|...up the garden path aka en-flummoxment ...|
Shad led them onto a service road beside the sugarcane fields on the flat land. “Good place to boil a billy. Peace and quiet. Cane only half high, big enough to hide us without losing the breeze.”
Trinnet and Shad hunkered.
“You still don’t trust the entity entirely?” Trinnet said with a glance at Tardi sitting on his blue tarp.
Tardi countered. “You believe it knows what a promise is?”
“I believe he thinks promises are for little people like us.”
“How big is he, to your mind?” Tardi said.
How would Trinnet interpret Tardi’s project of finding a road into the Stormy three-dot history?
“There I go again, believing in him no holds barred. What will you do with me?” Trinnet said without a change in tone for his question.
That was Trinnet trying to slip something by someone? “How is it up to me to decide anything?” Tardi said.
“There’s a lie already,” Trinnet said. “Ace said that if I could stop the boy lying, it’d have been worth sending me.”
“I asked a question, how is that a lie?” Any more mention of Ace and his thinkings I will get caught in a spin of aggravation. Tardi narrowed his concentration. He rose. “I can’t sit too long. The tree in me is never going to stop its land-grab no matter what promises were promised.”
He walked a little circle deciding on his next tackle. “Do you trust the monster, Trinnet? Trust him to know what’s best for humans?”
“Humans when Stormies aren’t? This is what he can do with the sapient lot,” Trinnet said. He gobbed up a goodly wad of saliva and spat.
Tardi’s mental antenna went up the same as for a weirdo driver when he hitch-hiked. The ideal was not to accept such a ride. The last time he contradicted his instinct, it was Col Smith driving and look what trouble he and Steve … Away from there, Tamer. He swallowed. This time he was also already embroiled. The Stormies didn’t consider themselves human? Why? Why not? Did Shad know?
“Best for the Earth, I follow where he leads,” Trinnet said.
“Primly said,” Shad said. He’d built a fire. “I’m boiling a brew. “ He shrugged and raised his eyebrows to widen his eyes for telling Tardi his disbelief. Punched himself over his heart. Shook his head. Not me!
Oh. Shad was angry? Embarrassed? Tardi didn’t know Shad all that well either.
Shad set Tardi’s wok in the flames. Poured water into it.
“Signing could’ve been a goodly strategy, young one,” Trinnet said. “If I weren’t here translating.”
Shad pulled back his shoulders.
Tardi too, in sympathy. Well. So. Tardi had a support team of one. Trinnet would have to be eased away. Where? Because not home again.
“The entity asks me to ask you how we will get to the north other than on foot. To the place where we can cut west. On foot we are slow. He has space-time and the tides of the planet to consider,” Trinnet said.
Eased away after Tardi milked him. “Don’t even dream that I’m done yet with Stormy ancestry,” he said. “Everything else we’re talking about here is social grease and en-flummoxment.”
“Mules. The pair of you,” Trinnet said.
Shad dropped leaves into the wok. “Mules. Explain. And don’t give me grief about the three dots. I know you have them and I don’t.” He fingered his cheekbone.
Only now Tardi saw the three dots tattooed above Trinnet’s cheekbone.
“Don’t beat yourself up over not seeing them ever before,” Shad said. “When he’s out and about, he wears his hair over them. So do Ace and the rest. Women and all. So. Mules. Tar and I are a pair.”
Trinnet laughed. “I’ve been waiting a lot of years to tell you, oh up-jumped youth. Always Ace shut my mouth for me on the subject but what can he do out here? It were his mistake sending me with you on more than one count. We’ve got a system of marrying in and out. Not enough women, ever. A woman takes two husbands, we still have a man unrequited. Some requite themselves with each other being made that way.”
“What about women made that way?” Tardi said.
“What? How would I know, a man?”
“He means,” Shad said. “How would he know, an unmarried man. He does not have the confidence of any woman, no matter how he charms them. The women will have a system.”
Tardi recalled Trinnet in the company of the two little ladies during the storm when he came apart. When Ace rescued him. What a cobble.
Trinnet continued, smiling about some private joke. “Some marry out. Like Ace. His woman outside bore you and your sister. Shaddy and Bundy. Tch tch. Pair of tainted children. But happy days for him because he proved himself fit for husbanding by fathering a girl. So deemed the women. Hyee took him as her second."
Tardi feared for Shad sitting like a stone man beside him. “You’re saying Shad and I are both half-Stormy?”
“Mules. Infertile. Like the children of horses bred with donkeys.” Trinnet smiled broadly. “No issue for either of you.”
“I’ve never heard of second human species alive in modern times,” Tardi said.
“Did I say we are human?” Trinnet said.
“You’re not sapient, you said,” Tardi said.
“The women drove your mother gone,” Trinnet said. “Never happy with what she had. Why she died in the end, I hear. Luck for me that it wasn’t by my elbow.”
“Doing it again, the flummoxing. Things the man already knows,” Shad said. “Letting your poor-me I’m hardly done by show is what you are doing. Because all the women turned you away. A proper trey we are, a misfit in the company of two mules, and with the entity a here and there at every conversing.”
“Fucking mulish know-it-all,” Trinnet said. “You didn’t know Ace kept you just for this.”
“Oooh, ye-es.” Trinnet laboured his irony. “You’ve got the second sight.”
“I have,” Shad said. “Which is why I’m here, despite your input.”
Both Shad and Trinnet bristled.