Girl reasons kept Quentin Maurus near school after college, but then the girl was gone. Except he was comfortable in the neighborhood, and he had more friends there than anywhere else, and besides, Quentin was a creature of routine. The local laundry was his laundry. His bank was another block south. The familiar grocery was close enough to reach on foot, and every part of the landscape was familiar, including one low brick building wearing the word CLINIC, and at the clinic’s front door, in warm red letters, a sign sporting the always reassuring claim:
“NO LADY SHALL BE TURNED AWAY.”
The college library was another reason to linger. Quentin visited the shelves two or three times a week.
“I know what you’re doing here,” Vinnie said.
“Learning about Mars,” said Quentin.
“No, you’re watching women. The same as me.”
“It’s winter break,” he pointed out. “Women are scarce.”
“But there’s a few, if you know where to hunt.”
Lavinia Ambrosia Trent was tall and handsome and quick to joke. And she was also a shameless Infallible--the latest species of perfect Christian. Like every lady who loved God and loved women, Vinnie was ready to misquote any line in the Testaments, making it seem natural to eat pussy.
With that shared passion, they were natural friends.
Quentin put Mars aside. “What’s life doing to you?”
“Graduate classes at the University.” She dropped into the adjacent chair. “I’m going to teach or do social work.”
“Noble choices,” he said.
“Don’t tease,” she said, punching his shoulder.
Maybe he was teasing. Quentin often wasn’t sure.
“Do you know where I’m living?"
“No,” he lied.
“Harp Hall,” she said, slapping his knee. “I’m their resident shepherd. The school gave me a whole building filled with pretty girls. Can you believe my luck?”
“You’re blessed,” he said.
“Visit me,” she insisted.
Vinnie came from money, and like any spoiled daughter, she liked to boast about how unspoiled and self-reliant she was. Quentin found himself bombarded with details about her shepherd duties and the wonderful apartment and how work paid for her studies, and this year was going to be her best year ever.
“And what are you doing?” she asked. “Graduate school?”
“No, just a factory job.”
She nodded, a wane smile standing in place of interest.
Quentin eyed a rover’s photograph of the dry Martian seafloor.
“Speaking of years,” Vinnie said.
“All the foreign ladies live in Harp. Most couldn’t travel home for the break, and you know what’s coming.”
“No,” she said. “1979.”
With a laugh and wink, Vinnie said, “I’m talking about the big party at the city auditorium. My ladies are going, and you need to join us. You like to dance, don’t you?”
That won a loud laugh. “Every man likes to dance.”
“You don’t know me,” he said.
“My name’s Lavinia,” she said.
He offered his hand and new name.
“Well, Mr. Ugly Natured, you don’t have to dance. But you can drink and stare at all the beautiful girls.”
“I don’t drink, either.”
Vinnie didn’t blink. “But you drive."
“And none of my ladies have cars. So swing by at eight, pick up your dates.”
“How many dates?”
“I don’t know. How big’s your ambition?”