Characters: G’fen, Dunstan Kordieh
It was early evening when G’fen approached Dunstan’s door. He hadn’t heard much out of him in a couple of days, so it was time to get him out of the house. G’fen knocked on the door and waited for Dunstan to answer.
He answered quickly, looking considerably better than he had a few days before. “Hello, G’fen,” he said, making a good attempt at a Narn greeting.
G’fen replied, “I can see you have been practicing. So … where do you want to go celebrate?”
“I’m feeling rather ambitious, actually. Why don’t we try the restaurant run by that Narn couple? They have Narn food, of course. Also quite a bit of human and Minbari food.”
“That sounds good to me. It has been a long time since I’ve had some good breen! Minbari just can’t prepare it right.” G’fen stopped to think. “Hopefully they will let us in. You remember what happened the last time we went there?”
“Um … ” Dunstan paused in the middle of putting on his jacket. “Maybe you better remind me.”
“I had a little to much to drink. I won’t go any further! Well, let’s be off!”
“Right. I’m right behind you.”
They walked out of the complex, and to the train that headed for the downtown area of the city.
The restaurant was in an old building, even for the thousand year old city of Tuzanor, but the stones were cleaned and polished. They entered the lobby, which was lined with tanks and ponds containing a variety of live fish. Two message boards, one announcing the specials of the day and the other with upcoming events, hung on one wall.
G’fen got an excited look on his face. “Look! They serve shoto here now. I haven’t had that since I left homeworld!” The thought of the sweet treat, similar to chocolate, was very tempting. “Well, let’s grab a seat.”
“I’m loooking forward to trying it,” Dunstan said, looking at the other message board. “The Mutai is coming to Tuzanor in two days. That might be fun to watch.”
They followed a Narn woman, one of the proprietors of the restaurant, to the table. “Know what you want, or need to look at a menu?” she asked.
“Could you give us a minute to decide?” G’fen asked the woman.
She replied, “Okay. Take your time.”
“What sounds good to you?” G’fen asked Dunstan.
He consulted the menu. “If it wouldn’t offend you, I would like to try the treel dish they have here. I know it’s a Centauri food, but they’re serving it in a human style which sounds good.”
“All right, if you must.”
The Narn woman returned and took their order. She then said, “Is there anything else I can get you?” G’fen whispered something in Narn and was promptly slapped. The woman stalked back to the kitchen.
“You are incorrigible, mon ami,” Dunstan said, grinning.
G’fen grinned. “It was worth a shot! So, when do you think you’ll be returning to work?”
“I should be able to come back tomorrow. I need to start walking the path of the mah’uzeed again.”
“Yes. All of the other workers were very concerned when they heard the news. We are all grateful that you pulled through.”
There was a long silence as the two relaxed, looking around at the restaurant and the few other diners. “Ah, here comes our food!” G’fen said. The woman set one plate gently down in front of Dunstan, and threw another down almost at G’fen. The Narn looked after her as she left. “Some women just can’t take a compliment!”
“Well, she is married, isn’t she? I wasn’t sure how Narns felt about these things.”
“Some Narns take marriage very seriously and others don’t. In a way, I was helping her husband to know that she is faithful … well, that’s what I’ll say if her husband comes this way! Anyway… let’s eat.”
Dunstan smiled and took up the first piece of food on the plate, a roll of thinly sliced fish and white grains. He chewed and swallowed, then smiled again. “Never thought I’d have such a thing as treel sushi,” he said. “Quite good though.”
“Glad you like it.” G’fen took a bite of his breen. “This breen tastes different somehow. It’s good, but it tastes different. Would you like to try a bite?”
“Sure. I might not be able to tell the difference, I haven’t had much breen, but I’ll try.” He picked a meatball out of the dish in front of his friend and tasted it.
“Well, does it taste right to you?”
“It does taste a little different. Maybe they had to substitute a local ingredient.”
G’fen looked a little worried. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I just need to remember not to sass someone who prepares my food. I’ll live longer.” Changing the subject, he asked, “So that stuff you are eating really tastes good, eh?”
“Yes. It’s raw treel with an Earth grain called rice. Sushi. Very popular on some parts of Earth. Other people can’t quite deal with the idea of eating fish that hasn’t been cooked yet.” He smiled. “You’re welcome to try a piece.”
“Um … I would but …” He took a deep breath and came out with it. “Okay, most Narns, including me, have made a commitment not to eat Centauri foods. I know it’s silly, but it’s something I must honor.”
“That’s okay, I definitely understand.”
“Anyway, let’s order some shoto! Are you in?”
G’fen saw the Narn man who owned the restaurant. “Pardon me, sir, but could you get us some shoto?”
