Five

Zero was able to get us the same place we used last year. Lots of room, the places are designed for ski groups in winter where a dozen people want to spread the cost of lodging. Price isn’t our issue, space is and this cabin meets that requirement. 
Zero and Daphne arranged for us to be collected the morning after we arrived. We’re on the more commercial side of the lake, meaning the highway, stores and other facilities are near. Daphne’s place is on the near uninhabited side of the lake, they own the house and a substantial portion of mountain. They agreed with local authorities when they built the place that nothing would be fenced to impede wildlife movement. That was fine, they have a unique relationship with the local wildlife, one the forestry people would not understand. Talking to birds, communing with bears and wolves, more likely to get them a psych evaluation than anything else.
The Canada house has of necessity been expanded due to Janah’s propensity for adding family members, there are twenty eight girls. While most of the girls share a room with one of the others, that’s still a minimum of fourteen bedrooms, plus guest rooms, a bathroom for each bedroom, kitchen, dining and living area takes up much of the ground floor, but there are four bedrooms downstairs. The rest are up to the second and third floors, which includes the children’s dormitory. The eight young ones, seven to twelve, prefer a dorm, which are also in the houses in Arizona and California. They move in a pack, Daphne says you never see just one of the kids, you see all of them. 
The exterior of their place conforms to the surrounding landscape.
Take a casual glance at their mountain, say from a passing boat on the lake, you might not see the house at all, even though the bulk of the front porch overlooks the lake. The only bit that suggests a house is the dock and boat shed. They have a houseboat, two power boats, one near thirty feet bow to stern, which is the one they use to get us.
Zi greets me with a hug, ‘You’re going to be a father, you still up for it?’
‘Sure, I’m also willing to step back depending on what you and Nikko decide.’
‘We’ve already decided, our child will have two moms and a dad, take a walk with me.’
We go out to the porch, then down to the dock, ‘Don’t mean to be mysterious, but Nikko is reserved. We think you should have intimacies with the other mom, not to get her pregnant, one will be enough, rather in order for both of us to have intimately experienced the father. What do you think?’
‘I think I’d be insane to turn down the opportunity, Nikko is flipping gorgeous, and brilliant, and an amazing kendo Master, she’s what, an 8th dan, that’s as high as it goes if I understand correctly.’
‘You do.’
‘So Nikko isn’t the jealous type.’
Zi giggles, ‘Jealous? That’s a laugh, you said it, Nikko is sleek, beautiful,  She is Daphne’s lover, Janah’s, Daphne’s mom, and has occasional dalliances with a couple of the others. For both of us you will be our first and last man. One thing, she will come to you at some point, you don’t need to do anything, no romancing necessary.’
‘I look forward to her appearance, whenever.’
Zi smiles, ‘It’s important to keep daddy smiling.’
I laugh, ‘I may have a permanent idiot grin.’
She steps up for a kiss, more than a quick tongue swap, not a lick and slobber, her smooth lips are as perfect as lips can get. We return to the house, if girls suspect anything it isn’t apparent, my impression is that there are no secrets among Janah’s people, there’s no reason because there’s no judgment, girls do what they wish, nobody need apologize for being what they are.
Janah, ‘Some of the girls are going up the mountain today, to the falls, it’s about an hour up, then quiet appreciation, then return. They won’t be back before one or one thirty, perhaps not until tea, they take protein bars, water, serves for a lite lunch.
‘I’d like the hike, travel day yesterday, be good to move around under my own power, not a plane or a car.’
Misha, ‘Is Sloane going?’
‘Yes, she travels with her wolf pal, Sarah will go, sometimes the children join them but I don’t think today, I get the impression they’ve other projects, Phaedra and Fin disappeared to the dorm a few minutes ago.’
Chloe, ‘I’m going, Amaya is going to work with Alice this morning, Amaya doesn’t do dirt and rocks, she’s like Nikko in that.’
Daphne and Ellen prepare backpacks with bottled water and protein bars, we start up the trail, brisk air, the trail isn’t steep for the first half hour then the terrain changes and it’s steeps and boulders to get around or over. To the right I spot a wolf following Sloane, she charges up the hill with the animal, Sarah keeping the pace just behind. 
Misha and I in line along with Chloe, Mani, the tiny Thai delight, and Britt, who apparently has discovered weight training, she has visible tris and bis, quads curve along the tops of her legs, tight full calves. I can only assume a washboard tummy, unfortunately covered by a t-shirt. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her much in our past visits.
She comes alongside, ‘You made Nikko and Zi giddy, well, Zi, Nikko doesn’t do giddy, but it’s clear she’s all in.’
‘No secrets in the house then.’
Britt laughs, a good laugh, throaty not giggly, ‘Too many girls who can be in each others heads, I’m not one, but Daphne is sort of the central telepathy control center, she can be in Nikko’s head, Janah’s, Dasha’s, Amaya too. Both sets of twins are telepathic with each other. Oceane knows what everyone is thinking but it isn’t telepathy in the commonly used sense, we don’t know what it is, Oceane is an anomaly, because she is telepathic with Cassie, but not the others. Still, she can tell you where everyone is and what they’re doing, she just doesn’t talk about it. If I ask her what Daphne is up to, or anyone else, she will tell me, sort of, mostly a word or short phrase, but it’s clear she knows.’
‘So Zi’s pregnancy just, what? Floated through the ether?’
‘You may say so, actually that’s a pretty fair description.’
‘How long have you been doing the weights?’
‘Oh geez, three years at least. I got started when Daphne told me about her second mom, Chris. She was muscular, a workout beaver, and a 5th degree. She could have done bodybuilding competitions, at least until women started using steroids, Daphne said Chris would have nothing to do with that, so I guess more like a female fitness contestant.
Anyway, I gave it a go, I always had muscle, but the weights helped direct the development, more where I wanted it so to speak.’
‘You’ve done well, it shows.’
She smiles, ‘Thanks, Lauren likes it, which is further encouragement, Lauren is disgustingly gorgeous, like Amaya.’
‘If there’s a plain girl in your tribe, she must be hidden away, all the girls have different attributes, none of them include plain.’
‘Janah’s doing, she likes variety.’
‘And beauty.’
‘She finds it inspiring, I know it inspires hormones, both from observation and personal experience.’

Six

We reach the falls, a hundred feet of drop from the crest, a pool at the bottom that bleeds out to two or three streams that ultimately run to the lake, one a few yards into the woods near the house.
Sloane and her wolf bud race across tree trunks fallen over the pool. Sloane leaps from tree to boulder to tree to boulder, never misses a step, then bounds back to where the rest of us are seated on smaller boulders.
Chloe hands her a bottle of water, ‘Drink this so we don’t have to carry down your dead dehydrated body.’
Sloane chugs, then, ‘Just leave me here, I can be food for my friends.’
I ask, ‘If it’s not a state secret, how did the transmission come about?’
Sloane, ‘Like Daphne with the owl and eagle, I sat and received, didn’t have to do anything, the wolf changes the muscle, the sense of smell, hearing, and sight. Daphne and I, from different creatures, can hear sounds over a mile away, not just loud noises, sounds humans can’t normally hear, and our range is wider, mostly on the high end. We’re a self-contained listening device. I’m good at detecting small motions, Daphne can see a rabbit from over a mile away, and her grip is like the owl’s claw, she grabs, you can’t escape.’
‘You don’t chase down prey for lunch.’
Sloane laughs, ‘I could I suppose, but there’s no reason.’
Chloe, ‘She’s bitten though a couple of arms, and a throat or two, blood doesn’t bother her but she doesn’t eat what she rips from targets.’
Sarah, ‘I’m a good middle distance runner, can’t begin to keep up with Sloaney, her top speed is forty.’
‘The Bolt guy tops out at something like twenty five, and that’s for a short distance.’
‘Exactly, and Sloane can keep it up for a half mile easy, a mile even.’
Misha, ‘Wow, look up there, is that an eagle?’
