25 Short Stories and Novellas Part 62

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The Brazilian said, "His voice is so clear, suddenly."

"He's terribly tired," said Carlotta. "He doesn't know what he's

saying. I should have just taken him right home. The interview's over.

It's too much of a strain on him."

"Could we not have him continue a small while longer? But perhaps we

should allow him to rest for a little," the Brazilian suggested.

"Rest," Uncle James said. "That's all I f.u.c.king want. But they don't

ever let you rest. You fight the Crusades, you fight the Peloponnesian,

you fight the Civil, you get so tired, you get so f.u.c.king tired. All

those wars. I fought 'em all. Every one of them at once. You run the

simulations and you've got the n.a.z.is over here and Hannibal there and

the Monterey crowd trying to bust in up the center, and Hastings, and

Tours, and San Jose-Grant and Lee-Charlemagne-Napoleon-Eisenhower-Patton . .

His voice was still weirdly lucid and strong.

But it was terrible to sit here listening to him babbling like this.

Enough is enough, Carlotta decided. She reached down quickly and hit

main cerebral and put him to sleep. Between one moment and the next

he shut down completely.

The Brazilian gasped. "What has happened? He has not died, has he?"

"No, he's all right. Just sleeping. He was too tired for this. I'm

sorry, Mr. Magal-Magal-" Carlotta rose. The money was safely stowed

away. "He's badly in need of rest, just as you heard him say. I'm going

to take him home. Perhaps we can do this interview some other time.

I don't know when. I have your card. I'll call you, all right?"

She flexed her palm and sent the chair moving out into the main lobby

of the hotel, and toward the door.

The driver, thank G.o.d, was still sitting there. Carlotta beckoned to him.

They were halfway across the bay before she brought the old man back to consciousness. He sat up rigidly in the chair, looked around, peered for a moment at the scenery, the afternoon light on the East Bay hills ahead of them, the puffy clouds that had come drifting down from somewhere.

"Pretty," he said. His voice had its old muddled quality again. "What a G.o.dd.a.m.n pretty place! Are we on the bridge? We were in the city, were we?"

"Yes," she told him. "For the anniversary of the Armistice. We had ourselves a time, too. The Emperor himself hung that medal around your neck."

"The Emperor, yes. Fine figure of a man. Norton the Ninth."

"Fourteenth, I think."

"Yes. Yes, right. Norton the Fourteenth," the old man said vaguely. "I meant Fourteenth." He fingered the medal idly and seemed to disappear for a moment into some abyss of thought where he was completely alone.

She heard him murmuring to himself, a faint indistinct flow of unintelligible sound. Then suddenly he said, reverting once more to that tone of the same strength and lucidity that he had been able to muster for just a moment at the Imperial Hotel, "What happened to that slick-looking rich foreigner? He was right there. Where did he go?"

"You were telling him about General Patton at Bull Run, and you got overexcited, and you weren't making any sense, Uncle. I had to shut you down for a little time."

"General Patton? Bull Run?"

"It was that time you nuked the Rebels," Carlotta said. "It's not important if you don't remember, Uncle. It was all so long ago. How could anyone expect you to remember?" She patted him gently on the shoulder. "Anyway, we had ourselves a time in the city today, didn't we? That's all that matters. You got yourself a medal, and we had ourselves a time."

He chuckled and nodded, and said something in a voice too soft to understand, and slipped off easily into sleep.

The car sped onward, eastward across the bridge, back toward Berkeley.

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25 Short Stories and Novellas Part 62 summary

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