TITLE: WHITE SKY
GENRE: Literary Science Fiction
Raised as an orphan by an elderly midwife, Jem is ostracized by almost everyone in his village. One of the women in his adopted mother's household, Nadka, is particularly cruel to him, and he's just run into her after returning from his regular errand of fetching eggs.
As soon as she took the crate she saw the broken eggs. She lunged at Jem and slapped him. He’d started to duck and pull back, but she was quicker. The palm and fingers of her small square hand landed hard on his cheek. He winced and stepped back, brushing the earthen wall behind him.
“Goplak didn’t send you off with broken eggs, I’m sure! You incompetent oaf! You can’t even do a simple errand. You’re good for nothing--nothing! Do you hear me?” She came closer, glaring furiously up into his face-- up because he was at least a head taller than she was now. But that detail didn’t seem to intimidate her in the least; she treated him just as she had when he was five years old.
He regarded her with a sulky stare. “Nadka, it wasn’t my fault. There were these wolves-- two of them! They were right outside the door, and I--I ran into them and they . . .”
“I don’t care! They didn’t eat you up, did they? You’re here and you haven’t a mark on you, and you bring me broken eggs! That’s all I see.”
Knowing he was pushing his luck, but feeling the need to push back against her assault, he rolled his eyes and made a face. “How do you know I haven’t a mark on me? You haven’t looked at me. They could have torn one of my arms off and you wouldn’t notice.”
Like a piece of driftwood smoking and hissing on the fire that suddenly bursts into a shower of sparks, Nadka exploded. “Don’t you get sassy with me, you demon! I don’t care how big you are! I’m not afraid of you and I’ll beat you till you bleed!”
Jem leaned back as far as he could, his left shoulder blade pressing hard against the edge of the narrow wooden steps that led down from the outside door, and groaned inwardly. Yes, he’d asked for this--but admitting that didn’t make it any easier to endure.