‘Sure is.’
Sloane, ‘Probably been talking to Daphne, or he spotted us and will fly down to ask her about us.’
‘How does an owl or an eagle today know about Daphne, I mean, she got the transmission years ago, the ones who transmitted must be gone by now.’
‘Family history, the creatures pass along the story to their offspring. They have no use for humans given how we treat them, so humans that can understand are memorable.’
I ask, ‘The falls appear to be a hundred feet, the right side seems climbable, anyone go up?’
Chloe, ‘They’ve been up a lot of times, and sometimes all the way to the peak, I haven’t done it, Janah, Daphne, Susan, Lacy, some of the others, a couple have even spent the night up there, general consensus is freezing, even in summer.’
‘I did enough freezing and steamy hot in the military, not sure which was worse, cold is cold, but hot means insects and sticky sweat.’
‘Any movies on the horizon Chloe?’
‘No, unless Amaya has been contacted, she doesn’t tell me until she thinks I should look over the script.’
Sloane, ‘Chloe is too nice, she’d take most of the offers and be happy anyone asked her to do anything.’
‘Amaya’s my pre-filter, if she thinks it suits me, we read lines back and forth, sometimes she explores the offer, mostly not. She doesn’t explain much, just says it’s not right for me. Since she’s tossed I don’t know how many scripts beforehand, the ones that get to me are decent. I decided it’s better to take the best fit, I don’t need to work, lots of actors are waiting tables and would be glad to get those parts. To your question, there is work in development Amaya says I should play a role in, it’s not the lead, it’s a character part.’
‘Have we heard of it? Like is it a book now?’
‘I best let Amaya make any announcements.’
Chloe’s relationship with Amaya is unusual, they’re a couple, but not an exclusive couple. To hear Chloe talk, the undertone is that Amaya runs her life, which to a degree, she does. What isn’t as evident is how Amaya adores her. Before there were cleaning bots and the more human bots, Amaya did Chloe’s everything, laundry, bed linens, bathroom. She selects her outfits, Chloe would wear distressed jeans and a ragged t-shirt, Amaya would rip them off and burn them if she ever did. She coaches Chloe for TV talk shows, writes amazing scripts for her, directs every line as to pace, tone, even gestures and the look on Chloe’s face when she says them. Chloe Couture is a product of Amaya’s imagination, Chloe couldn’t design a pair of panties. 
Amaya works with two Japanese girls they met in Kyoto years ago. The girls were moving to New York for college, where Janah’s crew lived them. One was a student at the Fashion Institute, the other did web design. They teamed up and Chloe Couture was born.
I’ve seen the site, CC orders things from it. A woman, or her daughter, teen, or child, puts up a full length photo, preferably in just a bra and panties, from there she can select outfits and they will show up on the photo. Girls can try on tons of clothes without going to a store and dressing and undressing. There’s an option to let the site decide what clothes would work, blend with the woman’s coloring, hide flaws, enhance favorable attributes. 
Find what they want, send measurements, everything is made to order. It isn’t cheap, but it is first quality, free shipping, orders show up in less than five days. The beauty from Amaya’s end is that there’s no inventory but cloth, bots select and assemble the outfits, there are human supervisors of course, but bots do the cut and stitch. Daphne told me it’s the Amazon of custom women’s clothing.
The more I find out about these people, the more amazed I become.
Time to haul it down, Sloane and Sarah race the wolf; Misha, Chloe, Britt and I, go at a more reasonable pace. One stretch of trail, not a big stretch, maybe fifty or sixty feet, is rock on one side, a foot wide strip of trail and cliff on the other side. Slip or fall and you’re bouncing off rocks or scrub if you don’t smash into a tree, not a hike for anyone with vertigo. I’ve been on cliff edges before, when I look down it still seems to be sucking me in.
Then we’re back, time for a shower. It wasn’t hot at all, but the exertion still brings up a sweat. I’m technically sharing with Zero but I doubt she’s going to be in bed with me tonight, too may delicacies in Janah’s candy store.
