Plugs

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Archive for the ‘The Diplomat’ Category

The Diplomat Complains about Rice

Friday, December 14th, 2007

The Diplomat didn’t like rice. He told me why in the first village we stopped at, the first village that didn’t know my village had exiled me, and that didn’t call him “Gaia rat,”–the first village that feasted us instead.

He said that rice reminded him of growing up in the monastery back on Gaia. He was adopted into the monastery like many other hungry boys. There was little else to eat but rice.

“Earth was having some population problems,” he said, which was odd, because by now I knew that he called each thing what it was, and what had happened on Gaia had been a disaster. Maybe my village had feared that he brought the disaster with him.

“The rice was never very good. It always had maggots in it.”

I love rice, one of the few foods from Gaia that we like here. It’s an honor-food. But I hate maggots. Now I could understand.

“We were desperate for the protein, so that was not so bad.”

I didn’t understand again.

“Except for the boiling,” he went on. “I hated taking those little lives. It wasn’t their fault that they looked exactly like rice grains.”

He turned his bowl round in his hands.

“They reminded me of the soldiers always marching through. Soldiers like those little lives, caught up in a rice bag that wasn’t their fault.”

He paused.

“My metaphor is not good. Of course rice is a living thing as well. But for me eating rice is like eating grief.”

He had never complained about anything before. At last I ventured, “Then why, Elder, are you eating it now?”

Together we looked down the rice in our bowls, the honor-food of the feast.

“Surely they would make you another dish if they understood?” I pressed.

“On the other hand,” he said, “Maybe I need to learn to eat grief. Maybe I could do with more patience. Besides, they are only trying to be thoughtful. I wish to be a good guest.”

I wish to be a good guest. I have spun those words around and around in my mind many times since. Sometimes I wonder if I was exiled for being a bad guest in my own home, perhaps being ungrateful when I was fed something I didn’t like.

“The maggots and the memories aren’t their fault,” he added.

The Diplomat Teaches Leaving

Monday, November 12th, 2007

I was exiled, for I would not kill the Diplomat. He had arrived at our village on foot, with robe and begging bowl and a faded badge from the government of the planet Gaia. I had tried to kill him, and had learned that I would rather admire him instead. “Gaia rat,” they called him, and me, “helper of the Gaia rat.” But when I told them of his mysterious powers, how he had disarmed me by–talk? My own tears?–and how he had outlived our strongest poison, none of them were brave enough to kill him themselves.

“Go,” they said to me, my father, my mother, everyone I loved; “where?” I asked, and they said, “We do not care, for you are like the corpse of a stranger now,” and for a moment I felt my flesh crawl with chill, as if each cell in me were really falling still.

I said, “Then I will go with the Diplomat, and be twice dead to you.” Just as I turned away I caught a small movement of my father’s hand and knew then that they did care, that their whole hearts ached with love and anger.

I went to the orchard. I saw from the Diplomat’s face that he did not need to be told what had happened, but I told him anyway, while we walked. When I was finished we had reached the edge of home. I did not want to look back, but he said, “Will you be my student?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Then look back,” he said, and added simply, “You must carry this place with you.”

I looked. I saw the cluster of bumps that were my people’s houses, sitting together like loaves at a feast; the glint of the solar stills and the oil press beside them; the hatcheries and the sheep-yard (not all things from Gaia were bad, were they?–I asked my people in my mind); the low stream running through the valley bottom, the orchards, the quiet flags on the hill–hanging flat today, though no doubt tomorrow they would carry a message to the other villages: “A son is dead.”

The Diplomat brushed my wrist with his rough thumb. We turned and walked down the hill.

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