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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 30: Kondor 182
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Brown 204
Kondor was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, not seeing it. The sun had set and he had lit the oil lamp on the nearby table--close enough to provide a bit of light but not so close that there was a danger it would ignite the bed curtains. These were open, to admit any hint of the non-existent breeze he imagined would help cool him. But he was mostly thinking, or trying to think, about the dinner that day, and the upcoming dinner tomorrow. Should he marry this girl? It was crazy even to consider it, yet there was something in it worth considering.
When he was home, he thought he was too young to marry and he should do something to get his life started. He had enlisted in the army thinking it might be a career, and if not it would be the beginning of one. He had signed up for the medical corps, because he knew that if he stayed for only one hitch he could easily come out and get certified as an emergency medical technician or even a paramedic, and if he stayed he could eventually be a doctor, a licensed physician. This would be a great advance on the life he would have anticipated staying at home, and he could work toward it for a few years and then find a girl and get married.
Well, it wasn’t the life plan he anticipated, but he was a doctor, and it had been more than a few years--more than a few decades--since he had enlisted. The fact that he wasn’t any older than he had been then wasn’t likely to change any. If he was going to marry, well, he probably shouldn’t put it off much longer.
Yet there was always this problem: he didn’t want to court a girl on false pretenses, that is, to make her believe he was going to marry her and then not do so. That wasn’t exactly the problem. The problem was that he shouldn’t marry someone who didn’t know about his strange verser life, and it would be unfair to get a girl to fall in love with him and then spring on her that if she wanted to marry him this was what she was in for, but it would be crazy to tell a girl all about his life when they first met--crazy both because it was bound to repel most girls, and because, well, versers quickly learned that you don’t tell people the whole truth about versing if you don’t want to wind up in a mental institution. Lauren had been in one for a while, and it did not sound like something he wanted. So really, it was not easy finding a wife. He supposed that perhaps if he found a girl who was already a verser--but how long had he been at this, and it hadn’t happened yet.
Leah was very nearly the perfect opportunity. She didn’t expect to be romanced but simply to try to marry a decent man. He had explained to her what that meant. Also, while there probably wasn’t a perfect girl for anyone anywhere, there were significant points in her favor. She came from a world that was not so primitive she couldn’t understand future technology, but not so advanced that she wouldn’t be able to handle primitive worlds. She wasn’t a fighter, but she had been trained in weaponless combat and was reportedly a pretty decent beginner. He doubted she had any survival skills, but he had enough for both of them, Zeke would be with them, and she could learn. Maybe this would be a good choice. He’d be hard pressed to find a better opportunity.
That is, if she was still interested.
He heard Zeke at the door.
He paused a moment, still trying to wrap up what he was thinking, then said, “Yeah, come on in.” The lieutenant pulled over an ottoman and sat on it. “So, what do you think?” Kondor asked. “Still think I should marry her?”
There was hesitation in Zeke’s voice. “I--I don’t know. Yesterday I thought this was a great thing, but now?” The question hung for a moment. “It just seems so unromantic. It’s like, she’s such a cold fish. She wants to marry you because you’re the best option of a lot of bad choices. I mean, where is the love?”
Kondor nodded, unsure whether Zeke could see the gesture. “You’re right. On the other hand--did you ever see Fiddler on the Roof? No, how could you? It probably hadn’t been written yet in your lifetime.” He stopped and pondered a moment. Zeke interrupted the silence.
“So, what is it?”
“Well, it’s really a musical drama about Jewish people living in Czarist Russia in the early twentieth century, watching their lives, and particularly their traditions, crumble as the world changes around them. But in the middle of it is this middle-aged couple with three daughters who don’t want to marry husbands their father picks for them, but instead want to marry boys they love. At a critical moment in the story, wrapped in song, the father asks the mother, do you love me? And they talk, or rather sing, about how they had never even seen each other before their wedding day, and that their parents said they would learn to love each other, and they’ve lived their lives together for a couple of decades and raised children and run a household, and they conclude that yes, they do love each other.”
Again the room grew quiet. Again Zeke broke the silence.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“For most of history, in most places, marriages were arranged by someone, and they worked fine. As the story says, they learned to love each other. I think I could love this Leah, and I think she thinks she could love me, so if we decide to do that, we should be able to make it work.”
Skeptically, Zeke responded. “Well, maybe. But what if not? I mean, a lifetime together is a long commitment for people who die of old age. What would it be like for people who never age?”
Kondor looked over to Zeke, then returned his eyes to the ceiling.
“Yes, that’s a point. Well, I’ve got to have a decision by tomorrow; but then, maybe she’ll decide no, and in that case my decision won’t matter.”
“It will if you say yes and her brother says yes.”
There was that. Well, he’d have to find a way to avoid that. Maybe it would be clearer in the morning.
After several minutes of silence, Zeke said, “G’night.”
It took a few seconds before Kondor pulled himself out of his reverie and answered. "Yes, good night. Would you be so kind as to snuff that lamp on your way out?”
“No problem.” And in a moment the room was dark, lit only by the lights of the night sky coming through the window and a torch burning in the hall outside his door. Zeke’s shadow filled the doorway and then vanished as the light beaded curtain closed behind him.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #437: Characters 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: