The Gate That Locks the Tree – Act 1, Scene 2

In Vertu’s taxicab
Enter Yulie, Mary, Anna, Rascal

In which everyone is going to the same place.

Apparently the hill at the end of the Port Road is now named Undertree Hill — or perhaps that’s just what the Bedel call it and Yulie has picked it up from them.

Confirmation of a couple of things suggested before: confirmation that Tommy Lee is associated with Jemie’s taxi service, which means he probably is the same Tommy who was just mentioned, and confirmation that the story is set not long after the conclusion of Accepting the Lance.

Title drop! The gate that locks the Tree in, and the question of whether that’s something the Tree minds…

I had noted the airjets that keep snow off the windshield as an interesting science fictional variation, but now that I come to type it, it occurs to me that perhaps that’s just a normal thing that I’ve never heard of because I live somewhere that it never snows.

Vertu has a touch of some dramliz talent, although not enough to qualify as a Healer. (Or is it just that her delm never considered it worth having her checked out? But the precedents suggest that if she’d been strong enough it would have become apparent regardless.) Enough to give her a bit of an edge in difficult driving conditions — and perhaps related to her awareness of the Tree?

It’s a nice character touch that Vertu pauses the taxi meter when they stop to help untangle the traffic jam.

12 thoughts on “The Gate That Locks the Tree – Act 1, Scene 2

  1. Ed8r

    First things, first: Yay! Confirmation that Kezzi did not go with the Bedel ship!

    Paul: a normal thing that I’ve never heard of

    I just assumed it was referring to the standard defrost setting that allows the driver to divert some of the heat to blow up the inside of the windshield, thereby heating the glass from the inside and melting the snow so the wipers can remove it. If there is a special accessory that can be ordered to actually blow the snow off from the outside, I’ve never heard of it.

    The food always gets my attention. Bean-based scrapple sounds awful to me, but I can imagine a vegetarian possibly enjoying it. Scrapple is basically cornmeal cooked with milk instead of water, then mixed with cooked pork sausage. This soft mixture is poured into a loaf pan and refrigerated overnight. Then the loaf can be turned out, cut into slices, dipped in flour and fried until crisp on the outside and soft again on the inside. On a plate, it is usually served with maple syrup and/or applesauce, but Verdu would have been merely eating it between slices of bread. Not appealing to me.

    There was an expression that got my attention too, because I’ve never heard it before: she was too straight out to have rain be anything more than a bother. Is anyone else familiar with this phrase?

    We know that Yulie is not just speaking metaphorically when he says: the bosses and the Tree, they got things they hafta do to keep the world right.

    I like the description of not understanding a language as being a word that slid past [one’s] ears.

  2. Paul A. Post author

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard “straight out” used that way, to indicate being extremely busy, but now that I think about it I’ve heard something similar: where I come from, we say “flat out” to mean the same thing.

  3. Othin

    @Vertu’s touch of some dramliz talent
    I believe her talent fits Vertu nicely. It must be somehow similar to Val Cons directional sense – and now I’m wondering if Val Con is still able to point toward Liad, as described in “To Cut an Edge”. He might have been pointing to the Tree – which was on Liad back then.

    This sense of direction, any direction in relation to the Tree, must have served her rout planning as driver very well. And it explains also why it was so important to her to come to Surebleak, when Liad had nothing to offer her anymore.

    On second thought – her Delm very well might have asked some healer about her talent. My reason: There seem to be quite a number of healers that are uneasy with the Tree and any talent that relates to it – even if not as uneasy as those healers get about the Luck and talents relating to the Luck.

  4. Ed8r

    Regarding “straight out”:
    Was it used here to mean too busy to let a little rain bother her? I thought it was trying to say she was too experienced, too sanguine to the weather, for rain to interrupt her driving. But Paul’s explanation would fit the authors’ habit of restating many of our familiar idioms into a different form: “flat out” certainly could be restated as “straight out.” OTOH, both of these current terms seem to be adverbs, not predicate adjectives as the term “straight out” has been used in Gate, and that would be an odd change. Wait . . . now that I’ve bothered to check a dictionary, I find that one of the definitions offered by Merriam-Webster (American dictionary, yes) is “thoroughgoing,” which—being an adjective rather than an adverb—seems to fit this use much better. Vertu is too thoroughgoing to allow mere rain to interfere with her work.

  5. Paul A. Post author

    The bit about the rain — On Liad, of course, rain had always meant an uptick in her business, but here? Here she was too straight out to have rain be anything more than a bother.

    — how I read this is: On Liad, rain meant people looking for taxis instead of walking, so more business for the taxi drivers. On Surebleak, there’s already always more people wanting taxis than the taxi drivers can handle; they’re already flat out (extremely busy) in good weather, so they can’t get more busy when it rains. So on Surebleak, rain doesn’t affect the amount of business and just means more difficult driving conditions without being accompanied by any advantage.

  6. Skip

    Undertree Hill. Hmm. I’ve never pictured the Port Road to End of World / Jelaza K as a steep incline from town. To my knowledge it’s not mentioned in previous books. However, a sea coast, an archipelago, and at least one island is mentioned, which I interpreted as property closer to sea level, not mountains. Of course, mining often occurs in the hills, so….
    I’ve always felt frustrated by the minimal descriptions of Surebleak city and planet. Lots of talk about the weather, but little else.

  7. Ed8r

    Well, the story has not needed to expand to the whole planet . . . yet. Many works of SF treat the port or single site of the story as the “whole planet.”

    OT: @Skip…Are you under a shelter-in-place order yet? I am. My county just reported its first 2 confirmed cases. Fortunately I can work from home (don’t like it but can do it).

  8. Skip

    I’m in the USA. No shelter in place order here yet, but I’m in a northern state with no major metropolitan areas. Where r u?

  9. Skip

    I was in California until last year. Montana now. I still keep up with BAY AREA news, so I knew six counties around SFO are to shelter in place

  10. Othin

    @a shelter-in-place order
    Thanks for sharing this term. Since I haven’t heard it before – does it mean a government imposed curfew? Or just a recomendation?

    Here in Germany we have closed schools, kindergartens and shops as well as a ban on crowds and gatherings. Home office is recommended wherever possible. Today I discovered that even the local cemetery will only allow funerals with no more thang 5 people and recommends everyone to keep a distance of 2 m of each other. Visiting older people is discouraged, visiting retirement homes forbidden. Grocery stores and pharmacies are still open, so that everyone may by their daily needs.

    While this goes on we also have some people behaving thoughtless or irrationally – like buying lots of toilet paper (yes, most stores are out of paper right now, and short on noodles and spaghetti as well as canned food) or mothers sitting closely together around children’s playgrounds – ore people throwing “corona parties”.

    I’m just glad that most people around here will keep their jobs since everybody has health insurance and the government is going to help small firms. But home office feels kind of odd. Oh well, I’ll properly just have to get used to it.

    I’m also relieved that Sharon’s operation went well and she managed to get home before the local corona preparations started.

    In its own way this virus will become as much a universal and formative experience for us as the First and Second World War has been for our parents and grandparents. And I surely don’t want to think about what will happen if Corona gets into all those refugee camps at the Turkish-Greek boarder and similar camps.

  11. Skip

    Othin, that’s an interesting update on cv-19. Shelter in place is ordered by the state governor and/or mayor in major metropolitan areas in America now, but I’m not sure if it’s actually enforced by police. It’s recommended here in Montana without enforcement. Our population is low compared to CALIFORNIA.

    It sounds much like your description. Nursing homes and hospitals are in quarantine, and K-12 schools are closed. Restaurants are closed except for drive-thru, delivery, or pick-up service. Yes, toilet paper is in short supply because of precautionary citizens and obsessive preppers (prepping for an apocalypse) buying survival supplies by the truckloads.

    Stay well.

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