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 1
A Garden of Small Hearts 2
A Garden of Small Hearts 3
A Garden of Small Hearts 4
A Garden of Small Hearts 5
A Garden of Small Hearts 6
A Garden of Small Hearts 7

A Garden of Small Hearts 8
A Garden of Small Hearts 9
A Garden of Small Hearts 10
A Garden of Small Hearts 11

A Day Full of Warnings

One of My Own?

Monday I rise before Chloi or Mirra, and before Lori returns from the laundry. I wake Blakie who snores. She complains, but quickly comes to her senses. She wants a shower, so she ends up heading into the cool, morning air with her looking like slicked down depilatory with a few darker strands showing in the sun. Blakie has given up (for one day at least) her just-barely tied at the shoulder tunics and tight shorts in favor of an oversize t-shirt that advertises the House of a Thousand Hotcakes. Her sandals are plain, sturdy, black leather with thick straps and thicker crepe soles. She carries a transprent backpack for a bookbag and a silver, fringed purse for her electronics. I want to tell her she needs pockets, but I don't. I offer her a nectarine instead, and she slips it into her purse.

We take the service entrance because I want fresh air and am in no mood for the mall. We enter the mall only to travel up six levels to reach the train station. We have a two minute wait on a platform that is hardly empty. Working folks in cover alls, uniforms, and presentable, modest attire wait. There are also a few younger folks, boys and girls Blakie's age. One wears a long brown skirt and matching blouse that looks almost like burlap. Around her neck is a large, polished, wooden cross, not a crucifix. I notice things like that. Blakie looks at cross-around-her-neck and shakes her head. Another kid, a boy, walks with a brace. There are also a boy and a girl in midnight blue, worker's coveralls. The adolescents don't say much. Blakie only glances at them furtively.

"You're still looking for the street corner," I remind Blakie when we get on the train.

"What?" she seems to be in a trance.

"The street corner where you find the right deity."

"The right what?"


"You really don't speak English."

"You won't either if you stick with the program."

"High school was weird. I remember trying it when I was fourteen. I wanted to write poetry for the dancers and priests. They also had an art studio. I really suck as an artist, but I liked it any way."

"Are you taking art as an elective?"

"Yeah...." Blakie stares out the window. Our first stop is a kind of town center where you can find the Sherriff Station, the Fire Station, the local government, the hospital, and probably a library of sorts, and maybe some other stuff. I'm not sure. I've never been there. The second stop is a station in a residential area. A lot of kids get on the train. They are high school age, and some are younger. The girls wear pleated skirts in different plaids and a few solids and midriff length sweaters with trim to match the skirt plaids over skin tight white or pastel shells. The shells have long sleeves for extra modesty. The girls wear opaque tights or leggings to make the outfits complete. The boys wear pleated pants, suit coats or morning coats, and ties. Their shirts are high collared and uniformly white. Their ties are uniformly black. Several boys do not wear this outfit, but wear football jerseys with padded shoulders instead, and knickers with padded knees to make them appear larger. I hear Blakie groan.

"Every street corner," I whisper in her ear.

Her high school is the next stop. I don't realize how all alone she is until she is off the train. I travel one more stop in a residential area and watch officials in tunics and pants or breeches, robes, and sheathe dresses board the train. Now I am the one who sticks out in my loose fitting pants and tomato colored sweater. Of course I found my street corner with its attendant deity long ago. Blakie, by the way, all ready has hers. It just doesn't follow her to school. She may find it there eventually. The next two or three months will tell.

I am glad to get off at Southern. I have been on campus before, so I know the way to McPherson Hall. I have five minutes until my orientation. I size up my classmates. They are various ages. Some are aging gently and embarking on second careers. Others wear tunics and tight pants. One or two wears a robe. One has a dress with an empire waist. Many wear some variant of pants or skirt with polo shirt or sweater. I tell myself I have it easier than Blakie.

I tell myself that until a few of the students won't stop staring at me. "Is something wrong?" I ask before I can stop myself.

"You must be new here," says a woman in a white sweater and salt and charcoal colored pants. A silver chain with black beads in it hangs around her neck and nearly gets lost in her sweater's fuzz. She has short hair. Suddenly I want to laugh. It's in my brighter clothes, my long hair, the way I wear a backpack, the way I carry myself in general, and it's also in the concerned fellow student, her muted shades and restraint, everything made to look thick and expensive, her slower, smoother, style.

