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

‘Uh. .. No, sir. Not specifically. '

‘Then you have told me a bedroom secret without the consent of the other person affected by the secret. Materially affected, as it is his reputation at risk as well as yours. Maureen; you have no right to place another person at risk without his knowledge and consent and you know it. '

I kept quiet a long, cold moment. ‘Yes. I was wrong. Goodnight, sir. '

‘Goodnight, my darling daughter. I love you. '.

When Brian returned, he told us that he would be going back to Plattsburg again in 1917 - if we were not already at war by then. ‘They want some of us to get there early and turn instructor to help train the new ones with no military experience. .. and if I will, I go from second to first lieutenant in a hurry. No promise in writing. But that's the policy. Beau-père, can you be here next year? Why don't you just stay on? No point in your opening up your flat again, and I'll bet that Mo's cooking is better than the restaurant cooking at that Greek joint under your flat. Isn't it? Careful how you answer. '

‘It's somewhat better. '

‘"Somewhat! " I'll burn your toast! '

We had a small war on our southern border in 1916; ‘General' Pancho Villa raided across the border again and again, killing and burning. ‘Black Jack' Pershing, of Mindanao fame, who had been jumped by President Roosevelt from captain to brigadier-general, was sent by President Wilson to find and seize Villa. Father had known Pershing when they were both captains in the fight against the Moros; Father thought well of him and was delighted with his meteoric rise (with more to come).

Father pacified a small war at home, for he did stay on with us, and largely took Woodrow out of my hands, with full authority to exercise on Woodrow the low, the middle, and the high justice without consulting either of his parents. Both Brian and I were relieved.

Father took a shine to my sixth child, and that left me free to hold Woodrow as favourite in my heart, with no need or temptation to let it show. (My children were all different, and I liked each one of them differently, just as with other people. .. but I did my utter best to treat them all with even justice, without any favouritism in act or manner. I tried. Truly I tried. )

At this great distance, more than a century, I think I at last know why my least likeable son was my favourite: because he was most like my father, both in his good points and his bad. My father was by no means a saint. .. but he was ‘my kind of a scoundrel'. .. and my son Woodrow was almost his replica, sixty years younger, the same faults, the same virtues - and the two most stubborn males I have ever met.

Perhaps an unbiased judge might think that we three were ‘triplets' - aside from the unimportant fact that we were father, daughter, and daughter's son. .. and that they each were as emphatically male as I am female (I am so totally every minute a set of female glands and organs, that I can cope with it only by carefully simulating the sort of ‘lady' approved by Mrs Grundy and Queen Victoria).

But those two males were stubborn. Me? Me stubborn? How could you think such a thing?

Father clobbered Woodrow as necessary (frequently), took over his education as he had taken over mine, taught him to play chess at four, did not need to teach him to read - like Nancy, Woodrow taught himself. It left me free to rear my other, civilised, well-behaved children with no difficulty and with no need to raise my voice. (Woodrow could have pushed me into being the sort of screaming scold I despise. )

Father's ‘adoption' of Woodrow left me more time with my lovely and loving and lovable husband. All too soon it was time for him to leave again for Plattsburg. Then I settled down for a truly dry spell. Nelson had been in town part of the time the year before. But now Brian Smith Associates had moved its physical location to Galena where Nelson was supervising a new mine that Brian had bought into, when his survey showed its worth but its developer needed more capital. Anita Boles had married and left us; our KC office was now just a post office box number, a telephone number transferred back to our house, and a little clerical work I could handle with ease, as my biggest boy, Brian junior, now twelve, picked up the mail from the box on his bicycle each day on his way home from school.

So Nelson, my only utterly safe ‘relief husband' was too far away. .. and my father, the puritanical shikepoke, was watching me closely. .. so Maureen resigned herself to four, five, possibly six months in a nunnery.

Father often spent a couple of hours in the evening at a pool hall he called his ‘chess club'. On a rainy night at the end of February he surprised me by bringing a stranger home with him.

He thereby subjected me to the greatest emotional shock of my life.

I found myself offering my hand and greeting a young man who matched in every way (even to his body odour, which I caught quite clearly - clean mate, in fresh rut) - a man who was my father as my earliest memory recalled him.

While I smiled and made small talk, I said to myself, ‘Don't faint. Maureen, you must not faint. '

For I had immediately gone into high readiness to receive a male. This male. This male who looked like my father, thirty years younger. I forced myself not to tremble, to keep my voice low, to treat him exactly like any other welcome guest brought to my house by husband or father or child.

Father introduced him as Mr Theodore Bronson. I heard Father say that he had promised Mr Bronson a cup of coffee, which gave me the respire I needed. I smiled and said, ‘Yes indeed! For a cold and rainy night. Gentlemen, do be seated' - and fled into the kitchen.

The time I spent in the kitchen, slicing pound cake, dishing up mints, setting out coffee service, cream and sugar, transferring coffee from the kitchen-range coffee-pot into a silver ‘company' serving-pot - this busy-ness gave me time to pull myself together, not expose my own rut and (I hoped) cover some of my body odour simply by the odours of food and the fact that female clothing in those days was all-encompassing. I hoped that Father would not notice what I had been sure of, that Mr Bronson felt the same way about me.

I carried in the tray; Mr Bronson jumped up and helped me with it. We had coffee and cake and small talk. I need not have worried about Father; he was busy with an idea of his own. He too had seen the family resemblance. .. and had formed a theory: Mr Bronson was a by-blow of his brother Edward, killed in a train wreck not long after I was born: Father had us stand up, side by side, then look in the mirror over the mantelpiece together.

Father trotted out this possible theory of Mr Bronson's ‘orphan' origin. It was many months before he admitted to me that he suspected that Mr Bronson was not my cousin through my rakehell Uncle Edward, but my half-brother through Father himself.

The talk that night let me, with all propriety and right under my father's nose, tell Mr Bronson that I looked forward to seeing him at church on Sunday and that my husband expected to be home for my birthday and we would expect him for dinner. .. since it was Mr Bronson's birthday, too!

He left soon after that. I bade Father goodnight and went up to my lonely room.

First I took a bath. I had bathed before supper but I needed another one - I reeked of rut. I masturbated in the tub and my breasts stopped hurting. I dried down and put on a nightgown and went to bed.

And got up and locked my bedroom door and took off my gown and got naked back into bed, and masturbated again, violently, thinking about Mr Bronson, how he looked, the way he smelled, the timbre of his voice.

I did it again and again, until I could sleep.