Ch 25: All Creatures Have Their Use

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[still Crane]

Crane sat with eyes closed for a moment, not knowing what to do or what to expect.

Then the vision returned. There was Or-Tikva – and now he could make out the chair on which she sat comfortably in her tower room.

She was smiling at him.

"You alone can hear me, Crane," she said. "If you wish to communicate, you have only to direct your thoughts to me."

Crane sat a moment in silence, eyes closed and scenes from the past two days swirling through his brain.

"You must direct them to me," she repeated, firmly but still gently. "I will not partake in the sort of sorcery which would allow me to invade another individual's private musings. You must focus on what you would wish to say were you here in my room with me, or I there in the mountains with you."

Crane felt a strange warmth stir in his breast at her last words but he pushed it out of his thoughts and instead concentrated on one thing.

"We have become comrades."

He heard the words sound in his own voice, though he had not moved his lips or agitated his vocal chords, and he saw Or-Tikva's smile broaden.

"That is a fine thing!" she exclaimed. "One could not wish for better comrades than the stout-hearted Shira, Ayelet the energetic and the still, deep Lady Lero
- of that I am sure."

"I have no use for the rat," he said to her then, pleased that he seemed to be getting the hang of this.

"All of Nature's creatures have their use – you know that, truly. Though it does not surprise me that you prefer the fierce, freewheeling raptor and the honest, steadfast donkey."

Again Crane felt that odd, uncomfortable yet not unpleasant sensation inside him. For some reason he was glad that he could control what he communicated to her.

"Our passage was safe today," he reported. "I do not know if that will be the case tomorrow."

"You have never felt fear before," she answered perceptively, "because you have never had to concern yourself with any well-being other than your own."

"I would protest your use of the word 'fear', but you know I cannot. You are wrong in this, however: I have felt fear. I have just never paid the feeling any high regard. But these young women who are now my comrades – while I grow to comprehend that they are most capable of fending for themselves – they are still but flesh and blood, and it does chill me to contemplate anything that might dull the bright sparks of their souls."

"Then you must dedicate yourself all the more to being present in the time you are with them. Certainly you are not ignorant of the fact that a vivid awareness is a priceless weapon."

"Indeed! I am, my lady."

"My dear Master Crane, it is necessary for you to return to your comrades now. You will find that no time has passed for them, and that all I have been privileged to hear from you shall remain confidential."

And it was as she had said.

*
[then]

Uphill she'd struggled, putting one foot in front of the other on the rocky, treacherous way her life had become, and yet she saw no forward progress. It was freezing, burning, every breath of air was poisoned by the thing Tova carried in her heart.

Love had become a toxic sludge, she thought, and although she knew that pain and suffering couldn't kill her, sometimes she'd really wished they would.

At night she had nightmares of her teeth falling out and barbed wire pinning her lips together. Once she'd dreamed she heard Sam talking on the phone, but he'd talked and talked and none of it made sense or had anything to do with her.

And then, one day in February, the world decided it had a use for her, after all.

"You remembered the extra foam?" her boss inquired absently as she'd delivered his afternoon latte. "Good, you can take a little break now. Oh, and someone came in asking for you. I sent her to wait in the kids' section; I don't know if she's still there."

Since she hadn't known who she was looking for – her boss hadn't gotten the visitor's name – Tova was relieved to see that there were only two people browsing among the low shelves of brightly-covered children's books.

Unfortunately both were female, so neither could be eliminated on the basis of gender, and of course neither one looked familiar.

She'd approached the older lady first, thinking maybe she was a friend of Aunt Sarah.

"Excuse me – I'm Tova Greenberg – were you looking for me?"

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