"I got here five days ago," I answer.

"Ah...where do you live?"

"Statesboro now."

"I mean in what neighborhood."

"Bellam Hub, My building is Just Lee." There, suspense over. I imagine Lori closing her curtains before she opened them again Saturday night.

"What are you doing here?" a woman in a greyish-blue sweater that looks very fuzzy asks. She is blonde with pale blue, unmodified eyes, freckels, and very smooth skin, too smooth.

"Working on my MAT," I smile.

"Where are you from?" a man whose black coffee colored tunic pocket bulges with an indiscrete electronic device asks.

"Ithaca, New York," I reply.

"What are you doing in Statesboro?"

"Working on my MAT."

"But why here?"

"Southern has an excellent program."

At this point Orientation starts. I listen. I try to absorb as much as I can. I even take notes on my wedge pillow's scrawl mat. The professor giving the orientation wears an empire waist dress the color of dirty egg shells with a soft, off shade, pale blue ribbon just below her lovely, round breasts. Her hair has grey and black streeks amid the cinamon brown. Her face is way too round and smooth. Her arms are also firm and smooth, and she wears a blue bangle and a gold one on one wrist. I notice a small bulge in the blue bangle. "Nice, discrete electronics," I think. Her hair is pulled back, and I notice a small device in one ear. It is blue to match the bangle. How fashionable.

I see several of my classmates have glasses or goggles, the lenses of which reflect light like oil on the surface of puddles. I've seen those before. I think students who wear them have very calm hands. Not even the Teacher, Adina, had hands like that. I wish I wouldn't feel self conscious about my hands.

After Orientation, Esther (Lovely name!), the woman in the dull white gown says she wants to meet with me in her office. I feel my throat tighten. "Why?" I ask.

"You're my advisee, but you've been scarce lately."

"I've been settling in," I tell her. It's true. I'm a Far Traveler. That is what I am, nothing more. Oh bull shit! I'm a lot more, but I can't be that unusual, or can I? I think of Andrus in Ithaca and curse his name. "Your god will not win," I tell him which is better than cursing him. "Your god will not win," I repeat over and over in my mind.

To make matters worse, I am not Miz Esther's first appointment of the late morning. The other woman in an empire dress goes first. Then a man in a grey tunic that matches his silver hair and forehead wrinkles goes next. I am third. I don't know who is fourth.

"All right, Ya-han-ah Ty-pha," Miz Esther carefully sounds out my name. She is really Dr. Anderson. It says that on the plaque over her office door. She sits at a marble desk like an altar. There is no sign of visible work, and no P-O-Ddies on the shelf, not even decoratively bound, heritage style P-O-Ddies.

"You have come to us all the way from New Berlin New York and live at Bellam Hub? Why?"

"It's not your business!" I want to scream, but of course it is. "I've come here to study and I've lived all but two years of my life in general housing. I'm used to it. I was born in general housing and 'prenticed out when I was seven. I was 'prenticed by my school because that is the way they do it in rural New York State."

"Why are you here all the way from New Berlin?" asks Miz Esther.

"Southern has a great program." I am NOT lying.

"Yes, but there are programs in New York State far more suited to a student with your...background."

"You mean my social class." I know the lingo.

"Yes...Here teachers are respected professionals. They live in the Heights, near the Village Center, or around the campus. Do you understand? Now tell me why you came here?"

"You can search my records. I think the matter is public."

"Yahanna, things can go well for you or things can go poorly for you here. You are new here, and you want them to go well. Now tell me what happened to you."

I hate threats. Any one would hate them. I think of getting up and walking out of Miz Esther's office and slamming the door, but this is graduate school and Miz Esther's reputation can make or break me. She is high up in the faculty hierarchy and depending on how much she knows, she all ready surmises I'm trouble, and she is correct. I'm just not trouble in the short term, but neither of us is going to be around just for the short term, and in the long term....

"All right, after I graduated from Cornell, I was not sure I wanted to teach school. I had other ideas. I was young, a little pretty, very useful, and sharp. I was and also still am a bit idealistic, well maybe more than a bit." I pause waiting for the groan or sigh. Ms. Esther gives me only silence. I continue....

