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 5
"I Wish I Didn't Know But..."
I wake up long before I have to worry about Chloi and before Lori returns from her shift at the laundry. Claudette is still asleep, and so too is Mama Buttercup with whom I have an appointment late in the morning at the food court near our building.
I don't need a food court breakfast. What I need is time to think, but my thoughts will not organize. I decide I know too damn little for my own good. I also know it is risky to ask. I won't know if any one is telling the truth any way. I decide to study math instead. I get my wedge pillow from my trunk. I have no desire for Security to go through my electronics. P-O-D books are safer to carry. I've all ready had one brush with Security, and it looks like no matter what I do in Statesboro, this is going to get to be a habit.
I let myself into the kitchen. It takes two hard claps to get the lights going. I heat water for tea. We have a huge, industrial kettle that looks like a truck ran it over. I put it on the gas flame and make a mental note to buy a civilian tea kettle at the mall. I also need dish drainers, dish towels. It is amazing what is missing. I check my fruit basket which I leave on the counter. There are four ripe nectarines to put in the personal fridge. I put three away and settle one unlucky fruit on a plate.
I boot up the wedge pillow, computer and attach the scrawl-sheet. The scrawl-sheet has a pocket for the stylus and the controls let me change the stylus' color which helps when drawing diagrams and doing problems. I have a hunch I am going to end up teaching mathematics, so it is important to practice. Math is necessary for adult education. I think of Blakie. She may need a tutor. I think of Chloi and possibly Lori. Neither of them are innumerate.
Math carries all kinds of cred in most situations, but it can't be the whole thing or the kind of draw that the Teacher used to hook me. After all, one can read on one's own, but most kids need to stay in school to learn math. Still math is not a simple lure. If there's been no Teacher in this cluster in living memory then.... "You need to learn some history and learn it fast," I tell myself.
I practice problems, mostly calculus until the water boils. I pour an industrial size mug of hot lemon flavor black tea. I'm afraid of differential equations, so I make myself try a few of them. I am trying a multiple integral when there is a loud clatter on the pass-through. It's the yellow pass-through this time, but I don't care. I just wonder who besides me is supposed to be in the kitchen this time on a Sunday morning, because they're not here, and someone is looking for them.
I unhook the yellow shutters and see Blakie on the other side. Her almost, white hair is touseled. Her face looks grey underneath its tan. She wears a tunic of shiney blue material that ties on the shoulders and which is spangled with silver stars crinkled by the pretty drape. She has silvery boy shorts under the tunic and blue and silver sandals on her feet.
"How did you know I was here?" I ask.
"Chloi said to try the kitchen."
"When did Chloi come back?" I inquire.
"Just a few minutes ago. You just missed her. She woke me up when she came in."
"Then you had to see me..." This doesn't make one bit of sense.
"Well...yeah... Look, Yahanna, Chloi is an asshole...some of the time...Most adults are. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is."
"OK, did you come here to tell me this."
"Well...yeah. Chloi just gave me the stupidest lecture in the world, but I think she meant it for you."
"Well, then she can come here and tell me, can't she."
"Stop picking on me and listen. This is for your own good."
"OK..., but let me let you into the kitchen."
I unlock the kitchen door by the blue pass through. I only have access to one door. Blakie thinks I've been cheated and tells me as much.
"OK," I ask the jilted creature who has yet to enter the world of working women and for whom it is only still second best, no make that a poor substitute and doesn't she know it, "What is it you are dying to tell me, that Chloi told you?"
"OK, Chloi told me to stay away from Stefan. Like I care. Like we have anything to do with each other. We're through. He broke my prebond. He told me that Nikita had a real soul. OK, you going to insult me like that, I have better things to do. I do need to find new gods, but there's a god on every street corner.
"And Chloi also told me to stay away from Daniel...."
"Who's Daniel?" I asked.
"Stefan's mentor. He's strong, beautiful, and FUCKING stupid. The rocks in Jason's sand pit have more brains that Daniel. Big Julius is a FUCKING genius compared to Daniel. Got all that..."
"Dumb people are not news," I inform Blakie. I sincerely hope she can do better.
"Well, Daniel was news yesterday. He went looking for Jason..."
"And Jason, the Gardener, is the same one who stabbed Big Julius in the gut with a knife, but he only did it once and forgot to take it out."
"Yeah....So where does Daniel fit in to all this?" Was this even the right question?
"Daniel thought Jason was fooling around with his bond-mate, Krysti. Krysti and Jason were talking in the garden. Krysti hates the sand pit, and she doesn't like all the dry weather plants Jason has out. She wants fancy things, roses, butterflies, sweet stuff. That's what she's like, and she's beloved of the gods too so she gets her way, except it's Jason's garden, so they argue."
"So Daniel went looking for Jason to do the work of the gods?" I winced. I yearned for Titus Flats in Ithaca.
"No, well...sort of. Daniel thought Jason was trying to break his bond with Krystie, understand?"
"Daniel thought Krystie was bieng unfaithful with Jason?"
"Yeah...which is really FUCKING dumb, because Jason prefers other men."
I almost laugh, except all of this is too close for comfort. "Wait," I ask. "Doesn't Daniel know that Jason prefers his own sex?" I ask.
"He knew but I guess he forgot," Blakie explains. "Also he thinks Krystie can convert him. Daniel thinks Jason is a pervert. I heard him say as much back when I was almost bonded to Stefan."
"Well, now I know Daniel is bad news. Too bad I wouldn't know him if I fell over him." And come Monday, I'll be spending most of my days on campus so won't have much chance to run across him, and he will not go looking for me, unless he thinks that Far Travelers are somehow going to corrupt everyone else' moral fiber.
"Well, he's not really worth knowing, though a lot of people think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread and the same is true for Krystie. They're THE COUPLE. The most blessed, the most beautiful. That kind of stuff goes together, you know.
"Anyway, you can see why Daniel has to defend his bond, even if Jason is no threat. Well Jason really was a threat."
"He had a knife."
"That's not why he was a threat. Jason is a very good fighter. Daniel found Jason in the woods where he had gone to make cuttings of wild plants for stuff they do in the green house. Like a lot of older people, Jason likes certain stuff and really gets into it, kind of like Malka in the Bone Yard, or Lori in the laundry. I guess that will happen to me too, which is why I want to learn electronics. It's a good trade.
"Daneil told Jason that he was going to teach him never to go after his bond mate again. He was going to make Jason sorry.
"Jason said that he did not know what Daniel was talking about.
"Daniel challenged Jason.
"Jason asked Daniel to take it back. When Daniel wouldn't take it back, Jason and he agreed on a bare knuckle fight with witnesses. Isis and Ruth, and Julius were the witnesses. Daniel tried to take Jason down. Jason was really fast, and Daniel couldn't hit him or make it stick. He blocked his face. He dodged and weaved and danced. It wasn't fair. Daniel is blessed. He's not supposed to lose fights.
"Big Julius had to help Daniel. He got into the fight and tried to hit Jason. Jason is fast. Jason protected his face. Julius hits hard. He's huge. That's why we call him Big Julius. Julius kept hitting Jason, but he couldn't get Jason's face, and Jason kept fighting. Then Jason pulled a knife, and stabbed Julius in the guts and ran away."
"Where is Jason now?" I ask. This is how the story ends. I all ready know how the story ends.
"In the hospital. Chloi went looking for him late last night, and got as far as the food shacks. Jason has friends at the Kety's Fish and Chix. That's where he went and Kety and Bill were going to hide him, but he could hardly breathe. They took him to the hospital instead. That's where they sent Chloi. She's seen him.
"What happened to Jason?" I ask again.
"He's in the hospital like I told you."
"But he won the fight!"
"Julius beat the living shit out of him. You can ask Chloi. Julius was doing the work of the gods."
"Are you saying Julius was going to kill Jason?" I feel sick.
"He was doing it for Daniel!"
"So what happened to Jason?"
"He's in the hospital. Big Julius broke some of his ribs and he has a punctured lung. Chloi says they stuck a tube in his chest. He's sleeping now."
"And what about Big Julius?" This question feels safe. I know something. Blakie may know more, or more exactly, Chloi may know.
"In the hospital too. They had to take the knife out of his guts and sew him up, real stitches, and he can't eat anything for a few days. They have to feed him through a tube. Chloi learned that from Barrow who is staying with Julius. They're good friends, you know."
"So now two men are badly hurt," I regurgitate my knowledge in the hopes of getting more, not that what I learn can bring any good to me or the world. "What about Daniel?"
"He's with Krysti. She watched the fight. Oh the healing priests are going to fix Daniel's broken nose."
"How do you know about Daniel's nose?" Blakie didn't watch the fight or did she?
"Ruth told me yesterday. Ruth is still blessed, and she's NOT Nikita. The poor girl doesn't have a bond or even a prebond, so people find her useful, you know? She hangs out with Rorie, but Rorie is going to bond soon to Paul. It must be very hard to be a Far Traveler and not know any body in a place."
"Not so hard as you think. I've been too busy settling in. How's the math?"
"I don't start school until tomorrow. Bug Eyes at the shop gave me a heritage math book. It's just a P-O-D book with a heritage cover. It's very pretty, but I can't make head or tale of the al-jeb-rah. That's what he says I have to learn. He wished me luck. I'm going to need new gods to bless me. That is what I'm going to need."
"Look on any street corner," I advise Blakie.
She bares her teeth. "Part of you believes you can really learn."
"Part of me doesn't want to be cursed forever. I believe in thinking big. That's what got me in trouble with Stephan. I need a god that lets me think big, you know...You think working people have gods like that?"
"Yes." This is one where I KNOW the answer. "Want me to help you with your math?"
"Not today. This is my last day before..."
"Are you scaird."
"I'm like Jason. He must have been scaird, but he went in and took a beating anyway. He was scaird of Big Julius. Any one would be, but he wouldn't let Julius win and he wouldn't let Daniel win even though Daniel was blessed, understand?"
"You're doing the right thing," I reassure Blakie. Then I ask, "Can you help me with something?"
"I need to know how to avoid Daniel and Krysti. Do they even live in this building?"
"They live in Maury, but Krysti grew up here. She comes back to visit."
"What does she look like."
"Like me, but taller, a lot taller and with hair that is more goldish. Her eyes are silver. I never had mine done. That's just the color they were born. I wanted to get sparkles in them, but I was waiting until I was bound with Stefan.
"You'll see Krysti a lot. She you can't forget her..."
"Come on Blakie, let me fix you some breakfast. You want fruit, tea, a sandwich, last night's soup. Name it and it's yours."
"You're not one of the gods!" Blakie crosses her arms over her silver starred chest.
"And I'm not your mother either."
"My mother is uesless. She's wanted nothing to do with me, once Stefan rejected me. He told her all kinds of dirty stories about me."
"Did the priests tell them too?"
"Yeah, only Mama Buttercup had compassion. She put me in with the working women and said 'if that's what you want?' I'm just sixteen. I have to want something, you know?"
"It's going to be very hard."
"You're going to do it. Think Jason."
"Julius beat the shit out of Jason!"
Statesboro, Georgia USA