about being together. I like that. I feel secure. I see the other two trucks finding places to park south and north of us. We park. Three guards stay with our trucks, inside, concealed. Seven come in with us. We're all armed. I wonder if its wise, obviously attracting attention. But I figure they know, the people who make it their business to know. Inside, we're not obvious at all, men, women, in civilian clothes, in uniforms, most are armed. Damn! Ready to fight at a minute's notice, I figure, and that worries me, that they can't be sure when an attack might come, and so being alert all the time is just a way of life.

There are bins, canvas bins, on wheels, to load things in, shopping carts. Three teams of two take bins and disperse, armed with shopping lists, one on each team is reading aloud to the other. One soldier stays with Thimiannh.

Eenunh takes a bin, walks beside it, guiding it with her right hand. She throws her shoulder to reset the strap of her rifle. Tinunh is looking around.

"I remember shopping here!" she tells her mother. I drop back, let them have some mother-daughter remembrances.

"This is harder than I thought it would be!" Sodaensus declares, quietly. Thimiannh doesn't respond. I don't know what to say. It's stressful. We've been awake a whole bunch of hours. I'm fatigued.

"I appreciate your help, Soda," I tell her. "This is an ordeal and you're having to go through it with us. I'm sorry to...put you through it in...your condition."

"My baby will be stronger for it!" she declares, laughs. She wraps her arm around Thimiannh's. I let them go ahead, trail behind, looking at the food goods. I see produce ahead. I'll get a few fruits. There are nuts! Woody shells. Several varieties. Earth nuts are said to be good sources of minerals! Someone checked and found that out a couple hundred years ago. Then they kept harvesting the nuts away from the ground they grew on, hauling away the minerals. Someone checked the composition again and found they weren't as good a source for minerals as they used to be. Plants can't make minerals. They have to find them in the ground where they grow. Little dirt-searchers, they find minerals and hand them up to you. I can't search dirt. Can you?

I'm bagging in gray paper bags, abundant nuts, the variety, twenty-one yellow fruit, hoping my coins are enough. I'm doing the math, sure I can afford things. I put them in Eenunh's bin. She's letting me. There are cloth goods. There are some silky ladies handkerchiefs. I select two for each of my girls. Mirrors! They're cheap, hand held mirrors, for ladies. I get sixteen of them! One for each female in Thimannh's milita group, Eenunh and Tinunh, and three for Eevannh and Tinunh's other friends. I remember The Machinist's girls and get three more. I look for bigger mirrors, see some, but they're expensive. I'm doing the math!

Soda is looking at a yellow dress, and a yellow suit, coat and pants. It will be so becoming with her green skin! I hope she buys them.

The troops are back, bins full of things. We go up a few more aisles behind Thin Man and Soda. She's buying the yellow dress and the suit! She picks out a white blouse, shiny material. And, passing a section with tiny clothes, for babies, she buys handfuls of gowns and onesies and booties and socks, and diapers! I throw in a couple more bundles of diapers, cloth diapers, in our bin. I'm sure I can afford it. The Throw-Away commercial model of petroleum plastic doesn't exist here. Cloth diapers are the only way.

We go to the checkout. I pull my things out of Eenunh's bin, put them in handbaskets there, go into the line. I lay things out, do the math; yes, I can pay for this with a few rolls of coins. Plenty. I hand the clerk the rolls. She looks at them, tears them open on the counter, quickly and efficiently counts and hands me back some. I have to fish out a few smaller coins, and the transaction is complete. There are gray-paper boxes to carry things out in. We gather at the exit, wait, and go out. Our truck is secure, the store exit a little distance away from where we parked and went in. One truck of friendlies is nearby, pulls out trolls along with us on foot. We load up, roll. The friendlies lead us out, come behind. The second trucks are not obvious ahead or behind.

Traffic is far less, most going the opposite direction, away from the center of the city. Soon we're back, go in the entrance we came in first. The friendlies drive on by. The guard waves us through. We go back to the garage, park with our back doors close to the ramp structure this time. And unload.

In the apartment the girls cook up a delicious meal. There is wine to drink, blue, green, and brown bottles. I try the brown. Each has a different flavor. I knew I liked the blue, better than the green, but I like the green too, so exploring the brown was an easy choice. We all sit back, just a few minutes, not much conversation, and all stand and head for bed as if by signal. LOL The very thought of laying it all down is sleep-inducing.

We shower in the bathroom, great water pressure, good pulsing shots, pounding on tired muscles. Mirrors! I come out, start to put on underwear. Eenunh's naked, and stops me, tosses them on the dresser, climbs under the blanket naked.

Good night. Good good night.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 03:24 PM.

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37. GO NORTH, ASS OOMAM; And Seek Your Future.
Aleashnnh = An old friend.

Morning comes. The Sunstar is shining! Red light outside. I go to the windows, look north out over the courtyard. It's early. Not many people.

"Oomam ass," Eenunh murmurs, "Come back to bed!" I do what I'm told.

We shower and dress, go out. No one's up. Eenunh begins preparing a breakfast, greenies, orangies, meatballs, ginger-cake. There's milk and cereal. I feel at home.

Soda comes out, looks into the kitchen, smiles, goes into the dining room. I hear her shuffling papers in there, leave her alone.

Thin Man's up, looking like he could use more sleep. Couldn't we all? Tinunh! Little beauty, lovely grin, eyes a'flicker. She goes and hugs her mother, stands there, face buried in her mother's bosom. Eenunh continues preparing food. I look in cabinets and find white plates. Drawers, cutlery. I rinse them all, wipe them dry. Set the table around Soda's work.

We eat. The girls converse. I listen. Just mother/daughter talk. Some expressions of how they hope things go in the hearing. They look at me. I look at my food.

There's someone knocking at the door. I go. It's one of the unit commanders. I stand back, gesture toward the dining room where Thimiannh is sitting. They converse. Soda looks up, back down at her papers. The commander gives the salute, apparently, because Thin Man gives it back. He turns, comes back across the room, brushes fingertips with me. Out.

"Let's all take a weapon, and an extra clip. We're in the most secure place in the city, but I don't feel...safe...comfortable," Thin Man says. I like his thinking.

I wonder how...unusual it will be for us to walk around armed in their Government complex. I trust Thin Man's judgment that it won't be. It sure wasn't at the store last night.

I start to put on my heavy coat, but Eenunh says we can get to the Courts without going outside. "It's a long walk around the complex, but I think that's the way we should go."

I hang it on the back of a chair there by the bed. I think to look in my pack-bag. I forgot when we came back last night. My corn-knife belt is pushed to one side. The two knives are on the other side! Someone was in here while we were gone! I go out in the living room, tell Thin Man of my set-up.

"Yes," he says. "They came as soon as we left. They were in every room in all three apartments. They got into peoples' luggage. We all had our weapons bags with us. They would likely have stolen them or damaged the weapons if we hadn't. We're not safe. We're not secure. Our only defense is self-defense."

We're ready to go. We're all strapped on with a rifle, a clip in, an extra clip somewhere on our person. We might as well be out in the woods somewhere!

Thimiannh's looking at us. "I don't think you and your family should carry a weapon. We're military. You're civilians. Leave your weapons. Bag them up, and I'll have the men take charge of them while you're out."

As soon as we've set our three weapons bags on the coffee table I feel insecure. You get used to knowing you have firepower, weaponry of any kind. When Eenunh and Tinunh first took me in, they gave me Tinunh's bed hollow. Her rock collection was arrayed on the shelf in the back wall. I took comfort knowing there were rocks at hand I could use as weapons.

"I want my corn knife," I say aloud. Eenunh ponders it.

"Soda said to wear the common clothes, to look like working people," Eenunh says. "When we work we wear our corn knives. We'll wear our corn knives!"

Tinunh runs back to her room. I go to my pack-bag and belt up.

Troops are secure in the hall. They have two rifles, one diagonal, barrel down strapped off their right shoulder, one held port arms. Their uniforms are stiff with clips. Belt knives. Canteens. Four set out ahead of us, each soldier waiting about eight paces before following. They 'stagger', one on the left side of the hall, one on the right. Glancing back I see the four behind, same configuration. They take turns turning and walking backward, letting the others pass them and falling in again in the rear. Angles, straight sections, turn and another straight.

Ramps. Down and down. We're still on the second floor. We come out into a wider hall, brighter light, windows on the courtyard, lots of people. A commannh team approaches us, shows Thin Man a paper. He hands it to Soda. He converses with the commannh. The woman seems friendly. The man is more formal. They turn and we follow them.

The Courtroom! Our troops station outside the doors, four in the hall, various locations, across by the windows, not in front of the windows, but by pillars between the windows, and inside, four, two each to the left and right of two commannh teams who stand against the back wall, close to the doors.

It's all white in here, dark wooden railings and the Koob-stand where the panel must sit. There's a central part higher than two 'wings' to left and right. There's a white table on the left, three chairs on the other side. We take our places at a table centered in the room, as rehearsed. Soda stands on the left end, doesn't sit in the chair there. The rest of us sit, Thin Man, Eenunh, Tinunh, and me, me, The Alien. I feel it. Feel alien. My heart pounds. I calm myself.

And we wait, and wait, and wait.

Finally a door opens! Clerks come in, take their places. There's the...guy...the prosecutor type from Entemannh Garibe. I don't like the look on his face. He looks like someone caught him cheating at cards and he has to try to dignify his argument without anything logical to say.

The Koobs! They file in, white robes, old men, white hair, some just greying at the temples, nine. We all stand up.

And here come the Koobs from back home. They sit at the table off to the left. I don't like the main man's face, or the smirk on the one on his right.

Without further do-do the main Koob on the raised platform calls Sodaensus by name, commands her to begin.

"My clients," she says, "the family you see here, are seeking to secure their family by authorization for ass oomam to immigrate, to naturalize as an Emoilihn Citizen. It is our position that their intent is sincere and justified by their dedication to each other as a family. All have expressed clear agreement that this is what they want to do, as a family, to live from now into the future, as a family. We were prepared with character witnesses at Entemanh Garibe, Emoilihn Citizens who have befriended ass oomam and would attest to his good character and adaptability to Emoilihn life. They could not make this journey with us, but many have agreed that if it is necessary they will come. I have their letters of recommendation here."

There's some other stuff, legalities, loyalty oaths, education, responsibility. It sounds like folk tradition of the Emoilihn, common law.

There are questions and answers. Finally the main man addresses me, not to me but through Sodaensus. I stand. Soda looks at me, nods. He asked Soda, "Does ass oomam (the alien) know what he's doing, coming to live in our society, our climate, our economics, our troubles, our everything?"

I speak in Emoilihn, "I have lived here for several lunar cycles now, honored one, three seasons, so far. On my planet, in the location where I was born and grew up, there were four seasons and I learned to love them all, hot seasons, cold seasons, and the mild seasons of transition. I have found friends among the Emoilihn, Eenunh, the first, who came for me when I was left behind by my people, Eenunh and Tinunh who got me out of the desert before The Waters. One more day and I would have been floating somewhere, alive or dead. I have found employment, earned a living, able to pay my bills, and help my family. I seek legal permission to immigrate, to become a citizen, to...to marry. We are already family. We simply seek to make it formal under Emoilihn Law, that we may join our lives together."

Something causes a buzz among the Koobs. The main Koob up top addresses the main Koob from back home. It seems he had not been advised of that intent to marry, to form a family, to formalize the family we have formed, which Soda assured me was addressed in open Court, and in unofficial conversations, back home.

"We will take a short recess," the main man declares. He rises, goes, the others following. The three from back home don't go. They sit, the one on the right and the main cat talking quietly. The one on the left, sits, hands folded, impassive. Soda stands in front of Eenunh, unsmiling. We don't talk.

We wait. The door opens. The Koobs return. Much shuffling of feet, scraping of chairs.

"It seems we overlooked that element, marriage, in the reports we were given," he says. He looks unapprovingly at our home panel. The main Koob hangs his head, doesn't look back, studies his hands. "This element had not been considered, that ass oomam and an Emoilihn might marry. I...we...are agreed that immigration may be granted, but marriage demands more consideration. Can...can our...two species...marry? Can we...do you intend to try to...have children? We...I don't know...how to judge...."

He seems genuinely at a loss for words.

"I think the whole matter will require agreement from up north!" he declares.

Up north?

"We will refer the case for consideration in the northern Courts, along with our own judgment, if we can make one by that time, in hand. If they are in agreement it will be ruled on."

With that he's up and out and the others follow!

The main Koob from back home struggles to his feet, nearly trips over his chair to turn and race to the door, following the other panel. His buddy to his right is only a little less frantic. The one on the left end, my right, sits calmly, hands folded. He uses his hands on the table to rise, slowly. I see an exchange of looks between him and Soda. He turns to a clerk, says something. He goes out without looking at us. The clerk advises, "A copy of the ruling will be ready in a short time. You can wait or we can deliver it to you."

Soda says, "I'll wait." She turns to us, says, "Go back to the apartment. I'll come when I get the papers."

Thin Man tells his troops inside to stay with Soda. Outside he just gestures and the four form the way we came, staggered left/right in the hall, two before, two behind.

"Eenunh Entemannh!" a woman's voice!

I look and see a woman, coming slowly across the space.

"Aleashnnh!" Eenuhn says, her voice shrill!

They embrace! They are crying. They murmur, voices choked with emotion.

Eenunh turns to me. "You remember the woman I told you about. The one whose door was kicked in and never fixed. This is her, my neighbor from long ago!"

I brush fingertips with her. "Ass Oomam!" she says. We've been hearing about you. I heard an 'Eenunh' was marrying an Oomam, but I didn't know it was my Eenunh!"

"Your door is still broken!" Eenunh says. They laugh, and cry, and hug. Tinunh stands watching, her face smiling, eyes watery.

"This is Tinunh!" Eenunh says. The woman crosses her hands over her chest. Eenunh seems to support her. She weeps. Hugs Eenunh. They stand. She turns away from Eenunh, touches Tinunh, says,

"You...you were just a baby! You...were just a baby! I didn't know where you went!" she tells Eenunh. She looks back at Tinunh, holds her shoulders. "I looked for you. I have some things of yours. I thought you would come back! I...I have things of yours," she says to Tinunh. She seems light-headed. Eenunh takes hold of her, hugs her from behind across her chest.

"I remember you," Tinunh says. "You baked bread. We sang songs."

The woman is reeling now, Eenunh holding her up. Tinunh takes hold of her, supports her.

"Breathe, Aleashnnh! You're going to faint!" Eenunh says, in a jocular tone, but I think it is a true statement. She looks pale.

