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قراءة كتاب Junior

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‏اللغة: English


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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1



Illustrated by WEISS

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy January 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright
on this publication was renewed.]

All younger generations have been going to the dogs ... but this one was genuinely sunk!

"Junior!" bellowed Pater.

"Junior!" squeaked Mater, a quavering echo.

"Strayed off again—the young idiot! If he's playing in the shallows, with this tide going out...." Pater let the sentence hang blackly. He leaned upslope as far as he could stretch, angrily scanning the shoreward reaches where light filtered more brightly down through the murky water, where the sea-surface glinted like bits of broken mirror.

No sign of Junior.

Mater was peering fearfully in the other direction, toward where, as daylight faded, the slope of the coastal shelf was fast losing itself in green profundity. Out there, out of sight at this hour, the reef that loomed sheltering above them fell away in an abrupt cliffhead, and the abyss began.

"Oh, oh," sobbed Mater. "He's lost. He's swum into the abyss and been eaten by a sea monster." Her slender stem rippled and swayed on its base and her delicate crown of pinkish tentacles trailed disheveled in the pull of the ebbtide.

"Pish, my dear!" said Pater. "There are no sea monsters. At worst," he consoled her stoutly, "Junior may have been trapped in a tidepool."

"Oh, oh," gulped Mater. "He'll be eaten by a land monster."

"There ARE no land monsters!" snorted Pater. He straightened his stalk so abruptly that the stone to which he and Mater were conjugally attached creaked under them. "How often must I assure you, my dear, that WE are the highest form of life?" (And, as for his world and geologic epoch, he was quite right.)

"Oh, oh," gasped Mater.

Her spouse gave her up. "JUNIOR!" he roared in a voice that loosened the coral along the reef.

Round about, the couple's bereavement had begun attracting attention. In the thickening dusk, tentacles paused from winnowing the sea for their owners' suppers, stalked heads turned curiously here and there in the colony. Not far away, a threesome of maiden aunts, rooted en brosse to a single substantial boulder, twittered condolences and watched Mater avidly.

"Discipline!" growled Pater. "That's what he needs! Just wait till I—"

"Now, dear—" began Mater shakily.

"Hi, folks!" piped Junior from overhead.

His parents swiveled as if on a single stalk. Their offspring was floating a few fathoms above them, paddling lazily against the ebb; plainly he had just swum from some crevice in the reef nearby. In one pair of dangling tentacles he absently hugged a roundish stone, worn sensuously smooth by pounding surf.


"Nowhere," said Junior innocently. "Just playing hide-and-go-sink with the squids."

"With the other polyps," Mater corrected him primly. She detested slang.

Pater was eyeing Junior with ominous calm. "And where," he asked, "did you get that stone?"

Junior contracted guiltily. The surfstone slipped from his tentacles and plumped to the sea-floor in a flurry of sand. He edged away, stammering, "Well, I guess maybe ... I might have gone a little ways toward the beach...."

"You guess! When I was a polyp," said Pater, "the small fry obeyed their elders, and no guess about it!"

"Now, dear—" said Mater.

"And no spawn of mine," Pater warmed to his lecture, "is going to flout my words! Junior—COME HERE!"

Junior paddled cautiously around the homesite, just out of