She comes in as I’m climbing out, hands me a towel.
‘Hike good?’
‘Gorgeous place, down here and up there, Sloane traveled with a wolf, he basically ignored us, played hop the logs with Sloane. I’d have fallen in the pool, I tested the water, it’s all snow melt and it’s flipping freezing.’
‘You will have a visitor tonight, a delectable Oriental delight.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Zi gave me a heads up, Nikko thought an initial clue would be better the first time, in case you had other plans.’
‘Lucky me, damn.’
‘I’ve been with you the most, I’d say two lucky people, I don’t know what Zi told her about the big boy toy.’
‘She said they’ve used girl toys, I assume they were more than silver bullets.’
‘They do strap-on, I suppose that makes her a man virgin, but she’s hardly a virgin otherwise. You always go gentle anyway.’
She strips off her t-shirt, they wear the same nothing outfits here as girls do at home, a few exceptions, the Goths, Amaya runs from full on fashion to full on t-shirt only, socks, I guess you can count knee socks. Alice does her Phryne Fischer thing, layers of silk and satin, cloche hats or headdresses, pendants, broaches, bracelets, a kimono in the evening. 
I get into slacks, a button shirt, socks and indoor sneakers, go out to find a drink, tea has come and gone, it’s nearing dinner.
The first thing my eagle eye spots is Janah on the couch talking to Amaya. Amaya has a shortie robe, looks sheer and satiny, the main attraction is Janah, who is in nothing but Janah. God she’s creamy flawless.
I walk over, ‘Janah, I say in all sincerity, what you don’t got isn’t worth having.’
She smiles, ‘I lapse into exhibitionist as you know by now, I like girls to have a free hand, preferably all over me.’
Amaya, ‘Her butt has more fingerprints than the FBI, Alice has been particularly attentive, I think she has a plan.’
Janah, ‘We made that plan earlier, I look forward to helping her out of that adorable outfit.’
I better find a vodka before I lose my mind, ‘Alice has exquisite taste, enjoy.’
Janah stretched her logs out, leans back and raises her hands over her head for a second stretch, I stare.
Janah, ‘Right response Commandant, looking is good, staring is better.’
Amaya, ‘She and Susan are the house nudes, every couple of weeks Susan comes over and spends the day showing it off, then spends the night doing salacious things with Janah, they are despicable, in the most delicious way.’
Janah, ‘Lacy and Taylor don’t let her dress at home.’
‘Ever?’
‘When it’s just the three of them, or when Daphne or I go over. Susan is a one touch sex machine, Daphne inherited that particular trait from her mom, hand in between, gentle squeeze, they’ll do anything we want, several times.’

Seven

I had planned on crossing the lake to our cabin, it seems our group has found play partners and are staying here tonight. Nikko whispered that Zi will bunk elsewhere, meaning I should plan to take the spot normally occupied by Zi. I nod, she strolls off.
CC, ‘Morshchiny may wind up living with the children, she’s being pampered beyond all reason.’
‘You have plans this evening? I saw you chatting with Ellen earlier.’
She grins, ‘Oh yeah, we may wind up staring at ourselves in front of a mirror, appreciating our perfection.’
‘You include Amaya and you may cause an earthquake.’
‘I’m up to take on both of them, but I think Amaya is including Janah and our own Alice in the frivolities, Chloe is going with our twins, I don’t know what the others have arranged, I did see Fin and Phaedra huddled with Britt.’
‘We may need a playoff tree, a box with each girl’s name and lines connecting who is going with whom.’
CC sniffs, ‘Pheromones fill the air, going to be happy night for girls.’
I don’t mention my own upcoming assignation, perhaps she knows already but the girls aren’t gossipy so maybe she doesn’t. 
Showtime, I tap on Nikko’s door lightly, she opens it, still in her t-shirt, it doesn’t cover her long glass smooth legs, I want to dive in, but opt for restraint, all things in their time.
Nikko, ‘Thank you for your contribution, Zi is delighted.’
