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10

The unit passed, though passed is hardly the word for it.

It seemed to me the whole organized (?) structure of the community was going to pot. Or, at any rate, there were now only Yay and me out there hoeing, tying things up, earmarking things for extra water, and alsofood taskpruning the vines and fruit trees and getting quick-growing fern to go south, south, dammit, and get off the tubers. Borss meanwhile had somehow become Moddiks assistant in the workshop, which I could hardly resent (I told myself resentfully) since they were water-mixer making, a deed due to be for the general good.

However, other members of the general good

Danor and Kam were over in the western area of the Garden. Moddik had said he thought hed seen some gerkalli fruits, or something equally unlikely-sounding, coming up there. Wed gone to look, and sure enough gerkalli fruits they were, apparently. Kam had offered to stay and weed them outdesert weed is very nice, and can be directed into a grand display at the edges of the irrigation canals and thereby off the crops, since luckily it prefers hanging over water to strangling things. Kam and Danor also planned to extend one of the canals to join up with another, so I gave them Jaska and my blessing, thinking how worthwhile they were for helping and working so spontaneously. Back on my own with Yay, though, I had to keep pushing stupid I-am-solitary-and-fed-up thoughts from my mind. My cursing was a pleasure to hear. If any one had.

Naz lay on the veranda in permanent ecstasy, smiling at the green branches above. The swan lay in the green branches, smiling down at Naz. Estens dragon, which was going to be a drag, had been tethered at the edge of a clearing after it had torn up a young tree and bitten it in pieces with innocent cries of delight.

Nilla was making Her Own Garden. Moddik had suggested it, presumably to occupy her nonexistent mind. She was appropriating flowers and replanting them in Her Own Garden, where fortunately they took philosophical root. They were, without exception, pink flowers, like Nilla, with her magnolia skin and dusky strawberry hair, and she was making, for a centerpiece, a Jang abstract sculpture out of bits of Moddiks leftover ice-glass. Which was all going to be, of course, astoundingly useful.

Moddiks expected materials arrived at noon, as hed said. Hed somehow persuaded the Q-R set-up to use the displacer to get them through quickly. Crates of atrocious, incomprehensible metal objects and plastic slabs therefore exploded into being in the clearing, and scared Estens dragon into ripping up another tree. Moddik checked them himself to save me the trouble.

The rest of the party were located thus: Glis and Felain in secret in the yellow cabin. Passing the door once, there seemed to be some sort of poetry and music recital going on rather than what one would have expected. Talsi, meanwhile, was being brazenly wanton out among the groves with Phy and Loxi. From their directionroughly due southclimactic screams came with monotonous regularity.

As for Esten, he had been invited into Talsis grove and graciously declined; he had been invited into Glis and Felains cabin and had declined even more graciously. Nilla had tried to lure him into Her Own Garden, but he had sensibly said he felt exhausted and was going to sleep for ten hours. Id tried to keep out of his way, mostly because Id rather have plonked myself right next to him.

Take the green cabin, I said. Its the last one free, and you may have to share with Naz, if he ever comes around enough to get there.

Before Esten vanished to slumber, however, Id seen him in conversation with Moddik at the workshop door. Very earnest they both looked. Was Moddik explaining the inter-valvular pump circuits or something?

I stamped about in the greenery in a furious state of complete irrationality, and uncovered, during the course of the afternoon, four sets of Gray-Eyeses having it off, a snake making a hole and digging up one of the anti-earth-tremor stabilizers Id so laboriously put down, and a new mauve animal swimming in an irrigation canal, which took one look at me and fled wailing into the undergrowth. Gradually many new types of this and that were wandering in. A sand-rabbit or two bounced through the fern, and dune-frogs croaked messages to each other through the desert nights. The insects were acquiring most derisann extra colors on their tinsel wings, and very groshing they looked. I passed from wonder to annoyance and back twenty times, and it was sunset, all at once, before I was ready.


Moddik showed us the water mixer at sunset, his eyes brilliantly alert as the shiny little wheels that spun in the mixers dome.

It wasnt lovely to look at, as hed predicted it wouldnt be. Rather shorter than the original striding giant of whipped cream and mother-of-pearl, its semi-opaque ice-glass dome looked slightly indecent. Its squat body, mounted on tall yet somehow squat metal legs, had a freakish demoniac appearance. But when he touched the activator, the water misted from it like a sweet dream.

It went bumbling off purposefully, just as the original stalking colossus returned. They passed each other, stepping imperiously over the smaller trees, and looking like a beautiful maker and her ugly child who, differences unresolvable, refused to speak to each other.

I thanked Moddik lavishly. The Jang were impressed.

Nilla said, How drumdiky it looks. Not decorative at all. Makes me positively tosky, trying to inspire Moddik to maul her. She was wearing her most unembroidered see-through and had been picking the flowers again to adorn her hair. Moddik patted her on the head with a wicked look of senile indulgence, and Nilla fumed.

We were going off to sixth or seventh meal, but Moddik said hed had a meal injection and wouldnt bother.

And I can easily get through the night on some stay-awake pills, my dear young leader, and present you with eight or nine undecorative but useful water mixers come the dawn. Now I have the mold, its just a production line in here.

Stay-awake pills, I said. Meal injections.

You mustnt think Jang have the monopoly on misuse of the body, he reproved me. Never fear, I shall snore the whole unit away tomorrow.

How disappointing for Nilla.

The Jang were riotous in the saloon. Why not?

Danor and Kam, tired by honest toil, as I was, talked quietly with me. Naz floated above our heads on a float-cushion. Where was he getting so much ecstasy from? Moddik must have given it to him to keep him quiet. Loxi sidled over and invited me to the never-ending Talsi orgy, and I said something vile enough to send the entire menage hurrying off to their float-beds.

I went along the corridor with soil-burned feet and a spiteful mien.

Yellow cabin: Felain and Glis, no music now.

Apricot cabin: Loxiandphy, plus Talsi. It sounded like battle in there, what on earth? Oh, graks to it.

Violet cabin: Danor and Kam. Controlling of foul thoughts. Sleep well, or whatever youre up to, nice people.

Scarlet cabin: Nilla, who else? Pink Nilla on scarlet bed, pink hair spread on scarlet pillow. Nilla constructing a plan of actionhow to get Moddik. Rotten dreams, ooma, and if you pick any more of those flowers Ill bury you up to your neck in Gray-Eyeses natural fertilizer.

Green cabin: Esten stretched out for ten hours sleep.

Estenmyself.

The poets body, slender steel in a marble glove. Limber and strong as whipcord, didnt I just know? Shadowy eyes, shut, lashes like black fringes of needles. White plains, dark valleys, hair line curling fernDamn, damn, and damn.

Well? Why not go in? So you lost mind, soul, and heart to me, eh? Here I am. Show me.

Hergal, I said, almost aloud. Just the kind of mean, tantalizing game youd play on me. Give me so much on a plate you know Id never take it, then leave it all up to me to come crawling back.

Yet, so clever to make yourself me, to sound even rather like me, certainly not really like you, Hergal, my friend, my lover, whom I knocked right through that wall in Four BEE, thereby beginning the end.

Id gone past. Id reached my own cabin, the blue one.

I went through the open door alone, and shut it.


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