"Eenunh Entemannh?" another woman's voice. There are three of them, all looking at Eenunh. She embraces one. Aleashnnh is doing introductions. They are people she works with. One is an old workmate of Eenunh's. Some men come. They are brushing fingertips with Eenunh. The hall fills with people. Soda comes out. We step away to the walls, let the throng have Eenunh. Thimiannh's soldiers are looking to him for orders. He gestures to stand down. I see him speak with one who then slips among the crowd to get close to Eenunh, but stays unobtrusive. Thin Man speaks to another, who does the same on Eenunh's other flank.

Commannh come and start telling people they have to disperse. Eenunh turns, arm in arm with Aleashnnh and, with Tinunh, they begin moving on down the hall away from where the rest of us are standing. Through an arch there is a doorway and it is held open and the crowd, murmuring loudly, goes out into the courtyard. As the space clears we go to the windows. Now the throng are following Eenunh across the lawn, across the roadway to the central park.

Thin Man dispatches two more soldiers to take a position close to Eenunh, "...but be unobtrusive," he commands. "Eenunh Entemannh is among friends!"

Soda, Thin Man and I, ass oomam, stand watching from the windows. I hear an outburst of laughter! Then, quiet. I hear Eenunh's voice, raised to be heard. There is a shout! "Neh!" Maybe one-hundred fifty voices! More of Eenunh speaking loudly. More laughter. The laughter goes on longer. More talk. Another, "Neh!" Time passes. Just as it seems to be becoming a long time...

Oh! Eenunh is coming. The crowd parts, people reaching to brush fingertips of both her hands. Tinunh and Aleashnnh follow. Our soldiers come behind. They come up the steps and in. The crowd disperses.

Soldiers form up, lead us to go back the way we came.

At the apartment Eenunh and her friend, and Tinunh go on down the hall to see the broken door, laughing. I hear someone say, "It was never fixed!", and commenting "Your apartment was always cold!" I can't tell Tinunh's voice from Eenunh's. She's an...adult among adults.

They come back. We all, troops and...my family... stand in a great circle in the living room. Two troops stand in the open doorway, facing opposite directions down the hall. I'm head-counting, ten troops. Two who stayed behind have emerged from wherever they hide when the rest of us leave, and are in the hall, outside the doorway. Thin Man speaks, tells everyone what has been decided. There is no grousing. But I want to bitch!

"We're going to have to go north, past Entemannh City, to some northern city, and another hearing?" I say, regretting my irate tone.

"Neh," Thin Man says, quietly. "We'll go home for two days, then...we'll go again."

I guess it was foolish of me to think it would go smoothly, with success today, or even a rejection of my immigration application...today. Stress over, one way or the other. But...a new...adventure...awaits. Will a northern city be as...eventful as this one?

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 03:56 PM.

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38. GLOOM IN THE ROOM; One Night Stand.
Casah Sagribe Garibe = Cold Sagribe (a man's name) City.
Igoo = An expression of surprise.

There is gloom in the room. I sense a...fatigue...a...simple tiredness...among the soldiers. They're no more quiet than usual. They're always quiet, listening, waiting for clues that trouble has come. I feel for them, away from home, families. The word of what was said in the hearing has surely been gossiped around. But then, Thimianh commands another gathering in the living room of our apartment. The soldiers crowd in, ten, two at the door, facing opposite directions, two with the trucks. Sodaensus stands at the dining room, speaks;

"The ruling of the Costaramannh Koobahbahnnh is that we have to take our case to the northern Koobahbahnnh for concurrence. They agree to ass oomam's immigration. It's not an issue for them, they say." She waves the document. "Again, they say it is not an issue for them, but they feel the immigration and marriage between an Emoilihn citizen and ass oomam is a matter that requires concurrence from the northern Koobahbahnnh. They say it is a way of not having a problem later, simply courtesy to let matters be known in the north as they are known in the south. I'm sure the commercial considerations of possible foreign trade, which have accompanied our case are being discussed and are becoming the priority of the Koobahbahnnh.
That's alright. Let them make their deals. Perhaps they'll dispense with our case just to get it out of the way so they can negotiate other matters to their profit and satisfaction. We'll see. I'm confident..." She stops. I wonder if she's confident. "I'm confident," she repeats, "that our argument that paronde cos revondnnh is resonating with legal precedent. I am confident the plea of Eenunh, Tinunh and Gary is being heard, agreed with, beyond any other consideration. We just have to do what they rule. And I ask the patience and continued support of all of you to get to Casah Sagribe Garibe, to have our case heard there."

Casah Sagribe Garibe? Is that...is that the city? I don't like the sound of it. 'Casah' is 'cold. 'Garibe' is 'city'. 'Sagribe' is probably another person's name, some hero of the Terror Wars, honored in naming the city. Was he a good terrorist or a bad terrorist? My stress is shaken off. Why...worry...over what is, let alone what might be? Eenunh and Tinunh look pensive, not greatly disappointed; just...accepting what is and ready to do what it takes to move forward. I will follow them in my own attitude.

I see the bowl of fruit on the table behind Soda. I go, take it in both hands, pass among them, and everyone takes one. I go to the two soldiers at the door. They each take two! I look in their eyes, and comprehend that two soldiers are hidden here, somewhere in the other apartments. I turn right, go down the hall, alone up the ramps. I have not been alone in some time. I feel a fearful moment, passing the other floors. I'm alert, hold the bowl in one arm, touch the handle of my corn-knife.

I come out where the trucks are. There are three fruit left. The soldiers are at opposite corners of the parking roof. I carry the bowl low, go and look out over the city, covertly offering the bowl to the one there. He takes one. I walk along the wall, looking down on trees, planters, cars, people afoot. Leaning out I can see the damaged building, a rubble pile at ground level. Costaramannh, a city, trying to live in peace. The air is good. I sip it in my nose, blow it out my mouth. It feels good to exhale. Have I been holding my breath? I cross to the other soldier, holding the bowl low. He takes a fruit, resumes his vigilance down the vehicle ramps.

I walk along the parapet, looking down in the courtyard. People. People on their way in or out, living lives, trying to have peace. I take the last fruit, bite it, juice runs down my chin. I fish out my hand-kerchief from a front pocket, dry my chin, wipe my mouth. I go on to the people ramp structure, and down. At the third floor I see a shadow! There's someone in the hall. I unsheathe my corn-knife! But...now...I know...it is Eenunh. When she comes to the ramp I have sheathed my corn-knife, and reach to embrace her. She smiles, beautifully, her face as calm as I've ever seen it. She melds to me, lays her head on my shoulder, her face on my neck. I let it be a quiet moment. It goes on. She adjusts her stance.

"Can we stay here like this forever?" she asks, in English.

"Yes," I tell her. "If that's what you want, that's what I want."

She stands, takes my hand, leads me back toward the apartment. She stops. There's a broken door.

"Remember my neighbor, Aleashnnh, who the criminals broke her door?" she asks. "This is the door. Her apartment was always cold after that. That was her, this morning. She looks old. Her life has been hard. I wonder if I look old to her."

She opens the broken door, leads me in. The apartment is the same arrangement as ours. There is no furniture. It smells musty. Eenunh crosses to the kitchen. "We sat at a table here, many mornings," she says, pointing at the bare floor, "wondering what our husbands were doing, wondering if the terrorists would come today, overwhelm the resistance, invade the city. She kept her kitchen knives all around the apartment, so there would always be one close in every room if they came and she had to fight from there. When we wanted to cut our food she would pull a knife from some hidden place, and always put it back. It was...it was how we lived." Eenunh looks out the window into the courtyard. She stands long, looking, crosses her arms over her chest. I don't interrupt, stand, silent. She turns, crosses the kitchen, down the hall, peeps into each bedroom. Down past the dining room she opens the door on a large bedroom, a master bedroom. That must be what Thin Man and Soda's room looks like. I follow her in. It's dark. The walls slowly brighten.

There on the floor...is a mirror. It is long, oval. The frame is broken, the...legs, but I can see the gray backing is intact. I pick it up, lean it in the corner. Yes! It is unbroken, the backing unscratched, the oval frame intact. The legs, the...supporting structure is broken, but the mirror is intact.

"Can we..." I ask Eenunh, "Can we take this...take this home?" Eenunh looks at herself.

"Igoo!" she says, an expression of surprise. "I do look old! Maybe mirrors aren't good for people." She adjusts her hair, adjusts again, turns a bit to look at her body.

"I guess we can take it," she says, "but at home we won't have it in our house. We'll...we'll take it to the mall, put it in the hall there, or in a store, somewhere lots of people can...see themselves... if they want to. If they don't want to I'll tell them it was your idea!" The joke surprises me! I bust out laughing! She grins at me. I like the idea. I pick it up.

"Get the legs!" I tell her. "Maybe The Machinist can put it back together!" I feel...good! I feel like we're doing something for the Emoilihn back home! I head to the trucks, put it in ours. "We'll wrap it in a blanket. Maybe it won't break."

Coming back, Eenunh touches the door knob of her old apartment where...

I reach and turn the knob with her hand. I cross the room to the bathroom. I take hold of the mirror on the wall, lift it. It comes off in my hands! I bring it. She steps aside, smiling, closes the door behind me. I take it into the apartment, get looks from Soda and Thin Man, take it in the bedroom. I go in the bathroom, wash my hands, come out. Eenunh is on the bed, eyes closed. I lie beside her, study her pretty face. Without opening her eyes her left hand comes up, the back of it finding my left cheek. She is calm. She is quiet. I lay back. Sleep comes.

Someone is shaking my toe. I open my eyes, see Thin Man.

"Get up," he says. "We're going to the restaurant. Tinunh has your guitar in the living room. Eenunh swings her feet to the floor, rises. Thin Man closes the door going out. Eenunh pulls her dress over her head, goes to the bathroom, comes out. I go in, splash water on my face. I come out and she has laid out common clothes for me. She wears a common dress, her inside shoes.

"We will be among the common people tonight," she says. "There will be no need for knit dresses and blue blazers. The restaurant is not far. We...used to...go there when...Entemannh got paid. He said we should celebrate another day of being alive. This was our celebration."

"We'll celebrate," I tell her. "Should I...leave my corn-knife?" I feel I should. I feel we're going to be in a friendly crowd. What could happen? I want my corn-knife.

"No," Eenunh says, thinking. "I think we want them to see us as...country people, farmers, harvesters. Much of what we harvest at Entemannh Garibe is shipped north and south to these cities. Let them see us as we are. What we do for a living feeds them!"

"I'll carry it!" Tinunh says when I reach for my guitar. We go into the hall. The soldiers form up behind us, ahead, and we go to the trucks. Loading is less of a hustle. A soldier is driving ours. We go down to the ground level, at a reasonable rate of speed, but the trucks turn right, into the courtyard, circle around and come back near this gate, and park. We get out, start walking toward the gate.

The guards see us coming, salute Thimiannh. They ignore all the rest of us, but...look...sternly at Eenunh.

"Eenunh Entemannh," one says. "We are honored to serve you here in Costaramannh." They speak of her service in the Terror Wars, stopping them, her husband's leadership. And...of a monument...in...a cemetery. Eenunh thanks them, tells them we have to go to the restaurant. They say, "Neh!", stand aside. They go out in the street ahead of us, stop traffic. One goes into the other lane, stops traffic there. Someone in a car yells, "Eenunh Entemannh!" Eenunh waves. People get out of their cars, watch us cross the street. On the other side our soldiers do the staggered, left/right formation, lead us up a sidewalk. There are clothing stores, a furniture store. In the window I see a mirror like the one I...stole...from the broken-door apartment. It looks like a used furniture store. I wonder how much they want for it. Eenunh sees me looking, takes my hand, leads me on.

At the restaurant a man in a blue blazer hurries out with a sandwich-sign, and I read, "Ass Oomam! One night only!" in Emoilihn! I laugh! I wish I had a camera!

Inside the place is packed, every table, every chair. There's a stage. Tinunh carries my guitar to the stage, sets it, unsnaps the case, flips up the lid with my website. I don't expect much traffic but I still enjoy seeing my name there. I'm laughing, giddy. It's...going to be okay. It's going to be okay. Talah.

"Play a song for me," Eenunh says. I pick up the guitar. I check the tuning. I play "Over The River Tonight", and sing, and when I stop, the voices go up! I grin, grin big so they can see it from the back of the room. I play another song, and another. I keep playing. People come to the table, brush fingertips with Eenunh. I see people hustled out, and others hustled in. They eat, drink, murmur what I think is approval after every song. My girls applaud. The soldiers are dispersed around the room. I see them served and eating, still alert.

The night goes on. It seems late. The Emoilihn keep coming. They eat, or drink only, stay a while, and leave. Others come. I keep playing. I'm not tired...until I am. Soda stands. Thimiannh looks at her, stands. Eenunh and Tinunh stand. The crowd expresses disappointment. I tell Tinunh, "Get my case. I'll play as we leave!" She does. I let them get ahead of me, start playing my instrumental, "Muriel's Theme", finish it as I take a few steps, just a few. I play, "Blue Riser", another instrumental composition. It gets an enthusiastic vocal response. I take just a few steps as I play each song, and finally I'm at the back of the room. I turn, stand facing back into the room, and play "Never (Is A Long, Long Time)". I finish, and wave my right hand, pass the guitar to it, wave my left hand, yell, "Paronde cos ravonde!" They call it back! I turn and go! The man in the blue blazer rushes to brush fingertips! And I go out. There are lots of people on the sidewalks. I think Eenunh has been talking to them. She turns, takes my hand. We start to walk, the soldiers trying to work us through the crowd. The crowd cooperates. Soon we're going back past the furniture store. I swing in to look through the darkened window again. I wonder what time they open tomorrow.

We go across the loop street. The guards come and look. There's no traffic. We go to the trucks, get in, go up, and 'home', to bed. Life is good. Life is good.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 04:16 PM.

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Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 03:57 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
Joined: Dec 2006
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Eenunh snuggles against me, and goes right to sleep. I hear her regular breathing, don't risk any conversation.

It has been an eventful day, an eventful trip. We're just people, trying to live, have our lives and each other, to work for a living, to enjoy the living we are working for, and the world, this world, is intruding on us. That's...what I thought we were doing. We were nobody's business, and they seemed to have no interest in us.

But money changes everything. When I started earning a living I think I started paying Taxes. Then the Government... See that? I automatically capitalized 'Government'. You can't ignore Government. Government can reach right into your life and demand your attention. The Government noticed me. That was part of the reason I had to get my own place. I had no real problem with that. It worked out in many ways for the better.

Then it became necessary to confront the government...the Government...to keep from being deported. They came ready and cleaned out my room, carried me out in the desert with the intent that I was leaving and Patrick was staying; not a question, a made decision.

