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

After that Mad Tea Party in which I woke up in bed with a cat and a corpse in Grand Hotel Augustus, Pixel and I wound up in the office of Dr Eric Ridpath, house physician, where we met his office nurse, Dagmar Dobbs - a gal who was at once awarded Pixel's stamp of approval. Dagmar was giving me a GYN examination, when she told me that tonight was La Fiesta de Santa Carolita.

It is a good thing that just before she put me on the table she had required me to pee in a cup, or I might have peed in her face.

As I have explained in excessive detail, ‘Santa Carolita' is my daughter Carol, born in Gregorian 1902 at Kansas City on Tellus Prime, time line two, code Leslie LeCroix.

Lazarus Long had initiated ‘Carol's Day' on 26 June 1918 Gregorian, as a rite of passage for Carol, marking her transition from childhood to womanhood. Lazarus toasted Carol in champagne, telling her what a wonderful thing it was to be a woman, naming for her both the privileges and the responsibilities of her new and exalted status, and declaring that 26 June shall now and forever be known as ‘Carol's Day'.

the notion of calling it ‘Carol's Day' had suggested itself to Lazarus from something he remembered from a thousand years in the future - or in the past, depending on your time frame. On the frontier planet New Beginnings he and his wife Dora had declared ‘Helen's Day' to celebrate puberty in their oldest child, Helen. That was their stated purpose. Their unstated purpose was to attempt to place some control over the sexual behaviour of their growing sons and daughters, in order to head off the sort of tragedy I ran into with Priscilla and Donald.

Neither Lazarus nor I (nor Dora) had moralistic notions about incest, but all of us had feared the damage incest can do, both genetically and socially. ‘Helen's Day' and ‘Carol's Day' gave each set of parents some leverage in handling the touchy problems of sex in young people, problems that can so easily end in tragedy. .. but need not.

(I most despise in Marian her self-indulgent failure to carry out the parental duty of maintaining discipline. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child' is not sadistic; it is hard common sense. You fail your children worst if you do not punish them when they need it. The lessons you fail to teach them will be taught later and much more harshly by a cruel world, the real world where no excuses are accepted, the world of TANSTAAFL and of Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did. )

Lazarus told me (centuries later or years later - a matter of viewpoint) that he was half-way through his toast to Carol when he suddenly realised that he was inaugurating the most widespread holiday of the human race: Carolita's Day - and that he has been trying ever since to decide which came first: the chicken or the egg.

Chicken or egg, Carol's Day did develop over the centuries and on many planets into a public holiday - this I learned when I was taken to Tertius. Usually it was celebrated just for the fun of it, the way the Japanese celebrate Christmas, as a secular holiday having nothing to do with religion.

But in some cultures it developed as a religious holiday peculiar to theocracies: the safety-valve holiday, the day of excesses, of sin without punishment, the saturnalia.

While I got out of those silly stirrups and down off that cold table and put on my ‘clothes' (a caftan rigged. from a beach towel), Dr Ridpath and Dagmar looked over my test results. They pronounced me healthy-merely out of my skull, which neither of them seemed to regard as important.

Dr Ridpath said, ‘Explain things to her, Dag. I'm going to take a shower and get ready. '

‘What do you want to do, Maureen? ' Dagmar asked me. ‘Doc tens me that your total assets are that terry-cloth tent you're wearing and this orange cat. Pixel! Stop that! This is not a night you can go to a police station and ask your way to the county poor farm; tonight the cops skin down and join in the riot. ' She looked me up and down. ‘If you go out on the streets tonight - well, you'd have a quieter time in a lions' den. Maybe you like such things - many do. Me, f'rinstance. But tonight a gal is either locked up or knocked up. You can stay here, sleep on the couch. I can find you a blanket. Pixel! Get down from there! '

‘Come here, Pixel: I held out both hands; he jumped into my arms. ‘How about the Salvation Army? '

‘The what? '

I tried to explain. She shook her head. ‘Never heard of it. Sounds like another of your daydreams, dear; nothing of that sort is ever authorised by the Church of Your Choice. '

‘What church is your choice? '

"Huh? Your choice, my choice, everybody's choice - the Church of the Great Inseminator, of course - what other church be there? If it's not your choice, a ride on a rail might clarify your thinking. It would mine. '

I shook my head. ‘Dagmar, I'm more and more confused. Back where I come from there is total religious freedom. '

‘That's what we have here, ducks - and don't let a proctor hear you say anything else. ' She suddenly smiled like the Wicked Witch of the West. ‘Although there are always some proctors and some priests found stone-cold dead in the dawn's early light, grinning in risus sardonicus, the morning after Saint Carol's feast; I am not the only widow with a long memory. '

I must have looked stupid. ‘You're a widow? I'm sorry. '

‘I talk too much. Not all that tragic, luv. Marriages are made in Heaven, as everybody knows, and my patron priest picked just the man Heaven had in mind for me, no possible doubt and you'll never hear me say otherwise. But when Delmer - my appointed soul mate - fell out of favour at the throne and was trimmed, well, I cried but not too long. Delmer is an altar boy now and quite a favourite among the male sopranos, so I understand. The awkward part is that since he isn't actually dead, just trimmed, I can't marry again. ' She looked bleak.