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Hazel B. Lopez-Yamamoto
Period 4 History, Ms. Tam-Jackson
(Friend of the) Family Interview
15 Monsoonmonth


"My Guardian Angel"

For my Family Interview assignment I interviewed my babysitter Izabel Braçaiz about her experience of the Landfall-Wreath War in Equatorial Cleva.

"We already covered the basics in class, but why did Cleave choose the side it did in the war?"

Cleave had more than one side ever since people got there!

See, Cleave was colonized and terraformed near the end of the Bottleneck Era. When we split up into multiple human species again, this happened (I'll make a list for you):

  • One group picked monkey traits so we could climb trees better. That also gave other people another excuse to hate us more, but those colonists either didn't know or didn't care.
  • One turned their kids into Rocketship Trees (they still have DNA and brains in there!) so they could live in forests better and then take off from Cleave when the star faded too much without needing to go build spaceships.
  • One tried to upload themselves into computers and leave the biological behind. That didn't actually work, especially since there was a broadcast lag between their Cleave and Landfall territories. Now the "true believers" have settled for making their kids gray and grafting those monitor masks onto their kids after birth. It's more like how your mom's wings were so small than like how she and you got wings in the first place.

Then of course we split up and regrouped over other stuff like people have been doing since there were people.

"OK, why did Cleave choose the sideS it did in the war?"
Good interview technique – much better than only asking questions on your original list!
We didn't really choose sides. The sides chose us! Landfall attacked the Wreath embassy in Equatorial Cleva and our government didn't buy the "but the embassy is officially Wreath soil so it doesn't count as an attack on you!" excuse. Same thing happened when Wreath attacked a Landfall consulate over in the Robot Cleave Duchy, and the Robot Kingdom didn't buy that excuse either. By the way, I don't remember which happened first – there were a whole bunch of these attacks all over the galaxy for a few years.

"What was the war like?"

It sucked! Back when I was 7 we didn't live in the rainforest yet, and my parents grew corn for the nitrote and nitrute way station.

"That was at the gunpowder fields, right?"

Don't call them that! We didn't use them for gunpowder, we used them for fertilizer. Rocketship Trees would stop by to refuel. The way station was there for them and anyone or anything they were picking up or dropping off. It was like a small village. So that's what we did before the war hit home.

Anyway, me and my brother Hippolito were playing with some kids from the farm next door and 4 Quick Flashes who was from the Rocketship family refueling at the way station. I knew that my parents bought candy they saved for guests and probably hid it in the shed, so two kids went over to distract my parents while I tried to find it. 4 Quick Flashes blasted off, landed in front of my house, and fell over on purpose instead of taking root again, and Lilac went to get the adults to "help."

While 4 Quick Flashes was pretending to be hurt, and Lilac tripped over her by "accident," I checked the shed and didn't find any candy. I did find firecrackers left over from Founders Day a couple months earlier. It's a holiday when we all get together and burn them in effigy.

Anyway, we didn't have candy, but Lilac liked the fire poi dancers on TV music videos so we tied strings on the firecrackers and lit them and danced. That was fun.

Then a unicorn came over to watch. It didn't have any rider, but it wore some of the plate armor livery like the Robot Kingdom bluebloods put on their horses and a horn like Wreath puts on everything, so we thought maybe its rider was peaceful. Besides, it was friendly and didn't stomp on us or even nibble 4 Quick Flashes's leaves.

So it was all fun until this Wreath soldier teleported out of nowhere. She started yelling about us stealing horses and setting traps. Next thing you know, they were burning the whole village!

Lilac died. I learned the word "reprisal."

After that, we and everyone else left alive around the way station moved south to the rainforest.

"What kind of propaganda was there?"

There was a rumor that the soldiers from Wreath would put antlers on all of us. I don't know if that was anti-Wreath propaganda or if someone just saw those pictures of life on Wreath with the horned people and horned pets and trees that could fit horns like your dad's under their leaves, though. One of my neighbors said the pictures were fake, but I believed them.

