Chapter 3

The market was held on city property near the quaint courthouse every weekend all year round. It was a combination crafts market and farmer’s market, and was frequented by art and food connoisseurs as well as professionals.

Steven stepped out of the truck and took in a deep breath. He loved the market. It made him feel important. He looked around at the early visitors starting to trickle in. Some people came for the ambiance. Others were art collectors who resold what they found to businesses and restaurants in their respective cities. Steven’s main customers were chefs looking for distinctive honeys, though he did sell to a fair share of honey to enthusiasts, too. Every region blessed their honey with its own distinctive flavor and his was popular.

Jonah finished helping Steven set up his little honey booth. It was a modest but sturdy handmade table with a homemade display for his jars of honey and extra jars tucked underneath in their cases. Jonah’s predilection for playing in his woodshop resulted in a rustic, solid display for Steven’s jars of honey.

He mussed Steven’s head then moved a few stalls down to his own booth which currently displayed the latest harvest of the waning summer season. That harvest consisted mostly of squashes, pumpkins, fresh beans, corn and a big display of wild harvested mushrooms.

Steven looked at Jonah’s display and thought about how much he enjoyed helping Jonah with his stacks of wood that he cultivated mushrooms on, as well as scouring the forest around their property looking for wild mushrooms. If he had to choose one thing to eat, it would be mushrooms. Or figs. Steven thought for a second but was unable to decide between the two.

Farther down was Sally’s stall. She had just arrived and begun setting up her stoneware, pottery, glassware and woodenware that she made in her little shop on the farm. She had discovered working with clay when she first met Jonah’s grandparents and had taken to it obsessively. Most of their dishes were made in her shop, even the glasses they drank from.

“You forgot this, gloomy.” Sally plopped the basket with Steven’s lunch on the honey table, and adjusted his display. He grumped and adjusted the display back. She grinned as she walked toward her booth. “You’re welcome?”

“Thanks.” With her infectious effervescence, it was hard to stay mad at her. He peeked under the homespun cloth napkin covering his lunch and saw that she had included a small jar of canned peaches and a spoon along with the sandwich he had put together. He tried hard to not look too pleased as he tucked the basket under the table.

As he did so, he saw a pair of black leather shoes peeking under the tablecloth and heard a jar clinking up above. Steven stood up quickly to see a smartly dressed man with a graying, close trimmed goatee, wearing a tweed sport coat and gray slacks. He was holding a jar of his honey up to the sun, examining its clarity.

“Oh, hello, Dr. Dougherty.” Steven smiled. Dr. Dougherty was the town psychiatrist, but more importantly to Steven, his beekeeping protégé and friend. He had helped the physician revive his ailing hives earlier this season and was rather proud of the work they accomplished. “How are the bees?”

The doctor looked down at Steven and put the jar down. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he extracted a small jar of dark honey. “Spectacular, Steven. Absolutely spectacular.” He grinned, handing the jar to Steven. “My first harvest this year and the honey is sublime. A hint of citrus, of all things.” He shook his head. “I have seen it and still find it hard to believe. Your methods are completely unorthodox from everything I had learned before, and yet I have never seen hives become as strong as these.”

Steven shrugged, grinning. “Well, it’s not all me.”

“Thank you nonetheless, young Master Crow,” he said, giving a little bow. The psychiatrist looked at his watch. “Ah. I need to visit a few more stalls before my next appointment.” He straightened his jacket. “Come by the yard sometime. I could use your opinion on whether or not to combine a couple of late swarms before winter sets in.”

“Sure.” Steven tucked the small jar of honey into his lunch basket as Dr. Dougherty walked off, noticing that he stopped briefly at another booth a few stalls down. Steven wondered if he could get him to talk to his parents about computers. He was a therapist and may know how to reach them better than he’s been able to.

“I see James stopped by.” Jonah walked over grinning, startling Steven. “How’re his bees?”

“I think he’s pretty happy with them.” Steven tried hard to be modest. He was thrilled that his advice was working out so well for the man.

“Yeah, pretty happy.” Jonah laughed. “I’ve seen his little yard and his hives are already five and six deeps tall. Happy is an understatement. Just ten years old and you’re already getting consulting gigs. You’ll be a hard act to follow soon.” Something caught Jonah’s eye. “Hey, Brandon. Back in town already?”

Steven looked around Jonah as a tall, lanky young teen pulled up to the booth on his dual sport motorcycle. Steven could tell that Brandon had been modifying the motorcycle again and wondered what changes he had applied to it this time.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Crow. Mom and Dad dropped me off last night.” Brandon turned the motorcycle off and removed his helmet, shaking his auburn hair.

“Another wine tasting?” Jonah asked.

“Yeah. Hopefully next year they’ll be able to host their own wine tasting,” Brandon said.

“Well, you tell them the cuttings they gave me are growing great! I hope to get grapes next year,” Jonah said, smiling widely. Brandon nodded as Jonah noticed another customer coming up to his booth.

