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I’ll be teaching Intro to Figure Sculpting all summer, 9:30-12:30 Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the Community Center! 

  • Cost: 450G/session or 3000G for the whole summer
  • You will make two terracotta figures OR one clay maquette and one wooden carving.
  • Includes materials, model fee, and anatomy lessons from Dr. Harvey! Firing extra.

Big thanks to Emily for modeling, Robin for the wood and for making our stands and turntable, Seren of Nebula Farm for the clay, and Gunther for our skeleton.

--Leah

~~~

Zuzu University Medical School
Department of Anatomy and Physiology

Summer 1 

Dear Harvey,

Thank you so much for the lovely card. I am indeed enjoying my retirement. (Fran jokes that the only thing different is that my door says “Emerita” now. Shows what she knows--I am also drawing a pension instead of a paycheck. And they can’t make me keep office hours.) (Yes, yes, not that they ever could.)

I’ve enclosed the lecture outlines you requested--the musculoskeletal intros from Anatomy 101, and some of the relevant transparencies from 201 as well. I’m happy to share, but I don’t think you need my help. Do let me know how the class goes, and send me a picture of your work. 

I confess some surprise to hearing you’re still in Pelican Town. I admit I haven’t been there since my last summer traveling clinic, but ten years ago it was no place for a young man starting a career, or a family, however pretty the surroundings. Promise me you’re not going to become another bachelor entombed in his storefront. 

Fran sends her love, and you know you have mine. 

Harriet Vitruvia
Professor Emerita!

~~~

Dear Sandy,

Thank you for the coconut fiber! It should make a great doormat for the Community Center. 

Speaking of which, Leah’s sculpting class kicked off this week! It really brought me back to our old drawing classes at ZzCC--I’d forgotten how hard it is to hold a pose for 10 minutes, ouch. At least we’re starting out with a seated pose. And Dr. Harvey is taking the class but also giving some mini-lectures on anatomy--with a skeleton and everything--and he’s very scrupulous about making sure I get to stand up and stretch every time the buzzer goes off. 

The rest of the class is Elliott, Robin, Farmer Seren, Abigail, and a couple of out-of-town tourists. The locals came to the tavern for lunch after class, and Elliott and Leah had a falling out that they’ve been working up to for a while. But now they’ve cleared the air, they should get past it, though I hope they’re speaking by Saturday because Leah can’t afford to lose a paying student. But it was tense and the vibes were jangly.

So, what happened was that I said I wished I could take the course as a student, and Leah said that while of course I am a fantastic model was I serious, because she was trying to talk someone else into sitting for a commission of hers (from the Grampleton Historical Society! A portrait of Grizzly Jim Grample!) and maybe they could also sit for the class? And I said Great but also Who, because there’s really only one person in town who looks like he wrestles bears, and she said yes, it is Clint. And I said that while that would be a tremendous thing for his self-confidence if he could do it, even sitting clothed for the whole class would be asking a lot, and that while I am fine with it, I’m pretty sure my presence would be a deal-breaker for him. 

And everyone nodded except Elliott who just looked lost. And Seren said that, if Leah does find someone else, Shane might take the class with her next term, and Elliott made this oblivious face and said he didn’t understand why my excellent modelling skills and strikingly gorgeous physique weren’t a draw. 

(That part is not quite verbatim.) 

Well, we all kind of boggled at him, and Seren said she wasn’t jealous, Shane was just awkward, and that didn’t clear things up. 

“Elliott,” Leah said. “Emily and Shane used to date. They danced the Flower Dance together twice, the same years we did. Clint was kind of a jealous mess about it, and ever since they broke up he’s either been nerving himself up to ask Emily out or going into tailspins of self-recrimination over being awkward on dates. Did you just...not...notice?” 

(This part I am pretty sure of, because that is the most sadly accurate description of Clint’s demeanor.)

(The saddest part is I think I’d like the man if he could just talk to me. Instead of trying to talk to the Emily-shaped hole in the world that he shovels all his loneliness into. But she’s realer than I am to him and I can’t compete with her.) 

At any rate. This was somehow all news to Elliott, who is in the Stardrop multiple nights a week and has had a front row seat to the whole thing. 

Leah stood up and said “You know how I said learning a visual art would make you a better writer? It’s because paying attention to anything beyond the ends of your hair will make you a better writer.” 

And then it was kind of awkward because Leah is too conscientious to storm out without settling her whole tab and tip and they had to sort of pretend they didn’t see each other. So that was a thing. Seren walked home with Leah, and Elliott sort of fell apart over poor Doctor Harvey and another round of drinks. Elliott spent everything he had coming to live here on the beach, “to listen in silence to the inner Muses,” and having a successful artist like Leah call him out like that really hit him hard. She’s not wrong but I feel bad for him :(. 

