"Why don't you find yourself some
nice little American girl," his father
had often repeated. But George was
on Venus ... and he loved pale
green skin ... and globular heads
and most of all, George
By JAMES McKIMMEY, Jr.
George Kenington was sixteen,
and, as he told himself, someone
who was sixteen knew more about
love than someone who was, say, forty-two.
Like his father, for instance. A whole lot
more probably. When you were forty-two,
you got narrow-minded and nervous and
angry. You said this is this, and that is that,
and there is nothing else. When someone
thought and felt and talked that way,
George thought bitterly, there was not
enough room inside that person to know
what it was like, loving a Venusian.
But George knew. He knew very well.
Her name was Gistla. She was not pretty
in standards of American colonists. She had
the pale greenish Venusian skin, and she
was too short and rather thick. Her face, of
course, was not an American face. It was
the face of native Venus. Round and
smooth, with the large lidless eyes. There
were no visible ears and a lack of hair
strengthened the globular look of her head.
But she was a person. The beauty was
inside of her. Did you have to point to a
girl's face and say, "Here is where the nose
should be, here is where the ears should
be?" Did you have to measure the width between
eyes and test the color of the skin?
Did you have to check the size of the teeth
and the existence of hair? Was all of this
necessary to understand what was inside
George snapped a leaf from an overhanging
vine and threw it angrily to the ground.
He was walking along a thin path that led
from the colony to the tangled hills beyond,
where hues of red and yellow and purple
reflected like bold sweeps of watercolor. In
a moment he would see Gistla, and with the
color before his eyes and the sweet perfume
of the flowers in his lungs, he felt again the
familiar rise of excitement.
George had not always lived on Venus.
The Colony was very new. By 2022, most
of the Earth countries had sent colonizers to
Mars. But as yet, in June of that year, Venus
had been touched by only the sparsest invasion
of American civilization. George had
arrived just three years ago, when his father
had been appointed Secretary of the colonizing
And that was the whole trouble, really.
Father was the Secretary, Mother was the
Secretary's wife, Sister was the daughter of
the Secretary. Everybody was wrapped up
in it. Except George.
George loved Gistla.
"Why don't you find yourself some nice
little American girl?" his father had said.
"Say like Henry Farrel's little daughter?"
Henry Farrel's little daughter was a sweet
sickening girl with a nasty temper and a
nasty tongue. Her father was Governor of
the Colony. She told you about it all the
"Or," his father had told him, "why not
little what's-her-name, Doug Brentwood's
Little what's-her-name's father was the
President of the Council. "My father is
President of the Council," she said. Over
and over, as though in a settlement the size
of the Colony, there would be anyone who
wouldn't know her father was the President
of the Council.
It was all a very tight and careful circle,
chosen on Earth with a great deal of
There were the ordinary settlers, of
course. They had daughters. Some of them
were very pretty and long-limbed. And
George had thought about that.
Certainly there wasn't a decent-looking
girl in the whole Governing circle, and the
sight of a girl with flashing eyes and a nice
red mouth, who was shaped a little like
something besides a tree stump, was indeed
an exciting sight.
But there were limitations to the settler
They had no background to speak of, and
though that didn't make any difference,
George assured himself, they knew nothing
about art, music, poetry, or anything really
worth while. And, too, while George's
father had said, "Now, George, we're all
one here. Each of us is as good as another.
Joe Finch, who cares for the flowers outside,
is every bit as good a man as I am"—still
George knew, if he told his parents
he was going to marry Joe Finch's daughter
someday, there would be hell to pay.
So as long as the restrictions had been
bound around him, there was no reason
to go just half-way. George was not an
ordinary boy. He did things in extreme.
He was now in love with a Venusian girl,
and his family was already starting to make
George turned off the path, just beyond
an arch of thick purple-green vines
that always reminded him of a gate to a
garden. There was a quiet simplicity to this
small clearing where he and Gistla met.
There was an aloneness to it, and only the
sound of the flat shiny leaves sliding together
and the high, trilling sound of the
small Venusian birds broke the peaceful
silence. They had always met here, nowhere
Now, as George found himself in the
clearing, he began to wonder what Gistla
would say or do when he told her he was
taking her home to meet his family. It had
been a sudden decision, brought out of
anger and indignation.
George sat down upon the flat hollow of
a large vine. The sky was murky as usual,
but the soft warm feel and smell of the
growth around him, with its color and
brightness, made up for a sunless sky.
As he waited, he remembered what his
mother had said:
"Oh, George, you're really not serious
about bringing a Venusian into our home!"
And his sister, Mari, had said, "My
God!" Mari, who was eighteen, said this
to most anything.
But his father, eyes bright and alert, had
said, "No, now if George wants to bring
one of these, ah, Venusians home with him,
that's his privilege. I think it would be very
George knew what his father meant by
Exposing Gistla to his family would result
in deliberate sarcasm and eye-squinting and
barely hidden smiles. There would be
pointed remarks and direct insults. And
when it was over, George knew, he would
be expected to see the error of his ways.
