Summer - 4 - xxx1
I decided to meet with the Goddess today.
"Yeah, I had a bit of a question, actually."
"Oooh? Come seeking the divine oracle? I'm flattered <3"
"Do you have an actual name?"
"Ah, well! That is.... Hmph. That's a very personal question."
"That a no?"
"...It's one humans don't get the answer to. I'm not a human being. I didn't have parents to bring me up -- I'm the mountain and the water and the earth beneath your feet. I am wind and lightning and my soul is open to the sky. ...Someone like me doesn't have a name -- she just has a lot of by-names, things people call her to call her something, to...bring her closer to their world, like giving her a blue gown."
She sounds triumphant, with her face up and her chest out and the sun framing her like a halo (probably by design)...But her eyes looked a little sad.
Well, it's not in me to let a lady be sad.
"So, if I wanted to bring me closer to your world, what do I call you?"
"Hah. Silly boy... Call me what you wish, and never look back <3."
"Alright. Harvest Goddess will do, I guess."
"Oh, yes! I sort of nudged Maria over here the other day. Veeeeeerrry nice."
"It's not like that."
"Oh? Is there someone else? Who is it?"
I sigh and shake my head.
"No, it's just... She's...Not the sort of girl I go in for. No one here is. I don't know what they want...And I'm not the sort of guy who can give a girl whatever it is."
My 'relationships' are simple. I've never wanted to give anyone forever, and as long as they don't ask it of me, everythings fine. If I went after someone innocent, like Maria, or sweet, like Popuri, or honest like Ann, or homey like Elli, or conflicted like Karen...
I'd just hurt them. I don't want to do that.
"Y-you need someone! Love's a connection...That roots a person better than any other,"
She says with a pout. It takes me a second to process what she means.
"I'm not dating someone just because you want me to stay here!"
"Well eeeexxxcccccuuuuse me for liking your company."
She pouts, which just...Annoys me more.
"If you actually enjoyed me, instead of just liking having someone pay you worshipping attention, you'd not ask me to do stuff I don't want to. Just. To Satisfy. You."
"Hmph! Well, fine! I'll just find a new cute worshipper!"
I admit, I could have handled that with more grace. Yeah.
Anyway...Most of the day really happens without incident, until I'm home.
That's not the sweet, lilting voice of a lady. When a guy interrupts my day, it's a lot less cute.
Oh, it's Cliff...Well, he gave me food, so I guess that's an exception I am willing to make.
Also, he's a bro.
"So I brought some for you."
"Thanks, man! The last one you brought me was great."
"Yeah, well, I'm hoping no one knocks me down this time."
"Well, just look where you're going; my lawn's a happening place. All the cool kids come here."
He chuckles as I wolf it down.
"But man, you must catch a lot of a fish, to feed me, Cain, and you."
"It's not that hard to do."
You lie. I'm lucky to get *a* fish.
"I mean, I literally have nothing better to do. It's a peaceful life, and this is a good place for it."
"Yeah... I'll have to give you something sometimes, to make things even. I hate being too indebted."
He shrugs, like 'suit yourself.'
I head into the chicken coop and see...
We got a baby chicken!
I think I'll call him "Billy."
I headed to the bar for the evening.
"Hey, Karen...I got a bottle of this. Bartender said your Grandma made it. Is it any good?"
I'm really just fishing for more knowledge.
"I've never had any, but..."
"Why is our wine so different, even though we're using the same grapes?"
"Are they the same?"
"What? Of course they..."
She appears to think about this, and get what I'm getting at. "You think maybe something's changing them, even with the same plants?"
"Or something's changing your process without you realizing. If you're doing everything the same and not getting the same results, then either wine cares not for consistancy, and thus thinking about what to do is worthless... Or there's factors being overlooked. That's science, right?"
"We're a vineyard, not a lab!...But maybe I should look at our barrells..."
"Enjoying some company? The bar's a good place for it."
"Heh. You don't need to tell me."
"...Not quite what I meant. It's a good place to talk to anyone."
"...Sides of people you don't see during the day."
"What, you think the drinks make people honest?"
"Maybe. But more, I think it's the quiet of the night. They let themselves down to it, little by little....If you've got someone you're not sure of, the bar's a good place to clear the air."
I slide over and look. Basil's sitting there over by the entrance...I've sort of never been sure about him...
So I guess I should almost ask.
