Summer - 1 - xxx1
Rainy day tommorow...That could be better, but at least I don't need to spend all day bringing the chickens in.
I'll put in another egg in the incubator. I guess I'll need to start thinking of names...
More advertisements. I guess mail never really changes.
I find Maria up in the mountains today.
"Heya. Insect-watching on your time off?"
She nods warmly.
"It really makes it a wonderful place to look at them...And I do believe they're some of the most fascinating creatures in the world."
"Yeah...Though I kind of like it better when they're neat out here as opposed to being neat in my space."
"Well, I guess you have your territory, too, Fox."
"It's hot. Everything wilts. Things...Can go bad."
"Can go bad?"
"Well, there are droughts. That sort of thing."
"Yeah, I could see why that might bug nature-spirit types."
And I also spot Karen, too. She has sort of an annoyed, worried look. I'm guessing...Now might not be the best time for a tour. *sigh*
"What's on your mind?"
She knows I get...Total disasters. Living your life in the slow sorrow of watching stuff fall apart, ect.
"In her marriage. I mean, she could have been somebody, but she married a rough jerk who drinks too much whose claim to existence is running a ruin. And...She's not happy now."
"Yeah, but...She made her choice; she probably realized your dad drinks too much when she married him, right? She might be unhappy, but...It's no good jumping to conclusions about the lives of others, right?"
"He didn't always..."
"What was that?"
"D-don't worry so much, OK? It'll freeze your face...But...Thanks. For worrying a little."
"Eh, us daddy-issue types have to look out for each other." I say with a laugh.
"Yeah, but we'll have to compare notes sometime, to be sure!"
Well, at least she seems in a better mood.
I go into town and make some purchases:
2 Tomatoes, which she says can be harvested multiple times if I take care of them...
And 2 Corn, which she says take longer to grow, but can also be harvested multiple times.
I also find Popuri reminiscing to the little plants growing next to the shop.
"I planted you the day before the flower festival, which means you've got the same birthday as me, you know..."
"I do know."
"Oh, hi, Fox! I was just telling them a story about when I was born."
"There's a story to it?" Well, I guess there could be...I ended up called Fox because my mom was pretty zonked out at the time...
"That the whole village celebrated and the Spring Goddess blessed my birth."
"Do you think she did?" I mean, she may have. I could ask.
"I do...That my soul, which loves to see things alive and growing, that loves blossoms, could be welcomed into the world when the flowers are... I think that's a blessing."
She closes her eyes and smiles serenely. When she says things like that, the image that it's easy to get of her -- of some bubblegum girl -- just slides gently away, and I think I see someone who has some very beautiful ideas, delivered casually as popping bubblegum.
I also say hi to Elli's Granny as I go by, too.
"Summer's an easy season for a young man to get overworked in... I do make a very good Walnut cake with the wild nuts, so please, drop by if you need a snack."
I totally see the family connection there.
"I will, I will."
While I'm heading out towards the Ranch, I see Cliff there again.
"Here to watch the animals again?"
"Yeah, I came to see the horses. They've got a very free look to them, don't they? I kind of admire that in horses."
I look over the fence, to where Ann is glancing over her shoulder at us. Then she looks at us some more. Then she blushes. Then she turns away with an annoyed look on her face.
I stroll on over.
"Something up, Ann?"
"What? No, don't be stupid...H-hey, how's Agro doing?"
"Oh, Agro's doing great, Ann. I worry after him sometimes, but he's a very good ride."
"W-well, when you ride a horse, you come to understand a lot about each other. I bet Agro's learning what kind of guy you are, too."
"I see. And what sort of things do you think he's learning?"
"How should I know? You're not riding me."
The double entendre takes a moment to sink in for her; I'm already smirking slightly, getting ready for a 'we could change that, if you like' quip...
"I didn't mean it like that, you perv!"
She shouts. Grey looks over and cracks his nuckles.
"I-I wasn't implying anything! I knew what you meant, Ann, honest!"
I'm going to pretend she never said anything, and then maybe an angry cowboy won't beat me up. Ee-yup.
I get back to the farm and begin planting seeds when I hear...
I saunter up.
"I wanted to thank you...For earlier, and stuff like that."
"Isn't this taking away resources?"
"These came in too early; there aren't enough to make wine with right now."
"Ah, so it's actually very clever waste disposal."
"If you want to look at yourself like that, be my guest."
We both chuckle a bit at that.
"But really, I guess it's my turn to say thanks."
Omnomnom. They're pretty sour -- but I think if Fox complains of sour grapes, I'd just become a walking cliche, right?
"So they're supposed to be full of sugar."
She shrugs with the air of someone writing off another dissappointment.
"Anyway, t-there was one other thing..."
"Did you know about tonight and..."
"No, no I did not." No one even told me there *was* a firework display! Did they want me to miss explosions ascending into the heavens?
