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

Priscilla came downstairs about 10. 0 p. m. and said that she was hungry. I told her that dinner was long over but that she could fix herself a sandwich and a glass of milk - which she did, and then joined me in the family room. .. and started in on recriminations.

I cut her short. ‘Priscilla, you will not sit there and call me names while eating my food. Stop one or the other. '

‘Mama, you're cruel! '

‘That counts as name calling. '

‘But - Oh, I'm so unhappy! '

That was self-evident and did not call for comment, it seemed to me, so I went back to watching Walter Cronkite and listening to his sonorous pronouncements.

She gloomed around for some days, then discovered the advantages of living close to school, of having a family room that was hers to use as she liked, and of a mother who permitted almost any racket and mess as long as it was cleaned up afterwards - or at least once or twice a week. The house started to be filled with young people. I found that as Priscilla became happy, so did I.

In late September I came downstairs one Friday night about eleven for a glass of milk and a midnight snack, and heard those give-away squeaks coming out of the maid's room across from the kitchen. I was not tempted to disturb them as I felt relief rather than worry, especially as the sound effects proved that Priscilla had learned to have orgasms as readily with another male as with her brother. But I went up and checked a calendar in my bathroom, one that duplicated the one in hers - and saw that it was a ‘safe' day for her and then felt nothing but relief. I never expected Priscilla to give up sex. Once they start and find they like it, they never quit. Or perhaps I should say that I would worry if one did.

The next day I called Jim Rumsey and asked him to take a smear and a blood test each time I sent Priscilla in, as I did not trust her judgement and knew she might be exposed.

He snorted. ‘Do you think I'm not on the ball? I check everybody. Even you, you old bag. '

‘Thanks, dear! ' I threw him a kiss through the screen.

It was shortly after that cheerful occasion that George Strong called me.

‘Dear lady, I'm just back in town. I have good news. ' He smiled shyly. ‘Delos agrees that you must be on the board. We can't put it to the stockholders until the annual meeting but an interim appointment can be made by the director if a vacancy occurs between stockholders' meetings. It so happens that one of my assistants is about to resign. As a director, not as my assistant. Could you attend a directors' meeting in Denver on Monday the sixth of October? '

‘Yes, indeed. I am enormously pleased, George. '

‘May I pick you up at ten? A company rocketplane will take us to Denver, arriving there at ten, mountain time. The directors' meeting is at ten thirty in the Harriman Building, followed by luncheon at the top of the same building - a private dining-room with a spectacular view. '

‘Delightful! George, are we returning later that day? '

‘We can if you wish, Maureen. But there are some beautiful drives around that area, and I have a car and a driver available. Does that appeal to you? '

‘It does indeed! George, be sure to fetch envelope number three. '

‘I will be sure to do so. Until Monday, then, dear lady. '

I moved around in a happy fog, wishing that I could tell my father about it - how little Maureen Johnson of Muddy Roads, Mizzourah, was about to be named a director of the Harriman empire, through an unlikely concatenation: first, an adulterous love affair with a stranger from the stars; second, because her husband left her for another woman; and third, an autumn affair between an immoral grass widow and a lonely bachelor.

If Brian had kept me, I could never have become a director in my own person. While Brian had not begrudged me any luxury once we were prosperous, aside from my household budget I had actually controlled only ‘egg money' - even that numbered Zurich bank account had only been nominally mine. Brian was a kind and generous husband. .. but he was not even remotely a proponent of equal rights for women.

Which was one reason I refused George Strong's repeated proposals of marriage. Although George was twenty years younger than I (a fact I never let him suspect), his values were rooted in the nineteenth century. As his mistress I could be his equal; were I to marry him, I would at once became his subordinate - a pampered subordinate, most likely. .. but subordinate.

Besides, it would be a dirty trick to play on a confirmed old bachelor. His proposals of marriages were gallant compliments, not serious offers of civil contract.

Besides, I had become a confirmed old bachelor myself - even though I found myself unexpectedly rearing one more child and a problem child at that.

My problem child - What to do about Priscilla while I was in Colorado overnight? Or possibly over two nights - if George suggested staying another day, at Estes Park, or Cripple Creek, would I say no?

Were I living alone with only Princess Polly to worry about, I could stuff her into a kennel and ignore her protests. Would that I could do so with a strapping big girl who outweighed me! .. . but who lacked sense enough to boil water.

What to do? What to do?

‘Priscilla, I am going to be away from home overnight, possibly two nights. What would you prefer to do while I am gone? '

She looked blank. ‘Why are you going away? '

‘Let's stick to the point. There are several possibilities. You can stay overnight or over two nights with a chum from school, if you like. Or you could stay with Aunt Velma -‘

‘She's not my aunt! '

‘True and you need not call her that. It is simply customary among Howards to use such terms among ourselves to remind us of our common membership in the Howard families. Suit yourself. Now please let's get back to the main question: what do you prefer to do while I'm away? '

‘Why do I have to do anything? I can stay right here. I know you think I can't cook. .. but I can rustle my grub for a couple of days without starving. '

‘I'm sure you can. Staying here was the next possibility that I was about to mention. I can find someone to come stay with you so that you won't have to be alone. Your sister Margaret, for example. '

‘Peggy's a pill! '