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CHAPTER SIX

You look tired, Elizabeth said as the studios overhead fluorescents tittered into light and Hawks sat down on the couch.

He shook his head. I havent been working very hard. Its the same old story when I was a boy on the farm, Id wear myself out with physical labor, and Id have no trouble getting to sleep. Id wake up in the morning, and Id feel wonderful; Id be rested, and full of energy, and Id know exactly what I had ahead of me that day, and Id do it. Even when I was tired, I felt right; I felt as if what Id done was proper. Even when I couldnt keep my eyes open after supper, my body was relaxed, and happy. I dont know if thats understandable if you havent felt it, but thats how it was.

But now I just sit around and think. I cant sleep at night, and I wake up in the morning feeling worse than I did the day before. It takes me hours before I dont feel as if my body was cranky with me. I sometimes think it gets better during the day only because I go numb, not because the crankiness stops. I never feel right. Im always full of aches and pains that come from nowhere. I look at myself in the mirror, and a sick man looks back at me the kind of a man I wouldnt trust to do his share, if we were on a job together.

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. I think you could use some coffee.

He grimaced. Id rather have tea, if you have some.

I think so. Ill see. She crossed the studio to the curtained-off corner where the hotplate and the cupboard were.

Or Look, he called after her, Im being silly. Coffee would be fine. If you dont have any tea.

They sat on the couch together, drinking tea. Elizabeth put her cup down on the table. What happened tonight? she asked.

Hawks shook his head. Im not entirely sure. Woman trouble, for one thing.

Elizabeth grunted. Oh.

Not the usual kind, Hawks said.

I didnt think it would be.

Why?

Youre not the usual kind of man.

Hawks frowned. I suppose not. At least, I dont seem to get the usual reactions from people. I dont know why.

Do you want to know what it is with you and women?

Hawks blinked at her. Yes. Very much.

You treat them like people.

I do? He shook his head again. I dont think so. Ive never been able to understand them very well. I dont know why they do most of the things they do. Ive As a matter of fact, Ive had a lot of trouble with women.

Elizabeth touched his hand. I wouldnt be a bit surprised. But thats beside the point. Now, you think about something: Im a good deal younger than you are.

Hawks nodded, his expression troubled. Ive thought about that.

Now you think about this, too: youre not charming, dashing, or debonair. Youre funny-looking, as a matter of fact. Youre too busy to spare much time for me, and even if you did take me out night-clubbing somewhere, youd be so out of place that I couldnt enjoy it. But you do one thing: you let me feel that my rules are as worthwhile to me as yours are to you. When you ask me to do something, I know you wont be hurt if I refuse. And if I do it, you dont feel that youve scored a point in some kind of complex game. You dont try to use me, cozen me, or change me. I take up as much room in the world, the way you see it, as you do. Do you have any idea of how rare a thing that is?

Hawks was puzzled. Im glad you feel that way, he said slowly, but I dont think thats true. Look He got up and began pacing back and forth while Elizabeth sat watching, a faint smile on her face.

Women he said earnestly, women have always fascinated me. As a kid I did the usual amount of experimenting. It didnt take me long to find out life wasnt like what happened in those mimeographed stories we had circulating around the high school. No, there was something else what, I dont know, but there was something about women. I dont mean the physical thing. I mean some special thing about women: some purpose that I couldnt grasp. What bothered me was that here were these other intelligent organisms, in the same world with men, and there had to be a purpose for that intelligence. If all women were for was the continuance of the race, what did they need intelligence for? A simple set of instincts would have done just as well. And as a matter of fact, the instincts are there, so what was the intelligence for? There were plenty of men to take care of making the physical environment comfortable. That wasnt what women were for. At least, it wasnt what they had to have intelligence for But I never found out. Ive always wondered.

Elizabeth smiled. You still dont see that were saying the same things about you.

Hawks sighed and said, Maybe we are. But that doesnt tell me what I want to know.

Elizabeth said softly, Maybe youll find out some day soon. Meanwhile, why havent you tried to make love to me?

Hawks stared at her. For Heavens sake, Elizabeth, I dont know you well enough!

Thats exactly what I mean about you, Elizabeth said, the blush fading from her face. Now, Doctor, would you like another cup of tea?

Elizabeth had gone back to work at her drawing table, sitting with her heels hooked over the top rung of her stool, a curl of smoke rising from the ash tray held in place by two map pins on the edge of the board. Now and then a wisp would drift into her face and make her squint. She would curse softly and smile at Hawks, who was sitting on a low hassock beside the table, his hand cupping his jackknifed knees.

I was in love with a girl at college, he said. A very attractive girl, from Chicago. She was intelligent; she was, most of all, tactful. And she had seen and done so many things I hadnt plays, opera, concerts: all the things you can have, in a city. I envied her tremendously because of it, and I admired her very much. The thing is, I never tried to share any of these things with her. I had the idea, I think, that if I asked her to tell me about these things, I would be taldng them away from her getting something from her that she had earned and I had no business filching. But I thought to myself that as fine a person as that could judge whether I was anything worthwhile or not. At least, I imagine thats how I looked at it. At any rate, I tried to share everything with her. I talked her ear off, as a matter of fact.