He would then be expected to forget about
this odd creature and find himself a nice
ignorant little Colony girl, whose father
was a member of the Governing circle.
"And to hell with that, too," George said.
"What?" George heard Gistla say. He
turned quickly. She was standing at the
edge of the clearing, her round green eyes
looking soft and serious. She wore the usual
gray cape that reached her ankles. Her
voice was a deep round sound, and there
was hardly any accent in the words she
had learned so quickly since the Colony
"Talking to myself," George grinned.
The old excitement was inside of him.
There was a kind of exotic quality in meeting
Gistla that never disappeared.
She crossed the clearing, not too gracefully,
and touched her fingers against his
hand. This had been the extent of their
physical expression of love.
"It is nice to see you, George."
He noticed his feeling of pleasure when
he heard her speak his name. There was
something about his own name being spoken
by Gistla that had always seemed even more
strange than anything else.
She sat down beside him, and they looked
at each other while the leaves whispered
around them and the birds fluttered and
chirped. He discovered again the feeling of
rightness, sitting beside Gistla. There was a
solidity about her, a quiet maturity that he
seemed able to feel in himself only when
he was with her. And that too was strange,
because in American terms of age, she was
much younger than he.
Sitting, as they were doing, silent, watching
each other, had been most of their
activity. You did not need to entertain
Gistla with foolish small-talk or exaggerated
But right now he wanted to tell her
quickly, to make sure that she would feel
the enthusiasm he had felt.
"Listen, Gistla," he said, while she
watched him with her soft-looking round
eyes. "I want you to come with me today
to meet my family."
His words seemed to have an odd ring
to them, and George waited tensely until
he was sure that she was not shocked or
angry about what he had just said.
She sat silently for a moment and then
she said, "Do you think that is right for
me to do, George?"
"Sure it is! Why not? They know about
you and me. They know we're in love."
"Love—" She spoke the word as though
it were an indefinite, elusive thing that you
could not offer as reason for doing anything.
Gistla was very wise, George realized,
but this was a time for enthusiasm, a time
to strengthen their own relationship in this
"Say you will!" George said.
"Do you want me to?"
"Well, sure I do. What did you think?"
She held her hands in her lap quietly.
They were not unlike his own, George
observed, except for the extreme smallness
and the color.
"I do not think it will be nice for you
or them," she said.
"Ah, listen, Gistla. Don't talk that way.
It'll be fine!" But he knew that he was
not deceiving her with the lightness he tried
to put into his voice.
Then, although she had never done it
before, she reached out and touched his
cheek. George had grown used to the emotions
that reflected on her face, and he knew
she was suddenly very sad. "Yes, George,"
she said. "I will go with you to meet your
family." And she said it as though she were
telling him good-by.
It was no better than he had expected.
It was worse. Much worse. And he was
growing angrier by the moment. They were
all seated in the rock-walled patio behind
the large white house. Gistla sat beside him,
looking very small and frightened and very
different. And it was that obvious difference
that George had hoped everyone might
ignore. But instead, each of them, his father,
his mother, his sister, appeared to be trying
to make it even more obvious.
The first strain, when everyone had sat
there staring at Gistla as though she were
something behind a cage, had passed. But
now his parents and sister were moving in
a new direction. They had relaxed, having
found control of the situation, and they
were cutting her to pieces.
"Tell me," his sister was saying, her eyes
dancing slyly, "don't you people have some
very strange tricks you can do?"
George tightened his fingers against his
palms. He heard Gistla answer, "Tricks?"
"Yes." His sister's white smile shined.
"You know, like making things disappear,
things like that."
"My father," Gistla said seriously, "can
do very wonderful things. He is a musician."
George's father leaned forward, blinking
amusedly. "Really? What does he play?"
"Play?" asked Gistla.
"Yes. He's a musician. He must play
something, some kind of instrument."
Gistla looked at George, but George did
not know what to say. He wished he had
never tried to do this. He wished he had
just ignored his family and gone on loving
Gistla in the privacy of his own emotions.
"Well, now," Mr. Kenington was saying
rather impatiently. "Does he play something
like our violin or clarinet or oboe, or what?"
His father, George had noticed, was becoming
impatient more frequently since he had
become Secretary. The Secretarial post was
"He does not play anything," Gistla said
carefully. "He just ... makes the music
and I hear it."
"But how?" Mr. Kenington insisted.
"What does he play the music on? He certainly
can't make the music without using
something to make it on."
Gistla glanced again at George and he
said quickly, "It's pretty hard to understand,
Father. I don't think—"
"No, now don't interrupt just now, son.
This is very interesting. We'd like to know
what she's talking about."
Mrs. Kenington spoke for the first time.
"Are you just making this up?"
It was like a whip coming through the
air. His mother sat there, blinking, the suspicion
and distrust she felt for this creature
showing in her eyes and upon her mouth
and even in the way she was sitting.
