It is a welcome relief to be back outside in the cool air. The storm, hinted at by the ocean this morning, has begun to roll up its sleeves. Colder ocean air is upon us. It sharpens my lungs and tastes clean. Ben might sense that I do not want to converse, but I predict that he will only wait until we are out of town to start talking. He surprises me, or meets my expectations, by waiting only about ten steps.
“She’s not so bad,” he says, “She’s a lot like you, in fact.”
“Zink or Eravyn?” I ask, just to be difficult.
“Both. Eravyn, though, she’s got your old Gift, and reminds me of you in your idealism.”
I make a face. I hate that he says my old Gift, even though I suppose there is truth in that I no longer possess it. Still, it possesses me, and that must count for something.
We return to our jobs: delivering, moving, going. We deliver the fruit last, it is the only thing we have left, and the store owner, Jasper, wants us to help him stock it, too. He tells me that he will let me have the orange I took this morning for free if we do this for him. I agree, and we sort oranges and bananas from tangelos and apples and fruits that I cannot name. Jasper’s face lights up at some of the produce, foreign and rare. He asks warily how much more it will cost him.
“Only standard for that size crate,” I tell him, looking back over the inventory chart and what Isiore registered the contents as. I am surprised, too, that he did not classify it as something more valuable. The traveling merchant himself usually registers the contents of each shipped crate on our inventory pages, then lists a price category for resell value. Occasionally a trader will try to list the items as worth more than they are, but we have not had that problem in quite a long time, after Koso drove off the first. Now we open a random few crates to check for errors, but otherwise trust the trader’s judgment. He or she generally knows the items and their price values better than Koso or I, and it saves us a lot of trouble. Isiore’s undervalued crates of expensive produce make me wonder whether he is trying to offer a gift or be condescending.
The curiosity comes back after dark falls and Benson goes home, when I am checking the inventory, doing Koso’s job. I open up a few crates in the dim storage room, checking their numbers. One is labeled as common books, but I open it to find stacks and stacks of classics, books that we had no way of bringing here with us, that every older person here knows but cannot have read in many years. Another crate, labeled only as clothing, is filled to the brim with beautiful gowns and expensive men’s shirts, and at the bottom has rolls and rolls of fabric. There are all colors, green and blue and black, with patterns and textures of all kinds. Each of these is put down to cost only the standard fare for common books and clothing, things that everyone here already has three of, or things that I have seen come and go. The shopkeepers will be more than pleasantly surprised, and I have to smile to myself at the thought of their happiness. I wonder if Zink received anything unusual, and simply put the box aside without rummaging through it before we left. I would bet on it.
Isiore is up to something, but I’m not sure what and I’m not sure that I mind. Thus far, the only one his dishonest actions have hurt is himself, and he will leave many people pleased and wanting even more.
That’s it. They will want him to come back, keep him here. I have been the one to start this in motion, delivering cheap, exquisite goods right from Isiore’s hands. I cannot stop economic motion, and I cannot deny the shopkeepers the goods that are rightfully theirs. I do not have it in me to sabotage anything, or to even tell anyone. No one believes that he is bad news anyway, and I cannot do much to change this. I see his daughter in my mind’s eye, and think on my own fears. I could be wrong. I cannot move too quickly, or pass too quick of a judgment. I’m trapped between my doubt and faith.
I close the crates back up, finish the inventory, and lock up. The day is wearing on me; it has been dark for hours now, and we are a people who wake up with the sun and go to bed with it. Still, I shoulder my exhaustion and continue on to South Street.