Thief of time, p.45
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       Thief of Time, p.45

         Part #26 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 45


  Not quite. Similar, though. There was no sound for a while but the brushing of two brooms. Then Lobsang said, Im aware, Lu-Tze, that it is usual for an apprentice to give a small gift or token to his master when he finishes his apprenticeship.

  Possibly, said Lu-Tze, straightening up. But I dont need anything. Ive got my mat, my bowl and my Way.

  Every man has something he desires, said Lobsang. Hah! Got you there, then, wonder boy. Im eight hundred years old. Ive run through all my desires long ago.

  Oh dear. That is a shame. I hoped I could find something. Now Lobsang straightened up and swung his broom onto his shoulder. In any case, I must leave, he said. There is so much still to do.

  Im sure there is, said Lu-Tze. Im sure there is. Theres the whole stretch under the trees, for one thing. And while were on the subject, wonder boy, did you let that witch have her broomstick back? Lobsang nodded. Let us just say. . . I put things back. Its a lot newer than it was, too.

  Hah! said Lu-Tze, sweeping up a few more petals. Just like that. Just like that. So easily does a thief of time repay his debts!

  Lobsang must have caught the rebuke in the tone. He stared down at his feet. Well, perhaps not all of them, I admit, he said. Oh? said Lu-Tze, still apparently fascinated by the end of his own broom. But when you have to save a world you cannot think of one person, you see, because one person is a part of that world, Lobsang went on. Really? said the sweeper. You think so? Youve been talking to some very strange people, my lad.

  But now I have time, said Lobsang earnestly. And I hope shell understand.

  Its amazing what a lady will understand, if you find the right way of putting it, said Lu-Tze. Best of luck, lad. You didnt do so bad, on the whole. And is it not written, “Theres no time like the present”? Lobsang smiled at him, and vanished. Lu-Tze went back to his sweeping. After a while, he smiled at a memory. An apprentice gives a gift to the master, eh? As if Lu-Tze could want anything that Time could give him. . . And he stopped, and looked up, and laughed out loud. Overhead, swelling as he watched, the cherries were ripening. Tick In some place that had not existed before, and only existed now for this very purpose, stood a large, gleaming vat. Ten thousand gallons of delicate fondant sugar cream infused with essence of violet and stirred into dark chocolate, said Chaos. There are also strata of hazelnut praline in rich butter cream, and areas of soft caramel for that special touch of delight. SO . . . YOURE SAYING THAT THIS VAT COULD EXIST SOMEWHERE IN A TRULY INFINITE EVERYWHERE AND THEREFORE IT CAN EXIST HERE? said Death. Indeed, said Chaos. BUT IT NO LONGER EXISTS IN THE PLACE WHERE IT SHOULD EXIST. No. It should, now, exist here. The maths is easy, said Chaos. AH? WELL, MATHS, said Death dismissively. GENERALLY I NEVER GET MUCH FURTHER THAN SUBTRACTION. In any case, chocolate is hardly a rare commodity, said Chaos. There are planets covered in the stuff. REALLY?

  Indeed. IT MIGHT BE BEST, said Death, IF NEWS LIKE THAT DID NOT GET ABOUT. He walked back to where Unity was waiting in the darkness. YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THIS, he said. What else is there? said Unity. I have betrayed my own kind. And I am hideously insane. I can never be at home anywhere. And staying here would be an agony. She stared into the chocolate abyss. A dusting of sugar sparkled on its surface. Then she slipped out of her dress. To her amazement she felt embarrassed about doing so, but still drew herself up haughtily. Spoon, she commanded, and held out her right hand imperiously. Chaos gave a silver ladle a final, theatrical polish and passed it to her. Goodbye, said Unity. Do pass on my best wishes to your granddaughter. She walked a few steps back, turned, broke into a run, and took off into a perfect swallow dive. The chocolate closed over her with barely a sound. Then the two watchers waited until the fat, lazy ripples had died away. Now there was a lady with style, said Chaos. What a waste. YES. I THOUGHT SO. Well, its been fun. . . up to that point, anyway. And now I must be off, said Chaos. YOURE CONTINUING WITH THE MILK ROUND? People rely on me. Death looked impressed. ITS GOING TO BE. . . INTERESTING TO HAVE YOU BACK, he said. Yeah. It is, said Chaos. Youre not coming? IM GOING TO WAIT HERE FOR A WHILE. Why? JUST IN CASE. Ah. YES.

  It was some minutes later that Death reached into his robe and pulled out a lifetimer that was small and light enough to have been designed for a doll. He turned round. But. . . I died, said the shade of Unity. YES, said Death. THIS IS THE NEXT PART . . . Tick Emma Robertson sat in the classroom with wrinkled brow, chewing on her pencil. Then, rather slowly but with the air of one imparting great secrets, she set to work. We went to Lanker where there are witches they are kind they grow erbs. We met this which she was very jole and sang us a snog abot a hedghog it had dificut words. Jason try to kick her cat it chase him up a tre. I know a lot about wiches now they do not have warts they do not eat you they are just like your grane except your grane does not know difult words. At her high desk Susan relaxed. There was nothing like a classroom of bent heads. A good teacher used whatever materials there were to hand, and taking the class to visit Mrs Ogg was an education in herself. Two educations. A classroom going well had its own smell: a hint of pencil shavings, poster paints, long-dead stick insect, glue and, of course, the faint aroma of Billy. There had been an uneasy meeting with her grandfather. Shed raged that he hadnt told her things. And hed said of course he hadnt. If you told humans what the future held, it wouldnt. That made sense. Of course it made sense. It was good logic. The trouble was that Susan was only mostly logical. And so, now, things were back in that uneasy, rather cool state where they spent most of their time, in the tiny little family that ran on dysfunctionality. Maybe, she thought, that was a normal family state. When push came to shove - thank you, Mrs Ogg, shed always remember that phrase now - theyd rely on each other automatically, without a thought. Apart from that, they kept out of one anothers way. She hadnt seen the Death of Rats lately. It was too much to hope that he was dead. In any case, it hadnt slowed him down so far. That made her think wistfully about the contents of her desk. Susan was very strict about eating in class and took the view that, if there were rules, then they applied to everyone, even her. Otherwise they were merely tyranny. But maybe rules were there to make you think before you broke them. There was still half a box of Higgs & Meakins cheapest assortment tucked in there amongst the books and papers. Opening the lid carefully and slipping her hand in was easy, and so was the maintenance of a suitably teachery face while she did so. Questing fingers found a chocolate in the nest of empty paper cups, and told her that it was a damn nougat. But she was resolute. Life was tough. Sometimes you got nougat.

  Then she briskly picked up the keys and walked to the Stationery Cupboard with what she hoped was the purposeful step of someone about to check on the supply of pencils. After all, you never knew, with pencils. They needed watching. The door clicked behind her, leaving only the dim light through the transom. She put the chocolate in her mouth and shut her eyes. A faint, cardboardy sound made her open them. The lids were gently lifting on the boxes of stars. They spilled out and whirled up into the shadows of the cupboard, brilliant against the darkness, a galaxy in miniature, gently spinning. Susan watched them for a while, and then said, All right, you have my full attention, whoever you are. At least, that was what she meant to say. The peculiar stickiness of the nougat caused it to come out as: Allite, you ot my fo anenon, oover ooah. Damn! The stars spiralled around her head, and the cupboards interior darkened into interstellar black. If iss is oo, Def o Raffs- she began. Its me, said Lobsang. Tick Even with nougat, you can have a perfect moment.

  The End

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