"Really? Why?"

Remember when you turned 6, got a rhinestone applicator for your birthday, and stuck rhinestones on everything...?
An interview is not a casual conversation. Trim the chitchat next time.
"What was babysitting your brothers and sisters like?"

OK, here's an example. This one Saturday morning when I was 11, I was cooking lunch. When you're tangible your parents can ask you to do stuff like that. My parents were coming back from mining the Hopscotch so I wanted to make comfort food for them. We've been eating plantains and black-eyed peas since a while before the Bottleneck Era ended, way back when Old Earth potato farms got too hot for potatoes. So while I'm cooking, my little brother Kevin kept bugging me. I guess because he was 4. It went like this:

I got out the ingredients.
"Why won't Uncle Jozéf let me watch cartoons?!"
I peeled the plantains first.
"He's busy healing his broken leg, don't bug him."
I was getting hungry so I turned my back to Kevin but he didn't take the hint.
"He's asleep!"
"Why can't he take his TV mask off and let us watch it while he's asleep?"
Hippolito was there too and I asked him to stir-fry the plantains. He was 9 but stirring is easy, like scrambling eggs, so he could do that.
"Because his parents grafted it on when he was a baby."
Meanwhile Hippolito was all "Ouch that sucks."
Then I drained the black-eyed peas and washed them thoroughly, with a sieve or colander or something, I don't remember.
"Why did they do that?"
I put the black-eyed peas in a saucepan with water and turned the heat up.
"Because their parents told them to."
In the meantime I chopped the plantain peels really little.
"Why did they do that?"
When the peas reached a rolling boil I turned their heat down to simmer until they were tender.
"Because they don't like to admit they're people too."
Then I put the peels in a saucepan with water and only a little salt sauce, because salt was rationed back then.
"Is that why they call themselves robots?"
Then I boiled and simmered those.
"Either that or they don't know what the org in cyborg means."
When they looked pretty cooked, I removed the peas and peels from the heat and drained them again.
"Why does Jozéf call them bluebloods if they call themselves robots?"
I stir fried the mustard seeds in another pan instead of with the plantain chunks, until they spluttered.
"Because we do like to admit they're people too, and it pisses them off!"
I took the seeds off their heat and mixed them with the peas and peel, topped that all with grated coconut, and told Hippolito to go wake up Jozéf because that's when Tracy started yelling so I had to go check her diaper instead of waking Jozéf myself.

"You had a Robot uncle?"

Uncle Jozéf was actually one of Dad's second cousins, but we called him Uncle because he was Dad's age.

Anyway, remember those "true believers" I told you about? Their kids like Jozéf hate them for it. It's like the way we hate our first colonists for making us look more like monkeys than everyone else looks. Some of them were like Jozéf and didn't wanna stay split up from the rest of us. That's why I had no tail and no fur above the hips even when I had hips and a tailbone. ??? I still had opposable toes and wore foot gloves instead of socks, though.

"What was school like?"

Pretty much like yours until I was 13. That's when I took the exams to go further and only made it into the trade school for farm kids. My best friend Yxta got into the university prep school and moved away to the boarding house because it was too far away from the village. We were pen pals, and then she found new friends, and then they wrote me letters too.

Anyway, trade school was still hard! Mrs. Painter, my genetics teacher, was tough but nice. She was one of those people who came from the teachers' college and didn't know what dirt looked like, but she was humble about it and listened to us too.

"What were your favorite subjects?"

Writing, math, forestry, and genetics. Those last two were fun because we got to climb trees and go in the greenhouse instead of sitting in class. Really big trees too, not like the ones I climbed at home. We had to use helmets and belay cables to climb the school trees!

The greenhouse was amazing in its way too. I still remember the first time I held a tray of saplings – I mean, a Rocketship trusted me with his babies, and they were even younger than when Mom and Dad first let me hold my sister Mirabel.

"How did you plan to leave Cleave?"

