KDR 3: Sons of Lefton

on November 30, 2011 in Kin & Distant Relations, Other Tales

There is a saying present among the northern isles that runs along the lines of “As lazy as a Lefton son.” At first glance, it seems a bit curious as there is nothing about the town of Lefton that would suggest idleness in her sons out of proportion with those found elsewhere. The presence of local industry in the form of the imperial airshipworks on the top of Mout Mondell Hill means that the town is by some definitions at least industrious, even leaving aside the ordinary hustle and bustle of a small rural town where people are accustomed to doing things for themselves.

The mystery thins a bit when one considers the first law of unflattering similes, which is that they are always about other people. It’s not that Leftoners are particularly lazy, it’s that the person making the comparison isn’t. Still, this leaves the question of why Lefton in particular.

The answer has to do with something that the villagers themselves have been saying for generations, which is that the sun in Lefton is still in bed at an hour when any decent solar disk would be up and hard at work already. Yes, the original saying was lazy as the Lefton sun.

In defense of the sun, though, it does have a rather immense hill to climb over on its way to Lefton, one capped by the airworks. It is for this reason that the oldest portion of the town is shrouded in shadow for a time each morning even while the sky is blue and the surrounding countryside is bathed in light.

Mount Mondell Hill is not a mountain, at least not according to the imperial statutes regarding such things. Its peak fell just short of the required elevation of one thousand feet. Attempts by the locals to enhance it through geomantic means resulted in the entire council of Lefton being brought up on charges of interfering with an imperial cartographer, as well as a temporary doubling of the garrison and imposition of a curfew over the whole town. There has never been any such crime as interfering with an imperial cartographer on the books of the Mother Isles, but while the Unnameable Emperor expected a high degree of precision from those charged with mapping his domains, he has often been a bit more relaxed with regards to those who enforce his laws.

In a final bid to have their most prominent local landmark recognized as a mountain, the newly appointed council issued a resolution naming it after the emperor, concluding that no imperial functionary would dare be the one to shoot down this tribute. They were correct, but they underestimated the sheer mulishness of the imperial bureaucracy… they soon received new signage which had the full name written in this fashion:



Thus “Mount Hill” was born, which within a generation had been shortened and transmuted through common usage to “Mondell”. The next generation of locals, as proud as their parents had ever been, insisted on “Mount Mondell”. The next generation of imperial cartographers had been just as insistent. Once “Mount Mondell Hill” became the official appellation, the empire seized control of it outright and forbade any further meddling with its height or name. This ultimately worked out to Lefton’s advantage when they went looking for a suitably lofty site on which to build the massive airdocks needed for a new shipworks.

Even if the sun took its time in cresting the roof of the ‘works, the people of Lefton were not so sluggish. There were still only so many hours in a day, and the sun did not tarry on its westward journey to compensate for its late arrival in their streets. Dell Harris in particular had already been awake for hours by the time it peeked out over the artificially heightened horizon… though she’d been careful not to let her husband know he hadn’t succeeded in slipping out of bed without waking her, she had always been a lighter sleeper than he was. There was just no way to live on an airship if you couldn’t sleep through all the motion and commotion that entails.

That, and it was hard to miss how much colder the bed suddenly became in his absence.

She’d waited quietly in bed until she was sure he was well down the lane and then slipped out of it herself. With Dan away for the day, she would be looking after Aidan herself, which meant she needed to get a good start on things if she wanted to get any work done.

It wasn’t necessary for Dell to work from a purely financial standpoint. Dan made a good enough living at what he did, and he’d come into life on the ground with a bit of savings. This was all before they took into account the rather sizable endowment that Aidan’s birth father had left him, and the gifts that he periodically sent from wherever it was he had eventually settled.

The compensation that eventually reached the Harris household in lieu of the actual gifts after their inevitable seizure the postal authorities was doubtlessly a tiny fraction of their worth, but given a large enough whole, a tiny fraction could be impressive.