 

[Update from Saturday--Leah and Elliott made up, and Elliott really seems to have taken her words to heart. He’s been coming into the tavern with a notebook and this old creaking tape recorder and getting people to tell him anecdotes about life in Pelican Town! It’s kind of corny but people love talking about themselves! So AT ANY RATE, if a man in a shabby maroon velvet frock coat shows up to interview you, it’s just local color for a novel and not anything to do with any activities on your premises.

Enclosing my pattern for the doormat--let me know what you think!]

Love and kisses,
Emily

~~~

Excerpt from Cormorant Vale, Chapter 1

 

“I think you need to be gentler.” 

Everett looked up from the slumping blob of clay. At the table next to him, Varney had already built a neat, flat base and a craggy tower, from which a rough leg and hip were beginning to emerge. “I’m sorry--” Varney said. “I shouldn’t give unsolicited advice. This isn’t my area of expertise.” 

“You’re doing better than I am. I can’t even get the clay to stay upright.” 

“Yes, I couldn’t help noticing. I, ah, I don’t think it’s firm enough yet to stand up to being, well--” 

“Manhandled, no. But Lilah was very firm about making sure all the bits were integrated.” He glanced across the room, but their teacher was still leaning over another student’s work, marking out head-heights in wax pencil on the wooden board under the clay. 

“May I?” Everett shrugged, and Varney nudged his table away and pulled up Everett’s, steadying it with his left hand when one caster stuck. “I’ve been having the best luck with one of these.” He selected a wooden tool with a toothed edge from his kit. Pressing a knob of clay to where Everett had tried to build up a knee, he scraped at the joint from one direction, then turned the table and came at it from an angle, repeating the process until the seam vanished into crosshatching and then, like magic, into a smooth surface. 

“What are you doing here in Cormorant Vale, Doctor Varney?” He looked up guiltily, glasses glinting. “I just meant,” Everett said, “with hands like that, you should be a surgeon. You’re wasted as a country doctor.” 

~~~

PAM: 

It’s working now? Yeah, you oughta get Maru to look at that. Or Seren--she’s gotta be some sort of mechanical genius.

Oh really?

Yeah, you didn’t know she fixed the bus up? 

I think I--

Runs on biodiesel now. Oh yeah--keeping it in repair was only ever half the problem. After the war started and fuel prices went through the roof, the town just couldn’t afford to keep it gassed up, and it’s too old for one of them conversion kits. She found some way to do the conversion anyway. (Glass clinking.) Man. Penny was yea high when the bus line shut down. It’s hard to think the war’s been going on that long, but I guess it must have been. 

~~~

ROBIN: 

The local vernacular architecture. Hands down.

Seriously? That was the hardest thing to get used to?

I know, it’s ridiculous. Within four years I had a divorce, a move, a new business, new marriage--which was long distance while Demetrius finished grad school--new baby, and what do I still have nightmares about? Attic staircases.

Wow. Are there monsters at the top, or…

WHO EVEN KNOWS, that’s the scary part. You can never find them! So, the dominant style for domestic architecture through the whole south coast likes a narrow face on the street with a deep footprint hidden behind it--basically your typical Sea Island Vertical style but with everything but the front room rotated ninety degrees. Hallways jog every which way but staircases are always straight, even if that means the upper floor faces a completely different direction. And the staircase door is usually in an alcove or down a hall. 

Huh. I hadn’t even thought about it but you’re right. The only way I even know which houses in town have two stories is by the facade. 

Stairs and bathrooms. They’re incredibly precious about hiding the bathrooms. 

~~~

HARVEY: 

I bought the practice straight out of medical school, sight unseen. My advisor tried to talk me out of it--told me Pelican Town was no place for a young man. Nothing but crusty old bachelors and feral children, I think were her words.

Oh, I’m using that.

Be my guest. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say feral myself.

No. I would say they’re all very much themselves. They haven’t had all their spikes and rough edges ground away. 

That’s a poetic turn of phrase.

Oh. Thank you, I think.

I know what you mean, though. I can’t guess anyone’s age accurately here. I thought Sam was about twelve when I met him. And Clint’s younger than either of us.

Did you know, I found an old book in the library explaining why no one calls him a bachelor? Or Gus or Gunther? It’s because they don’t dance at the Flower Festival.

Seriously.

Mm. Apparently you are only a bachelor if you’ve made a public declaration of availability.

