> Whenever I take up a newspaper and read it, I fancy I see ghosts creepin_etween the lines. There must be ghosts all over the world. They must be a_ountless as the grains of the sands, it seems to me.
MY Elizabethan boy friend put his fists on his hips and laid down the law t_s as if we were a lot of nervous children who'd been playing too hard.
"Look you, masters, this is a Recuperation Station and I am running it a_uch. A plague of all operations! I care not if the frame of things disjoint_nd the whole Change World goes to ruin, but you, warrior maid, are going t_est and drink more wine slowly before you tell your tale and your colleague_re going to be properly companioned. No questions, anyone. Beau, and you lov_s, give us a lively tune."
Kaby relaxed a little and let him put his hand carefully against her back i_oken of support and she said grudgingly, "All right, Fat Belly."
Then, so help me, to the tune of the Muskrat Ramble, which I'd taught Beau, w_ot girls for those two ETs and everybody properly paired up.
Right here I want to point out that a lot of the things they say in the Chang_orld about Recuperation Stations simply aren't so—and anyway they alway_eave out nine-tenths of it. The Soldiers that come through the Door ar_ooking for a good time, sure, but they're hurt real bad too, every one o_hem, deep down in their minds and hearts, if not always in their bodies or s_ou can see it right away.
Believe me, a temporal operation is no joke, and to start with, there isn'_ne person in a hundred who can endure to be cut from his lifeline and becom_ really wide-awake Doubleganger—a Demon, that is—let alone a Soldier. Wha_oes a badly hurt and mixed-up creature need who's been fighting hard? _On_ndividual_ to look out for him and feel for him and patch him up, and i_elps if the one is of the opposite sex—that's something that goes beyon_pecies.
There's your basis for the Place and the wild way it goes about its work, an_lso for most other Recuperation Stations or Entertainment Spots. The nam_ntertainer can be misleading, but I like it. She's got to be a lot more tha_ good party girl—or boy—though she's got to be that too. She's got to be _urse and a psychologist and an actress and a mother and a practica_thnologist and a lot of things with longer names—and a reliable friend.
NONE of us are all those things perfectly or even near it. We just try. Bu_hen the call comes, Entertainers have to forget grudges and gripes and envie_nd jealousies—and remember, they're lively people with sharp emotions—becaus_here isn't any time then for anything but _help and don't ask who_!
And, deep inside her, a good Entertainer doesn't care who. Take the way i_haped up this time. It was pretty clear to me I ought to shift to Illy,
although I wasn't quite easy in my mind about leaving Erich, because the Luna_as a long time from home and, after all, Erich was among anthropoids.
Ilhilihis needed someone who was _simpatico_.
I like Illy and not just because he is a sort of tall cross between a spide_onkey and a persian cat—though that is a handsome combo when you come t_hink of it. I like him for himself. So when he came in all lopped and shak_fter a mean operation, I was the right person to look out for him. Now I'v_ade my little speech and know-nothings in the Change World can go on makin_heir bum jokes. But I ask you, how could an arrangement between Illy and m_e anything but Platonic?
We might have had some octopoid girls and nymphs in stock—Sid couldn't be sur_ntil he checked—but Ilhilihis and Sevensee voted for real people and I kne_id saw it their way. Maud squeezed Mark's hand and tripped over to Sevensee
("Those are sharp hoofs you got, man"—she's picked up some of my language,
like she has everything else), though Beau did frown over his shoulder at Lil_rom the piano, maybe to argue that she ought to take on the ET, as Mark ha_een a real casualty and could use live nursing. But it was plain as day t_nybody but Beau that Bruce and Lili were a big thing and the last to b_isturbed.
Erich acted stiffly hurt at losing me, but I knew he wasn't. He thinks he ha_ great technique with Ghostgirls and he likes to show it off, and he reall_s pretty slick at it, if you go for that sort of thing and—yang my yin!—wh_oesn't at times?
And when Sid formally wafted the Countess out of Stores—a real blonde stunne_n a white satin hobble skirt with a white egret swaying up from her tiny hat,
way ahead of Maud and Lili and me when it came to looks, though transparent a_igarette smoke—and when Erich clicked his heels and bowed over her hand an_roudly conducted her to a couch, black Svengali to her Trilby, and started t_erman-talk some life into her with much head cocking and toothy smiling and _low of witty flattery, and when she began to flirt back and the dream look i_er eyes sharpened hungrily and focused on him—well, then I knew that Eric_as happy and felt he was doing proud by the _Reichswehr_. No, my littl_ommandant wasn't worrying me on that score.
MARK had drawn a Greek hetaera, name of Phryne; I suppose not the one wh_aybe still does the famous courtroom striptease back in Athens, and he wa_aking her up with little sips of his scotch and soda, though, from some look_e'd flashed, I got the idea Kaby was the kid he really went for. Sid wa_oaxing the fighting gal to take some high-energy bread and olives along wit_he wine, and, for a wonder, Doc seemed to be carrying on an animated an_ational conversation with Sevensee and Maud, maybe comparing notes on th_orthern Venusian Shallows, and Beau had got on to Panther Rag, and Bruce an_ili were leaning on the piano, smiling very appreciatively, but talking t_ach other a mile a minute.
Illy turned back from inspecting them all and squeaked, "Animals with clothe_re so refreshing, dahling! Like you're all carrying banners!"
Maybe he had something there, though my banners were kind of Ash Wednesday, _harcoal gray sweater and skirt. He looked at my mouth with a tentacle to se_ow I was smiling and he squeaked softly, "Do I seem dull and commonplace t_ou, Greta girl, because I haven't got banners? Just another Zombie from _illion years in your past, as gray and lifeless as Luna is today, not as whe_he was a real dreamy sister planet simply bursting with air and water an_eather forests. Or am I as strangely interesting to you as you are to me,
girl from a billion years in my future?"
"Illy, you're sweet," I told him, giving him a little pat. I noticed his fu_as still vibrating nervously and I decided the heck with Sid's orders, I'_oing to pump him about what he was doing with Kaby and the satyr. Couldn'_ave him a billion years from home and bottled up, too. Besides, I wa_urious.