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

‘Now, Maureen - ‘

‘ "Now Maureen" my tired feet! We'll keep it out of the papers, certainly. But I want five copies of Ken's best shot, one for each of us. And Ken is entitled to a copy for his own files, if he wants it. '

We agreed on that and Justin asked for one to place in the Archives.

I thought at the time that Justin was being unnecessarily cautious. I was wrong. Justin, in instituting and stubbomly pressing the policy later known as the Masquerade, caused our cousins to enter the Interregnum of the Prophets with eighty per cent having public ages under forty, only three per cent with public ages over fifty. Once the Prophet's thought police were active it became both difficult and dangerous to switch backgrounds and change identities; Justin's foresight made it usually unnecessary to attempt it.

According to the Archives Brian died in 1998 at the age of 119 - a newsworthy age in the twentieth century. But his public age at that time was eighty-two, which is not newsworthy at all. Justin's policies allowed almost all Howard clients to enter the Interregnum (2012) with reduced public ages that let them live and die without conspicuously living too long.

Thank God I didn't have to cope with it! No, not ‘Thank God' - Thank Hilda Mae, Zeb, Deety, Jake, and a wonderful, lovable machine named ‘Gay Deceiver'. I would like to see all five of them right now; Mama Maureen needs rescuing again.

Maybe Pixel will find them. I think he understood me.

Several out-of-towners stayed over the weekend, but by Tuesday morning 5 August I was alone - truly alone for the first time in my seventy years of life. My two youngest - Donald, sixteen, and Priscilla, fourteen - were still unmarried. But they were no longer mine. In the divorce settlement, they had elected to stay with the children they had been living with as brothers and sisters - and who were now legally their brothers and sisters as Marian had adopted them.

Susan was the youngest of the four who had lived with Betty Lou and Nelson during the War, and the last to marry.

Alice Virginia had married Ralph Sperling right after the War ended; Doris Jean married Roderick Briggs the following year; and Patrick Henry, my son by Justin, had married Charlotte Schmidt in 1951.

Betty Lou and Nelson moved to Tampa shortly after I returned home, taking with them their three who were still at home. Her parents and Nelson's mother Aunt Carole were in Florida; Betty Lou wanted to look after all of them. (How old was Aunt Carole in 1946? She was the widow of Father's elder brother, so she - Goodness! In 1946 she must have been on or near her century mark. Yet she looked the same as ever the last time I had seen her, uh - shortly before Japan's sneak attack in ‘41. Did she dye her hair? )

On Saturday I had been triste not only because my last chick was getting married and leaving home but also (and primarily) because Susan's wedding day was Father's century day; he was born 2 August 1852.

Apparently no one associated the date with Father, and I mentioned it to no one because a wedding day belongs to the couple getting married and no one should bring up any subject, say or do anything, that might subtract from the joyfulness of the occasion. So I had kept quiet.

But I was constantly aware of the date. It had been twelve years and two months since Father had gone to war. .. and I had missed him every one of those four thousand, four hundred, and forty-one days - and most especially during the years after Brian turned me in for a newer model.

Please understand me; I am not condemning Brian. I had stopped being fertile around the beginning of World War Two, whereas. Marian was still decidedly fertile - and children are the purpose of a Howard-sponsored marriage. Marian was willing and able to bear him more children but she wanted that marriage licence. That's understandable.

Neither of them tried to get rid of me. Brian assumed that I would stay, until I made it clear that I would not. Marian begged me to stay, and cried when I left.

But Dallas is not Boondock, and the unnatural practice of monogamy is as rooted in the American culture of the twentieth century as group marriage is rooted in the quasi anarchistic, unstructured culture of Tertius in the third millennium of the diaspora. At the time I decided not to stay with Brian and Marian I had no Boondock experience to guide me; I simply knew in my gut that, if I stayed, Marian and I would be locked, willy-nilly, in a struggle for dominance, a struggle that neither of us wanted, and that Brian would be buffeted by our troubles and made unhappy thereby.

But that does not mean that I was happy about leaving. A divorce, any divorce no matter how necessary, is an amputation. For a long time I felt like an animal that has gnawed off its own leg in order to escape from a trap.

By my own time line all this happened more than eighty years ago. Am I still resentful?

Yes, I am. Not at Brian - at Marian. Brian was a man with no malice in him; I am sure in my heart that he did not intend to mistreat me. At worst, one may say that it was not too bright of him to impregnate his sons widow. But how many men are truly wise in their handling of women? In all history you can count them on the fingers of one thumb.

Marian - She is another matter. She rewarded my hospitality by demanding that my husband divorce me. My father had taught me never to expect that imaginary emotion, gratitude. But am I not entitled to expect decent treatment from a guest under my roof?

Gratitude: an imaginary emotion that rewards an imaginary behaviour, altruism. Both imaginaries are false faces for selfishness, which is a real and honest emotion. Long ago Mr Clemens demonstrated in his essay ‘What is Man? ' that every one of us act at all rimes in his own interest. Once you understand this, it offers a way to negotiate with an antagonist in order to find means to cooperate with him for mutual benefit. But if you are convinced of your own altruism and you try to shame him out of his horrid selfishness, you will get nowhere.