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21 - On walkabout

I found another of them. I thought I'd smelled it, but this time there it was, right in front of me. It made the mistake of hiding in the box of books I'd just rescued from the ruins.
My knife found him as I slapped the side of the box to drive him out. The same rounded, teardrop shape head and body, the same type of ears, looking like high-gain antennae, the same long, wire-like hairs extending out of the sides of his face, the same long, scaly, almost hairless tail, the same little hands and feet that gripped things just like my hands do, the same beady little eyes . . .
I checked around, displaying it to my neighbors, who kept an approving distance, and they said it was something called a rat. Apparently they pay cash for them in the employment area. Great, just where I'd wanted to go.
Sure enough, I got some money for it, almost enough to buy a cup of tea. The sign on the window said they were paying double for them. I had to wonder why.
"That's how they make rations," this unkempt old lady, sitting on the floor, her back resting against the wall, said in her shrilled, cracky, elderly voice. She leaned forward, cocked her head to one side and opened her eyes more widely -- an un-nerving visage, to be sure -- as she added "Why do you think the word starts with ^rat^?"
The others there simply looked away from her in disgust, though for more compelling reasons than her terse words. Some people simply are not accepted, and they make no effort to be more acceptable. Such a woman was this.
I smiled, held up my newly-acquired cash and put it in my pocket. She turned up her nose and looked the other way. It was almost relieving not to have to engage in that conversation. No, not almost.
I let my boss at the port know I'd be taking a few days off, and he said it was a relief because things had slowed down since I got here. People keep saying something about sticky fingers. I can't figure out why.
After serving more noodles and collecting my pay in the form of an excellent dinner with the very smiley but quite formidable cook, I headed back to my storage locker to collect a few things I'd wanted to move, and I stopped by my room for a nap before setting off on a few days of adventure.
My friend had become quite insistent, and I was going to Daedelus with him to meet his colleagues. He kept insisting on calling them peers, and I wished I had included those books on the Prometheans in my reading times.
Oh well, real life seen with the eyes, heard with the ears and touched with the hands is better than books written by people who may be liars, right?
I did mean to leave out smell. That's not always better.