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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 68: Brown 171
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Perhaps not surprisingly, given that despite his decades of life he was still effectively a seventeen year old boy, during meals Derek paid a lot of attention to the girls, that is, the Princess and her entourage. He found that he was learning to tell them apart. Most of them were pretty, but he found one of them particularly attractive. With my luck, he thought, that will be the princess. However, no one was going to tell him which one was the princess, and he wasn’t about to ask.
After their wilderness excursion, though, they seemed to be paying attention to him. It was little things at first. He would go up to the buffet to fill his plate, and in a moment find that there were girls on either side of him. When he looked at them they would turn away and giggle. He also noticed that they were more often eating on the dais, and although he couldn’t swear to it, he thought they waited for him to sit and then positioned themselves near him. If they caught him looking, they would burst into giggles.
Finally one day when one of the girls was standing next to him by the buffet, he decided to talk to her. He knew that Arabic was the local language, and although his Arabic was poor it was at least conversational, so he addressed her in that language.
“So, what do I call you?”
She blushed and giggled and looked down. “You speak Arabic,” she said in that language, and so he continued in it.
“Not much and not well, but enough to say hello.”
“I am called ‘Princess’; we are all called ‘Princess’.”
“That must get very confusing when you’re talking with each other.”
She laughed. “No, we have names, and we use them sometimes when we are alone, but we are not permitted to reveal them when we are together.”
“Right. Someone told me. I shall have to give you names I can remember. You must be Princess Chin--Chin--oh, dear, I don’t know the Arabic word I want. In English it would be,” and he switched to English, “dimple.”
She stared at him blankly and took the conversation back to Arabic. “I do not know that word.”
“No, it’s not all that commonly used. It refers to that cute little dent you have that divides the bottom of your chin.”
“Oh, a dimple!” she said in Arabic, and blushed again.
“Dimple,” Derek said, repeating the Arabic word. “So I will have to call you Princess Chin-Dimple. After all, I have to call you something.”
“What do you mean, why? You’re a pretty girl, we see each other at meals, and if we’re going to talk to each other I need to call you something.”
“Why would you want to talk to me?”
“Why would you,” Derek emphasized, “want to talk to me?”
“You’re a national hero.”
Derek laughed. “Yeah, I’m sure I was heroic. You’re a princess.”
“No, I’m--I mean, yes, of course I am. Princess Chin-Dimple.” She smiled.
“Besides, if I’m going to improve my Arabic, I’m going to have to use it with people who speak it well.”
“I don’t speak it very well.”
“On the contrary, you are a native speaker. You know all the idioms, all the conjugations and declensions, all the right forms, so intimately that you are not aware of knowing them. Already you taught me the word for a dimple.”
“Oh. I see. Well, I had better get back.”
“Right. Nice talking to you.”
He found it strange that any of them were interested in him. But then, she was right--officially he was a national hero. He was also just a year or two older than most of them. He supposed that made him an eligible bachelor--and the fact that he spoke Arabic was perhaps also in his favor.
He chided himself for thinking that way. He could not do more than flirt with these girls. If he married one, she would wind up either growing old while he stayed the same age or leaving with him when he was killed, like Shella traveled with Bob. He did not see any of the girls as particularly likely to do well in the verse.
Still, it was nice to talk with one of them.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #293: Versers Relate. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: