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´╗┐Title: Green Grew the Lasses
Author: Wainwright, Ruth Laura
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Green Grew the Lasses" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         GREEN GREW THE LASSES

                       By RUTH LAURA WAINWRIGHT

                      Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                   Galaxy Science Fiction July 1953.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



             Since evils cancel out, avoid odd numbers of
            them ... even if you have to get an odder one!


The September evening was hot and humid, and Helen Raymond, watching
her husband pace nervously about the living room, grew tenser by the
minute. Robert would walk up to an open window, sniff abstractedly,
move to the next window, and repeat the performance.

"For goodness' sakes, Robert, what _are_ you snuffling about?" she
finally demanded in exasperation. She had been on edge ever since her
cousin Dora had arrived that afternoon. Dora had lost another of a long
succession of short-lived jobs and, as usual, had descended on them
without warning for an indefinite visit. Wasn't it enough to have to
bear, that and the heat, too, without Robert's acting up?

"Smog's getting worse all the time," Robert complained.

Dora lifted her nose to sniff daintily. "It _is_ an odd smog. Now
in New York we don't--" Her voice trailed off and left the sentence
hanging as she drew in another sample of the night air.

Helen sniffed, too. "We look like a bunch of rabbits," she thought
irritably. But Dora was right. It was an odd smog, sort of sweet and
bitter at the same time. Not sulphuric like most of the smog they
were used to, or the spoiled-onions-frying-in-rancid-fat smell of oil
wells when the wind was off the land. This odor made her think of
rank tropical weeds, a jungle miasma, though she had never been near a
jungle.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was something familiar about it, though, and then she remembered
that her hands had smelled like that the morning after she had weeded
the tiny garden alongside their house. The flowerbed had been cluttered
with weeds of a kind she had never seen before, horrible-looking
things. Could they be the cause of that awful smell? They had sprung
up everywhere lately, and, while she had pulled them out of their own
garden, they were growing all over, and she couldn't very well weed the
whole town, could she?

"I think--wait, I want to get something," she said, and ran outdoors.

She came back with a sample of the weed, one that she pulled from the
garden of the vacant house next door. The plant was about a foot high,
with a straight, stiff stem, of a bright metallic green, with a single
row of inch-wide rosettes of chartreuse leaves or petals down one side
of the stem. There could be no doubt about its being the cause of the
unpleasant odor, and Helen held it out at arm's length.

"What the heck is that?" Robert asked.

"Smell!" she said.

"Phew! So that's it. What is it, anyway?"

Helen shook her head. "Never saw anything like it until recently. I
pulled 'em out of our garden, but they're all over."

Helen carried the offending plant to the back door. When she came
back, Robert peered at her intently, shut his eyes and shook his head
quickly, and then stared at her again.

"Think you'll know me next time you see me?" she asked, annoyed.

"First good look I've had at you this evening. What kind of face powder
is that you're using? Don't tell me that peculiar shade is the latest
fashion?"

Puzzled, Helen put her hand to her face as if she should be able to
feel the color.

"Mom's green!" chortled eight-year-old Bobby. "You ought to see
yourself!"

"Green?" Helen asked worriedly.

"Green," Robert said. "You feel all right?"

"Anemia," Dora declared positively. "You don't eat properly. Not enough
vitamins. Now, while I'm here--"

A quick look in the mirror, and Helen told herself that she wasn't
really a _green_ green, just sort of greenish, if you looked at her in
the right light. By morning, the odd color ought to be all gone. There
was no sense in worrying. Anybody could look sort of off-color now and
then. Maybe Dora was right--she was anemic.

       *       *       *       *       *

But she was stunned by the first sight of herself in the mirror the
next morning. There was no mistaking it this time. She was as green
as grass, and Dora, too, was beginning to show signs of becoming that
unbecoming color.

Reluctantly, Dora conceded that it might not be the diet, after all.
She hadn't been there long enough for it to have that much effect.

Robert and Bobby were still shockingly normal.

"What--whatever can it be?" Helen asked shakily, holding out her green
hands. The only answer was hysterical screaming that sent them all
racing to the front door.

The Raymonds lived in a typical California court, with four small
houses facing four other small houses across a central walk that ran at
right angles to the street. On this walk most of the tenants were now
gathered, and the Raymonds and Dora joined them.

Helen didn't know whether to feel relieved or more dismayed when she
saw that all the women and girls were as green as she, and just as
terrified.

Someone, of course, had called the police, and a prowl car hummed to a
stop at the curb. A harrassed, white-faced policeman leaned out of the
window.

"We're doing all we can," he called. "It's like this all over town.
Don't know yet what caused it, but we're investigating." The car sped
away.

