BY MILTON LESSER
Dr. Kinsey, meet Mr. Grover, the amorous
adventurer. Even in a world of polygamous sexual
relations and legal multiple marriages, here is
the nation's champion philanderer!
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, October 1954.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
Simon Grover always felt like a goldfish in a coptercab. The plexiglassbubble afforded full 360 degree vision, but people could also see youfrom the crowded traffic lanes above a big city.
"Hurry," said Simon Grover, a small, energetic man with close-set hazeleyes and a stubborn chin.
"I'm hurrying," the pilot told him with frustrating indifference.
In another few moments he would be safe. He squirmed around and sawanother copter rise above the express lane and close the gap betweenthem. It had never been this close before. The aquamarine roof of theMarriage Building loomed ahead, then swelled up at them. The othercopter buzzed closer.
"Don't see any landing space," the pilot said laconically.
Simon squinted down anxiously. The copters were lined up in neatbut crowded rows on the rooftop, with hardly more than walking spacebetween them.
"Hover," Simon pleaded. "I'll jump."
"I could lose my license."
Simon reached into his pocket and drew out a handful of bills. "This isimportant to me," he said.
The pilot pocketed the money, then swooped down toward the roof.Suspended grotesquely eight feet above the aquamarine surface, bladeswhirling, the coptercab hovered. Simon grunted his thanks and slid backthe door. The other copter was fanning air above them and dropping fastwhen Simon jumped.
His left leg struck the side of a parked cab and threw him off balance.He landed on his shoulder, rolled over and scrambled to his feet.He darted between the rows of copters, thankful for the partialprotection their blades offered him. A parabeam zipped down at the longshadow he cast in the late afternoon sun, but in another moment he hadreached the roof entrance to the Marriage Building and flung himselfinside.
Breathing hard, he smoothed his rumpled clothing with shaking hands.That had been entirely too close. They thought he was fleeing becausehe did not want to work for a living. Rot. If he were ever captured,all the romance would go from his life.
He sauntered down the long, pleasant corridor lined with murals ofdomestic tranquility—family gathered around the dining table, fatherand son raking leaves in the front yard, graceful elderly coupleentertaining children and grandchildren at a merry hearth, younghusband and wife going to bed. He was in no hurry now, for the MarriageBuilding was legal sanctuary.
He passed the long lines of registering Quickies, men filing into oneroom, women into another. He let his glance rove the line of femaleQuickies, wondering if his new wife would come from this group. Theyranged in age from eighteen to about sixty, he guessed, and naturallythey were of all conceivable types. He caught himself in time andstopped looking. It was not considered proper etiquette.
Rounding a turn in the corridor, Simon took the slidestair down onelevel to where Transients registered and attached himself to the end ofa long line of men which was swallowed slowly by a doorway above whichwas the legend:
Simon checked his counterfeit registration papers and was aware of theold, familiar feeling of uncertainty. His heart bobbed up into histhroat and pounded there. His palms were clammy, his fingers wouldn'tkeep still. Would the papers pass inspection? He was almost certainthey would. But he savored the other possibility although he hatedits ultimate consequences. As some people craved security, so othersthrived on adventure.
Simon lit a cigaret and waited while the line crawled forward,parallelling a line of female Transients moving through another doorway.
"Sit down, Mr. Grover," the Counselor said as Simon entered the room.It was a large place with a central aisle and a dozen private cubbieson either side, each one with celotex walls, a desk, two chairs, thelatest in marriage literature, and a Counselor.
Simon eased his small frame into a comfortable chair and handed hispapers to the Counselor. "I see you have come from Philadelphia,"the man said, smiling not quite professionally—which, Simon knew,was the best of all professional smiles. "Were the accommodationssatisfactory? Of course, you don't have to talk about them."
"They were fine. Just fine." Naturally, Simon did not tell theCounselor about his flight from the police.
"How long will you be with us in New York?"
"I figure about three weeks. It depends on business, though. Might be alittle longer, I guess."
"We'll say three weeks." The Counselor scrawled something on Simon'sregistration form. "Now, Mr. Grover, exactly what kind of wife are youlooking for?"
"To tell you the truth, I haven't given it much thought yet."
"Splendid," the Counselor was delighted with the opportunity to expoundon his wares. "As you know, we have six basic types." He removed sixcolorful folders from six stacks on his desk and handed them to Simon.
"The first," he went on, "is the newlywed Quickie. The red folder, Mr.Grover. She has just completed her honeymoon, is not pregnant, and hasbeen married for no more than six months."
Simon examined the folder. On the cover was pictured a young mancarrying his bride, complete with bashful smile, across the thresholdof their home. There were suggestive dining room, patio and bedroomscenes inside, with appropriate captions.
"The second type," explained the Counselor, "is the new mother." Thefolder showed a charming young woman breast-feeding an infant. TheCounselor went on to the other types: the middle mother, a woman ofabout thirty with two children, one of pre-school age and one inthe first three grades; the teener, with from two to five childrenin their teens or early twenties; the pre-gram, with any number ofmarried children living away from home, but no grandchildren; and thegrandmother.
"You understand," the Counselor said, "we have all types in between aswell. These are merely the basics." He surveyed Simon's registrationpapers again. "You're thirty-five, Mr. Grover. A fine age, I might say.You'd be suited to any type, with the exception of the grandmother."
"I don't want the grandmother, anyway," Simon told him. "You know, Ithink I'll take the newlywed this time."
