Hmm. Looking around, I see I’ve never posted a Samuel Delany story here. That’s quite the oversight. Thanks to Strange Horizons for the prompt.
At which point Kelly noticed what was going on around us, got an ashcan cover, and ran into the pissoir, banging the walls. Five guys scooted out; even a big pissoir only holds four.
A very blond man put his hand on my arm and smiled, “Don’t you think, Spacer, that you . . . people should leave?”
I looked at his hand on my blue uniform. “Est-ce que tu es un frelk?”
His eyebrows rose, then he shook his head. “Une frelk,” he corrected. “No. I am not. Sadly for me. You look as though you may once have been a man. But now . . .” He smiled. “You have nothing for me now. The police.” He nodded across the street where I noticed the gendarmerie for the first time. “They don’t bother us. You are strangers, though. . . .”
But Muse was already yelling, “Hey, come on! Let’s get out of here, huh?” And left.
And went up again.
And came down in Houston:
“Goddamn!” Muse said. “Gemini Flight Control—you mean this is where it all started? Let’s get out of here, please!”
So took a bus out through Pasadena, then the monoline to Galveston, and were going to take it down the Gulf, but Lou found a couple with a pickup truck—
“Glad to give you a ride, Spacers. You people up there on them planets and things, doing all that good work for the government.”
—who were going south, them and the baby, so we rode in the back for two hundred and fifty miles of sun and wind.
“You think they’re frelks?” Lou asked, elbowing me. “I bet they’re frelks. They’re just waiting for us give ’em the come-on.”
“Cut it out. They’re a nice, stupid pair of country kids.”
“That don’t mean they ain’t frelks!”
“You don’t trust anybody, do you?”
And finally a bus again that rattled us through Brownsville and across the border into Matamoros, where we staggered down the steps into the dust and the scorched evening, with a lot of Mexicans and chickens and Texas Gulf shrimp fishermen—who smelled worst—and we shouted the loudest. Forty-three whores—I counted—had turned out for the shrimp fishermen, and by the time we had broken two of the windows in the bus station they were all laughing. The shrimp fishermen said they wouldn’t buy us no food but would get us drunk if we wanted, ’cause that was the custom with shrimp fishermen. But we yelled, broke another window; then, while I was lying on my back on the telegraph office steps, singing, a woman with dark lips bent over and put her hand on my cheek. “You are very sweet.” Her rough hair fell forward. “But the men, they are standing around and watching you. And that is taking up time. Sadly, their time is our money. Spacer, do you not think you . . . people should leave?”
I grabbed her wrist. “¡Usted!” I whispered. “¿Usted es una frelka?”
“Frelko en español.” She smiled and patted the sunburst that hung from my belt buckle. “Sorry. But you have nothing that . . . would be useful to me. It is too bad, for you look like you were once a woman, no? And I like women, too. . . .”
I rolled off the porch.
“Is this a drag, or is this a drag!” Muse was shouting. “Come on! Let’s go!”
We managed to get back to Houston before dawn, somehow.
And went up.