2022 Reading Challenge

2022 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 260 books.
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Character Interviews AND Excerpts from Water to Water by Karen A. Wyle (Part Deux)

I promised you more. Here is that more… For background on the book/what that reference means, visit the earlier post. Today I’m going to dive right in and introduce you to two more characters and offer another teaser into the story. Enjoy!

Character Interview with Terrill
Terrill is a Vushlu. He would have become an adult next year by taking a ritual first journey to the ocean with other Vushla his age. Instead, he attained adult status prematurely, accompanying his dying father to the ocean, where his father went into the water to be dissolved. Interviewing Terrill is a tricky task. As the book begins, he is understandably morose. Later, when he is less so, he has good reasons not to reveal his activities and concerns. I’ve dealt with this dilemma by splitting his interview into two, and working within the limitations Terrill sets. The first interview takes place at a rest stop during the funeral party’s return trip. Terrill speaks in a quiet monotone most of the time.

Q. I’m very sorry about your father.

A. Thank you.

Q. It will take you quite a while to get home. How are you occupying yourself along the way?

A. I’m trying to remember as much as I can about Da. [a pause; he clenches and armors his fists] But the things I remember keep reminding me of things I don’t know. Questions I never asked, and never can, now. [long pause]

Q. Have you found any ways to keep your spirits up?

A. There’s a Weesah peddler who’s been traveling alongside us. He likes to tell stories. When I listen to them, it takes my mind off . . . other things. I’ve even laughed a few times. [glances to the side] Not that my uncle approves. Of the listening or the laughing. An older Vushlu approaches; the interview concludes]

———–

The second interview takes place around three months (or the equivalent) later. Terrill is now traveling in the peddler’s wagon, as is Honnu, another Vushlu about his age.

Q. Is this where you expected to be, at this time?

A. No. Nothing about what I’m doing these days is as I expected. One unpredictable event has led to another.

Q. What can you tell me about these events?

A. [a slight smile – which for Vushla means a rounded mouth] Very little, I’m afraid. Except that one of our funeral party, my aunt, became very ill on the way home. The others returned to the ​sea with her. I [a short pause] chose not to. That led to my becoming better acquainted with Honnu. And that led to everything else.

Q. So do you think you’ll become a peddler?

A. [another smile] I don’t think so. But for now, I’m a peddler’s assistant and have my duties. I’dbetter go.

Q. Perhaps we’ll meet again along the road.

A. I . . . don’t think that is very likely. But stranger things have happened. [a quiet chuckle] Indeed they have.​

Character Interview with Willan, Terrill’s Father
Terrill’s father Willan, whom Terrill calls Da, is terminally ill and on the way to the ocean. When he reaches it, he will, as dying Vushla do, swim or wade in and let the water dissolve him. Various relatives, including Terrill, and a few friends or neighbors are escorting Willan on this final journey. The interview presumably takes place during a rest stop. Willan’s voice is weak and his speech halting.

Q. What can you tell me about your life?

A. Where to start . . . . I have a mate, Lilit, and three children. The youngest, Terrill, is over there. The older ones work in cities and couldn’t get home in time. I don’t have much time, I think.

Q. Is Lilit here?

A. No. We said goodbye at home. Most mates do. Dragging things out . . . would have hurt her more. And she’s never been much for traveling.

Q. What work did you do, before you took ill?

A. I did a lot of teaching, teaching children. In our town and nearby. Most ages. I like teaching. And people seem to think I have a gift for it. [a pause] And I make things. Different things. Sandals – lots of sandals. Many people in our town wear my sandals. Boxes, with carved designs. I like carving. [a pause] And I made one hand harp. I’d have made more, I think, if I’d had time.

Q. If you don’t mind my asking, what are your thoughts about the end of this journey? About swimming out to sea?

A. [a quiet sigh] That it’s a little soon. I’ve had a good life. I would have liked it to have lasted a little longer. [a pause] But it’s all right. Good things come to an end. [a small smile] And I like to learn new things. I’ve been to the ocean, and to funerals, but this is the only way I can learn about going into the waves. What it feels like. What the ocean sounds like from the inside. Whether there’ll be anything to see.

I’m not afraid, really. I’ve never heard of anyone struggling or crying out in pain.

I wish my children and Lilit didn’t have to grieve, and to reshape their lives. Terrill – he’s too young for this. . . . He always looked forward to that first trip to the sea, with the friends of his year. He had so many plans for it. I’m sorry he’s had to trade those plans for this.

[Terrill starts heading toward Willan as the other Vushla move back toward their cycles]

We’ll be going on now. And I should save my voice and my strength for talking to my son.

The Excerpts
This is from Chapter 2. Terrill, a young member of the Vushlu species who has just watched his father’s death ritual, is on the way homeward.

———–

Terrill should spend this time remembering his father, calling up all the memories he wanted to preserve. What was his earliest memory of Da?

His earliest memory of any kind . . . he would have liked a more pleasant one. Someone had smacked his hand, on the unarmored palm, for making some mess or other. But he couldn’t remember who had done it. It wouldn’t have been Da, not for such a young child making a mess.
Ma, maybe, in a moment of exasperation. Or his uncle, visiting.

Terrill might have been a couple of years older the time Da gave him a ride, telling him to put his arms around Da’s torso and hold tight, Terrill’s baby legs splayed wide across Da’s broad back. Da had put just a little bounce in his gait, enough to be thrilling, but not enough to loosen Terrill’s clasped hands . . . .

What arose next was from a few years later, but still from childhood. A hot day, the hottest so far that year, with the end of the season seeming forever away. Da going from creek to creek to find the coolest one, and pouring a bucket of almost-cold water all over Terrill, Terrill gasping in pleasure and relief . . . .

Another memory, very different, almost as far back: Terrill standing outside, watching the sky colors shift from day to night, wondering if the sky looked the same everywhere, even in the far-off cities where his older siblings wanted to go. He had turned to go back inside and only then seen Da, walking back and forth, slowly, in the road a few paces away, his shoulders slumped, a posture Terrill could not remember having seen before. Something was wrong, and Terrill had no idea what it was. He had never had the courage to ask about it.

He would never know.

———–

———–

This is from Chapter 3.

Terrill was almost home.

They would be home too soon. A bleak prospect, that. Da would be gone; and everyone would be talking about him, on and on. And Terrill would have to take on some new role, whatever it might be, or whatever his family might decide it should be.

It could be a long time before he went anywhere again.

The pain of giving up the journey he would have made with the friends of his year, the joyful adventure that he would never experience, pierced him afresh, a pang as cold as the season to come.

And this cold season, Da would not be there building up the fire, or draping a blanket over Ma as she slept, or preparing the garden for its coming nap. Terrill would never again see him come in from the garden, smelling of soil and fresh air, rubbing his hands together to warm them, spreading the dirt on them in the process.

A scene he had forgotten — that he had wanted to forget — came back to him, as clearly if he had remembered it over and over. He was very young. His father’s mother had been sick, moving slowly, not talking much; and then she had gone away, hugging him as tightly as she still could, and Da had gone with her. And after a long time, more days than Terrill could count yet, Da had come home again. He had come through the door, and looked around, stared around, as if everything had become strange and different while he was gone. It had scared Terrill enough to make him cry.

What would it be like for Terrill to walk through that door, with his father gone?

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