Log:About A Court
|About A Court|
"Our language is ridiculous. But that's part of why I love it so. All its nonsense. "
30 April, 2017
Gisa invites CJ over for a quiet conversation. They talk about the Freehold, the Dawn Court, and Max. So far.
It's evening in the back room of the Jewish Bookstore, and Gisa is settled on one of the couches like she owns the damn place or something. She is leaning against the arm, a pillow tucked between her arm and that of the couch. Propped on the end of that same couch arm is a half-full glass of red wine, balanced neatly. One ankle's propped on the opposite knee, forming a platform on which she can rest her book -- a battered volume that's clearly well-loved and quite old, with post-its sticking out of various pages and notations in the margins. Things underlined. That sort of thing. Her right hand balances the book, holds a pen, turns pages right to left occasionally, and sometimes makes a little note in a margin or underlines something. Thoughtful Golem Face. The shin on her forehead glows with a gentle, steady light. If this seems like a way that the cricket have seen Gisa before, well, it's not like goylomim are the most innovative of creatures when it comes to daily activities. They run on routine, almost compulsively so.
A wind of change, and then a cricket, and happily, this time C.J.'s Dawnish atmosphere doesn't feel so much like devastating weather systems, but a more pleasant kind of hope in the offing. He knocks to announce himself. "If you're busy, Gisa, I can take a walk around the block first before interrupting your reading, but I tried to be punctual." And not without a gift, either; this time not flowers, but a different kind of sweetness. "First honey! At least, it's fairly early for the year." It's a box with real honeycomb in it, something that's got to be local rather than a fairly common present. "If you like it, of course," he offers, with a little shyness. "If not, well. It makes an excellent treat for others. I chew the comb at night lately. Very soothing before bed."
The smell of petrichor clashes with the scent of a match-head just catching flame -- the edge of sulphur riding the top edge of rain soaking into the earth -- is swept up in that wind of change as Gisa's mantle mixes with the incoming cricket's. The knock has her setting aside her book -- that well-loved, brown-covered JPS Tanakh, the gilt lettering on the front worn with use and handling -- and she shakes her head a little at his words before slowly rising to her feet. "I am almost always reading, when I am not doing something else," she demurs, the shin on her forehead flickering in time with the flames in her eyepits as she turns her attention fully to him. "How else might I eventually add new words to my chem?" The golem's clay hands reach out carefully to take the box, and when she opens it, there's a soft gasp, and an actual smile, however subtle the gesture. "I love honey." And it's a genuine tone of surprise and fondness as she pulls the jar from the box, holding it up to the light. "It is delicious and also important. In many ways." She pauses, then, and says, "Wait here." Setting the box down next to her Tanakh, she disappears to the front of the store.
A minute later, she returns with a box of a similar size, and while walking, carefully rubs the price tag off with her thumb. The golem holds it out to him: it's not wrapped, so it's easy to see that it's a silver-plated apple-shaped dish with a small spoon. "Here. We use these for Rosh Hashanah, but for you it will be nice to put bedtime honeycomb perhaps." Awkward golem holds out box, awkwardly.
"Apples dipped in honey, no?" Grillo takes the box. "I've lived in places with more of a religious community of all kinds than Vermont, so I know a little, even if I'm relatively agnostic in all my dealings," he admits. "Thank you, Gisa. This is just right." He tips his head back a little, antennae dipping, and he asks, "Is now a good time to talk about the Court, maybe? Among other things. It's a quiet enough evening to let the conversation wander if it wants to."
She bobs her head appreciatively, a small gesture, but affirmative and pleased. It's a heck of a culture shock to come back to Vermont from Jerusalem, after all, and any small affirmation is something. "It is okay. I do not expect goyim to know." A deep breath in, one of those big bellows-sounding sighs that she makes, and in agreement, Gisa gestures toward the scattered seating, "Now is a good time. Would you like coffee? Or wine?" Her own half-full glass of the latter sits mostly-forgotten on the arm of her chair, balanced precariously. (Proof enough that Kyle isn't here; a carefully-balanced wineglass is just asking for a cat to knock it over.)
"Coffee for me, if it's there and not too much ttrouble. I don't mind making my own if it's easier," Grillo offers, though he moves towards a seat and shrugs off his coat carefully, folding it over the arm. "I try to be a little cautious about drinking. Special occasions only," he adds. "Past experience says I'm too much of a lightweight to make it a practice." Or he sells that lightweight attitude, perhaps.
