BY ALFRED COPPEL
The first successful non-Terrestrial divorce
case! Fame for Legal Eagle Jose Obanion for his
generalship of a three-sexed, five Venusian
history-shattering precedent! Habits are habits
but—alas!—on Venus they differ....
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, December 1954.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
One of these days an embittered lawyer is going to write a text onthe effects of spaceflight on the divorce laws. This writer will be aTerrie, about five ten, with blue eyes, black hair—turning grey veryfast, and the unlikely name of Jose Weinberg Obanion III. Me.
I remember very well the day I was graduated from law school; the daymy father gave me his version of the Obanion credo. Always rememberyou live in a community property state—
That simple phrase has kept three generations of Obanions in thedivorce trade. And only I have had cause to regret it.
Basically, I suppose, my troubles began the day the Subversive Partyswept the Joe Macs out of Congress and repealed the Alien RestrictionAct of 1998. That bit of log-rolling gave the franchise to almost allresident aliens and resulted in a situation virtually destroying thesanctity of divorce as an institution.
I'm a Joe Mac myself—politically, I mean. Obanions have been votingthe Joe Mac Party Ticket for more than a hundred years. Red is ourcolor. There are even family legends that say an Obanion was with thefirst Joe Mac when he became President of that old unit the Euse of Aay.
We have to rely on legends, unfortunately, because the Joe Mac Partytraditionally fed their rally bonfires with books, and when they wonthe election and took over the Euse of Aay they had a rally to endall rallies and somehow the Government Archives—books, you see, aswell as punch cards and the like—got taken over by some very zealousParty men. The records were always rather incomplete after that. Onlyword of mouth information was available during that first Joe MacAdministration, and that can be sketchy. For example, the party coloris red. All we know is that first Joe Macs had something to do withred. You see how it goes.
What I mean by all this, is that I can see the faults in my own Party.I'm no diehard. Nor am I a bad loser. The Subs won control of Congressby a landslide, so I guess the people wanted that sort of slipshodgovernment. Only they should have been more careful, dammit, when theystarted tampering with the laws.
I'm not antispacegook, either. I have my framed Legal Eagle's Oathright over my desk and I live up to it. And if Congress sees fit tomake any Tmm, Dccck, or Harry a citizen of our great Commonwealth—Iaccount it my duty to see to it that they are not denied the benefitsof our Terrestrial divorce laws.
But sometimes it can be very trying.
The new Sub Administration and their rash repeal of Joe Mac laws hashad the effect of putting reverse English on the Obanion credo.
Always remember you live in a community property state....
That wonderful phrase that encompasses so many great truths—thatringing statement that has made me rich and kept me a bachelor—nowmeans something else. Confusion. Work. Yes, and even spacegookdepravity.
I should go back and pick up the story at the beginning before I gettoo upset.
My name, as I said before, is Jose Obanion. I'm a licensed Legal Eagle,specializing in divorce law—and doing well at it. I have a good officeon the 150th floor of the Needle Building, a damned fine address anda comfortable lay-out, too. A whole room to myself, a private visorservice to the Municipal Law Library, and a lap-desk for my secretary,Thais Orlof.
On the day it began I was walking to work from the tubeway station andfeeling rather pleased with myself. My income was high and steady, myprotein ration account was in good shape and I was doing my bit as acivilized Terrestrial.
The morning was remarkably clear. You could make out the disc of thesun quite nicely through the smog, and there was a smogbow gleamingwith carbon particles in the sky. I felt alert, expectant. SomethingBIG was going to happen to me. I could feel it.
Even in the go-to-work press of people on Montgomery Street, I didn'tget shocked once. That's the way my luck was running. And threecharacters brushed against me and got nipped by my new Keep-A-Way.
There's been talk about making Keep-A-Ways illegal. Just the sort ofinfringement on personal liberty the Subversives are famous for.Inconsistent, too. They pass laws letting every spacegook in theuniverse come here to live and then talk about taking away one of thethings that makes the crowding bearable.
I made a point of arriving at the office a little early, hoping tocatch Thais in the act of coming in late. My secretary was a hard girlto dock, but I never stopped trying. It was a game we played. If shecame in late, I would be justified in docking a protein credit off herpay for every thirty seconds of office time she wasted. So far I hadmanaged to keep her pay low enough so she couldn't think of leaving myemploy—though she was earning a few prots on the side by acting ascorrespondent in divorce cases that couldn't be settled by CollusionCourt and actually had to be tried before a judge and jury.
Thais and I were still haggling over the price of her services aspart-time mistress, too. I couldn't see giving her her asking price,which was half again the regular market price. Thais knew the value ofa prot, all right. And of an erg, too. "Take care of the ergs," shewould say, looking at me meaningfully, "and the prots will take careof themselves." Thais was a devout Ben Franklinist and she was full ofaphorisms like that.
I settled myself into my Lowfer and glanced over the desk calendar.A full, profitable day ahead. Tremmy Jessup and his new fiancee werecoming in at 0900 to sign the premarital divorce settlement. A wisecouple, I thought approvingly. Save a lot of trouble later. At 1100Truncott vs Truncott and Truncott. A multiple divorce case with twowomen involved. Very lucrative sort of case. And then at 1200 GledaWarick was coming in to have me validate her Interlocutory decree. Aformality. But I hoped to take her to lunch at the Palace where theywere advertising a five ounce portion of genuine horsemeat on theirfive prot dinner. That sort of thing would impress Gleda and I ratherhoped for great things from her. Not only that, she was spending 25,000prots yearly on divorces. No Franklinist, she.