"Hey, Mr. Basil... Say, what do you do on those trips of yours, anyway?"
"I travel, but not the way most people do it: I spend more time in mountains or jungles than in famous cities. But I look for plants, and bring home any seeds I think will grow, and write papers on the rest while I'm hear...
But I'll tell you...The most precious flowers are the ones I have here."
"In your life?"
"No, I'm not really... The sort of guy who plant perrinials."
"A pity...You need to start thinking about cultivating relationships..."
I don't know what to think about that.
"...Just be careful. You might end up breaking Popsi's heart, and then I think I'd have to get a little rough."
But...I feel good, walking home. I was wrong. I believe it. I think he meant it when he said Lillia and Popuri were his most precious. Love won out over base cynicism. Hooray!
I glance at my funds and realize...
I CAN AFFORD A COW!
Summer - 5 - xxx1
Rain tommorow. Bummer.
Apparently Cliff was thinking about his life from yesterday, because when I talk to him, he says,
"Eh, it's not that..."
Ok, I lie. I work pretty hard.
"I think anyone can do it, though. I'm kind of a natural slacker."
"Nah, I couldn't. And it's not because I'm lazy...I just don't like really investing myself into something anymore; I like being able to come and go without loss... But I'm impressed by you doing otherwise. That's all."
Anyway, I find Maria in the mountain, too. In the Goddess's glade. Was she calling her again?
"I'm surprised you're out here today."
"Visiting this part of the mountain..."
"It's really inspiring, and I think my drawings are getting better, too."
"Will you show me one sometime?"
She clutches her sketchbook to her chest.
"M-m-maybe next time...B-but not this one....I-i-i-it's personal."
"Oh? Can you at least tell me what it's of?"
She blushes very hard.
"T-tommorow, I'll...I'll bring some landscapes. You can see, if you want."
"Alright...I promise I'll be nice, OK? Your drawings are probably awesome."
She nods shyly.
"Then being in the bakery makes sense. What are you getting?"
"Well, I was thinking of getting some thumbprint cookies...Do you think she could make them from real thumbprints? I mean, I know you can lift thumbprints, but I thought the powder you'd use wouldn't bake well..."
"...No, I think it'd burn. Or melt or something."
"Yeah. But it'd be interesting, to make everything literal like that...Or do you think it'd be limiting, to not have things that mean more than they mean?"
"Limiting. Definately: when you put different things together, you can get...Really neat results."
Like putting a sweet flower girl and an eccentric thinker in the same body.
"Yeah, I think you're right."
"It'll rain tommorow, so that'll cool everything down."
"Aaah, you're right.... Be careful you don't get a cold. It's my job to watch out for you, with your father in the city and your grandpappy in heaven..."
"I don't need someone to watch out for me. I'm not a kid."
"Everyone needs someone to watch out for them."
Now, to business. If I want a cow, I'll need some cow feed.
Which means paying for the two I can afford. I'll shop for more tommorow, when there's money in...And I'll have my grass soon.
Now, for cow!
"I'm here to buy an animal!"
"Really? Thank you!"
"It's not much, but it'll make things easier. You're starting out, so it's just good business to help."
"Because all the salt in the rivers is carried to here, and it doesn't evaporate back up, so it stays in the ocean forever."
"Thanks, bro! The Parson couldn't answer that, so he told me to go ask people."
"It's not a bad way to learn things, Stu."
But maybe not the best way to teach, though....
"Was that a philosophical question, or a scientific one?"
"I dunno. Would there be a different answer?"
"Well, I guess the waves come from a lot of things, scientifically. The ocean and the moon and the wind. Is that what you were asking?"
"So where does the wind come from?"
"I'm not sure. How about you look it up in the library when it opens?"
Not that I'm much better, I guess.
My barn is not a shack! I mean, sure, the walls have a few holes, and there's maybe a bit of a leak in the ceiling and I wouldn't trust bits of the floor very far, but...
It's a fine building!
It's short for Clarabella.
But it looks like I have a visitor before I can see her.
"You made something?"
"D-don't look so surprised! I can cook if I want to!"
"I thought you said you could only cook mashed potatoes."
"W-well...It's not good living without ever improving yourself. So I learned to make something new..."
She does not fill me with confidence...But she's supported me every step of this crazy way, and I bet I don't fill with confidence, either.
