The Do’s Series: Segment 8
© Grandpa Jim
“The last dune.” DawnRunner StarBreak glances over her shoulder at the fading ridges of sand. Thin trails of dust skiff from the dune tops in the midmorning sun.
“And ahead?” LoveJoy KickStart points to colored banners fluttering over the tops of short trees. Their pathline winds through colored bracken and into the taller greenery.
“The fair we seek. Glue Days and New Bread.” The wind shifts and blows in their direction.
DawnRunner lifts her head and inhales deeply. “You can smell the fresh loaves.”
“And something else. Ugh.”
“Glue. I can see on your face this is your first visit. Yes, it is an odd mix of smells, and an odder mix of new and free peoples.” DawnRunner lifts her arm and gazes at the tight covering of the sandsuit. “Even here among the short and tall and traders stranger still, we will stand out. Few SandRunners visit.” She lowers her arm. “I did as a child. My memory is of a good place, a welcome place.”
“Will we be welcome this day?”
“We will be wary.”
“And soon about our business?”
“Your business, everworry speaklittle, which you share not much of. What is it you seek here?”
“I will know when we find it, oathsworn.”
Shouts of hawkers, yelled offers to buy and sell, muted counters of feigned dismay, and loud slaps of agreement and disagreement reach their ears. The two SandRunners duck under low branches and enter an aisle between tented booths crowded with customers inspecting goods. Some hagglers lift their heads, narrow their eyes and return to their doings, taking scant notice. A few strollers cast sidelong glances before quickly turning back to stare at their moving feet.
“A friendly crowd.” LoveJoy plays the words to her companion.
“Actually very.” DawnRunner pulls off her tight sandcap. “But wary.” She points to LoveJoy’s head. “Remove your headcover. And smile. You can do this, seriousface. We are here to have fun.”
LoveJoy lifts the cap from her closecut chestnut hair and forces a smile that quickly turns to a frown. “What is this place?”
The tallwide tenthouse is filled with long tables crowded with seated workers. In front, smoke billows from overlarge metal vats cooking over roaring fires. A worker adds wood to the flaming underside of one pot while another on a stool with a long wooden spoon reaches and stirs the contents, sweat falling from his brow. A tangy acrid smell rises from the viscous bubbling liquid.
DawnRunner pinches her nose and points to an oversized sign hanging above the entrance, big black letters on a bright white background:
GLUE BIND NEW FIND – WE FIX BROKEN THINGS
Our Work Is Stronger Than Our Smell
RoughSide MakeReady, ChiefGlue
LoveJoy makes a face. “Now that’s saying a noseful.”
DawnRunner starts to laugh, gulps and covers her mouth, gesturing for her companion to follow. “Turn here,” she squeaks the words, nudging LoveJoy to the right, around a corner and onto a broad lane. The wind blows into their faces. “This way.” She takes a deep breath. “My nose will lead us.”
“Is that a good thing?”
They both laugh, cautiously.
“Yes, witmake” DawnRunner answers. “I think you will find this place more to your liking. And your smelling. Here, we have arrived.”
A wide tentbooth with a deep overhang greets their view. On poles above, long white banners dance happily in a fresh breeze. The two young women enter and squint to adjust their eyes from the bright sunlight of the lane outside to the soft shade inside.
“Welcome. Welcome, FreeOnes.” The booming voice shakes the stall with laughter. “WhiteHands BakeMuch greets two lovely FreeLadies from the Sands.” Overlarge hands coated with flour smack the low counter in front of the baker. The pink-jowled face grins widely under the billowing baker’s cap. “The Bread You Need, We Knead For You.” WhiteHands finishes the fairsay with a rollicking shout. “NEW BREAD!”
LoveJoy’s eyes are wide in pleased amazement.
With a laugh, DawnRunner lifts a hand in greetmeet. “It is the bread you knead we need and thank you to receive.” She ends the remembered recitation with a bow.
“A gracious lady.” The baker returns the bow, lifts and smiles at LoveJoy. “And lady, too. And for you two, a treatgreet, freegiven without charge from my house to you both.” WhiteHands spins to a shelf behind him and spins back, extending in each hand on a sheet of brown waxed paper a golden twisted bun with a light white dusting. “The spicesweet atop is my private mix. Try. Try.”
LoveJoy and DawnRunner carefully take the offerings, lift the buns to their mouths, bite and chew, and close their eyes in silence.
“Well?” The baker leans forward. “Do you like? Speak. Speak.”
The girls open their eyes.
“I have never tasted better.” DawnRunner sighs and looks to her companion.
“It reminds me of my selfhome.” LoveJoy’s face holds a sad smile.
“Is that far, fair SandRunner?” BakeMuch asks softly.
“Far and gone.” LoveJoy’s eyes drop to the ground. “They are all gone.”
