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

Pixel took one look at them and skittered away. Two of them, one on each side, started shaving the skin behind my ears.

‘What's going on? ' I demanded. ‘May one ask? '

‘Hold still. This is for the electrodes. You have to be animated for the ceremony. '

‘What ceremony? '

‘After your trial and execution. Quit wiggling. '

So I wiggled harder and he back-handed me across the face, when four others carne in and suddenly the first four were dead and shoved under my cot. Then they unsnapped my leashes from the walls.

One said quietly, just above a whisper, ‘We're from the Committee for Aesthetic Deletions. Look scared and don't make it too easy for us to lead you out of here. '

Looking scared I could do, with no practice. They took me out into the corridor, on down and past the ‘courtroom' door, then a sharp left and through a freight door onto a loading dock, where I was shoved into a lorry and the door clanged shut. Then it opened again; somebody chucked in a cat. The door slammed shut and the lorry started up with a jerk. I fell down with a cat on top of me.

‘Is that you, Pixel? '

‘Mrrow! ' (Don't be silly! )

We're still in the lorry and rolling. Now where was I? Oh, yes - I woke up early from a nightmare in which one of my sons was humping his sister and I was saying, ‘Dear, you really ought not to do that on the front lawn; the neighbours will notice - ‘when the dream woke me and I heaved a sigh of relief; it was just a dream. Then I realised that it had not been all that much a dream; the essence of it was too, too solid flesh - and came wide awake with a shot of adrenalin. Oh, Christ! Oh, Mary's drawers! Donald, did you knock up your sister? Children, I do want to help you. .. but, if you have let that happen, it won't be easy.

I got up and peed, and sat there and again heard the rhythmic music I had heard in the night. .. and it had the same effect on me; it turned me on. And I felt better as in all my life I have never been able to feel both horny and depressed at the same time. Had those kids been at it all night?

When the squeaks stopped, I flushed the pot, not having wanted to disturb them until they were through. Then I used the bidet, so that I would not start the day whiffing of rut. I brushed my teeth and gave my face and hair a lick and a promise.

I dug out of my wardrobe an old summer bathrobe of Patrick's that I had confiscated when I gave him a new one for his honeymoon. For Priscilla I found a wrap of mine. And one for me.

Then I tapped on their door. Priscilla called out, ‘Come in, Mama! ' She sounded happy.

I opened the door and held out the robes. ‘Good morning, darlings. One for each of you. Breakfast in twenty minutes. '

Priscilla bounced out of bed and kissed me. Donald approached more slowly but did not seem much troubled at being caught in his skin by fierce old Mama. The room reeked even more than 1 remembered.

Something brushed past my legs - Her Serene Highness. She jumped up on the bed and started purring loudly. Priscilla said, ‘Mama, she bumped against the door last night, making a terrible racket, so I got up and let her in. She stayed with us a short while, then she jumped down, and demanded that I open the door again. So I did, and closed it behind her. It could not have been a half-hour before she was banging on the door again. This time I ignored her. Uh. .. we were busy. '

‘She resents closed doors, ' I explained. ‘Any closed door. I leave mine ajar and she spent the rest of the night with me. Or most of it. Hmm - She's Susan's cat and you have Susan's room. Do you want to move? Otherwise she is likely to wake you at any hour. '

‘No, I'll just train Donnie to get up and hold the door for her. '

‘Now see here, Slugger -‘

I stirred up muffins and popped a Pyrex pan of them into the oven on a six -minute cycle. While the muffins were baking I set up baked eggs wrapped in bacon in another muffin pan. When the oven pinged, I transferred the muffins to the warmer, reset the cycle and put in the bacon and eggs. While they cooked, I poured orange juice and milk, and started the samovar to cycle. That left me time to set the breakfast table with happy mats and gaudy Mexican crockery - a cheerful table.

Priscilla appeared. ‘Donnie will be right down. May I help? '

‘Yes, dear. Go out into the back yard and cut some yellow roses for that bowl in the middle. Make it quick; I am about to serve the plates. Polly Down off that table! Take her with you, please. She knows better but she always crowds the limits. '

I served the plates and sat down just as Donald appeared. ‘May I help? '

‘Yes, you can keep the cat off the table. '

‘I mean, really help. '

‘You'll find that a full-time job. '

Thirty minutes later I was working on my second cup of tea while Priscilla served another pan of muffins and more bacon, and opened another jar of Knott's Berry Farm marmalade. I was feeling as contented as Princess Polly looked. When you come right down to it, children and cats are more fun than stocks, bonds, and other securities. I would get these two married (but not to each other! ) and then it would be soon enough for Maureen, the Hetty Green of the fast new world, to tackle the Harriman empire, force it to stand and deliver. ‘Polly! Get out of that marmalade! Donald, you are supposed to be watching that cat. '

‘I am watching her, Mama. But she's faster than I am. '

‘And smarter. '

‘Who said that? Who said that? Slugger, you'll rue the day. '

‘Stop it, children. Time we talked about the Howard Foundation. '

Quite a while later Donald said, ‘Let me get this straight. You're saying that I have to marry a girl on my list and Priss has to marry a man on her list? '

‘No, no, no! Nothing of the sort. Nobody has to marry anybody. If you do marry, it will be your own free choice and it need not be another Howard. There is just one marriage you can't make and that is to each other. Oh, you could marry each other; there are thousands of incestuous marriages in this country - so some Kinseys have calculated. You could do it by cutting out on your own again, supporting yourselves somewhere else and somehow until you both look old enough to convince a county cerk that you are over twenty one. You could do that and I would make no effort to stop you.

‘But I would not help you. Not a thin dime. I'm not going to try to give you a course in genetics this morning, but I will later. Just let it stand for the moment that close incest isn't just against the Bible, and against the laws of Missouri and all the other fifty-five states, it's against natural laws because it makes unhealthy babies:

‘I know that. But I could get a vasectomy. '