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       Love Story, p.1

           Irving E. Cox
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Love Story

  Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at

  Transcriber's Note:

  This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science Fiction April 1956. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

  _love story_


  _Illustrated by Paul Orban_

  _Everything was aimed at satisfying the whims of women. The popular cliches, the pretty romances, the catchwords of advertising became realities; and the compound kept the men enslaved. George knew what he had to do...._

  * * * * *

  The duty bell rang and obediently George clattered down the steps from hisconfinement cubicle over the garage. His mother's chartreuse-coloredCadillac convertible purred to a stop in the drive.

  "It's so sweet of you to come, Georgie," his mother said when Georgeopened the door for her.

  "Whenever you need me, Mummy." It was no effort at all to keep thesneer out of his voice. Deception had become a part of his character.

  His mother squeezed his arm. "I can always count on my little boy todo the right thing."

  "Yes, Mummy." They were mouthing a formula of words. They were bothvery much aware that if George hadn't snapped to attention as soon asthe duty bell rang, he risked being sentenced, at least temporarily,to the national hero's corps.

  Still in the customary, martyr's whisper, George's mother said, "Thishas been such a tiring day. A man can never understand what a womanhas to endure, Georgie; my life is such an ordeal." Her tone turned atonce coldly practical. "I've two packages in the trunk; carry them tothe house for me."

  George picked up the cardboard boxes and followed her along the brickwalk in the direction of the white, Colonial mansion where his motherand her two daughters and her current husband lived. George, being aboy, was allowed in the house only when his mother invited him, orwhen he was being shown off to a prospective bride. George wasnineteen, the most acceptable marriage age; because he had amagnificent build and the reputation for being a good boy, his motherwas rumored to be asking twenty thousand shares for him.

  As they passed the rose arbor, his mother dropped on the wooden seatand drew George down beside her. "I've a surprise for you, George--anew bidder. Mrs. Harper is thinking about you for her daughter."

  "Jenny Harper?" Suddenly his throat was dust dry with excitement.

  "You'd like that, wouldn't you, Georgie?"

  "Whatever arrangement you make, Mummy." Jenny Harper was one of thefew outsiders George had occasionally seen as he grew up. She wasapproximately his age, a stunning, dark-eyed brunette.

  "Jenny and her mother are coming to dinner to talk over a marriagesettlement." Speculatively she ran her hand over the tanned,muscle-hard curve of his upper arm. "You're anxious to have your ownwoman, aren't you, George?"

  "So I can begin to work for her, Mummy." That, at least, was thecorrect answer, if not an honest one.

  "And begin taking the compound every day." His mother smiled. "Oh, Iknow you wicked boys! Put on your dress trunks tonight. We want Jennyto see you at your best."

  She got up and strode toward the house again. George followedrespectfully two paces behind her. As they passed beyond the gardenhedge, she saw the old business coupe parked in the delivery court.Her body stiffened in anger. "Why is your father home so early, may Iask?" It was an accusation, rather than a question.

  "I don't know, Mother. I heard my sisters talking in the yard; I thinkhe was taken sick at work."

  "Sick! Some men never stop pampering themselves."

  "They said it was a heart attack or--"

  "Ridiculous; he isn't dead, is he? Georgie, this is the last straw. Iintend to trade your father in today on a younger man." She snatchedthe two packages from him and stormed into the house.

  Since his mother hadn't asked him in, George returned to hisconfinement cubicle in the garage. He felt sorry, in an impersonalway, for the husband his mother was about to dispose of, but otherwisethe fate of the old man was quite normal. He had outlived his economicusefulness; George had seen it happen before. His real father had dieda natural death--from strain and overwork--when George was four. Hismother had since then bought four other husbands; but, because boyswere brought up in rigid isolation, George had known none of themwell. For the same reason, he had no personal friends.

  He climbed the narrow stairway to his cubicle. It was already lateafternoon, almost time for dinner. He showered and oiled his bodycarefully, before he put on his dress trunks, briefs made of blacksilk studded with seed pearls and small diamonds. He was permitted towear the jewels because his mother's stockholdings were large enoughto make her an Associate Director. His family status gave George ahigh marriage value and his Adonis physique kicked the asking pricestill higher. At nineteen he stood more than six feet tall, evenwithout his formal, high-heeled boots. He weighed one hundred andeighty-five, not an ounce of it superfluous fat. His skin was deeplybronzed by the sunlamps in the gym; his eyes were sapphire blue; hiscrewcut was a platinum blond--thanks to the peroxide wash his mothermade him use.

  Observing himself critically in the full-length mirror, George knewhis mother was justified in asking twenty thousand shares for him.Marriage was an essential part of his own plans; without it revengewas out of his reach. He desperately hoped the deal would be made withJenny Harper. A young woman would be far less difficult for him tohandle.

  When the oil on his skin was dry, he lay down on his bunk to catch upon his required viewing until the duty bell called him to the house.The automatic circuit snapped on the television screen above his bunk;wearily George fixed his eyes on the unreeling love story.

  For as long as he could remember, television had been a fundamentalpart of his education. A federal law required every male to watch theTV romances three hours a day. Failure to do so--and that wasdetermined by monthly form tests mailed out by the Directorate--meanta three month sentence to the national hero's corps. If the statisticsperiodically published by the Directorate were true, George was arelatively rare case, having survived adolescence without serving asingle tour of duty as a national hero. For that he indirectly thankedhis immunity to the compound. Fear and guilt kept him so much on histoes, he grew up an amazingly well-disciplined child.

  George was aware that the television romances were designed to shapehis attitudes and his emotional reactions. The stories endlesslyrepeated his mother's philosophy. All men were pictured as beastscrudely dominated by lust. Women, on the other hand, were alwayssensitive, delicate, modest, and intelligent; their martyrdom to themen in their lives was called love. To pay for their animal lusts, menwere expected to slave away their lives earning things--kitchengadgets, household appliances, fancy cars, luxuries andstockholdings--for their patient, long-suffering wives.

  _And it's all a fake!_ George thought. He had seen his Mother drivetwo men to their graves and trade off two others because they hadn'tproduced luxuries as fast as she demanded. His mother and hispinch-faced sisters were pampered, selfish, rock-hard Amazons; by noconceivable twist of imagination could they be called martyrs toanything.

  That seemed self-evident, but George had no way of knowing if anyother man had ever reasoned out the same conclusion. Maybe he wasunique because of his immunity to the compound. He was sure that veryfew men--possibly none--had reached marriage age with their immunitystill undiscovered.

  * * * * *

  George was lucky, in a way: he knew the truth about himself when hewas seven, and he had time to adjust to it--to plan the role he hadbeen acting
for the past twelve years. His early childhood had been alivid nightmare, primarily because of the precocious cruelty of histwo sisters. Shortly before his seventh birthday they forced him totake part in a game they called cocktail party. The game involved onlyone activity: the two little girls filled a glass with an unidentifiedliquid, and ordered George to drink. Afterward, dancing up and down ingirlish glee, they said they had given him the compound.

  George had seen the love stories on television; he knew how he wasexpected to act. He gave a good performance--better than his sistersrealized, for inside his mind George was in turmoil. They had givenhim the compound (true, years before he should have taken it), andnothing had happened. He had felt absolutely nothing; he was immune!If anyone had ever found out, George would have been given a lifesentence to the national hero's corps; or, more probably, the
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