Those heathens...But, now that I'm done my trip to conspiracy-town, time to tune back into Karen.
"I'm going to watch them from the beach. It's a good place because..."
"Yeah, sure, I'd love to...But won't I kill the good deserted-mojo?"
"You're...An exception. If you're coming, show up before Midnight."
I finish up my chores with the crops, and since I handled the chickens in the morning, that means I'm almost done...
Except that maybe I want more music boxes involved.
It's getting into the night when I'm done, so I need to go running down the hill to the beach. Geography must hate me -- who puts a beach in running distance of the mountains, huh?
But when I arrive, Karen's still waiting there, letting the tide strike against the toes of her boots. She turns when she hears my feet.
She sounds a little surprised, but her surprise gives way to a big smile, full of warmth.
I stand beside her and scan the sky again; nothing yet, though I kept expecting to hear the booms on my way here.
"I don't really like crowds,"
"One-step-above-loneliness Fox, that's my name."
"I didn't mean it like *That*, you know."
She blushed and looked away, a coy smile on her face. "I just thought...I'd want some company this year."
Then the light show starts. I make appropriate oohing and aaahing sound as Karen gasps in authentic surprise for each one. They're an impressive display, and the lights that flare up seem to tint the world in flashes of blue and red and yellow.
Beside me, Karen lights up with a big smile. She's generally snarky or just trying to smile, or else honestly lost in her worries. This smile, bright and clear, totally without reserve...
Is something I want to see on her face more often.
"For a long time...Hey, are there displays like this in the city you're from?"
"Yeah, they had them every year in the summer... But I never really went, not since I was a kid. It was a family thing."
"So this is the first time in a while for both of us...In my teenage years, I sort of fell out of the habit of all that hokey festival stuff."
"..I can picture that."
"But I think now it's better to focus on getting out, doing what I want...Live the dream! I want a happy, successful life; I won't let this place break me."
She crouches down and looks out over the water.
But I'm watching the reflections of those reflections -- the bright play of the ocean lights on that bottomless green.
"Yes, it is."
After a few more minutes, the fireworks die away. She sighs.
She looks embarassed, which is...A little startling. I couldn't picture her looking shy like that until, well, she is.
"L-little sparklers, that sort of thing..."
"Sure. It's not quite fireworks without sparklers, right?"
It's really such a nostalgic feeling, playing with sparklers.
"I was just thinking that...Hey, I bet I can write my name with the smoke."
"Well, duh! It's like, 3 letters long!
We mess around like that for a while, even after all the lights go out.
Summer - 2 - xxx1
In the rain, most of my morning chores are taken care of in advance...So my morning has a clean schedule, more or less.
I go, pick up one of those mountain walnuts Mrs. Ellen mentioned and some other stuff...
And headed into town.
"It feels damp like a tropical rain forest."
"It feels damp because it's raining. Anyway, wouldn't you like a rain forest? There are a lot of neat plants."
"But the humidity's so nasty...And Daddy brings home enough tropical plants and sketches that I can see them here, in peace, without my hair become a giant cloud of cotton-candy frizz that threatens to devour my skull!"
"I wasn't aware hair had such destructive power," I reply, snarking a bit. She nods, though, so I guess she doesn't notice -- or she's playing along.
"It's a daily battle. But I will prevail, so don't you worry! You don't have to face the terrible nightmare that is my head on a warm, wet morning."
...Good to know, I guess.
"You mentioned something like that on a rainy day a while back...But I bet warm cookies would be nice on a rainy day."
"Are you just saying that so you can get free cookies?"
"...Maybe." I'm actually more of a muffin man....
"Well, we'll just see then..."
Oh, right, it's closed because of the summer...
I guess she'd be at her house, right?
Which, it turns out, she is. We chat a bit, nothing fancy.
"Hey, Mr. Mayor."
"How's your farm been? Clearing it must be hard work."
I've really barely worked on getting rid of the rocks.
"Yeah...It seems like it. He wasn't doing too well towards the end, was he?"
"He wasn't...But he lived a proud life, and I'm sure you're making him proud, too."
I find Harris on my way to the ranch. Neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night shall ...blahblahblah.
"Hey, Harris. The mail's not getting wet, is it?"
We nod and say our goodbyes.
...But then I realized that the whole ranch is closed, so I can't find Ann. Pity.
And come home to Elli. I guess she figured something fun to do was to deal with me.
"I was looking through some recipe books when I saw something I hadn't tried before...It's strawberry meringue."
"Wow, really?" That sounds pretty fancy for free.
"It's really too fragile for sale, but I wanted to try it... As nice as a cookie would be, an experiment is more fun."
I glance at her, where she's taking her own slice out of a basket, so we can taste it together.
