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Teething Ring   By:

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Teething Ring


[Illustration: Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS]

Anyone can make an error, but the higher the society ... the more disastrous the mistake!

Half an hour before, while she had been engrossed in the current soap opera and Harry Junior was screaming in his crib, Melinda would naturally have slammed the front door in the little man's face. However, when the bell rang, she was wearing her new Chinese red housecoat, had just lustered her nails to a blinding scarlet, and Harry Junior was sleeping like an angel.

Yawning, Melinda answered the door and the little man said, beaming, "Excellent day. I have geegaws for information."

Melinda did not quite recoil. He was perhaps five feet tall, with a gleaming hairless scalp and a young old face. He wore a plain gray tunic, and a peddler's tray hung from his thin shoulders.

"Don't want any," Melinda stated flatly.

" Please. " He had great, beseeching amber eyes. "They all say that. I haven't much time. I must be back at the University by noon."

"You working your way through college?"

He brightened. "Yes. I suppose you could call it that. Alien anthropology major."

Melinda softened. The initiations those frats pulled nowadays shaving the poor guy's head, eating goldfish it was criminal.

"Well?" she asked grudgingly. "What's in the tray?"

"Flanglers," said the little man eagerly. "Oscilloscopes. Portable force field generators. A neural distorter." Melinda's face was blank. The little man frowned. "You use them, of course? This is a Class IV culture?" Melinda essayed a weak shrug and the little man sighed with relief. His eyes fled past her to the blank screen of the TV set. "Ah, a monitor." He smiled. "For a moment I was afraid May I come in?"

Melinda shrugged, opened the door. This might be interesting, like a vacuum cleaner salesman who had cleaned her drapes last week for free. And Kitty Kyle Battles Life wouldn't be on for almost an hour.

"My name is Porteous," said the little man with an eager smile. "I'm doing a thematic on Class IV cultures." He whipped out a stylus, began jotting down notes. The TV set fascinated him.

"It's turned off right now," Melinda said.

Porteous's eyes widened impossibly. "You mean," he whispered in horror, "that you're exercising Class V privileges? This is terribly confusing. I get doors slammed in my face, when Class Fours are supposed to have a splendid gregarian quotient you do have atomic power, don't you?"

"Oh, sure," said Melinda uncomfortably. This wasn't going to be much fun.

"Space travel?" The little face was intent, sharp.

"Well," Melinda yawned, looking at the blank screen, "they've got Space Patrol, Space Cadet, Tales of Tomorrow ..."

"Excellent. Rocket ships or force fields?" Melinda blinked. "Does your husband own one?" Melinda shook her blonde head helplessly. "What are your economic circumstances?"

Melinda took a deep rasping breath, said, "Listen, mister, is this a demonstration or a quiz program?"

"Oh, my excuse. Demonstration, certainly. You will not mind the questions?"

"Questions?" There was an ominous glint in Melinda's blue eyes.

"Your delightful primitive customs, art forms, personal habits "

"Look," Melinda said, crimsoning. "This is a respectable neighborhood, and I'm not answering any Kinsey report, understand?"

The little man nodded, scribbling. "Personal habits are tabu? I so regret. The demonstration." He waved grandly at the tray. "Anti grav sandals? A portable solar converter? Apologizing for this miserable selection, but on Capella they told me " He followed Melinda's entranced gaze, selected a tiny green vial. "This is merely a regenerative solution. You appear to have no cuts or bruises."

"Oh," said Melinda nastily. "Cures warts, cancer, grows hair, I suppose."

Porteous brightened. "Of course. I see you can scan. Amazing... Continue reading book >>

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