They are rather misshappen...And the rice isn't quite right, so it's falling apart more than you'd expect...
But when I taste them, I can picture Ann pressing the rice together, her hands red from the heat and her face scrunched up in determination...
So that I could taste some riceballs.
They're not that bad.
"They're pretty good, Ann."
"You really like them? Ha...W-well, at least the taste-testing got done by somebody."
"Well, Good luck for next time."
"That's my line!"
You know, if Cliff had shown up today or Ann yesterday...
They would have run in to each other again.
Anyway, up to meet my cow!
"Hey there, girl...You and I are partners now, alright? Like, buddies.... So let's try and get along and not have you trample me to death."
I give her a good brushing and some food....
And move in my chickens to prepare for tommorow's rainy day.
But I'm wondering...With the goddess in a snit about me, I wonder if...
Yeah, there's still a music box. I wonder if it's the last one? I guess it depends on when they get put here...
Summer - 6 - xxx1
"Oh, morning, Ann."
"Oh, good. You're not laid up by that thing that's got, like, half the girls in town laid up."
"Yeah. And you're so nosy, I was sure you'd have gotten sick...B-but that's not why I came, alright?!"
"Then why did you come?"
"W-welll...I wanted to...Check on your horse!"
"Well keep trying hard, alright! As long as you're devoted, even if you're not experienced, he'll respond to your feelings!"
"Alright, Alright... Thanks for checking up on me, Ann."
I go up to the mountains, but it occurs to me that if people are sick, they won't be here...Most of the girls I know would be at home...
Which for Karen means... The Vineyard.
This is my first time going to her house...But I am worried. So I'll head in and introduce myself to her mom, I suppose.
The moment I enter, I'm greeting by...A certain vibe. Like...Have you ever smelled despair? That one annoying guy at work, the one who always gets a little touchy-feely on you like you're buddies, once said that he knew despair had a smell. Depsair. Getting stuck in your life.
It's a sort of sour smell, taking on the qualities of dust and bad wine, and the faint smell of rotting flowers. It's the smell of my life, practically, but here it's so strong I could choke.
The whole air just pulls me down.
"Oh...Blue hat...White gloves... Are you Fox?"
Asks the thin lady who greets me when I come in. She's very pretty, with a gentle and lonely look to her, like a waning moon.
"That's right, ma'am." She smiles at that, making her face look a little less downcast.
"Of course. I actually came by because I heard there was something going around, and wanted to make sure she was OK."
I walk up the stairs... And into Karen's room.
It's not as girly as I expected it, and it's relatively mild, too. Karen sits up when she sees me, and tries to pull the covers up over her white camisol.
"Did my mom let you in?"
"Yeah. She said you weren't well."
"This is kind of emberassing...My mom...I know she's just doing her best, but..."
"I mean...I haven't even washed my face. I'm a total wreck."
"Oh, come on... Sure, you're not as put-together as you usually are... But a girl with your natural good looks doesn't need much."
I mean it...But it takes me a moment to realize I *mean* it. The room smells like her, with a warm tang of her sweat and a strawberry shampoo...
She flushes even more, and doesn't seem to know what to say to that....Actually, neither do I, so I look around.
"It's a nice room, though. It's, like, the size of my house."
"Ha. Yeah, I guess it is pretty big."
She laughs, but not mockingly.
But she does have a few things laid out, and I go look at them.
Is this some sort of charm?
"M-my parents...Collected them for me when I was little. It's...It's private!"
"Alright, Alright, sorry..."
"Quit apologizing...It's alright. It's just got me nervous, is all...I dunno; I...Other than Ann, I don't really... Have anyone up here."
"I see...So am I the first man in your bedroom?"
"Ok, ok, I'll hold all questions to the end of the tour."
I keep looking around some anyway.
"This your dresser? Does it have your undeeerrweeeaaaar?" I can't help but notice that when I give her something to fuss at me over, she's livelier. Perversion-based healing powers, activate!
"Get over here, you."
She laughs, until it turns into a cough.
"I bet you're much smoother with city girls."
"Otherwise, they'd have run you out of town!"
"That's cold. I'm a people-pleaser in *all* my interaction, I'll have you know."[/color]
She snickers. I really do think she's looking better...
"Yeah, I probably should be moving along."
And, as I head down the stairs, she adds...
"No matter what I'm feeling, I feel better when I see you, you know that?"
