Enough to Save You
Lar-Lea straightened the comforter on the bed for the fifth time, even though it was perfect the first time she straightened it. Then she rearranged the flowers in the vase on the dressing table for the third time and sighed. Putting her head out of the guest bedroom door she shouted down the hall to her husband “Dear, are you sure the atmospheric controls are working now? I don’t want Uncle Sorvik to be uncomfortable.”
Thomas yelled back “Yeees, Dear, they are working just as well as when I checked them ten minutes ago. Your uncle can adjust them anywhere from Terran normal to Vulcan normal.”
Lar-Lea gave the comforter one more pat, nodded and left the guest room.
“Mom,” May addressed her mother, Lar-Lea, “is it true that Great Grandmother Amanda was a runner?”
“I don’t know, Dear. She was a soldier in that Special Forces group when she was quite young. She was on that mission to The Expanse that was so critical in Terran history. I imagine running was part of her training. Yes, perhaps that is where you get your running ability. From the Human side.”
“Hey, thanks, Mom. THAT is what I will tell coach. He can pass THAT on to the governing board of school sports.”
“If you think it would help, that is good, Dear.”
Mom was only half listening, sitting there in front of the screen working on recipes for Great Uncle Sorvik’s visit. It was too bad that Great Aunt T’Vil had died on Vulcan last year. May had so wanted to meet her after years of receiving delightfully exotic birthday cards from Vulcan. Especially since birthday cards were not a Vulcan tradition, her aunt honoring Human custom was so touching. They had talked of a visit for years. She guessed that Uncle Sorvik realized time was running out, so he better really do it.
And so, he would be arriving the day after tomorrow. It was almost hard to believe it would really happen.
But it did happen. After stiffly formal introductions with a lot of bowing and standing around, the family installed Great Uncle Sorvik in the best living room chair as if it were a throne. His formal visiting robes added to the effect. He looked very sternly Vulcan as he inspected the family from his throne.
Then Lar-Lea pushed her youngest, a toddler, in Sorvik’s direction. The child walked forward a few steps, and then stuck a finger up his nose. He took another step toward his uncle, then stuck the same finger in his mouth before reaching out with it to touch one of the small shiny gems on the hem of the embroidered robe. Sorvik deflected him by reaching down and picking him up.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as Sorvik pulled the child into his lap and began to inspect him. With a slight frown of concentration, he hefted the child up and down with both arms around the child’s waist, as if weighing his worth. Then settling the child on his lap, Sorvik separated his fingers, turning his hand over and back. Next he gently brushed back the hair from his ear and inspected its shape which was only slightly tapered at the top. Sorvik’s lips thinned slightly and he shrugged. Then he set the child on his feet and patted his butt to make him move off. The child ran to his mother, put one hand on her knee and the thumb of the other hand in his mouth, staring back at the placid visage of Uncle Sorvik.
Martha, seeing Uncle’s lap vacated, vaulted from her chair and hopped across the living room rug to stand before him.
“How much Vulcan am I, Uncle Sorvik?” she asked to the embarrassed shuffling of the adults in the room.
Uncle Sorvik adjusted his glasses and peered straight at Martha. “Enough to save you.”
Martha stood there, expecting more. When Sorvik remained silent, she scuffed her toe on the rug, looked down at it, then went back to her chair.
“Well,” said Lar-Lee, wanting desperately to break the stained silence, “everyone ready for dinner?”
The next day found May tidying up Uncle Sorvik’s room while her parents where giving him their usual ‘guest tour’ of the city. May had declined to go, having been on it too many times with out-of-town relatives. So she was assigned house chores.
May spit on a lens of her glasses and cleaned it with the hem of her shirt. She had inherited great hearing with her beautiful Vulcan ears, but had her father’s near sighted Human eyes. She had been wearing glasses since preschool when they discovered her fuzzy vision due to her difficulty in distinguishing an N from an M. At least she could feel smug about her ears, which Uncle had noted and nodded at with seeming approval. She felt sorry for little Peter with his almost round ones. But he was yet too young to have cared about that when Uncle examined him. All he had wanted to do was to get away from this stranger and back to his mother.
May carefully cut the fresh flowers for Uncle’s room. After she arranged them she was off to track practice. They had a big meet next weekend. She hoped no one would tell Uncle that she almost was not allowed on the team because she was Vulcan and therefore not eligible to compete with Humans. But coach explained to the sports board that she was only an eighth Vulcan, so they had allowed her on the team. Still, her easy successes might yet get her kicked off it. If they did, coach said they would allow her to keep the trophies she had already won and she could attend the awards banquet at the end of the year.
Two days went by and the family started to relax around Uncle Sorvik. Dad WOULD have to brag about her track team wins, thought May. Uncle had glanced at her briefly, taking in her long legs before turning back to Dad and asking about the telescope lenses his company was building. May thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t.