But Dan and Dell were determined not to touch what they thought of as “Aidan’s money” until he was of an age to spend it wisely, and they hoped to instill in him some form of middle class virtue before that point. Dell herself had been brought up to believe in the virtues of hard work and service to one’s fellow citizens, and working made her feel useful. Fortunately, her upbringing had also left her with a valuable skill set that she could easily employ from a small office in the unused bedroom.

Dell Harris was an accountant… or rather, A.C. Harris was. Dell was okay when it came to doing the quarterlies for her neighbors, or for helping out the workers at the hangar who trusted Danny’s old lady over anyone from the city, but when she’d expanded her business to include people who had never met her she’d found a girlish sounding name to be a bit of an encumbrance.

It was Danny who had suggested she use the initials of her full first name and her maiden name, though she’d rejected his suggestion to rename their son “Associates” and emblazon her weavesite with the claim to “over seven generations of experience in taxation and bookkeeping.” It was technically true, but those had been generations of tax collectors, not preparers. While having had an inside look at the imperial revenue apparatus at the local level did give her an edge in knowing how to help her clients deal with the same apparatus, she did not want to play up that hereditary connection.

The sky was visibly brightening by the time she’d finished a few hours of work. She put her ledgers away and went to prepare to wake her son. This could be an involved undertaking, as Aidan was a far deeper sleeper than even his adoptive father. If he didn’t wake himself up, it could be the better part of an hour just to get him to open his eyes.

On this particular day, he did wake himself up… he was already out of bed and standing on his toes, looking out the window of his bedroom.

“Da’s gone,” he said before his mother could bid him a good morning.

“He left for the city this morning.”

“He hates the city,” Aidan said.

“He dislikes anywhere he has to go,” Dell said. “Because he has to go there. Or thinks he does. It’s the journey that bothers him, more so than the destination.”

“Why does he have to go?”

“Just some business that needs straightening out,” she said. “Don’t you worry about it.”

“That means it’s about me,” Aidan said.

“It means it’s not a thing to be worried about,” Dell said. “It’s a simple difference of opinion, love… the inspectors would like to come and visit you more often. We’d prefer if they visited less often. That’s all.”

“I don’t mind the inspectors,” Aidan said. “But Da does, and I like it when he’s at home.”

“Your da and I both feel our lives could do with less inspection, but he feels it more than I do,” Dell said. “Being human, I have less to worry about… though what we do worry about, we worry about as a family.”

“Isn’t Da an inspector?”

“Of a different sort,” Dell said. “He inspects things to protect people, which is the other way around from how the government does it, most times. Come away from the window and I’ll make breakfast.”

The prospect of bacon… and there was always bacon at the Harris breakfast table… was enough to make the child put aside the disruption of his orderly Saturday that the temporarily fatherless house represented. After breakfast and a repeated encore presentation of his favorite Mecknights episode, he went out into the backyard to stomp around in the dewy grass making whooshing noises as he jabbed his toy Sky Knight at the air like he thought he could break one with the other while his mother read on the patio.

“Good morning, Dell,” their neighbor called over the low wooden fence.

“Good morning, Leticia,” Dell replied as she got up from her chair and ambled over towards the boundary.

“Michael said he saw your one headed for the coach stop early this morning.”

“Did Michael have a pleasant walk home, then?” Dell asked, smiling.

“Must have been something important come up to send him on the first coach out of town.”

“Well, there are only the two coaches,” Dell said. “So it would either be the first or the last… I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

“Oh, of course not,” Leticia said. “I wouldn’t dream of reading anything into anything, but mind… people do like to do that.”

“Then we should count ourselves blessed that only you, Michael, and myself know about it,” Dell said.

“People will talk, though.”

“Well… again, if only you, Michael, and myself know, then when you say ‘people’ i have to assume you’re working with a rather limited definition of the term,” Dell said.

