Robert A. Heinlein Double Star
To Henry and Catherine Kuttner
If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he owned the place, he’s a spaceman.
It is a logical necessity. His profession makes him feel like boss of all creation; when he sets foot dirtside he is slumming among the peasants. As for his sartorial inelegance, a man who is in uniform nine tenths of the time and is more used to deep space than to civilization can hardly be expected to know how to dress properly. He is a sucker for the alleged tailors who swarm around every spaceport peddling “ground outfits.”
I could see that this big-boned fellow had been dressed by Omar the Tentmaker – padded shoulders that were too big to start with, shorts cut so that they crawled up his hairy thighs as he sat down, a ruffled chemise that might have looked well on a cow.
But I kept my opinion to myself and bought him a drink with my last half-Imperial, considering
it an investment, spacemen being the way they are about money. “Hot jets!” I said as we touched glasses. He gave me a quick glance.
That was my initial mistake in dealing with Dak Broadbent. Instead of answering, “Clear space!” or, “Safe grounding!” as he should have, he looked me over and said softly, “A nice sentiment, but to the wrong man. I’ve never been out.”
That was another good place to keep my mouth shut. Spacemen did not often come to the bar of Casa Mañana; it was not their sort of hotel and it’s miles from the port. When one shows up in ground clothes, seeks a dark corner of the bar, and objects to being called a spaceman, that’s his business. I had picked that spot myself so that I could see without being seen. I owed a little money here and there at the time, nothing important but embarrassing. I should have assumed that he had his reasons, too, and respected them.
But my vocal cords lived their own life, wild and free. “Don’t give me that, shipmate,” I replied. “If you’re a ground hog, I’m Mayor of Tycho City. I’ll wager you’ve done more drinking on Mars,” I added, noticing the cautious way he lifted his glass, a dead giveaway of low-gravity habits, “than you’ve ever done on Earth.”
‘Keep your voice down!” he cut in without moving his lips. “What makes you sure that I am a voyageur? You don’t know me.”
“Sorry,” I said. “You can be anything you like. But I’ve got eyes. You gave yourself away the minute you walked in.”
He said something under his breath. “How?”
“Don’t let it worry you. I doubt if anyone else noticed. But I see things other people don’t see.” I handed him my card, a little smugly perhaps. There is only one Lorenzo Smythe, the One-Man Stock Company. Yes, I’m “”The Great Lorenzo” – stereo, canned opera, legit – “Pantomimist and Mimicry Artist Extraordinary”.”
He read my card and dropped it into a sleeve pocket – which annoyed me; those cards had cost me money – genuine imitation hand engraving. “I see your point,” he said quietly, “but what was wrong with the way I behaved?”
“I’ll show you,” I said. “I’ll walk to the door like a ground hog and come back the way you walk. Watch.” I did so, making the trip back in a slightly exaggerated version of his walk to allow for his untrained eye – feet sliding softly along the floor as if it were deck plates, weight carried forward and balanced from the hips, hands a trifle forward and clear of the body, ready to grasp.