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"But this is the sharing time. This is the Feast, cutie. We'll stay here." Now she does have the drawstrings
of his pants untied.
With a quick, strong shove, Jarrod pushes her away. "No," he says. "I didn't know about this."
Tiffany looks at him, and he sees that there isn't any anger in her eyes. Only acceptance and
determination. She comes back toward him, hands outstretched. He takes her by the wrists, turns her
around, away from him.
"Well, if you wanted it this way, why didn't you tell me?" Tiffany says, grinding against him.
"Listen to me," Jarrod replies. "I didn't know." Being rational will get him nowhere, Jarrod realizes. I need
a distraction, he thinks. "What's on the table? What is that?"
"What?" says Tiffany, turning around to face him. "That's the Motherfruit. Part of the Feast. We'll all
share in it tonight. See? If you're worried about getting a child on me, you needn't be."
She points toward the table.
Jarrod slowly lets her go. She moves to grab him, hold him, but he pushes her aside. He pushes his way
through the orgy of the crowd, rubbing against writhing women and men groaning to their task, until he
comes to the table.
Fruits and vegetables in bowls, and shanks and haunches of meat, mostly cow meat. And the
centerpiece, a large bowl containing the brown quiver of a jellied aspic. Tiffany comes to stand beside
him.
"Cutie, if you're that shy, there is a side room we can use." She dips her finger in the aspic and puts it in
her mouth, licks a bit of its amber from her lips. "See?" she says. "No need to worry. It's Motherfruit."
"Motherfruit?"
"Yes. That's what the sisterhood does."
Jarrod suddenly understands what she is saying.
"Whose child is it?" he asks.
"Blessed Mother only knows. We've had three come to term this past fortnight. It is all of them, plus the
leftovers from last time. I thought. Why did that man, that Kelp, bring you if you didn't ... This could be
trouble for us all."
"It's all right," Jarrod says. "I won't cause any problems."
Tiffany takes his arm and looks him in the eye. There is a certain loveliness in her blue eyes, her skin as
white as young sprouts that have yet to see the sun. As if she's been used hard by life, Jarrod thinks, but
not as hard as she could have been. "I hope you are telling the truth."
"I am," Jarrod says. "I'd like to go now, though."
"All right. I'll see you up."
They push back through the crowd and climb the stairs in silence. The dining hall is empty. Tiffany goes
behind the counter and finds an apron, which she carelessly drapes around herself, covering only one
breast. She pours herself and Jarrod cups of mead. They sit down together at a table.
"Don't you like me?" Tiffany says. She brushes her hair back from her face.
"I think you're very pretty."
"Then why don't you want me? Are you one of them that likes other boys? It isn't our specialty, but we
can do something about that with a little time to get ready. On your way back, maybe."
"No. It isn't you," he says. He swallows mead. "How did you get here?"
"Alexia and me took the train down from Portland. Ages ago, seems like. The sisters up there had too
many of us, so they sent us out as missionaries. We've done good, I think. We are one of the few houses
that turn a profit. The Mothersisters in Portland are sitting up and taking notice."
"Yes. Seems that you're doing fine," he says.
"We take care of our own, you know? The sisterhood does. My girls need me. They need you. Men like
you."
"Yes."
"Then why are you so against it, cutie?" She reaches over, squeezes his arm. "You have a cigarette?"
"I don't. I'm not against you, either."
"You may not like the way we do it, but some do." She motions with her shoulder at the closed trapdoor.
"They surely do," Jarrod says. He takes a long draught of his mead, nearly draining the cup. "Well, I think
I'll be going."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes."
"I'll let you out, then." She gets up, accompanies him to the door. Jarrod steps out into the wee hours of
the morning. Sheet lightning flashes in the southern sky and distant thunder rolls.
"Mother bless you and keep you," Tiffany says.
"And you, too," he replies. "Mother bless you."
"You are such a cutie."
He walks over the railroad tracks and climbs back into the Karma Patrol train. In the empty quiet, he is
able to sleep with a bit of peace.
* * *
At sunrise, they roll out of the Willamette Valley and there are mountains once again. They turn where a
spur of the coastal ranges turns inward, joins the Cascades. And it is as if the two ranges were added
one onto the other, for the mountains grow taller, and there is Mount Shasta, the great volcano anchor of
the southern Cascades. And south of Shasta, a fault-block range the fault-block range and the uplift
is far, far higher still, and these are called the Snowy Mountains, the Sierra Nevada. There is Yosemite,
and the Sequoia trees, which are a legend among the Olympic rangers. And there is Mount Whitney, the
tallest peak between Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina and Chile. Even if there isn't an
Argentina, a Chile, anymore, Jarrod thinks, there will still be Aconcagua, Denali, Whitney.
A steady rain begins to pour, and the train smells of hot metal and steam.
The range that connects the coastal mountains to the Cascades is called the Siskiyous, and these are the
mountains at the southern end of Willamette Valley. The train groans and smokes its way up them, into [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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