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

By New Year's Eve I had decided to ask Father to submit my name to the Howard Foundation. .. not for the money (I still did not know that the payments could amount to enough to matter) but because I would welcome a chance to meet more eligible males; the hunting in Lyle County was too poor to suit Maureen. I had firmly made up my mind that, while sex might not be the be-all and end-all, I did want to marry and it had to be a man who would make me eager to go to bed early.

In the meantime, I kept on trying to make Maureen as desirable a female animal as I could manage and I listened most carefully to my father's advice. (I knew that what I really wanted was a man just like my father, but twenty-five years younger. Or twenty. Make that fifteen. But I was prepared to settle for the best imitation I could find. )

There were two hundred days left in 1897 from that day Chuck and I climbed up into the judges' stand; that makes 200 x 24 x 60 - 288, 000 minutes. Circa 45 of those minutes I spent copulated; that leaves 199 days, 23 hours, 15 minutes. It is obvious that I had time for other things.

That summer was one of the best of my life. While I did not get laid very often or very effectively, the idea was on my mind awake and asleep. It brightened my eyes and my days; I shed female pheromones like a female moth and I never stopped smiling - picnics, swimming parties in the Osage (you wouldn't believe what we wore), country dances (frowned on by the Methodist and Baptist churches but sponsored by jack Mormons who welcomed gentiles who might be converted - Father overruled Mother; I went and learned to swing on the corners and dosey-doh), watermelon contests, any excuse to get together.

I stopped thinking about the University of Missouri at Columbia. From Father's books I could see that there just wasn't money to put me through four years of college. I was not anxious to be a nurse or a schoolteacher, so there seemed to be little point in my aspiring to formal (and expensive) higher education. I would always be a bookworm but that does not require a college degree.

So I decided to be the best housewife I could manage - starting with cooking.

I had always taken my turn in the kitchen along with my sisters. I had been assistant cook for the day in rotation since my twelfth birthday. By fifteen I was a good plain cook.

I decided to become a good fancy cook.

Mother remarked on my increased interest. I told her the truth, or some of it. ‘Chére mama, I expect to be married someday. I think the best wedding present I can bring my future husband is good cooking. I may not have the talent to become a gourmet chef. But I can try. '

‘Maureen, you can be anything you want to be. Never forget that'

She helped me, and she taught me, and she sent away to New Orleans for French cookbooks, and we pored over them together. Then she sent me for three weeks to Aunt Carole's house, who taught me Cajun skills. Aunt Carole was a Johnny Reb, married after the War to - Heavens - a damn Yankee, Father's eldest brother, Uncle Ewing, now deceased. Uncle Ewing had been in the Union occupation of New Orleans, and had poked a sergeant in the nose over a distressed Southern girl. It got him a reduction from corporal to private and a wife.

In Aunt Carole's house we never discussed the War.

The War was not often discussed in our own house as the Johnsons were not native to Missouri, but to Minnesota. Being newcomers, by Father's policy we avoided subjects that might upset our neighbours. In Missouri sympathies were mixed - a border state and a clave state, it had veterans from both sides. But that part of Missouri had been ‘local option' - some towns had never had any claves and now permitted no coloured people; Thebes was one such. But Thebes itself was so small and unimportant that the Union troops had ignored it when they came through there in'65, burning and looting. They burned Butler to the ground and it never fully recovered. But Thebes was untouched.

Even though the Johnsons had come down from the North, we were not carpet baggers as Missouri never seceded; Reconstruction did not touch it. Uncle Jules, Father's cousin in Kansas City, explained our migration this way:

‘After fighting four years in Dixie, we went back home to Minnesota. .. and stayed just long enough to pack up again and git. Mizzourah ain't as hot as Dixie but it ain't so cold, that the shadows freeze to the sidewalks and the cows give ice-cream. '

Aunt Carole put a polish on my cooking and I was in and out of ha kitchen quite a lot until I married. It was during that three weeks that the matter of the lemon pie took place - I think I mentioned it earlier.

I baked that pie. It was not my best work; I had burned the crust. But it was one of four, and the other three were all right. Getting the temperature just right on a wood range is tricky.

But how did my Cousin Nelson get that pie into church without anyone seeing it? How did he slide it under me without my noticing it?

He made me so furious that I went straight home (to Aunt Carole's house), then, when Nelson showed up to apologise, I burst into tears and took him straight to bed. .. and had one of those three fireworks occasions.

Sudden impulse and quite reckless and we got away with it cold.

Thereafter I let Nelson have me from time to time when we could figure out a safe way right up to my wedding. Which did not quite finish it, as years later he moved to Kansas City.

I should have behaved myself with Nelson; he was only fourteen.

But a smart fourteen. He knew that we didn't dare get caught; he knew that I couldn't marry him no matter what and he realised that he could get me pregnant and that a baby would be disaster for each of us.

That Sunday morning he held still while I put a French purse on him, grinned and said, ‘Maureen, you're smart. ' Then he tackled me with unworried enthusiasm and brought me to orgasm in record time.

For the next mo years I kept Nelson supplied with Merry Widows. Not for me; I carried my own. For his harem. I started him off; he took up the sport with zeal and native genius, and never got into trouble. Smart.

Besides cooking, I endeavoured to straighten out Father's accounts receivable, with less success. After consulting with Father 1 sent out some polite and friendly dunning letters. Have you ever written over one hundred letters, one after another, by hand? I found out why Mr Clemens had grabbed the first opportunity to shift from pen to typewriter - first author to do so.

Dear Mr Deadbeat,

In going over Dr Johnson's books I find that your account stands at umpteen dollars and that you have made no payment on it since March 1896. Perhaps this is an oversight. May we expect payment by the first of the month?

If it is not possible for you to pay the full amount at once, will you please call at the Clinic this Friday the tenth so that we can work out arrangements mutually satisfactory?