Dreamed 2000/2/21 by Chris Wayan
Jack, who lives downstairs, has a leaking, mildewy patch on his wall. My housemate Alder and I go down to the basement and knock a hole in the leaking wall. My friend Mark comes up from South Bay and helps trace the leak. Turns out it's the bathtub overflow pipe, upstairs. Instead of connecting it normally, the guy who used to live here apparently saved a dollar by using a yogurt-cup lid and some Elmer's glue... Yep, for durability there's nothing like plumbing held together by paste!
We fix it properly this time, leaving the wall and ceiling open to dry out for a few days. I feel proud and frankly surprised we did it. I'd never have had the confidence to do it alone. The power of cooperation!
I'm living on another world. My friend and boss is king here--more or less. He's not human of course, but a big, tough biped whose face has a rounded snout like a duck deer and fox all mixed, (plus a higher forehead).
But when he gets upset, when he gets mad, he slips into combat phase. It's happening now, as he gets the bad news on the phone... his face blushes geometric patches of red, white, black and indigo like he's made up for a Noh play, and he sprouts fangs and horns, half-crocodile, half-wolf. It's meant to terrify, and it usually does--guys like him fight ritually, and bluffing's important in dominance displays. I've gotten used to it--just means he's furious, not that he'll attack ME.
Several of his staff in the next room overhear the call. When they see him they say "uh-oh" and start to change themselves inadvertently--his display is so strong it evokes crisis feelings they can't suppress, till the whole office is horns and threat displays. Most humans panic around them in monster mode but I've seen it too often by now. We're his political advisors after all. A crisis a day! They're just upset, not going to fight...
Fully a third of the King's staff is human--unusual, but he married an offworlder, and he learned the advantages of hiring foreigners who stand outside the local factions. And biologically, we lack the fierce dominance behavior of his people, so we can argue policy based more on the merits. Besides, we have low turnover: we hardly EVER kill each other off in duels...
But suddenly the king disappears or dies. Trouble! The succession will be contested, and it could easily lead to civil war. As his chief aide, I'm suddenly making decisions for a people I'm not built to fully understand.
Do we let them fight it out politically, only trying to keep it from turning violent? Do we throw out support behind someone, for stability? It's not common for females to challenge males here, but his wife isn't the same species--would they accept her as a neutral successor? Or would they mistrust her as a foreigner? Or could we just hide his death as long as possible, even have someone impersonate him?
I throw out these and other ideas, pacing nervously. What if we went to several apolitical religious groups and asked what they thought would prevent war? I don't have to decide alone just because a local would. That's what he values in me--that I'm NOT one of them. I lack their armor.
And that's good.
NOTES ON WAKING
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