“I hope you’re not implying I would gossip,” Leticia said.

“To your face? What was I thinking,” Dell said. “Leticia, Dan has simply popped down to the city to take care of some business. He left in the early morning because that’s the only way to be back in the evening.”

“It can’t be easy for you.”

“Every day is a fresh challenge.”

“It’s good of you to put up with him,” Leticia said. “I know he’s a bit of a hero, and the lads all say he’s decent enough…”

“Tell the lads they can back well off, he’s already married,” Dell said. “Was there something that you wanted, Leticia.”

“I just thought… while he’s away, if there was anything you wanted to talk about… he’s always around, isn’t he? He hovers around you and little Aidan.”

“Not your like Michael.”

“It can’t be easy,” Leticia said again. “If you ever want to talk…”

Dell held up her book.

“I’m actually in the middle of something kind of important,” she said. “So if you don’t actually have anything…”

“I understand,” Leticia said. “You feel like you can’t say anything in front of Aidan.”

“I am about fifteen seconds away from saying a thing in front of him that I’ll be weeks explaining,” Dell said.

“Some would say…”

“Some haven’t been asked,” Dell said. She spun around. “Aidan! Let’s go inside. You’ve won an extra hour of television today.”

“I did?” Aidan said.

“Yes. There was a sweepstakes drawing this morning. You won it. You can watch anything you want.”


“You’ve already watched that.”

“You said I can watch anything I want.”

“Why do you want to watch it again?”

“I watched it pretty good, but I think I could watch it better,” he said.

A bit over an hour later, Dell had Aidan bundled into a jacket and took him down to the public square, which had a playground. She would have taken him there in the first place, but it wouldn’t have done to announce their destination in front of her nosey next door neighbor. Not that she could stop Leticia from finding out they’d been to the park, as if that were some piece of pertinent information… but finding out after the fact prevented her from suggesting a group outing, which saved Dell an act of rudeness she’d surely pay for in some fashion. Nothing at all prevented Leticia from showing up at the playground with her two boys, of course, but that wouldn’t be subtle… not according to the peculiar standards of subtlety as practiced by Leticia Cribbins.

Dell didn’t have much problem with the Cribbins boys. She didn’t mind Aidan playing with them, as long as she was in earshot so she could keep track of all the things the Cribbins boys said and did that she would have to explain to Aidan that he wasn’t allowed to, and why. They were the only children near to Aidan’s age who lived in their row and she wouldn’t have denied him the chance to meet them and learn a few essential truths about dealing with boys who were slightly older and less well-supervised before he started school.

School was a subject that invariably gave Dell a little quiver of dread. The school in Lefton was decent enough, and Dell knew a number of the teachers… but there was no getting away from the local gossip in a local school, and children rarely exercised even Leticia’s subtlety. Dan was generally liked in Lefton, but even people who liked him in general could have specific quibbles about his nature.

It was no secret that Aidan, Jr., was not his child in the conventional sense, but it was even less of a secret that the government had taken an interest in his upbringing. Whether this was because of something about the junior or the senior was a matter of frequent if hushed speculation

Aidan arguably could have started year one already, but a certain ambiguity about his actual birth date had allowed Dan and her to keep him out at least another year and they hoped to be able to delay his formal schooling for one more beyond that. He was small for his age but precocious, and that seemed like a combination that was liable to bring about trouble even before getting into the question of his parentage.

They’d talked about sending Aidan off to an independent school instead, but Dan and Dell both had other qualms about that… the ideal solution would be to see to Aidan’s education themselves, but when they’d raised that possibility, the men from the ministry had made it clear that they would expect to be intimately involved in that education.

Absent another alternative, the local school seemed to Dell like the best solution… but still Dell had her doubts.

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19 Responses to “KDR 3: Sons of Lefton”

  1. Note: These are tending to be more regular chapter length than I’d initially intended/envisioned, mostly because I’m having a harder time working on them throughout the month than I’d expected. I will be trying something slightly different there in the next month.

