Month long books tour over. Lent begins. Daily Rosary plus trying for 500-1000 words per day for my next novel. That fell apart immediately: for Ash Wednesday I re-read a short/writing exercise called ‘Empire’s Agent’, wherein Hungarian former special ops now diplomat Arpad Rigo visits Lily Barrett in central Texas. That got me re-thinking enough that the next day I put down 1800 words about how Mr Rigo is in Knoxville on some shady diplo-business, but staying with the Hartmanns. Since then I’ve got 5,000 words, but the plot hasn’t shown up yet!
So I took another break today… thinking plot-like. I know the theme of this new novel, with a title such as “Worlds Without End” you know is will embrace both our world, the machine’s world, and the life of the world to come.
I just don’t see how. Yet. Some breadcrumbs under the fold: Rigo has his first dinner at the Hartmann’s place… and is intrigued by Gary and his sister. Perhaps more later…
“Dinner!” Faustina cried from the dining room behind Leslie.
“You have met them; you know they are good people,” he said, tossing back the last of the whiskey. “Your family will be fine!”
“Yes,” Arpad said slowly. “Yes, I see.”
He waved over his host’s shoulder.
“Thank you again for your hospitality!”
Gary moved to help his mother and sister but with a tiny flash from Faustina’s eyes instead waited to sit down at their guest’s right, directly across from his sister. The two men sat just as his mother was bringing a platter with a roast pork loin on it. Faustina brought the last two sides dishes and pulled her chair out.
Wait. For mother.
She gave a little glare and clicked her tongue at her big brother. It was not lost on Gary or his father that their guest was paying very close attention to their interactions. She sat as their mother sat.
We should scare him!
We will not. Show your uncle respect!
“Bless us, O Lord…” Leslie began. Not particularly a believer it was still his responsibility as head of the household. The short Catholic blessing over, Leslie was about to indicate that Arpad should have first choice of the meat…
“Itatakimasu!” Their guest said, bringing his palms together before him. Callie looked stunned and Faustina snorted.
“Oh!” Arpad said, now with a small smile. “Just something I’ve picked up from Lily over the years!”
“I… know.” Callie managed. “We did that as kids; picked it up from our parents who watched way too much anime when we were growing up!”
Arpad took a slice of pork and passed the platter to Leslie.
“Really? From what little Lily has said about her father…”
The temperature of the room dropped.
“My apologies,” Arpad stood just a fraction out of his chair. “That must be a sensitive subject for you all.”
“Ha!” Faustina laughed. Gary looked down at his plate, knowing what was coming next.
“So grandpa was a ‘Felix Dzerzhinsky do-over!’” She said a trifle too loud, taking the meat from her father. “It’s fully called ‘the Breakup and Formation Wars’ for a reason, Mister Rigó! Some of those wars were against domestic enemies!”
“Fussy,” Gary said with great control, “you are upsetting mother!”
“Why?” she sailed on, deliberately clueless. “Until ten years ago mom didn’t even know he’d been back in the ‘States, much less killing a hundred thous – ”
“Enough.” Their father’s soft word carried like thunder. Gary reached to cut some meat and put it onto his mother’s plate before taking some for himself.
You did that on purpose.
So? She took a drink of water.
You disgraced the family in front of a guest.
Faustina coughed on the water so hard some of it came out her nose. She rolled left out her chair to kneel and hold Callie’s right hand.
“Sorry! I’m sorry mom!” she cried.
“That… that’s okay,” Callie replied, getting ahold of herself. “It… it is a subject best for men and not for the dinner table.”
As she climbed back into her chair, Leslie tried to change the subject.
“So as to not talk shop right now,” he said, avoiding why Arpad was in Knoxville, “you said earlier that Ryland is rather precocious?”
Thinking of his little girl, Arpad was able to smile again.
“I know you,” he indicated Callie, “and Lily are adoptive sisters, but she is so like you! She loves puzzles! I’ve seen her take a radio apart and put it back together… why, when I was changing the plugs and oil in our truck – ”
“You have a truck?” Faustina interrupted.
“Everyone in Texas has a truck,” Arpad replied, reaching for a glass of wine.
“You went native fast…” was her murmur.
“Your truck?” Gary prompted.
“Oh. She watched everything I did then demanded I take it all back apart. While not strong enough to torque all the bolts down, she’s already an accomplished mechanic!”
“At almost five years,” Gary said, looking at Faustina.
Is she? One of us?
Utter silence fell over the table as Gary’s sister gripped the edge of the table. The faint turquoise light from under her eyelids was just visible.
“What in the world…?” Arpad began.
“Gary?” his father demanded.
“Fussy was curious about something. She should be right ba – ”
“Uf!” She let go of the table and held her head while shaking it back and forth.
Not sure. Later.
For his little sister to be subtle was a concern in and of itself. Still, he had heard nothing from Henge.
“So,” Faustina asked, picking up a fork-full of grated zucchini with sour cream and dill, “when are my other cousins due?”