"I have a Keurig." Gisa trundles to the aforementioned machine, taking down one of those mugs with the pomegranates on the side and setting about making his coffee. "No, it is hospitality, I will do it," she assures, apparently quite content to fuss over her guest. Goylomim are made for service, after all, and both Jews and Lost set great stock by hospitality. "That is sensible. I drank my way through most of my wine on Thursday anyway," she adds, "but I should have enough left until my order comes in for Friday." His coffee's doctored the same way he asked for it last time, and she delivers it before settling in her chair. "Here you are." Her ceramic fingers clink against her glass as she lifts it, raising it slightly in his direction. "L'chaim." Another subtle set of clinks as she takes a drink to seal the salute. "Let us talk, then."
"From what I gathered, you earned the drinking of whatever wine your heart wanted, having witnessed...all of that," Grillo observes with his best delicacy, not reiterating what Gisa went through, not to mention the poor girls standing victim to the man she helped chase down. He clears his throat, lifts his mug, and echoes: "L'chaim, yes." He pauses there, weighs what he wants to say first. "As much as I like that we have a place here -- having a place set aside can sometimes be a sop rather than an opportunity," he states. "I think it's more likely to end up a sop if we're not a Court in some motion together, looking for opportunities and understanding of where we can provide hope's opportunities."
She takes in a deep breath, and then lets it out very slowly. "I do not know about earned," the golem admits, "but I cannot blame myself for it." Her lips press into a line. "There is some -- concern -- from the journal that we found that -- he -- " and if ever more venom was packed into a single monotonously-spoken syllable, one would be hard-pressed to recall it "might be working with a cult of Loyalists. Max has his journal. She was going to bring it to you." Her hands twitch around the glass, as if she might squeeze it, and then she stops, setting it aside for the moment. Her attention turns to him, that very singular attention when, despite the golem not having proper, well, eyes, it's still possible to tell that, yes, he is the sole focus of her gaze and her... um. Focus. "I do not understand the phrase 'a sop.' I think I understand it in context. We need to know where we are going, and how we are going there, or we will be sitting and drinking wine and coffee to no purpose, in a nice place, that does not have a true purpose?"
"Huh," is all Grillo says on the subject of Max and the journal. "Haven't seen it yet, but we haven't had time to talk in the last couple of days. I'll make a point to find her, since it's there. A cult of Loyalists. Wouldn't that just be a pile of..." Whatever vulgarity might have come there, he elides it a little to take a long sip of the coffee instead. "Oh! It's --" He almost starts to pedantically explain the phrase, but instead just starts nodding his head along. "Sometimes, you can be given a role just to keep you quiet and happy and shut up," he agrees. "I don't think it would be possible to do that to us, quite honestly -- I've never known the Bloody Rose to be very good at going along to get along with anything, for one thing. But I also think we should actively resist being passive, and start looking for things to do and choices to be made and advanced. There's things I like very much about this freehold, but there's also things I'm starting to notice as...a bit difficult in the long run. Jon has a real talent for pinpointing some of them, I've noticed."
"She took some books with her. I have a worry over what else she took, but I was carrying bodies. One body. Nana had the other one in her cargo hold." Now that's a sentence that might need some unpacking. "Also Rorschach was not well and I was watching him." Gisa's mouth tightens at the corners. "One Mengele clone was enough. More than enough. I -- " Nope, we're not going wherever that sentence was going. That way lies another pile of empty wine bottles. Instead, she clears her throat, like a small rattling of pebbles in a clay cup.
"I like to be active, but I actively resist being in charge of anything," answers Gisa. "I agree, though. We are not a passive Court, no matter what we are." She absently scuffs her foot across the stone-tile floor, making a small scrape-scrape sound not unlike someone writing with chalk on a blackboard. "What have you noticed? I have only been back a few weeks, and I admit I associate mostly with our own Court. Just by happenstance."