"I stayed on in Titus Flats and pursued recruitment. If I could convince young girls to stay in school, and it's mostly girls though we also do boys, or to 'prentice out to the schools, that made the next generation of scholars. More scholars are a good thing. Why should ordinary people grow up in ignorance? An education gives you a shot at better jobs as well, and it is dignity, solid dignity. The world can also know that those of us who are in general housing aren't stupid. That's why I recruit. I do the work of my gods."

"And did your gods bless you?" Ms. Esther sneered.

"They gave me the low hanging fruit. Her name was Sara. She was not yet initiated. She was Andrus' daughter. Andrus was utterly and completely blessed in a completely conventional way, and he was thoroughly BLESSED. He was blessed not just with strength, reasonable intelligence, and plenty of beauty which went without saying, but also a friendly personality, and a sense of justice. This meant he made it from thug and pretty boy to real admin. Not everyone can do that. Andrus planned to admin in West End 6. Sara, his daughter, wanted to 'prentice out to the school and then go on the whole way. I recruited Sara."

"And the gods so-called took their revenge," Esther smiled. Even her eyes were merry wtih the thought of someone else' fun story, quaint, exciting.... Then the light dulled in her eyes and she stared at me.

"Had I had a teaching license, and had I been working in the schools, even just as a sub, Andrus could not have touched me. New York State law protects teachers. Instead, I was a former student at loose ends, a political worker. The rest is public knowledge.

"Andrus was just. He did not think beating up on someone who does not know how to fight is the right thing to do. Banishment was better. I got thrown out of Ithaca. I returned to New Berlin. I was able to collar a priest/admin who told me not to bother applying to any instate programs. That was fine wtih me. The program at Southern is excellent."

"And next time you recruit, you plan to be full time employed with a teaching license," Ms. Esther tries to finish my thought. She gets it half right because I'm a bit smarter than a rock in a sand pit.

"That doesn't work this way down here in Georgia."

"Then why become a teacher."

"Being a teacher in the building still makes me a role model."

"I don't want any one in this program making trouble." I nearly yawn at Ms. Esther's ultimatum. "Understand, and I'd like to move you out of Bellam Hub."

"No," I reply. "I'm staying with my own people."

"They aren't your own people. You decided that when you decided to continue high school. You messed in the affair of people you should have left behind. Now you are in exile. In plain language, you screwed up."

"No," I reply. "Sara is still in school and in a lodge with other young scholars. I brought her on to the path, and being Andrus' daughter makes her a powerful example to others."

"You believe in martyrdom?"

"No, but I bbelieve there is a place for sacrifice."

"Well I don't. I don't want to hear about any of your political doings. I won't support you if I do. I am the Assistant Program Director. I have the power to expel you. You'll just be a Far Traveler then, and you'll be cursed. I believe that is what they call it."

"It is what I call it," I correct Ms. Esther.

Dr. Anderson, Ms. Esther, smiles at me. It's a brutal smile. "You really are one of them. That's going to make things very hard for you here."

Yahanna Typha
Just Lee
Statesboro, Georgia USA

Sense of Humor

I am not much in the mood for lunch, so I head over to Public Safety and wait in a long line. Yes, this is an errand I have to do in person. I'm not thrilled with that, but Public Safety here at Southern is utterly conscientious and wants to update my biometrics which do change over time. That my Ithaca biometrics worked in New Berlin, New York and at Bellam Hub here in Statesboro, doesn't matter. Public Safety wants them current. I need them to get into some of the laboratories.

The long line of students at Public Safety doesn't say much. Several of them look very much like the high school students I saw board the train, suits with tails for the boys and fancy ties that knot, shells, leggings, skirts, and midriff sweaters for the girls, though some girls wear a dark skirt, matching midriff, and pearls, and a nearly transparent shell and set of leggings that shimmers. Several have lips many shades too dark or pink. A few wear a lot of eye shadow and mascara.

Two of them giggle in a way that sounds l ike purring. They elbow each other and point. They point at me. I glare back at them before I can stop myself. "They are sure brazen here in the South," I try not to think which of course means I do think it. "What are you studying?" I greet the brazen pair.

They burst into laughter that sounds like a dozen tinkling bells but somehow richer. I take a step toward them. "Whose gods work are you doing like that?" I snap. They laugh even more loudly then slowly it tapers off. It could be my body language. It could be the fact, that I am pretty much 100% authentic. One of the boys pulls one of the laughing girls out of the line of fire if there really is one. I see he is wearing irridescent goggles and a black shirt with a white tie under a grey cut away with matching creased trousers. He whispers something to the girl who pulls a strip of irridescent stuff out of her purse and wears it like a clashing headband. Then she and the boy giggle together.

