“This and this andthis,” said Mink, instructing the others with their assorted spoons and wrenches. “Do that, and bringthat over here. No!Here, ninny! Right. Now, get back while I fix this.” Tongue in teeth, face wrinkled in thought. “Like that. See?”
“Yayyyy!” shouted the kids.
Twelve-year-old Joseph Connors ran up.
“Go away,” said Mink straight at him.
“I wanna play,” said Joseph.
“Can’t!” said Mink.
“You’d just make fun of us.”
“Honest, I wouldn’t”
“No. We know you. Go away or we’ll kick you.”
Another twelve-year-old boy whirred by on little motor skates. “Hey, Joe! Come on! Let them sissies play!”
Joseph showed reluctance and a certain wistfulness. “I want to play,” he said.
“You’re old,” said Mink firmly.
“Notthat old,” said Joe sensibly.
“You’d only laugh and spoil the Invasion.”
The boy on the motor skates made a rude lip noise. “Come on, Joe! Them and their fairies! Nuts!”
Joseph walked off slowly. He kept looking back, all down the block.
Mink was already busy again. She made a kind of apparatus with her gathered equipment. She had appointed another little girl with a pad and pencil to take down notes in painful slow scribbles. Their voices rose and fell in the warm sunlight.
All around them the city hummed. The streets were lined with good green and peaceful trees. Only the wind made a conflict across the city, across the country, across the continent. In a thousand other cities there were trees and children and avenues, businessmen in their quiet offices taping their voices, or watching televisors. Rockets hovered like darning needles in the blue sky. There was the universal, quiet conceit and easiness of men accustomed to peace, quite certain there would never he trouble again. Arm in arm, men all over earth were a united front. The perfect weapons were held in equal trust by all nations. A situation of incredibly beautiful balance had been brought about. There were no traitors among men, no unhappy ones, no disgruntled ones; therefore the world was based upon a stable ground. Sunlight illumined half the world and the trees drowsed in a tide of warm air.
Mink’s mother, from her upstairs window, gazed down.
The children. She looked upon them and shook her head. Well, they’d eat well, sleep well, and be in school on Monday. Bless their vigorous little bodies. She listened.
Mink talked earnestly to someone near the rose bush—though there was no one there.
These odd children. And the little girl, what was her name? Anna? Anna took notes on a pad. First, Mink asked the rosebush a question, then called the answer to Anna.
“Triangle,” said Mink.
“What’s a tri,” said Anna with difficulty, “angle?”
“Never mind,” said Mink.
“How you spell it?” asked Anna.
“T-r-i——” spelled Mink slowly, then snapped, “Oh, spell it yourself!” She went on to other words. “Beam,” she said.
“I haven’t got tri,” said Anna, “angle down yet!”
“Well, hurry, hurry!” cried Mink.
Mink’s mother leaned out the upstairs window. “A-n-g-1-e,” she spelled down at Anna.
“Oh, thanks, Mrs. Morris,” said Anna.
“Certainly,” said Mink’s mother and withdrew, laughing, to dust the hail with an electro-duster magnet.
The voices wavered on the shimmery air. “Beam,” said Anna. Fading.
“Four-nine-seven-A-and-B-and-X,” said Mink, far away, seriously. “And a fork and a string and a—hex-hex-agony—hexagonal!”
At lunch Mink gulped milk at one toss and was at the door. Her mother slapped the table.
“You sit right back down,” commanded Mrs. Morris. “Hot soup in a minute.” She poked a red button on the kitchen butler, and ten seconds later something landed with a bump in the rubber receiver. Mrs. Morris opened it, took out a can with a pair of aluminum holders, unsealed it with a flick, and poured hot soup into a bowl.
During all this Mink fidgeted. “Hurry, Mom! This is a matter of life and death! Aw——”
“I was the same way at your age. Always life and death. I know.”
Mink banged away at the soup.
“Slow down,” said Mom.
“Can’t,” said Mink. “Drill’s waiting for me.”
“Who’s Drill? What a peculiar name,” said Mom.
“You don’t know him,” said Mink.
“A new boy in the neighborhood?” asked Mom.