“I am sorry, young FreeOne.” The baker bends closer. “I would help if I can.”
DawnRunner interjects herself. “Thank you, great BakeMuch, for your sweetreats and welcomewords to . . .” she hesitates “. . . strangers.”
“Forgive those who stare, tallrunner, and push away from you. To them, you look be strangers. To me, not be so. LongLeap StarBreak saved my family and ovenmates from the wildsands the year of the Great Storm. The desert reached our march. We fought the nightcrawls in the dark. LongLeap and those of his sandpod bested the monsters and led us to safety.” WhiteHands swallows and touches the corner of his eye. “The FreeOnes of the BlindDesert are everfriends to me and my bakeroom.”
DawnRunner nods numbly. “I was just a child the year of the storm.” She meets the baker’s eyes. “LongLeap is my father. I here be DawnRunner StarBreak.”
“Doubly welcome and met, daughter of my savefriend. And is your father wellfound and swiftever?”
“Wellfound and swiftever.”
LoveJoy extends her hand, palm forward, fingers wide. “WhiteHands BakeMuch, kind baker, I . . .” she hesitates, remembering her fair name,” . . . NewFound SandBreak, offer friendfound and greetmeet. I too was lost to the BlindDesert and owe my life to the StarBreak sandpod and DawnRunner, daughter to the same LongLeap who saved you. As we both received, so I offer you friendmade and sharebond.”
“By The Do’s, I do accept you both, my dear young ladies. You will stay with us while you are at the fair. Our tents are spacious and our board . . . well, you have in goodpart that now fared and fitfound.”
NewFound and DawnRunner exchange eyemeet and nodmade.
“So, I see it is done.” WhiteHands BakeMuch starts to untwine his apron. “Now let me show you our sitecamp and where you will stay.”
NewFound raises a hand. “I would first see more of the fair, if I could this day. There is a place I would visit.”
“Place?” DawnRunner slowly asks.
“Of course. Of course.” The baker ties his apron. “What place is that? I will point the way. Then both of you back be here for mealtake.” He comes around the table to stand in front of NewFound. “What place is it that you seek, young one?”
“The Feria Ruins.”
The baker touches a finger to his forehead, leaving a white spot when he lifts his hand aways and points the finger into the air in thought. “There are ruins. Yes. In the center of the roundabout, in the middle of the fair, where the tradeways meet and this lane ends. The nurse sells poppies there. I can direct you to those ruins, but you cannot go there today.”
“Cannot go today. Why?” NewFound asks.
“Because today is a Feria day.”
“Feria day?” DawnRunner shows interest.
“A fair day.” WhiteHands BakeMuch surveys the curiosity on the faces of the two young ladies. “Dear NewFound, your phrase ‘Feria Ruins’ is an old wording. Please, allow me to explain. ‘Feria’ is the Long Ago name for Glue Days and New Bread, this very fair. But this fair was not always as it is today.” He waves the white tipped finger in the air. “Our oldsters say ‘Feria’ was once the name used for our seventh day, our rest day from the selling and bargaining of Glue Days and New Bread, the day we now call our holy day or holiday. In the Long Ago, the holy day was the only Feria Day. Not so today. Now, Feira is the six fair days. The seventh is our holiday from work. In these New Days, the ruins are, by long tradition, only open on the sevenday holiday.”
“So, we cannot go to the Feria Ruins today,” NewFound thinks aloud. “Because they are now Holy Day Ruins, and today is not the holiday.”
“Precisely. The ruins are closed today. No nurse is there to show you what you might wish to see. You must wait.”
NewFound slumps back against the table.
“There. There. Be in good cheer. Go out. Enjoy. The fair is here. There is much to see and do. Tomorrow is the holy day. Enjoy this day.”
“NewFound SandBreak, walk with me.” DawnRunner lifts her friend’s limp hand. “It is my first time here with no other from my sandpod. Let us enjoy the fair together.”
NewFound takes a deep breath and stands upright. “Yes. To the fair.” She smiles at the long-winded baker. “On this Feria day. Tomorrow, the old ruins, whatever they may be called.” NewFound touches the baker’s hand. “Thank you, kind sir.”
Blushing, the baker waves them off. “Back by mealtake, children.”
The two pass under the overhang and into the lane, opening and closing their eyes to adjust to the bright sun.
“Did he really call us ‘children’?” DawnRunner laughs.
“He did.” NewFound stretches here arms wide. “I like it. It has been long since I was called a child.”
– – –
“There, do you see them?” TidBit pulls at Truss’s sleeve.
“Who?” The young man thanks the banker and folds the money into his belt pocket.
