George Loves Gistla

Language: English
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George Kenington was sixteen, and, as he told himself, someone who was sixteen knew more about love than someone who was, say, forty-two. Like his father, for instance. A whole lot more probably. When you were forty-two, you got narrow-minded and nervous and angry. You said this is this, and that is that, and there is nothing else. When someone thought and felt and talked that way, George thought bitterly, there was not enough room inside that person to know what it was like, loving a Venusian.

But George knew. He knew very well.

Her name was Gistla. She was not pretty in standards of American colonists. She had the pale greenish Venusian skin, and she was too short and rather thick. Her face, of course, was not an American face. It was the face of native Venus. Round and smooth, with the large lidless eyes. There were no visible ears and a lack of hair strengthened the globular look of her head.

But she was a person. The beauty was inside of her. Did you have to point to a girl's face and say, "Here is where the nose should be, here is where the ears should be?" Did you have to measure the width between eyes and test the color of the skin? Did you have to check the size of the teeth and the existence of hair? Was all of this necessary to understand what was inside someone?

George snapped a leaf from an overhanging vine and threw it angrily to the ground. He was walking along a thin path that led from the colony to the tangled hills beyond, where hues of red and yellow and purple reflected like bold sweeps of watercolor. In a moment he would see Gistla, and with the color before his eyes and the sweet perfume of the flowers in his lungs, he felt again the familiar rise of excitement.

George had not always lived on Venus. The Colony was very new. By 2022, most of the Earth countries had sent colonizers to Mars. But as yet, in June of that year, Venus had been touched by only the sparsest invasion of American civilization. George had arrived just three years ago, when his father had been appointed Secretary of the colonizing unit.

And that was the whole trouble, really. Father was the Secretary, Mother was the Secretary's wife, Sister was the daughter of the Secretary. Everybody was wrapped up in it. Except George.

George loved Gistla.

"Why don't you find yourself some nice little American girl?" his father had said. "Say like Henry Farrel's little daughter?"

Henry Farrel's little daughter was a sweet sickening girl with a nasty temper and a nasty tongue. Her father was Governor of the Colony. She told you about it all the time.

"Or," his father had told him, "why not little what's-her-name, Doug Brentwood's daughter?"

Little what's-her-name's father was the President of the Council. "My father is President of the Council," she said. Over and over, as though in a settlement the size of the Colony, there would be anyone who wouldn't know her father was the President of the Council.

It was all a very tight and careful circle, chosen on Earth with a great deal of "common sense."

There were the ordinary settlers, of course. They had daughters. Some of them were very pretty and long-limbed. And George had thought about that.

Certainly there wasn't a decent-looking girl in the whole Governing circle, and the sight of a girl with flashing eyes and a nice red mouth, who was shaped a little like something besides a tree stump, was indeed an exciting sight.

But there were limitations to the settler girls.

They had no background to speak of, and though that didn't make any difference, George assured himself, they knew nothing about art, music, poetry, or anything really worth while....