The Counselor winked knowingly. "Still a lot of get-up-and-go in theold copter, eh?"
"It's spring," Simon said.
"Yes. We find it most interesting, that certain types are favored inthe various seasons. Newlyweds in the spring, pre-grams in the summer,middle mothers in the fall, new mothers and grandmothers in the winter.Confidentially, Mr. Grover, I've always longed to be a Transientmyself. But you have to be a Quickie to hold this job, since you're inone place for such a long period of time. Well, what type of newlyweddid you have in mind?"
Simon licked his lips eagerly. In Philadelphia the last time he hadcome close to learning the parting ritual. But it tripped him up, asusual, and he reached New York one step ahead of the police. "She mustbe very impressionable," Simon said, "and very talkative. She must beeager to discuss the theories of multiple marriage—"
"Most newlyweds are," the Counselor pointed out.
"Well, particularly so. And, of course, she must not be carrying atorch for her honeymoon husband."
"That's rare these days, Mr. Grover."
"It happened to me once, in St. Louis. Had an awful time."
"Then she probably was a misfit. After all, the institution of multiplemarriages is almost eighty years old, and the only form of marriagein the United States today. If we were still in the early pioneeringdays you might have cause to worry. Ideas of propinquity still seemedimportant then, and people were concerned with such things as lastingrelationships, though for the life of me I can't see why."
"They thought it was more secure," suggested Simon.
"But it isn't. In the old days, statistics proved that if a man orwoman was saddled with one mate too long, it often led to trouble. Theold Et al report of 1979 shocked the world with its figures: ninetyfive percent of all married men had illicit relations with other women,and the figure was almost as high for women. Relations with unmarriedpeople. It's rather horrible, isn't it, Mr. Grover?"
"I suppose so," said Simon, half-listening. All he needed now was theparting ritual. A nice, impressionable, talkative newlywed girl....
"As usual," the Counselor continued in a dedicated voice, "man hadleaped ahead of his outmoded institutions without realizing it.The notion of marriage based largely on propinquity and permanentrelationship just didn't fit the modern tempo of civilization, wheretransient workers dart across the continent constantly, always on themove, hardly staying in one place long enough to hang their hats, asthe expression goes. Marital infidelity in the old days led to crimesof passion, to divorce, to unsettled families, to children reared inorphanages or by strangers—perfect strangers, mind you—to divorce andre-marriages and so much energy and time and money wasted on second andeven third courtships.
"Fortunately, the social institution fits the tempo of the culturetoday. A Transient—man or woman—gets married and provides for onespouse, one family, but has the pick of the nation to choose from. Evena Quickie like myself is stimulated by constant variety and change. Noone is ever bored. You don't have to see your original mate ever again,as long as you, as a Transient, provide for her. The Quickies, in theirturn, will provide for you in all your subsequent marriages. You havethe novelty and satisfaction of a true change in environment every timeyou travel, but you also have the comfort and security of a home."
"This newlywed girl must also be naive," said Simon. "That's important."
The Counselor made another notation. "You know," he said, "there is onesmall school of thought which claims the novelty, the verve and sparkleare lacking because the constant variation is perfectly legal. Perhapsthey have a point there: secrecy is stimulating. But they refuse toadmit we even provide for that. After all, a Transient assumes the nameof his temporary spouse, his Quickie. No one, not even the Quickie,knows his real identity. The Marriage records are available to no one,not even the government, not even the police, thus preserving the senseof—well, freshness for the Transients.
"But I digress. Have you any physical preferences, Mr. Grover?"
"I'm not very tall. Keep her down to my size, please. And I want apretty wife."
The Counselor made his final notations, rolled Simon's registrationpapers and stuffed them into a pneumotube which he dropped into a wallslot. The tube, Simon knew, was being whisked to Quickie Records,Newlywed Division, where identification of the girl fitting hisrequirements would be made by the machine records unit of availablenewlyweds. Last time, in Philadelphia, he had selected a garrulous oldgrandmother and hated every moment of the two weeks he had spent withher. It had been against the recommendations of the Counselor there,who had claimed the age difference would not make for harmony. The manhad been right, but worse yet, the old hag had been too wily to revealwhat Simon had to know.
"Congress is considering a law," said the Counselor as they waited forthe return of Simon's registration papers, "which would permit Quickiesand Transients to alternate year after year. It would cause socialupheaval at the beginning, but it's only fair to us Quickies, don't youthink?"
Simon shrugged. The man was starting to bother him. "I'd rather be aTransient," he said. "I'm for the status quo."
"But Quickies have no choice in the matter, don't you see? We have tomarry whoever comes along. My last wife—"
"As a Quickie, you're not supposed to talk about her."
The Counselor blanched at what had almost amounted to a sin. "Thankyou," he said, and waited in silence for the pneumotube.
Finally, it came, popping out of the wall slot and alighting on thedesk. The Counselor removed Simon's papers and unrolled them, revealinga set of similar papers rolled tightly within. These he opened andspread on the desk, beckoning Simon to come around behind him and takea look.
The first thing Simon saw was the snapshot, in the latest trivisionprocess. The girl looked pretty enough, with a pale, heart-shaped faceset off against short-cropped, shining black hair. She had enormous,child-like eyes.
"How do you do?" the picture said. "I am Jane-Marie Paige. I miss you."
"See," said the Counselor, "she has a lovely voice."
Simon nodded, picked up the trivision snapshot and held it underhis nose, sniffing delicately. He liked the scent of Jane-Marie'sperfume—not