Back on Earth we have a saying; "You can't fight City Hall." The Government. The commannh had the badge of authority, the weapons of enforcement. It wasn't a conversation, a discussion, it was decided and I was not going to change their minds. Thin Man did that for me. I was able to go back in, sleep in my own bed-hollow that night, hold Eenunh in my arms.

Just the thought of having been deported that day, made to go back up with Briggs, is disturbing. I try to dispel that...disturbance... settle to sleep. I roll my eyes up to the top of my head and sleep comes. If I dream, I don't remember.

It is morning. There is red light outside the window. She snuggles against me, pulls the blanket close around our shoulders.

'Home'. 'Home' is where Eenunh is. Wherever Eenunh is. I want to be 'Home' with Eenunh. We're up, dressed, packed, corn-knives belted on. We look around in the bathrooms and bedrooms, assure nothing's left behind. I carry out the mirror, my weapons bag atop it. We're all in the hall. There are five soldiers behind us, five ahead. We go.
In the trucks Eenunh and I stow the mirrors, sacrifice my sleeping bag to the purpose. Eenunh assures me their blankets will suffice for the long, cold drive ahead.

"Weapons check!" Thimiannh commands. We check for rifles pointed toward the back, safeties on, clips in both rifles, bags at arm's reach. Eenunh is driving again.

"We're going to the cemetery," she announces. Thin Man doesn't reply. I get the impression he already knew that, already briefed the soldiers.

Down and out of the Government Complex, left out the gate, straight across the loop and down the street toward the restaurant. Oh! The furniture store. The lead truck has stopped. Two soldiers get out, run across the street, come back...with the mirror!

"An early wedding present," Soda says, her beautiful grin like sunlight! I laugh. There's a tear in my eye!

I say, "Thank you!" in Emoilihn. Eenunh says, "Thank you," in English.

We're rolling again. Out in front at the next loop two trucks roll off the curb and lead us. I look behind. Yes! Two more behind. We're in force! Seven trucks; sixty-four soldiers, our twelve... and five armed civilians.

We cross two more loops, turn right on the third one, and not far...turn into a stone-walled cemetery. There are tombstones, many varieties, and many small, simple ones. We've stopped! Eenunh flips up her gull wing, slips out with her usual grace. Thin Man goes out his. Tinunh is up at the back doors, opens, and out. I offer my hand to steady Soda as she goes ahead of me, and follow.

On the ground I see there is a substantial stone, as big as the small passenger cars I've seen on the streets here, red sandstone, raw, uncut, just a natural boulder, set atop a low mound of earth. At the base of it is one of the simple stones, set back into a cutout in the larger stone. I can sound out the writing,

"Entemannh, Aloyan; The Peacemaker."

Tinunh stands next to Eenunh, each with one arm around the other. The rest of us stand back. Our soldiers are scattered, around us, eyes out on the landscape. The four escort trucks are parked, behind us, ahead of us. Their soldiers don't deploy.

The wind is cold, begins to gust, bluster, shush through the bushes and barren trees. Clouds scud across the sky at a rapid pace. Sunstarlight brightens between clouds, dims again.

Soda and Thin Man step up closer behind Eenunh. I step off to the left, so I can still see her. She turns, eyes flicker, she reaches toward me. I step up, take her hand.

"This was my husband," she says, quietly, no emotion. She reads from a plaque laid in the ground by his small marker;
"He brought peace to Costaramannh, Entemannh Garibe, and Casah Sagribe Garibe. There was peace for many, and some even attributed our peace to the peace that spread further abroad. We could live again, raise families, just live, just be, feeling safe in our beds at night, safe at work, on the streets."

Eenunh says, "You...had to know...what that was like...that...difference in everyday life, to appreciate the difference. I could see it on the faces. Hear it in the voices. Peace was hope. Peace was positive.

Everyone knew...or thought...the Terror Wars were over.

But...then...came the assassinations, Entemannh, others, and we lived in madness again, chaos, poverty, desperation. The...gangs were as well-armed as the government. Soldiers came and went, changing sides. The commannh could be corrupted, killed, and new people recruited whose allegiance might not be to ass Emoilihn and peace. It seemed like it was...at its worst...that evening... when Tinunh and I just happened to wander into the transports, and went back to Corrimannh. They changed the name to Entemannh Garibe later. I kept quiet about who I was. No one asked. But I felt safer there. People there just wanted to live. But were prepared to fight. When bands of soldiers or bandits came they found a united people, ready to take them on. They never came with artillery or they might have crushed us. They never came with a bigger force than The People could show either. We...were just lucky. And...The Peacemaker...his...legacy became the dominant thought...that we wanted to live in peace and anyone who disturbed our peace would have ass Emoilihn to answer to. We knew peace...again."

Thin Man and Soda step away, their footfalls on the cold ground, the gravel of the roadway behind us, attracting our attention. Tinunh steps over, bends, touches the small marker stone, brushes her fingertips over the engraved lettering, stands, puts her hand on the big red sandstone. She turns into her mother's stomach and stands. I let go Eenunh's hand and she touches Tinunh's back. I step away, wait at the edge of the mound.

The wind gusts, shushes. The Sunstarlight changes. They come, and I notice Eenunh moves...clumsily. Tinunh notices too, looks up at her, guides her to the back of the truck. They climb in. I go to the gull-wing, lift myself up and in. Thin Man nods. I close the gull-wing, start the engine, hear the doors close behind me. We're rolling; homeward bound.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 09:35 PM.

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We go southwest to the outer loop. The lead escort turns left, east. The second turns right, west. Our lead turns right. I follow. I put on my sunglasses against the rising Sunstar. Traffic is light until we come to incoming routes at regular intervals. Morning rush hour? Even then it's just a matter of getting past the intersections. They don't underpass or overpass, or traffic circle, roundabout. Thin Man directs me to count six vehicles passing left and right in front of me. When that many have passed it is our turn to go. Traffic turning left or right are in the count. It's too weird to keep track of. He does it for me. At one stop I look back. There's only one escort truck behind the one we brought with us. I assume one went east. Something tactical. Thin Man doesn't comment.

We're passing the west bridge we came in on, rolling on! Soon we make the left turn, north....toward...home. The White Road seems endless. I see the place where we stopped for the soldiers to rinse the mud from our wheels. The road is clean. On, and on until I see two trucks parked on the highway ahead. There are soldiers out on the road. Nearing I see it's the guerrilla camp. The escort truck pulls right up to them, stops, our lead truck behind them. Thin Man's comfortable with whatever's happening, so I stop, relax.

The soldiers jump out of the escort truck and run up the highway with their weapons bags and small duffel bags to the truck parked on the highway. Other soldiers have come out of the woods! They go to the trucks, come out with ammo boxes, one in each hand, and walk up to the second of the two new trucks. I see now, and quickly count, a sixteen soldiers up by the lead truck. The sixteen from the second truck, the one that stayed with us, are going to the second new truck. The other soldiers from the woods are coming back, get in the trucks, come out with ammo boxes, hand them to the escort soldiers. Soon a soldier up in the truck closes the back doors, gets behind the wheel and turns into the woods. New trucks? Same soldiers? The new trucks pull forward, up to the top of the rise ahead.

Soldiers come out of the woods with gray-paper packages, hand them in to their second truck and our truck ahead. They must have resupplied the one that went east and got here earlier. They pass us to the trucks behind. Someone opens our back doors. There is conversation, Soda, and them, I glean it's food, for the road. I hear them say Eenunh's full name, express appreciation for her and her husband. Eenunh is quietly gracious. Tinunh thanks them.

Our two lead trucks pull up to one ahead. I pull up behind. Our three following trucks pull up behind me. The new truck transfer operation takes place behind me. New trucks, same soldiers.

"How far will they go with us?" I ask Thin Man.

"These soldiers, to a man," he says, "offered to go to Casah Sagribe Garibe. They are seasoned troops, accustomed to working together, obedient to their chain of command, able to think and act on their own, down to a man. Their commanders didn't ask. It was something the soldiers spoke among themselves about, and decided to ask for...the honor...of supporting your family. This is...this is not...a military mission. This is an Emoilihn mission, a mission of The People. If we are soldiers it is because we are Emoilihn and The People are soldiers, of necessity. But...I've...never seen...such a show of unity. The Emoilihn think of themselves as family. We are one people, a family of people. And family shall prevail against the elements, and against any...power...that should arise to mislead us against each other."

I'm stunned! Sixty-four men and women...total strangers to me...perhaps admirers of Eenunh and her late husband...but...basically...just people, willing to take these risks, the risks of traveling, the risks of dissenting factions, lone nuts, opposition political factions, other soldiers with other allegiances...I'm...stunned!

We're rolling!

We're picking up speed. We're at a good pace.

The Sunstar is flashing through the trees on my left, a flickering red glare. It's a bit annoying. I fish out my sunglasses, put them on again. They're only effective when the road curves to the right, east, against the rising Sunstar. When I'm running due north I have to cover the side of my glasses with my hand against the flickering red. The road climbs as does the hilly terrain. Soon the Sunstar is behind the hills. I'm comfortable with the sunglasses, even though there's no more flashing through the trees. The Sunstar's above the overcast. We roll. I maintain an assured clear distance. Soon I see the other vehicles ahead drop back a bit, away from each other. The pace, with the distance, seems leisurely. I relax.

Pine trees! I'm seeing more pines among the deciduous forests on both sides of the road. There are pine cones on the road. I think my ears popped a while back. The rise in the road is subtle but there. We've gone gradually up in elevation, some hills steeper than others. I must not have been driving this part on the way south. We stop for a rest break, a pee break. I feel the cold, a bit more intense.

The Sunstar is high, overhead, a bright spot in the gray. Noon? Later? I can't tell. We're rolling. Homeward bound.

The desert! We've come down hills, up smaller hills, down again and again. The road curves left and right , along the line of the pine tree forest. There's snow in the forest floors to the left, patches out on the desert. Pine trees dominate now, many seeming bent over, some still laden with snow, some bent, snowless. The road is clear. Perhaps there's been sunlight here, despite the cold, to melt the snow.

I spoke too soon! We slow, to negotiate snow on the road. It crunches, icy, frozen. Where the road rises up I don't see any tracks ahead of our lead vehicles.

I smell food. There's a hand at my mouth. I let her put whatever is in her hand in. It's the rice, vegetable, meat dish I like! I smell her scent, honey sweet. Another bite. I feel...at home.

It's many hours later when the lead vehicles slow, and turn off The White Road...into the desert! Are we there? I think we are! Yes! I'm sure of it. There's the place where the girls and I went into the woods, camped, ate squirrel, skinny-dipped. We're so close! I begin to worry. When you get close to home the danger can be greater than when you were far away. An enemy knows where to find you. The trucks are stopping ahead.

"I'll drive us in," Thin Man says. I gladly leave the wheel, go out the back where the others have gone. Find a place for another urination. Come back. I go in, rearrange the bench into a cot. The mirrors have made it this far. I hope the one in the other truck has too. The girls come in. Thin Man takes the wheel, Soda the passenger seat. Eenunh spreads her blankets, pushes me in. I lay, stretch, moan. Thin Man laughs. I moan again, several times, settle and feel like I'm sleeping. Eenunh is in beside me, tucks the blanket over us. Tinunh must be sitting. I can't open my eyes to see. Yes; now...this...is actual sleep.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 09:49 PM.

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41. A THICKENING PLOT: Treachery On The Home Front.
Omah = Mother.

The road...the trace...toward home... is bumpy. There's no true rest, awakening every few minutes, if not seconds, for the up and down, the slalom roadway. Still, some condition of blackout imposes itself on me.

Then, there's a slowdown, a steep tilting. I know we're going up the ramp to the patio level. I roll toward Eenunh, twist to look out. Yes. Red sandstone. A balcony profile, around the cliff face. I see the spindle-door into the Government corridor. It's opening! Thin Man takes us in, a darkening, smooth ride, that makes me want to sleep. Daylight flashes through the big round windows. Eenunh stirs, spins to sit up. Tinunh is stretched out on the bench across from us, eyes open, and shut again. I sit up.

"Home," I say, in Emoilihn.

"Home," Eenunh says, in English.

I think to have Thin Man stop and drop us, close to the apartment. But I sit and watch as he follows the others up the corridor. At the end there's a stop, the escort trucks converse with commannh on the ground, and we are escorted by those on foot, carefully through people on foot, coming to the prison complex. I see the water-truck cavern! The lead trucks go down the near-side dock, down a ramp into the area where the waters flood in rainy season, and circle back, lining up at the ramp angling back up the way we just came. They stop. Troops disgorge, and we do too. The troops are orderly. The only voices I hear are commanders, and others repeating orders.

Where will they all stay? Thin Man said we'd be here a couple days? Can we feed them? Can we get them into heated rooms? Will we...need security...on the trucks, constantly, twenty-one hours a day? Security on lodging, when they...we...go out? I'm exhausted. I'm leaving it to them. They organize very well. I'll assume they'll be taken care of.

"Leave your weapons bags," Thimiannh commands. "We'll secure this location."

We gather our pack-bags, blankets, the mirrors. Eenunh takes the mirror from her old apartment. I carry the oval mirror, leave the broken legs, and we head for...home. My roadie carries my guitar.

I have to stop and rest. The mirror is unwieldy. Tinunh takes the one from Eenunh. Eenunh takes my guitar.

"Go on," I tell them. They do. Eenunh keeps looking back to check on me. That attracts Tinunh's attention and she looks back too, turns backward, keeps moving, holding up that mirror. I get going again. We come out into the...octopus chamber where all the ramp accesses are. Someone calls Eenunh's name. It's a neighbor. She comes and takes the mirror from me, carries it easily under her left arm, catches up to Tinunh. Eenunh takes my arm, pushes and pulls me along. My legs feel rubbery. She's laughing. I only have energy to grin. The ramps...are tedious. There are only two. Tinunh's in, and has already hung the mirror in the bathroom! There was a pin embedded in the stone. It hangs perfectly. The neighbor has leaned the oval mirror in the corner by Tinunh's bed-hollow, where I used to sleep. She turns, says,

"Welcome home!" to Eenunh, glances at me, a wave, brushes fingertips, and goes out. Eenunh closes the door, drops her pack-bag to the floor, unrolls her blankets in her bed-hollow. Pulls me by the hand and climbs in ahead of me, fully dressed. Tinunh goes to her bed-hollow, climbs in, fully dressed. And sleep can have us all!

I awake. It's night. I don't know whether it's late evening, middle of the night, or early morning. I have no sense of it. Eenunh is warm. I've no need to get up, to go anywhere. I'm home. I sleep again.

I hear them talking, Tinunh, Eenunh. Eenunh is pushing me to the back of the bed hollow, pulling Tinunh in beside her. They talk about how tired they are. I like their voices, drowsy, no anxiety, no urgency, no shrill.

