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

Carol married Rod Jenkins of the Schmidt family in 1920, when he was just back from France - Rainbow Division and Rod picked up a Silver Star and a Purple Heart without losing anything. (One scar on his belly -) Rod had majored in mathematics at Illinois Tech. , specialising in topology, then he had joined up between his junior and senior years, came back and shifted to theatre arts. He had decided to try to shift from amateur magician to professional - stage magic, I mean. He told me once that being shot at had caused him to reassess his values and ambitions.

So Carol started her married life handing things to her husband on stage, while dressed in so little that she constituted misdirection every time she twitched. She tried to time it so that she had babies when Rod was resting. When that was not possible, she would go on working until a theatre manager called a halt. .. usually as a result of complaints by females not as well endowed. Carol was one of those fortunate women who got more beautiful as her belly bulged.

She parked her children with Rod's mother when she and Rod were on the road, but she usually had one or two with her, a privilege her youngsters all loved. Then, in' 55 (I think) Rod made a mistake in a bullet-catching illusion, and died on stage.

Carol did his act (or a magic act of some sort with his props) the next night. One thing was certain: she was not hiding props or rabbits in her costume. When she started working Reno and Vegas and Atlantic City, she trimmed it down to a G-string. She added juggling to her act.

Later, after coaching, she added singing and dancing. But her fans did not care what she did; they wanted Carol, not the gimmicks. Theatres in Las Vegas or Reno showed on their marquees just ‘CAROLITA! ' - nothing more. Sometimes she would stop in the middle of juggling and say, I'm too tired to juggle tonight and, anyhow, W. C. Fields did it better, ' and she would walk out on the runway and stop, hands on her hips, dressed in a G-string and a smile, and say, ‘Let's get better acquainted. You, there! Pretty little girl in a blue dress. What's your name, dear? Will you throw me a kiss? If I throw you one, will you eat it or throw it back to me? ' or, ‘Who has a birthday tonight? Hold up your hands. '

In a theatre crowd at least one in fifty is having a birthday, not one in three hundred and sixty-five. She would ask them to stand, and would repeat each name loudly and clearly - then ask all the crowd to sing Happy Birthday with her, and when the doggerel reached ‘Happy Birthday, dear - ‘ the band would stop and Carol would sing out each first name, pointing at the owner: ‘ - dear Jimmy, Ariel, Bebe, Mary, John, Philip, Amy, Myrtle, Vincent, Oscar, Vera, Peggy' - hand cue and the band would hit it - ‘Happy Birthday to you! '

If visitors had been allowed to vote, Carolita could have been elected mayor of Las Vegas by a landslide.

I once asked her how she remembered all those names. She answered, ‘It's not hard, Mama, when you want to remember. If I make a mistake, they forgive me - they know I've tried: She added, ‘Mama, what they really want is to think that I am their friend - and I am. '

During those ten years I travelled now and then to see my special darlings, but mostly I stayed home and let them come to me. The rest of the time I enjoyed being alive and enjoyed new friends, some in bed, some out, some both.

As the decade wore on and I approached one hundred, I found that I was experiencing more frequently a slight chill of autumn - joints that were stiff in the mornings, grey hairs among the red, a little sagginess here and there - and, worst of all, a feeling that I was becoming fragile and should avoid falling down.

I didn't let it stop me; I just tried harder. I had one fairly faithful swain at that time, Arthur Simmons - and it tikcled and pleased him when I referred to myself, in bed with him, as ‘Simmons' Mattress'.

Arthur was sixty, a widower, and a CPA, and an absolutely reliable partner in contract bridge - so dependable that I gave up the Italian method and went back to Goren because he played Goren. Shucks, I would have reverted to Culbertson had Arthur asked me to; an utterly honest bridge partner is that pearl of great price.

And so is a perfect gentleman in bed. Arthur was no world-class stud - but I was no longer eighteen and I never had Carols beauty. But he was unfailingly considerate and did his best.

He had one eccentricity; after our first time, in my apartment, he insisted on getting a motel room for each assignation. ‘Maureen; he explained, ‘if you are willing to make the effort to come where I am, then I know that you really want to. And vice versa, if I go out and rent a motel room, you know that I am interested enough to make an effort: When either of us stops making an effort, it is time to kiss and part, with no tears. '

In June 1982 that time had arrived; I think each of us was waiting for the other to suggest it. On 20 June I was heading on foot to an assignation with Arthur and was thinking that perhaps I had best bring up the matter during that quiet time after the first one. .. then a second one if he wanted it and say goodbye. Or would it be kinder to announce that I was making a trip back east to see my daughter? Or simply break sharp?

I had come to the intersection of Lomas and San Mateo Boulevards. I had never liked that crossing; the timing of the traffic light was short and the boulevards were wide - and getting wider lately. And today, because of repairs in progress on the PanAmerican Highway, truck traffic had been routed around the repairs by sending it down San Mateo, then west on Central, and the reverse for northbound traffic.

I was half-way across when the lights changed and a solid mass of traffic started at me, especially one giant truck. I froze, tried to run back, tripped and fell down.

I caught sight of a policeman, knew that the truck would get me, wondered briefly whether Father would recommend prayer after my heathen lifetime.

Somebody scooped me up off the pavement and I fainted.

It seemed to me that I was taken out of an ambulance and placed on a stretcher. I fainted again and woke up in bed. A pretty little dark woman with wavy hair was hovering over me. She spoke slowly and carefully in an accent that I thought was Spanish:

‘Mama Maureen. .. Tamara am I. For. .. Lazarus. .. and for all. .. your children. .. I bid you. .. welcome to Tertius! '

I stared at her, not believing my eyes. Or ears. ‘You are Tamara? You really are Tamara? Wife to Captain Lazarus Long? '

‘Wife am I to Lazarus. Tamara am I. Daughter am I, to you, our Mama Maureen Welcome, mama. We love you. '

I cried and she gathered me to her breast.