Interview with Michael Cross
Watercolor with Pencil and Ink
News for July
Winning the Gameby Ellen Million
The raisers released the age-set early in the afternoon to play, and Areluu immediately set to deciding what game they would play.
Lenarai liked quiet games best; she could spend hours sitting near one of her age-mates playing spinning webs, gently weaving the looped thread through patient fingers as they chatted in a corner. Ilav's attention span focused tightly on any game, figuring out the statistics for it, analyzing the pieces, then just as intensely, he was off on the next puzzle, forgetting any loyalty to the first game. Areluu had no idea what game he was preferring this tenday. The members of the age-set who wanted to be rangers all liked the rowdy game of bola-ball the best, preferring something outdoors and active. Tekoth liked flipdisk most, and was already making his own clumsy set of disks from wood scraps. Areluu liked any game she could win; the more handily, the better. And of course, Enlaar liked any game Areluu could win, too.
While Areluu was still considering which game she felt luckiest at, Lenarai suggested unexpectedly, "We should play bola-ball." When the others in her age-set looked at her with interest - Lenarai rarely spoke out without prompting, and a rough-and-tumble game was not her style - she blushed a little, and smiled winningly. "It's so nice out," she explained. "And we don't always have a good place to play it, or enough people." Bola-ball took at least 6 players, and a large flat playing surface with good footing. It was spring, and the field just below Itadesh had just dried from the melting snow. The adults were all busy packing to go to the summer gather sites, so no grown-ups would be using it right now. The three members of the age-set who liked the outdoors openly cheered at the idea, and Areluu was wise enough to go along, though she was a little irked that her opinion had not been sought. She was the leader of the age-set, after all!
"I'll be the Elder," she said at once, not particularly in the mood to dash around like a hunter or The Other. The Elder got to make all the decisions during the game, anyway.
"I think Lenarai should be the Elder," Tekoth said. "It was her idea."
Irked changed to downright insulted. "I'm the oldest," she said, with just a hint of ire in her voice.
"We can take turns," Lenarai suggested peaceably. "We can draw lots when the bola-ball changes teams, or go in age order. Areluu can go first!" It wasn't the traditional way the game was played, but the idea was met with support from the others and Areluu, dismayed by the way the focus of the group had changed to listen to quiet, mousy little Lenarai, went along with the consensus.
As they picked out their sticks from the village stores, Areluu kept her mouth shut, and watched. Tekoth helped Lenarai pick the shortest stick from the choices, and even distractable Ilav listened closely when Lenarai noticed that the first bola-ball he selected had a worn connecting strap.
"I picked you out a stick," Enlaar said, as Areluu lurked behind the others, still fuming. She accepted it without much grace, and stomped along after the others as they went out to the playing field. Lenarai walked at the front, talking about the goal choices and laughing with the others.
"Why do they like her better?" Areluu hissed.
Even as Enlaar scrambled to protest that they didn't, that no one could like anyone better than Areluu, Tekoth, walking far enough behind, overheard them and laughingly told her, "She's nicer than you."
Areluu scowled at him, and he shrugged and ran to catch up with the others.
As she walked out onto the field, a realization came to Areluu that there was a much bigger game going on here, and her heart sunk as it suddenly occurred to her that this was a game she might lose.
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