It was soon apparent that only Mimosa Beach was affected. Why, no one
could guess. Some said it was all a publicity stunt of some kind,
advertising a movie or television show, or a chlorophyll product,
perhaps, but they couldn't explain how it worked, or why only women and
girls were affected. And how could it possibly help sell anything?

Overnight, Mimosa Beach became famous, and infested with reporters and
color photographers, all male. There would have been a mass exodus if
there had been any place to go. But other communities, fearing that
their womenfolk would "catch" the greenness, like measles, refused to
let them in. Besides, in Mimosa Beach they had the dubious comfort of
all being alike, while elsewhere they would have been freaks.

There was so little they could do to make themselves look attractive.
The cosmetics they had or that were available were all wrong. But they
did the best they could, though there was no hiding that ghastly green
complexion.

"What a shame your hair isn't red," Dora said one day to Helen. "Amy
Olson, now, her hair really goes with green skin." Cocking her head
to one side, she studied the younger woman intently. "Your hair--that
mousy brown--wonder if we couldn't touch it up just a _wee_ bit?"

Helen clenched her teeth against the coy, criticizing voice. "I'm not
the flamboyant type," she said.

Dora was as green as Helen by this time, and it certainly wasn't a bit
more becoming to her. She seemed to be enjoying the publicity, though.
Besides, it gave her a good excuse for not leaving.

If only the greenness had come before Dora--they might have been spared
_one_ calamity!

       *       *       *       *       *

Four girls moved into the house next to the Raymonds, the last house in
the row.

Neither the Raymonds nor Dora noticed that they had moved in; they came
so quietly. The houses in the court were furnished and they must have
paid the rent, obtained the keys, and walked in, all settled as soon
as they closed the door behind them. It wasn't until they rang the
Raymonds' doorbell in the early evening that anyone in the household
was aware of them.

"We move next door," one of them said brightly to Helen when she
answered the door. "We come see you, get acquainted. We come in?"

"Of course," Helen said, and they trooped in. "We're the Raymonds, and
this is my cousin, Dora Hastings."

The new neighbor who had spoken first pointed to her companions, one
by one. "Patricia Pontiac," she said. "Clara Ford. Mary Maroon. Me,"
poking a thumb at her own midriff, "Jack Jones."

"Jack Jones?" Helen repeated. "That's a man's name."

"Man?" the girl asked blankly.

"Man!" Robert said impatiently. "Like me."

The four girls noticed him for the first time, and then they saw Bobby.
They stared at the two of them, their mouths slightly open, their eyes
wide with horror. They drew closer to each other, as if for protection,
and shivered.

Robert and Bobby looked at each other in bewildered embarrassment.

"My husband and son," Helen said tartly. Did these odd creatures think
all males were wolves, including eight-year-old Bobby?

"That--that color!" Mary Maroon quavered. "Not green!"

"Only dames are green," Bobby scornfully said.

"Imagine!" Dora tittered nervously. "Afraid of Robert and Bobby!"

"Won't you sit down?" Helen asked. This nonsense of being scared of her
menfolk had gone on long enough. She didn't want them to sit down. She
wanted them to go. But she could hardly ask them to do that.

Naturally, they sat down.

Bobby turned on the television for a space opera, and the four new
neighbors watched it avidly. When the spaceship landed on what was
supposed to be Venus, they giggled behind their hands and looked at
each other sidewise. Hadn't they ever seen a show like that before?
What was so unusually funny about this one?

When the commercial came on, Robert turned off the sound. Mary Maroon
looked at Bobby, and then at Helen, who was sitting with her arm around
her son.

"You--baby?" she asked.

Helen smiled proudly. "Yes, this is my baby."

Bobby squirmed indignantly.

Mary Maroon then turned to Robert. "You got baby?"

Robert said, "Sure, this is my baby," patting Bobby on the knee. To
Helen, he muttered, "What does she think, anyway?"

The four stared at Robert and Bobby and Helen in such obvious
confusion that Robert jumped up nervously to turn the sound back on.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the girls had gone home, Bobby was sent off to bed, and Robert,
loosening his tie, demanded, "What's the matter with them, anyhow? Do
they have to stare at me as if I were a damned biological error? Don't
they know what a man is, for heaven's sake?"

"Really, Robert," Dora protested, blushing a deeper green.

"Well, for gosh sakes--"

"Those names!" Helen said. "Clara Ford, that's not too bad. I'm not so
sure about Mary Maroon."

Dora nodded. "Mary White. Mary Black. So why not Mary Maroon? But
Patricia Pontiac!"