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  2. Burnsidhe says:

    Ooh. I like.

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  3. Brenda says:

    I love the battle over the mountain at the beginning… it makes me want to see that movie again… (The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain).

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  4. cnic says:

    Yes so many good things, Englishman reference, eggcorns, and whatever you call the mount mount mount (or bridge bridge bridge) thing.

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  5. anon y mouse says:

    “The presence of local industry in the form of the imperial airshipworks on the top of Mout Mondell Hill means that the town is by some definitions at least industrious,” – Mount Mondell Hill?

    “The compensation that eventually reached the Harris household in lieu of the actual gifts after their inevitable seizure the postal authorities was doubtlessly a tiny fraction of their worth, but given a large enough whole, a tiny fraction could be impressive.” – there inevitable seizure by the postal authorities?

    “Well… again, if only you, Michael, and myself know, then when you say ‘people’ i have to assume you’re working with a rather limited definition of the term,” – I have to assume?

    “Not your like Michael.” – Not like your Michael?

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    • Kaila says:

      No, it’s all accurate, aside from the lowercase i. You just have to be able to read sarcasm.

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      • Brenda says:

        “Mout Mondell Hill” is a typo, requiring an additional N.

        “…their inevitable seizure the postal authorities” is missing a word, probably “by” (although the incorrect spelling of “there” in the correction made the actual tyop hard to spot…)

        “…when you say ‘people’ i have to assume…” is a typo, requiring a capitalization of “I”.

        “Not your like Michael” appears to have the two middle words in the wrong order.

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        • Brenda says:

          I just want to say that I saw my typo (tyop) but chose to leave it in because it was amusing.

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    • Lunaroki says:

      That’s two more typos than I spotted. Well done. 🙂

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  6. Zathras IX says:

    Mount Mondell Hill’s not
    A mountain according to
    Imperial law

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  7. Month says:

    “A hill?!?!”

    Bureaucrats can be a pain in the neck.

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  8. Schulze says:


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  9. Kaila says:

    I do love Dell. Especially the bit about what she might say in front of Aidan that it’d take her a week to explain.

    So glad I don’t have any horribly nosy neighbors, except for the neighborhood ‘ninja'(you never see her, but bet you anything she’s middle aged to elderly, and nosy to boot) who leaves nasty little notes on your car if you park on the grass, or in your letterbox if she thinks your dog is too loud etc.

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  10. Erm says:

    the empire seized control of it outright and forbade any further meddling with its height or name.

    Mount Monmonmondelldelldell Hill!

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  11. Burnsidhe says:

    Heh. There’s a Torpenton Hill in England. Translated from the various languages, the name comes out as Hillhillhill Hill.

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    • Amelia says:

      It’s actually Torpenhow (like Aslan’s How) but pronounced Torpenner.

      Unless there’s another one that I don’t know about?

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  12. Sean O'Braun says:

    Awesome writing that I enjoyed reading, as always. The following should have a “by” after the word “seizure”:
    The compensation that eventually reached the Harris household in lieu of the actual gifts after their inevitable seizure the postal authorities was doubtlessly a tiny fraction of their worth, but given a large enough whole, a tiny fraction could be impressive.

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    • Rachel says:

      Ta be fair, maybe [parts of] the gifts had seizures, and the postal workers kept pieces of said gifts to cover the cost of care. (Mock dragon plus gear–mock dragon has seizure disorder–keep part of gear to cover cost of care….) OR! Maybe the postal workers had seizures upon handling the gifts, and took a portion of seizure-inducing wonders as compensation for the experience/ necessary medical care.
      Typos can lead to silly ways of comprehending the story.

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  13. Daezed says:

    I love how this kind of…. relates back to little details of the main story. Mack is slightly warm, and a warm presence when she sleeps, so is Dan, always bacon with breakfast, Mechknights… etc. So fun to read!

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