The Complete Stories (Page 249)

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He turned to Marge, "Madam, is your bosom imperfect?"

Marge’s eyes opened wide and she struggled vainly for moments without doing anything more than gasp loudly. "Really/" she finally managed. "Maybe I’m no Gina Lollobrigida or Anita Ekberg, but I’m perfectly all right, thank you. Oh boy, if my Ed were only here." She turned to Charlie. "Listen, you, you tell this bug-eyed slimy thing here, there ain’t nothing wrong with my development."

"Lady," said Charlie, softly. "I ain’t looking, remember?"

"Oh, sure, you ain’t looking. You been peeking enough, so you might as well just open your crummy eyes and stick up for a lady, if you’re the least bit of a gentleman, which you probably ain’t."

"Well," said Charlie, looking sideways at Marge, who seized the opportu-

nity to inhak and throw her shoulders back, "I don’t like to get mixed up in a kind of delicate matter like this, but you’re all right-I guess."

"You guess? You Hind or something? I was once runner-up for Miss Brooklyn, in case you don’t happen to know, and where I missed out was on waist-line, not on-"

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Charlie said, "All right, all right. They’re fine. Honest." He nodded vigorously in Botax’s direction. "They’re okay. I ain’t that much of an expert, you understand, but they’re okay by me."

Marge relaxed.

Botax felt relieved. He turned to Garm. "The bigger form expresses interest, Captain. The stimulus is working. Now for the final step."

"And what is that?"

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"There is no flash for it, Captain. Essentially, it consists of placing the speaking-and-eating apparatus of one against the equivalent apparatus of the other. I have made up a flash for the process, thus: kiss."

"Will nausea never cease?" groaned the Captain.

"It is the climax. In all the tales, after the skins are removed by force, they clasp each other with limbs and indulge madly in burning kisses, to translate as nearly as possible the phrase most frequently used. Here is one example, just one, taken at random: ‘He held the girl, his mouth avid on her lips.’"

"Maybe one creature was devouring the other," said the Captain.

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"Not at all," said Botax impatiently. "Those were burning kisses."

"How do you mean, burning? Combustion takes place?"

"I don’t think literally so. I imagine it is a way of expressing the fact that the temperature goes up. The higher the temperature, I suppose, the more successful the production of young. Now that the big form is properly stimulated, he need only place his mouth against hers to produce young. The young will not be produced without that step. It is the cooperation I have been speaking of."

"That’s all? Just this-" The Captain’s hands made motions of coming together, but he could not bear to put the thought into flash form.

"That’s all," said Botax. "In none of the tales; not even in ‘Recrea-tionlad,’ have I found a description of any further physical activity in connection with young-bearing. Sometimes after the kissing, they write a line of symbols like little stars, but I suppose that merely means more kissing; one kiss for each star, when they wish to produce a multitude of young."

"Just one, please, right now."

"Certainly, Captain."

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Botax said with grave distinctness, "Sir, would you kiss the lady?" Charlie said, "Listen, I can’t move." "1 will free you, of course." "The lady might not like it."

Marge glowered. "You bet your damn boots, I won’t like it. You just stay away."

"I would like to, lady, but what do they do if I don’t? Look, I don’t want to get them mad. We can just-you know-make like a little peck."

She hesitated, seeing the justice of the caution. "All right. No funny stuff, though. I ain’t in the habit of standing around like this in front of every Tom, Dick and Harry, you know."

"I know that, lady. It was none of my doing. You got to admit that."

Marge muttered angrily, "Regular slimy monsters. Must think they’re some kind of gods or something, the way they order people around. Slime gods is what they are!"

Charlie approached her. "If it’s okay now, lady." He made a vague motion as though to tip his hat. Then he put his hands awkwardly on her bare shoulders and leaned over in a gingerly pucker.

Marge’s head stiffened so that lines appeared in her neck. Their lips met.

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Captain Garm flashed fretfully. "I sense no rise in temperature." His heat-detecting tendril had risen to full extension at the top of his head and remained quivering there.

"I don’t either," said Botax, rather at a loss, "but we’re doing it just as the space travel stories tell us to. I think his limbs should be more extended- Ah, like that. See, it’s working."

Almost absently, Charlie’s arm had slid around Marge’s soft, nude torso. For a moment, Marge seemed to yield against him and then she suddenly writhed hard against the pinioning field that still held her with fair firmness.

"Let go." The words were muffled against the pressure of Charlie’s lips. She bit suddenly, and Charlie leaped away with a wild cry, holding his lower lip, then looking at his fingers for blood.

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"What’s the idea, lady?" he demanded plaintively.

She said, "We agreed just a peck, is all. What were you starting there? You some kind of playboy or something? What am I surrounded with here? Playboy and the slime gods?"

Captain Garm flashed rapid alternations of blue and yellow. "Is it done? How long do we wait now?"

"It seems to me it must happen at once. Throughout all the universe, when you have to bud, you bud, you know. There’s no waiting."

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