A Garden of Small Hearts
Welcome to A Garden of Small Hearts, a growing dystopian, sci-fi tale that is different from all the rest.
Table of Contents
A Garden of Small Hearts 3
Who Pounds the Pass-Through?
When I arrive home, Mama Buttercup thanks me effusively for the National Cream, her favorite, sent packed in dry ice in huge containers. She says she couldn't resist soothing herself with a big bowl of the stuff. I say she is welcome and that it is a gift for easing my settling-in after such a long journey from so far away. I strongly suspect that I am the first person with whom she has lived who has traveled over five hundred miles in her lifetime. I am also the first person with whom she has lived who has a bachelor's degree from a university. It goes without saying I am her first graduate student.
"Of course I can't eat all the ice cream," Mama Buttercup purrs. "But there are lots of children who might like some. Perhaps it is in you to do the work of the Gods and Angels."
I shrug. I just say I want to show my gratitude. Food when you think about it is an utterly paltry gift. I head off to the kitchen, click through the biometric lock, and feel the silence. I have to clap three times to get the lights going. Maybe they respond less well after a certain hour. My watch says it is after 11pm. I set the soup to reheat, and sit on a stool, trying to sort out my thoughts. Jason and Julius are complete stranges, except that Julius knows Barrow and Fenix which means he is probably a customer of Barrow's. Jason is not. That means I have probably seen Julius but have not been here long enough to know him well and single him out. Julius is also a big man, and Jason is a small one, but size here is only comparative. I decide that I don't know shit, and that I probably should learn, but not too obviously.
I remind myself I start school the day after tomorrow which is nearly here, since today is shot. I wonder where Jason could be hiding. There are probably fields behind the shacks and shanties of private restaurants. Yes, that is a good name for them. There were even those in Ithaca, though I either cooked my own food, or ate in the University's refectories. By senior year, I was living in the Titus Cluster as we called it, down on the flat lands. I stayed on there after I graduated. This is NOT university housing.
Hiding, I muse costs energy, time, money. Hiding is not always a good idea. Sometimes it is better to operate out in the open, but is not operating openly a kind of hiding in plain sight? Could Jason be hiding in plain sight?
Pound-pound-rattle-rattle-rattle, goes the orange pass-through. It's the one in the middle and the largest. "Barrow didn't pick up his shipment!" I tell the person who disturbs my not-so-peaceful thoughts.
"Is any one else there then?" a small but loud voice asks.
"I'm it," I say. I wonder how many uncomfortable questions, the little voice will ask before it leaves. I have no answers to most of them or poor quality answers. I'm a Far Traveler. I have been here five days. I unlock the pass-through and hope little voice won't try to jump me. Little voice clearly can't let itself into the kitchen. Little voice, places two, dainty, pink hands on the counter and vaults over the pass through counter. Little Voice is a girl with a mop, of bright, blonde, hair cut short like a boy's, a white tunic dress with little red roses on it, or rather it's a dress that was white this morning. Under the dress are tight dark, rose colored shorts as tight as leggings and which reach almost to her knees. She wears red slippers on her feet, with worn rubber soles that once had excellent traction on slippery wet surfaces. Her face needs a washing. I estimate she is between six and ten years old. She may be tall for her age. There are a lot of tall children.
"What's cooking?" the rude girl asks me.
I wonder if I should reward her rudeness. "Green pea soup, want a look?" Like bar-b-que pea soup is an acquired taste. Rude one grabs the step stool and hauls it to the stove. She reaches for the top of the pot and then flinches. I give her a pot holder. She does not thank me. "Is that all you've got?" she asks in disappointment.
"I also have cole slaw. That's what's on the menu. The food court is still serving you know. Did any one tell you that you have a lot of nerve."
The girl shifts from one foot to the other. She doesn't answer. "Where's Barrow?" she asks. "Barrow and Fenix always let me in the kitchen. Barrow even takes me with him when they go to pick up, but something happened to him."
"Barrow is fine. He's in the hospital staying with Julius."
"Why's Julius in the hospital?"
"Here we go," I think. "Jason, the gardener, stabbed Julius in the gut."
"I've just been here five days. I have no idea."
"Well, now I know why no one is here. Every one is off trying to find stuff out or just get in more trouble. That sucks."
"Would you like some pea soup and cole slaw?" I ask.
"I guess I'll try it. What's your name, Far Traveler?"
"Yahanna Typha, but most people just use my first name. What's yours."
"Edith. Isn't it disgusting."
"Edith-isn't-it-disgusting. That has a lovely sound to it."
"OK, it's old fashioned. You get to change it when you get initiated."
"Yeah, I can't wait..." Edith sighs. "What god do you serve and is it a big one or a demi?"
"I'm an academic," I reply. "I'm going to garduate school at Southern to get my MAT so I can become a teacher of mathematics."
"FUCK!" sighs Edith. "That's a dumb god to serve."
"Whom do you serve?" I inquire.
"I don't speak his name."
"I do. Beelzebub."
"Who the fuck is that?"
"The Lord of the Flies."
"Nobody that disgusting."
"OK, then how about Lucifer, the Son of the Morning Star."
"Fuck no, he's just a show off. Like, I said, I don't speak my god's name, got that?"
I smile. "You're not some sort of Christian are you?"
"That's the dumbest question I've heard in a long time. Me, a fucking Christian. You've got to be out of your fucking mind!"
"All right, you're a nihlist."
"What the fuck is a nihlist?"
"Someone who really does't believe in much of anything. Perhaps you are out only for yourself. That's why you just jumped in over the counter and didn't worry about where you can and can't go. Laws don't mean anything. Order doesn't mean anything. In the end it's all one big pile of shit, OK."
"You're right," sighs Edith. "But you don't believe that?"
"No," I answer. I let it go. "You stuck your nose in a book!"
"Best place for it," I answer.
Edith laughs and shakes her head. "Better to have a call and use it, than to wonder and regret," I answer.
"Well, my call is taking care of Edith until she can get a better name...and I don't want to have twenty babies...and I don't want some beautiful goon of a bond mate, and I don't want Jesus to save my soul, so that's my call. I call it as I see it, and I have a god who'll take care of me by helping me take care of myself. That's the best deal there is."
I shake my head. "The world is full of sweet passions, and most people have at least one," I counter.
"Fuck that! Like Mama Upherbutt and her National Cream. One day she won't fit through the door. You know she follows Fun Man and Uncle Ralph. I think she's the only grownup in the whole state of Georgia who follows Fun Man and Uncle Ralph. They have to make a special category just for her."
"She's an asset to their cause," I respond. "I think she's a good Place Runner. She gets things done, and she's survived either being widowed or deserted by a bond mate. You try and be where she is when you're forty something years old."
"Pfffffftttttt!" responds Edith. "Mama Uperbutt's a laughing stock of the whole cluster? Don't you understand that?"
"Who does the laughing?" I ask.
"I haven't heard it. I don't think Barrow and Julius laugh at Mama Buttercup."
"Well..they're too busy. They just avoid her, but we kids and a lot of the adults and the young women....Which section do you stay in."
"Four Rear," I answer.
"That's the working ladies. They're also too busy to laugh. It's also all the ones who lose their kids. It's a bad place. If you're around too many losers, you turn into one. You know that?"
"Thanks for the advice."
"You don't have to be fucking sarcastic about it."
"We have different opinions about who is a loser. You forget, I am an academic. I've had to take heat over my choice since I was six years old."
"You decided back then."
"I was a year away from being apprenticed out."
"I guess...some people do choose it that young."
"And I had to take heat in sticking with my choice."
"Well, it's not much fun. Most people find school dull, which is why they quit. It's why I quit."
"It's not dull. It wasn't for me, not most of the time. Everything gets dull from time to time."
"OK," I change the subject. "The soup's ready. Let's eat on the counter. Can you help me set the table?"
"Yeah...sure. I'm not sure I want that soup."
"Are you scaird?"
"No, I'll try it. You know people laugh at teachers."
"They also laugh at rude children who follow dark demis."
"My god does right by me!" Edith insists back.
Statesboro, Georgia USA