‘As are you I trust?’
‘Of course, it was a joint decision, she mentioned going to a clinic, which seemed…distant, like a science project. We don’t know any men, or I should say the ones we know have wives and they live in New York. Then we realized we do know a man, one with attractive looks, brains, and an athletic body. The decision became no decision, except for your agreement.’
‘She caught me at the right time.’
Nikko grins, ‘Zi told me she waited until you had delivered your part, sneaky, but she is Shaolin after all. And if you…’
‘Don’t explain, I know what happens with unprotected sex, she’s primarily a lesbian, I didn’t think she was on birth control, she didn’t mention a condom. She did give me an out, Janah keeps a supply of morning after pills, I told her I had no misgivings, flattered to be chosen.’
“And I wanted both of us, Zi and I, to have been with the same man, even if I’m not the one carrying the child. Shall we proceed?’
I look up and down the magical territory, ‘Post-haste.’
Her t-shirt disappears, she steps up and we embrace, kiss, I deconstruct while she situated in bed. I’m already at half mast.
Nikko, ‘Geez, Zi warned me.’
‘I’ll go easy.’
‘Until you go hard.’
‘May I have a taste first?’
‘Counting on it.’
The rest is a blur of hormonal excess. She hasn’t been with a man, and she may be reserved, but she sure as hell isn’t shy, and she gives straightforward no nonsense direction. Following her orders is easy, delicious duty. She wants the back licked first, then flips and I do the succulent until she squirms, she gives oral a go, I can only assume she’s done it with one of the toys, she’s got game.
The finale is beyond description, she got off when I went down on her, she gets off twice during intercourse, the first time I was going slow, then was ordered to fuck her brains out. Oh yeah.
Nikko, ‘I want to taste, finish in my mouth.’
I do, she does, says, ‘Janah likes it, I see why, it’s different,’ she takes a sip of water, ‘so much for my gold star status.’
‘No regrets I hope.’
‘Only if you never come to my bed again.’
‘Snap your fingers.’
Gold Star refers to a lesbian who has never been physically intimate with a man. I lay back and meditate on my good fortune, Zero’s doing mostly, it’s good to have a companion that’s nearly two hundred years old, looks like a runway model and can read my mind.
We do clean up then back in bed, she curls in to me, we drift off.
For a few hours, then I feel a soft hand and long fingers stroking, cock does what cock does when it’s fondled. She mounts me and gives herself another orgasm, this time I go off inside.
Nikko rolls off, ‘Sheesh, that’s addictive. And no concern, I’m on the pill. Janah keeps a supply plus the morning after thing.’
‘I figured you knew what you were doing.’
Clean up, sleep.
Morning, Zi arrives with coffee, big smile, ‘Bad boys and girls going to stay in bed all day?’
‘I’ll do as I’m told.’
‘She has no trouble giving orders.’
‘Her orders are like a gift.’
Nikko, ‘He is most obedient,’ she’s got her hand on the man.
Zi giggles, ‘Found something you like?’
Nikko, ‘To the shower, thank you for the coffee.’
We climb out, brush, flush, in the shower. I take great pleasure in lathering her, wash her hair, black and shiny. Then she does me, with extra attention to….you know.
Then she kneels and orals me to orgasm. Damn.
Zi is sitting on the toilet seat watching, ‘Voyeur me, that was erotic, my personal porn channel. Now I need a toy.’
Nikko, ‘Get in bed, I’ll toy you with my tongue toy.’
I’m dry and dressed, exit the bedroom, the girls are occupied, I doubt they notice me leaving.
Kitchen is busy, Daphne says, ‘Hey Stud, there’s fresh coffee if you want a second,’ she points to the urn with a spatula.
‘Excellent,’ Zero comes from upstairs, ‘Have a good evening Commandant?’
‘I suspect you know the answer.’
She grins, ‘Couldn’t help it, I had to peek in your head, at least for a bit. Then I got sidetracked by Oceane and Cassie, I took a slow ride on the scenic route, the views were breathtaking.’
