Archive for September, 2008


September 23, 2008

The rest of that day they spent resting, and on the next they started to work. Teres worked in the kitchen for a while, then switched to laundry. She began sewing – mending, and then making new clothes for the residents of the compound. However, she did not yet use any of the the cloth that they saved from their market stall and brought with them.

Cal and Bil both started out by cleaning up – around the house, around the factory floor. Bil started reading the textbooks he had brought with him, and he was helped by one of the men who worked there, Den, who took an interest in him. Den was the man with salt and pepper hair whom they had seen in the cafeteria the night of their arrival.

Everyone at the factory seemed to know their situation, and to be sympathetic. They didn’t feel any danger of being turned in or reported on. Interactions with the outside world were few. From time to time the compound received deliveries of goods – groceries and other supplies – cloth, now that Teres was there – shoes, et cetera. Occasionally Ferr and Med would go out shopping and come back with a big cart-load of supplies. And customers would come to the factory to negotiate orders with Ferr, and then later they would come to pick them up. The buyers were either people from the markets, or people from the restaurants or restaurant supply houses.

Naarka, after his night at the whorehouse with the prostitute, came back to the ferry crossing in the morning and crossed with his vehicle. He went south first, and stopped at every hostel and most eateries for several kilometers. Finally he came to a bridge over a gorge which collected tolls. If they went south, they had to pay at this toll station – there was no other way past the gorge except down into it somehow, which would take a large detour – he didn’t think they had the supplies for that. He inquired there to see if they had crossed the bridge. the first person he talked to didn’t know. He waited, camped out nearby, until he was pretty sure he talked to everyone on every shift of working that fuckig toll. None of them remembered seeing a middle-aged woman and two-teen-aged sons. Just because these know-nothing peons didn’t remember didn’t mean the family didn’t in fact cross the bridge, but he had had no whisper of them anywhere he had stopped. So it was beginning to seem unlikely that they had gone south.

Time was running out. He had already lost over a week. He turned back north, gunning the motor of his vehicle in frustration. He began looking suspiciously at every private home now, but he really couldn’t stop at each one. Even logistically that made no sense, besides the embarrassment and damage to his family’s reputation if he intruded on a citizen. So he raced back to the ferry stop and then began working his way north, stopping at every eatery, hostel and hotel to ask around. He was getting discouraged. He was actually north of the little access road which led to the glass factory compound, when he stopped at a restaurant and overheard two travelers talking. They were discussing the glass factory. One of them mentioned that as a side deal while buying glass, he had also managed to sell some cloth there. something about the mention of cloth selling tugged at Naarka’s under thoughts. The traveler continued that in fact he had sold cloth there before, low-quality cotton, but this last trip they had started buying higher-quality linen. He had dealt with someone new there, a woman who really knew what she was talking about with cloth, and was a hard bargainer. It then connected for Naarka. The stall at the market, the family’s stall – they sold cloth.

He walked over and started questioning the two travelers about their conversation, “What are you two talking about now?” Since the two travelers were not citizens, they answered his questions politely.

The one with the story spoke first. He bowed his head slightly as he said,  “Citizen, good day.” He then looked up, looking Naarka full in the face as he continued. This irritated Naarka. The trader seemed to be holding a secret behind his eyes, and his expression intimated that it was Naarka’s secret he was holding – which was even more irritating. However Naarka didn’t have time to indulge his irritation. The hunt for this family pushed everything else in his mind aside.

“We were just discussing some recent business of ours,” continued the trader. He stretched out his vowels, especially the a’s, and his k’s sounded slightly dirty: a buzz instead of distinct click. This accent placed his origin to the west – but whether past the mountains Naarka couldn’t tell.

“Go on,” said Naarka. “You sold some cloth?”

“Citizen, yes. At Ferr’s glass factory.”

“Glass factory?”

“Citizen, yes. It is a few kilometers to the south of here, to the west of the north-south road.”

“And you sold cloth there?”

“Citizen, yes. Some linen.”

“And you sold it to a woman?”

“Citizen, yes.”

“Do you know here name?”

“Citizen. I do. Her name was Teres.”

“Do you know if this woman had any sons?”

