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It wasn't like a party in Nevia and certainly not in Center, except this: I got propositioned. I might have considered it if this girl hadn't been wearing sandals. Her toes were dirty. I thought of Zhai-ee-van and her dainty, clean fur, and told her thanks, I was under a vow.

The beard who had recited the poem came over and stood in front of me. "Man, like what rumble you picked up that scar?"

I said it had been in Southeast Asia. He looked at me scornfully. "Mercenary!"

"Well, not always," I told him. "Sometimes I fight for free. Like right now."

I tossed him against a wall and took my suitcase outside and went to the airport—and then Seattle and Anchorage, Alaska, and wound up at Elmendorf AFB, clean, sober, and with the Lady Vivamus disguised as fishing tackle.

Mother was glad to see me and the kids seemed pleased—I had bought presents between planes in Seattle—and my stepdaddy and I swapped yarns.

I did one important thing in Alaska; I flew to Point Barrow. There I found part of what I was looking for: no pressure, no sweat, not many people. You look out across the ice and know that only the North Pole is over that way, and a few Eskimos and fewer white people here. Eskimos are every bit as nice as they have been pictured. Their babies never cry, the adults never seem cross—only the dogs staked-out between the huts are bad-tempered.

But Eskimos are "civilized" now; the old ways are going. You can buy a choc malt at Barrow and airplanes fly daily in a sky that may hold missiles tomorrow.

But they still seal amongst the ice floes, the village is rich when they take a whale, half starved if they don't. They don't count time and they don't seem to worry about anything—ask a man how old he is, he answers: "Oh, I'm quite of an age." That's how old Rufo is. Instead of good-bye, they say, "Sometime again!" No particular time and again well see you.

They let me dance with them. You must wear gloves (in their way they are as formal as the Doral) and you stomp and sing with the drums—and I found myself weeping. I don't know why. It was a dance about a little old man who doesn't have a wife and now he sees a seal—

I said, "Sometime again!"—went back to Anchorage and to Copenhagen. From 30,000 feet the North Pole looks like prairie covered with snow, except black lines that are water. I never expected to see the North Pole.

From Copenhagen I went to Stockholm. Majatta was not with her parents but was only a square away. She cooked me that Swedish dinner, and her husband is a good Joe. From Stockholm I phoned a "Personal" ad to the Paris edition of the Herald-Tribune, then went to Paris.

I kept the ad in daily and sat across from the Two Maggots and stacked saucers and tried not to fret. I watched the ma'm'selles and thought about what I might do.

If a man wanted to settle down for forty years or so, wouldn't Nevia be a nice place? Okay, It has dragons. It doesn't have flies, nor mosquitoes, nor smog. Nor parking problems, nor freeway complexes that look like diagrams for abdominal surgery. Not a traffic light anywhere.

Muri would be glad to see me. I might marry her. And maybe little whatever-her-name was, her kid sister, too. Why not? Marriage customs aren't everywhere those they use in Paducah. Star would be pleased; she would like being related to Jocko by marriage.

But I would go see Star first, or soon anyhow, and kick that pile of strange shoes aside. But I wouldn't stay; it would be "sometime again" which would suit Star. It is a phrase, one of the few, that translates exactly into Centrist jargon—and means exactly the same.

"Sometime again," because there are other maidens, or pleasing facsimiles, elsewhere, in need of rescuing. Somewhere. And a man must work at his trade, which wise wives know.

"I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life to the lees." A long road, a trail, a "Tramp Royal," with no certainty of what you'll eat or where or if, nor where you'll sleep, nor with whom. But somewhere is Helen of Troy and all her many sisters and there is still noble work to be done.

A man can stack a lot of saucers in a month and I began to fume instead of dream. Why the hell didn't Rufo show up? I brought this account up to date from sheer nerves. Has Rufo gone back? Or is he dead?

Or was he "never born"? Am I a psycho discharge and what is in this case I carry with me wherever I go? A sword? I'm afraid to look, so I do—and now I'm afraid to ask. I met an old sergeant once, a thirty-year man, who was convinced that he owned all the diamond mines in Africa; he spent his evenings keeping books on them. Am I just as happily deluded? Are these francs what is left of my monthly disability check?

Does anyone ever get two chances? Is the Door in the Wall always gone when next you look? Where do you catch the boat for Brigadoon? Brother, it's like the post office in Brooklyn: You can't get there from here!

I'm going to give Rufo two more weeks—

I've heard from Rufo! A clipping of my ad was for warded to him but he had a little trouble. He wouldn't say much by phone but I gather he was mixed up with a carnivorous Fraulein and got over the border almost sans calottes. But he'll be here tonight. He is quite agreeable to a change in planets and universes and says he has something interesting in mind. A little risky perhaps, but not dull. I'm sure he's right both ways. Rufo might steal your cigarettes and certainly your wench but things aren't dull around him—and he would die defending your rear.

So tomorrow we are heading up that Glory Road, rocks and all!

Got any dragons you need killed?