A woman in a coffee colored sweater and light tan, wooly looking trousers shakes her head. A man in a tunic finishes giving his biometrics and then it is the lady in the coffee colored sweater's turn. I take out my wedge pillow and fire up an environment scan program I have installed. It picks up a holographic video transmission right behind me in line. I tap in to it since it is on a public channel. It doesn't star me. That is a relief. I set Mr. Wedge Pillow in monitor mode and tip it up so that the laughing pair and their laughing companion can see that I see what they are watching.

I watch laughing boy's face redden. Luaghing girl with headband freezes in her tracks. The video is of a fat woman in general population trying to "impart her wisdom" to somewhat disippated louts about the age of the students enjoying the video. I recognize the tunics, tied at the shoulder and in one shoulder styles, the loinclouts worn by some of the men, but the helmets and weapons turn face to caricature.

"Next!" calls the officer and I duck into the biometric booth. I apologize and mute my wedge pillow and set it on my lap. "What was goin' on out there?" she asks. "We were just enjoying a video," I reply. It's over in a few seconds. I pass the two girls on the way out. I pause and tell them. "I'm not offended if you want to know. Some of my area mates would love to see that video, can you tell me its name?"

The girl with the headband glances at me, hard. "We have a sense of humor just like you," I remind her. She shakes her head which now features a magenta face.

"Why are you here?" the girl finally asks.

"I'm working on an MAT so I can teach school."

"No kid is going to learn from....wait you can teach basic can't you. You have to go to grad school for that..."

I shrug. "I want to get licensed K-12, mathematics."

"You can do calculus?"

"Yes, and differential equations. My undergrad major was philosophy, but I took all the math I could. I knew I would need something practical adn the two go together. Cornell doesn't have minors."

"Shit..." sighs the girl. "I'm sorry."

"No problem," I comment.

"What's your name?" she asks.

"Yahanna Typha."

"You're a Yankee."

"I'm a Far Traveler and a Yankee."

"Any one can hop on a floater," the girl tells me.

I don't correct her. "What's your name?" I ask.

"Naomi Chavez," she tells me.

Yahanna Typha
Just Lee
Statesboro, Georgia USA


I find myself eating lunch at the main refectory with the student with the smooth skin, white wooly sweater, and fuzzy salt and pepper pants. She has a student friend with long, chestnut colored hair, that is positively luxurient. Rapunzel, as I nickname her, is in the library science program. Both she and Salty have migrated from the mountains of Upstate South Carolina to attend Southern because it has excellent and practical programs. I gather from our small talk that we are all the same age. There most of the similarities end.

I remember a lot from Cornell, but Cornell was different. There were students like these hidden among my classmates and even a few like the fatuous undergrads with whom I waited on line this morning to get my biometrics. Most of the fatuous types, quickly shed their high school dress to look like the students with which I had lunch. Those other ones had a name for us: "Claw ups" as in we had clawed our way up. It was our own name too and a mark of respect. You did not mess with Claw Ups if you knew what was good for you. We had our own name for the kind of students with whom I was sharing a meal, but the name felt countrproductive.

Still eating with my classmates is a good lesson in applied sociology. I watch them disperse through the food court, and note what they bring back on their trays. {C}One has a salad of some sort of synthetic seafood in a bowl of lime sorbet colored lettuce. Another eats pale meats on bread as thin as wafers. I have a half bowl of mushroom cheese ravioli and some cherry tomatoes with bleu cheese dressing and a big mug of Old Style Doctor's Brew. I want something smooth and sweet.I can have hot tea later in the day. I will stay well fed. I will need to stay well fed. I will think of my warm, full belly when I walk in the night.

Rapunzel whose real name is Deborah complains about the lack of crib notes for her library classes. "I searched all over the databases. I found some similar coursses, but not the ones at Southern. Anyway, the professors at orientation say they revise every two years or more often. It's like they have too much time on their hands. I just want to get back to Greenville and work with kids you know. I really like children."