Daphne laughs, ‘Oceane requires a gentle hand, lips, tongue.’
‘Janah gave me a heads up, I barely had to touch her, it was different, different good, and she’s so dreamy, Cassie is adorable.’
Ellen appears, ‘Morning all, what can I do Daph?’
‘The shortening bread should be about done, check it please.’
Ellen opens the oven, a big commercial oven with two smaller ovens adjoining, she pokes of of the bread bars, ‘Done,’ takes out the three pans.’
‘That smells good, bready.’
‘A southern thing, shortening bread is pretty simple, like making biscuits. It’s butter, shortening and flour, I use corn meal. Food geeks say it was originally flour, eggs, and lard, no butter, no sugar. Current recipes all call for brown sugar, some use butter, some just shortening, I do both.’
Dasha comes along, ‘What ees today Dahfoney?’
I’m learning Dasha-speak, she’s asking what is for breakfast, or she may be asking for the day’s menus.
Daphne, ‘Scrambled with bacon and sausage, grits, shortening bread.’
‘I will do schrambul, you are for bacon and sausage.’
Daphne, ‘I knew I was good for something,’ she leans over and kisses Dasha’s soft cheek, Dasha turns the other, gets a second kiss.
I’m also learning that Dasha talks to herself, ‘Dasha ees Dahfoney’s leetle anjul, now anjul ees to crack aig and make schrambul, sisters schrambul Dahfoney last night.’
Daphne, ‘Guess my assignation is not a secret.’
‘If I had twins in bed, I’d take out a billboard.’
Dasha, ‘Commandant haf already Nikita and Natasha, where ees billboard?’
‘Um, I was speaking figuratively.’
Dasha asks Ellen, ‘What ees Commandant figure?’
Ellen, ‘He thought you were talking to him about twins.’
Dasha’s lost the thread again, ‘How meeny aig? Almost forty peersons, Maybe two carton plus four.’
They buy the eighteen egg cartons, Daphne feeds almost thirty people every day, buying in bulk is a given.
‘I need to get across the lake, fresh clothes and whatnot.’
Daphne, ‘Oh, good then, can you pass by the fishing camp, they have supplies for us, I was going to go myself later. It’s a bunch of stuff, eggs, milk, coffee, butter, plus household things, toilet paper, paper towels…oh, they have fresh Walleye fillets ready to grill. You are going to be with us overnight I hope.’
‘Grilled Walleye I think that’s a simple decision, thank you.’
Zero, ‘CC, and I will go with you, get clothes for the others then collect the supplies.’

Eight

Breakfast done, we take the big powerboat, Dasha is the captain, she knows the most about all the craft, smaller powerboat, and the houseboat.
Dasha has one speed, flight, we’re at our cabin in twenty minutes, get the clean stuff, back in the boat and over to the fishing lodge.
A female is on the dock, ‘Hi, I’m Francesca, Charles and the others are out as fishing guides, you’re stuff is in the kitchen, this way.’
We pass through a lobby, which is also a lounge area, ‘This is nice, I had a vision of a place cabin-ish that had a fishy atmosphere, this could be a boutique hotel.’
Francesca, ‘Our services aren’t cheap, guests expect comfort along with fish, we have regulars that stay here and don’t fish much, just soak up the mountains and lake, we cruise them around in the houseboat, Daphne’s houseboat is also available when they aren’t up here.’
The kitchen is commercial with a walk in refrigerator next to a walk in freezer, big grill like the one at Daphne’s place, large flat surface that can handle a lot of filets, or steaks, or bacon and eggs.
We trek back and forth with a hand truck, ‘Nice of you to get all this stuff on top of shopping for the lodge.’
‘Daphne and Janah bought this place years ago, then wound up giving it to us, it’s in a corporate name, but we own the corporation. They bought new boats, remodeled the place a couple of times both to modernize and to add rooms, we still have more demand than space. During the winter we close and do maintenance. It’s a busy life, then a quiet one, appeals to certain temperaments. The point is, we reciprocate by taking care of their house and the boats. We serve three meals a day here, buying extra groceries when they visit is a small reciprocation for a big gift.’