“‘Sup, Steven?” Brandon balanced on his motorcycle, grinning. Jonah gave Steven a knowing look, then rushed back to his booth to help the customer. “Coming over? I got a bunch of new games to play,” Brandon whispered conspiratorially when Jonah was out of earshot.

Steven glanced at Jonah who was sacking up some squash for a customer. “Can’t. The usual.” He rolled his eyes. “I really wish your parents wouldn’t disappear as soon as you get in town.”

Brandon smirked. “Well, I guess they’re happy to get away from me for a while.”

“I need you to download something for me, though.” Steven dug in his pocket and pulled out a piece of sketch paper he had scribbled instructions on, glancing over at Jonah to be sure he wasn’t eavesdropping. “Just follow this. Same as always.”

“If the site is available.” Brandon frowned as he looked at the file name.

“Huh?” Steven looked at Brandon, confused.

“The jailbreak site you gave me is down,” Brandon said, waving the paper.

“Really?” Steven looked over at Jonah to make sure their conversation still wasn’t being eavesdropped on.

“Yep. Just getting an error,” Brandon sighed. “My phone upgraded and the old jailbreak doesn’t work anymore.”

“Probably hit by denial of service. Give it a couple of days or so,” Steven said. “It usually clears out after that.” He pointed at the paper. “That IP address will give you a priority connection to the download section.”

“A couple of boring days gaming on my own,” Brandon said, looking over at Jonah and shaking his head.

“Sorry. Not until your parents get back.” Steven sighed as he played absentmindedly with his honey display.

“Man, you’re missing some killer action.” Brandon stuffed the paper in his pocket and fiddled with his helmet. “Really sucks. No one else can keep up like you can.”

“Maybe next week, if your parents don’t run off,” Steven said. Brandon’s parents were often busy working in their little vineyard so it was easy to sneak in some game playing time. “See you at the same place?”

Brandon nodded as he put his helmet back on. They bumped fists and he started the bike and zoomed off, swerving to avoid a poodle. Steven cracked a smile as the owner of the poodle shouted something at Brandon while picking the scared dog up.

Steven sighed, and got back to tending his booth. A few times he actually had a line. He loved seeing his regulars come up and rave about his honey. They brought back their empty jars and the canvas bags Sally had sewn together for his business so Steven could reuse them, and walked away with fresh jars of honey. As he was pulling more jars from the case to fill the display back up, someone plopped a small box on the table, still taped up from shipping. His eyes got big, and he grabbed it and opened it.

“My JTAG tool and memory! Sweet! I’ll be up and online in no time. Finally!” Steven grimaced and glanced back over to his adoptive parents who remained busy, then up at the person who brought the box. He was a short, stocky, graying man with metal rim glasses on his nose and a big smile. “Thanks, Dmitri. How much do I owe you?”

The town’s computer serviceman and librarian thought for a moment, then raised an eyebrow. “Five pounds.”

“What? That’s crazy! I could get away with three pounds easy.” Steven looked appalled, pushing the box away from him.

“That JTAG tool was really hard to get. And I got a Shikra device, and there’s wireless specs in there too that you don’t get just anywhere.” He smirked, pushing the box back.

Steven looked in the box and saw the booklet and flash drive tucked away in there and a USB connected tool. “Well, I might be able to part with four pounds. But I’m really pushing it.”

“Deal!” The Russian beamed. They always haggled like this and it was a game they both enjoyed. While most of his customers needed a virus removed or a repair, Steven really pushed the limits of his resources for the computer project he was working on. Grinning, Steven bagged up four bottles of his honey in a sewn canvas sack and pushed it toward him. “Don’t forget to bring the bottles and bag back when you’re done.”

“You bet.” He grabbed the bag and looked at the delicious honey. His wife would be so pleased. “How close are you?”

“I got it to boot up a couple days ago! I just need to get the wireless working and I’m in business.” Steven grinned. He’d built his computer by scavenging parts from several broken laptops and ordered what he couldn’t find from scraps to fill in the holes. “The new bootloader I wrote works great, but I’m having trouble getting the wireless driver to work. I think the chip is buggy and the manufacturer hacked it to work, so I just need to back trace their fix and make it work on my system. JTAG will be a lifesaver.”

Dmitri was about to pursue that line of thought when a couple of men in their young twenties stepped up to the booth. By their appearance, Steven guessed they were from Seattle or some other major metropolitan area. More chefs, he hoped. They usually took at least half of his cases. One was carrying a few canvas bags of produce and mushrooms. Steven could tell some came from Jonah’s booth. Definitely a chef, Steven thought to himself.

As they looked at the display, picking up a jar of honey and looking at it in the light, Steven grabbed a gallon jar of his honey and put it next to his display and pulled out his sample jar and a pair of fresh spoons. Dmitri moved over to let them shop the booth. He wanted to pick Steven’s brains a bit more about his little project so he waited patiently. It’s not every day a kid as young as Steven wrote his own operating system.