"I'm glad I can do that."
I sigh contentedly as I head down the stairs. Karen's mother is by the stairs.
"Thank you for letting me visit."
"It's no trouble...It's..."
I check on Popuri (fine) and Elli (Bakery's closed, duh)....
And head to Maria's place to see if she's ok.
She is apparently not.
"Oh, of course I will. I didn't come here just to get out of the rain."
Maria's room is a lot busier...But mostly, it's busy with books. She's got a painting or two -- not professional-looking, but with delicacy -- on the walls...
"Hey, Maria. I heard you weren't feeling well."
She shyly puts her glasses on. In a white nightgown, she has more of a feeling of a fragile little flower...It's a girlier looking room... But not by much.
"But...I-I'm glad you did..."
"Think nothing of it...But I bet you keep yourself pretty entertained in bed."
I gesture to the books piled on the end table.
"It's a sort of fable, about...Following your true wishes, in spite of the things that hold you down."
"Like fear of failure?"
"A-and all sorts of other fears...And maybe even love."
"Do you think love holds you back?"
"W-well, I think...That sometimes I'm afraid...Of upsetting people I love, so...I understand that sort of thing. It's...What I admire about you."
The blush that started as a fever-flush in her ears spreads outward down to the rest of her face.
"Y-yeah. I mean, you're not worried...That your dad is mad at you for going here, right?"
"You know about that?"
"M-my dad said your dad and you were fighting and OhI'msosorryhewaseavesdroppingandI'msorryIknowthat 'sprobablyreallyperso- *cough**cough*"
"Relax. Relax. It's alright -- it's no secret of mine that my dad and I don't get along...To be honest, I think I kind of want him mad."
"I-I could never do that..."
"Eh, don't say that. I mean, you probably would never have a reason to want your folks mad... But don't write yourself off. You never know what you can do until it's done, right?"
"I hope so...Ummm...Please, look around, if you like."
Little figures and ect. It's the sort of stuff you expect in a girl's room, but maybe not the stuff you'd imagine from a woman's.
And I find...A battered-looking blue notebook at the foot of the bed. Maria protests the moment I pick it up.
"Book I'm writing...I-it's not v-very good...Or...Welll...I don't really...Know how it is yet, so I'm..."
"Maria...I'm sure it'll be great. But...I won't make you let me read it, even though I'm sure it's interesting. What's it about?"
"W-well...It's about a little ladybug. It was about...H-how she wanted to dance for all the creatures of the forest...And her overcoming her fear to do that."
"It's not about that anymore?"
"I...'m not sure. I'm kind of thinking...Of keeping her goal the same...But maybe introducing a new character..."
"Hmmm...That might help. I can't wait to read it."
She looks at me in silence, staring at the side of my head as I put the book down. Then she looks down and asks...
"W-would you...Like to see some of my concept sketches for the new character?"
Her face brightens and she reaches into her nightstand for a sketchbook. Maria breathes in deeply as she motions for me to come and look at the world she's drawn...
The drawings are nice, mixing between a more realistic style, and something simple, stylized for kids. The characters she had drawn were animals -- a monkey, or a bird... Or a fox with a relaxed smile and a sort of knowing look about his eyes.
It's the fox that she's drawn the most in the bits I get to see -- from a few angles, with a few expressions, or little bits; here a neckerchief, here a small hat, here a stubborn cowlick in the front...
"T-they're just rough, don't judge them too much..."
"I really like them. They're adorable."
She nods, hiding her face away in her hands.
"Thanks...Y-you're the first person I've shown these designs, so I'm glad you like them."
"Yeah, but you know what? That I like them is totally worthless. I give you permission to only regard my opinion when you want to, and not just because you want to please me. I'm a shmuck."
"Thank you, but you know that's not true. You're...Really special to me."
"Ok, not a shmuck. But...You know...What I mean."
Cheeks warm like I'm 16. Heart beating fast...I think...I think I'm blushing.
"Are you feeling OK? Please don't stress yourself on my account."
"Y-yeah...I think I better be heading home."
Come on, you doof! She doesn't mean it like that!
Anyway, I go through the rest of my day in relative peace...
Buy more feed for everyone...
Brush down Agro and Clara, feed the chickens...
Destroy every stump on the mountain, etc...
And head off to bed.
Women. Just when I think I get them, I've got to admit...
I don't know jack.