At that moment, two small children dash between the banker’s legs. The moneychanger totters against the new motorcart he had been proudly explaining to Truss. Reaching a hand to catch his balance, the proprietor pushes the car’s horn, which blasts a raucous HONK. The sound startles the worker on the ladder who tips his bucket of washwater in a pouring rain soaking the banker where he stands. The children laugh behind the banker’s back, while the banker wonders why he never wears a mack and laughs at the song in his head. The whole thing is very strange.
Truss moves to help, but the banker waves the swordguard off with a smile, as the embarrassed worker climbs down and dabs a paint cloth at the banker’s wet attire.
Across the lane, the two tall girls in tan sandsuits cover their mouths to stifle their laughs, step into the crowd of strollers and shoppers and are lost from sight.
“Who did you see?” Truss asks the frowning Mouse.
– – –
“Did you see the tall one?” DawnRunner asks.
“I saw a mouse,” NewFound answers.
“You know who I mean.”
“Who did you see, my sharpeyed sandspy?”
“The tall one with the sword!”
“Oh, the one next to the mouse. I didn’t notice.”
DawnRunner shakes her head and drops the subject.
“What are these pictures?” NewFound points to the framed heads lining the sides and top of the doorway to a red and white striped tent.
“My father told me.” DawnRunner bends closer and touches a wooden frame. “He said, ‘The barber is showing photographs of every head he’s had the pleasure to know.’ LongLeap laughed hard at the saying of those words.”
NewFound shakes her head. “You say this barber shaves pictures of heads and frames them?”
“No, my firsttime fairgoer. This barber has photographic equipment to flash a picture on a film of a customer’s head. He then frames the image and places it here. I am sure he has many more. These are the heads he chose to remember and place this day.”
“Exactly what my father said and laughed even harder.”
NewFound turns in a full circle, scanning the wide lane with its busy booths and hurrying shoppers. “Is there a name for this place?”
“This way of shops is called ‘Penny Lane.’ My father said, ‘You can hear the song in the air’, and we did. Penny Lane is the song and the place.” DawnRunner points ahead. “There, the children. Can you hear them singing?”
Putting a hand to her ear, NewFound nods YES.
DawnRunner pulls her friend’s hand. “Hurry, let’s see what they do.”
The brightly dressed young ones sit in a circle, paired in groups of two. In each pair, the two children each shake a hand at the same time and then drop the hands to form particular shapes. As they play, they sing in high voices.
“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
“It is a game, LoveJoy!” DawnRunner pauses to calm down. “Sorry to say your truename,” she whispers, and then begins again to speak excitedly. “I learned this game here when I was a child. Watch my hand. This fist is rock. This flat hand is paper. These two fingers . . .” DawnRunner moves the extended fingers together quickly in a cutting motion “. . . are the scissors. You shake a hand like this, and then make one of the shapes. That was a rock. See my fist. Now, let’s do it together. Shake three times and then show your shape with your hand. Ok. Start.” The two girls shake 1, 2, 3 and show. “You win! Your scissors snip my paper. Scissors beat paper, by cutting. Paper beats rock, by covering. Rock beats scissors, by breaking. Oh, this is fun. Let’s do again.”
As the two sandrunner’s play, a small girl with blond curls sitting beneath them watches. After some moments, the child stands and reaches to touch NewFound’s hand. “Marco?” she asks with a smile.
“Polo,” DawnRunner answers for NewFound and nods YES. “It is another game.” A taller boy with a shaved head hands DawnRunner a strip of red cloth. “Watch. I will be ‘it’. I will be blindfolded and will say ‘Marco.’ The others will say ‘Polo’ and I will try to catch them by hearing where they are standing. When I catch one, that person is ‘Marco’ and we play again.”
NewFound laughs. “So the dwarf was right. Marco Polo is a game the little ones play.”
“Of course it is. Now watch us. Your turn may be next.”
– – –
“There they are again. Now do you see them?” The mouse points across the lane.
“Are they . . . SandRunners?” HirschTruss steps into the shadow of a booth and stares.
“They wear the sandsuits of the FreeOnes of the BlindDesert. Do you know of such?”
“I have heard. . . . I have heard.”
“Then I serve you well. You seek a girl, a young traveler to the fair. I have found you two.”
“Shhh.” The swordguard touches his lips and lowers his voice. “This I have told you in confidence. Be wary. The fair has ears.”
“Well said, tall SchirmerSchutzen,” the Mouse whispers. “You speak rightly.” TidBit points to the gameplayers. “Is there your interest?”
Truss moves into the light. “I know this game. The first girl, the taller blond one, has just caught the one with the brown hair. She is quite attractive. I mean they both are. Now, the brownhaired one is blindfolded and must sayspeak ‘Marco’ to find her ‘Polo.’” The young man pauses in thought and speaks softly, “I know this game.”
“A child’s game.” Tidbit’s tone is insistent. “Is one of those girls the one you seek?”
“I seek a girl with long hair from the wetlands who travels alone. These are two with short hair from the drysands.”
