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Monday, October 15, 2018

Excerpt from later in WATER TO WATER, still spoiler-free


It's getting trickier to find excerpts from Water to Water that don't include spoilers, but I think this one from Chapter 16 qualifies.

For reasons the reader will understand by this point, Honnu, a young member of the Vushlu species, and two of the Weesah species, a brother and sister named Kititit and Tototee respectively, are investigating a phenomenon involving fishing villages. They've come up with a tactic that involves some deceit.

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Honnu balked at first. “I’m not a good liar. And I’d be ashamed to lie to people who are grieving.”
Tototee looked at him as if she could see every lie he had ever told carved into his armor. “Don’t think of it as lying, then. Think of it as acting.”
Kititit made a gesture that must have been sibling-speak for back off, then bent down to look Honnu in the eye. “This is a strange business we’ve thrown ourselves into, and we’ll all be doing things we haven’t done. How about you think about ways this lie, and that’s what it is, could help the family instead of hurting ‘em. They’re likely to be lonely. Most people steer clear of folks who are grieving, not knowing what to say or how to act. You show up and give them company and a listener for their memories, you could be doing a rare kindness.”
Honnu looked at Kititit, looked down at his front feet, looked back at Kititit. “I’ll try. Once, anyway.”
Tototee patted his arm in a rare reassuring gesture. “It probably won’t come up. Anyway.”
But it did, in the very next town. One of the Vushla celebrated in a competitor’s song had studied sea creatures, spending most of her time moving up and down the coast, going out with the fishers or, later on, in her own specially equipped boat.


Honnu approached the house, half hoping the family would be out on some errand, half wanting to get the ordeal over with. As he reached the door, he saw that someone had hung a familiar symbol, a broken shell similar to the shell Terrill’s father had used to make his harp. He had not known that any Vushla except fisher folk marked their doors in that manner after a death, but maybe the scientist’s profession explained it. He stood long enough to fight off a sharp pang of homesickness, then knocked.
The female Vushlu who answered, neither young nor old, might have been the scientist’s daughter or niece. She stood in the doorway, gravely polite, as Honnu stammered out his condolences. When he came to a halt, she asked, “Did you know my mother?” (Daughter, then.)
“I live — usually live — by the sea. My family are fisher folk.” True. “We don’t get that many visitors, so we remember the ones we get.” Still true. “Most of them aren’t nearly as interesting as your mother.” True again.
The daughter opened the door wider. “Won’t you come in?”
Inside, there was another female about the same age as the daughter, and a male who seemed to be the daughter’s mate. The daughter introduced Honnu as “someone who knew Ma from her field work.” Honnu forced himself not to flinch.
They brought him pastry and fruit, which he accepted with unease he hoped he managed to hide. He tried to think of some kindness he could offer in return, and came up with another misleading truth. “It was awfully brave of her to go out on the water. Nobody does that except us fisher folk, usually.”
The daughter stood a little straighter. “Yes, she was brave.” She laughed softly. “Or so curious she didn’t care if she was nervous. . . . Would you like to see her collection of specimens? Many of them are elsewhere, of course, but she kept some favorites here.”
He could hardly say no. “Yes, please.”
The daughter appointed herself guide to the collection, and — to Honnu’s relief, as he had wondered whether this intrusion would end up pointless — had stories to tell about many of the objects. “Ma took the most awful risks for this one. She actually fell out of the boat, and if there hadn’t been two strong fisher folk with her . . . . She drew many of her specimens, but the drawing she did of this one was her favorite . . . . I went with her the time she found that, but I dropped it in the boat and she was afraid I’d broken it . . . . This one here is from her first trip, and this one over here is from her last, thirty years later . . . .”

He was exhausted by the time he left. But Kititit and Tototee made him recite everything he could remember, right away while it was fresh in his mind. He could hardly talk by the time they took pity on him and sent him off for a nap.

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