"In charge. There's a world full of people who mistake being 'in charge' for being the only ones to do anything. Personally, I don't want to bank on us ever being in charge. There are a lot of Spring Courtiers, and so far I don't know many of them, and while that would be worth rectifying..." His long-fingered hands spread. "Being in charge isn't the same as accomplishing things, and I'm really more interested in the latter." He leans back, and considers the question in silence for a few seconds as he no doubt runs through the things he's observed. All talk of what happened with Mengele-clone, he surely notices, but he doesn't remark on, perhaps giving Gisa most room to put the topic aside for the moment. "The trouble of new organizations like this freehold -- and it is still very new -- is that often people settle quickly into easy subordination. I couldn't tell you, other than Ashe, who's much doing a lot in the leadership of organizations, courts, council -- or even what decisions are coming up to be made there. Call this thinking like a newspaperman, but I itch a little to see that more of what happens or doesn't happen gets examined in public. I don't want to tear it all down, but sometimes a body needs to be able to see opportunities to make things move before they can take action." This might just be point-one; the flicker of antennae, twitch twitch twitch, suggests that other thoughts are coming up in his buggy brain.
She shakes her head slightly. "I mean that I, personally, am happier having someone else wear the shiny hat. I do things. I like to do things. I actively do not want any shiny hats of any sort. It is enough to have a participation trophy." Or an Official Conscience badge, as the case may be. "I think we are agreeing, with slightly different viewpoints." Gisa chooses her words carefully, thoughtfully, still focused on him.
When he begins to explain his issues with or concerns about the Freehold, she picks up her wine again, the matter of the just-buried bodies, Mengele-Lost-Syle, and Gisa's reactions to them gladly swept aside in the face of things she can do something about, perhaps. Her eyeflames blink off and then on again, just once, in the middle of all of that, and she leans forward just a little, taking a small sip of wine with the attendant click-click of glass and ceramic. A small gesture with her free hand is clearly 'go on.' She's listening.
"We are. Just from slightly different angles. I allow that someone has to be in charge. I just don't think they're that important. "We" is bigger than "me"." The cricket seems to fix on this statement. "There's some points of common ground, some places like the Wayhouse and of course the Hollow, and that's good, but they aren't where the group is much living their lives. Our commons exist but aren't yet used for purpose to the degree that they might be. Really, it's so much the problem of being new. You put ducks in a row, arrange titles and a theory of how things happen, but that's not always what shakes out -- or doesn't do so right away."
The affirmation that they're coming at the same thing from different angles makes her smile just a little bit. Goylomim have subtly-seen emotions; they're easier spotted when the room is quiet and the conversation is with only one or two other people. "I do not think I have set foot in the Wayhouse in... at least since before Rosh Hashanah. If I ever have." Gisa ticks off on her fingers. "I know of Aspire, I know of Damion's gym, I know of Cyclone... and here, of course. The commons exist, yes. And some of the commons, people do not go into lightly, and with good reason. I will not take Max into the Hedge, and others do not go there easily. Do you think -- we need -- a common place that is not in the Hedge? And to arrange for people to be there?" Those pauses in the last sentence are thoughtful ones, as if she's translating what she means in her head, or really thinking about that sentence for some reason. "Ducks in a row," she repeats, with some amusement. "Ducks are in lines, why does the English say 'ducks in a row?'" Then the golem waves her free hand dismissively. Never mind, never mind. Unimportant!
"I think if we already have spaces, such as the Wayhouse, we need to commonly use them at times. And as you say, you've not been in there, and most of us don't go there. There are quite a few other places that might be considered commons, or might become so." He gusts out a breath. "Max in the Hedge. She's so eager to go there that a small part of me wonders if something isn't calling her. And that bothers me. It's worth it for her to see it and know the dangers, but I suspect that hasn't fully occurred to her, and I'm...dismayed. I may need to discuss that with Ashe, as well." Distracted by this, he grins instead over the ducks in a row question. "Our language is ridiculous. But that's part of why I love it so. All its nonsense. "
"Mmmm," agrees Gisa to the first sentiment, taking another sip of wine. She's enjoying it, drinking it slowly. After Thursday night, that she's able to still drink wine at all is perhaps a blessing. "What other places? So I know, and can be there. Or can direct others." As an aside, she adds, "I have decided I will host a Shabbos dinner here, for our court, in two weeks. If it becomes successful, we can do this again. Just -- bringing people together is a good way for us. It is easier to lose hope, for Lost, when we are isolated."
