Selected Stories

Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon

Book: Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Theodore Sturgeon
comfort her, heal her, but don’t expect her to understand. Yet he said, “I can’t go back. There’s nowhere else to go. So what can I do?”
    Rhea was quiet, as if waiting. A terrible thing, a wonderful thing, to have someone you have hurt wait patiently like that while you find a way to explain. Even if you only explain it to yourself … “What could I do if I went back? They—they’ll never—they’ll laugh at me. They’ll all laugh. They’re laughing now.” Angry again, plaintive no more, he blurted, “April! Damn April! She’s made a eunuch out of me!”
    “Because she had only one baby?”
    “Like a savage.”
    “It’s a beautiful baby. A boy.”
    “A man, a real man, fathers six or eight.”
    She met his eyes gravely. “That’s silly.”
    “What’s happening to us on this crazy planet?” he raged. “Are we evolving backward? What comes next—one of you kids hatching out some amphibids?”
    She said only, “Come back, Tod.”
    “I can’t,” he whispered. “They’ll think I’m … that I can’t …” Helplessly, he shrugged. “They’ll laugh.”
    “Not until you do, and then they’ll laugh with you. Not at you, Tod.”
    Finally, he said it, “April won’t love me; she’ll never love a weakling.”
    She pondered, holding him with her clear gaze. “You really need to be loved a whole lot.”
    Perversely, he became angry again. “I can get along!” he snapped.
    And she smiled and touched the nape of his neck. “You’re loved,” she assured him. “Gee, you don’t have to be mad about that. I love you, don’t I? April loves you. Maybe I love you even more than she does. She loves everything you are, Tod. I love everything you ever were and everything you ever will be.”
    He closed his eyes and a great music came to him. A long, long time ago he had attacked someone who came to comfort him, and she had let him cry, and at length she had said … not exactly these words, but—it was the same.
    “Rhea.”
    He looked at her. “You said all that to me before.”
    A puzzled small crinkle appeared between her eyes and she put her fingers on it. “Did I?”
    “Yes,” said Tod, “but it was before you were even born.”
    He rose and took her hand, and they went back to the compound, and whether he was laughed at or not he never knew, for he could think of nothing but his full heart and of April. He went straight in to her and kissed her gently and admired his son, whose name was Sol, and who had been born with hair and two tiny incisors, and who had heavy bony ridges over his eyes. …
    “A fantastic storage capacity,” Teague remarked, touching the top of the scarlet mushroom. “The spores are almost microscopic. The thing doesn’t seem to want them distributed, either. It positively hoards them, millions of them.”
    “Start over, please,” April said. She shifted the baby in her arms. He was growing prodigiously. “Slowly. I used to know something about biology—or so I thought. But this —”
    Teague almost smiled. It was good to see. The aging face had not had so much expression in it in five Earth-years. “I’ll get as basic as I can, then, and start from there. First of all, we call this thing a mushroom, but it isn’t. I don’t think it’s a plant, though you couldn’t call it an animal, either.”
    “I don’t think anybody ever told me the real difference between a plant and an animal,” said Tod.
    “Oh … well, the most convenient way to put it—it’s not strictly accurate, but it will do—is that plants make their own food and animals subsist on what others have made. This thing does both. It has roots, but—” he lifted an edge of the skirted stem of the mushroom—“it can move them. Not much, not fast; but if it wants to shift itself, it can.”
    April smiled, “Tod, I’ll give you basic biology any time. Do go on, Teague.”
    “Good. Now, I explained about the heterokaryons—the ability this thing has to produce spores which grow up

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