Not by Rocketship Tree, that's for sure.

"Why not? Didn't they trust you?"

Yes, but- OK, I'll start with how they work. Rocketship Trees communicate by reverse photosynthesis and their groves all have optical readers so they can communicate with the Rocketship Bank. Then when we work for them and do all the stuff they can't do because we have hands and they don't, they transfer money to our accounts there. They re-up their accounts by taking passengers and cargo places. So, I couldn't afford to hire one. Neither could your parents, but they made a sacrifice to show the Rocketship that they really, really, really wanted a ride even though they couldn't afford it. I didn't have anything to sacrifice.

"OK, so how did you plan to leave Cleave?"

Out in the city there was a space elevator and not-so-rich people got offworld that way. My neighbor Anne worked as a nanny. She got to see Quercus and send money home and everything! One of the times she came home she even taught me how to dodge the jerks at the space elevator.

"What kind of jerks?"

Remember how your mom told you I asked her if it was okay before I bonded with you? Some other floaty types don't do that, they just get in your face and bond right away – and there's always a bunch of stowaway wannabes hanging around the space elevator to hitch rides with natives going offworld. ? If Anne didn't know the right spells, she'd have 6 or 7 of them.

Anyway, that's why I didn't whine about looking after my little sibs. I wanted to use my baby care know-how to go travel too because it was so boring at home.

"Weren't you busy?"

Actually, no. Hippolito's only 2 years younger than me, remember? When I was 16 he could do all the same babysitting chores I did at 14. By 16 I'd already read all the good books in the library twice and shopping made me sad because I didn't have a lot of money. So, after farm chores, me and my friends and boyfriend just hung out at the bus stop shelter. Boring. Besides, running the place didn't even need enough work for all of us to get local jobs after school, instead of leaving like Anne did. Boring, and bleak too.

Anyway, when I was 17 my boyfriend said he could get us jobs offworld with bosses who would pay our space elevator fare for us. One day he said to meet him after dinner at the bus stop shelter and when I got there, there were these two older guys who I think were graduating when I started trade school. One of them looked at me and said my new boss would be happy. I asked him what the kids were like and he said I was the kid, so I ran...
Smart girl! Lucky, too!
That's why I decided to save up and pay my fare ahead of time. I also stopped hanging out at the bus stop shelter and just stuck with my pen pals.

"What's coming back to life like?"
Word Choice: correct to something such as "What was it like when you were young?" SEE END OF PAPER COMMENTS
It hurts a lot! When the brain and nerve cells die, that part of the mind turns ghost, until they're all dead and you're a whole ghost. All brain and body is OK, all ghost is whatev, but the part in between is really, really, really excruciating. My memories of that are like a broken mosaic, but that doesn't stop me remembering the pain. I talked to an older ghost who gave birth without painkillers when she was alive, and she says dying was tons worse too.

Anyway, my parents did dodge the rest of the land mines and get what was left of my body to the hospital in time, just in case. They put me on ice until I could put my thoughts back together and realize I was dead. Three doctors talked to me to ask if it was really okay with me to donate my organs and I said sure because everyone knows they can't bring you back without enough intestines.

"Did you see your own funeral?"

Sure did! People get mad at you if you don't show up. At your funeral you're supposed to give a speech. It's really hard when you're intangible, because you can't pick up a pencil and paper and write notes ahead of time. Some old people write their notes before they die, but I was 17 so I didn't really think I needed to. Then Mom and Dad said I could skip the speech, so that was a relief.

All my family and friends were there, and some new people who thanked me for my eyes and lungs and liver. Even Yxta made it! She brought the rest of the gang from her school and I got to see them in person for the first time. That was fun. Then after the ceremony all the lifers had dinner and I got hungry watching them but I couldn't eat any more. That wasn't fun. Then I started hanging out with the other ghost kids.

When I said friends of the family count for the assignment, I didn't mean your imaginary friend. SEE ME AFTER CLASS