"You're a man now, Spock. You will attend your mother in my place."
His father's parting words rang heavily in Spock's ears. On
Vulcan it would have been an easy task, but how was he to do that on
thisforeign planet? Here everything was alien to him. Even
his motherhad become a stranger.
Right now she was in the kitchen. The house stunk strongly with
the smell of the fatted foul she was helping to roast for the occasion.
He had already watched her gnaw the boiled neck of the bird with
a gusto that was alarming to him.
He had also seen the subtle shift in her eyes as she started to offer
him a taste, and then swiftly changed her mind. For some reason
he did not quite choose to understand, her reactions made him ache.
So now he chose to sit in the living room, stuffed with his Terran
family, not one of whom he knew. Alone again, in the crowd.
The younger ones stared at him openly from a distance. They
backed away if he came too close. Little Janna had actually cried
and buried her face in her mother's dress when he had raised his hand
to her in salute. He observed her display stonily. It would
have made his father proud.
The older ones stared too, but only when they didn't realize he could
see. They wouldn't shy away from him, but sometimes he could
sense that it was a close call indeed. They were all purposefully
thoughtful and accommodating, all carefully polite as well-bred people
should always be with guests.
But his mother had told him that they were his family, so why in the world would they treat him so coolly?
He had studied for days in preparation for this gathering. He had
learned of the legends and mythology behind this celebration. He
read the Bible passages and the classical literature. He learned
the children's stories and, the significance of traditions around the
globe. He had thought he could join their collective as an
expert, but the little things kept taking him by surprise.
The house was acceptably warm, but closed in and stuffy. He had
not realized how the very air of home would have a character all its
own. The lesser gravity made his movements clumsy and uncertain, as if
he might overshoot his intentions at any time. The proffered beverages
had either been intentionally poisoned with ethanol or were of an
illogically high caloric density. Even the water carried alien
tastes of unpalatable minerals and acid that burned his tongue.
The twins Rick and Kyler were his own age, eight years old, but they
wrestled and sulked and played as children. But his father had
told him that he must be a man.
And so Spock sat stiffly in a chair, reserved and proper so as to cause
no inadvertent offense, and observed the Christmas Day festivities go
on around him. Eventually, they all seemed to forget that he was
In the corner, someone played a card and the table grew quiet in
concentration. The children were also engrossed, and many second,
the only sound was that of the Mediacast system playing musak
carols. It was one Spock recognized, and so he picked up the lyre
his father had sent with him.
The song had come up in his research. The melody was simple
enough. The words told of a special birth on that special, silent
night. The computer had held translations into 87 different
Terran languages, but none for Vulcan. So as a simple exercise
onboard the earthbound shuttle, Spock had translated a Vulcan lyric.
So, it was in Vulcan that he began to sing. He started, so
softly, below the range of Human hearing, but unbeknownst to himself,
he gradually increased the volume.
Just about to begin the second verse, he looked up with a start.
Aunt Erika had broken in, loud and strong in the guttural German of her
homeland. He watched her lips carefully and played now in time
with her voice. But by the last verse, most of the room was
mouthing along softly in English. The very room waved in unity, both
harmonically and psionically, with the unity of the spirit as the
With great reluctance, as the chorus ended, he set the lyre down.
Cousin Terry pulled a harmonica from his jacket pocket and asked him if
he knew more. He nodded solemnly and Billy turned the Mediacast
off. They reached.
With his usual frozen expression he began to tune the lyre to the key
of the little mouth harp. Kyler and Rick were still singing,
childishly off key and a cappella, but with unabashed enthusiasm, of someone sleeping in heavenly peace.
Janna wandered up to him and met him squarely in the eye. She
gravely extended one tiny hand. It contained a polymer wrapped
baton made from multiple sugars and mildly oncogenic red and white dyes.
Spock accepted the candy cane with suitable gravity. He popped it
into his mouth. It was sweet and hot, and too much and not quite
enough, all at the same time.
Janna smiled and climbed up into his lap as he prepared to begin the
next song. She traced her finger along the outline of his ear and
he counted each precariously slow beat of her pulse against his
arm. But it seemed that each of them was faring quite well,
despite their differences.
From the kitchen doorway, Amanda watched, her heart finally at peace.