“Or will we?” said Lustig. “After all, like the Pilgrims, these people came here to escape Earth. Maybe they won’t be too happy to see us. Maybe they’ll try to drive us out or kill us.”

“We have superior weapons. This next house now. Up we go.”

But they had hardly crossed the lawn when Lustig stopped and looked off across the town, down the quiet, dreaming afternoon street. “Sir,” he said.

“What is it, Lustig?”

“Oh, sir, sir, what I _see_–“ said Lustig, and he began to cry. His fingers came up, twisting and shaking, and his face was all wonder and joy and incredulity. He sounded as if at any moment he might go quite insane with happiness. He looked down the street and began to run, stumbling awkwardly, falling, picking himself up, and running on. “Look, look!”

“Don’t let him get away!” The captain broke into a run.

Now Lustig was running swiftly, shouting. He turned into a yard halfway down the shady street and leaped up upon the porch of a large green house with an iron rooster on the roof.

He was beating at the door, hollering and crying, when Hinkston and the captain ran up behind him. They were all gasping and wheezing, exhausted from their run in the thin air. “Grandma! Grandpa!” cried Lustig.

Two old people stood in the doorway.

“David!” their voices piped, and they rushed out to embrace and pat him on the back and move around him. “David, oh, David, it’s been so many years! How you’ve grown, boy; how big you are, boy. Oh, David boy, how are you?”

“Grandma, Grandpa!” sobbed David Lustig. “You look fine, fine!” He held them, turned them, kissed them, hugged them, cried on them, held them out again, blinking at the little old people. The sun was in the sky, the wind blew, the grass was green, the screen door stood wide.

“Come in, boy, come in. There’s iced tea for you, fresh, lots of it!”

“I’ve got friends here.” Lustig turned and waved at the captain and Hinkston frantically, laughing. “Captain, come on up.”

“Howdy,” said the old people. “Come in. Any friends of David’s are our friends too. Don’t stand there!”

In the living room of the old house it was cool, and a grandfather clock ticked high and long and bronzed in one corner. There were soft pillows on large couches and walls filled with books and a rug cut in a thick rose pattern, and iced tea in the hand, sweating, and cool on the thirsty tongue.

“Here’s to our health.” Grandma tipped her glass to her porcelain teeth.

“How long you been here, Grandma?” said Lustig.

“Ever since we died,” she said tartly.

“Ever since you what?” Captain John Black set down his glass.

“Oh yes.” Lustig nodded. “They’ve been dead thirty years.”

“And you sit there calmly!” shouted the captain.

“Tush.” The old woman winked glitteringly. “Who are you to question what happens? Here we are. What’s life, anyway? Who does what for why and where? All we know is here we are, alive again, and no questions asked. A second chance.” She toddled over and held out her thin wrist. “Feel.” The captain felt. “Solid, ain’t it?” she asked. He nodded. “Well, then,” she said triumphantly, “why go around questioning?”

“Well,” said the captain, “it’s simply that we never thought we’d find a thing like this on Mars.”

“And now you’ve found it. I dare say there’s lots on every planet that’ll show you God’s infinite ways.”

“Is this Heaven?” asked Hinkston.

“Nonsense, no. It’s a world and we get a second chance. Nobody told us why. But then nobody told us why we were on Earth, either. That other Earth, I mean. The one you came from. How do we know there wasn’t another before that one?”

“A good question,” said the captain.

Lustig kept smiling at his grandparents. “Gosh, it’s good to see you. Gosh, it’s good.”

The captain stood up and slapped his hand on his leg in a casual fashion. “We’ve got to be going. Thank you for the drinks.”

“You’ll be back, of course,” said the old people. “For supper tonight?”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray