Жанр книги: Научная Фантастика
Robert A Heinlein To Sail Beyond The Sunset

The kitten was an adorable mass of silver grey fluff and was at first named Fluffy Ruffles through an error in sex; she was a he. But he demonstrated such lightning changes in mood, direction, speed, and action that Brian remarked, ‘That kitten doesn't have a brain; he just has a skull full of random numbers, and whenever he bangs his head into a chair or ricochets off a wall, it shakes up the random numbers and causes him to do something else. '

So Fluffy Ruffles became Random Numbers or Random or Randie.

As soon as the snow was gore in the spring of ‘07 we installed a croquet lawn in our back yard. At first it was played by us four adults. (Over the years it was played by everyone. ) Then it was four adults and Random Numbers. Every time a ball was hit that kitten would draw his sword and charge! He would overtake the ball and throw himself on it, grabbing it, all four limbs. Imagine, please, a grown man stopping a rolling hogshead by throwing himself around it. Better imagine football pads and a helmet for him.

Random wore no pads; he went into action wearing nothing but fluff and his do-or-die attitude. That ball must be stopped, and it was up to him to do it - Allah il Allah Akbar!

Only one solution - Lock up the cat while playing croquet. But Betty Lou would not permit that.

Very well, add to the roles this special ground rule: anything done to a croquet ball by a cat, good or bad, was part of the natural hazards; you played it that way.

I remember one day when Nelson picked up the cat and cradled it in his left arm, then used his mallet with one hand. Not only did it not help him - Random jumped out of his arm and landed ahead of the bail, causing Nelson to accomplish nothing - but we also convened a special session of the Supreme Croquet Court and ruled that picking up a cat in an attempt to influence the odds was unfair to cats and an offence against nature and must be punished by flogging the villain around the regimental square.

Nelson pleaded youth and inexperience and long and faithful service and got off with a suspended sentence, although a minority opinion (from Betty Lou) called for Nelson to drive to a drugstore and fetch back six ice-cream cones. Somehow the minority opinion prevailed, although Nelson complained that fifteen cents was too heavy a fine for what he had done and the cat should pay part of it.

Eventually Random Numbers grew up, became sedate, and lost his enthusiasm for croquet. But the cat rule remained and was adjudged to apply to any cat, be he resident or travelling salesman, and to puppies, birds, and children under the age of two. At a later time I introduced this rule on to the planet Tertius.

Did I mention the transaction under which I obtained Random Numbers from Mr Renwick? Perhaps I didn't. He wanted to swap a little pussy for a little pussy - that's the, way he expressed it. I walked right into that because I asked what he wanted for the kitten - expecting him to say that there was no charge as the kitten hadn't cost him anything. I did not expect anything else because, while I was aware that some pedigreed cats were bought and sold, I had never actually encountered one. In my experience kittens were always given away, free.

I had not intended ever again to let. Mr Renwick inside the house; I remembered the first time. But I was unexpectedly confronted with a fact: Mr Renwick carrying a cardboard shoebox with a kitten in it. Grab the box and shut the door in his face? Open the box on the front porch when he was warning me that the kitten was eager to escape, and scraping, scrambling sounds confirmed it? Lie to him, tell him, sorry, we have already acquired a kitten?

When the telephone rang -

I wasn't really used to having a telephone. I felt that a ringing telephone meant either bad news or Briney was calling; either way, I had to answer it at once. I said, ‘Excuse me! ' and fled, leaving him standing in our open door.

He followed me in, through the central hall, and into my sewing-room/offiee/chore room, where I was on the phone. There he put the shoebox down in front of me, and opened it. .. and I saw this adorable grey kitten while I was talking with my husband.

Brian was on his way home and had called to ask if there was anything I wanted him to pick up.

‘I don't think so, dear. But do hurry home; I have your kitten. She's a little beauty, just the colour of a pussy willow. Mr Renwick brought her, the driver for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. He's trying to screw me, Briney, in exchange for the kitten. .. No, I'm quite certain. He not only said so, but he has come up behind me and put his arm around me and is now playing with my breasts. .. What? .. . No, I didn't tell him anything of the sort. So do hurry. I won't fight with him, dear, because I'm pregnant. I just give in. .. Yes, sir; I will. Au ‘voir. ' I hung up the receiver. .. although I had thought of using it like a policeman's truncheon. But I truly was unwilling to fight while I had a baby inside me.

Mr Renwick did not let go of me, but when what I was saying penetrated his head, he held still. I turned around in his arms.

‘Don't try to kiss me, ' I said. ‘I don't want to risk so much as a cold while I'm pregnant. Do you have a rubber? A Merry Widow? '

‘Uh. .. Yes. '

‘I thought you would have; I'm sure I'm not the first housewife you've tried this with. All right; do please use it, as I don't want to contract a social disease, and neither do you. Are you married? '

‘Yes. Christ, you're a cool one! '

‘Not at all. I simply won't risk being raped while I'm carrying a baby; that's all. Since you are married, you don't want to catch anything, either, so put on that rubber. How long does it take to drive from 31 st and Woodland? ' (Brian had called from 12 th and Walnut, much further away. )

‘Uh. .. Not very long. '

‘Then you'd better hurry or my husband will catch you at it. If you really do mean to do this to me:

‘Oh, the hell with it! ' He abruptly let go of me, turned away and headed for the front door.

He was fumbling with the latch when I called out, ‘You forgot your kitten! '

‘Keep the damned cat! '

That is how I ‘bought' Random Numbers.

Raising kittens is fun, but raising children is the most fun - if the children happen to be your own - if you happen to be the sort of person who enjoys bearing and rearing children. For Jubal was right; it is subjective, a matter of one's individual disposition. I had seventeen children on my first go-around and greatly enjoyed rearing all of them - each different, each individual - and I've had more since my rescue and rejuvenation, and have enjoyed them even more because Lazarus Long's household is organised so that taking care of babies is easy for everyone.

But I often find other people's children repulsive and their mothers crashing bores, especially when they talk about their disgusting offspring (instead of listening to me talking about mine). It seems to me that many of those little monsters should have been drowned at birth. They strike me as compelling arguments for birth control. As my father pointed out years ago, I am an amoral wretch. .. who does not necessarily regard an unfinished human being, wet and soiled and smelly at one end and yelling at the other, as ‘adorable'.