For those of you wondering, the novel is just about to get moving, but first we have to spend time in a broom closet. Don’t all adventure require some closet time? I’d promise that after this session there’d be no more closet time, but I don’t like breaking promises.
The Uriculous Jonma Claim
I found myself alone with Lustavious, and if I’d planned my day carefully, I don’t think I would have scheduled that.
“You got a medical office?”
“There’s a sink in the janitor’s closet.”
The janitor’s closet? I didn’t ask him why he preferred a closet full of dirty mops to a medical office or even the men’s room.
“I think you’re supposed to hold your arm up and apply pressure.”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“I dunno,” I said, “I’ve been alive for thousands of years, I probably heard it several hundred places. After a while it sinks in.”
He nodded and smiled. For a confident man like Lustavious, being gouged by a rat-bird’s beak had to be a surprise – even unsettling. Lustavious’ confidence was starting to return, and I wanted him washed and bandaged before his bull-dozer charm returned.
“So that bird,” he said. “Does he belong to you?”
“He belongs to himself, I guess, but he hangs around me all the time.” It occurred to me that Swampy was not hanging around me at the moment. He was with Ono. Did that mean I’d been replaced?
Why did I feel jealous? Really, why did I feel jealous? Was I jealous that Swampy had left me, or that he got to spend time with Ono?
That’s when I realized I was attracted to the young wizard woman. I usually have to be around a woman four or five decades before I feel any attraction, and they are usually pretty close to dead by then, so there hadn’t been a lot of long-term relationships in my life.
Of course by my standards a long-term relationship would require at least five or six hundred years.
“So,” said Lustavious, “does this bird act like that all the time?”
“You mean gouging muscle tissue out of your arm?”
“Only with people he likes. It’s a mating thing. He must have found you charming.”
“But he’s a boy bird.”
I had no idea of Swampy’s sexual orientation, but Lustavious was quiet for a while. Maybe he was wondering why I’d spent the last few millennia with a gay bird – and what that might mean about my intentions regarding his medical care. What ever shut Lustavious down was fine with me. It wasn’t until we had the gauze wrapped and pinned down that he asked, “Do you think it was my singing?”
“That got the bird so…” Lustavious pointed to the bandage with his non-mutilated appendage, “amorous.”
“I never sing to Swampy,” I said with a tone of unspecified innuendo.
Lustavious nodded nervously – then jerked as Akwar came out from behind the mops.
I just raised my eyebrow – sure Akwar’s sudden appearance was jarring, but if staying calm increased Lustavious’ insecurity… I guess I’ve covered that. “So, what now?” I asked as if I had been expecting her.
“The director’s lab,” said Akwar. I looked out the door of the cleaning closet and down the largely plain hallway and tried to figure out how Akwar had approached without me noticing.
Then I became aware of her words. The director’s lab? Nearly every occasion when I’d been summoned to the MOIST ministry, there’d been a Light Bringer, or retired Light Bringer in charge. I was standing with the Light Bringer, and we both were being summoned to – not an office, but a director’s lab.
Lustavious saw the expression on my face and laughed. “He doesn’t know.”
“We’ve kept it a secret,” said Akwar.
Lustavious enjoying the turn in our battle of nerves, gestured for me to precede him out of the closet and down the hallway.
“You know who the first director of MOIST was, don’t you?” asked Akwar.
“Of course,” I said, “Uriculous Wisehind. I knew him.”
“I know him too,” said Akwar, “so do half the people in this building.”
Was it possible that one person might have lived on Two all those millennia without me knowing? Was it possible that half the people in the building had? That didn’t sound right. Even I wasn’t that obtuse. “I don’t understand,” I said.
Lustavious laughed. “We’ve got a little secret for you,” he sang. The man’s smug confidence was back. Where was Swampy when I needed him?
So now you’ve met most of the main characters except for Dirk, and two others. I don’t much care for one the two others. Come meet him next Friday.
Am I unfair to bureaucrats? Maybe. It could be worse.