It was a birthday party for a friend, Charlie, the one who's in the Army Reserves. He didn't get called up, much to everyone's surprised. When I wrote about him in January I wrote he was in the National Guard. I don't know why I wrote that. I meant Reserves.
More people went to the January party. Maybe they were afraid it would be there last chance to see him, then, and now they're not afraid any more. People are silly.
I almost forgot the party entirely. Lut reminded me. We got there late because I needed to finish my weekly writing for Prophecy.
Charlie and his wife live on a farm. A little farm, 40 acres or so, I think. They keep horses. It's not esxactly a living or a hobby with them. More like a calling. They both have jobs to pay the bills. The farm is way out in the coutnry, off a gravel road. Last time we went it was overcast, and the sky glowed almost as much as it does in the city.
This night was clear, but the sky was still bright. The moon was half-full. I could see stars, though. I spotted Orion's belt and it made me think of level_head's book. One of the other guests, Ed's son, James, brought his telescope. I looked at the craters in the moon through it.
I went out walking behind the house, where the lights were out, because my host said it was darker there. But I could still see clearly: the outlines of the fence, and the trees and the barn and the house, and the white gravel of the drive to the barn seemed to glow in ambient light. Not the light of the moon, or stars, or house. Just ... light. The light of the human world. Not far enough away yet.
My friends have barn cats. I don't know how many. I'm not sure they know how many, either. I saw at least eight. The first one came up to me while I was walking around behind the house. It's funny how cats are. Their housecats don't care about people much, but the barn cats are gluttons for attention. I crouched to pet the first one, and then another one came, and another. I sat on the drive with cats swarming into my lap, onto my shoulders, pawing at my braid, nosing at my legs, insistently seeking my hands. I reached out and petted them all. I think the most I had at one time were three standing on the ground around me, pressing in, two in my lap, and one on my shoulder. I found myself wishing for a camera, thinking, This is the sort of picture tuftears would enjoy drawing. Two of them were grey, and one was sort of a patchy grey, while the other three were orange tabbies. One of the orange ones was a big tom. He liked to stand by my left elbow and hiss at another one of the cats -- just one of them, a fourth grey, in particular -- if he got close. He would hang out a few yards away, never leaving, but not coming close, either, because if he tried the orange would hiss and claw at him. Eventually I shed all the other cats to give that grey one some attention. But he turned out to be skittish, even after I picked him up so that none of the other cats could harrass him. Maybe he knew the orange tom would beat him up as soon as I was gone. Poor cats.
I went back inside and talked to Charlie for a bit. He's been in the reserves for nearly twenty years, but he falls under some odd law that means he can't get out, unless a special exception is made, for almost another thirty. I didn't really follow that part, I'm afraid. He's going to apply for an exception when he hits twenty years, next year, I think.
I talked to James, too, about high school and braiding hair. He seems to be having a good time in school, though he has to go to summer school for English. I should offer to help him out with that. But he seems happy. I thought that was nice. I hated being his age. He's growing his hair long, and keeps it braided, like I do my own. I showed him how to do a twist braid and how to do a herringbone.
Lut was quiet through most of the party. He usually is. Charlie talked to him, again, about paintball. Lut used to play, but he doesn't like automatics and quit when those became popular. Now he has all kinds of other objections. Charlie's trying to talk him back into it; he can override some of Lut's objections, because they don't need to go to a paintball field, now -- the farm has plenty of space. And Charlie plays with several friends. But Charlie also still plays with automatics, so I don't know that he'll ever convince Lut.
It was a long drive out there, almost an hour, and a long drive back, but I like being a passenger on drives, sometimes. I'm glad Lut likes to drive, because I don't. We got home at midnight, and I went straight to sleep.