“You don’t sound human, and I don’t like it.”
“You’ll have to get used to it,” he said. He braked the car to a stop before the house and jumped out. “Find my guns and some rope. We’ll do this right.”
“Oh, Willie,” she wailed, and just sat there in the car while he ran up the steps and slammed the front door.
She went along. She didn’t want to go along, but he rattled around in the attic, cursing like a crazy man until he found four guns. She saw the brutal metal of them glittering in the black attic, and she couldn’t see him at all, he was so dark; she heard only his swearing, and at last his long legs came climbing down from the attic in a shower of dust, and he stacked up bunches of brass shells and blew out the gun chambers and clicked shells into them, his face stern and heavy and folded in upon the gnawing bitterness there. “Leave us alone,” he kept muttering, his hands flying away from him suddenly, uncontrolled. “Leave us blame alone, why don’t they?”
“You too—you too.” And he gave her the same look, and a pressure of his hatred touched her mind.
Outside the window the boys gabbled to each other. “White as milk, she said. White as milk.”
“White as this old flower, you see?”
“White as a stone, like chalk you write with.”
Willie plunged out of the house. “You children come inside, I’m locking you up. You ain’t seeing no white man, you ain’t talking about them, you ain’t doing nothing. Come on now.”
He shoved them through the door and went and fetched a bucket of paint and a stencil and from the garage a long thick hairy rope coil into which he fashioned a hangman’s knot, very carefully watching the sky while his hands felt their way at their task.
And then they were in the car, leaving bolls of dust behind them down the road. “Slow up, Willie.”
“This is no slowing-up time,” he said. “This is a hurrying time, and I’m hurrying.”
All along the road people were looking up in the sky, or climbing in their cars, or riding in cars, and guns were sticking up out of some cars like telescopes sighting all the evils of a world coming to an end.
She looked at the guns. “You been talking,” she accused her husband.
“That’s what I been doing,” he grunted, nodding. He watched the road, fiercely. “I stopped at every house and I told them what to do, to get their guns, to get paint, to bring rope and be ready. And here we all are, the welcoming committee, to give them the key to the city. Yes, sir!”
She pressed her thin dark hands together to push away the terror growing in her now, and she felt the car bucket and lurch around other ears. She heard the voices yelling, Hey, Willie, look! and hands holding up ropes and guns as they rushed by! and mouths smiling at them in the swift rushing.
“Here we are,” said Willie, and braked the car into dusty halting and silence. He kicked the door open with a big foot and, laden with weapons, stepped out, lugging them across the airport meadow.
“Have youthought Willie?”
“That’s all I done for twenty years. I was sixteen when I left Earth, and I was glad to leave,” he said. “There wasn’t anything there for me or you or anybody like us. I’ve never been sorry I left. We’ve had peace here, the first time we ever drew a solid breath. Now, come on.
He pushed through the dark crowd which came to meet him.
“Willie, Willie, what we gonna do?” they said.
“Here’s a gun,” he said. “Here’s a gun. Here’s another.” He passed them out with savage jabs of his arms. “Here’s a pistol. Here’s a shotgun.”
The people were so close together it looked like one dark body with a thousand arms reaching out to take the weapons. “Willie, Willie.”
His wife stood tall and silent by him, her fluted lips pressed shut, and her large eyes wet and tragic. “Bring the paint,” be said to her. And she lugged a gallon can of yellow paint across the field to where, at that moment a trolley car was pulling up, with a fresh-painted sign on its front, TO THE WHITE MAN’S LANDING, full of talking people who got off and ran across the meadow, stumbling, looking up. Women with picnic boxes, men with straw hats, in shirt sleeves. The streetcar stood humming and empty. Willie climbed up, set the paint cans down, opened them, stirred the paint, tested a brush, drew forth a stencil, and climbed up on a seat.