"I'm hungry," Eenunh says. Tinunh doesn't answer. Just about the time I'm falling back into that wonderful stupor, surrendering to sleep, Eenunh rolls against me.
"Are you hungry, Gary?" she asks. I decide to be hungry...because she's hungry.

"Yes," I lie. Tinunh's up. I hear the bathroom door grind on its spindle. Hear her brush her teeth. Eenunh kisses at me, just finds my chin. She's up! I'm...I don't want to get up. I get up, sit on the edge of the bed-hollow, hang my head, feel good just sitting there. They go down the ramp, talking, the voices fade as they get to the living room. I get up. Go in, splash water on my face. I get in my pack-bag, retrieve my toiletries, brush my teeth, look at myself in Eenunh's mirror. What a ragged specimen! I'm unable to get into my face! I'm just staring back at myself like a...like...I don't know what. I barely recognize the guy.

The girls are back!

"There's no food in the house!" Tinunh says.

"We have to go to the pub!" Eenunh says. "We have to shower! We can't go down there looking like this!" She tosses her hair. She looks wonderful to me. "You have to get out of here so we can shower!" she says, pulling me to my feet. She kisses me. I kiss her. I want to kiss her more. I want to lay back down. I want a lot of things. She giggles. I wonder if she knows what I'm thinking. She turns me, pushes me toward the door. I pick up my pack-bag. It's heavy with mirrors. I half drag it out the door, down the hall, Eenunh pushing me all the way. She comes in, closes the door, makes me drop the strap of my bag, pushes me to the bathroom, starts undressing me, stops and leaves. I watch her close my door, finish undressing. In the shower I just let the water run until it starts to feel cooler. I do a quick shampoo, soap-up, rinse off. I come out, put on clean underwear. I pull on my jeans, sneakers, pullover shirt. I look in my small mirror to comb my hair. Why didn't I buy myself a hand mirror? I need to get these to all the troops, and the kids, and The Machinist's girls. Later. Surely I'll find time and a chance. Two days. Maybe. Now, I want to lay in the bed-hollow and wait for them to come get me. I raise my left knee to climb in, and they're here, come to get me. i stop in my track because I know they're here. I turn, cross the room. Yep! I open the door and they stop in their tracks, turn, and we go, to the ramps, down and down, to the octo-chamber, to the pub ramp and down. It's early. There's no one there. The Blueboys hail us, invite us to sit near the counter. It's warmer here, heat from the kitchen I guess. They bring fresh leaves to the table, set cutlery in front of each of us. Eenunh orders something for us all. I could sleep here.

Tinunh's come alive. She's lively, animated, talkative,

"I want to go see Eevannh!" she says. "I want to go to the bakery!" She prattles. She worries about missing school. Eenunh tells her to turn in the homework she did while we were away, and to tell them about having to go north now. The Blueboy comes back with a mounded concoction covered with what looks like yellow scrambled egg, and...pancakes! When we're all served I cut into mine with a spork. It's rice and vegetables inside, steaming. That surface covering tastes like scrambled egg! I savor it, on my tongue, chew it finely, get another large bite full ready! Yes! Delicious! I'm awake. There's milk, in a gray stone pitcher, cold! I pull the three mugs together and pour each as full as is reasonable. It's delicious. I go again into the food. It's very satisfying. Sip my milk. Eat. Look at my girls. They're beautiful! Their eyes flicker. They look at each other, me, grin, talk. Oh. I could...stay here...forever. It's good to be home. Great to be home!

When we're done Eenunh pays. I have a handful of coins in my pocket. I lay them on the table, half count them. It's...a pretty good tip, I think, considering how much we've eaten, drank. Eenunh grins, nods.

We go out, back to our respective dwellings, brush teeth. I come to their house. They're just inside. I know. I open the door. I look for the gray paper box. It's there on the floor by Tinunh's bed-hollow. I take it back to my apartment, load up the mirrors. I go back, leave it in the hall.

"I want to deliver these mirrors to as many people as I can, right now!" I tell them. They laugh. We go.

In the mall I stop at the underwear store. They sell all kinds of clothes but all I ever bought here was underwear and socks. So..it's the underwear store. I see the girl I think was one of Thin Man's troops. She looks tired. I think that's confirmation. I ask Eenunh, "Is that one of Thimiannh's troops? The girl in the truck behind us?"

"Neh!" Eenunh confirms. "This is where I want to bring the mirror we brought back. The one with the broken legs. I think the legs would be in the way. But the mirror can be mounted to that pillar and no legs will be needed. Then everyone can see themselves! We'll do that later." I ask her to take in one of the hand mirrors for the girl. She does. I watch as she talks about the pillar, pointing, gesturing. Eenunh reaches and puts her hand on the pillar, the place to put a hook or pin to hold it. We'll need wire and eye-hooks to put on the back. The Machinist will have that!

We stop at the bakery. Tinunh goes in. We wait outside. She comes out with a gray-paper bag. We go on down the hall, past the restaurant, around to the east side corridor. We go to the school. Tinunh goes in to explain things. She comes back.

"I have mirrors for your friends, Eevannh, the other two," I tell her.

"I don't want to disturb their classes," she tells me. "We'll see them later. I saw them inside. They know I'm back. They'll probably come straight to my house later."

We go to the back of the grocery and down the long ramps to the water-truck cavern, up to the Machinist's. I tell him about hanging the mirror. He has pins, quickly shapes them, puts threads on them to screw into the wooden frame. Gives me wire, enough to pass three times across the back, a good strong hanging wire. He instructs me on how to do that, making each strand somewhat independent of the others, the three passes working together.

"I brought these for your girls!" I tell him, give him three mirrors. He is very grateful, shakes my hand, human fashion.

We go, down the service ramps, out of the flea market, across the basin of the cavern to the trucks. Guards see us coming. These are the escort troops. Thimiannh's people don't seem to be here. I leave the box of mirrors in the truck, get my, sleeping bag, the broken legs. It's a bundle. We start toward the ramp, the corridor back toward home. A soldier, one of Thin Man's, calls out.

"I have your mirror!" she says.

"I have yours!" I tell her. She looks confused. I go to the truck, set all my stuff down, get one of the hand-mirrors out, give it to her. She grins, beautifully. Groans. The girls all laugh. They're all so beautiful, and moreso when they smile. She looks at herself in the mirror, makes faces. I laugh. She laughs. She leads me to the truck in front of ours. I set out the mirror, the...premature wedding gift from Thin Man and Soda. The legs are a separate rig. The mirror just balances in it. I look to Eenunh and Tinunh for help. Tinunh goes and gets the legs for the other mirror. Eenunh gets my sleeping bag and the intact legs. I struggle with the unwieldy mirror. My arm isn't as long as the neighbor's. I need both hands. I hoist it over my head. It's surprisingly more comfortable to carry i tthere.

"Thank you!" I tell the soldier, in Emoilihn.

She hoists her mirror, says, "Thank you!" We go. Ennunh tells her where we live, invites her to come any time she's off duty.

I don't need to rest this trip. I keep trucking as long as they do. They look back, keep going. Soon we're home again. Eenunh positions the legs and I set the mirror in the bed-hollow room. The girls spend some time looking at themselves in it. They wave their hands at the ceiling to get more light.

"Now you can see how pretty my mother is!" Tinunh tells Eenunh! "She's the prettiest woman in Entemannh Garibe!" Eenunh laughs!

"You have to go to school!" she says.

"I want to go to school!" Tinunh says. "Tomorrow! Right now! Sleep! Sleeeep!" She's funny!

"I want to sleep too," I tell Eenunh.

"You have to go see Patrick!" she tells me.

"Now?" I ask.

"Now," she says.

We've been gone, so we're off schedule. We determined to go about every fourth day, milking the interpreting money, serving the purpose, keeping him rational, I hope, and seeing that he doesn't...invite...mistreatment, legal complications, distractions from the tactics of moving forward, him out and on to Earth, me...on...to... paradise.

"Okay," I tell her.

"Take him a new book," she commands. I go to my room to find one. I see "The Grapes Of Wrath". I haven't read it. My mother told me there's a 'scene' where an old man is dying. A young woman is nursing a baby and someone tries to convince her to 'nurse' the old man to save his life. I'm not sure whether she does! That should get Patrick's interest, if nothing else does.

We go. I'm getting tired of walking these corridors. With our lanyards the trip back should be shorter, out of the octo-chamber and down to the Government corridor.

We sign in. The commannh are friendly. They simply ask about weapons, don't search us. We go in. They bring Patrick in, our usual table. Eenunh joins the commannh at the wall. They brush fingertips, exchange pleasantries. Patrick's not manacled! I decide not to mention it.

"Oh!" he says. "You brought me a new book? Good. I finished that other one." Eenunh translates. "I forgot to bring it. I'll bring it next time.
I don't want this interpreted," he says. "Can you tell her not to?" I hear Eenunh making up stuff about the book.

"She knows," I tell him. I point at the back cover of the book. "What's up?" He looks at the front cover.

"There's a guy in here, comes in here," Patrick says, "who says...they're going to get you up north." I'm...speechless! I process the information.

"What...what guy," I ask. Eenunh's having trouble fabricating fake translation. "I need to give her something to work with," I tell Patrick. I read the back of the book, a line, two lines. Patrick feigns interest in the book cover, takes over,

"Guy...he's not a guard, just like, a trustee or something. He comes in and out, maybe doing maintenance work, something, but he started giving me a hard time, just a...I don't know, snarly personality. He seems to go out of his way to find me. I ignore him. Guards will tell him to move on if they catch him. But he said, 'I'll get your buddy'...and he said your name. He said it in like a human voice. He speaks English." Patrick reads the next two lines on the back of the book. Eenunh interprets. "Guy with a big chest," he says. Seems to know stuff. Talks about a city up north, you have to go there, Goobers or something plotting."

Goobers? Koobahbahnn? I don't risk asking for details. I read the next line, say John Steinbeck's name.

"I appreciate your help, Patrick," I tell him. "I'll be on alert. How...how are you communicating with this guy?"

Eenunh interprets the appreciation part, makes it sound like I'm thanking him for cooperating, getting along with the guards.

"So no problems with food, treatment?" I ask. She interprets.

"No problems," Patrick says. "This guy speaks broken English. He's got that buzzy voice, but he can say things clearly, in English." I stop, wonder how this guy learned English. "I get what they're telling me to do. It's a routine. Not much different day to day. They don't push me, don't have to push me any more. I know what they want, where they want me to go. I'm just counting the days. It's going pretty fast!" Eenunh's interpreting perfectly.

"Yes," I agree. "The days are flying by. You should be finishing up and getting out of here. Soon you'll be homebound and to payday!"

"Yeah!" he says. "I like the sound of that. I ain't gonna do this any more. It seemed like an adventure and I wasn't doing anything back home but gettin' in trouble. But now I think I'll like being home, seeing people I know. Three years of...mining...and...this...that's enough for me for a while. I just...I just want...a simple life."

"Cool!" I say. "That's all most people want. And you can have that. You have a lot to look forward to."

We finish. He stands. I stand. He reaches to shake my hand. He reaches to Eenunh, brushes fingertips. He smiles. Patrick...Patrick smiles. He's not a bad-lookin' kid when he smiles! As Scout would say, 'He makes better use of his face.' He turns and goes. Eenunh brushes fingertips with the commannh, and we go. We sign out. Outside I go to the water-truck, jump down from the dock and retrieve the mirrors from the truck. There's a different soldier there now, and I give her a mirror. She points out two others. I give them mirrors, ask them to get mirrors to the others on Thimiannh's command. My load is much lighter. We head for home.

We talk about the 'guy' who gave Patrick the 'threat', which Patrick made a warning. Eenunh speculates that it's my...nemesis from day one in the pub, Chesty. She doesn't know his name. "I never needed to know his name until now. We'll tell Soda. She can find out."

At the apartment Eenunh goes in. I go to my place to use the bathroom. I've no sooner finished shakin' it when she comes to my apartment, says, "Tinunh's not here. She didn't leave a note."

My hackles go up. You can never let down your guard once you go to war with someone! I don't express my thought that our enemies may be 'getting us' here, since they missed us in the south, and instead of waiting for us to go north.

"We need to go see if she's at Eevannh's," I tell her. She leaves a note. We go. We cover the distance to the east side quickly.

"Eevannh went to Tinunh's right after school!" her mother says. Eenunh confides her concern, that the lack of a note is unusual for her daughter, and, adds, "We...have enemies." Eevannh's mother says,

"You also have friends!" She pulls on a coat, plots to go up through the mall looking for them, and circle down to Eenunh's. Eenunh plots to do the same, coming up to the mall if they're not at the apartment. We go back the way we came. At the apartment we go in...and hear the girls' voices. I go to my apartment, get my guitar. I need a session to settle my nerves. I come back out and Eenunh goes to meet Eevannh's mother.

I go down the ramp to the living room. The girls are on the floor, around the coffee table, homework, all greet me in one big buzz! Eevannh stands, comes to me for a hug. She expresses her...condolences. Tinunh has told her the story of our turomay, our appeal. I thank her, tell her, "It's not easy, but we keep going." I sit. Begin to play. Soon Eenunh and Eevannh's mother are back.

"Tinunh!" Eenunh says, not scolding, just...urgent. "You didn't leave a note!"

"Oh!" Tinunh says. "I'm sorry omah!" She gets to her feet, comes to Eenunh, hugs her. "We've been together for days! It's...like we're...not apart. I forgot I needed to let you know! I'm sorry!"

The tension eases, dispels. I play, sing, quietly. Tinunh comes by me, pushes the side of my head with her fingertips! I don't know what...

"Why didn't you tell me I was in trouble?" she says. They all laugh. Eenunh goes, laughing, into the kitchen. The girls do homework. The pastry bag is empty on the coffee table. The women sit in the kitchen and talk. I get occasional applause from the girls on the floor, sometimes from the kitchen.

It's just another night at home...with my family. Home.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/02/23 10:18 PM.

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42. OCCUPYING TOURISTS; None Of The Government's Business.

The soldiers from Costaramannh are a sensation in Entemannh Garibe!

We see them everywhere we go. They stand with people, couples, families, little crowds sometimes, who periodically laugh out loud. Natural entertainers, some are, it seems.

Thimiannh says, "The locals have invited them into their homes, garrisoning them during their 'occupation' here. It is spoken of as an 'occupation', in Government circles, that they are 'occupying' Entemannh Garibe, but everyone knows it is only for two, maybe three days, and why. They are escorting us north for safety, due to the 'trouble' we had in the south. The...word... (on the street) so to speak, is that it was the first time in years there had been shelling, artillery fire, in Costaramannh, and ass Emoilihn are not happy with it. The perpetrators are being sought in Costaramannh. The locals of Entemannh Garibe are treating the visitors like tourists! I like it!"

