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Native Son   By:

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By T. D. Hamm

Tommy hated Earth, knowing his mother might go home to Mars without him. Worse, would a robot secretly take her place?...

Tommy Benton, on his first visit to Earth, found the long anticipated wonders of twenty first century New York thrilling the first week, boring and unhappy the second week, and at the end of the third he was definitely ready to go home.

The never ending racket of traffic was torture to his abnormally acute ears. Increased atmospheric pressure did funny things to his chest and stomach. And quick and sure footed on Mars, he struggled constantly against the heavy gravity that made all his movements clumsy and uncoordinated.

The endless canyons of towering buildings, with their connecting Skywalks, oppressed and smothered him. Remembering the endless vistas of rabbara fields beside a canal that was like an inland sea, homesickness flooded over him.

He hated the people who stared at him with either open or hidden amusement. His Aunt Bee, for instance, who looked him up and down with frank disapproval and said loudly, "For Heavens sake, Helen! Take him to a good tailor and get those bones covered up!"

Was it his fault he was six inches taller than Terran boys his age, and had long, thin arms and legs? Or that his chest was abnormally developed to compensate for an oxygen thin atmosphere? I'd like to see her , he thought fiercely, out on the Flatlands; she'd be gasping like a canal fish out of water.

Even his parents, happily riding the social merry go round of Terra, after eleven years in the Martian flatlands, didn't seem to understand how he felt.

"Don't you like Earth, Tommy?" queried his mother anxiously.

"Oh ... it's all right, I guess."

"... 'A nice place to visit' ..." said his father sardonically.

"... 'but I wouldn't live here if they gave me the place!' ..." said his mother, and they both burst out laughing for no reason that Tommy could see. Of course, they did that lots of times at home and Tommy laughed with them just for the warm, secure feeling of belonging. This time he didn't feel like laughing.

"When are we going home?" he repeated stubbornly.

His father pulled Tommy over in the crook of his arm and said gently, "Well, not right away, son. As a matter of fact, how would you like to stay here and go to school?"

Tommy pulled away and looked at him incredulously.

"I've been to school!"

"Well, yes," admitted his father. "But only to the colony schools. You don't want to grow up and be an ignorant Martian sandfoot all your life, do you?"

"Yes, I do! I want to be a Martian sandfoot. And I want to go home where people don't look at me and say, 'So this is your little Martian!'"

Benton, Sr., put his arm around Tommy's stiffly resistant shoulders. "Look here, old man," he said persuasively. "I thought you wanted to be a space engineer. You can't do that without an education you know. And your Aunt Bee will take good care of you."

Tommy faced him stubbornly. "I don't want to be any old spaceman. I want to be a sandfoot like old Pete. And I want to go home."

Helen bit back a smile at the two earnest, stubborn faces so ridiculously alike, and hastened to avert the gathering storm.

"Now look, fellows. Tommy's career doesn't have to be decided in the next five minutes ... after all, he's only ten. He can make up his mind later on if he wants to be an engineer or a rabbara farmer. Right now, he's going to stay here and go to school ... and I'm staying with him."

Resolutely avoiding both crestfallen faces, Helen, having shepherded Tommy to bed, returned to the living room acutely conscious of Big Tom's bleak, hurt gaze at her back.

"Helen, you're going to make a sissy out of the boy," he said at last. "There isn't any reason why he can't stay here at home with Bee."

Helen turned to face him.

"Earth isn't home to Tommy. And your sister Bee told him he ought to be out playing football with the boys instead of hanging around the house... Continue reading book >>

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