He came down the mountain one early summer afternoon, toward the end of what had not yet been dubbed the Hydrogen War. He was just in time t
He came down the mountain one early summer afternoon, toward the end of what had not yet been dubbed the Hydrogen War. He was just in time to catch the climax of the war.
His goal was to find a replacement for Melinda. Not that he believed he could. He had read the newsfiches. Yet he retained faint hope that someone like Melinda still existed and might want to be his companion.
Jet-cars passed him repeatedly. He ducked every time that happened, envisioning the car's riders staring down at him, even though the skyway was as high above him as the skyhomes that soared on their slender stalks. He had lived in such a home, once.
The groundhomes, where the poorer folk dwelt, worried him more. He sidled through the countryside, skirting the city of Cumberland at the foot of the mountain. Just as he was congratulating himself on his successful effort to avoid being seen, he rounded a forest and found himself facing a person.
He stepped back, intending to flee. But he could not, for the person was an old lady, and she was lying on the ground.
"Well, there you are," she said in a cheerful fashion, as though she had been awaiting him. "I figured that someone would find me eventually. It's this hip of mine. Makes it difficult for me to pick myself up when I fall. Will you lend me your arm?"
He'd as soon have cut off his arm and left it to do the work on its own. But he couldn't abandon her. With his heart thumping, he approached, taking care not to look her in the eye. He helped her up. It was like helping Melinda up after she had taken a spill, he told himself.
"Thank you very much, young man," the old lady said briskly when she was on her feet. "I used to have a cat who would squall something fierce when I fell down; she always attracted the attention of the neighbors. But last year . . . I still can't understand it. Why they killed all the pets, I mean," she added, as though it weren't obvious what she meant. "The Vovimians claimed their sonic weapons were intended to kill the dogs in the Yclau army, but to kill every pet in the Midcoast nations. . . . But here I am, chattering away." She smiled and offered her arm to shake. "I'm Mrs. William Allegany. You are . . . ?"
He said nothing. He couldn't have spoken, even if he were normal. Every pet, she'd said. Every pet in the four nations along the Midcoast of the Northern Continent.
He couldn't travel outside the Midcoast. He had no passport. Maybe he could buy an imported dog?
Mrs. Allegany's smile faded as it became clear he would not shake her arm. He should leave now, before matters worsened. Instead, he fumbled with a piece of paper from his pocket. He dropped it. Just an accident, that was all.
"Oh, dear." Mrs. Allegany looked down, then reached over with a gardening fork she had apparently been using to weed before she fell. She spiked the paper with it. "I can't bend down these days," she said with a smile. "Arthritis, you know. Is this yours? Or is it for me?"
He stared up at where the skyway remained thick with jet-cars. The paper was nothing to do with him. It had left him; it was no longer his.
But as he heard the paper rustle in her hands, he knew what it said.
Hello! My name is Melinda. I'm Phillip Schafer's service dog. Due to social neurosis, my master is unable to communicate directly with you. However, he can give messages to me, and I can give them to you. You don't need to write a message back. Just speak to me, and he will overhear what you say. Thank you! I'm so happy to meet you!
Mrs. Allegany raised her gaze from the paper, but only as far as Phillip's hands. He was holding now the collar, with Melinda's name upon it.
"I'm so sorry for your loss," Mrs. Allegany said softly.
Phillip looked down at the dog collar, feeling tears prickle his eyes.
"Lieutenant Mowbray was still talking to Pickering on the telephone when he completely destroyed the peace of the Coast Guard Air Rescue station. Hold"Lieutenant Mowbray was still talking to Pickering on the telephone when he completely destroyed the peace of the Coast Guard Air Rescue station. Holding the phone in one hand, he boosted himself up in bed and pressed the red alarm button on the wall." The dramatic adventures of a commercial airplane flying from Honolulu to San Francisco. Written by an author who had piloted such flights, the novel contains vivid descriptions of air travel and navigational assistance during the period following World War Two, as well as memorable characters and a tension-filled plotline....more
An absorbing, meticulously researched biography of a man who is best known for his pre-Stonewall gay erotic fiction. Through passages that range fromAn absorbing, meticulously researched biography of a man who is best known for his pre-Stonewall gay erotic fiction. Through passages that range from humorous to poignant, Justin Spring uses admirable detail to build up a day-to-day portrait of Samuel Steward. Steward emerges as a man of many facets, who was considered a prime candidate in the 1930s for entrance into America's elite circle of literary authors, but who spent much of his energy instead on "rough trade" and other sexual assignations (including sex with such celebrities as Lord Alfred Douglas). He befriended Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, as well as many gay authors and artists, some of whom ended up in his "Stud File." His carefully-kept sexual records fascinated Alfred Kinsey, who filmed him doing SM in 1952. When Steward turned in the 1950s from a career as a professor to a career as a tattoo artist (back in the years when this was a highly unrespectable calling), he eventually came in touch with a far more dangerous rough trade than had existed in his past. Steward spent his final years trying to convey to a new generation what gay life had been like from the 1920s forward.
"I don't know why [Rudolph Valentino] stopped in Columbus [Ohio], but there he was, absolutely incognito, because he would have been mobbed otherwise. So I went down to the hotel, my autograph book in hand, and knocked on the door, and he signed it . . . [He had been showering and wore only a towel but] he took the book and sat down and signed it. For a long time [after], there was the imprint of his damp palm on the page [of the autograph book]. He stood up . . . and I was about to leave, and he said, 'Is there anything else you want? I'm very tired.'
"I said, 'Yes, I'd like to have you.' And then he really did smile . . . He reached over and pushed the door shut . . . and with the other hand he undid his towel."
Mr. Spring doesn't flinch from the task of depicting Steward's sexual life (he does an excellent job of tracking down Steward's connections with hustlers and leathermen, for example), but perhaps because the sources that the biographer had access to were lacking in this area, I sometimes wished that he had said more about Steward's nonsexual life. For example, Mr. Spring speaks of the "remarkably warm friendship" that Steward had with Emma Curtis, a fellow teacher, and notes upon her death that, for over twenty years, Steward had been "sharing meals, seeing movies, and talking on the phone with her nearly every day." Yet she is rarely mentioned in the biography, which keeps insisting that Steward was incapable of intimate relationships with other people. Perhaps Mr. Spring merely means "with other men," for he documents many of Steward's letters and visits to Stein and Toklas, including a vivid image of Steward sitting by Toklas's bedside in her final years "as she slipped in and out of consciousness."
It is little touches like this that make the biography so moving. On a week in which I should instead have been doing research, I was unable to tear myself away from Justin Spring's tale of Samuel Steward's life....more