I think that I like some children better than others. I think of Edith who hates her name and Blakie, who is really no longer a child, not in my mind any way. What sort of day is she having. Salty whose real name is Sara complains that there are no crib notes for most of her program. She thinks the ones she found are incomplete. Then she asks if I have been searching. I just say I have been reading. I show off my P-O-Ddies. The women pass them around. They laugh. It's a full throaty laugh, not a giggle, but it irritates me more than the giggles from the younger students on the line in the Public Safety office. The women laugh all the more when I tell them I spent the weekend reading my eyeballs off. They are more fascinated with the imitation peacock feather pattern on the books cardboard covers than with the contents. "Pet this," Deborah tells Salty. "They say I have to have an archives course. I wonder if we'll look at P-O-Ddies like this. These things are real works of art?"

"They're mass produced objects from a standard binding machine," I correct her, and realize my voice should not sound so angry. This is not her fault. This is the way things are in this part of the country, and I had better get used to them. I backtrack and apologize as fast as I can. We're still friends or going to be friends, sort of.

I am glad there is a good half hour between lunch and my full class when I can collect myself. The first full class, educational psychology, is in a large room on a top floor towers with a skylight and rows of seating on different levels. Several of my classmates lounge on cushions and bolsters. I need a place to put my wedge pillow and decide that a flat bit of empty floor level is best. I sit with my scrawl pad and pillow out ready to take notes and store locations of syllabi etc.... I know where the syllabi are all ready but there may be stray or missing readings. The teacher has white hair, smooth pink skin, and ordinary looking brown eyes that have a quietness to them that I like.

He glances over us and we begin to talk about learning and the brain. We all have to stand up and say why we are going to get something out of this class. I say I want to learn about how students from different social backgrounds learn.

"I think you all ready know that don't you?" the professor, Dr. Drucker, challenges me.

"Only partially."

"Look at your classmates and then look at yourself. Here, she's not hiding anything," Dr. Drucker invites the class to have a look at me, more precisely my technology. "Can you show the class your scrawl?"

I have nothing to hide, so I link my monitor mode into the class projector. I'm fast with my pillow. My wedge pillow is my right hand. Students laugh, but not at me. It's a funny, dislocated laughter. I have drawings, doodles, diagrams, arrows, symbols, etc... in four colors mixed with my notes. Actually it's five colors today, and my chop in the upper right hand corner along with the class name in three brilliant colors trailing flames of fire."

"In a technical or trade school program, you are likely to see many students like Yahanna. She learns through her hands. Her pillow is an extension of them. This is also very common when there are mass high level development programs as in some parts of the Northeastern United States. May I ask who set taught you hand learning?" Dr. Drucker asked.

My face flames. Then I think of Blakie. Blakie. Blakie. Blakie! She will face what I was facing this instant. I think of Edith. She probably can never just absorb knowledge unless she writes or draws it or at least keys it and touches it. "The Teacher, Adina set me up with a pillow when I was 'pprenticed out."

"How were you 'pprenticed out?"

"I was six and I asked to be 'pprenticed to the schools. I went to live in the Scholars Area at New Berlin, New York. That's where I grew up."

"Well we have a product of a development program. When I guest taught for a year in Boston,we had many students like this especially in my neurolinguistics course. I'd watch them bring in crates for their pads and pillows or little boxes or flat pads. It was distracting to see them write. It felt as if they were sliding between me and their own world, but that was how they learned. Two weeks into the semester, I asked for a counter and a table, and without saying a word, I had half a dozen students at each. Did you use a standing counter when you were younger?"

I shake my head. "I had friends who did. If I was upset over something I sometimes went to the counter," I confess."It helps restless children concentrate better. A good counter has stools at it so kids can sit or stand depending on how they feel." This is something I know from my male classmates. Boys have more issues with being restless when they try to claw their way up. It's not really clawing. It's climbing with the hands. I smile. I am no longer angry.

I don't remember much more about the class. Like most first classes it is administrivia. We have a first paper on pathways of memory, lots of neurological stuff. I like science topics so I feel relieved. I feel relieved until I am out in the sun again. I know I need to get home and see if Blakie is OK. Her first day of school is harder than mine. I keep telling myself that as I get on the train. I wonder if I could ever explain Blakie to Deborah, Sara, Dr. Drucker or Miz Esther. I know I can't, not for now any way.

