Colleen, I guess your wish is my command.
Strapped for time, I think a little more of Stars in Heaven would make a fine post for a Monday, as I discover if I am really finished with the Census yet or not, face a dental appointment and wrap the afternoon with a haircut. Janet and I were gone over the weekend on a necessary (but thoroughly enjoyable) visit with my best friend, Kevin, who is enduring the loss of his dog and his father-in-law — both within a week. The funeral for Dave was yesterday. Weʼd have consoled wife Dawn as well, but sheʼs out in Maine with the rest of her family. We miss her and wish her the best in this sad time.
For us here, letʼs return to the unnamed planet (what would you like me to call it?) where the peasants grow stars, which they then must sell at the huge fair in the If-naryadh’iq square (a name that I really enjoyed inventing maybe twenty years ago).
Daniel dragged himself up on his knees, glaring under his brows at his uncle. “Thudface!” He crawled back to his spot, beating his hands on his robe to clean the dust.
Uncle Jism must not have heard because he simply turned back to the booth. “Gotta keep ‘em in line, Ghorf.”
Rimmon disagreed. “Give the kid a break, Jiz. I’d’a gone for her myself.”
“Jiz’s right, Rim.” Ghorf spat. “Kid’s gotta do his part.”
“Part? Let him live. He be old and cranky soon enough.”
“That how you treat your own, Rim?”
“Those with the wife, no. But they’re little yet. Like the kid here.”
“See?” Ghorf belched, having made his point.
“But they’ll grow.” Jism sounded almost greedy about that. Now he turned on Ghorf. “I remember you havin’ your own times, run-ins with the old man, not so long ago.”
“Bless his memory.”
“Duluth! You hated his guts alive, Ghorf.” Rimmon sounded outraged, and baffled, both at the same time.
“Me? Who couldn’t wait to get off to the city?” Ghorf almost choked on that last word.
“You’d’a gone, too, but you knew the farm’d be yours,” Jism cackled.
“Could’a been you, Jiz.” Rim spoke the words weakly, but Jism nodded.
Uncle Ghorf actually looked thoughtful. “He hated me from the day I was born.”
Jism snickered. “No one likes to be reminded of why they’re married.”
“Don’t talk dirty about the ole man, Jiz. I tole ya before!”
Daniel could see where this was headed—edging himself under the boothside. The boy hunkered after.
“Yeah, sure, Ghorfie. Like you never thunk it yerself.”
Ghorf roared and swatted Jism, a solid one, sounding like a superplum smacking the dirt. Jism flopped on his rear.
“Wha’ the kraiss—?” He got up, redfaced, snorting like a bull.
Rimmon stepped between them. “Stop it. You two are still like little kids.”
“Stay outta it, Rim. Not yer fight.”
“It is if you trash my booth, Jiz. Now stop it!”
Ghorf snarled, “Swamp you, brother. You ran out years back.”
Rim glared. “At least I got out. Better’n both a’ you.”
“Kraiss. Listen to him. Trapped in this godforsaking mess. No fresh air, no good healthy field work.”
Rim simply smiled now. “Yeah, brothers, right.”
Daniel leaned close, breathing in his ear: “Unca Rim must have it made.”
“Yeah.” Actually, he couldn’t understand why Uncle Rimmon would ever have left to come to this city with its hot sun and always sweating and people everywhere pushing at you all the time and donkeys and horses coming up the narrow winding streets, plopping it right on your foot with nowhere to go. Uncle Ghorf must be right: Rim’s cracked in the head and stupid to boot. He knew one thing himself. He couldn’t get out of here fast enough. He hated the city.
He felt wetness running down beside his right eye and wiped at the sweat with the heel of his palm. Things couldn’t get worse than this.
Of course, things could get worse than this, kidboy! Donʼt you realize you are a character in a story? Things always get worse for characters in stories. There would be no conflict, no suspense, no interest without characters suffering worse (and worse) problems.
That is possibly the saddest truth about fiction, worse than the Puritanical suspicion about storytellers lying: writers sadistically inflict woes on characters for our enjoyment; spearcarriers suffer mutilation and death — as if real people could be treated as mere gunfodder. Maybe thatʼs why I have such an aversion to finishing stories (surely, itʼs not just laziness).
Although I canʼt tell you everything about Stars in Heaven, or else no one would want to pay me money for it someday, maybe I will share some more some time.
Thank you for reading.