It still lacked a minute to the hour so I switched on the TV to catchHonest Pancho's commercial. Pancho was my most active competitor and hecost me plenty, but I couldn't suppress a grudging admiration of hisenterprise. He had Lyra Yves doing his stuff for him, and anyone assocko as Lyra was dangerous. Sweetheart of the Western Hemisphere isthe way she was billed, and her agent wasn't exaggerating too much.
Lyra was singing his come-on backed by a quartet humming a steadywhap rhythm and doing a slow twitch. The lights were playing herdaring costume big, accenting the fact that she had one breast almostcovered. I frowned. How come the League of Decency let her get awaywith anything as suggestive as an opaque breast covering. Pancho musthave friends in the censor's office. It was just another sign ofthe increasing degeneracy of our times. Soon entertainers would beappearing clothed from head to foot, exploiting the erotic stimulationof imagination.
"—whap me slap me baby doll," Lyra was singing. "Beat my head againstthe wall—lover, I don't care at all at all—Whap! Honest Pancho's onthe ball!"
Now the announcer cut in with his insinuating voice explaining how youcould get your divorces quicker, cheaper and twice as funny at HonestPancho's Big Splitzmart in the Flatiron Building, as well as his LegalEaglery just down from the County Courthouse. "—yes, friends—TWO biglocations to serve you. Come in and see Honest Pancho today!" And thenLyra again: "Whap! Honest Pancho's on the baaalll! WHAP!" She fadeddoing a sinuous twitch. I turned the TV off feeling a little worse thanwhen I turned it on.
Maybe, I thought, I've been too conservative. Maybe I'd better get onthe baaaalll, too. Or else. I shrugged the thought aside just as Thaisslipped through the door—exactly on time.
I watched her strip off her smog mask and cinder cape—on officetime—and place them carefully in the sterilizer. She was very carefulnot to smear the paint that was most of what she wore. I tapped aNoKanse alight and inhaled deeply. "Good morning, Thais," I said.
"Whap!" she said in return. "I heard the TV all the way down the hall."
She pulled a Lowfer out of the wall and settled down with her lap-deskacross her knees. The tip of one sandal was just brushing my shin. Theoffice, unfortunately, could have been bigger, but with sixteen millionpeople living in the city, space was rather costly even for a man witha better than average prot account.
"New paint?" I asked.
She smiled brilliantly at me. "Nice of you to notice, boss." Shefumbled in the pockets of the belt around her naked, cerise-paintedmiddle and took out her pad and stylus. "On time and ready for work,"she said. "A calorie saved is a calorie earned."
But now, somehow, I didn't feel like attacking the day's schedule. Notquite yet. Pancho's commercial had disturbed me. "Thais," I said. "Iwonder if I'm—well, slowing down—"
"You, boss?" She fluffed her green-tinted hair provocatively and raisedan eyebrow at me. "I wouldn't say so."
"I don't mean that way," I said. "I mean professionally. I wonder if Ishouldn't seek wider horizons."
"New cases? Different cases? Give up divorce work? Oh, Boss!"
"Not give it up, Thais. Not that. I couldn't. Divorce is my life. Coulda doctor give up healing? Could a Freudist give up lobotomy? No, Ididn't mean that. Frankly, I meant should I get more aggressive. Go outand get cases that would have a certain advertising value." I didn'twant to say I didn't feel like spending good protein on the sort ofadvertising Pancho and some of the other Legal Eagles, an unethicallot really, were buying. Besides, we Obanions have always been ratherfrugal.
Thais' face had come radiantly alive. "Oh, Joe—"
Now, that should have been a tip-off, because she never called meanything but boss. But I blundered right ahead because she was lookingat me as though I were Clarence Darrow or somebody.
"I have a case. A real case. If you would—if you only would takeit, you'd be famous. More famous, that is. You'd be really famous."
I knew that Thais had some rather questionable friends, being aFranklinist and all. And I knew too that some of them were spacegooks.But the combination of Lyra singing for Pancho and the way Thais waslooking at me made me get careless.
"Tell me about it," I said in my best legal manner.
Her face fell. "Non-terrestrial." And then she brightened. "But that'sthe whole point. These people are citizens of Terra now ... and thinkof it—you will be the very first Legal Eagle to represent them in adivorce case tried under our laws."
Under our laws. Oh, I should have known. But almost all law isprecedent. And I was blinded by trying a case that would set aprecedent instead of follow one. Heaven help me, I said yes.
"Where are these spacegooks from? And what time can they be in theoffice tomorrow?"
"The Llagoe Islands on Venus," she said excitedly. "And they can behere anytime you say."
"Okay, ten hundred sharp. What do they do and how many people areinvolved?"
"They're musicians. And, uh, there are three. And two correspondents."She looked rather sheepishly at me as I raised my eyebrows andcommented that even in this day and age of easy morality that was quitea number of 'people' to be involved in one divorce case. Too many, infact.
"Well, they are subject to our laws," she said doubtfully.
"Indeed they are—thanks to a Subversive Congress." I made a fewnotations on my desk pad. "Five of them, eh? A multiple marriage."
Thais' voice was very low. "Well, no. Not exactly."
She looked at me resignedly. "Three sexes," she