T’Vun thought longingly of his bed as he shuffled toward his dorm after a long night of carrying food and drinks to a group of important people who were having a meeting on the third floor of the middle wing. Mr. Corbain had been there and even spoke to him. “T’Vun, it’s better if you don’t mention this meeting to anybody.”
As he climbed the stairs to his dorm, T’Vun scratched under his arm. He wondered why he shouldn’t mention the meeting. Everybody had stopped talking and watched him set out the platters of snacks while he was in the room. Well, Mrs. Celia had spoke to him. “You might want to return home before the inauguration.”
He rubbed at his eyes.
A scream punctuated the quiet just as he reached the door to his dorm.
He barged through the dining room door, sprinted across the room and threw the door to the bunk-room open so that it crashed into the wall. Before him, his bunkmates stood around Elan’s bunk, laughing and pulling at his pajamas. Elan stood with his back to the wall, kicking at his tormentors.
The boys turned when the door crashed open. Mit laughed. “Oh, it’s only you. I thought it might be that dog, Troy.”
“What’s going on here?” T’Vun glanced between the boys and Elan who’d moved closer to the wall.
“We’re having fun with Elan. Look at him. He’s so skinny, he must be a girl. Bet he doesn’t have a barb.” Mit laughed and grabbed at Elan’s pajama bottoms again.
“Yeah, he never takes a shower, so we’re going to give him one.” Bob lunged at his victim.
“Stop!” T’Vun reached for the mop standing beside the door. He swung the handle across his chest, holding it with both hands and strode toward the other boys. “Stop, I said.”
Before Bob had time to move or recognize his danger, T’Vun twisted to the side, slid his hands together on the mop handle and brought it down hard on Bob’s legs with a swing that would make a golfer proud. Bob rolled off Elan’s bunk and slithered away from T’Vun, noticing for the first time that T’Vun might be skinny, but the sinewy muscles in his arms looked powerful enough.
T’Vun shifted his weight, ready to take on Mit. He paraphrased something he’d heard his village shaman say. “Elan chooses to cover. It is the way in some cultures that the people cover. Don’t violate his customs.” T’Vun glanced at Elan’s eyes opened so wide they appeared to be more whites than dark brown. He scowled at Mit and thought of his own courtships. “Do you wish to marry Elan as if he were a girl?”
Mit whirled to face T’Vun. “You dog. You filthy mouthed dog. I don’t like little boys.”
“Then leave Elan alone. Don’t pick on him for the customs of his people.”
Elan slithered along the wall until he could climb off the end of his bunk. He ran out the door. They heard him slam the outer door behind him.
The boys stood frozen in place, breathing hard. T’Vun still held his mop. Bob lay on the floor, rubbing his legs. The veins stood out on Mit’s neck, and he stood poised to attack T’Vun. He towered over the native, but T’Vun’s authoritative tone and the way he held the mop caused Mit to pause and size up his opponent. For the first time, Mit noticed that T’Vun, though small, had the build and facial hair of an adult man.
Mit knew when to back down. “Hey, we wouldn’t hurt him. We were just having some fun. We didn’t know he came from some weird culture. Is it a religious thing with him?”
“I don’t know.” T’Vun lowered his mop handle slightly. “In my Culture Class, our shaman talked about cultures-that-cover.” He shrugged. “My village doesn’t cover except for ceremonies. The mountainside peoples do. They like bright colored clothing.” T’Vun scowled trying to remember his lessons. “I learned that nuns and priests cover.”
Mit blinked. For the first time since he’d met T’Vun, the mountain boy was admitting he didn’t know something. “I didn’t know Elan covered for religious reasons.” He relaxed.
T’Vun set his mop in its bucket by the door and repeated another lesson from the village shaman. “He is also much younger than us, just a little boy really. It’s not honorable for a man to pick on a little boy.” He unbuttoned his uniform. “Mr. Corbain knows about different cultures. We can ask him more about Elan’s culture if we want.”
Mit swallowed his desire to torment someone weaker than himself, then realized T’Vun had just called him a man. He tried to frown when he stood up straight and said in a voice slightly deeper than normal, “I don’t think we should bother Mr. Corbain about lessons.”
T’Vun stripped off his pants, folded them and placed them on the foot of his bed. “What? He likes to teach. His niece Violet was a teacher at our school, and he came and talked to us about government. He got me this job so I can learn about government and the outside world.”
T’Vun didn’t care about covering at all and climbed into his bunk, remembering how tired he was.
Faced with T’Vun’s bare backside, Mit saw the lack of tan lines. He scowled, still hungry for the power of frightening someone weaker than himself, but he felt that T’Vun, for all his ignorance, had a power about him that he chose not to confront.
Lucy Goes Home is available in both Paper back and Kindle formats.