I think folk here were bored and the 'happenings' are giving them something exciting to talk about! LOL

There are rumors, some fun, some not so. Rumors that we were killed in Costaramannh are not fun. Rumors that we married there, in defiance of the Koobahbahnnh, are very popular and take various forms. One is that the Koobs presided at a formal...like a 'state' dinner, and that the wedding took place there, with them watching and ass Emoilihn crowd enthusiastically supporting us, drowning out the Koobs protests. That's...kind of fun, but...provocative. Soda points out that,

"We don't need to provoke anyone. The plan that we, you, Eenunh, remain a side issue, letting the diplomacy with Briggs and the Koobs' commercial interests be their dominant motives, may be moot. Your immigration, your marriage, is common discussion. Diplomacy, commerce, is not on the lips of ass Emoilihn."

Thimiannh, argues, "Perhaps it is, just not as prominently as ass oomam, ass Coban Sahn, the Music Man, and Eenunh Entemannh, widow of a fallen hero. I find their story more...interesting...more pleasant to discuss, than the formalities of diplomacy and commerce. We...our friends, can...and perhaps should...put these other matters into the conversation. It is an important matter, the opening of relations between people from another planet. They demonstrate a variety of temperaments, a potential for good or evil. It is a danger. Their technology, if they...take a side, side with a faction, our Koobs, military, commercial interests, or others in other places, can reignite the Terror Wars. Ass Emoilihn should be discussing these matters, assuring that no such alliances be allowed to take on a one-sided commercial favoritism, and that no military alliance be formed. Any such betrayal of Emoilihn interests will be met with uniform resistance, north, south, east and west. Paronde cos revonddnnh." (Family will prevail.)

All present, Soda, Eenunh, Tinunh and her girls, Evannh's mother, are silent, but nod in agreement. Thimiannh's two commanders sit behind him, against the wall. I'm confident, though they don't nod, that they will take Thimiannh's order. I like their faces. They're stern, intelligent, listening.

"We were not the Government's 'business'," I say. "They had no interest in me, us. They made us their business. I only fell in love. I didn't ask the...blessings of any legal or religious entity. So now, I will make the Government my business, to make ass Emoilihn aware...that this...intrusion into my private matters...can be a...precedent...for intrusion into theirs. And that the diplomacy means other oomamnnh will come, so it is of concern to them, the decisions the Government makes for them, the...leadership decision-makers who make the big decisions for all the rest of...us. The time to know, to be aware decisions are about to be made, the time to act, is now, before. If we find ourselves in places...or...conditions...we don't want to be in, due to decisions made for us by leadership decision-makers, in commerce, in Government, in collusion, we have been misled...by definition. So we must...exert influence...in the conversation. Get the people...ass Emoilihn talking, thinking, exerting influence."

"My teacher has discussed these very issues, at school," Eevannh speaks up. "What happens to our economy if there are suddenly new commercial investments, or costs, or political alliances, military alliances. My teacher says we, the children, have to think about it because it may change our lives for the rest of our lives." Tinunh and the two other girls nod, something sage and thoughtful in their faces.

"We talk about these matters, the implications, my husband and I," Eevannh's mother says. "The neighbors do too. We're not...starting their interest, but we can make it more their interest. All we have to do is talk, and talk to more people, get it up in their level of interest. We can talk all day about our children, our husbands, what we are making for meals, the price of things, but if we talk about the implications of the..." She stops, seems reticent about going on, goes on, "ass Koobs..." she says, stops again, goes on again, "making big decisions without our...ability to comment, to say what we want, what we think, I know ass Emoilihn will take interest, self-interest. It's very motivating!"

Eevannh reaches up from the floor, takes her mother's hand.

I imagine a...talking campaign... Thimiannh has his soldiers, and the ones from Costaramannh to do some talking. The rest of us, a few acquaintances, a random conversation. We can start the conversation...and others are likely to carry it forward. There's no way of knowing how it will go, how many people can be reached, and whether they will see things as we're talking now. There's no way to be sure of how the...campaign will be...received by the Government types. But...we can try.

"I'll go to the mall, to the restaurant, arrange to play tonight, and tomorrow night," I tell them. Each night will be listed on the marquee as a 'One Night Stand; Coban Sahn Ass Oomam'. "I'll talk from the stage if I can think of a way to do it."

"Yes," Eenunh says. "You have to be...subtle. Simply invite them to think about the implications. We can't appear to be setting ourselves up in opposition to anyone. Just...just talking. Just people...just talking. I'll go do that. I'll arrange that."

I repeat telling her what to put on the marquee, the sandwich board sign they'll put in the hall. 'One Night Stand', even though I'll do it again tomorrow night.

Thimiannh goes with his commanders and me to the water-truck cavern, stops me at the dock. "I'll take the southern commanders into the desert," he says, "and see how the idea is received. I only want the soldiers to use our...talking points...once or twice in their conversations, try not to make it too obvious that we are trying to influence public opinion."

I watch them go, mount a truck, pull over to the spindle door. The commannh open it; the truck goes out. They close it behind.

I stand, listening to voices and noises echo in the cavern. I...feel...rather alone. I need to go...home...where someone's waiting.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/03/23 12:17 AM.

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43. A TALKING CAMPAIGN; Show Biz Must Go On.

All goes as planned. The soldiers agree, with a few abstentions...not everyone is cut out for conversation. Thiminannh says none objected to getting these topics into conversation; the abstainers just weren't sure they could do it with confidence. Most people aren't topical 'students', don't...pay attention to...world matters. I remember back on Earth, trying to discuss things that were in the news and finding people had no idea it was happening, and some showing no interest in learning about it. "Why do you buy into that?" a guy asked me. "Why involve yourself in something happening on another continent?" he went on.

Another man, when I tried to discuss something happening then, in the news, big topic all over the world, said, smirking skeptically, "Don't you think that if that was true it would come out?"
"If it was on the front page of the newspaper this morning, would you have read it?" I asked.
"I don't read the paper," he said.
"If it was on the six o'clock TV news, would you have seen it?" I asked.
"I don't watch the news," he said.
He essentially explained that he had no news source, did not pay attention to world news, national news, or local news unless it was something scandalous, prurient, or horrible.

A woman said, "Well, it happened a long time ago, but we don't need to know about it now."

I realized that was exactly the point, that it happened and we could see it happening again, now. Knowing how it began long ago, and how it played out, without a talking campaign, a human tragedy, was of the essence to not let it happen on that scale again, letting it get started and grow so that when humanity did rise up to stop it it was a gargantuan task, and a tragedy on a massive scale, for the people caught in it, a continent away, and reaching right into our homes.

Now, a planet away, the troubles of humanity, ongoing there, could be visited on ass Emoilihn here. I...I'm not the cause of it. I simply found myself here, and all of that is just happening around me, just like back on Earth. My concern is for humanity, here and there. None of our...people...need any more tragedy. I'm beginning to get the sense of...a...generation...missing here. The Terror Wars took large numbers of people. I imagine them, stacked...on the patio...each death a story of a life ended...family...ended...DNA...that might not have been passed on. It's not...what any of them planned or made happen. Perhaps they didn't see it coming, and so might be accurately accused of having 'let it happen'. But...basically...people just want to live and work and find a little love before the end. They don't want...most of them don't want to dominate anyone or take what anyone else has. They just want to have something of their own, a job, a home, a family. We...The People... are family. One family. Earthmen and Emoilihn must see themselves as one family, and guard against the predators and predations we all know all too well. We'll see. Maybe we'll...prevail. Maybe...we won't. That family will prevail, 'Paronde cos revondnnh', is a great slogan...and...people here seem sincere in...endorsing it as a guiding... phillosophy...but...we'll see.

My shows at the restaurant go well. Night one I wear my jeans and a pullover shirt, black cowboy boots, my white hat. Lots of common people, common clothes. I see they can't afford the menu. I ask a waitress to confirm what I think I'm seeing. She does. I mention it to the maitre d' during a break. He announces a discount of half price! They order and dine. They're so noisy I just play instrumentally until they quiet down as their meals are served. My guitar case gets a healthy splash of coins as people finish dining and leave. Wait staff seem quite pleased at their experience. I see them pocketing coins as they clear tables. The maitre d' brings more people in to the vacated tables. He clears tables himself, reducing himself to busboy for the business! And for family! I like the guy! More people are waiting in the hall. The maitre d' and bartender go out, take orders, come back, bring drinks into the hall. I see soldiers, men and women, in uniform, many escorting civilian women and men, boys and girls, some, young people, mixing, mingling, families. Many diners leave after eating, and people from the hall come in. I go on, non-stop. I find a place to mention the issues, only twice, before I feel a little...self-conscious about it...then I just play.

The second night I wear the blue sportcoat, black slacks, dress shoes, white hat. I take off the hat to talk to them, let them see my hair. There are more people dressed like me tonight, the wealthier Citizens. Good call on my part. They order readily from the menu, full price, sit, listen as I play and sing. Eenunh and Tinunh, Soda and Thin Man initiate applause. Others take it up, spontaneously. Fewer coins in my guitar case. That's okay. I mention the issues, immigration, coordination of two...peoples...alien to one another...and the coming of... whatever is to come, commercially, governmentally...societally. I don't know whether to tell them about my proposal to Eenunh. I think...I think everyone knows. Ass Oomam can't walk around here without people talking, telling whatever they know. And...Eenunh's presence here seems to have been...less well-known, her past exposed now...by...her relationship with The Alien. We'll see. We'll see how things go. Pessimism breathes over my left shoulder. Optimism...optimism is in Eenunh's smile. I love her!

I mention my...engagement...my intent to immigrate. They murmur in what I take to be a positive tone. I play a few songs, talk again, about matters of our two peoples' pending interaction.

"I...and you...have little or no influence on what our Governments will do, what companies will buy and sell. We should...have influence. We should be watching, listening, to make sure they don't make big decisions for all the rest of us...that lead us...or mislead us...into places...and conditions...we don't want to be in." I'm not completely happy with my 'Emoilihn' voice, my enunciation, but I think it worked well enough for most listeners.

The murmur of conversation doesn't seem to change. But the seeds are planted. I don't belabor the points. I play and sing. We're...my family...are going to be okay.

The night ends late, a crowd still spending money into the restaurant's cash box, so I stay until they begin to leave in obvious numbers. Eenunh took Tinunh home some time ago. I could see they were tired. Thin Man and Soda left early too. Tomorrow...tomorrow...is a big day.

At home, I don't bother the girls, pass by their door. They need their rest. There's nothing in my house to eat. I'm...not hungry. I shower. I lay down and think too much to sleep.

Eenunh...is coming...to my room. I sense it. I know it without...knowing it. I know when she's thinking of me...I think... I know...when she's about to come to me.

My door is unlocked. She hesitates. I jump up from the bed-hollow, start for the door. She opens it, comes in, locks it. I sit back on the edge. She comes, pulls her dress off. She's naked. She comes to me, leans against me, kisses me. I see the worry in her face, turn, open my sleeping bag. She climbs in. No words. It's...somehow...pleasant...and unpleasant. I know her worries. They're my worries. I take off my sweat pants, long-sleeve pajama shirt. It's cold in here, cool. I like it that way. I'm sure she doesn't. Women are always cold.

Eenunh's...affection...has become...very slow, intense. She...seems...to savor every touch, every kiss. I perceive that...intent...receive it...give it back with the same intent. What if... We worry.

"I'm scared, Gary," she says. Her matter-of-fact tone shows me her strength. She's not in a state of panic, or even anxiety. "I'm afraid of what...we've started. I'm afraid of what...people might do...to people who help us. The Sagribe followers...the Casah Sagribe...the 'Cold' one...they...can be as merciless as he was. He...was deposed...imprisoned...and his followers were suppressed...but still around, still exerting influence, and still are. They got him out. He's still the main Koobahbahnnh there. The northern Koobahbahnnh will have Emoilihn who still hold an allegiance to him. I...I don't know what...we'll encounter there.
Thimiannh...thinks there can be hostile factions, not thinking about us, just their own desire for power. Just like in Costaramannh. They may do something just to stir things up.
Soda says...our local Koobs may be...poisoning the conversation. They'll be there before we will. They may be gone already. Briggs...your Briggs is transporting them, they'll have time before we get there to...set the minds, if they are plotting...against us. I'm...scared."

"Who is with Tinunh?" I ask. I...know...she's not left alone. Eenunh tells me the friendly neighbor who carried the mirror is there, for security, corn-knife at the ready.

"Tinunh sleeps with her corn-knife, like we're out in the desert, out in the woods. We...have not lived...like this for many years. When we first came here, from Costarammannh, we lived like this, on guard, constantly ready to fight. Tinunh's rock collection began as weapons, stones to throw, to wield in her hand. But...gradually the city became a coherent city...a family city. We rebuilt our trust, our confidence in ass Emoilihn. People just wanted to live. And peace came. We...lived quietly, knew a couple of our neighbors. People didn't talk about the past, where they came from, what happened to them, their families, what they...had to do to survive. We just...lived. Everyone had their own story, the same story, the Terror Wars, losses...family.
Now...now it's all...everyone knows...too much...about us. They know about The Alien. Your alien ass," she jokes, kisses my neck. "They know about you and me. They...speculate about our...sex. They make jokes. I'm...worried about...how all this... Should we not...get married? I want you. I want us to live together. I don't want any...legal...problems. But...maybe... maybe we should focus on your immigration status first. Get you here, as an Emoilihn citizen...first...and later..."

"I don't think we can change that now, Eenunh," I tell her. "I think...as you say...we're already known...our intent known...and...I think...I don't think the Emoilihn have any problem with me or me and you. I think...they support us as a family, and with a...a right to make these decisions for ourselves. They should be concerned about the rest of...the Leadership Decision-Makers, Emoilihn, Human, and individuals. We...we can't guarantee there won't be problems. But...that will happen whether you and I exist or not. We don't make those decisions. We have no more control over those decisions than...we do over anyone else's lives. But...we... are making... I have made...my decision...about my life. I want to spend my life with you. I can live here. I can love this planet like I love my planet Earth. I..."

I want to say, 'I love you.' The words stick in my throat. I'm...in a panic...what if...what if Eenunh's...fears are... more important? What if she's decided these questions? I want...to give her the chance to do whatever she feels is best. I don't want to...obligate her to...put her own feelings aside and go with mine.

"Eenunh," I say, and again, "Eenunh...I'll do whatever you want to do. Whatever you decide, you tell me and I'll do it."

"I have decided," she says. "I have decided on you." She rolls, rises over my chest, to face me, puts her right leg over mine, cooperates to get my right arm under her, puts her right arm across my chest. "I have decided...this...is how life goes...and...we will fight...literally fight...in the streets, at our door, in the hallways, in the forests, the desert, the cities, if that's what it takes...to have our life together. They...the Koobs, the Government, the soldiers, the nosy neighbors, can do what they want. That's their decision. Mine, is to have you, in my life, to have the life we choose. If it's a life of fighting, we will fight. If they let us live and leave us to it, we will live. I'll go live in the desert or the mountain forest or some faraway city, if that's what it takes. Will you...live like that...if we have to?"

"I will live like that, if we have to," I assure her.

The night goes on, and what happens...is between Eenunh and I, and none of your damned business!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/03/23 12:34 AM.

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44. TO CASAH SAGRIBE GARIBE; A Lonely Little Caravan.
Turomay = Appeal.
Promina = Lawyer.

Morning. Eenunh slipped out of bed, some time during the night, dragging her nakedness over me. She kissed my neck as she went. I listened as she showered, imagining her face, busy with the routine, uncluttered with...her...our...worries. The dim light lit her lovely form as she pulled her dress on. She's aware I'm awake. She kisses me, says,
"It's still early. Sleep some more. I'll come and wake you."

I do as I'm told. Sleep comes easily. I have a dream...
Eenunh, Tinunh, me...walking,
packbags, white street surface...ruins.
We're talking, laughing.
We're happy.
It's a familiar feeling.

As foretold, Eenunh is there, stroking my cheek, my neck with the back of her fingers. I...think...I was aware when she came in, but felt no need to fully awaken. She has all my things laid out on the floor, goes back to repacking them. I'm... still in a state of sleep, but aware of her there on the floor. Now, I watch. Her grace...her graceful movement is soothing. I like just watching her. I want to see her beautiful hands, see them in my mind since I can only see them in a blur from this distance, in the dim light. I sit up on the edge of the bed-hollow. I could use more sleep. She looks around at me, smiles. I lie back down, stretch, settle. She's there, says,

"Get up oomam ass," in Emoilihn, in her Emoilihn voice. I do as I'm told. She's gone. My pack-bag is by the door. My guitar too. My corn-knife is laid atop the pack-bag. Canteen. I shower. I'm hungry. I wonder if she has anything for breakfast. I get all the toilet leaves from the bathroom, all the ones on the kitchenette counter, add them to my pack-bag. I see my blue blazer, carefully rolled in the bag, look around the room. Taking more than I'm leaving behind. Out, across the hall, in.

Yes! Eenunh's got cereal! Milk! Small slice of gingercake. There's a meatball, hot! I gobble. Tinunh's up, singing, "Hit The Road, Jackie!" Everyone seems in a great mood, happy as if we're going trekking in the desert or...to the forest...any day of our lives...but...today, today we go north, turomay, appeal, to a new Koob panel, an unknown city, hostiles maybe, friendlies, hopefully. We'll see. I try to stay positive in demeanor...but...I'm forceably grim. I...am afraid. This...is...danger. We'll have to take on a more war-zone awareness from the time we leave Entemannh Garibe. Hell...we're already in war-zone awareness. I'm ready. I will do what we have to do to attend to our business, whatever the rest of the... this world decides to do. Nothing matters but our lives, our lives, our hopes to live...as a family. I imagine us hunting in the waters, going to the forest in the dry season, in autumn. I listen to Tinunh sing, watch Eenunh doing dishes. The feeling is now...familiar. I am happy!

We go. In the hall...commannh, no neighbors. I wave, in greeting. They don't acknowledge it. That's okay. They follow...at a distance. In the octo-chamber, people, and commannh, but, they all stop moving, and stand, in silence. They come behind us as we go down the ramp to the pub. I see them out of the corner of my eye, over my shoulder. I'm a little shocked to see the place is full, but...the quiet murmuring falls totally silent as we come down the ramp. Commannh stand by the spindle-door, facing in. Eenunh crosses the room. The male commannh opens the small hinged door in the spindle-door. Eenunh stops; looks at the woman commannh, back at me. She turns, looks around the room.

"Thank you all," she says, quietly, her Emoilihn voice elegant, eloquent. "We hope to be home soon, and to live our lives here, among family, no matter what the..." she hesitates, goes on, "the Government decides. I hope to marry ass oomam, Gary, to make my home with him, to grow old among my people, ass Emoilihn. Perhaps...I won't have that chance, that choice. We don't know what we will encounter in the north. We know there is danger, that some may try to...use us...our quest for...to live our lives as we choose...as family...to advance their own agendas. There are always radical thinkers among us, who think they can...'fix it with my gun'. But we...my family..."

The male commannh has closed the door, the outside light shut off, the cold air, stopped. The room is almost dark. No one is moving. The...mood is somber, frighteningly...different. I look from face to face. They are firm, resolute, grim but...I'm sure they're here for us. Something has changed, but not in the Emoilihn, The People.

She pulls Tinunh to her. Tinunh turns to face the room. I step beside Eenunh. She intertwines her left arm with my right. I put my left hand on Tinunh's shoulder. She takes it, holds it with both hands, pulls it under her chin.

Eenunh picks up where she left off, "My family will fight for our freedom...and yours."

She turns to me, hugs me, offers her mouth for a kiss. Tinunh turns, hugs us both, and we stand for a few seconds, a few lovely seconds in a family huddle.

There is a noise, a shuffling of someone's feet, the scraping of a chair. I look. A man has gotten to his feet. He leans on the table, then stands erect. Others...the noise of many feet, the scraping of chairs, rise to their feet. The whole room then stands! Their silence is more powerful to me than the raucous voice of the crowd when we left last time!

A Blueboy, the older one of the two who run the pub, comes out of the crowd with three bottles of blue. He seems to exchange looks with the commannh. I don't turn to see their faces. Tinunh takes the bottles, one by one, stows them in her bag. She hugs him. He looks at me, says "9-1-1". It's a sale, not a gift, but...I think the 'sale' is a way of...getting around...a...perhaps a Government prohibition against supporting us. He turns, walks back to the back of the room by the ramp. The other Blueboy joins him there.

The noise of the opening door, the light from the sky is back, the cold wind blows in.

"Ready?" Eenunh says, brightly, smiling, golden irises a'flicker.

"Ready!" Tinunh and I say together! We go.

Out on the patio, no crowd of well-wishers. The commannh team has come out with us, closes the door. The commannh are abundant to left and right on the patio, teams, ten or twelve of them. I see them stamping their feet in the cold, at pub entrances up and down the patio, their breath steaming into the air.

Gray overcast. Light snow. Red Sunstarlight on the desert. Shadow of Entemannh Garibe in the morning light, far out across the snowy desert.

There are only two trucks on the patio, as we walk toward them. Closer, I see the four escort trucks from Costarammanh, already out on the desert, on the trace. The sixty-four soldiers are out, milling about. I raise my arm in greeting, that general direction. I don't perceive any return greeting. They begin to load up. We get to the trucks. Commannh keep their distance. The two who followed us out of the pub have moved off to stand by the cliff face, filling a gap between others.

Thimiannh! He's come out of one truck, opens the doors to the other. His face is stern, but he grins, greets Tinunh, Eenunh, reaches for my hand. I transfer my guitar case to my left, and shake his hand, oomam style. He grins.

"Off for another adventure!" he says, brightly. I look up to the balcony. Koob-less. I wonder if they're watching from somewhere, seeing their handiwork, their attempt to shut down our...popular support. I wave, sweeping my eyes across the faces of the commannh, wave to the empty cliff face, the spindle-door to the Government Complex. If anyone's there, I want them to see me, one last time before we go to our fate. I raise both arms, yell to my left, "Thank you!" and to my right, "Thank you!" I repeat it in Emoilihn. Eenunh repeats it, in Emoilihn. Tinunh waves

We get in. Soda and a soldier are seated inside on the benches. Thin Man comes in, closes the doors. We stow our bags. Weapons bags are on the shelves. Thin Man goes to the passenger seat. Everyone sits, but me. They look at me. I go to the driver's seat. The other truck has begun to roll, approaches the ramp, and down. Two escort trucks roll out in front of our lead as we arrive at the trace. Two wait until we've passed by. We find our spacing, the ever-present wind blows snow away from the trucks, to the northeast. We find our pace. We roll, toward The White Road.

Familiar sights take me into reverie, and...after some time, from my reverie. I see the thorn-tree hillock. It's as cold and desolate as before, but, I remember it with warm fondness. We'll go there again when the weather's good. We'll throw rocks in the darkness. We'll lie on the stony peak and see the million stars. Me, and my family. Maybe we'll ask others to come along, friends, Emoilihn family. We'll bring back berries, openly, to the pharmacists who can make the medicine to ease our aches and pains.

Rolling. I see the cairn! I note the landscape, want to know where it is...so I can visit with my family, again. Tinunh can remember her kindness, her insight of long ago, the faces only she saw. Does she still remember their names? Someone should know who is buried there.

The rise...to The White Road. We're there. Trucks go up. One turns south! One north. Our lead goes north. I follow. They go to the top of the rise and just over, and stop. I pull up behind.

"I want to have a little talk," Thin Man says, "to let everyone know what...we know."

I leave the motor running. We all get out. I leave the gull-wing down, go out the back. Last man out, I close the doors. Ooo! Cold, cold wind. I put on my gloves.

Thin Man steps up off the road, onto the rise at the left edge, elevated. He motions for me to come up, Eenunh and Tinunh, up, Sodaensus up. We obey. The soldiers gather around. The ones from the truck that turned south have deployed, come back. One of our following escort trucks has also turned south, soldiers deployed, come back to hear what Thimiannh has to tell us.

"The Koobs have..." he hesitates, goes on, "commanded the military to make sure we're not using military resources for civilian purposes. To that end they refused leave for some of my squad...three soldiers...young soldiers...who do not have leave privileges yet. So we're down to nine...plus...the civilians, ass oomam, Gary, Eenunh, my wife, the promina, Sodaensus," he stops, remembers, adds, "and Tinunh. Those of you here who were able to take leave, to help this family travel in security, to try to secure their lives, to live as they choose to live. I am in your debt for your sacrifice. They sent about half the soldiers from Costaramannh home. That's good. It will be good for them to get home to their families, to tell our story there.
The road ahead is unknown. As you saw, the sendoff today was quite different from last time. The Koobs commanded that no crowd be allowed out on the patio, that no open display of support or protest be allowed. They put it in formal, written orders. The commannh got the same orders, to suppress any show of protest or support. I'm sure they just put 'protest' in there to make it appear impartial, but...I believe...and it is only my belief, that they are against us...for reasons of their own...whatever they might be. We all know that Government can...intrude...into our lives, sometimes at the whim of one or two leadership decision-makers, and make life more difficult. Who sits to wield Government authority is of extreme importance. It usually doesn't last long as they find out they can't enforce their petty rules and rulings on many people before all the people stand and protest. The Emoilihn are a free people, and value our freedom...know...that if we stand by and let them carve out some group...someone... who it is legal to discriminate against, it is just a matter of time before they fit all of us into some group, even if it's just a group who disagree with them. So...we stand together. We go...today...together.
I ask that you continue to obey our command structure, to take orders, to think on your own, to accomplish...what is now a...civilian mission, an Emoilihn mission, to support Eenunh Entemannh, her daughter Tinunh, and ass oomam, the alien, Gary E. Andrews. I don't know what she sees in him," Thin Man says, his hand on my shoulder, "but I stand with her for her right to see it!" He grins at me. The soldiers snicker, some laugh heartily. I feel my face blush in the cold wind.

"Paronde cos revondnnh!" one shouts! Others, not all, but many, repeat it.

"We have lost three-quarters of our escort," he goes on. "We have a strong force, but don't know how we will be received. Perhaps it is better that we don't arrive in force, to allay the fears of those in Casah Sagribe Garibe. We are not invaders. We are not 'occupiers'. We are...visitors...family from the south, come seeking official attention from the Government...to a purpose, and familial welcome from ass Emoilihn. Will the Government let us come? Will ass Emoilihn welcome us? We will find out. Let's go! North! To Casah Sagribe Garibe!"

We come down off the side of the road, me first, turning to offer my hand to the ladies. They all give me their beautiful smiles, their beautiful hands, come safely down. Thimannh slip! Busts his ass! I offer my hand. He's up, grinning. Soldiers come, brush fingertips with us. The girls keep moving toward the truck. Thin Man and I do too. As we get there the soldiers finish their tribute, go off down the road to the three south-bound trucks. We mount up, begin to roll, get to a pace, and I'm able to relax and just steer. The Sunstar lights things beautifully for a while longer, red light on the snowy desert, the pines. Then, it is above the overcast, and it is a soft light, easy to ignore, to just drive, to think, or not think, just...go.

Soon I see the road rising more into hills. The desert is further away, more pines scattered over the landscape on the right, thicker forests, pines and deciduous, on my left.

Then, snow. Again, up the road head there is no vehicle track in the snow. No one has come this way since the new snow fell. What's up? We're slowing, stop. The lead escort troops are out on the road. They're...they're unloading...something from the truck. It's a snowplow! They carry it to the bow, attach it somehow. We avail ourselves of the stop for a toilet break. Women go to the left side of the road. Men to the right. I...have to squat...so I undress from my coat and...execute my task. By the time I'm ready to dress again my ass is frozen! Cold hands welcome my gloves. I ball my fists up inside the gloves, try to warm my fingers against each other. The wind is relentless. Let it blow. We're still coming to Cold Sagribe.

The troops are mounting up. I count fourteen getting back in the escort truck, not sixteen. I count seven getting back in our lead truck. Ours is our rear point truck. Just three trucks. There is no escort truck behind us. I had thought, wrongly, even after out stop for Thimiannh's talk, that there would be one still behind, like the one ahead...but...no. I worry that I misperceived that. Some...failing of my mind. We are a...lonely...little...caravan. We are family, and family will prevail.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/03/23 12:50 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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Top 100 Poster
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 4,231
Likes: 38

The snow gets deeper, in places, drifts, the further north we go. The deeper it gets, the slower we go. At a toilet break Thin Man assigns the soldier to take over driving. I get to sit with Eenunh, Tinunh, and Soda.

"Lay down," Eenunh insists. I do what I'm told. I entertain them with groans, saying, "Oh lawd! Let them old people lay down!" Eenunh puts her fingers on my lips, signal to shut the hell up! I squint through tired eyes, see her smiling down at me. A kiss. Too tired to kiss back. Road weary. Miles. Miles and miles.

I feel as if I could sleep. I lay quietly, eyes closed, let the hum of the engine and wheels sooth me. I hear the girls talking but don't know what they're saying. Sleep comes.