I’m beginning to see why self-chosen codgerdom is so popular, if gets you out of dancing. And all the ado about bouquets, and gifts...

The south coast is very traditional about courtship. Traditional and serious. (Pause.) Though if I were to start courting someone, that would probably be a good thing. Everyone in this town is my patient. There are serious ethical hurdles to dating anyone. Not insurmountable ones, but it does put a damper on anything casual. 

You don’t strike me as a casual sort of person. 

No. I suppose that’s not such a disadvantage here. 

~~~

Excerpt from Cormorant Vale, Chapter 6

 

Melody rose from her blanket-covered milk crate and shrugged into her checkered flannel wrapper. Though he was working on her face, Everett quickly looked away; it felt intrusive to stare at her like this, robed and stretching her hamstrings. On the clock, she was as self-contained and self-possessed as, he supposed, a barmaid had to be; but even the studio lights could not remove the intimacy of watching her dress.

The other students had switched smoothly into working on their statue bases and supports. Roxanne, the cabinetmaker, had turned the milk crate into a carved divan. Sarah and Althea had chosen to show the folds of the blanket; their heads bent around Lilah’s, watching her make a drapery maquette from a starched handkerchief.

Everett had dated Lilah, by the standards of the northern city they both came from. By southern standards, there were only friendships and formal courtships, with no in-between status for anything they’d done--the hikes up valley, evenings in the tavern, nights kissing lazily on the beach. Though they were happier and far more compatible as friends, it still stung, a little, that local custom insisted they’d never been anything else. 

“Did you and Maryam ever…” 

Doctor Varney waited for a predicate, laying down his olivewood knife when none arrived. “Unless that sentence was going to end with “dance,” no. We didn’t.” He pushed his glasses down by the bows and scratched the bridge of his nose. “And that’s more than I’d have done if I’d read her medical records earlier. I swear, I thought she was about twenty-six. Don’t laugh! I feel like such a cliche. That’s what every grown man says who wants to date a teenager.”

“Generally the teenager isn’t halfway through a Master’s in engineering.” 

“Robotics, but, true. I’m trying to encourage her to ask Polly out. They seem well suited.” 

Polly, the sweet, shy girl who tutored the village’s only children. They’d both lived their whole lives in Cormorant Vale. “I can’t imagine what it must be like,” Everett said, “to grow up in a place like this and plan to stay here. To look at someone who’s known you since infancy and think of them as a lover.” 

“You’re of the school that believes romance requires mystery?” 

“Now you’re making me feel like a cliche,” Everett said. “Mystery is what men attribute to women who despise them but are too polite to say so. No, I just can’t imagine the courage it would take to be naked with someone who’s seen you...unfinished. As the person you couldn’t help being, and not the person you chose to be.” 

“The young people here seem very much themselves,” Varney said. “Certainly more sure of themselves than I was at that age.” He nodded at Althea, copying the drapery model so intently her eyes didn’t move, even as she twitched black-dyed hair from her face like a pony. 

To Everett, the hair and the boots and the occult jewelry had barely even read as self-expression, let alone selfhood--a protective shell, hollow as an egg. But in Cormorant Vale, where a self-described wizard solicited for spell ingredients on the town notice board and Sarah’s farm routinely lost chickens to golem attacks--perhaps the locals read Althea’s looks differently. A claim to power, and to the responsibilities attendant on it. 

“I suppose it’s a sort of vanity,” Everett said. “To want a partner who didn’t see you doing the work of becoming a person. Like hiding from them until you’ve done your hair in the morning.” 

Varney smiled one-sidedly. “I’d rather be with someone who trusts me to brush their hair on occasion.” The matte streak of clay on his nose clashed abruptly with his blush. “Or whatever the equivalent is in personal growth.” 

~~~

CAROLINE:

What was that about the college burning down? 

Oh, that. Abigail and I joke that she’s closed down every school she’s ever gone to. She’s working on an online degree at Zuzu City University now, so…

Closed down, how?

Well, the old elementary school in Ibis Lake was shut down, and then when Abby was twelve the Grampleton secondary school consolidated with Zuzu Southside. Which isn’t such a long bus ride for the Grampleton kids, but from this end of the valley it’s a killer. The Mannings--Emily and Haley’s folks--straight up moved to Zuzu City till Haley was out of school, and I think Penny and Alex were the only local kids who made the trip every day. Abby and Sam joined Demetrius’s homeschool group, and he kept it going until they graduated. Seb and Maru were two years ahead--well, Maru’s actually younger but you know. But he gave it up before Vince and Jas were ready to start, so we joke that that’s school number three. 

