Eric Flint: Grantville Gazette.Volume XIII

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    Grantville Gazette.Volume XIII
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Grantville Gazette.Volume XIII: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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"Boys-move in! Slowly!" The waders had formed a wide ring and now carefully closed it. Soon they were all within an arm's reach of each other. Ready… steady…

"Do it!" The boys began to move rapidly into shore whooping merrily. As hoped for the ducklings lost their nerve and broke from cover; they made a plaintive peeping plunge for the grassy shore. Perfect! "Here they come, girls!" To their credit the girls remained calm and quiet, waiting for the madly fleeing ducklings to get within reach-and down went the shirts! Six of the girls had a duckling thrashing about under cotton T's and homespun linen shirts, which were now being cut in up-time style as was, not too surprisingly, the burgeoning fashion amongst Grantville's kids. Pam, distracted by the action almost missed the duckling that ran between Mrs. Antoni's legs and was headed straight for her. Plop! Down went Pam's rucksack over it.

One more had broken the shirt line and was weaving madly toward the hillside. Gerbald, with a delicate flick of the wrist, tossed his ridiculous floppy hat on it. He rarely took the misshapen thing off, only when his wife Dore threatened to render grievous harm at the dinner table, so Pam considered it a generous gesture of solidarity on her bodyguard's part. Figuring that Gerbald could suffer the dread German summer sun on his head for a few minutes, Pam scooped her own catch deeper into the rucksack. She then proceeded to gently pry struggling ducklings out from under the shirts. Soon she had six loudly protesting balls of fuzz. When she retrieved the one under Gerbald's hat they exchanged a quick grin. Yeah, that was fun! The students were laughing and hooting now as the boys tried to regain their shirts from the girls, who were engaged in a merry game of keep-away with the bare shouldered boys. Mrs. Antoni just shook her head and let them have at it. She walked over to Pam and Gerbald. Pam smiled warmly at her.

"Thanks for letting me use the kids as a wildlife rescue team, Stacey."

"No problem, it was good for them. At first the Grantville kids and the new kids were really shy with each other, it was to be expected. But now I'm at the point where I forget which is which-they're all just kids now, American kids. They have really become a tight knit group."

"Can you understand that mixed up slang of theirs?"

"Good heavens no, I never expected that! In class they must communicate correctly in one language or the other depending on what's required for the lesson. Out of class there is no stopping them, and the funny thing is I catch myself doing it sometimes, too!" They all shared a chuckle. Pam was shortly reminded of her responsibility by the gently squirming weight of her rucksack.

"We need to round these guys up and head back for Grantville pronto. I've got to get these ducklings out of this bag and into temporary quarters." Mrs. Antoni proceeded to bark orders and within a relatively short time blushing boys were reunited with their grass-stained shirts and the students were assembled. Pam gave them a brief thank you speech congratulating them on their helpfulness after which they began the trip back to town brimming with pride and tuckered out from all the hullabaloo.

As they were leaving the inlet Gerbald lingered behind a long moment, gazing up the hillside. Anything that distressed his dear employer and 'little sister' Pam would have Gerbald to contend with. In case anyone may be watching and he thought he knew who might be. He made a show of touching the hilt of his katzbalger, a lethal shortsword designed for wreaking havoc in the close quarters of unwieldy pike formations.

"It is still sharp." he announced to the shadowy trees, turned martially on his boot heel and marched after the group.


***

By the time Pam and Gerbald had been relieved of their charges and said their goodbyes it was getting near dinner time. They walked to Pam's house where Gerbald helped her extricate a dirty sea-green kiddy pool from its place leaning against the side yard's overgrown fence. Pam had thought she might use it as a refreshing spot to lounge on summer afternoons back up-time; she'd used it exactly twice. She found the extra pounds she'd put on during the divorce and the more extra pounds she'd put on after had pretty much wiped out all desire for getting into a bathing suit, much less venturing outside in one. Once the leaves and dust were knocked out of the thing they dragged it into the living room where it filled most of the floor space. Pam sacrificed a cardboard box, cutting one end of it off and turning it upside down over a folded fluffy hand towel within the kiddy pool's confines to form a cozy faux nest. Next she added a wide, shallow glass baking dish with water for them to drink and bathe in. Throughout this part of the process Gerbald stood holding the bag of softly hooting little creatures well away from his body with a long suffering look.

"What's the matter Gerbald?" Pam asked slyly.

"Nothing, of course." He smiled unconvincingly.

"Hey, you are awfully good with those little fellows Gerbald, so gentle… maybe you would like to keep them until they are old enough to go out on their own! I bet Dore would love them!" Pam grinned like a coyote.

"Wass? Nein!" Lapsing into German was rare for Gerbald who rather prided himself on his English mastery. He moved purposefully toward the temporary enclosure, thrusting the rucksack toward Pam, who backed away, making him follow her in a circle around the kiddie pool.

"Pam! Take your baby ducks now, bitte!" Pam shook with mirth at her friend's discomfiture.

"So much for being a macho man with a sensitive side, Gerbald!" Pam set the rucksack down on the plastic pool floor, giving a gentle shake to dislodge the small refugees. They ran around willy nilly for a minute, but once they found the water they calmed down, engaged in the very messy process of splashing all its contents out of the bowl onto the pool's floor. They were still peeping, but at a much less frantic pitch.

Gerbald peered down his nose at them, a glimpse of narrowed eyes beneath his voluminous hat's drooping brim. "Do they always make such noise? This pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-ing of theirs?"

"Oh, I should think not. Once they settle down they'll probably go right to sleep, they must be exhausted. Now, you're sure you wouldn't like to have some pets for a while? I think it would be good for you, taking care of something so small and cutsie-ootsy-wootsy!"

Gerbald grimaced at the thought. "I do not do 'cute,'" he announced firmly. Pam laughed at his use of the up-time turn of phrase. Determining that his duties had ended, Gerbald flew out the door so fast his shadow almost got left behind in the living room.

"See you tomorrow!" He called back from the safety of the road, which he had sprinted all the way down to.

"Coward!" Pam waved.

Out of sight down the road Gerbald slowed to a thoughtful pace. He had said nothing to Pam about his suspicions regarding the morning's events. It would not do to worry her further and it was something he had rather not tell her about in any case. He would see to the matter tomorrow…


***

As she ate her dinner Pam listened to the ducklings; pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee! "Poor little things, I know you miss your momma. I'm going to make sure you grow up into big wild ducks, I promise." pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee!

Working on the drafts of her growing field guide Pam felt sorry for the orphans behind her. pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee! "I am going to find out who did this and put a stop to it my little friends, don't you worry. I don't care if they make it a law or not, nobody is going to kill up-time birds if I can help it. I'll sic Gerbald on 'em all right, that will fix their wagons." pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee! Shortly she gave up trying to get any work done and headed for the bathroom. pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee!

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