Lin Page 6
You have a lovely pigtail, he says.

This isn't a pigtail. It's a ponytail.

Yes, you're right. Sorry. It is a symptom of travel - certain aspects of language become your expertise, while others fall outside your scope and wither away.

He asks her, What do you do? What do your parents do?

I go to school
, she scowls at him. And what my parents do is none of your business.

True, he sighs, and not for the first time he reflects on how different people can be from place to place. In the mountains, cut off from urban necessities, there is little need to be circumspect about anything. Questions can be

answered because that is the nature of the question, to be answered.

She is on her tip-toes, staring hard at him. He notices that she is a bit knock-kneed. What's it like? To travel around the world every day?

Would you like to?

I've never left this town. My family's too poor.

After a moment of consideration, he digs into his knapsack and retrieves a notebook he has been composing for a town in the far West, on the opposite end of the world.

Here, he says. I want you to write in it, and next time we see each other, you give this back to me.