“Citizen, I do not know. She did not mention her childrenn in or converation, and I did not ask about children in our conversation.”

“And where exactly did you say this glass factory was?”

“Citizen, go about four kilometers south. There is an access road that opens west off of the main north-south coast road. The access road is marked by a long pole sticking out of the ground with a piece of blown glass sitting on top of it – a large green globe.”



September 7, 2008

Teres could finally think about food. Med suggested some sausage. That’s what had been served for breakfast. If she would like to eat some, it was already prepared. Or if not that, maybe some eggs, some bread, perhaps with some jelly.

All of the others in the compound had already eaten, having got up early as part of their routine. Teres and her two sons, however, were exhausted – after all, they had walked through a sand storm. Teres asked Med, “By the way, was there any damage to the factory due to the storm?”

“No, there wasn’t,” Med answered. “The surrounding compound wall makes us almost oblivious to all but the largest sandstorms. It’s one of the reasons it’s there, after all. We did see that it got a little darker in the middle of the day yesterday. That’s how we usually know there’s a storm.”

Teres went back to the room where their beds had been set up on the floor to see if her two sons were up yet. Bil was awake, sitting on his bedroll and staring at the woven wall hanging above the couch.

“You’re up,” said Teres, as she swung the door open and walked into the room.

“Yeah,” said Bil listlessly.

“Are you ready for breakfast? Would you like some kaf?” Bil didn’t usually drink kaf, not at home. But of course, he realized once more at that minute, there was no home anymore. He suddenly felt an urge to cry, but he tried to hold it off by squinting. He looked up at his mother and saw that she actually seemed somewhat cheered, or a little relieved – at any rate in a better mood than he had seen her since he had run up into the stall with the news that their house was burning, their life in that city was over, and that hours or minutes away, unless they ran, and even maybe if they did, their death was chasing them.

He swallowed, and nodded. Teres stepped into the room, leaned down over Cal and gently touched his shoulder. “Cal,” she said softly. Cal opened his eyes. He had been sleeping only lightly. He looked directly up at the ceiling, just where his head was when he opened them. He didn’t move his head at all to look at the voice that woke him. “Cal,” she said again. “Are you ready to get up? Did you sleep enough? Are your dreams ready to let you go?”

Cal brought his arms up out of the covers and rubbed the mucous out of his eyes. He then sat upright sat still for a moment, staring blankly into space. “Yeah. I’m up,” he said.

“Come to the cafeteria.” said Teres. “Well, first let me talk to you two. I just had a ..conversation with Med. It’s clear that they understand our situation. I think Med knows the risks of us being here, but she is still willing to let us stay. I think we can stay here for several months if we want. I’m not sure but this place may be out of the way enough for us to be able to do that safely. I told her of course we would earn our keep, but I don’t yet know yet what kind of work they would have for us. Anyway, we know that we have to do whatever is in front of us, right. … What do you boys think? do you have anything you want to say about it?”

Bil hadn’t expected to be asked his opinion in any decisions that would be made regarding what they would do. He had expected his mother to make all those decisions. He trusted her to make them, so that in turn he didn’t have to put any thought into them. But now that she asked him, it made sense. It seemed only natural. Still, he looked to Cal first.

Cal felt Bil’s look on him, added to his mother’s. “I think we’re lucky to have run across this place, that’s what I think. Though I don’t think I’m awake enough to think anything very clearly.” Then it was Cal’s turn to look at Bil and expect him to say something.

“Uh, yeah” said Bil, scratching his head. “I don’t think I have anything to add to that. If you think we can trust ’em, mother.”

Teres looked serious as she weighed her responsibility. “Yes, I think we can.” She looked from Bil to Cal and back again. “All right then. Let’s go eat, shall we?”

The three of them got up and walked down the hall to the cafeteria-cum-dining room. Med was in there and had brought out some plates of sausage, bread with jelly, and three plates of fried eggs – one each for Teres, Cal, and Bil. They ate ravenously.

Med stayed and watched them eat. she did not attempt any further questioning or conversation; she only spoke to ask if they needed more food, which she then fetched. She left as they were finishing. A few minutes later, Ferr passed through the dining room and swept them up behind him in a whirl wind tour of the factory.

