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

There was no record of his service, as the regimental adjutant had ‘discharged' him and let Grampaw Acey take him home simply by destroying the paper work.

I think it is necessary to assume that Father was marked life.

During the nine days that Father and Tom waited at home before they could be inducted into army life I saw no indication that Mother disapproved (other than her first expression of surprise). But she never smiled. One could the tension between our parents. .. but they did not let it be seen.

Father did say something to me that, I think, had bearing on this tension. We were in his clinic and I was helping him to thin out and update his patients records so that he could turn them over to Dr Chadwick for duration of the war. He said to me, ‘Why no smiles, Turkey Egg? Worried about your young man? '

‘No, ' I lied. ‘He had to go; I know that. But I wish you weren't going. Selfish, I guess. But I'll miss you, cher papa. '

‘I'll miss you, too. All of you. ' He was silent for several minutes, then he added, ‘Maureen, someday you may faced - will be faced, I think - with the same thing: your husband going off to war. Some people say - I've heard talke that married men should not go. Because of their families.

‘But this involves a contradiction, a fatal one. The family man dare not hang back and expect the bachelor to do fighting for him. It is manifestly unfair for me to expect a bachelor to die for my children if I am unwilling to die for them myself. Enough of that attitude on the part of married men and the bachelor will refuse to fight if the married man stays safe at home. .. and the Republic is doomed. The barbarian will walk in unopposed. '

Father looked at me - looked worried. ‘Do you see? ' I think he was honestly seeking my opinion, my approval.

‘I - ‘I stopped and sighed. ‘Father, I think I see. But at times like these I am forced to realise that I am not very experienced. I just want this war to be over so that you can come home and Tom will come home. .. and -‘

‘And Brian Smith? I agree. '

‘Well, yes. But I was thinking of Chuck, too. Chuck Perkins. '

‘Chuck is going? Good lad! '

‘Yes, he told me today. His father has agreed and is going to Joplin with him tomorrow. ' I sniffed back a tear. ‘I don't love Chuck but I do feel sort of sentimental about him. '

‘That's understandable. '

Later that day I let Chuck take me up on Marston Hill and defied chiggers and Mrs Grundy and told Chuck I was proud of him and demonstrated it the very best I knew how. (I did use a sheath; I had promised Father. ) And an amazing thing happened. I had gone up there simply intending to run through some female calesthenics to demonstrate to Chuck that I was proud of him and appreciated his willingness to fight for us. And the miracle happened. Fireworks, big ones! I got all blurry and my eyes squinched shut and I found I was making loud noises.

And about half an hour later the miracle happened again. Amazing!

Chuck and his father caught the eight-oh-six out of Butler the next morning and were back that same afternoon - Chuck sworn in and assigned to the same company (C company, 2nd regiment) Tom was in, and with similar delay time. So Chuck and I went to another (fairly) safe spot, and I told him goodbye again, and again the miracle overtook me.

No, I did not decide I was in love with him, after all. Enough men had had me by then that I was not inclined to mistake a hearty orgasm for eternal love. But it was nice that they happened since I intended to tell Chuck goodbye as often and as emphatically as possible, come what may. And did, right up to the day, a week later, when it really was goodbye.

Chuck never came back. No, he was not killed in action; he never got out of Chickamauga Park, Georgia. It was the fever, whether malaria or yellow jack, I'm not sure. Or it could have been typhoid. Five times as many died of the fevers as were lost in combat. They are heroes, too. Well, aren't they? They volunteered; they were willing to fight. .. and they wouldn't have caught the fever if they had hung back, refused to answer the call.

I've got to drag out that soap box again. All during the twentieth century I've run into people who have either never heard of the War of 1898, or they belittle it. ‘Oh, you mean that one. That wasn't a real war, just a skirmish. What happened? Did he stub his toe, running back down San Juan hill? '

(I should have killed them! I did throw an extra dry martini into the eyes of one man who talked that way. )

Casualties are just as heavy in one war as in another. .. because death comes just once to the customer.

And besides. .. In the summer of 1898 we did not know that the war would be over quickly. The United States was not a superpower; the United States was not a world power of any sort. .. whereas Spain was still a great empire. For all we knew our men might be gone for years. .. or not come back. The bloody tragedy of 1861-65 was all we had to go by, and that had started just like this one, with the President calling for a few militiamen. My elders tell me that no one dreamed that the rebel states, half as big and less than half as populous and totally lacking in the heavy industry on which modern war rests - no sensible person dreamed that they could hold out for four long, dreary, death-laden years.

With that behind us, we did not assume that beating Spain would be easy or quick; we just prayed that our men would come back. .. some day.