I awake with a start! There's...excitement in the voices!

"Where did they go?" Thimiannh is asking.

"I don't know!" the soldier replies. There's anxiety in his voice.

"What happened?" Soda inquires.

"In the trees we lost sight of them. We had to slow down to negotiate shell craters or...something...snow-covered obstacles in the roadway," Thimiannh says. "There were soldiers and commannh at the side of the road and they directed us to bear right through that. We're still on the same street. I think another truck got in front of us and went slow, weaving left and right around obstacles in the road, holes and lumps under the snow. Then, it sped off. I thought it was one of ours until it sped away. And we followed the track in the snow, and saw them again, or saw that one truck, and then they sped away again."

I sit up! It's dark, not totally, but dark. I feel a literal pain in my ass! I am afraid!

"We're still following the track," the soldier says. "But...is it their track? We should be able to see them now, in this curve. They should not be so far ahead that we can't see them! Our people would not have left us so far behind. There's only one track. I don't think two trucks could make one track so consistently."

I can see the snow isn't very deep, maybe six inches. I can see the long curve of a street, like in Costaramannh.

"Are we in the city? Are we in Sagribe?" I ask. "Yes!" several voices answer.

Tinunh is popping clips into rifles! Eenunh is too. Soda grabs for a weapons bag. Thin Man is reaching into his. I reach for mine. Tinunh squeezes past me, a moment's eye contact, her hand on my shoulder. She goes forward and pops clips in two rifles in the soldier's bag. I find the only bag left on a shelf behind me and open it. Two rifles, two clips. I feel for the clips I put in my coat pockets in Costaramannh, still there. I pull each one out and look. The flechettes are there.

"Should we stop?" the soldier is asking. "Should we go back? Look! These tracks are not our forward escort and our lead truck! This is a single vehicle that ran through here once. It looks like a new track in fresh snow! This is..."

Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip!

Something is hitting the left side of the truck!

Splinters of the white material fly in from the left and richochet off the right side!

They're hitting high! I hear impacts lower but no penetration!

"Everyone low!" Thimiannh yells! The girls are down before I can think! I fall on my knees, spin to face the back doors!

Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip!

Suddenly the truck lurches to the right!

"They've hit the tires!" the soldier yells. "I can't steer!"

We stop! Everyone falls forward. We're up! I'm at the back doors! I peep, and duck! Peep! Duck! I don't see much of anything in the dim red light. It must be early evening. The Sunstar must be below the overcast.

Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip!

"They're hitting the back door!" I yell. No penetration!

I need to piss! Really need to piss!

"We need to get out of here! Out of the truck, into that house...those ruins on the right!" Thimiannh is saying. I can't see what he's talking about but trust his judgment!

"We need to go out this gull-wing, all of us, and get cover!" he yells. Thip-Thip is blowing holes in the side of the truck again! "Bring everything! We may have to spend the night out here! Your bags may stop a flechette! We need to go in stack-up, one after another, to that wall! This may be a trap! They may have pinned us down here to get us to come out! They may be waiting. But we need to go now before they have a chance to improve their position! The truck is no cover! Is everyone ready?"

I'm not ready! No one is ready! We all strap our pack-bags and weapons bags around our necks, left and right. We're ready! Each person falls in behind the soldier, now in between the seats, and Thimiannh still in the passenger seat. Soda is in front, Eenunh, Tinunh...and me.

The gull-wing goes up! Thin Man is out! The soldier, out! Soda, Eenunh, Tinunh...out! Out! Out! I struggle between the seats, my bags snagging!

Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! I throw my right leg out, bust my nuts on the window sill! Fall! Get up! Run!

I see all of them leap up onto and over the wall of a ruined building! A porch roof is collapsed down over where a door might have been in the middle! There are windows, on each side, no roof.

The wall looks about four feet high! I run to it, slipping in the snow, know I can't leap it! It's five feet high!

I run right where the corner of the building is broken down, sling myself back, in through that corner, fall hard on broken rock! I hear the 'Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip!' of flechettes whiz through the air! I feel debris, hear it hit my coat, from where flechettes hit the wall! I roll onto my belly, elbow crawl out of a room into what was once a hallway. There are doorless doorways at my right and down the hall to my left!

I belly-crawl down the hall, look to my left, see Eenunh's back through a wide doorway, once the foyer of the house, Tinunh against the door in the wall they leapt over.

"Gary!" she says, reaches toward me.

To my right, a hallway back through the center of the house, toward the back of the ruin, I see Soda, following the disappearing legs of Thin Man, or the soldier, going back to my right, the left side of the ruin!

"Eenunh! Stay there! Keep your position! If they come over the wall you've got them! Tinunh, watch your mother's back! If they come from the sides or behind..."

Eenunh turns! Even in the dark I can see her face is terrified! She calms. It's...a transformation. Her beauty...ruined by terror...restored in grim determination...ruined by that as well. I watch the golden irises flicker, fast, furious, curious.

"I'm going to try to flank them outside to the right of you!" I tell her. Soda and Thin Man went to our left! If it's better back here to keep moving away, I'll come back for you!"

"Agreed!" she says. "We're in a good hole here, cover on three sides. Go! If...we have to leave from here...we'll be making for the center of the city, the Government complex. If...we can't find you...try to go there. Gary...I...I love you! I love you!"

The prospect of being separated terrifies me! I turn, go, before my face betrays me.

"Eenunh..." I say, choking. "I love you."

I elbow crawl down the hall, through the snow to where I saw Soda and the legs. I don't see them to my right, a hallway, a doorway to the outside, no door. There's a strong smell of burnt wood. There's a back door, no door. I go left, down the opposite hallway, toward another doorway, no door. The floor is filled with loose debris under the snow that hurts my elbows, pelvis, ribs and thighs. The bags are cumbersome. Where the door once was, leading out into the weedy yard, weeds stick up through the snow about six inches deep. There are dark bushes, a small copse of large pine trees. There's another ruin over there, the house next door. The dim light is getting darker. I look to my left. There is a low stone wall out along the snowy road. I see the front of the truck.

There's a shape! Moving there! By the driver's side tire! The tire is flat! Behind it I can see space between the bottom of the truck and the snow, someone crouched there.

He sidles forward, peeps out around the bow! I can see his butt and legs below the bow of the water-truck.

I point my rifle that way but can't aim at him! He goes back! I see his feet as he moves down the driver's side!

I get up and run for the bushes! I'm there! Down!

The bushes are thick, leaves still on them, some kind of succulent, thick green leaf. No protection from flechettes, but...cover. I can see through the bushes in places, keep my cover.

I work on out a few more steps, to where I can see the whole truck, front to back. He's back by the front tire! I aim! He moves back, stays there! It's getting darker. I aim at the place where he might peep out again, take a deep breath, exhale, inhale again, exhale. I breathe normally. He comes! I can see his lower back! I inhale, lightly, hold, and fire!


He flops out face down onto the roadway!

I hit him!

He struggles to get back over behind the tire. He doesn't get fully behind it, just his head and and torso. He's on his belly! I see him from the waist, the hips down, legs twisting left and right in the snow. I could inflict another wound, firing through the snow a bit! I wonder if I should. I wonder where I hit him! I aimed for the small of his back, the big target. How bad a wound do these flechette rifles make? Are they...humanitarian, designed to wound, but not necessarily to kill? I have no idea.

There's another man! He's coming across the road! I aim but he's down beside the first one before I can get ready.

Another one, off to the right, coming across the road! I aim! He's coming right at me! I fire! He goes down! He thrashes to his left, back to his right! He's wounded, but not dead.

I...decide...he should be...dead. I aim.

He stops for a second...sitting on his butt...and I fire. aiming at his chest! He jerks, pitches backward! Lies still! I turn my aim back to the two by the truck. I can only see the legs of the first man. Where's the other one?

He comes from behind the truck running toward the wall!

"Eenunh!" I yell! "One coming!"

I stand up, aim over the bushes at his head bobbing above the wall! I fire! I can't aim!

He leaps up on the wall on the other side of the fallen porch roof!

I hear the 'Thip-Thip!' of many flechettes!

His? Eenunh's? I don't know!

I add my own fire at the red-rimmed, dark silhouette on the wall!

He falls, lands on the wall, falls off! I can't tell if he fell outside or in! He would have fallen into the room I came in, the corner room! I worry about my girls!

No more sounds of shooting! Silence.

I don't know what to do!

The sky is black now, a light maybe reflecting off the snow on the air, the overcast, low, light reflecting off the snow, showing the slate gray cloud.

I move further out along the bushes to a new position, cover by a pine tree trunk, take aim at the legs on the road, fire! I see snow fly up, by the legs, but no movement in them, just from the impact of the shot. If...he was alive, that would have hurt!

I watch, looking all around me, across the road, to my right, behind. It's getting too dark. The snow silhouettes everything. Everything looks like somebody crouching, hiding, waiting. I need to piss!

I hear Thip-Thip somewhere to my left, where I think Soda and Thin Man went. The sound is a little distant.

I need to go out a little more, get more angle on the place where the girls are. The...enemy... seem to be focused there. They know where we went. How many more are out there? I think of the squads of sixteen who poured out of our escort trucks, tight stackups, ably securing a location with eyes up, guns on.

Are these even soldiers? They might be civilian gangs. Hell there could be thirty of them!

I hear Thip-Thip across the road! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! I work to my right, forward along the bushes. I'm aware my own movements may be silhouetted on the snow. The bushes and evergreen trees overhead may offer some shade, some cover. There's another ruin next door. That first place looked like a house, the floor layout, five doors, front, back, two on each side. This looks like it was once a neighborhood of houses. I see two doorways on the side, a door hanging on the lower hinge, can't see down the hall.

Movement! Two! They're coming across the road! I open fire! No hits! Moving targets! I should have waited!

"Two coming, Eenunh!" I yell! They turn toward me!

Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Flechettes whisk through the air, through the bushes! Leaves fly!

Targets coming at me, instead of across my field of fire! I inhale, lightly, hold, aim...Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip! Hit! Turn! Thip-Thip! Thip-Thip!

A hit!

A hit! They're down but still moving! One's trying to crawl back across the road! I aim for his torso...Thip! Thip! He stops. The other one isn't moving. I fire another double round into him! He doesn't move.

More Thip-Thip off to the distant left. I hope Soda and Thin Man and the soldier are sending rounds and not receiving them!

I scan the other side of the street. There's always one more son-of-a-bitch than you counted on.

And there he is!

He's in a ruin on the other side! He peeps out of a broken doorway, ducks back. Peeps again. Ducks back. I'm aiming for his next peep. When I see movement I fire! He falls! He wasn't peeping but moving back into the ruin, to reposition or escape. I aim, put another double-round in the darkness where he fell.


It's Thimiannh! Off to my right!

Scared the hell out of me! I need to piss!

"Thin Man!" I reply.

"Lay for a while!" he says. He's not yelling. I can't see where he is, somewhere to my right, inside the building by the sound. The side door there, like in the one where my girls are. "Wait and see if more are there."

"Neh!" I say, in a spoken voice, not yelling. I'm scanning the landscape.

He speaks again, his voice near enough to hear, even though he's really quiet, saying,

"Did you see where Soda went?"

"I saw her go off to our left," I tell him. "I saw legs ahead of her. I thought it was you. Must have been your soldier. When I got back there they weren't in the building."

I hear distant Thip-Thip!

Off to our left. Somewhat more distant, I think. They're moving.

"I think that fire is them, on down the street somewhere!" I tell him.

"I...I need to go to her!" he says. "Can you hold this position?"

"I can try," I tell him. "Go." He comes out of the ruin to my right, practically duck walks across the yard, past the bushes, and hustles to the doorway I came out of. I only glance away from the street to see him make that crossing, afraid to take my eyes off the ruins across the street.

"Eenunh and Tinunh are by the front door of this house!" I tell him.

He stops there, inside the ruin. I take my eyes off the street to glance at him, back to the street. I glance again. He's gone.

I want to know Eenunh and Tinunh are okay. No soldiers have crossed here after that one, but...what if...

He was up on the wall, could have pumped rounds in before he fell, could have gotten in, still deadly! Can I risk moving? I have a bit of a view off to my right on the curving road, a narrow view off to my left behind the truck, past the corner of the ruin the girls are in. The truck's in the way for a large space. I listen. I listen. I scan. I scan. I let my eyes blur, hoping I can spot movement.

There! Something moved! It's at the right rear corner of the house across the street! That house has part of a roof on it, there in the back. The movement was at the right rear corner. I'm watching. I don't see anything there now. I can see the left front corner of the house just past the front of our truck. I'm watching, watching, watching, eyes left, eyes right, eyes on the door where I saw the other guy. Maybe this is the same guy. Maybe I didn't hit him and he went out the back.


He's running from the left corner toward the truck! I can't see him! The truck's in the way!

He doesn't stop, comes behind the truck, running for the wall!

"Eenunh! One coming!" I yell in English! Wish I'd yelled in Emoilihn! No time!

I stand, aim over the bushes, see him leap up, fire, many times, spraying inside the ruin! I fire until I can't see him! I got six sets of Thip-Thip off but he kept coming! He got over the wall! I run back into the ruin, stumbling on broken rock or bricks in the snow! I turn down the hallway! I don't see him! I don't see Eenunh, Tinunh! The foyer area is dark! I keep coming, crouching, weapon ready for close quarters conflict! I get to the front hallway. I peep around the corner! Duck back! There! He's crouching on the floor in the hall outside the corner room where I came in! Silhouette against the snow out in the yard! He's facing away!

I pull the trigger! Nothing happens! I pull again! Panic! I grab under my pack-bag, trying to find the handle of my corn-knife!

He's up! He's turning! His weapon hits the wall! He's coming! I'm on him, grab the barrel of his weapon as he comes down with it! Push it to the wall! Thip-Thip sparks on the wall, richochets down the hall!

I pull my corn-knife and hack at him!

He blocks me with his left arm! I hold the barrel of his rifle and pin it against the wall! He fires! More flechettes richochet off the wall, Thip-Thip! sparking on the surface! I hold tight to the barrel! He's strong, even with one hand!

I hack again! Cut his arm! He turns away! I hack at his neck and and left shoulder! Hit! Hit again! He's down!

I...know...Eenunh...has come...is there...behind me! I turn to flatten my face and chest against the wall! Grab the barrel with both hands, lift it skyward!

I hear Thip-Thip! from behind me!

He falls back, to his left, against the wall, falls forward, hitting the opposite wall on his face!

I raise the rifle up as he drops to his knees! Thip-Thip! It fires once more into the night sky!

Eenunh has put two in him! She's leaning against my back. Puts two more! He doesn't move. I untangle the strap of his rifle from around him, put it over my own head. I look back. Eenunh has gone.

