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Torn World: Building a Home

So far, I've written two short stories, Alligator's First Midsummer Dance (available to be sponsored for $10) and Building a Home. I also wrote a children's song based on one tribe's myths regarding Torn World's three moons (available to be sponsored for $5).

This story was prompted by
[info]haunted_blood  and [info]allykat , and sponsored by [info]allykat 

Thank you,
[info]allykat !

It will be submitted to the Canon Board, and edited per their recommendations before appearing in final form on the Torn World website.


Building a Home

By Deirde M. Murphy

Dini was playing with his nephew, Filor, in the children’s park near his boyfriend’s office. It had rained earlier, and the little boy was building houses in the sanded play-area. “Come on, Uncle Dini, you make one too!”

Dini looked across the street where Lalya, worked. It was lunchtime, but Lalya hadn’t come out of the building.

“Come on!”

“All right.” Dini got down on his knees, and started packing wet sand into one of the buckets.

“What are you doing?”

“Building a house. Like you asked.” Dini turned the bucket upside down and thumped it soundly before lifting it back up carefully, to leave a molded tower of sand in front of him.

“But houses aren’t round!”

“Why not?” Dini started drawing windows and a door on his sand-house.

“Because. Houses are square.” The boy motioned to his own lopsided effort, which he’d built up a shovel at a time, and which was twice as long as it was deep.

“It looks to me like your house is rectangular.”

Filor frowned. “It’s better than yours. At least it isn’t round.”

Dini sat back. “I thought you wanted me to build houses with you?” He spotted Lalya coming out of the office building, and smiled, quietly enjoying the view. Lalya was tall, with broad shoulders and a neatly-trimmed beard that made him look deliciously masculine.

“That one would never get a license!—hey, aren’t you listening to me?” Filor turned, and saw Lalya. “Uncle Lalya—isn’t my house better? That round thing would never get a license, would it?”

Lalya walked over in his pristine trousers and high-necked red shirt, his licensing bureau vest looking more like fashion than uniform on his fit frame. Carefully, from the side of the sand, Lalya bent over to view their work. “Oh, that round one is unusual. Round is allowed by the licenses, but the construction is more expensive, and you need a special inspection. I’m not sure the square one there—“

“Rectangular!” Filor protested.

Dini envied Lalya his masculine good looks, no matter how useful his own, more androgynous looks were in his chosen profession.

Lalya nodded. “Pardon me. You’re quite right. I’m not sure if the rectangular one would pass inspection either, right now. Those walls don’t look very steady. How about if I borrow your Uncle for a bit, and give you a chance to fix it up before I play inspector?”

“All right.”

Dini stood up and brushed off his knees, and they strolled over to a bench to sit together, barely touching. Despite the reforms, some people remained uncomfortable with same-gender couples.

“He’s really cute.” Lalya smiled over at the boy, who was hurriedly fixing things up. At six, he already knew it wasn’t every day that an Imperial Inspector offered to finish up an inspection after a problem had been fixed.

“Yeah, he is. Sometimes, I wish—“

“We could adopt!” Lalya spoke softly, taking his hand.

“If we moved to Affabreidalam, sure.” Dini felt his shoulders rounding in discouragement.

“No, here. We could marry—“

“Sure, if one of us gets licensed as a woman.”

“But you play a woman onstage every night!” Lalya looked confused.

“As part of an all-male company. If I change my license, I’d have to get a different job, and I like this one. I’m understudy to the lead in two different productions. I’m so close to getting a lead part myself, I can taste it.”

“But I see you with little Filor—you want that just as much.”

Dini couldn’t meet Lalya’s eyes.

“I know it’s true. And—the idea has grown on me. I’d like to be a father too.”

Filor finished the house and looked up. Lalya gave him a gesture of approval, and called, “Do you want me to inspect the whole housing project at once?”


Dini smiled at the boy. “Lalya is asking if you want to build more houses, and have them all inspected at the same time.”


When the boy’s focus was again on his work, Lalya patted Dini’s hand. “I don’t think that came out right. I—I didn’t think about the fact that you’re in an all male company. That was stupid of me, I know how licenses work. It’s just—and it’s not logical—well, I’ve been thinking of you as Laishlenar Company’s leading woman for months, and wondering when they would open their eyes and realize what a gem they have working for them. It just seemed natural to think of you as the woman. But I wouldn’t ask you to give up your career.”

Dini sighed. “I know that. I just—well, you’re right. I really would like to be a parent. I just wish the reforms had gone further, and taken gender out of the picture.”

“At least they went as far as they did.” Layla rifled his hand through his beard thoughtfully. “What if I got re-licensed as a woman?”

Dini spluttered at the involuntary vision of the very masculine Layla decked out in a dress. Or a negligee, though that second thought had possibilities.

“What, you don’t think I’d make a good woman?”

Dini, imagining Layla trying to do a female role, started to laugh, but stopped as what Layla had said really started t sink in. “You mean—I mean— Are you really proposing to me?”