That sounds like it must have been hard. 

Actually, homeschooling worked out very well for Abby. She’s very self-directed. Will of iron, that girl. In hindsight, we should probably have let her do it much earlier. (Laugh.) Maybe the Grampleton school would still be standing! 

~~~

PIERRE: 

No, I remember exactly when we opened. It was the summer of the Torona Bridge incident. Our grand opening was three days after the news broke. 

That’s rather inauspicious.

It was more than that for Caroline. She never told you she spent two years in Gotoro-Na? 

No. 

As a language tutor. She actually lived within sight of the bridge. She always wanted to go back--not much chance of that now, of course. 

She’s never mentioned it. 

She doesn’t talk about it much anymore. 

And then?

(Long pause.)

I don’t think I was a very good listener. 

~~~

Cormorant Vale, Chapter 10

DRAFT

 

“Philippe is stable, for now.” Charlotte slumped against the wall, mouthing thanks to the deity she didn’t believe in. Like pantomime players unfreezing, the rest of the room returned to motion: Maryam removed the cannula and bandaged Charlotte’s arm and Everett brought her a cup of juice, feeling pathetically grateful to be of use.  

Althea had not moved; she balanced on the balls of her feet, tensed, like a fighter. “What else do you need? Are you still short on blood?”

“We have enough for the moment but your father will need more,” Varney allowed, and a sudden look of worry passed over his face; an identical look stole over Charlotte’s.

Althea was already rolling up her sleeve. “I’m on it.” 

“We’ll find other donors. You should get some sleep.” 

“No, I want to do this.” 

“Althea.” Charlotte’s low voice arrested her. “You’re not a compatible donor.” 

Althea cocked her head. “But...but you are.” She looked between her mother and the door of her father’s room. “How...how is that possible?” 

~~~

HARVEY: 

Can I talk to you? No, in the office--this is a professional question. 

(Door closing.)

What’s the problem? 

Does Abigail know who her biological father is? 

You know I can’t answer that question. 

So it isn’t Pierre, then. If I was completely off-base, you wouldn’t have had an answer ready. 

Elliott, I really can’t talk about my other patients this way. You know that. 

Uh-huh. And I know, on the basis of things that Pierre and Caroline and other people in this town have let drop, that Abigail is the product of an affair, and if I can figure that out, so can other people. Does Abigail know? 

(Long pause.)

She doesn’t. If she knew, you’d have told me that if I have questions for Abigail I should ask her. ARGH. Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit. Dammit in iambic pentameter.

Elliott. Do you want to tell me what has you so distraught?

(Heavy sigh.) It’s my stupid book, that’s what. I’ve been stealing bits of other people’s stories for it, and weaving them together, and I knew that there was going to be some sort of dramatic revelation about the shopkeeper’s family, but until I wrote it I genuinely thought it was my own invention. And now I know what I’ve been working toward, I can’t publish any of it because it’s true. 

If it’s recognizably about real people, it might be ill-advised to publish if it’s untrue. 

Nice save. Too little too late, but nice try. Why the hell haven’t you told her? 

Elliott.

Fine, we’ll keep pretending this is all hypothetical. But this hypothetical was the whole middle of my book. And now it’s hollow. There’s… a lot there that I don’t want to lose. A lot I’ve learned, not just about my neighbors’ infidelities. But I don’t know what I can do to salvage it. 

Look, I’m no novelist. But...if writing this book has been a path to self-knowledge, there must be something you can draw on there.

(Bitter laugh.) More than you know.

Yes, well, it must be mortifying to put that much of yourself on the page--there are good reasons I’m not a novelist--but. You are. Whatever your story is, it’s worth telling. 

That’s. Quite a vote of confidence. Thank you. 

~~~

 

Dear Abigail: 

Enclosed please find a copy of your complete medical record. I ought to have given this to you when you turned 18; I’m rectifying that error now. 

If you have any questions about any part of this record, please do not hesitate to ask. 

