Serial Tuesday ~ Toliver

Toxic World ~Philip Brent

Toxic World ~Philip Brent

One Sunday, Wurst brought a small, cool-laser carving tool and, after clearing it with an unhappy Joad, showed Toliver how to use it. Wurst had tied it into Joad’s InnerAI, and also coded it so it couldn’t be used on soft tissue. With the small size and limitations, Toliver felt these precautions were almost useless. Once he started using it himself, he forgot about almost everything else. Toliver seemed to have a natural knack for carving, though he knew it would take much practice to achieve what he imagined he might create. With Wurst’s help and much pleading, Toliver convinced Joad to let him have a small piece of wood and the tool with him when he retired at night. After a long day and dinner, it seemed like a bad time to do anything else, but he found an hour or so of carving helped him more than the extra sleep. He needed to show Joad what he’d produced or been working on the previous night, but if he did, he got to keep them.

After two months, Toliver thought about asking Joad for the eight credits he had coming, but decided against it. He’d learned that in two weeks, Janeannie would be accompanying Jacobi, the head servant in the house, as well as Willow and Rose to the trader’s Market. Normally, Woody accompanied them, but he was away at the moment. Toliver had been surprised they weren’t going to Landing, but Janeannie explained that Sawyer considered this part of their education. As the days approached, Toliver carved two special pieces, one for each of the girls. For Willow, he created a miniature weeping willow tree with delicate branches dangling down. Although he thought it a little clichéd, he carved a rose for the younger girl. Paper-thin petals and leaves had been carved from one piece of wood, each shaved until it became translucent.

Janeannie and Sawyer’s daughters came by at lunchtime, on Friday before the Monday they were scheduled to travel. Toliver gave each young lady her present. He showed them the loops he’d card on the backs and explained he’d designed them to be worn on a cord or a chain, neither of which he had access to or permission to have. Rose squealed and spun happily around the yard balancing her present on the upturned palm of her hand. Willow smiled shyly at Toliver, catching his eye briefly before gently slipping it into her apron pocket.
“What happened? What’s going on here,” Joad bellowed as he strode rapidly toward the enclosure. Rose quickly, though carefully slipped her rose into a side pocket. “I heard you yell,” Joad turned his fierce gaze on Rose. “Did he hurt you?”

“No,” said Rose, head down and sounding sullen.
“Then what happened? Show me what you put in your pocket.” Rose glared at him, but slowly pulled her hand from her pocket.

“I found a pretty stone,” she whispered, displaying a reddish-white rock on her palm, with glints of mica reflected from it as her hand moved. Joad stepped closer to examine it. Toliver stepped back to Janeannie and pulled her a step further back and slightly behind him. He handed her a small box he had made a piece at a time and never shown Joad, and she carefully slipped into the pocket on her dress, under her apron. He’d explained his plan to her the night before at dinner. She’d been skeptical, but still willing to try bartering with Max if the hat Toliver remembered was still there.

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