‘How many monks?’
‘Six, we have a separate place down the road, two of us stay in the lodge on rotation when there are guests. We charge per night, but it includes meals, there are snacks available on the honor system and a bar, a beer bar, no hard liquor but they can bring it with them. We don’t drink but we have no prohibition about guests. There’s internet, a library and, strangely, board games are popular. I have to laugh when I see rich men playing monopoly like it was real money. Poker is popular of course, other groups play bridge, chess, checkers. They’re like kids again. Now, most of our guests are repeats.’
‘Wives, girlfriends, kids?’
‘There are occasional families, most guests are men intent on fishing.’
‘Everyone fish with a guide?’
‘Almost, even though the repeats could get themselves to good spots, they still like one of us to pilot the boat, guide services are included in the day rate. If they don’t use a guide they still pay for the service, never had a complaint. Like I said, we’re not cheap, our regulars are loaded, fifty bucks one way or another is immaterial to them.’
Dasha, ‘Thanks for getting this Francesca, sister did books, she says you make good profit and property is always well maintained.’
Francesca, ‘I guess we do make a profit, we didn’t have any capital costs, you guys gave us the land, buildings and boats, all expenses are operational. We do keep a reserve for depreciation, the boats’ engines are workhorses and freezing winters can be hard on fixed structures, the boats and the houseboat get dry docked in winter, the weather isn’t a factor but during the season the boats run every day.’
Dasha says to me, ‘Francesca ees being modest, she haf accounting and finance background and does the numbers for the lodge, sister reviews out of curiosity, we do not anyway haf any operational input. Ees only the monks.’
Francesca, ‘Did Janah mention that we are buying a second lodge, couple miles west, the owners want out, to retire, no kids to hand it to. We take on six more rooms, but we think we should add at least four more and a kitchen makeover. Their boats are okay but not our standard, so we’ll add new equipment over time. That expense is on us.’
‘You can’t run a second lodge with the current staff can you?’
‘No, but Charles is in touch with the temples around the world. We can get four staffers easy, we could get two dozen, this is a most appealing life for a Shaolin, honest hard work, snowed in time for reading, writing, and meditation. Room and board, a salary and health benefits, it’s Canada, health care is excellent. Most of them would come for no salary at all, but that’s not how we do things. Believe me, they’ll earn it.’
Dasha, ‘Thanking you again, you haf things to do, we need to get this over to the house, thank the others for us. Oh, I am remembering, Black, Sonia, Chan, and Ning will be up at the end of August, Dahfoney will send you dates. When we leave next week, just keep the house open, when they leave, you can do the shutdown.’
Francesca, ‘We’ll take care of it. We are closing early this season so we can deal with the second lodge, the new monks will be coming in October for training and to help with renovations.’
With that we climb in the boat and Dasha cranks us full speed across the lake then east to the house.
At least there’s plenty of help to get the bags, bottle and boxes from the boat to the house, then unpack and get refrigerator and freezer items put away. The Walleye fillets are in a cooler packed in ice and can remain until grilling time.
‘You do the grilling on the inside grill, or on the barbeque grill?’
Ellen, ‘Sometimes outside, but with so many, even with our massive grill, it’s simpler to do fish on the griddle inside. We’ll have garlic mashed red potatoes, did they get cauliflower and broccoli?’...she fishes through the remaining bags, ‘yes, good, this is for fried veg appetizers, Janah will collect mushrooms, we can fry those too.’
‘Look forward to dinner.’
Ellen, ‘We did lunch already, there’s sliced chicken and roast beef in the refrigerator if you want to slap together a sandwich, chips in the pantry.’
I’m hungry enough to have a roast beef on toast, swipe of mayo and a handful of ripple chips. Zero and CC split one, don’t know where Dasha got off to.
Janah comes along followed by eight little girls, mostly little, the oldest is twelve, Nadia, the youngest at almost seven they said, Zofia is seven, the others something in between. Following the children is our mastiff, Morshchiny.