Yahanna Typha
Just Lee
Statesboro, Georgia USA

A Model Admin

Of course it is only after I board the train that I realize that Blakie will probably not be home waiting for me. She has gone to the mall to the electronic store, the best refuge she knows. I am glad of that though the gladness has a relieved and very sick feeling to it. I walk back from the mall through the out of doors, passed the scrubby dried out grass, long tired in August, under the hot, East Georgia sun. I am glad to find the administrative door and the courtyard to Just Maury, Just Jackson, and Just Lee. The hot weather plants make the place feel cooler somehow. I am grateful for Jason's handiwork. I wonder if he is recovering in the hospital.

I hardly notice, Malka from the boneyard, Chloi who should be ardening, and Simon who is an old working man who spoke in Jason's defense sitting on Just Maury's steps. The lope toward me, Choli in the lead because she has the most energy. I try hard to read her face, but it is a blank like the cover of a P-O-Ddie book. "Damn!" I think. I'm not sure why.

"Yahana!" Chloi calls out. "Trina wants you inside."

Trina, I remember, or at least the Trina I half know is an Area Mama in Just Maury. "What does she want from me?" I ask. "She said she wanted you to go see her when you got back." Chloi is opaque.

"Why?" I don't need this aggrivation. I should have stayed on campus and holed up in a study lounge at the library. I should have stayed there utnil Barrow and Fenix and their crowd were long gone from the kitchen so I could have the place for myself.

"Trina said she wanted to see the Far Traveller. That's you," Malka intervenes. I need to get it through my head that an Area Mama's word is law, not just Mama Buttercup but also Mama Trina. I ask where I can find Mama Trina and Malka offers to escort me. We dont' say much. I know Malka from my first days here. She gave me a bed frame and mattress to go with my bedding. She saw and held my trunks and boxes in her store room, and did not just throw them in the boneyard with the other stuff that appeared to have no immediate owner.

Malka has skin the color of walnut shells that is starting to shrivel though I don't think she is particularly old. Her black hair has a few strands of grey and lots of frizz. Her small, black eyes remind me of angry buttons. She is a Christian. She wears a big, wooden cross on her chest and a gold wedding band on her left ring finger. She is married not bound of course. In New Berlins Christians and academics were enemies. Here, I'm not sure how we fit together. Malka distrusts me a lot less than a lot of other people or at least she seems to.

I let Malka lead me to Trina. Malka walks on well muscled, oddly skinny legs, with tracks of veins spidering their way down her shins which stick out under her smoke colored skirt. Yes, she is one serious Christian. We walk up the steps at Just Maury and through the portico, up the big spiral staircase, than up two more flights at the end fo the hall.Is the top floor top status or was it once reservered or is it still reserved for the low Area Mama on the totem pole. I smell something fried for lunch or maybe dinner in the main lounge. I see no food, so maybe it was lunch.

Trina sits on one of of a green, nubbly couch that is used to sagging from her bulk. She smiles at Malka. Sitting next to Trina as if she is afraid the couch will contaminate her butt is a very tall woman with platinum blonde hair that screams, but can not compete with her presence. Her luminous grey eyes could stop a freight train. Her hand with their long thin fingers are very large. They sit half curled, large frightened animals in a lap made of long legs. She wears a tunic of irridescent and slightly textured white/silver cloth tied at both shoulders and a matching sarong skirt. On her feet are silver sandals she has kicked off so she can scratch one large, impecably groomed foot with the other. She is busy scratching now, though it doesn't seem to make her feel better.

"I'm glad to see you," Trina greets me. "What took you so long?"

"I was at school today. I had classes."

"Well, I guess that can't be helped. I need a favor of you Far Traveler. I need you to take Krysti to the hospital. I think it would do her some good to visit Julius."

"Excuse me," I think angrily. "I have a paper to start tonight!" Then I wonder if Krysti doesn't have other things to do too, but Julius is Daniel's friend. Maybe Big Julius is more of an admirer. Maybe Malka is trying to blame Krysti and make her feel guitly for this weekend's fight. Either way, I am not sure how to refuse an Area Mama's order. Apparently it is an offer that even Krysti can't refuse so we are stuck.

I wonder if I could convince Krysti to go all the way back to campus with me and just hang out while I studied. I'm not sure I want to spent that much time with her though. I can leave her with Julius and jack in to the library database. It will be better if I take her to the hospital. I agree to go.

We say nothing as we walk across the courtyard that Jason controls. "He'll be back soon," Krysti begins.

"Which he?" I ask.

"Jason, the Pervert," she spits.

"He has a punctured lung and several broken ribs," I respond.

"How'd he get that...Julius...well serves him right. Where're we going?"

"Through the mall. We can catch the train from there. Why did someone say we can't go that way?"

"We can...'s not so bad." Krysti gives me a good lookover. It is as if she has noticed me for the first time. Then she gives me a double take. She doesn't say much.

"When is Daniel expecting you back?" I ask. I have no idea how much of this evening I am about to lose. I'd really like to know.

"He is sleeping now," Krysti answers. "He was with the healing priests this morning and then they sent him home."

"You want to be back when he wakes up?"

"Probably. Don't know when he's going to wake up."

We follow the path to the hub. A dozen boys are challenging eachother on the rock wall two levels above the bottom where there's an entrance to the mall. Suddenly we hear drums. It's a hot beat. I smile. Krysti shakes her head and begins to walk toward the music, quickening her pace and showing enthusiasm for the first time since started our fools' errand.

The drums lead to a circle of beautifully dressed teenage girls, wearing mostly tunics and shorts in various colors, often with fringes and shimmer. At their center a girl with very, dark brown skin and a simple white tunic cut like a tank top plays bongo drums and another girl in a white tunic with long fringes, double triangle folds and fringes trimming her under shorts, dances in a blur of tanned skin, brown hair, and white.

"Mmmmm," sighs Krysti. "It's a different style, but styles change," she muses.

"The gods' tastes change," I muse back.

"Yes," Krysti answers. "That's Treya, the one who is dancing. She is it for this generation. She's the up and coming girl. She has the energy and the 'tude. That's the part that counts, not what color your hair is or what tunics and sandals you wear or even if you have your eyes done, you know?"

I was never part of this competition, but what Krysti says makes sense. "You may be right," I tell her.

"It's good to watch if you can step out of it and not think you are competing with these young things," Krysti continues. We have started to walk away. Krysti never takes the train but has a vague idea where the station is. By the time we are alone on the platform, Krysti is silent. She stares down the tracks. "Imagine your life having to ride this train every day."

"It's not so bad," I reassure her.

She shakes her head. "Is Blakie really going to take this train to that school every day?"

"If she can stay wit it," I answer.

Krysti shakes her head again. "Blakie was a good kid."

"She still is."

"Yes, but she deserved a shot. The gods are not always fair, you know?"

"There's a god on every street corner."

"You really believe that?"

"If Blakie can make it through the next two or three weeks, she gets a whole new future."

"She ends up like you?"

"Maybe, not the worst way to end up."

"I suppose. And Malka or even Lori would say the same. You know we went to school together, Lori and me but she just kind of gave up on everything. I mean if we'd had a field hockey team that played all the way up and that was it, she'd have stayed, but life isn't like that. I mean it's not a team sport if you want to be one of the top ones."

"There's always the next day," That is Adina's expression to a kid who did not do well, but academic success rewards all who work. It's a world with multiple winners even when the stakes are high. I think of that as we ride the one stop to the Government Center. I think of it more as I walk the block and a half to the hospital with a silent Krysti.

Julius is on the fourth floor. He is awake and sits on his bed. His feeding tube sticks out of blue and white striped pajamas that look like matress tick. I don't know where they found pajamas large enough but they had them. Julius is probably close to seven feet tall, maybe an inch or two taller. His shoulders are huge. His fists even bigger. Lank, blonde-brown hair frames a long, smooth, face, and a forehead unwrinkled by any serious thought but punctuated by lush, fuzzy eyebrows. Julius is blue eyed and has a thin mustache. His somewhat pointed chin is covered with wheat colored beard stubble. I suspect he stinks of half digested food and stale sweat. He brushes a hair out of his eyes and asks Krysti to have a seat.

There is no where to sit except the end of Julius' extra large size hospital bed. On a nondescript chair sits a much smaller man, with olive skin turned sallow and a tube sticking out of pajamas that hang limply on his small frame. The man has strong hands with large knuckles that seem to shine through translucent skin. His nose reminds me of a hawk. His hair is jet black and his tired eyes are black as well.

"What's he doing here!" Krysti all but screams at Julius, no forget it she screams for real!

"We were talking," Julius explains.

"Why did you let him in your room after what he did to you?"

"He kept me from killing someone," Julius explains.

"He what?" Krysti shrieks. "You rotten excuse for a human being," she addresses the stranger on the chair.