Sincerely,
Dr. Harvey Lane

~~~

LEAH:

Hey, Elliott. Have a drink on me.

You’re going to ask me for a favor, aren’t you?

You wound me, sir. But yes. I--is that thing on?

Oh, force of habit. Let me--

No, it’s fine. Just, where are you even finding tapes for this thing? Do they still make them?

Nice subject change. What’s wrong?

So. I’m supposed to unveil Grizzly Jim in Grampleton on Winter 22--

Congratulations! How’s it working out with Clint?

Sitting still is not his strong point. But the piece is coming along great. Robin found me this amazing walnut, but I’m inlaying the scars and tattoos with red cherry and picking up the forms in intarsia on the base--it’s fine. But. Well. Last time I had a public showing of my work, Kel showed up.

I had no idea.

I didn’t either--I was just looking at some of the pictures Haley took of the event, trying to find one for the Tribune, and there she was in the crowd. Just...staring.

Hell.

Yeah. I’m going to invite the whole class to come, but it’s almost the holiday and--

I’ll come. Just tell me when.

(Sigh.) Thank you so much. Just come with me and look grumpy and I will be so grateful. (Fork clinking.) How’s your own project going? Ever since you started carrying that thing around, you don’t talk about yourself much.

Well. That was sort of the idea.

If it’s working for you, that’s what matters. So. Is it?

I think so. At least...I have a publication date.

(Squeal) You GOOF, why did you not tell me? So you’re giving a reading, right?

(Long pause.)

Elliott?

Yes. Yes, I am.

~~~

Excerpt from Cormorant Vale, Chapter 16:

 

The door opened the merest sliver. Behind it, Varney’s room was almost as dark as the stairwell. Carnival sounds drifted up from the square below, punctuated with the cries of children and livestock. 

“Everett? Is there an emergency?”

“That’s what I was going to ask you.” Everett hoisted the bag and let the odors of eggplant and grease speak for themselves. “I’ve seen your curtain twitch but no one’s seen you all day, so I brought you dinner.” 

Varney opened the door but didn’t take the bag; Everett took it as an invitation. “When you say, no one’s seen me--has...anyone...been asking for me?”

The apartment was a little studio, clean but untidy--books set down spine-up, model airplane parts spread out on the table. On the top shelf of the bookcase, a space had been cleared for the red clay figure of Melody as a nymph. The little kitchenette was grimly functional, with exactly as much counter space as would hold the takeout bag. 

“Not to my knowledge.” Everett peered around the curtain down into the throng of tourists. People came from all over the province to the Cormorant Vale Fair. Strangers passed below the window: a harried blonde dragging a young boy by the wrist; a thin woman with too-dark lipstick; a man with barbecue sauce down his shirt. Their eyes glanced over the clinic's small sign without recognition or care. “Do you want to tell me who you’re avoiding so I can spy on them for you?” 

“That won’t be necessary,” Varney said. There was only one clean plate; his hand twitched toward the one dirty one, neatly stacked in the sink with a mug and coffee strainer, but he didn’t turn on the water. “Thank you for dinner. That was very kind of you. Also, if you don’t mind my asking, how did you get in? The clinic is locked.” 

“Althea. The shop’s attic staircase shares a landing with yours. It’s locked on their side but it’s not boarded up. You might want to look into that.” 

“Thank you, I will.” They looked at each other, Varney holding the empty plate, too polite to dismiss him. Or too proud to ask for company. Everett didn't know how to ask without imposing himself; he looked down into the square again instead.  

A very tall woman in a denim coat was reading Varney's nameplate. At the movement of the curtain she looked up, straight into Everett's face, and huffed out a held breath that stirred her dark curls. Her stare was one of recognition, or vindication, as if this stranger had expected to find him here. Or find someone. He steadied himself against the window frame, suddenly reeling--not from the force of her jealousy, but from the deep, possessive anger he had felt in response.

“Hal." No one used Varney's first name in Cormorant Vale, but it was suddenly vital to make some claim, find some intimacy that would not overstep. "I’ll go if you want me to.” 

The doctor set the plate down precariously on the edge of the sink. “I’ve no reason to keep you.” His knuckles were almost as pale as the china. 

“I’ve nowhere else I need to be,” Everett said. “Unless there’s someone out there I need to go be extremely rude to? Put a fish in their coat pocket? I’m not much good at fighting, but tell me her name and I’ll go make life as miserable for her as I can.” 

