"What about a song? I have learned an amusing one from the Manni far north of town; it is called 'In Time of Loss, Make God Your Boss.'" From somewhere deep in Andy's guts came the wavering honk of a pitch-pipe, followed by a ripple of piano keys. "It goes -- "
Sweat rolling down his cheeks and sticking his itchy balls to his thighs. The stink-smell of his own foolish obsession. Tia blatting her stupid face at the sky. And this idiotic, bad-news-bearing robot getting ready to sing him some sort of Manni hymn.
"Be quiet, Andy." He spoke reasonably enough, but through clamped teeth.
"Sai," the robot agreed, then fell mercifully silent.
Tian went to his bawling sister, put his arm around her, smelled the large (but not entirely unpleasant) smell of her. No obsession there, just the smell of work and obedience. He sighed, then began to stroke her trembling arm.
"Quit it, ye great bawling cunt," he said. The words might have been ugly but the tone was kind in the extreme, and it was tone she responded to. She began to quiet. Her brother stood with the flare of her hip pushing into him just below his ribcage (she was a full foot taller), and any passing stranger would likely have stopped to look at them, amazed by the similarity of face and the great dissimilarity of size. The resemblance, at least, was honestly come by: they were twins.
He soothed his sister with a mixture of endearments and profanities -- in the years since she had come back roont from the east, the two modes of expression were much the same to Tian Jaffords -- and at last she ceased her weeping. And when a rustie flew across the sky, doing loops and giving out the usual series of ugly blats, she pointed and laughed.
A feeling was rising in Tian, one so foreign to his nature that he didn't even recognize it. "Isn't right," he said. "Nossir. By the Man Jesus and all the gods that be, it isn't." He looked to the east, where the hills rolled away into a rising membranous darkness that might have been clouds but wasn't. It was the edge of Thunderclap.
"Isn't right what they do to us."
"Sure you wouldn't like to hear your horoscope, sai? I see bright coins and a beautiful dark lady."
"The dark ladies will have to do without me," Tian said, and began pulling the harness off his sister's broad shoulders. "I'm married, as I'm sure ye very well know."
"Many a married man has had his jilly," Andy observed. To Tian he sounded almost smug.
"Not those who love their wives." Tian shouldered the harness (he'd made it himself, there being a marked shortage of tack for human beings in most livery barns) and turned toward the home place. "And not farmers, in any case. Show me a farmer who can afford a jilly and I'll kiss your shiny ass. Garn, Tia. Lift em up and put em down."
"Home place?" she asked.
"Lunch at home place?" She looked at him in a muddled, hopeful way. "Taters?" A pause. "Gravy?"
"Shore," Tian said. "Why the hell not?"
Tia let out a whoop and began running toward the house. There was something almost awe-inspiring about her when she ran. As their father had once observed, not long before the fall that carried him off, "Bright or dim, that's a lot of meat in motion."
Tian walked slowly after her, head down, watching for the holes which his sister seemed to avoid without even looking, as if some deep part of her had mapped the location of each one. That strange new feeling kept growing and growing. He knew about anger -- any farmer who'd ever lost cows to the milk-sick or watched a summer hailstorm beat his corn flat knew plenty about that -- but this was deeper. This was rage, and it was a new thing. He walked slowly, head down, fists clenched. He wasn't aware of Andy following along behind him until the robot said, "There's other news, sai. Northwest of town, along the Path of the Beam, strangers from Out-World -- "
Copyright © 2003 by Stephen King.
The Kopp Sisters Return!
One of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs returns in another gripping adventure based on fact.
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