The meringue is deliciously crisp, and while the whole thing lends itself to cool more than the heat you want on a rainy day, the delicate flavor is unquestionably worth the exchange.
"It's more of a springtime flavor, but the summer's young, right?"
"The Summer could never be too old for that. That's amazing."
"R-really? Granny's sometimes a tough critic about my baking...I know she wants to make me better, but it makes it hard to tell how well I'm doing."
"Well, you can always come share things with me, and I'll say how great you're doing."[/color]
She nods, a big blushing smile on her face.
I will miss that cake. It was a brief and fleeting defense against the darkness...
I go fishing at the beach later in the night...
And come up with a nice little fish. Very cool.
Summer - 3 - xxx1
A bright and sunny day; I can actually get most of my crop-watering done in the morning, which is...Pretty shocking, I guess. I'm not used to it.
I sort of expect to find Maria in the mountains, but exactly where is a surprise...
I find her in the same clearing as the Goddess's pond. I remember the Goddess saying she used to come here, but hasn't in a long time. I wonder if I can bring it up...
"Hey, Maria. I wasn't expecting to see you here."
"I haven't been back here in a long time... But I think I used to visit a place like this when I was little. I'd sit and I'd bring a book, and my fingers and the edges of the book would get all wet from playing in the stream..."
Something about that image, of an ancient book with wet-edged pages leaps into my mind. The pages developed a sort of scratchy quality when they dried... Did I do that with her, or did we have the same idea when I was here for the summer?
A gentle sight escapes her lips.
"So why here today?"
"I dunno. I just felt...Drawn out here. I like it, though."
I feel like...
Like there was someone splashing me, back then. The Goddess? Maria? It's a strange memory....
Bubbles...And the silver surface of the water...
I go and see Rick, who's starting to give me weird looks when I come in with a music box, and I get that done.
And I decide to go see what Elli thinks about it. When I show it to her, like everyone but maybe Maria, she winds it up and lets the music play.
That is what makes a sound nice, yes...
"It's kind of beat-up, but a little tune-up managed to get it playing again."
"I like things that have been places; something old like this...It makes the whole room feel warmer and more homey...I guess I sort of believe in good spirits building in an object over time...Though maybe not literally."
"You like it? It's yours."
She looks taken aback.
"Really? For me?"
I can dig a seemingly infinite number out of the ground. So....No.
To see a face like that on a girl...Heh. Maybe it is full of good spirits.
While I'm in the area...
"Here, Ma'am. I've been finding these in the mountains, and I remember you saying you've got a use.
"That walnut cake. It's a personal recipe, but I think you can do it. It's easy because you don't have to whisk."
Gray approaches me while I'm visiting Ann at the ranch.
"...Uhhhh..." If I say 'Ann,' will I be allowed to walk away with my legs intact?
"Well, I wanted to look at them closer... I mean, I'm planning on getting a cow of my own when I can afford it."
"... They like being outside... You'll need some grass to eat, since you don't have time to bring them in and out all the time."
...Wow. This is the longest I've heard him talk for.
"T-thank you very much!"
"...Stop looking like I'm going to snap your neck or something..."
He clicks his tongue in irritation and limps off. Yeah, that's the word for his walk: it's got just a bit of a limp to it.
And I come home to find...Another grown-up chicken!
I bring all the adults out.
I run into Karen at the bar. She sort of turns away, blushing...Which makes me desperate for conversation.
"You said that the grapes you gave me were early..How early we talking?" Is that a topic?
"Then mash and store it in barrels. We do a lot of reds...You can start drinking it around Winter."
"Wow, that's short."
"The wine we make can't be stored for..."
"I don't know why; it just goes wrong. Grandma's wine was so amazing..."
She sighs and looks into the cup she was carrying...
"You know, that reminds me..."
The bartender calls out from behind the bar. "I nearly forgot it, but...Well, this is private, so come back here and we'll talk, Fox."
I do what he says. He unearths from a cabinet beneath the bar a bottle of a red wine. The dark and dusty bottle catches the light, reflecting the green sheen of its glass onto the both of us.
"This is for you -- a momento, of sort."
"Really?...Why didn't he leave it in the house?"
"He gave it to me a long time before...the end. One night, after your visit, he came to me, put the bottle down and said...
'I can't work out what to do about this, Duke... I don't think I can. That boy of mine won't do it, no one here'll do it... Give this to my little Fox one day. I leave it to him.'
He was pretty drunk at the time, but...He never took it back. He wanted you to have it from this day until the day he died."
What did he mean, what to do about it? About the wine? Karen says it's different from the wine her family makes now... It just looks like wine to me.
But I take it...I'll try to figure out what he means. I won't let you down, Grandpa.
"Ha. A young man like that, taking everything so seriously... That blows into a town like this like a new breeze off of the sea. Stirs everything up."
I spend the rest of my night logging, trying to build up a lumber reserve.