Apr. 10th, 2011

Apologies to Ms. Joni Mitchell.

When Mama got in from her shift running the tiller, she was tired. She was always tired after her shift; Papa said running the tiller was hard work, sweating all day in a dirtsuit, keeping the tiller from destroying itself, keeping the tiller from chewing anybody's arm off, stuffing as much soil into the giant machine as you could. And there was always the chance that your dirtsuit's seals wouldn't be quite tight enough, and you'd get some dirt inside, and then you'd have to scrub for hours if you didn't want to get burns or get sick and die. Mama worked at her shift for twelve hours, and she was tired and ready for a break, and then it was Daddy's turn to suit up for tiller duty.

When Mama got off shift was Rosemary's bedtime. While Daddy was strapping on the various layers of his dirtsuit and heading for the hablock, Mama was reading Rosemary her bedtime story. They had nine books to read to Rosemary, the old kind, made of paper, with pictures in all kinds of colors that you didn't see in the world any more. Mama and Daddy had paid dearly for those books, in real dollars, not scrip, and Rosemary loved them. Those were special times, with the faintly blue light of the PEREZ, LUCIA B2 family habmodule spreading a comfortable glow through the bunkroom, snuggled up with Mama under the covers. Mama smelled faintly of sweat and neutralizer and home-soap, the green kind that they made in buckets. Mama would read to Rosemary, even though she was very tired, and Rosemary would listen and point at the pictures and ask questions.

That one night Mama was reading one of Rosemary's favorites. It was called _The_Giving_Tree_. Rosemary liked it because the boy in the story had a friend who took care of her, just like Mama and Daddy did. This friend was very tall and strange, with long limbs of an unusual shape, and it didn't seem to have anything like a face. Sometimes the boy climbed up on top of his friend and ate something called 'apples'. Rosemary thought this was funny.

When Mama opened the book, Rosemary pointed to the tree. "Tree," she said.

"That's right," said Mama.

Rosemary squirmed in the bunk, pretending to climb up Mama and eat her apples.

"What are you doing, honey?" Mama asked wearily.

"I'm eating your apples, Mama," Rosemary replied.

"Silly girl, I don't have any apples. I'm not a tree," Mama explained.

Rosemary squirmed back down and asked Mama a question she'd been thinking about for a long time. "What's a tree?" she asked.

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