The Sea of Grass: Chapter 13

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The Sea of Grass

Book cover with dried grasses.

Chapter 13

Dear Jim,

The long days of summer are over. The nights have gotten cool and the sky is milky blue. The grass around us is turning yellow and brown, but also bright red in places. Here and there are patches of purple flowers. It seems like the sea of grass has turned into a colourful coral reef.

I put on my jacket when I left the pod this morning. I walked along the river through the colourful grass and crossed the bridge. From afar I could see that Arthur was sitting at one of the tables which now furnish our meeting place. Arthur has fixed a rope between his and Maia's pod and the nearest tree; today their laundry fluttered like a line of flags. The trees sang in the wind and the birds played in the currents high in the sky.

'Will you come over for lunch today? We've got lots of fresh vegetables from Tom and Gerald. I'll make a curry!' Arthur called, when I came closer.

I had to work nearby. The insta-meals seem to become less exciting by the day, so I agreed to come over for lunch. I walked on to the direction of Gerald's pod. I proceeded along the river, passing the apple trees which Gerald has planted there. Each has its own pole to keep it upright and is secured with a tube around its young trunk to prevent hungry wildlife from nibbling the bark.

I stopped shortly to watch Gerald's flock of chickens scratch the ground and go about their chicken business. When they noticed me, they all came hoping for food, but I had to tell them they were out of luck. I said that maybe I could come another time and bring something to eat for them. I did not have the impression that the message really came across, so I said goodbye and left.

I went over to our building site where Laszlo and Gerald were already hard at work. Tom was also already there to help. I was expecting this because they usually get up earlier than I do. As I said before, they have put up the frame of Gerald's new barn in the last few days. Today they want to put the boards on the roof and maybe start covering the outer walls – if enough people come to help.

For a moment I stood there and took it all in. I felt like the others must think I only watch them work while doing nothing myself, so I started laying power lines and connecting them to Gerald's pod. While I was busy with this I noticed that Tom, Peter and Susana arrived and got short instructions from Laszlo about what to do. Then, they started handing panels up to the roof to Laszlo and Gerald. Gradually, the space on the floor where I was working got darker. The pattern of shadows from the roof beams disappeared.

Ryker meanwhile was all over the place. I am sure he would have followed Laszlo and Gerald up to the roof if he could. They were lucky he didn't get in their way up there. It was difficult enough for those who were carrying planks on the ground with a medium-sized dog running around between them. Sometimes he kept me company, too. I did my best to explain to him what I was doing.

At noon we all went over to the meeting place. Arthur brought two large pots to one of the tables. Everyone queued up and got a bowl full of curry and rice, which they carried to a table. Maia and Ingrid came out of the tent where they had been feeding the OMR with a large stack of dry grass. It produced new building materials for our barn.

Apart from those who were working at the barn, Loreley and Barbara also joined us for lunch. They were deeply engaged in a conversation about the water and animals of our lake. After a few minutes, Peter interrupted them to ask whether they thought the fish-like creatures were edible. Barbara told him to appreciate the beauty and not think about eating everything, to which he just shrugged and continued eating his lunch.

When Arthur had already sat down to eat himself, Susana suddenly pointed across the table. Everyone turned to see how the whole Pollak family approached us. Arthur sighed and muttered something about being glad he'd cooked extra. The Pollaks sat down at a free table and looked at everyone expectantly.

'Feel free to help yourselves,' Arthur said, gesturing at the pots and the bowls.

'You are not much of a host,' Crystal scolded him. 'Who expects their guests to feed themselves?'

Reginald Pollak shot Arthur an angry look, which he decided to ignore. He continued to eat, pretending to be completely unaware.

After a few minutes of waiting to be served, Reginald made Dough stop playing on his pad and get food for the family. Dough got up and started filling four bowls with the ladle. Everyone was waiting for him to dump a bowl on the table, but he actually managed to get all four bowls safely to his family. Then he had to get up again to bring spoons.

While Reginald ate his stew without hesitation, Candy sniffed at her spoon suspiciously. She tried a little bit and made a face.

'This tastes nothing like what they serve at the Bengal Tiger!' she complained.

'I don't know. It's not bad,' Dough stated.

His sister gave him a disgusted look.

'You eat ketchup on toast. Just like dad. It's not like you are entitled to an opinion in this,' Candy observed.

Crystal poked the vegetables in her curry, then tried a spoonful of rice.

'Where is that rice coming from exactly? Do you even have a spreadsheet of nutritional values of this dish? You know I want to stay in shape and it's not like there are any fitness centers around here,' Crystal said.

'What about working, like everyone else,' Peter muttered under his breath. The Pollaks didn't hear it but many of us sniggered. Crystal shot angry looks at us all.

At this point I suddenly felt a touch on my upper leg. I was so startled that I almost swatted away Ryker's nose. Oblivious to human carry-on, he looked at me pleadingly from under the table. I surreptitiously dropped a large chunk of potato.

'It's not like any of you will ever go to a dinner party again!' Crystal pointed out. 'But I will go back home and I will show everyone how you can look your best even after years away from any kind of civilisation.'

Candy nodded.

'People will follow our whole story of what we do here. We will be famous when we return home,' she asserted.

Maia laughed.

'It will take you eight years to get back home. That will be six years after they get your last message. You really think anyone will be interested anymore?' she asked.

'You bet they will! You are just jealous because you don't have the opportunity to do the same! That's why you are always so unhelpful!' Candy screamed, dropping her spoon into the almost untouched bowl.

'No, we just think it's silly,' Peter said out loud.

Candy jumped up and stalked away.

'Do not talk like that to my daughter! She deserves to be famous, you will see!' Crystal shouted before following Candy. She turned around after a few meters to call Dough, who quickly emptied his bowl and reluctantly followed the women.

Reginald Pollak also stood up and scolded everyone about how we should learn to be nice to everyone on the team. He threatened to have everyone do a team-building exercise in the near future, which made everyone groan, after which he helped himself to another bowl of curry, which he devoured within minutes. Then he left to follow his family.

'I don't think they'll be over for lunch again any time soon,' Arthur said when Mr Pollak was far enough away. Everyone had to agree to this and we were not sad about the fact.

'It's a surprise they talk to us lowly creatures at all,' Peter noted.

When lunch was over, Gerald pulled out a deck of cards from one of his trouser pockets and he and Tom played a few rounds. Loreley and Laszlo joined them after a while. The game stopped when a gust of wind blew all the cards from the table and everyone chased them through the grass.

We went back to our building site: the roof was covered by the early afternoon. I started to concern myself with the assembly of the incubator. By the end of the day the barn already looked very barn-like and I had finished the base of the machine.

The days are now noticeably shorter and we had to stop our work at dusk. On the other hand it isn't like we have to follow any strict guidelines. We do the things we do at our own pace. Some days are slow; others are filled with all kinds of tasks.

I hope you are well. I have attached a video of Gerald's chickens for the kids.



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