“This is a glass factory,” he explained as he took them first onto the main shop floor, which they had seen the evening before through the big hangar bay doors as they sat on their packs in the courtyard. He showed them the big furnace in the center of the floor. He showed them where the craftsmen worked. Each had their own separate little area where they could concentrate on their own specialty, but each had easy access to the big red furnace at the center of everything.

“You see how we make a lot of small household items, the plates that you all used in the dining room, cups, glasses, bottles, vases and so forth. That gives us the bulk of our income. We sell to little shops throughout the city and some of the surrounding towns. It’s a bit of a tourist item, but we also supply some restaurants and hotels and that sort of thing. But, I have a little pet project of my own that I’m working on. What I’d like to do is supply windows to a lot of the large building in the city, to do big large paned windows, doors and so forth. It’s really difficult to do that as a single craftsman, by blowing don’t you see, there’s really a limit to the surface area that you can do. And getting a uniform thickness, that’s really really difficult when you’re blowing glass the way you would to make a bottle or something like that. What you really want to do is produce glass by rolling. Usually that’s done in a much bigger and more technically equipped facility than what we have here. But i would like to see if we can do it. We would probably be the first shop our size to produce rolled glass. That’s what i would like to see us try to do, anyway.”

Teres, Cal and Bil were impressed, but didn’t really follow what he was talking about at all. He led them back to Med and went back to supervise things on the shop floor. Med showed them around the kitchen, and the the barn, where they kept chickens and goats, to reduce the amount of animal products that they needed to buy from the market in the city or have delivered.

They learned a little bit of the geographic situation of the factory as well: it was set far back from the road, about three or four kilometers, reached by a tiny east-west access road, with nothing else on it. They were just a little north of the east west line that would have gone through the center of the city. The north south road at this point was actually pretty far west of the city anyway, since the river curved a little east of it and the road started to curve away west before it hit the coast about a hundred kilometers to the north and swung completely west.

After showing them around, Med left them alone for the rest of the day to get settled. They were assigned small rooms – Teres had her own room and Bil and Cal shared another. They unpacked some of their things. They bathed. They did laundry. They rested from their physical, mental and emotional exertions of the past two or three days.


September 7, 2008

She stepped out of the room and into the early-morning cool of the hallway. The floor was the color of wet clay, but with a sheen of reflectivity polished onto it. She turned to head for the only place she knew how to get to – the dining hall. There was a faint sound of machinery and workers’ shouts, almost beyond perception, coming from the shop floor several rooms away.

She stepped quietly down the hall, tentative a bit in her foot falls – not wanting to make too much noise, but not wanting to sneak up on anyone easily startled.

She turned left at the small hallway to the dining room which she remembered from the night before. The door was slightly ajar. Teres pushed it and , looking into the room beyond she thought at first it was empty. She took two steps forward to be half in the door, and then she saw that Med was sitting at the closest table on the right, sipping kaf out of a cup and looking through papers that she had spread out in four or five piles in front of her on the table. Teres took two more steps into the room before Med noticed her.

“Oh, good morning,” said Med with a lift of her head and a widening of her eyes. A slight smile broadened and lifted her mouth. She wore the look of a concerned hostess. “There is kaf if you would like it,” Med continued, starting to get up and looking toward the counter, where a samovar had been set up and was waiting for customers.

Teres raised her hand plaintively, “No, don’t get up. I can get it,” she said and turned and walked toward the counter. Med sat back down and, looking steadily at Teres, and considered her. Finally now that the morning had come, she did have some questions to ask, though not the ones that Teres feared. She waited until Teres had gotten her kaf and sat down before she asked them.

Teres walked over to the counter. Ceramic cups were stacked in three or four columns, two or three cups high. She lifted one off of its stack, and as she flipped it over she marked how its weight slightly distended her fingers when she caught it right-side up. The heft was conforting in its familiarity. She lifted it to the spigot on the front of the samovar. The valve on the spigot was kind of a corkscrew – she had to twirl it. It moved upward as she did so, and the hot water fell out the bottom of the valve assembly. When her cup was as she gauged about two-thirds full, she started twirling the valve closed again. To right of the stacks of cups and the samovar was a bowl of kaf capsules. She took two and dropped them into her cup. Next was a bowl of clear granules, in large, millimeter long crystals.