The pronouns were out of his mouth before he could pretend they were still speaking hypothetically. But at the confirmation, Varney slumped against the counter. “No need. Just have dinner with me and keep me away from that window.” 

~~~

ZUZU-U_ClassNet//Geology105

HolySchist: Abigail! Thought you were going to miss discussion. 

AmethystEater: You guys. You guys. I just came back from the library 

AmethystEater: And I did not do the reading because I just read an entire novel in one sitting and asdfjklasdf;ljasdf;jk;lf;fskffasfkdsja;kajffdasa;lsalkfdjs

~*~mica~*~: Ooh, rec? 

AmethystEater: So there’s this one local author--

AmethystEater: This one, I say, as though there are others--

JasperIsMyActualName: The Camellia Station guy? I thought it was okay but kind of by the numbers.

JasperIsMyActualName: ...yes, I read romance. Shut up. 

AmethystEater: He’s super pompous and allllmost good-looking enough to get away with it. 

AmethystEater: Almost. 

AmethystEater: That guy, yes. 

AmethystEater: He’s been working on the second book of a two-book deal and he’s been really secretive about it 

AmethystEater: And he gave the debut reading today.

AmethystEater: And there were copies and I bought one and so did EVERYONE IN TOWN and they’re probably all still reading it except for Maru who’s like a speed-reader.

HolySchist: We’re not actually going to cover strike-slip faults today, are we? 

AmethystEater: It’s about this ~tortured novelist~ who’s got writer’s block so he moves to the country and takes up sculpting

AmethystEater: Or, rather 

JasperIsMyActualName: *vomits*

AmethystEater: It’s about this young doctor who moves to the small seaside village of Cormorant Vale to escape his Tragic Past 

AmethystEater: And meets said novelist

AmethystEater: And is swept off his feet

AmethystEater: And has a touching and redemptive romance

AmethystEater: With the novelist

AmethystEater: Doctor Hal Varney.

AmethystEater: Who wears a shabby green corduroy coat and has a small, neat mustache and glasses. 

AmethystEater: This is a picture of our town doctor, Harvey Lane:

[image link: geo201files//35987]

AmethystEater: I direct your attention to the shabby green corduroy coat,

AmethystEater: the small neat mustache and glasses,

AmethystEater: and 

AmethystEater: oh

~*~mica~*~: Was he AT THE READING??

AmethystEater: the NEAR ANAGRAM

AmethystEater: YESSS

AmethystEater: Along with the whole rest of the town. 

~*~mica~*~: ARE he and the novelist having a torrid affair? 

AmethystEater: NOT TO HIS KNOWLEDGE THEY WEREN’T.

JasperIsMyActualName: Hoooooooolyyyyy Vessel.

AmethystEater: And the book, guys, the book

AmethystEater: I would say it’s a tell-all except there’s not much to tell? It’s about 40% actual stuff no one talks about, 40% completely made-up, and 20% ?????

AmethystEater: Fortunately I didn’t really have any secrets to begin with, lol

AmethystEater: I’m an aspiring young witch named Althea, and I have raven hair and maaaay have led a ritual orgy in the mines.

AmethystEater: For the record, the mines would be a TERRIBLE place for an orgy, DO NOT have orgies in the mines.

HolySchist: What about having sex with one person in the mines?

HolySchist: Respectful, monogamously-committed sex with lots of eye contact?

AmethystEater: Also a bad idea!

~*~mica~*~: No but go back to the doctor??  What did he dooooo? 

AmethystEater: Stared like he’d been poleaxed

AmethystEater: Like, he was looking right at me when Elliott got going and then he just. didn’t. move. I’m pretty sure I saw his whole life cross his face. 

AmethystEater: And then left the reading while everyone else was mobbing Elliott for copies and locked himself in his office.

AmethystEater: Actually

AmethystEater: I don’t know if he actually got a copy of the book.

AmethystEater: BRB Imma slip mine under his door. 

~~~

if you have done the spell correctly our words should appear on the parchment at any moment
and there we are
there is another cantrip for punctuation but it is somewhat more challenging
shall we
one moment

abigail
what a surprise
I didnt know you and rasmodius knew each other

we dont
but perhaps it is time we did
seren my dear would you excuse us
so
how did you find out

its true then
doctor harvey randomly sent me my medical records earlier this year and was really weird about it
and during the reading the whole time elliott was spilling his fantasies about harvey harvey was looking at me
like he was afraid of what was going to come out
and when I gave him my copy of the book he said something about it being my turn to deliver bad news
so i went back through the records and
yeah
i was just guessing about it being you
but i guess i guessed right

yes
well done
I admit i dont know how the matter became local gossip

yeah that was going to be my next question
harvey knows because hes my doctor and my dads doctor
and he knows that elliott knows
and elliott’s been talking to everyone 

i may have said something to seren but she is my apprentice in arcana and sworn to secrecy
but aside from her 
and my ex wife of course
though she doesnt often leave the swamp

wait wait 
the witchs swamp
your ex is the witch
you cheated on a witch 
with my mom
no but that makes no sense either
unless you expect me to believe elliott boatshoes mcchin 
braved the witchs swamp for the juicy deets about you and my mom