Elizabeth put her pencil down and raised her head to watch him.

There were times when we were very close, and other times when we werent. I was always in despair of losing her. And one day, just before we graduated, she said to me, very tactfully, Ed, why dont you just relax and take me out someplace where we can get a drink or two? We could dance a little, and go for a drive, and we could just park somewhere and not talk at all. And something came over me, Hawks said. In the blink of an eye, I was out of love with her. And I never went near her again.

Why, exactly? I dont know. Just because I thought I was so wonderful that not being listened to was unimaginable? Hardly. I knew I was full of drivel. I knew that very little of what I had to say was either original or interesting. And I never talked to anyone but her. I could barely bring myself to keep up social conversations with other people. But I loved her, Elizabeth, and she had told me she didnt want to listen any longer, and I stopped loving her. It was as if shed turned into a cobra. I began to tremble uncontrollably. I got away from her as fast as I could and went to my room and sat there shaking. It must have been an hour before it stopped.

She tried to get in touch with me several times. And there were times when I almost went out looking for her again. But it never worked out. I was out of love. And I was frightened Once, during the war, I was trapped in a lab fire and barely got out in time. For a few moments, I was convinced I was going to die. Thats the only time Ive ever felt that same fear Oh, yes, he said, I have trouble with women.

Maybe you just have trouble with dying.

His expression grew infinitely distant. The set of his face and body changed. Yes, he said, I do.

He stood up finally, his hands in his pockets, having sat without saying anything for a long time. Its late. Id better go, he said.

Elizabeth looked up from her work. Youre still on this project of yours?

He smiled crookedly. I suppose so. Im assuming all the people I need on it will show up for work tomorrow.

Do some of them stay home Saturdays?

Oh? Is tomorrow Saturday?

I thought that was what you meant.

No. No, I didnt think of it. And the day after that will be Sunday.

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows and said innocently, It usually works out that way, yes.

Cobeyll be very upset, Hawks was saying, lost in thought. Hell have to pay the technicians bonus-time rates.

Whos Cobey?

A man, Elizabeth. Another man I know.

She drove him home, to the stuccoed pastel apartment house, built in the mid-1920s; where he had his one-andone-half-room efficiency flat.

Ive never seen where you lived, before, she said, setting the parking brake.

No, he agreed. His face was drawn with fatigue. He sat with his chin on his chest, his knees against the dashboard. Its He waved his hand vaguely at the looming, tile-roofed bulk, the walls vined by cracks which had been plastered over and repainted with brush-wide stripes of paint fresher than the original overall coat. Its a place.

Dont you ever miss the farm country? Open fields? Woods? A clear sky?

There werent many open fields, he said. It was mainly chicken farming, and everything was filled up with one- and two-story lines of coops. He looked out the window. Coops. He looked back at her. You know, chickens are highly subject to respiratory ailments. They sigh and wheeze and snore, all night, by the thousands a sound that hangs over entire townships, like the moaning of a distant crowd, weeping and deprived. Chickens. I used to wonder if they knew what we were why we made them run in pens, and eat at feeding troughs, and drink at spigots. Why we kept the rain off them, and broke our backs carrying wet mash to them. Why we went into their coops, every week, and scraped their droppings out from under their roosts, and tried to keep the coops as clean of diseasebreeding areas as possible. I wondered if they knew, and if that was why they groaned in their sleep. But of course, chickens are abysmally stupid. Of all the living things in this world, only Man thinks like Man.

He opened the car door, half turned to step out, and then stopped. You know You know, he began again, I do talk a lot, when were together. He looked at her apologetically. You must get awfully bored with it.

I dont mind.

He shook his head. I cant understand you. He smiled gently.

Would you like to?

He blinked. Yes. Very much.

Maybe I feel the same way about you?

He blinked again. Well, he said. Well. Ive been sort of assuming that all along, havent I? I never thought of that. I never did. He shook his head. He said ruefully, Only Man thinks like Man. He got out of the car, and stood beside it looking in at her. Youve been very good to me tonight, Elizabeth. Thank you.

I want you to call me again as soon as you can. He frowned suddenly. Yes. As soon as I can, he said in a troubled voice. He closed the door and stood tapping his fingers on the sill of the opened window. Yes, he said. He grimaced. Time runs on, he objected under his breath. Ill Ill call, he said to her, and walked away toward the apartment house, his head down, his arms hanging at his sides, the large hands opening and closing out of rhythm with his steps, his path a little erratic, so that he had wandered from one side of the walk to the other before he reached the apartment-house door and began fumbling one-half-room efficiency flat.

Finally, he got the door open. He turned, looked back, and waved stiffly, as if not sure he had really finished their conversation. Then he let the arm fall, and pushed the door open.


| Rogue Moon | CHAPTER SEVEN