The Rhythm of the River
"Jesten gone to bed?" Barr asked as he joined the group in the reed armchairs in front of the aft-facing windows. He didn't wait for an answer about his brother's whereabouts before settling himself down in one the the chairs, settling his mug of klah on the wide arm rest designed for the purpose. "For a man with a bad heart he's working far too hard getting everything ready for Lineal."
As far as Barr knew there was nothing wrong with his own heart - but then Jesten hadn't had any suggestion of such a problem a Turn ago.
Sometimes it worried seventy-two Turn old, though not usually for long.
Like most people in the family aboard the Sungazer he liked to keep busy and that gave him little time for working up serious concern about anything.
"Yes, he _has_ gone to bed," responded Vaheri. "And he's always worked hard, but at least isn't staying up with us but is getting his rest."
Barr made a face. Vaheri was his brother's widow, a long ago marry-in from another riverboat, but she might as well have been born on the Sungazer; she scolded him just as much as his own sisters had in their day. "Don't need as much sleep these days. And _you're_ still up." He took a sip of his klah - a quick gulp really, so that she didn't have time to respond. "You can't say, though, that he isn't going a bit far getting things ready for the boy. Everybody else just moves into a stateroom - Lineal's one is being refinished. He's even got my lot cleaning parts of the engines that are just fine the way they are."
"Aw, Dar, I wasn' doin' it because Jesten asked me. I had already started when Tyno stripped the engine house down last sevenday." Fog piped up, he hated it when anyone started criticising Jesten, even if it was another family member.
"Yeah, Fog. And you cleaned it until it shone." It was Fog's great skill these days - and useful in its own way. If he was set to cleaning something it certainly got cleaned. "But do you think Lineal's going to worry about a bit of grease here and there? He's a 'sail' man now."
"Sail's cleaner than we are." Fog shrugged. He liked to watch the big sailing boats when they neared to coastal areas.
"But not an easy option on a river," Barr suggested. "I don't know why the boy would want to come back. He almost broke his neck to get out of here."
Vaheri humphed at that. "And I'm sure that you want the same things now as when you were a boy?" She shifted in her chair, feeling the stiffness that seemed to set in whenever she was still for too long. "Lineal has grown and now knows what is most important in his life. His return is as it should be and his father's welcome is to assure him of that."
"He has children!" Fog blurted out, as though no one had considered this, "Maybe he wants for them, what he had."
Barr wouldn't give up life in the river for anything, but still:
"They're living at a _Weyr,_" he protested. "With dragons and dragonriders." Unlike holders who could shelter under stone and slate, riverboat crews knew exactly how dependant they were upon the dragonriders for their lives and livelihood.
"Living where one has means to visit the water at any time isn't the same as living _on_ the water," stated Vaheri. "He has the rhythm of the river in his blood and can't ignore it. He just needed to go against the current for a while to realize where he should be traveling."
"There and back." It was what everybody called it. Barr loved the predictability of it, along with the unpredictability of the river itself. "I wonder what his wife will be like? Not riverboat born-and-bred. She won't know our ways."
She waved her hand in dismissal of his concern. "If he chose rightly, she'll adjust."
"We all like it on the river, so why wouldn't she?" Fog looked a little confused, what he said was true, but if that was the case, then why was Jesten leaving them? "This is home - to _all_ of us; she's Lineal's wife, this will be her home, too."
"You're a right pair of optimists, I must say," Barr grumbled. He took another sip of his klah and then kept drinking, not liking it any colder than it was. He set the mug down on the arm of the chair and looked out the windows. The light from the moons was enough to make the port visible and even while they were tied up at their seaport berth he found it hard to imagine living somewhere other than on the Sungazer. He might come to that, if his health gave out, for there were any number of former riverboat families who would take the elderly in when necessary.
But he hoped he would see out his days on the boat - the place he had been born. He couldn't imagine what it would be like for the woman Lineal was bringing, or even her children, in amongst a family who all have one shared background. "We'll have a new captain soon; you can't either of you think that won't mean changes."
"Of course it'll mean change." Vaheri rolled her shoulders, again the stiffness encroaching on her time of relaxation. "Life is filled with changes, most of which come on us suddenly and send us scurrying to adapt to them. This one is at least expected."
"I'm not sure I like the idea of change." Fog said, almost morosely. He still couldn't get past the fact that Jesten may not be here anymore.
He was looking forward now to seeing Lineal again, and meeting his wife and children, but the idea of losing Jesten left him feeling bereft.
Barr sighed. "I don't think any of us do, all that much. Except your aunt Vaheri, here, but she's known for swimming upstream," he finished, teasing his sister-by-marriage.
She tilted her head to look at her brother-in-law. "The water's usually cleaner at the source."
Their cryptic words were lost on Fog, he sat there, his hands twisting in his lap. "How long now?" he asked, he knew they had told him repeatedly, but something just didn't stay in his head for long, and all of this talk about change was beginning to give him a headache.
"Until Lineal comes home with his family? About eight days time, I think Jesten said. While we're at the waypoint, Fog."
"That's the only problem I see with all of this preparation," put in Vaheri. "If we'd just have been able to plan 'in two days time he'll be here' it would have been much easier on many. That's one disadvantage compared to those who are land-bound."
"But...Jesten won't leave then, will he?" His hand went to his head as a pain began to surface, he knew he shouldn't be so worried, things would work out, but .. it was all happening too fast.
Barr opened his mouth to tell Fog that Jesten wasn't leaving, he was dying, but one look at the younger man's expression warned him not to be so honest. "No, he'll be here a little longer. Do you need something for your head, Fog?"
"I think it's time for all of us to go to bed." Vaheri gave Barr a pointed look. "We could all use some rest."
"Don't worry about things, Fog," Barr said, getting to his feet. "The engine room will be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday, and your aunt's right. Getting some sleep will help."
Pushing himself up from the chair, Fog nodded, and moved towards the door. His head was still giving him pain and he really needed to lay down. With a nod to Vaheri and his father, he left the room.
Last updated on the May 6th 2007