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

I was waiting in the foyer outside the boardroom, intending not to go in until called - board meetings are dull rituals. .. but a crisis is sure to come up if you skip one.

Just as the light outside the boardroom started to blink a man came slamming in from outside, Mr Phineas Morgan, leader of a large minority bloc. He headed straight for the blinking light while shrugging off his overcoat. As he passed me, he chucked it at me. ‘Take care of it! '

I ducked aside, let his coat land on the floor. ‘Hey! Morgan! ' He checked himself, looked back. I pointed at the floor. ‘Your coat. '

He looked surprised, amazed, indignant, angry, and vindictive, all in one second. ‘Why, you little bitch! I'll have you fired for that. '

‘Go right ahead. ' I moved past him into the boardroom, found my place card, and sat down. A few seconds later he sat down opposite me, at which point his face managed still another expression.

Phineas Morgan had not intentionally tried to use a fellow director as a servant. He saw a female figure who, in his mind, must be hired staff - secretary, receptionist, clerk, whatever. He was late and in a hurry and assumed that this subordinate employee would as a matter of course hang up his coat so that he could go straight to roll call.

The moral? In 1970 on time line two the legal system assumed that a man is innocent until proved guilty; in 1970 on time line two, the cultural system assumed that a female is subordinate until proved otherwise - despite all laws that asserted that the sexes were equal.

I planned to kick that assumption in the teeth.

5 August 1952 marked the beginning of my bachelorhood because that was the day on which I resolved that from that time on I would be treated the way a man is treated with respect to rights and privileges - or I would raise hell about it. I no longer had a family, I was no longer capable of childbearing, I was not looking for a husband, I was financially independent (and then some! ), and I was firmly resolved never again ‘to send out the laundry' for some man merely because I use the washroom intended for setters rather than the one set aside for pointers.

I did not plan to be aggressive about it. If a gentleman held a door for me, I would accept the courtesy and thank him. Gentlemen enjoy offering little gallantries; and lady enjoys accepting them graciously, with a smile and a word of thanks.

I mention this because, by the 197=s, there were many females who would snub a man unmercifully if he offered a gallantry, such as holding a chair for a woman, or offering to help per in or out of a car. These women (a minority but a ubiquitous, obnoxious one) treated traditional courtesy as if it w ere an insult. I grew to think of these females as the lesbian Mafia. I don't know that all of them were homosexual (although I'm certain about some of them) but their behaviour caused me to lump them all together.

If some of them were not lesbians, then where did they find heterosexual mates? What sort of wimp would put up with this sort of rudeness in women? I am sorry to say that by 1970 there were plenty of wimps of every sort. The wimps were taking over. Manly men, gallant gentlemen, the sort who do not wait to be drafted, were growing scarce.

The principal problem in closing the house lay in the books; what to store, what to give away, what to take with me. The furniture and the small stuff, from pots and pans to sheets, would mostly be given to Good Will. We had been in that house twenty-three years, 1929 to 1952; most of the furniture was that old, or nearly so, and, after being worked over by a swarm of active children all those years, the market value of these chattels was too low to justify placing them in storage - since I had no intention of setting up a proper household in the foreseeable future.

I hesitated over my old upright piano. It was an old friend; Briney had given it to me in 1909 - second- (third-? ) hand even then; it was the first proof that Brian Smith Associates was actually in the black. Brian had paid fourteen dollars for it at an auction.

No! If my plans were to work out, I must travel light. Pianos can be rented anywhere.

Having resolved to give up my piano other decisions were easy, so I decided to start with the books. Move all books from al over the house into the living - no, into the dining room; pile them on the dining-table. Pile them high. Pile the rest on the floor. Who could believe that one house could hold so many books?

Roll in the big utility table; start stacking on it books to be stored. Roll in the little tea-table; place on it books to take with me. Set up card-tables for books to go to Good Will. Or to the Salvation Army? Whichever one will come and get the stuff, soonest, can have the lot - clothes, books, bedclothes, furniture, whatever. But they've got to come and get it.

An hour later I was still telling myself firmly: No! Don't stop to read anything! If you must read it, then put that book in the ‘take with' pile - you can thin it down later.

Then I heard the mewing of a cat.

I said to myself, ‘Oh, that girl! Susan, what have you dope to me? '

Two years earlier, we had become catless through the tragic demise of Captain Blood, grandson of Chargé d'Affaires - sudden death from a hit-and-run driver on Rockhill Boulevard. In the preceding forty-three years I had never tried keeping the house without a cat. I tend to agree with Mr Clemens, who rented three cats when he moved into his home in Connecticut in order to give a new house that lived-in feeling.

But this time I resolved to struggle along without a cat. Patrick was eighteen, Susan was sixteen; each had received his Howard list. It was predictable that each would be leaving the nest in the near future.

Cats have one major shortcoming. Once you adopt one, you are stuck for life. The cat's life, that is. The cat does not speak English; it does not understand broken promises. If you abandon it, it will die and its ghost will haunt your nights.

At dinner the day Captain Blood was killed none of us ate much and we were not talkative. At last Susan said, ‘Mama, do we start watching the want-ads? Or do we go to the Humane Society? '

‘For what, dear? ' (I was intentionally obtuse. )

‘For a kitten, of course. '

So I laid it on the Tine: ‘A kitten could live fifteen years, or longer. When you two leave home this house will be sold, as I have no intention of rattling around in a fourteen-room house, alone. Then what happens to the cat? '

‘Nothing. Because there is not going to be a cat. '

About two weeks later Susan was a bit late getting home from school. She came in and said, ‘Mama, I must be gone a couple of hours. An errand. ' She was carrying a brown paper sack.

‘Yes, dear. May I ask why and where? '