I clean my blade in the snow, green blood, on white snow. I sheathe it, look at the corpse. I feel my knees tremble. Eenunh is there, her hand on my back. When I turn, she's gone again.

"Eenunh?" I speak, normal voice.

"Neh! Gary!" I hear her voice. I fear the tremulous sound of it. I move toward her, in the 'good hole' she was in. She's there! Tinunh's face, still crouching, back against the front wall, grim little face, no fear. Tinunh peers out the door, still in place, where I can see the snow in the yard, to the right of the fallen porch roof. She shifts to that side, peers out to the left. Looks back at us.

"Are you hurt?" I ask, in English, and hear Eenunh ask, "Are you hurt?" in Emoilihn.

We're not hurt! Now, what to do? Should I get back outside, hold this position as Thimiannh asked? Should they stay in their hidey-hole? I feel like we should move. I don't like the thought of others still out there, or reinforcements coming. But it's all unknown. If we leave here...

Our truck's got two flat tires, left front and right rear. It's no good. I don't know if we have a spare, but even one wouldn't get us rolling again. We were following a track in the snow. These bastards have a truck here somewhere.

"What should we do?" I ask. I tell her what I've just told you.

"I don't know where we are," she says. "How far into the city are we? I think we crossed four loops. There could be four more, if it's like Costaramannh. If we go out in the open, they could be waiting anywhere. It's dark. It's cold. I don't know what to do."

Tinunh stands up, actively listening, not to us, but over the wall.

Eenunh looks at her, looks at me. "I think staying here any longer is a bad idea. We need to find Thimiannh and Soda, and the soldier. We need to all get back together and decide. Or we need to go on without them. Let's go looking for them. Then we'll decide."

"Neh!" Tinunh says.

"Agreed," I say. I go to the dead man, take his rifle, search his pockets, no clips, some coins. Since I have them in my hand I take them, put them in my pocket. He has a paper in his breast pocket. I hand it to Eenunh. It's too dark to read it. He has a knife on a belt. I take it, cut his belt, slip the sheath off, put it in my pack-bag. He has what feels like some soft food in gray paper in his coat pocket. I take it. He wears a toboggin. I take it. I see the first guy's rifle. It fell in, barrel down, but against the corner where I came in. He fell out. I take it. With two more rifles strapped around my neck, hopefully with plenty of rounds still in their clips, I feel well armed.

The girls crouch and move past me, back through the ruin, go the way Soda went. They stumble on debris under the snow. I back to that point, eyeing the wall, out toward the road. This could be a vulnerable movement. I...fear...greatly. I need to piss!

The girls are waiting at the doorway on the left side of the ruin. There's another house there, another ruin, no roof.

"Let's go around the back of the house," Eenunh says. "Look! There's the tracks Soda and Thimiannh left. That's the way they went!"

"Yes!" I say, and with that they go! I follow, eyeing across the street. Tinunh reaches the corner of the other house, stops and aims her weapon out toward the street! Eenunh goes to the back door, weapon pointed in. I come and pass Tinunh. She comes behind me, passes me and Eenunh. I take Eenunh's place, aiming into the house, as she goes on to TInunh. We go to the far corner, repeat the relay process, follow the tracks in the snow. We cross the open yard, go behind another house, follow the tracks. Soon we're at an alleyway, the alleys that run down the middle of the space between the curving streets. The tracks go to the right, away from the center of the city. They go into the back door of a house with a roof! I don't like this. Rooms. Places to hide. It's the same layout, a five-door house.

"Look, Eenunh!" I tell her. "I can see three sets of footprints. This is our people!"

We go through the house, quietly, stopping, listening. Tinunh leads, peeping and ducking back at doorways. The front door is standing open. We gather there, Tinunh aiming back through the hallway we've come through. We see the tracks in the front yard, three sets, going to a hedge by the road, positions left and right, then on out. We can see from there they cross the street we came in on, go into the yard there, a slight rise. We all look at each other, and go! At a run! Cross the open space! We're noisy! The tracks go behind the houses, turn back toward the ambush site. We can see them along the back of this house and the next one. The snow is soft, frozen grass beneath it making occasional crunching noises. We move as stealthily as the snow allows, Eenunh setting the pace. Tinunh steps in her mother's footprints. We relay from corner to back doors, to corners, across between houses.

A truck! The back of a truck, parked between a couple houses up, about across from the ruin where we took cover. Between two houses ahead I see our truck, the bodies in the road. I see the guy who fell back off the wall, face down in the snow.

"There! Eenunh," I say, "behind that house is a truck! There may still be attackers with the truck! Let's...let's get off to the back of the yards. There's an alley! We can see the tracks from there, but have some cover behind the walls if they start shooting!"

"No!" she says. "Let's stay with the tracks, close to the houses. Thin Man stayed here. If they shoot we can get into or beside or out in front of the ruins and have some shelter!"

"Agreed!" I say, deferring to what I hope is a better plan.

"There's someone moving on the road!" I say. I watch a man...a soldier... And Thimiannh! Soda! They're heading for the truck! We move quickly on, making more noise than I'm comfortable with. We're at the house where the truck is. I call out before I can see him,


He calls back, "Gary!"

We come from behind the house with the partial roof as they come in off the road.

"I need to check something!" I tell Eenunh. "I think I shot one in here." I go back to the second building, duck under a partially collapsed roof, and see him there by the front door, dark stains on the snow. I put another double-round in him. Thip-Thip! He doesn't move. I go through his pockets, remove all I find there. Another piece of paper. I take his rifle. I go back out the way I came. Everyone is on alert. They heard the 'Thip-Thip!'

"Can we take their truck?" I ask. I hand Thimiannh the paper. Eenunh hands him the other one. The soldier is in the truck. The engine starts. We move to the back, get in, close the doors, pull them as quietly as possible. Click! Click! We're rolling. Thin Man and the soldier put their gull-wings up, rifles at the ready. Soda leans her back on the back of Thimannh's seat, her rifle barrel out the opening! Eenunh does the same behind the soldier. I think about opening the back doors, decide against it.

Out on the road we roll what seems slowly through the snowy street, avoiding lumps of debris under the snow. There's no track ahead of us. It's scary, moving slow when I want to speed away from here!

Soon we cross a loop and we're in a section where the snow has been cleared from the road. They close the gull-wings. It feels warm in here by comparison. There are cars in driveways, parked on the street. There's no light in the houses, but the sidewalks have been shoveled. At a loop there are trucks moving both ways. We keep going, intersect with loops, on, on in. Soon we see the Government complex, like the one in Costaramannh. The soldier drives all the way around, comes back to the main gate. The gate is closed. Soldiers come out. The driver's and passenger's gull-wings go up. Thimiannh speaks to soldiers on both sides. They talk excitedly! I hear them say,

"Your escorts came and the lead truck came in, and went straight out the other side! Your people went back out to look for you!"

They apologize for our situation. They open the gates. We roll in, stop just inside. They close the gates behind us. I fear another ambush, keep my weapons bag around my neck. So does everyone else. A soldier walks in front of us, us rolling, points to a ramp to the right, goes to it, runs up it. The boys put the gull-wings down. We go up the ramp. At the top, second floor, inside, we park, back in for quick getaway.

We get out. There are Blueboys there, Greenboys, Brownboys, male and female. They offer to take our bags. Thimiannh and Soda let them have their luggage. I don't want to let go of anything. I stay laden. Eenunh and Tinunh do too. The servants accept that. We're led into the hall, down just a few doors. It's warm in the hall. They open an apartment like the one we had in Costaramannh. We all take the rooms like we did there. We're close to the front gate, second floor. I'm not sure if I feel safe down this low. I liked the third floor in Costaramannh. But we're close to the truck if we have to run.

The Blueboys offer food on the table. It is steaming, warm, smells good. We all go to our rooms, come back out. Our soldier is sitting at the table. Tinunh comes, tells him,

"There's a room at the end of the hall. I'll go in with my mother and...father."

"I'd rather have the first room here, closer to the door," he says. "I'll take a first watch here in the living room. I'd rather try to be close to the door, with you folks on down the hall. Leave your doors open so you can hear."

Thimiannh nods, "Neh! I'll take the second watch."

"I'll take the third," I volunteer. I'm aware of my fatigue.

There's a knock at the door. The soldier, armed, goes to answer it. We all stand, rifles ready.

The soldier salutes. A man comes in. He is older, white hair at the temples. Uniform.

Thimiannh goes to him. They exchange salutes. They go out in the hall, our soldier going with them. I go to the door, listen. He's telling them we are secure here. Thin Man expresses doubt. I hear the man say his soldiers will guard our truck and the hallway. He says he'll have troops secure every hall on every floor. I expect Thimiannh to tell him it's not our truck. He doesn't. I hear the man ask about 'The Alien'.

They come back in. I am introduced, "Gary E. Andrews, Ass Oomam!" Thimiannh says. I reach to brush fingertips, hold my rifle in the crook of my left arm. The officer eyes me, looks at me like one might look at an animal... and animal I am. I don't understand the pronunciation of his name. I get the impression he outranks Thimiannh.

"Ass Emoilihn in Sagribe are eager to see you," he says. "And to hear your music!" He grins. He seems genuine.

I reply, in Emoilihn, "I am eager to see them!" I don't mention what now comes foremost in my mind. I did not bring my guitar out of the truck when we were attacked. It's back there, somewhere. We continue to exchange pleasantries, and he goes.

Our soldier says to Thimiannh, "Sir, I'll still take a watch, and I think we should stick to some element of our own security, until we're more sure of people here."

"My thoughts exactly," Thin Man says. "As we said before," he points at us in turn, "First watch, second watch, third watch."

"I'll take a fourth watch," Eenunh says. "We can all get some sleep. Let's eat. Let's get to bed. We need to work tomorrow, to find out where our people are. To find out who attacked us. We need to go back and get Gary's guitar. We need to do what we did in Costaramannh, get out, let ass Emoilihn see us. Gary needs to play. The music is more entertaining to them, lets them see him, see us all in a gentle way, that we are just like them, just want what they want, life, freedom, happiness. We need the people on our side. They need their fears allayed about us coming up from the south."

We go. We take our weapons bags, pack-bags, and go to the back bedroom. Tinunh climbs on the bed, to the middle, and is out immediately. We're not far behind. We fall into bed. Dirty, not even a splash of water on our faces. Eenunh reaches over Tinunh to touch me. I touch her hand, she grips mine. She is asleep in moments.

Casah Sagribe Garibe, the Cold Sagribe, lives up to its name.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/03/23 02:10 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
Joined: Dec 2006
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Top 100 Poster
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 4,231
Likes: 38
46. CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION; Interrogation. The Enemy You Know.

I'm awake. Thimiannh has come to the doorway. He doesn't need to wake me, sees me sit up on the side of the bed. He stops there in the hall. I lift one of my rifles from beside the bed, belt on my corn-knife. Pick up my weapons bag and go.

"Any news on our people?" I ask.

"No," he says. "I stepped out in the hall but no one made any attempt to report anything. I think if there was news they'd tell me. We'll go out at first light and see if we can find them."

"Yes," I affirm agreement with his intent.

He goes to get some rest. It gets dark after he goes, me standing, not moving to activate the glow. I wonder how to stay awake. I'm exhausted! I sit on the arm of a couch by the door. That doesn't last long. I stand, walk across to the dining room. I can hear the soldier snoring lightly in the first bedroom. It's dark in the hall back to Eenunh and Tinunh, dark down the hall to the master bedroom where Thin Man went. I come back across the room, sit on the arm of the couch again. Soon I need to be up. I walk back, to the entrance to the kitchen, but don't go in. Back to the door, listen, listen, back to the kitchen. I go in, look out on the darkness of the courtyard. I can see the guard shack at the gate. There is quite a squad of soldiers there, far more than when we came in. I watch them a moment. They seem to be taking defensive positions, security positions behind walls, facing out toward the street, not in emergency mode, just deploying to security positions, facing in, to the courtyard, out to the street. I see soldiers in the crosswalk over the entrance. The gates are closed.

I pull out a chair from the table, sit. It's about as comfortable as the arm of the couch. I alternate, this chair, here, the arm, there, walk across the living room, back. Time passes. I have no idea when the end of my watch should be. I don't want to wake Eenunh anyway. I keep moving, remembering...the night before. It was...necessary evil. We were under assault, ambushed, a deliberate attack, unprovoked. Why do they have such problems with us? We shouldn't merit this kind of attack. It's not us. It's them!

I laugh at the weirdness of that conclusion!

I lay on the edge of the table in the kitchen, thinking it too uncomfortable to let me fall asleep, weapons bag on the the table at arm's length, my corn knife at my hand. I think about washing it. I cut that guy, saw the blood I drew. Wonder, how to clean blood down in the sheath. Images of Eenunh...naked by the stream, cleaning...gloves...sheath. I'm aware...but...not...awake. I...have... an out-of-body...sensation... I float...like a feather, come down, land over by the wall between the living room and kitchen.

I'm awake!

I sit up. I...marvel at that...senation. It...felt very real. Sitting up is fatiguing. I lay back... It...was a vivid experience...very...realistic...dream-like...not a dream. I relax. Feel the handle of my corn knife. Pull my rifle over, hear the butt click on the tabletop. I...relax. I float, like a feather, wafting left, right, left right, down, down, land over by the wall along the next apartment, by the end of my feet. I awaken, sit up.

The night goes on. I'm comfortable with my fatigue. I want sleep, but I can wait. I begin to see the red light out the kitchen window. I think I'll wake Eenunh. I go across the living room, down the hall. I go to her side of the bed, touch her. She wakes. No words. She's up, embraces me, releases, picks up her rifle, her weapons bag. I flip the bedspread up over Tinunh. She doesn't move. I follow Eenunh out, to the left in the hallway to the dining room and living room. I stretch out on the couch, unsheath my corn-knife and lay it by my right hand on the floor. Safety on my rifle. She sits on the arm of the couch. I'm out. I'm dreaming. There's water, a waterfall, Eenunh, naked by the stream. I'm out.

I awaken to screams! Tinunh! Another voice! I'm up! Corn-knife in hand! The door is open! Eenunh's just standing there! Out in the hall...Eevannh! She and Tinunh clap their hands over their mouths! I must look ready to kill! They both come in. Eenunh is grinning at me, a little...apologetic I think. The girls hug me.

"I'm sorry to wake you Hika Andrews!" Eevannh says. Tinunh strokes my arm.

"What...are you doing here?" I ask her.

"We all came," she says. Her mother is there in the hall. Eenunh holds the door more open. She comes in. A man comes behind her. Others...there are others in the hall. The Machinist! His girlfriend and the two children.

"Come in! Come in!" Een