Janah, ‘We’re going mushrooming, enough rain last night to fatten the fungi, we can get blackberries too,’ she’s got two baskets, hands one to Sloane.
‘Sloane is the guard wolf, along with Morshchiny the guard dog. We never have trouble with the forest creatures, it’s the humans that can be a problem. Since we didn’t fence the property, men try to sneak over to hunt despite the fact that there is no hunting allowed. This trip we’ve not encountered any; it’s annoying, they aren’t hunting to eat, just to kill.’
I ask, ‘Can I tag along, be good to get out and move around.’
‘Sure, company is welcome, take another basket, the children and I will do the collection, an extra basket will let us gather more berries, Daphne and Dasha will figure out what to make with them.’
Daphne, ‘Blackberry crumble, we have cans of sliced apples and cherries, it will be a mixed fruit crumble, granola and toasted oats on top, do we have buttermilk Dasha?’
‘Da, need to anyway use up.’
‘Good, then crème fraiche, it needs to sit overnight, I’ll make the crumble tomorrow. We have enough to deal with to make fried vegetables, the fish and mashed tonight.’
‘We haf steaks in the freezer, I’ll take those out and they can thaw, tomorrow steak filet for dinner wiz roasted corn, red cabbage and carrot salad wiz peanut sauce.’
‘Do we have forty steaks?’
‘Da, plenty, Black will use the rest when they come up.’
We go off to hunt mushrooms and berries, I hadn’t been in the direction of the meadow, Britt joins us, Fin and Phaedra come along as well, they’ve been with the children, no idea what they’ve been up to.
The meadow is about a half mile west, I’m surprised at its extent, and it ends at a small cliff overlooking the crystal blue lake. This is good, walking the open space, while Janah and the children forage the edges, mushrooms are in the surrounding forest. Berries are absurdly plentiful, waves of bushes covering what must be fifty yards along one end of the meadow. I pick and eat, get caught up in filling my basket which takes almost no time, then I park at the edge of the meadow and contemplate nothing.
It’s delicious, I hear a murmur of children, as always they gather as a group, never more than a few feet from each other. Sloane patrols the edges of the meadow her head twists left and right looking for any disturbing scents and happily finding none. Morshchiny stays with the children, keeping to the forest side where it’s more likely danger will come.
Britt plops down next to me, ‘I love it here, then I love it near the ocean in Malibu, and the mixed desert and forest in Arizona.’
‘Perhaps the enjoyment is the company of your family, mixed talents and interests, never the slightest animosity, nobody is on top, no rules, genuine courtesy and acceptance, not just acceptance, encouragement, it’s like that with us as well.’
‘Janah, Daphne, and Nikko are maybe first among equals, but there’s never a sense of top dog. When we have work, targets, Shadows, Daphne is field commander but that’s an necessary exception, quick decisions need to be made, someone has to make them. Zero told me you are much the same, when you need to deal with targets I mean.’
‘Yes, I have tactical experience, but the girls observe and learn. Zero is our Janah, she’s perhaps the lead, but we don’t have a leader or followers. In earlier days, when Indian tribes were real tribes, they had collective meetings, they talked until everyone said what they had to say, then broke up the meeting and everyone knew what they were to do despite never being told what to do, each member’s role was clear from the group discussion. They did have a chief, but he listened and perhaps guided the conversation.’
Britt, ‘I’ve wondered, not that I have the slightest interest in politics, but I’ve wondered at the apparent need of people to call their elected representatives leaders. I thought the elected were more like employees, after all, taxpayers pay them, they don’t pay taxpayers.’
‘Laziness, most people claim to want to run their own lives, but they don’t really. They want to be told, a remnant of daddy and mommy’s influence, parents know, children don’t, or so children are told. There’s a bit of rebellion in the hormonal years, but eventually boys become their fathers and girls become their mothers. Sad really, the inability to break away, to set their own course, which is reflected in politics and which politicians exploit by playing the surrogate adult.’

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