“If you like sweetwater, there are some sweetwater crystals in that bowl,” interrupted Med. Teres didn’t even shake her head, she just turned and brought her cup over to the table where Med was sitting, and sat down opposite. Med smiled warmly again. “What can i get you for breakfast?”

Teres smiled too, and shook her head. “Nothing, really. Thank you. At least, not yet. I’m still too sleepy even to think about food.” She sat still for a full minute, and her smile faded as she stared blankly at the table top. She brought the cup to her lips, pursed them, and tipped the cup just enough for the liquid to kiss them briefly. She didn’t really want to sip it – she just wanted to test the temperature, and to see if any of the kaf had yet dissolved.

“I hope you don’t mind not having the sweetwater already in the kaf. I don’t really like sweetwater – I think it’s bad for my teeth. I realize it’s a bit of an inconvenience to have the kaf capsules dissolve that much more slowly, but I can deal with it. I figure most people can.” Med explained, somewhat purposelessly.

Teres smiled a worried smile under deply tired, deeply worried eyes. She blinked slowly, and siad, “Of course I don’t mind.”

“So,” said med, getting down to the point. Teres tensed visibly in her shoulders. “How…” began Med slowly, “How… long do you think you will need to stay with us?”

Teres looked into Med’s eyes, and knew that she knew. She was certain that Med knew exactly what their situation was, and that Med would do what she could do to protect her, without endangering her own family. Teres wasn’t sure exactly how far she could trust Med, but she had a pretty good idea. She thought carefully about what to day next.

“Well…” she began, just as slowly as Med had begun, “Well.. we would of course be grateful to accept your hospitality for as long as we could…” She wasn’t sure where to take it next. Med obviously knew the general situation she was in, and thus understood the specific difficulties she faced in this situation right here right now. She must also understand why Teres was having difficulty coming up with what to say next.

Med tried to help her out, prompting, “Do you think you will need to stay here for more than a month?”

Teres locked her gaze on Med’s eyes. Truly, Med understood her position well – very well, perhaps even better than Teres herself did. “It may be the most beneficial course for us to stay here for that long, if…”

“If your presence here is not advertised?”

“You understand our situation well. Of course, we could not accept charity for that long. If we can make ourselves useful, and earn our keep, we would be grateful to impose on you for that long.” And she thought, Translation: we will trust you to hide us for that long.

“Have you… traveled… far enough… that you could stay longer than that?” Translation: How close is your pursuer? How much of a lead do you have on him?

“I think if we found ourselves here for more than two months then it would be time for us to move on.” Translation: He is very close. We still have to build our lead over him by a substantial amount before we can start thinking about not running for any considerable length of time. And, of course, this puts you, Med, at risk. If he’s that close behind us, he may be able to do some investigating in this area and learn where we are. And if he discovers us here being sheltered by you, you would be in danger. Not only of retribution, but also of being destroyed because you were in the way, and he needed to clear you like brush to get to us.

Med understood all of this in the single sentence, and the glance that went with it.

“I see,” she said, nodding her head and letting it soak in. Well, she had already made her decision. She felt like reaching out her hand and touching Teres’s. But didn’t. That that would somehow break the code they had slipped into over the past few minutes. “Well,” she finally continued, “You are welcome to stay here until you feel you need to leave. This house welcomes you, this family welcomes you. This workshop welcomes you, this community of craftsmen and craftswomen welcomes you.”

“I…” Teres hesitated, then went on, “realize how much of an imposition this is…” She glanced up from the tabletop into Med’s eyes again, to make sure she got the understanding, acknowlegdement, maybe even empathy – for which she was asking. She found it. “Of course we cannot stay without earning our keep, as I said.”

Med beamed, finally smiling as much as she had wanted to. “Oh, don’t worry. There is plenty to do here. It won’t be difficult at all for you to earn your keep, and even more besides.”

“Now, will you think about something to eat?”

Teres released the relieved trust from the reserves in which her nervous fear had kept it locked for so many hours. It flowed through all her aching muscles and joints, and she nodded, blinking and smiling, “Yes, thank you.” She sipped the kaf which was now fully activated, the capsules having dissolved during their tense conversation.