Helen threw up her hands. "They must have made that one up. But _Jack
Jones_!"

"Crazy, if you ask me," Robert said, "pretending they were scared of me
and Bobby."

"There's a Patricia Beauty Shoppe next to the Pontiac agency," Dora
suggested. "Maybe--"

"Funny way to get a name. Where the heck are they from?" Robert
wondered.

"Must be from right here in town," Helen reminded him. "Otherwise they
wouldn't be green."

"You know, the greenness looks sort of natural on them," Dora said
thoughtfully. "Well, think I'll go to bed."

After she had gone, Helen said wistfully in a whisper, "If only awful
things could sort of counteract each other the way some poisons do."
She started making up the davenport bed; Dora had their room. "First
Dora's coming, and our turning green, and now those crazy girls right
next door. But three poisons--no, it wouldn't come out even."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a day or two later when Helen found her new neighbors working
in the little flowerbed alongside their house. They were busily
transplanting weeds of the kind responsible for the unpleasant odor.

"For goodness' sake!" Helen exclaimed, disgusted. "What in the world
do you want with that stuff? Why, it took the rest of us here in the
court days to get it all out and now you want to bring it back. Throw
it away!"

"Oh, no!" Patricia Pontiac objected, holding a bunch of the weeds
against her heart protectingly. "It's faneweed!"

"You mean you've seen the stuff before?"

Patricia nodded. "We have it all over where we came from. Must have
faneweed."

"But you couldn't have come from some place else," Helen pointed out.
"You wouldn't be green if you did."

"All green where we come from," Mary Maroon said.

"I don't know where that stuff--faneweed, you call it?--came from,"
Helen said, refusing to pay any attention to their claim that they came
from some place else where everyone was green. There just wasn't any
such place!

"We drop seed other time we come," Patricia said. Then she added
indignantly, "You no believe we come from other place?"

"What other place?" asked Helen, with weary politeness.

"You call it Venus."

"That picture the other night," Clara Ford giggled. "Not like Venus at
all. So funny!"

Helen could stand no more. "So are you!" she said rudely, and went into
the house.

They were even crazier than she'd thought. Greener, too, when you saw
them in broad daylight. Did the greenness affect the mind, and the
greener you got, the zanier you became? Would she get to be like that?
The idea frightened her.

"No turn green?" Patricia Pontiac asked Robert plaintively one day, as
if she were blaming him for her bewilderment.

"No!" he answered shortly. "But I don't blame you for envying us men.
It must be tough to be that lousy-looking color."

"Green is _good_ color!" Mary Maroon declared stoutly. "You no have
baby yourself?"

"Of course not!"

Patricia turned to Helen. "Then what she for?"

"_He!_" Robert corrected, and then added sarcastically, "Papa works to
buy baby shoes. Now, does that answer your question?"

Helen sighed. There was just no use trying to explain anything to those
four girls.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fall and winter passed. The dull monotony of being green was accented
now and then by articles and pictures in newspapers and magazines, and
by rumors, always proved false, that a remedy had been found, though
chemists, biologists and doctors continued hunting for the cause of
the catastrophe. Autopsies provided no clue. Women protested that the
doctors were looking at them with a wishful drop-dead expression, as if
the _next_ autopsy might be the one that would supply the answer.

The greenness was still confined to Mimosa Beach. Other communities
kept up their quarantine. The four girls next door to the Raymonds were
as zany as ever, and Dora Hastings stayed on, of necessity.

And then the monotony was broken by greater calamities.

First, there was the matter of Patricia Pontiac's approaching
motherhood. While this, of course, made no difference as far as the
town was concerned, Dora was greatly perturbed, and, ever being one to
insist on others keeping within the limits of her own narrow paths, she
took the girl to task.

"Patricia," she insisted sternly, "there simply _must_ be a man to
blame for your condition! You _must_ marry him. Think of the baby! You
want him to be fatherless?"

"Fatherless? Him?" Patricia repeated, frowning in perplexity. "What you
talking about? My little baby girl all mine. This man business I don't
understand."

"Nonsense! You're just trying to pretend innocence."

"Oh, give it up, Dora," Helen urged wearily. "She doesn't know what
you're talking about."

Dora raised skeptical eyebrows. "In _her_ condition?"

After that, Dora went around with a great air of virtue condescending
to help the wayward. It must be a burden, Helen felt, to have to feel
superior because of other people's faults. Such a negative sort of
superiority.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the next few weeks, Dora had plenty of chance to feel superior.
Other unmarried girls and women besides Patricia became pregnant and,
like Patricia, they insisted no man was responsible. But they were not
complacent about it the way Patricia was; to them it was an indignity
they did not deserve.

