“Come on, dad! You said we could play Snow and Smoke tonight!” Ryan tugged on one of Barras’s strong arms.
Barras chuckled. “I’m eating supper! Go play with Patr for a little bit.”
“Come on, dad! Come on!” He kept tugging.
Barras scooped the child up and squished him into a hug. “Not yet! Get outta here before I sit on you!”
Ryan roared at his father and ran into the next room. A crash sounded a moment later.
“I need to check that, don’t I?” Barras asked Lindonna as she sat at the table.
“Well, I’m not going to. I’d like to eat today, thank you.”
“Not my fault you didn’t eat yet.”
“Your baby wanted to be fed.”
“Why is he always my baby when he’s hungry?”
“Because that’s when he’s taking after you. When he’s being cute, he’s taking after me. Obviously.” Lindonna smirked and munched a bite of potato.
Barras sighed as he stood. “I didn’t want to eat with my bride anyway.”
“Go play with your children. We’ll have plenty of time to play later.” The smirk didn’t leave her lips.
“Daddy, why do you look so happy?” Patr asked as Barras entered the next room.
The large man chuckled as he squatted on the floor. “Because. All right. Snow and Smoke. Where’s the board?”
Ryan cheered and ran to the little shelf, pulling out the game.
“Someone’s here!” Patr squealed and sprinted to the sealed door.
Barras groaned as he stood up again. “Got it, hon!”
Lindonna called out from the dining room, “It’s probably just Kelvin trying to get some of your bonus money. Tell him no!”
Barras yanked open the heavy door and said nothing. A man in a dark, long coat stood smiling in the snowfall. “Barras Tenyer, I assume?”
“I’m Officiant Valerius McCay. I wanted to thank you for finding the heat springs today.” He took off a woolen glove and offered his hand.
“Um. Thank you.” Barras blinked and shook his hand. “Would you care to come in?”
“Thank you. I would.” The officiant nodded and stepped inside.
Barras sealed the door. “Why did you come?”
Ryan ran up to the visitor. “Are you a guest? Can we get you supper? Will you play Snow and Smoke with me?”
Barras shooed him away. “Sorry about that, officiant.”
“Please, call me Val. And I’d love to play with you. What’s your name?”
“I’m Ryan, like dad’s brother who got black lung and died when he was eight and dad wants me to be like him because he liked adventures and got into trouble but I shouldn’t be like him.”
The officiant laughed. “Of course, Ryan. And what’s your name?”
The smaller boy smiled. “Patr.”
“Another excellent name.” The officiant sat cross-legged on the floor. “So, where’s the board? You can’t play Snow and Smoke without a board!”
“Officiant, I’m sorry, but this is very strange. Why are you here?”
“I told you. I like giving thanks to those who discover new sources of heat. You’ve done a fine thing for the Pits today, Barras. And it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to play Snow and Smoke. How could I say no to such wonderful children?”
“Well, I was just doing my job.”
“Good. I’m glad of it. And I think people should be thanked for doing their jobs.” The officiant set up his pieces – Ryan provided a blue set – and continued, “The heat barons don’t care about the workers. I do. And I want to express my thanks whenever possible. You gave me an excuse to do that today. So, thank you.”
Lindonna swept into the room. “Officiant! Forgive my husband; we don’t have guests here often. Can I get you something to drink?”
To read more of the world of Snow and Smoke, click here.
Read the previous story, Who You Know, here.
Read the next story, A Personal Affront, here.