Saturday Storytime: In the Cold

Kelly Jennings lives and writes in the mountains, which I think shows through in this story. She published her first book, Broken Slate, last year.

I consider, as I climb up pasture, why, given how Sergi would love to use my insomnia, I don’t go to the nursery and offer. Earn a bit of good will. Probably it’s because I excel at soothing cranky babies, which I would just as soon no one come to count on. Rather shovel dung than get slotted into nursery.

Which Hugo would say is my main issue. A tiny colony barely hanging on does not have range to indulge adolescent moods. Put your hand to what needs doing and no whining. I tip my head back to watch snow whirl against the dome field. I do know Hugo is right. I’ve worked with Sid on budget, balancing heat against food against power for the tanks; I know how tight our numbers are. I know another bad mold or one more wicked flu could break us. Plus, without anyone ever exactly saying so, I know I’m top of the stack for Chair of Executive when the time comes for Second to take charge: the obvious choice, the only one of us with the math and the mouth and the will to step up.

Which does not mean I like the idea. Oh, I like the parts where I noodle around asking Sid and Ati and Hugo questions, the parts where I get to find out what I otherwise wouldn’t. I like seeing how decisions get made. I especially like the moments—there haven’t been many, but it’s happened—where I make a suggestion that nudges the colony in some direction it might not have gone had I not been there, a better direction.

What I don’t like is how Hugo and I keep banging heads.

Hugo’s Chair of Executive now.

Above the pasture, I cross the orchard, rich with the scent of pears and figs. Most fruit has been harvested, but I find a missed pear among the grass and eat it as I walk. The blizzard rages outside. When I get close enough to the field wall, I see snow piled high against the dome. Inside, as always, late summer. The peaches and other crops over in the aux-dome need winter, so we hold one there, a hundred and fifty watch out of every fifteen hundred; here in the main dome, it’s summer except at Harvest Fest, when the Firsts like a chill.

The main aim of dome placement was flat fertile land, but at the north point of the dome some steep interesting rocks slipped in. I climb up through them, taking the most difficult route on purpose, enjoying the hard use the climb gives my muscles, and at the top stretch out under the blasting snow, at this point only meters overhead, watching the fractal swirl of white flakes. After a time, I link up.

I could, like Bek, game; I could study; I could catch up on an animate or research why cold might be necessary for holidays in the worldview of my elders. Any of those. Instead, I send a nudge, the standard halloo—I’m here, anyone else?

I am expecting Bek to answer, if anyone does, given I’m on our section of the band. Of course, theoretically, some First might tap our bit, but living packed in how we do, we hold our boundaries tight. In any case, the reply I get is strong, and strange, in a language I don’t know. French, says the Pop-in. It adds that this is a Republic language, and asks if I want the translator. Automatically, I hit Yes.

That clears the message: I’m here, I’m here, where are you?

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Saturday Storytime: In the Cold
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