Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Within minutes of Kviye’s arrival in the kitchen, all the members of the family settled around the breakfast table. Kviye’s father had come in from his daily rounds looking for more work. He’d had a part time job running numbers for a woman who owned a butcher shop and a bakery, but most of the openings were to work physical labour at the docks, which at his age and his general lack of physical labour experience, having run the accounting of the family business since he was married, were generally off the table for him. Still, he’d come in with a faint smile and a “good morning” for Kviye and a complete lack of updates which she would later have to claw out of Valyen’s mom instead.
Adri also arrived by this point, as always walking in while trying to avoid eye contact and scratching behind his head, as if embarrassed that he’d slept in even though no one present would think of mentioning it.
Even Grandma Morozo lifted her creaky bones from her corner chair that allowed her to observe all the activities in the kitchen and adjacent living room and took her seat at the table.
“Lian, what is this?” Grandma Morozo called out, gesturing with both hands to the spread before her. “Where’s my drink?”
“Ma, I thought we’ve been over this,” came the gentle resigned reply of Valyen’s mom.
“We have, which is why I thought you’d learn by now.” Grandma Morozo smiled wryly in the direction of Valyen, who kept her lips in a tight straight line so as to suppress a laugh and maintain solidarity with her mother.
“Ma, it’s still morning,” Valyen’s mom reiterated, unwilling to budge from where she was sitting.
“What of it? If you live as long as me, god forbid, we’ll see what you need to get through every morning. Now quit wasting an old woman’s life and get me my drink, or I’ll do it myself.”
Valyen leaned in to whisper in Kviye’s ear. “She would, too. Last time she took half an hour and almost broke her hip.”
Just as Kviye snorted in response, Valyen’s mom slapped her hands on both her thighs and let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine. Far be it for me to expect anyone to be halfway sensible in this house.” They all watched her, Grandma Morozo nodding gravely, as Valyen’s mom grabbed a stepstool and used it to reach to the highest cabinet above the kitchen sink from which she pulled out a bottle of a slightly murky colourless liquid, and poured her mother-in-law a small glass, placing it heavily on the wooden table before her.
As Valyen’s mom passed him on the way back, Uncle Dekan leaned back in his chair and asked, “Lian, you mind pouring me a little of that too while you’re up?”
“Don’t you start,” she responded, making a show of holding the bottle as far away from him as possible.
Grandma Morozo slammed back her drink in a single gulp, loudly smacked her lips, and followed it up with a throaty “aaah”, the slightest shine of tears now visible in the corners of her eyes. In about fifteen minutes, if Kviye’s previous experience was any indication, she would get giggly. This would gradually morph into rowdiness, followed by a brief period of belligerence after which Grandma Morozo would clock out for a nap that would take her through to lunch. Kviye always looked forward to the rowdy phase.
“There’s a ship that’s coming in any moment now,” Valyen said while she still had food stuffed behind her cheek. “They radioed about an hour ago saying they’ve got hull damage so I gave them the go-ahead to land on our main platform We owe it to the Malkins to get those two tractor engines repaired as quickly as possible, since we’re about to have our hands full.”
When they moved into the Morozo household, Kviye became Valyen’s right hand in the garage. There was no way she was going to miss out on this job – they hadn’t had an off-world ship land here since Kviye’s crash.
“Any idea who they are?” Kviye asked. Ever since she confirmed that the ancient skiffs that served as transports on her moon had once been capable of spaceflight, it only strengthened her theory that their ancestors came from some long-forgotten homeworld. By Valyen’s expression, Kviye figured that she was not amused by the twinkle in Kviye’s eye at the prospect of a Human from a distant world possibly visiting them some day.
“Captain sounded like a Winti to me,” Valyen answered with a shrug and shoveled more food in her mouth.
Not ten minutes later, Grandma Morozo, a proud longshore worker herself, with the zhelteska fish tattoo on her arm to prove it, threw shade at the subsequent stock in her family by bringing up Valyen’s grandfather. “Mitya was a man who built his body on the docks. Had the arms the size of tree trunks and not mention what was in –”
Before Kviye got a chance to see everyone’s face turn beet red except Valyen’s, who was somehow immune to all of her grandmother’s shenanigans, the house began to vibrate, causing the cutlery to dance on the table. Rowdy Grandma Morozo was going to have to wait – their newest customer was coming in for a landing.
When she and Valyen stepped outside, the ship was already low enough to blot out the sun with its insect-like shadow as it descended towards the landing platform. Though still black and mostly featureless against the bright light, Kviye could tell it was in rough shape, and its engines sounded like they had the starship equivalent of bronchitis.
The wind from the ship’s atmospheric thrusters blew Kviye’s hair into her face, while Valyen’s ponytail twitched angrily as she regarded the vessel with lowered eyebrows and narrowed eyes, tightening the arms that she crossed in front of her.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she grumbled through shut teeth.
“What is it? What is that thing?” Kviye asked as the ship concluded the last few metres of its descent and landed in the yard with a groan of metal.
“A comet chaser,” Valyen answered with cool disdain, “Only thing worse would have been a pirate ship.”
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.