When anyone talked too loudly the captain would reply in a low voice that made them talk quietly from imitation.
The air smelled clean and new. Spender sat for a long time just enjoying the way it was made. It had a lot of things in it he couldn’t identify: flowers, chemistries, dusts, winds.
“Then there was that time in New York when I got that blonde, what’s her name?–Ginnie!” cried Biggs. “_That_ was it!”
Spender tightened in. His hand began to quiver. His eyes moved behind the thin, sparse lids.
“And Ginnie said to me—“ cried Biggs.
The men roared.
“So I smacked her!” shouted Biggs with a bottle in his hand.
Spender set down his plate. He listened to the wind over his ears, cool and whispering. He looked at the cool ice of the white Martian buildings over there on the empty sea lands.
“What a woman, what a woman!” Biggs emptied his bottle in his wide mouth. “Of all the women I ever knew!”
The smell of Biggs’s sweating body was on the air. Spender let the fire die. “Hey, kick her up there, Spender!” said Biggs, glancing at him for a moment, then back to his bottle. “Well, one night Ginnie and me—“
A man named Schoenke got out his accordion and did a kicking dance, the dust springing up around him.
“Ahoo—I’m alive!” he shouted.
“Yay!” roared the men. They threw down their empty plates. Three of them lined up and kicked like chorus maidens, joking loudly. The others, clapping hands, yelled for something to happen. Cheroke pulled off his shirt and showed his naked chest, sweating as he whirled about. The moonlight shone on his crewcut hair and his young, clean-shaven cheeks.
In the sea bottom the wind stirred along faint vapors, and from the mountains great stone visages looked upon the silvery rocket and the small fire.
The noise got louder, more men jumped up, someone sucked on a mouth organ, someone else blew on a tissue-papered comb. Twenty more bottles were opened and drunk. Biggs staggered about, wagging his arms to direct the dancing men.
“Come on, sir!” cried Cheroke to the captain, wailing a song.
The captain had to join the dance. He didn’t want to. His face was solemn. Spender watched, thinking: You poor man, what a night this is! They don’t know what they’re doing. They should have had an orientation program before they came to Mars to tell them how to look and how to walk around and be good for a few days.
“That does it.” The captain begged off and sat down, saying he was exhausted. Spender looked at the captain’s chest. It wasn’t moving up and down very fast. His face wasn’t sweaty, either.
Accordion, harmonica, wine, shout, dance, wail, roundabout, dash of pan, laughter.
Biggs weaved to the rim of the Martian canal. He carried six empty bottles and dropped them one by one into the deep blue canal waters. They made empty, hollow, drowning sounds as they sank.
“I christen thee, I christen thee, I christen thee—“ said Biggs thickly. “I christen thee Biggs, Biggs, Biggs Canal—“
Spender was on his feet, over the fire, and alongside Biggs before anyone moved. He hit Biggs once in the teeth and once in the ear. Biggs toppled and fell down into the canal water. After the splash Spender waited silently for Biggs to climb back up onto the stone bank. By that time the men were holding Spender.
“Hey, what’s eating you, Spender? Hey?” they asked.
Biggs climbed up and stood dripping. He saw the men holding Spender. “Well,” he said, and started forward.
“That’s enough,” snapped Captain Wilder. The men broke away from Spender. Biggs stopped and glanced at the captain.
“All right, Biggs, get some dry clothes. You men, carry on your party! Spender, come with me!”
The men took up the party. Wilder moved off some distance and confronted Spender. “Suppose you explain what just happened,” he said.
Spender looked at the canal. “I don’t know, I was ashamed. Of Biggs and us and the noise. Christ, what a spectacle.”
“It’s been a long trip. They’ve got to have their fling.”
“Where’s their respect, sir? Where’s their sense of the right thing?”