In mid afternoon, when Mom was taking Uncle Sorvik through her garden, showing him how well the plants were growing from the seeds he had sent her from Vulcan, they paused near the driveway where the ground cars were parked. Uncle spotted May taking out the garbage and gestured her over. She plopped the cover back on the garbage can and wandered over to stand waiting while Mom finished a discourse on the Vulcan vine that had climbed a nearby tree.
Sorvik had then adjusted his glasses and bent down toward May “How would you like to race me from the end of the driveway up to the house?”
May took a deep breath and glanced at her mother, not getting a clue from her how to answer this. Weird. She turned back to answer her Uncle’s challenge. “Well, Uncle Sorvik, with all due respect, you are much too old to be racing down driveways…I think.”
The ghost of a smile flashed briefly on Uncle Sorvik’s face and he winked at her. “I think I might be able to manage it.”
May shrugged and the two of them walked to the line painted near the end of the driveway. This line was the limit May and her siblings were not to go beyond when riding their bicycles. Their parents did not want them to shoot out into the street and get hit by a groundcar or aircar, like Fang, their poor pet sehlat, had done. The sehlat had lived, but now walked with a definite limp. In fact, it was watching Uncle Sorvik and May, growling when May stepped over on the street side of the line. With this pet, the growl was a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.
May set her left toe against the line and took a starting stance like at Grover Junior High School track meets. Uncle Sorvik had taken a two-feet-on-the-line stance, but observing May, copied her stance. “We did it differently when I was in school on Vulcan. The sand slowed our pace, not like this nice black top you have to run on.”
“Sure you want to do this, Uncle Sorvik?” All May could think of was her parents administering CPR to her uncle lying in the middle of the driveway.
“I will not embarrass you by collapsing in the middle of the driveway, Young One, not on such a short run.”
May sighed. She forgot that at less than a distance of about ten feet, Uncle Sorvik could read her thoughts if she did not repress them, just like Mom could. She scratched the tip of her ear, a nervous gesture that calmed her before each race.
Her brother, Matt, who had been observing them and was leaning against the lamp post nearby with arms crossed and an amused smirk, said “On your mark…Set…Go!”
May and Uncle Sorvik sprang forward, keeping pace down the blacktop. Both were accelerating, and May realized this was not going to be the easy win she had been expecting. She had been holding back, but now put on the power which had propelled her to victory after victory. Uncle Sorvik was right with her, when Fang decided to enter the race. He bounded onto the black top right in front of them. May put out her arm to keep Uncle from landing hard as both of them were forced into forward rolls over the broad back of Fang.
May raised herself up and then reached for Uncle who was struggling to sit up. He looked at her saying “Are you uninjured?”
“Yes,” she said, not really sure. “Damn you, Fang!”
Fang sat up near them after he had finished his own roll over. He looked at them expectantly as if saying “That was fun. Let’s do it again.”
Uncle Sorvik was fishing for his glasses. May spotted them where they had landed a yard away.
“Oh, Uncle, I am afraid your glasses are ruined. One lens is cracked and the frame is twisted.” She handed then back to him.
Uncle Sorvik put them back on, adjusting them as well as he could. “No matter. One lens is still good. I am sure even on Earth you have oculists who can fix them.”
“Sure we do! I am so sorry, Uncle.”
“No apology is necessary, Young One. There is no fault here. Neither yours nor Fang’s. He was only trying to join in the play as a good pet sehlat should do. I am encouraged by your ethics in your effort to protect me in the fall.”
“Thank you, Uncle,” said May, feeling ever so good.
“Neither is a thank you necessary for a mere observation of fact.”
Uncle Sorvik had scraped his hand and a thin green trail of blood was running down it. Mom was now fussing over that, as May stood up on shaky legs. Fang came over to her and sniffed her legs and she pushed him away. Then she thought of Uncle’s words and grabbed a hunk of fur and pulled him back. The race now over with no victory except for May’s recognized status as a protector, everyone went back inside the house.
Father looked at May over the dining room table that evening at dinner. “Well, May, quite an adventure today. Do you realize that your Uncle has had those glasses for forty years? As I recall, one pair of yours lasted only two weeks before you stepped on them when you got out of bed in the morning because you had left them in your slipper the night before.”
May winced. Here came the lecture again.
As expected, Dad continued. “Now, May, here you have proof that if you are careful with your possessions, they will last you a long time. Forty years! I’d like to see YOU keep anything in good shape that long.”
Dad took a break to ingest a couple of mouthfuls of cherry pie. Mom had made this pie after a week straight of preparing Vulcan food in honor of Uncle Sorvik. May had been grateful to him when he had announced that he could have Vulcan food at home; he wanted to try Terran dishes.
The conversation shifted to the afternoon’s race.
Matt contributed: “I could have laughed my head off at what Fang did, but FIRST I wanted to make sure you two had not HURT him.”
“Is that Human humor?” inquired Uncle Sorvik, a piece of cherry pie half way to his mouth.
“Yes, Uncle,” said Mom. “You catch on quickly.”
“I am Vulcan,” said Sorvik, then completed the journey of the pie to his mouth.
Matt made a face at May and rolled his eyes. Both were trying hard to keep from laughing and to keep their thoughts below detection level.
Sorvik raised an eyebrow and was eyeing the remainder of the pie in its dish, but declined a second piece. He put down his fork and said “The sehlat’s health seems adequate. It appears to have been the proper choice to send the cub to you, T’Lar-Lee, when the children were babies.”
Thomas chimed in with “He has been an excellent baby sitter and now a good companion to the children. The vet was in a bit of a quandary as to how to get him fixed, but we got through that.”
“Fixed?” inquired Uncle Sorvik.
“Neutered,” said Dad.
“You had disabled his ability to breed? He was intended for breeding stock so future importing would not be necessary and you could get a little remuneration from stud fees. I would say you had him broken, not fixed.”
Mom leaned toward Sorvik, concerned. “Oh, Uncle, it was required of us if we were to keep him as a pet. Otherwise we would have had to keep him at a breeding farm.”
Sorvik patted Mom’s hand. “Just trying some Human style humor, My Niece.”
On Friday afternoon, May rocked Peter until he drifted off to sleep, and then laid him in his crib. She tiptoed off to her room so Mom and Uncle would not see her. They were going over holos of the branches of the family on Vulcan. May jumped full length onto her bed, her whole body rigid so she bounced once. Holding Peter had helped, but now the reality of it flooded into her. She had not told anyone about the phone call from coach earlier this morning. All she had said, off hand to Mom, was that she now was free to accompany the family to the Grand Canyon this weekend. It was one of the things on Uncle’s list.
The realization of how much she would miss the camaraderie of her teammates now hit her. It was not so much the wins as the excitement of the meets, for even the losses were a time to bond with teammates. After Uncle left, there would be nothing to look forward to on weekends. This was all caused by the damn Vulcan blood! May squeezed her eyes so tightly shut that the tears pushed out onto her pillow.
Her bedroom door latch clicked. No! Not now! Hadn’t she told Matt to knock? They were no longer giggly little kids with permanent passes to jump in and out of each other’s space. Not since the first swellings of her budding breasts had she allowed that.
Sorvik hesitated at May’s door. The telepathic barrier was to be respected much more than the physical one. But his Grand Niece was in pain and no well brought up Vulcan left a family member in pain. He entered the room.
May recognized his step as he crossed her room and hurriedly tried to wipe her eyes. She felt embarrassed with this level of emotional display in front of a Vulcan family member. She sat up, but kept her back to him. She felt the mattress dip as he sat next to her, carefully not touching her.
“I felt your sadness all morning. And now it is peaking.”
May took a couple of ragged breaths. Best to hit this full on, Vulcan fashion.
“I have been removed from the track team. It is because the governing board feels that my Vulcan heritage makes it unfair to Humans that I compete against them.”
“I see. And you are sad because now the flow of trophies to fill your shelf will not be completed.”
“The trophies? I stop noticing them as soon as I put them up there. They are okay to look at, at first. But the only thing they are good for after that is to hang my necklaces and bracelets from. And I have to dust them, which takes time that I could use for other things. No. It is not them. It is that I will miss my teammates. You become close, a sort of bonding.” And with the mention of her friends, she could not continue without her voice slipping into a maudlin waver.
Sorvik’s voice became low and soft. “I understand. The reason I understand is because of all my fascinating Terran relatives, you are the most like I was at your age. I too competed in running. I too know the bonding of teammates. If for any reason you cannot be with them, even for only one event, there is a sense of loss, of having let them down.”
May turned to face her uncle with his white hair and his deeply lined and kindly face. She really looked at him this time. She could see the boy buried beneath the lifetime of experience. His bone structure, if you stretched his skin tight and young over his cheeks, was not unlike hers was now. Her emotion was melting away.
He touched the back of her hand and warmth spread out from the spot. As one of his fingers followed a bone in her hand down over the knuckle and out to the nail, a sensation of being deeply loved rippled through her.
It was all to brief, because now he was standing to leave. “I will see you for the evening meal which your mother has so thoroughly concentrated on. And after the meal there are some holos from Vulcan that may interest you.”
May jumped off her bed the moment he softly closed her door and pulled her meditation pillow out from under it. She wanted to meditate to prolong the feeling he had left her with. The only thought of the weekend now, being a brief image of layers of rock falling away to a river far below. Despite their both needing glasses, this scene from her uncle’s mind was painted in colors that only a Vulcan’s eye view could appreciate.
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