yes well
when put that way it does rather strain belief 

~~~

CAROLINE: 

Abby had been begging me for years to let her study with Seb and Maru. But I didn’t want to impose on Demetrius and I didn’t have the heart to homeschool her myself. 

Didn’t have the heart?

Well, no. No I didn’t. It would have brought back memories of a time of my life I don’t like to think about. 

I think schooling leaves a lot of us with those memories.

As you say. 

It does seem odd that Grampleton would bus their students all the way into South Zuzu. It seems big enough to support a high school

Well, odd things have always happened around Abigail. Sometimes I wonder.

Wonder…?

Oh, if it’s a...family thing.

 

PIERRE: 

And I blame myself for that. I mean, yes, I was starting the store and that took all my time and energy but the end result was, I wasn’t there for her. And we didn’t really have many local friends yet. I don’t think it’s fair to blame her.

For? 

(Pause.) Leaning on the ones she did have. (Ice clinking.) It was a rough year. 

(Long pause.) 

But we got through it, and that’s what matters. 



DWARF: 

[Oh, the Witch has told me many stories about you people!]

[Some day, you must tell me about this concept you call “privacy.”]

What did he say? 

SEREN:

He says, How about those Tunnellers? What a game, huh?

~~~

Excerpt from Cormorant Vale, Chapter 22:

 

Everett gestured wildly with the bouquet. “Hal, look around. Everyone in this town is running from something. Hell, look at me.”

“You’re a notable local author. It says so on a special table at the library.” 

“I’m a small fish in a very, very small pond. In Ruric Heights, I was a remora. Or, no, let’s be scrupulously accurate--I was one of those tiny male anglerfish who attach themselves to the biggest female and fade away into her flesh.” 

“You’ve been drinking with Wally again, I see.” 

“All my friends,” Everett continued, “were bright, up-and-coming young writers and artists. And then some of us up-and-comers...came up. Overnight a few of my friends were suddenly established professionals. And the rest of us...some kept working. Some drifted away. Some embraced their roles as salonnieres, critics, fundraisers. And suddenly all my professional peers were...very much younger, or newer to the scene. 

“And I could see my own role, if I stayed there: the buffoon. Everett who talks a good game, Everett who throws a good party. Who spends his own money on retreats, has a promising three chapters to show an agent--the same three chapters, year after year. Everett who beds the new arrivals, until they wise up to him.

“I ran here. I ran here because if I failed here, I failed in front of people who had only ever known me as a laughingstock and a braggart.

“And because maybe, I could carve out a small kind of success here. Cormorant Vale doesn’t care if my first book ends up being my last, or what a trivial work it is for someone who showed so much promise. I still did the work. For once, once in my life, I did the work, and here that is enough.” 

He was still, pathetically, holding out the bouquet. “Maybe I’m not much,” he said. “Maybe I’ll fail at this. But I’ll do the work.” 

Varney took off his glasses and polished them deliberately on his lapel, put them back on. He reached out so matter-of-factly for the bouquet that at first Everett thought he was putting it away, out of sight, ending this farce. “I’ll take that.” He gently disengaged Everett’s fingers and smiled sadly at the mangled stems. “I accept.”

~~~

Grizzly Jim 
Walnut, with intarsia details in aspen, cherry, apple, and sycamore
Leah Andresson
Year of the Republic 79

Artist’s Statement: This piece is executed entirely in local hardwoods, showcasing the wealth and diversity of the forests where Jim Grample spent his life. I have shown the figure fully robed in his famous bearskin coat. The muscles of the model and the folds of the coat are deliberately blurred together, evoking Grample’s legendary status as a “skin-changer” or were-bear. Grizzly Jim challenges the viewer to look for the lines between man and animal, and between man and legend.  

Temporarily exhibited with this piece are eight small clay studies. These were made by my students during one session in Fall, when my model, Clint Jenks, was kind enough to sit for the class. As you can see, this was the week we were struggling to get the bear robe just right! Also on temporary exhibit is my fired clay maquette for the wood carving, on loan from the Pelican Town Library. 

 

Studies for Grizzly Jim
Terracotta
Leah Andressen, Abigail Duquesne, Seren Heath, Shane Heath, Harvey Lane, Emily Manning, Haley Manning, Robin Strong, Elliott Waring
Year of the Republic 79

~~~

 

Pelican Town
Spring 26

 

Dear Professor Emerita Vitruvia Harriet

Thank you for the pictures from the Fern Islands! Thank Fran for me for getting you out of your office. 

In return, I’m enclosing some new photos of my sculptures. These are by my neighbor Haley, who is a serious photographer, and considerably less blurry than my own efforts! 