Layla blushed. “Well, it’s just paperwork. That’s half of my job, you know, finding ways to license the things that people want and need, when the obvious license won’t work. And people don’t care about your gender when they buy licenses—”

“Marriage isn’t just paperwork!”

“From a licensing perspective—“

Dini placed a finger on his lover’s lips to get his attention. “You’d really do that, get licensed as a woman, just to marry me?”

Layla met his eyes. “I would.”

Dini leapt up and spun the larger man around, kissing him on the lips right there in front of all the children and their mothers. Filor looked up, startled. Dini smiled at the boy. “He’s—she’s—um” The heck with trying to figure out which gender pronoun to use, he thought. “We’re getting married!”

The boy looked longingly at his half-completed second sand-house. “Do you have the license yet?”

That sobered Dini—it would doubtless take months to get the licenses in order. “Not yet.”

“Good. Then I can finish this housing project first.”

Dini and Layla both laughed, and he noticed that several of the mothers laughed too.

They sat back down on the bench to make plans for their new life, and their new home. They didn’t get far before Layla’s lunch break ended, because most of the women drifted over to congratulate them, one or two at a time.

Finally, they made a dinner date to continue the discussion. “But I’ll start the paperwork for the licenses right away—gender, marriage, reproduction, and adoption.” Layla smiled, “Am I missing anything?”

“I know you—you’ll research the regulations to be sure no matter what I say!” Dini couldn’t stop grinning. He’d have to wear out the grin before the show tonight; his bit in the evening’s show part was a bitter spinster. Oh, well, he’d have makeup to help.

Layla was smiling too. “True. It’s why I’m so valued in this job. My bosses don’t have to second-guess my work, and the customers are happy—well, as happy as possible—too.” He kissed Dini’s hand, his beard tickling Dini’s skin.

“You don’t have to shave off the beard, do you?”

Layla shrugged. “I’ll research the regulations, but I don’t think so. And if I do, it’s worth it.” He turned, and bent to inspect the sand houses. “Excellent, excellent. Do you have your licenses?”

The boy nodded and held out his empty hand.

Layla flourished an invisible pen and left four signatures, approving Dini’s round house along with Filor’s two complete and one incomplete buildings.

“Thank you Inspector.” The boy bowed politely.

“Keep up the good work, Contractor Filor, we need houses for our newly-married families.” He turned and winked at Dini, and left.

Filor walked over to Dini. “He even approved your house!”

Dini beamed down at the boy. “Yes, he did.”

“The broker can handle them now, and find families for them. And I’m hungry. Could you make me a sandwich?”

“Of course I can.”

“Yay!” Filor took Dini’s hand and led him out of the park.

Back to the story I'm writing about a winter hunt, riding snow-unicorns.

Author's Note:  The licensing system is a combination of how the Empire makes sure people doing something are qualified to do so (how often have people wished that parents got training before the kid arrived?) and this government's system of taxation.  Yes, there's licenses for just about everything, but there's no income taxes or sales tax!

As to the theater, the empire has all-male companies, all-female companies, and mixed companies, probably as a result of the many smaller, splinter cultures that developed during the sundered times.  The actors who play the other gender in the single-gender troupes are often heterosexual. 

This story was written in response to a prompt asking to see a story about a homosexual couple in the Empire who is facing (or has faced) this particular bureaucratic challenge in order to become parents.

You can find out more about Torn World at tornworld.net.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
I love this! Filor is adorable, and I love how normal the licensing system feels here.
Feb. 10th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Feb. 13th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
I wish changing gender (and associated id forms) was that easy.

I like this one & I like that you'e written a gay couple into it. This is devil's advocate here: some gay people might see it as holding up the view that the only way to be gay/adopt/have kids/be a couple is to change one person's gender. I know you don't believe that and wouldn't want to put that impression out. It's one of the disagreements between the gay and transgender/transexual communities. If you were to revisit or rewrite it in the future, perhaps a little more internal strife over the change but still followed by the decision because of their love for each other and desire to have a kid, hitting harder the "it's the only way because of where we live" reason (might turn it into a bit of indirect satire/commentary on gay/trans issues in the US and other conservative countries)?

I hope that's ok, I don't often offer constructive criticism because I believe in artistic license and I hope you don't take it that I'm saying it's not a good story. It is! I enjoy your stories and wanted to offer some thoughts on it from another point of view.
Feb. 14th, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
If it was a stand-alone story I'd have done it very differently. But it's a part of Torn World and has to fit into the strictures of that world.

Also, note this is a LEGAL change of gender only--there is no medical (or magical) physical change being proposed here.

I may follow it up, there's a lot of internal conflicts over them both feeling masculine (there's no gender incongruity between their bodies and minds here), and the fact that both will end up with feminine roles--one at work and the other in their social life. And there's external conflicts in that the "man" of the couple looks more feminine, while the "woman" of the couple will continue to look sexily masculine.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 21st, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Re: оченавь даже
I'm afraid Google Translator failed on this one.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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