"What's this town coming to, anyway?" Dora demanded.

"Parthenogenetic births, maybe?" Helen ventured. "No one would have
believed that we'd turn green, but we did. Honestly, Dora, I'm getting
so I'd believe almost anything in this nightmare existence of ours,
even that _you_ were about to have a baby!"

"That," Dora rejoined acidly, "is not at all likely. But are you trying
to imply that our turning green could have something to do with these
shameful births?"

"I didn't say that, but you could be right."

"Hmmph!" Dora snorted. "A lot of nonsense!"

The four girls were in the Raymonds' living room one afternoon, a week
later, talking with Helen, when Dora, who had been feeling ill and had
gone to the doctor's, walked in. She glared at the four girls.

"I'm going to have a baby," she accused them.

Helen drew her breath in sharply. "Oh, no! Not you, too!"

"Of course," Clara Ford said complacently. "Every one have babies.
Except Robert and Bobby and the ones like them. Jack and Mary and I
have ours before we leave Venus. Have only one each, of course."

"But why am _I_ like this? How can _I_ have a baby this way?" Dora's
voice was shrill with anger and panic.

"How else?" Jack asked calmly.

A little chill of horror raced down Helen's spine. Could these odd
girls really be telling the truth? Were they from Venus, as they
insisted? She could just imagine them coming to Earth--on a Flying
Saucer, maybe--listening to the radio to learn the language. Spying on
us, but not learning as much as they thought they did. She choked off a
giggle, an incipient hysteria, as another thought struck her.

"Will _I_ have one of those--those--?"

"You already have baby," Patricia said. "Can't see how you have baby
before we come with faneweed to make you green."

Helen and Dora stared at her.

"You mean," Helen finally was able to ask, "that that weed caused all
this? That little weed?"

"But that is what we tell you all along, only you always walk away
angry."

       *       *       *       *       *

All those scientists working so hard, Helen realized bitterly, and all
the time what they were looking for was literally under their feet!
How could anyone have thought that the faneweed was responsible for
anything but the bad smell they had finally become accustomed to?

"Why didn't I listen to these girls, pay more attention to what they
said?" Helen asked herself. She might have been able to prevent a lot
of things that had happened. She got up from her chair and walked
nervously about. Well, she couldn't change the past, but she could stop
further evil from the faneweed.

"I'll bet they don't have men on Venus," she said to Dora, "judging
from the way they act. Then they'd have to have parthenogenetic births."

She turned to Patricia. "Why did you come to Earth? And why just to
Mimosa Beach?"

"We try little place, what you call sample, before we change whole
world," Patricia explained. And then she added sadly, "So many of our
babies die. Not enough people left on Venus. We think maybe you like to
come to Venus with us, so we make you as us."

"That was very, very wicked of you!" Dora said severely.

The four Venusians shrugged resignedly.

"Might as well go home," Mary Maroon said. "They don't like it our way."

"And leave me like this?" Dora demanded shrilly.

"Get rid of faneweed, be as before," Patricia assured her.

"With a baby I'll have trouble accounting for," Dora said bitterly.
"Oh, no, you don't. You stay right here. And, Helen, don't you tell
anybody that it's the faneweed. Then people from other places won't
know about my baby, and it won't matter here as long as things are the
way they are."

"You come with us," Clara suggested wheedlingly. "You'll like Venus.
Venus so pretty! No work, all happiness!"

"No work? No wonder the babies die!" Dora exclaimed.

Helen could see the yeast of reform beginning to work in Dora. The four
Venusians looked puzzled. "They do that all the time," Helen thought
irritably. Aloud, she said, "Dora, of course I have to tell about the
faneweed. There are others involved, you know."

"I don't suppose," Dora interrupted, "that you girls know anything
about diet. Those babies could probably be saved with a little
intelligence and some hard work."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the four Venusians left shortly thereafter for their home, they
took along Dora Hastings, who had great plans for their planet.

With the faneweed on Earth destroyed, the women and girls of Mimosa
Beach returned to their original color. Even the parthenogenetic baby
girls born as a result of the unfortunate experiment of the Venusians
were white.

"Well, the bad things went in pairs, after all," Helen said to Robert
when everything was normal again. "The faneweed was the fourth evil,
though we didn't know it. And when we got rid of the faneweed, the
greenness left. The Venusians went away and--and I do hope Dora's all
right!"

"She finally got what should be a lifetime job," Robert answered. He
crossed his fingers and, looking out of a western window at Venus,
bright against the darkening sky, added, "At least, Venus is farther
away than New York. That ought to help."





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