As of tomorrow, the class will have been meeting for a year. Mostly--last week’s was cancelled for the Flower Dance, which I attended, solo, but did not dance at. I haven’t seen Elliott since his reading on Sunday--I don’t know who has seen him

I often find myself thinking of you in the studio. Every time I locate the greater trochanter of the femur--which is often, because at least the way Leah teaches it, it is the chief landmark of the body, more important in determining proportions even than the navel--I am reminded of the first time I ever saw one, which was also the first day I met you. When I was still nerving myself up to apply to medical school, I took your public tour of the gross lab. I hid behind an elderly couple debating leaving their bodies to science and didn’t introduce myself. 

You went straight to one table in the back. “Let me show you what we dissected in my ten o’clock,” you said, and yanked the sheet down. I’d never seen a dead body before. You reached into the incision and pulled out the head of the femur. “You see that? That’s an artificial hip joint. Now isn’t that a thing of beauty.” 

It was, in its way. I remember it as all shining metal and white plastic, impossibly clean and gleaming for something that had been inside a body. You showed us where the mechanism met bone, how the surgeon had installed it, and where the positioning of the muscle attachments had subjected it to stress. And then you led us to a cadaver with both his own hips and showed us the same dissection on what you called “the factory-installed model.” I remember how you tucked the flaps of muscle and skin back into place, and how after pulling up the sheet you patted each cadaver on the shoulder, absently thanking them for their service. 

I made up my mind then to become a doctor, though I couldn’t have articulated what I saw in you in that moment that I so wanted to emulate. But now I think I can.

Leah and Elliott some of my classmates argued about what makes a thing art. And they continue to argue, but the definition they agree on is that art is replete--that every aspect of it, however accidental, however the artist intended it, can be seen as meaningful, and that every aspect contributes to the meaning of the whole. 

By the time you had shown us your cadavers, every week, you had made them works of art--imbued by their histories with meaning in every part. 

(I hear you saying, “They’re people, dear.” Maybe it comes to the same thing.)

I have found this attitude a useful antidote to perfectionism--to know that the meaning of my errors will be as real and important to the viewer as the meaning of anything I did deliberately. In my medical practice, of course, I strive to make no errors at all; but I think extending myself this grace has made me a better doctor and friend. If we are all works of art, then what others see in us may still be true, even if not intended. 

I may not send this after all.

My best to Fran. 

In friendship,
Dr. Harvey Lane
Class of 72

~~~

HARVEY: 

A man runs away with a floating market fleet. Not a young man. Disillusioned. Named...Elias. Eliezer. Ellis? Elred? Ethelred, Ethelgrim...Adelbert. Adelbert runs away with the night market to escape the consequences of a terrible mistake. Lucky, lucky Adelbert.

Sounds like a best-seller.

(Chair falling over.) GAH! 

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop; I wasn’t sure if you had company. 

No, just...making some notes for a new story. Got to move on to the next thing.

Yes, of course. Do you usually dictate your notes?

I thought I might try it, since I’ve gotten in the habit of listening and transcribing now. And since I filled three pages of my notebook with the word 'stupid.'

Ah. (Pause.) Did you read any of Cormorant Vale aloud? To yourself, I mean. 

It’s not generally part of my process. 

I was thinking specifically of that conversation between Varney and Curt the blacksmith in Chapter 24. May I...? Yes, here it is:  

”If you never ask, she can’t say no--but she can’t say yes, either. I think you’re being rather unfair to her, denying her that chance.” 

Clearly I should have listened closer to the inner Muses on that one. 

Of course, the book ends before we find out what Melody would have said.

It seemed unfair to Emily and Clint to dictate her answer. 

(Long pause.) 

Speaking of things I should have tried saying aloud. Harvey, I’m sorry. I’ve gone about this wrong from start to finish. 

Oh, I don’t know. It seemed to me like we started rather well. (Pause.) This is that first one Emily sat for, isn’t it? I haven’t seen it since it came out of the kiln. I like how you’ve finished it, with the green.

It’s supposed to be a faux bronze patina. 

She looks like a mermaid.

That’s because the torso’s a head too long. 

As long as you don’t say anything, it looks deliberate. 

Oh. Is that what we’re doing, then? Pretending I knew what I was doing all along? 

You can call it that, if you like. I thought--making the best of what we have now. That is. If you’re still interested.

...yes. Yes, I am. Yes. We can do this properly--I’ll get you a--oh. You’re way ahead of me. 

It’s not a proper bouquet; just a few daffodils. I was too nervous to go into Pierre’s until I’d talked to you first. 

They’re marvelous. Marvelous. I couldn’t ask for better.