He stood up, coming over to their table and shouting. “I don’t appreciate people getting frisky with my wife!”
“Now what happened the last time we came here is coming back to me,” Dunstan murmured to himself. “And this time he’s stone cold sober.”
G’fen spoke to the other Narn. “Listen buddy, I didn’t mean anything by it!”
The other Narn obviously wasn’t interested in excuses. He threw a punch and hit G’fen.
G’fen hit the floor, but promptly recovered. He was about to repay the favor, as Dunstan was jumping to try and get between them, when the owner pulled out a PPG.
“Hold on, buddy! It’s okay!” G’fen said nervously. “I guess we will be leaving now. No harm done!” Dunstan tossed his cred-chit onto the table, and he and G’fen left the restaurant.
Standing in front of the place, Dunstan looked at his friend. “I hope someone else here serves shoto, because I don’t think we’ll be able to come here again,” he said ruefully. “If he decides to tell the Rangers about this, we could really be in for it.”
G’fen replied, “Don’t worry, I don’t think he would like to admit to them that he pulled a PPG on us.” Dunstan still looked worried. “Well, what do you want do now?”
“I don’t know,” Dunstan admitted. “I’m not really used to doing social things. You’re showing me a very different world, mon ami.”
“Well, you have to stay out and do something, or you’ll go insane!” G’fen took a minute to think. “Do you have any suggestions?”
Dunstan sat down on the edge of a stone and crystal fountain that marked the middle of the square. “Heaven knows I don’t want to go insane again,” he said with feeling. “It’s just … well, some of the things I’ve been learning about lately probably wouldn’t interest you much. Like reading poetry. I’ve always thought you’d find that incredibly boring.”
G’fen honestly couldn’t think of anything more boring than that. But he wanted to make his friend happy. “No, no. I’d love to read some poetry. Um…where would we go about doing this at?”
Dunstan looked long and hard at G’fen, and slowly smiled. “We could go to the library, back at the training center,” he said. “There is a lot there, even some Narn poetry I think. But I’ll tell you what. Before we do that, what do you say about visiting the gym?”
Eagerness came over G’fen.”Going to the gym would be great!” He stopped and considered his friend. “But, how about we go to the library first. I’d like to check out some of that Narn poetry.”
Back in the Anla’shok training center, Dunstan pushed open the large double doors to the library. It was a large room, where data terminals and boxes of storage crystals sat side by side with racks of ancient scrolls. Shelves of books from a dozen different worlds lined the walls and rubbed shoulders with comfortable tables and chairs. G’fen’s eyes widened a little as he took it all in. He had to admit he hadn’t spent much time here.
Dunstan led G’fen to a shelf tucked away near the back of the room, and pulled down a large leather bound book. He set it down on a nearby table and pulled up a chair.
“I still don’t know much Narn language,” he confessed, “but I have figured out that this is a book of poems and stories by someone named Ko’Dana. I think she lived at the same time as G’Quan.”
G’fen knew the name well. “Ko’Dana is the only poet that I have ever read the works of. I remember my mother reading the poems to me when I was a pouchling.” G’fen’s face seemed to sadden as he remembered his mother.
“May I ask what happened to her?” Dunstan asked gently, pulling up a chair.
G’fen told him about the Narn outpost in Quadrant 14. The destruction of the colony started the Narn-Centauri war, something everyone knew; but there had been many personal tragedies in that attack as well. One was G’fen’s. His entire family had been killed.
As he listened to G’fen’s explanation, Dunstan closed his eyes and lowered his head. “I’m so sorry, mon ami,” he said. “You wanted to take me out to cheer me up, and all I’ve managed to do is remind you of this terrible grief.”
He looked at his friend, then gently patted the cover of the book of poems. “Sometimes, when I am reminded of past grief, it helps me to do things that remind me of better times. Perhaps it would help to look at the poems now, to remember your mother as she loved and cared for you.”
“Thank you, my friend.” G’fen then sat down to read from the book of poems. They both read for quite some time. Dunstan hadn’t realized that G’fen had fallen asleep. When he looked up and saw the Narn asleep in his chair, he smiled, pressing one fist to his mouth for a minute. Then he reached over and very slowly, gently tapped G’fen on the shoulder.
“It looks like our night of wild carousing has exhausted you,” he said with a grin. “It’s getting late. I think we should head for bed, and visit the gym tomorrow after work.”
“That sounds good to me, my friend,” G’fen said as he stood and stretched. “I will see you tomorrow.” With that they both left for home.
Copyright (c) 2002 Jamie Lawson and Nick Wistner. All rights reserved.