Then... Max. "I have tried to talk to her. She -- hurt me. And she has alienated Dielle, I think quite thoroughly. I don't know how many ways I can explain to her that she might just need to trust us to tell her when we can't tell her things, and pushing us to do things or tell her things that would put her in danger, she cannot determine that. That she is not -- " Her forehead wrinkles up. "I explained to her that it is like... if you were a Polish goy and your village was burnt in 1941. And you were in danger. Or if you survived Auschwitz. That is the difference between her and us. She has been in danger and will be in danger again, but she is not one of us, and no oath to the Freehold can make it so. Can make her as we are. Will make many of us comfortable telling her the deep secrets. And she is isolating herself." There's genuine distress underlying Gisa's words; this wasn't a fun conversation by far.
After all that, ducks? Just makes her smile a little wan. "Your language," she reminds him. "Mine is ridiculous differently. I will tell you sometime, if you like."
"This place is one. I haven't quite sussed out all the ones that might be sponsored by Courts that aren't the hollow proper," CJ says. "But I think you have what I'm suggesting, by offering that dinner. Steps to cut the isolation are necessary. And so many of us aren't comfortable in the Hedge and Hedge alone, however well-guarded. Variety in where we congregate and how is a blessing." But CJ goes serious when Max is discussed, and Gisa explains. "I'm mentoring her in the Custodians, which is...maybe not my wisest move. I wouldn't want to stand in the way of her truly helping. But you have it well explained, even if she's not understanding. Being affected by our world is not the same trial as belonging to it. I'm not sure how to convey it yet." He cracks a smile, and with Gisa's comment, follows with a joke that ties the thoughts together: "Teach me, surely. Maybe I'll need Hebrew and visual aids to fully convey to Max how bad some ideas are."
Apparently his statement that this place is considered within the commons in his mind is flattering to the golem -- it certainly seems to make her happy, since she straightens up a bit and her shin glows more brightly, that brilliant red-orange wash when her eyes and sigil warm up, then slowly cool. "We shouldn't be comfortable in the Hedge, at least I do not think so. If someone were very comfortable there, no matter how well-guarded, I would be very worried about them." Finishing her wine, Gisa rises with that tectonic deliberateness she has, and goes to get herself another half-glass, asking, "May I get you anything while I'm up?"
Over by the counter, she stops, leaning her free hand on the counter, and turns back toward him. "I talked to her for... hours. I tried everything. She seems to believe that we should teach her everything that we would teach a Hedge-fresh Lost, and that if we do not teach her this, it is because we view her as worthless, as ... mmm, incompetent, as less-than in a negative way, not as different-than in a factual way that does not have any moral weight to it." Uncorking her last bottle of Israeli wine, she pours herself that half-glass and then re-corks the bottle, trundling back toward her chair. "I know you are mentoring her in the Custodians. I ... questioned... why you would do that. It did not seem to fit with what I knew of you. But it makes sense in that you will not tell her things irresponsibly, I do not think. You will be wiser than others would be. As wise as you can be." And then she settles back down, focusing back in on Grillo entirely once she is. "I tried to explain to her that if -- as an example -- I told her about something that then she went after, and she was hurt, or Taken, then the responsibility for telling her this is mine, and I must answer to myself and also to the Monarch. She didn't understand that. She thought I meant that she was pledged to one person rather than the Freehold. No, I do not think that. But I am responsible for what I tell her, and what comes of it. I tried to avoid her finding out about the Goblin Market, for example, and then someone else explained it to her when I wouldn't. And when she came to the Hedge last, she affixed herself to me instead of to the person who brought her there. She does this to others as well. I know she doesn't understand. I tried. I did." Laughter, then -- a rolling sound like sand tumbling down the side of a dune. "I wish you better luck of it. I will teach you Hebrew slang. Maybe it will help."
The bug-man waves off any fetching of things, still working on his coffee. "Max and I have a better rapport than she might with everyone, I suspect," Grillo says. "But I have some warning signs. I think -- I have a lot of things I think. But I have noticed the Hedge-question -- that she'll abandon those who brought her for someone else, at the very least, and leave us wondering how she got there. Part of why I wonder what's calling her, and whether we should be -- even more cautious. I'm not certain that Max registers that, by asking me to mentor, she's also opening me to report what I find out and notice upwards. Which I will." And this is more resolute than it is happy about the task, it seems. A disappointed bug in the greater part. "I'd really like to learn," he adds. "The Hebrew, I mean. I'm interested in what we can know in different tongues and ways of perceiving, for one."
to be continued, possibly