"He's not a rotten excuse for a human being," Julius corrects Krysti. "He was fighting for his life. Any of us would do the same. If he hadn't been a damn good fighter I would have killed him. Look at him and look at me. What chance did he have. I went for the ribs because he protected his face. If he had been a fool and let his guard down he'd be dead now and I would have murdered him. I mean we let a challenge get out of hand. I let things go too far, but Jason knew how to fight. I'm glad. "

"But he almost killed you!"

"I got to the hospital in time. I'm going to be fine once I can eat again. Jason could hardly breathe. I almost knocked all the wind out of him. I broke one of his lungs. He got me in the intenstines. We both had to be sewn up the old fashioned way. It was a draw. Even.... Understand."

"Are you saying fair fight?" gasps Krysti.

"More than that. Fair fight and stupid one. I don't ever want to kill somebody for no good reason."

"But isn't Security going to send....Jason to jail!"

"No, and it's Sheriff's Patrol now because Jason gave himself up here. Kety and Bill were smart bringing you here. They interviewed both of us. Therey're not going to press charges. They said itw as self defense, and I was in the fight so I know. No bullshit. It's over. Jason, you get to go back to your garden and the boys you bugger. Me, I don't know what I'm going to do. Daniel is going to be sore at me and I don't want to fight him."

"But..." sputters Krysti.

"But nothing, You talk to that Daniel of yours. You tell him you don't fool around with perverts. Simple... If Daniel thinks there's someone getting in his bond, he needs to find the right person."

Krysti stares at the floor. Then she changes the subject. "I saw Treya dance on the way over here."

"Treya is impure," answers Julius.

"Tastes change."

"I still like Nikita better," Julius continues. "Treya works too hard. Nikita just is."

"Nikita works every bit as hard as Treya. Nobody gets to the top sitting on their butt, dear."

"Careful who you call 'dear.' If Daniel overhears."

"Poor Daniel. The Healing Priests are still working on his nose."

"He didn't protect his face," Jason answers.

"Is that all you have to say?" Krysti's face flushes, and her skin is light enough to turn a very pretty shade of red.

"Yes. You start a fight, know how to finish it."

"I know too well," Julius sighs. "Never again."

"You were doing the work of the gods," Krysti tells Julius matter of factly.

"I would have killed you, Jason or you would have killed me. What would have happened to either of us."

"Jason would be dead."

"I didn't die," Jason smiles.

"Self defense," Krysti sing-songs.

"Damn right," Julius corrects her. "And if I killed Jason what would have happened to me."

"You were blessed and defending one who is blessed. You'd have been fine."

"Yes, but in my mind and inside me. What does it do to you to kill a guy in a fight over...well we know it was a fight over nothing."

"It's a scarey thought," Jason muses aloud.

"Yes, but if you do the work of the gods?" Krysti has no irony in her voice.

"I don't care," Julius cries. "There's a god on every street corner. I'd see ghosts in my dreams and they'd be right to come after me."

"Talk that way, and you'll have demons coming after you," Krysti warns.

"Kill someone for no reason and I'll really have a problem then won't I? I'll deserve those demons don't you think?"

"I think you deserve demons even if you kill someone accidentally," Jason replies. "I'm relieved Julius is going to be OK as much as I'm glad I'm alive."

"At least you can eat," Julius sighs.

"Want to trade my broken ribs for your food tube?"

"Not really, but there's going to be a truce between us. Even if Daniel asks me to fight again. You are going to be my friend and I'll refuse because it's my honor, understand?"

"I'll do the same thing," Jason answers.

"And you," Julius turns to Krysti. "You talk to Daniel and tell him to stop suspecting everything with something between the legs of messing with his bond. He needs to learn to stop being so jealous, and you..."

"Why me?" Krysti all but shrieks.

"Because you give him cause."

"Every one blames me!

"You need to tell Daniel to reign it in, got that, before he does more damage and pulls more people in to fight for him and someone gets killed or he kills someone. Do you want ghosts and demons attacking an innocent person?"

Krysti stares at the floor. We stay a few minutes longer. Then I get to take Krysti home. I don't remember much about the trip, but she's received her ritual chastisement. Hopefully, she will in turn to talk to Daniel, and if she is fooling around behind his back (always a possibility), she will be more discrete.

Yahanna Typha
Just Lee
Statesboro, Georgia USA

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