“So you’re the young beekeeper everyone is talking about,” the chef beamed, admiring the display of golden joy. “Shawn from Palm Kitchen wouldn’t stop talking about you so I had to come see for myself.” He took a sample and tasted it, closing his eyes. “Oh yeah. That will work great. I’ll take that gallon.” He looked at the display for a second. “And this.” He held up a block of wax. “My wife makes lotions and soaps.” His friend tried a sample, too, and nodded. “Wow. There’s nothing quite like real honey.”

“I remember Shawn. He was here last weekend.” Steven smiled widely. It was great to have chefs talk to each other and make the trip to get his honey. He grabbed another canvas bag and sacked up the honey and the wax. “If your wife likes the wax, I’ve got a lot more as well as propolis and pollen.” He held the handles of the bag up for them. “And let me know what your customers think of the honey. There’s lots more where that came from.”

The chef’s friend leaned in. “I heard you talking some serious computer talk. We have summer camps and intern programs you might be interested in.” He handed him a business card for a tech company in Seattle. “I handle recruiting and we’re always on the lookout for new talent.”

Steven looked over at Sally and Jonah to make sure they weren’t overhearing the conversation as he pocketed the business card. His computer project was getting more attention than he was comfortable with. “Thanks. Yeah, well, I dabble.” He wrote out a receipt for the chef, hoping the conversation wouldn’t continue.

“Dabble? Writing an operating system at your age?” Dmitri was particularly proud since he was Steven’s computer mentor, though now Steven was moving beyond even his own capabilities. “I used to teach him, but he teaches me nowadays,” he confided in the executive.

Steven grinned sheepishly. “It doesn’t do much right now. I forked in bits and pieces from other projects.”

“For now.” Dmitri winked at the computer executive. He had always encouraged Steven’s technical ambitions, in spite of his adoptive parents. He pointed at Steven proudly. “He is a legitimate genius. Absolutely amazing watching him work.”

Steven chuckled shyly, still uncomfortable with the conversation so close to Sally and Jonah. He handed the chef his receipt and thanked him and his friend as they moved on to the other booths, and Dmitri started to ask him more about his project when he stopped and smiled at someone behind him.

Steven looked over at Jonah’s booth and was shocked to see Jonah standing right beside him with a stack of books. Did he just walk up or did he overhear the discussion? Jonah plopped the stack of books on the table, jostling the jars of honey. “These just came in for you.” Steven looked at them. His homeschool textbooks.

“Um. Thanks?” Steven looked up at Jonah nervously, but Jonah showed no sign of having heard anything. He noticed Jonah giving Dmitri a stern look, though. A distraction might help. Steven fingered through a textbook that came with a video dvd. “I’m learning Cantonese this year? That’ll make seven languages.” Steven glanced at Dmitri and shook his head.

Dmitri quietly grabbed up his honey and wandered off, glancing furtively at Jonah. Their relationship perplexed Steven. They seemed to be good friends, but sometimes he could tell something was off. He usually spent a lot of time at the library checking out books, however, so he would talk to him about his computer project then.

“Cantonese should be easy for you. You learned Mandarin in three months and French in one. I’m running out of languages I can help you with.” Jonah played with the cover of one of the books thoughtfully.

Steven shrugged. “It’s just different ways of saying the same thing.”

“Now, be sure not to go through these too far ahead of the lessons. You do that every time and we have to follow a schedule to keep the state happy,” Jonah chided.

“Their schedule is too slow.” Steven grumbled as he looked at the books. “It’s like they’re trying to hold me back or something.” Steven was already a few years ahead of his normal grade and was on the verge of graduating high school before other kids entered junior high.

“We’re trying to keep a low profile here, Steven. You’ll finish these courses fast enough.”

“Okay.” Steven was still pleased as he flipped through a few pages. Fresh meat, he thought. He remembered the small box of computer parts sitting on the table and his heart jumped, but Jonah hadn’t noticed it. He placed a book on top of the box, hoping to obscure it even more.

His adoptive father shuffled through the stack of books and pulled out what he knew would be Steven’s favorite – a large sketchpad. “And, here ya go,” Jonah said as he presented it to him.

“Cool! I’m almost done with mine!” Steven grabbed it and flipped through the blank pages, savoring the new paper crispness of the pressed cotton sheets. Jonah grinned. He was delighted that Steven was so artistic. Steven looked around the books. “Did you get any more pencils?”

“Oh…” Jonah almost forgot and rushed back to his booth. Steven quickly tucked his box of computer parts under the table in his lunch basket, relieved. When he stood up there was another box on the table, but this time full of both color and black art pencils. “These should last you for a little while,” Jonah said.

“Excellent!” Steven opened the box and pulled out a pencil as he shoved the lunch basket under the table with his foot. His favorite way of passing time was drawing, and he went through pencils fast.

Steven grinned, as he looked around the market. Jonah ruffled his hair then returned to his booth. Steven nodded. Today ended up being a good day after all. Now he had to just finish at the market and head out to his tree house where all his computer work took place and get busy.

A young girl with wavy, red hair stopped at his booth and picked up a jar. She giggled as she held it in the sun. “This looks yummy.” Steven grinned and grabbed another canvas bag.

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