Friday, p.40

Friday, страница 40



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  And so does Wendy. Were it not impossible I would guess that she gets her horniness from her mother—me, I mean. She had not yet turned fourteen the first time she came home and said, “Mum, I guess I’m pregnant.” I told her, “Don’t guess about it, dear. Go see Uncle Freddie and get a mouse test.”

  She announced the result at dinner, which turned it into a party because, by long custom, in our family whenever a female is officially pregnant is occasion for rejoicing and merriment. So Wendy had her first pregnancy party at fourteen—and her next one at sixteen—and her next one at eighteen—and her latest one just last week. I’m glad she spaced them because I reared them, all but the newest one; she got married for that one. So I have never been short of babies to pet, even if we didn’t have four—now five—no, six—mothers in this household.

  Matilda’s first baby has a number-one father—excellent stock. Dr. Jerry Madsen. So she tells me. So I believe. Like this: Her former master had just had her sterility reversed, intending to breed her, when he got this chance to sell her services for a high-pay four-months’ job. So she became “Shizuko” with the shy smile and the modest bow and chaperoned me—but conversely I chaperoned her without intending to. Oh, had she tried, she might have found a little night life in the daytime…but the fact was that she spent almost twenty-four hours of each day in cabin BB to be sure to be there whenever I came back.

  So when? The only time that it could happen. While I was huddled under that turbogenerator, half frozen, with Percival, my “maid” was in my bed with my doctor. So that young man has fine parents! Joke: Jerry now lives in New Brisbane with his sweet wife, Dian—but Tilly has not let him suspect that he has a son in our household. Is this another “startling coincidence”? I don’t think so. “Medical doctor” is one of the contribution-free professions here; Jerry wanted to get married and stop spacing—and why would anyone choose to settle down on Earth when he has had opportunity to shop the colonies?

  Most of our family go to Jerry now; he’s a good doctor. Yes, we have two M.D.s in our family but they have never practiced; they used to be gene surgeons, experimental biologists, genetic engineers—and now they are farmers.

  Janet knows who are the fathers of her first child, too—both her husbands of that time, Ian and Georges. Why both? Because she wanted it that way and Janet has a whim of steel. I’ve heard several versions but it is my belief that she would not choose between them for her first child.

  Betty’s first one is almost certainly not a knife job and may be legitimate. But Betty is such a slashing outlaw that she would rather have you believe that she caught that child at a gang bang during a masquerade ball. New Brisbane is a very quiet place but no household that has Betty Frances in it can ever be dull.

  You may know more about the return of the Black Death than I do. Gloria credits my warning with having saved Luna City but it is more nearly correct to credit it to Boss—my short career as soothsayer was as Trilby to his Svengali.

  Plague did not get off Earth; that was surely Boss’s doing…although once, at the critical time, New Brisbane signaled that a landing boat could not land unless it was first exposed to vacuum, then repressurized. Sure enough, this treatment killed some rats and mice—and fleas. Its captain stopped talking about charging the drill to the colony after this showed up.

  Contributions: Mail between Botany Bay and Earth/Luna takes four to eight months, round-trip—not bad for a hundred and forty light-years. (I once heard a tourist lady ask why didn’t we use radio mail?) Gloria paid my contribution to the colony with all possible speed and was lavish in setting me up with capital—Boss’s will gave her leeway. She didn’t send gold here; these were bookkeeping entries in the colony’s account in Luna City, under which farm implements or anything can be shipped to Botany Bay.

  But Pete had little on Earth to draw on and Tilly, a quasi-slave, had nothing. I still had a piece left of that lottery windfall and all of my final paycheck and even a few shares of stock. This got my fellow jumpers out of hock—our colony never turns back a jumper…but it may take him years to pay his share in the colony.

  They both fussed. I fussed right back and worse. Not only is it all in the family but without the help of both Percival and Matilda I almost certainly would have been caught, then wound up on The Realm—dead. But they still insisted on paying me.

  We compromised. Their payments and some from the rest of us started the Asa Hunter Bread-Upon-the-Waters Revolving Fund, used to help jumpers or any new chum.

  I no longer think about my odd and sometime shameful origin. “It takes a human mother to bear a human baby.” Georges told me that long ago. It’s true and I have Wendy to prove it. I’m human and I belong!

  I think that’s all anybody wants. To belong. To be “people.”

  My word, do I belong! Last week I was trying to figure out why I was so short on time. I’m secretary of the Town Council. I’m program chairman of the Parents-Teacher Association. I’m troop mistress of the New Toowoomba Girl Scouts. I’m a past president of the Garden Club, and I’m on the planning committee of the community college we’re starting. Yes, I belong.

  It’s a warm and happy feeling.

  About the Author

  ROBERT ANSON HEINLEIN was born in Butler, Missouri, in 1907. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he was retired, disabled, in 1934. He studied mathematics and physics at the graduate school of the University of California and owned a silver mine before beginning to write science fiction in 1939. In 1947 his first book of fiction, Rocket Ship Galileo, was published. His novels include Double Star (1956), Starship Troopers (1959), Stranger In a Strange Land (1961), and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), all winners of the Hugo Award. Heinlein was guest commentator for the Apollo 11 first lunar landing. In 1975 he received the Grand Master Nebula Award for lifetime achievement. Mr. Heinlein died in 1988.



  Robert A. Heinlein, Friday

  (Series: # )




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