Fire Country (The Country Saga Book 1)(4)

By: David Estes



She shoots me a look when I enter, but doesn’t stop her frantic rushing. “Searin’ Polk’s been burnin’ tossin’ his nuggets all day. He’ll eat everythin’ I got”—as if to illustrate, she stops, shaking her ample breasts wildly—“and more, but then he chucks it all back up no more’n five moments later. Ohhh, yer in fer a real treat, Sie, just wait till it’s yer turn. We can laugh all the way to the wooloo-hut together!”

’Fore I can respond, Polk lets out another shriek that’d shatter the glass windows in my family’s hut. “Shut that vomit-hole of yers, Polk!” Veeva shouts, which only serves to enhance the volume of the squirming baby’s cry.

“Lemme take him,” I say, dodging puddles of barf to grab Polk, who’s rolling around on a tugskin blanket. “You clean up the mess.”

Veeva’s shoulders drop, and she gives me a grateful half-smile. “Yer one of the good ones, Sie,” she says, tucking a blanket between Polk’s mouth and me. A precaution against the barfing. Maybe I shouldn’t’ve been so quick to scoop the little bugger up.

Veev goes about mopping up the floor, talking a mile a second. “Ya know, kid,” she says, even though she’s only a year and a half older’n me, “’sides gettin’ to lie every night with my man…” She pauses, looks up at me, licking her lips.

“Eww, gross, Vee!” I exclaim. Polk’s surprisingly quiet, staring up at me with big eyes that would almost be cute if he weren’t such a little vomit-sprayer.

“What? I ain’t gonna lie. Grunt may not look it, but he gits a scorch of a lot smokier when the sun goddess goes to sleep.”

I shake my head as a mental image of Grunt’s fat belly bounces across my mind. “Agh, too much information, Vee!”

Veeva laughs, goes back to her cleaning. “Well, it’s true. Anyway, ’sides the fun parts, this whole baby-makin’ business ain’t as fun as it sounds.” I’m not sure when it ever sounded fun, but ignore it and let her continue. “Gettin’ waked up in the middle of the burnin’ night, havin’ to change his bundle, havin’ to feed ’im, havin’ to figure out what the scorch he wants when nothin’ seems to work.”

Ugh. Even with what Veev calls “the fun parts,” the whole thing sounds like a whole lot of work. I still got half a year, I remind myself, trying not to think about how things’ll change when I’m a Bearer.



~~~



“Why would the Wilds whisper lies in my ear if they’re going to kidnap me anyway?” I ask Circ the first chance I get after leaving Veev’s tent. My voice sounds funny ’cause I’ve pinched my nose shut with my finger and thumb.

Circ laughs at my voice, and then says, “They’re not going to kidnap you, Sie.” I snort, ’cause his voice sounds even funnier with his nostrils clamped tight. My fingers come off my nose for a second and I get a whiff of the blaze pit that sits a stone’s throw to the side. Screwing up my face, I pinch harder, until it hurts. A little pain is better’n the smell.

“I don’t mean me me. I mean hypothetically speaking. If the Wilds were to try to kidnap me”—I look at Circ, trying not to laugh at the sight of his squashed nose—“or any other Youngling girl, why wouldn’t they just grab her from behind, put a hand over her mouth, and carry her away in a tugskin sack?”

“Maybe they’re all out of tugskin?” Circ says, cracking up and losing the grip on his nose. He sticks out his tongue as the foul odor sneaks up his nostrils. The tips of his moccasin-covered feet are touching mine as we sit cross-legged across from each other. We’ve sat this way since we were Totters.

“C’mon,” I say, clutching my stomach, “I’m being serious.” The only problem: it’s hard to be serious when I can’t stop laughing.

“I don’t know, Sie, maybe it’s easier if they can convince you to come with them, rather than having to haul your tiny butt away with you kicking and screaming.”

It’s a good point, but still…

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