Irving Cox – Love Story

The duty bell rang and obediently George clattered down the steps from his confinement cubicle over the garage. His mother’s chartreuse-colored Cadillac convertible purred to a stop in the drive. “It’s so sweet of you to come, Georgie,” his mother said when George opened the door for her. “Whenever you need me, Mummy.” It was no effort at all to keep the sneer 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 to do the right thing.” “Yes, Mummy.” They were mouthing a formula of words. They were both very much aware that if George hadn’t snapped to attention as soon as the 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, “This has been such a tiring day. A man can never understand what a woman has to endure, Georgie; my life is such an ordeal.” Her tone turned at once coldly practical. “I’ve two packages in the trunk; carry them to the house for me.

” George picked up the cardboard boxes and followed her along the brick walk in the direction of the white, Colonial mansion where his mother and her two daughters and her current husband lived. George, being a boy, was allowed in the house only when his mother invited him, or when he was being shown off to a prospective bride. George was nineteen, the most acceptable marriage age; because he had a magnificent build and the reputation for being a good boy, his mother was rumored to be asking twenty thousand shares for him. As they passed the rose arbor, his mother dropped on the wooden seat and drew George down beside her. “I’ve a surprise for you, George—a new 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 the few outsiders George had occasionally seen as he grew up. She was approximately his age, a stunning, dark-eyed brunette. “Jenny and her mother are coming to dinner to talk over a marriage settlement.” Speculatively she ran her hand over the tanned, muscle-hard curve of his upper arm. “You’re anxious to have your own woman, aren’t you, George?” “So I can begin to work for her, Mummy.” That, at least, was the correct answer, if not an honest one.

“And begin taking the compound every day.” His mother smiled. “Oh, I know you wicked boys! Put on your dress trunks tonight. We want Jenny to see you at your best.” She got up and strode toward the house again. George followed respectfully two paces behind her. As they passed beyond the garden hedge, she saw the old business coupe parked in the delivery court. Her body stiffened in anger. “Why is your father home so early, may I ask?” It was an accusation, rather than a question. “I don’t know, Mother. I heard my sisters talking in the yard; I think he 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. I intend to trade your father in today on a younger man.” She snatched the two packages from him and stormed into the house.

Since his mother hadn’t asked him in, George returned to his confinement cubicle in the garage. He felt sorry, in an impersonal way, for the husband his mother was about to dispose of, but otherwise the fate of the old man was quite normal. He had outlived his economic usefulness; George had seen it G happen before. His real father had died a natural death—from strain and overwork—when George was four. His mother had since then bought four other husbands; but, because boys were brought up in rigid isolation, George had known none of them well. For the same reason, he had no personal friends. He climbed the narrow stairway to his cubicle. It was already late afternoon, almost time for dinner. He showered and oiled his body carefully, before he put on his dress trunks, briefs made of black silk studded with seed pearls and small diamonds. He was permitted to wear the jewels because his mother’s stockholdings were large enough to make her an Associate Director. His family status gave George a high marriage value and his Adonis physique kicked the asking price still higher. At nineteen he stood more than six feet tall, even without his formal, high-heeled boots. He weighed one hundred and eighty-five, not an ounce of it superfluous fat. His skin was deeply bronzed by the sunlamps in the gym; his eyes were sapphire blue; his crewcut was a platinum blond—thanks to the peroxide wash his mother made him use. Observing himself critically in the full-length mirror, George knew his mother was justified in asking twenty thousand shares for him.

Marriage was an essential part of his own plans; without it revenge was out of his reach. He desperately hoped the deal would be made with Jenny Harper. A young woman would be far less difficult for him to handle. When the oil on his skin was dry, he lay down on his bunk to catch up on 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 fundamental part of his education. A federal law required every male to watch the TV romances three hours a day. Failure to do so—and that was determined by monthly form tests mailed out by the Directorate—meant a three month sentence to the national hero’s corps. If the statistics periodically published by the Directorate were true, George was a relatively rare case, having survived adolescence without serving a single tour of duty as a national hero. For that he indirectly thanked his immunity to the compound. Fear and guilt kept him so much on his toes, he grew up an amazingly well-disciplined child. George was aware that the television romances were designed to shape his attitudes and his emotional reactions. The stories endlessly repeated his mother’s philosophy. All men were pictured as beasts crudely dominated by lust. Women, on the other hand, were always sensitive, delicate, modest, and intelligent; their martyrdom to the men in their lives was called love.

To pay for their animal lusts, men were expected to slave away their lives earning things—kitchen gadgets, household appliances, fancy cars, luxuries and stockholdings—for their patient, long-suffering wives. And it’s all a fake! George thought. He had seen his Mother drive two men to their graves and trade off two others because they hadn’t produced luxuries as fast as she demanded. His mother and his pinch-faced sisters were pampered, selfish, rock-hard Amazons; by no conceivable twist of imagination could they be called martyrs to anything. That seemed self-evident, but George had no way of knowing if any other man had ever reasoned out the same conclusion. Maybe he was unique because of his immunity to the compound. He was sure that very few men—possibly none—had reached marriage age with their immunity still undiscovered.


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