“Then let us go.”
HirschTruss smiles. “I do know this game.” The Schwangau swordsman steps briskly into the lane.
“What?” the StealthMouse mutters. “Wait.”
Truss moves quickly between the strollers and watchers, steps carefully between the laughing children, and slides in front of the blond SandRunner as she says ‘Polo.’”
NewFound reaches toward the sound and grabs the shoulders of a tall person. “I have you!” she shouts and pulls the blindfold off.
“You do fair SandRunner. You have me.”
LoveJoy drops her hands but not her eyes. “I thought you were DawnRunner,” she says softly.
“Your friend’s name. What is yours?”
A strong tan hand grabs Truss’s shoulder as another hand covers the hilt of his sword. “First yours, longsword gamebreaker. There are still rules at this fair.”
Mouse touches the point of his dagger to the hand covering the hilt. “All things in balance, sandlady quickflash.”
Truss laughs. “An impasse.” He leans closer to the girl in front of him and lowers his voice. “May I suggest a solution?”
“Yes.” NewFound shakes her head. “No. I mean no.” She leans back.
“Ahem,” Tidbit interrupts. “If I may. The day warms. A coldshake sticktaste is a surething to calm the nerves and break the ice.”
“Well said, needfriend StealthMouse.” Truss takes a deep breath. “Would you ladies join us for a treatgreet?” The hand on his shoulder tightens. “Freegiven by me, of course. And . . . my name is HirschTruss.”
“SchirmerShutzen HirschTruss to the Hohenschwangau Traders,” Mouse adds.
“’Truss’ will do.” The hand loosens at his shoulder as HirschTruss bows toward the brownhaired girl who steps back. “Just Truss for you, m’lady.” NewFound blushes. “And my surefriend quickblade is TidBit.”
“A rightsize nametake.” The blond SandRunner removes her hand. “For a stealthmouse quickflash.” She flashes an admiring smile at the Mouse. “You know my name in part. The more, I am DawnRunner StarBreak.”
“And I am NewFound SandBreak.” LoveJoy lowers her head.
You are new found to me, NewFound SandBreak,” Truss speaks the words slowly. “And well named . . . for me.”
NewFound turns her head to the side in thought, straightens and asks, “What is a coldshake sticktaste?”
– – –
One fireman checks his hourglass for the time. Another rushes by, dodging the pouring rain from a third’s hose overspraying the firecart being washed.
“They like to keep their fire engine clean.” TidBit laughs and brushes drops from his shirtsleeve.
“Is the powercart new?” Truss inquires, ducking a spray. “It is the second we have seen,”
“New. Old. It is a clean machine,” The Mouse answers. “These guppies have technologies of their own. Some be old. Some be new.”
“Outside the barber’s tent,” NewFound adds, “there was a picture of a guppie fireman holding a picture of Queen Mother Mary Plantagenet Pickford. I wondered. They really don’t have hair. Although they can tint the headridge. Maybe that was it.”
HirschTruss stops. “You know the guppie queen?”
“Oh. . . . Travelers talk. You hear stories. . . .” NewFound fumbles with her words.
“They do, but few know the Queen Mother’s full name . . . or say it so easily. And I have not heard of a tinted headridge?”
DawnRunner pushes between the two. “The oldsters of our sandpods. . .” she fixes an accusing look on Truss “. . . know as much about the peoples of this age as the singers of your mountainholds.”
“Forgive me, DawnRunner StarBreak. And you, NewFound SandBreak. I meant no offense. I am a student of this world and its peoples. A new fact or two is always appreciated and may help me to learn more.” HirschTruss’s words are gracious as he raises his eyebrows in a questioning glance to the brownhaired SandRunner. “Perhaps we can talk more tomorrow?”
“No. We must go to the ruins.” NewFound blurts out the words before DawnRunner can speak.
“Excellent.” HirschTruss catches the negative headshake DawnRunner makes to NewFound. “Mouse Tidbit tells me tomorrow is the sevenday holiday, the very day the ruins you mention are open to visitors. An opportunity for us all together to learn more. Where shall we meet?”
“Penny Lane, on which we stand, ends at the roundabout,” TidBit volunteers. “As we walked, the sandladies spoke well and highly of the sweetreat treatgreets made by the white hands of the great baker and that they stay with his family and ovenmates while at the fair. The bakeshop is on this very lane. The walk to the roundabout is an easytrek and the ruins are only across the way.”
“Thank you, TruthSeeker StealthMouse. There, it is settled. We will meet you at Penny Lane and the roundabout after breakfast in the morning.”
“You need not do such. . . .” NewFound begins.
“I could do no less.” Truss smiles at the worrylook in the gray eyes. “You are new found and I would not lose you.”
DawnRunner squeezes LoveJoy’s hand to say no more.
* * *