"Now, Lois," Mr. Kenington said, as
though he really sympathized with what
she had said, believing that not only Gistla
was making it up, but that all of her race
made everything up. But he was stubborn.
"Come now, tell us. Tell us what you
Gistla's smooth head turned this way and
that. "Sometimes," she said slowly, "my
father journeys to other places, and if he
cannot return soon, he sends me music.
When the light has gone from the day and
I am alone, I hear it."
"You mean he sends it by wires or by
radio?" Mr. Kenington asked with surprise.
"Now, wait a minute," George's sister
leaned forward, smiling. "You just hear
this music, is that right? Up here." She
tapped her forehead.
"Yes," said Gistla.
"My God," George's sister said. She
looked at her parents, arching her eyebrows.
"You shouldn't make things up,"
George's mother said.
"Mother," George said, his face coloring.
"She's not making things up!"
"Just a moment, son," Mr. Kenington
said crisply. "You don't want to talk to
your mother in that tone."
"No, but, my God," George's sister went
on. "Imagine. No wires, no loudspeakers,
just ... up here." She tapped her forehead
"I'm not talking to my mother in any
tone at all," George said, disregarding his
"Well, she shouldn't lie," said Mrs.
Kenington with conviction.
George stood up. "She is not lying,
"I forbid you to argue with your mother
that way, George," said Mr. Kenington.
"I mean, my God," said George's sister
happily. "This is an innovation! Can you
imagine? Gistla, or whatever your name is,
could your father make his music sometime
when we have a dance?"
Gistla's eyes were hurt and she was,
George knew, confused. She shook her head.
Mrs. Kenington was blinking accusingly.
"Do they teach you to make these things
up? Is that what they teach you at home?"
"Mother, will you please?" George said.
"Why must you talk to her that way?"
Mr. Kenington stood up quickly. "I did
not raise my son to show an attitude like
that to his mother."
"But she isn't making this up," George
said. "You asked her to tell you and she—"
George's sister had jumped out of her
chair and she was waltzing over the patio.
She began humming as she danced. "Can't
you just see it? Everyone dancing around,
listening to music in their heads? No orchestra
or records or anything?"
Mr. Kenington stood very tall. "Are you
taking the word of your mother, or this ...
this ..." He motioned curtly at Gistla.
George licked his lips, looking defensively
at each one of his family. "It isn't a
matter of taking anyone's word at all. It's
just something we don't understand."
George's sister whirled and then suddenly
she stopped, putting her hand against her
mouth. "My God, what if everyone got the
music different? I mean, does everyone hear
the same music, dear? Because if they didn't,
what a mess!" She began dancing again, her
skirt swirling over the bricks of the patio.
Mr. Kenington's voice was louder. "I
think we understand, all right, George.
There isn't anything about this we don't
George's lips were paling.
His sister dipped and turned. "We could
call it a Music In The Head dance. Everybody
brings his own head!" She laughed
merrily. "My God!"
George noticed then that Gistla was disappearing
out of the rear gate. He stood,
clenching his fists and glaring at his family.
His sister had stopped dancing but she
was still laughing.
"I didn't think, George," his mother
said resolutely, "that you were going to
invite someone who lied."
George turned and ran after Gistla.
They sat again in the clearing. George
could still feel the anger churning inside
him, and he held his hands together
so tightly that his fingers began to ache.
"I hate them for that," he said.
Gistla touched his arm. "No, George. It
is all right. It is the way things are."
"But they don't need to be! My family
did that on purpose."
"They just don't understand. My race is
very different from yours and it seems
"So does mine," George said, standing
and beginning to pace back and forth.
It had been what he really had expected.
But still he had hoped, somehow, that his
family might have understood. He looked
at Gistla, sitting quietly, her large eyes
watching him. He knew he loved her very
much just then, more in fact than he ever
had before, because she had been refused
by his family.
"Listen, Gistla," he said, kneeling on the
grass in front of her. "It won't make any
difference what anyone thinks or does or
says. I love you, and I'll go on loving you.
We'll build our own life the way we want
She shook her head slowly. "No, George.
It does make a difference. You cannot forget
your family or your people. That is important
to you. I would only hurt you."
"Do you love me?"
"Then that's all that's important to me.
Not what anyone thinks. Not what my
sister thinks or my father or my mother."
"We are different, you and I." She sat
unmoving, her smooth face unchanging.
"My people seem strange to yours because
we can do things your people do not understand.
We seem strange because we look
differently, we act differently, we value
"My values are the same as yours,"
George pleaded. "I love you because of
what you are, not because of some kind of
stupid chart for physical beauty, not because ..."
"George," she said. "Look at me."
George met her eyes suddenly, caught by
the urgency in her voice. And slowly, in
front of his eyes, she changed. Her features
shifted, until George saw a beautiful young
girl with pink white skin and red lips. He
saw shining blue eyes and shimmering
golden hair that fell over her shoulders.
Gistla's body had changed to a lithe, smooth
figure that revealed its contours beneath the
He caught his breath and wiped a hand
at his eyes.
"What you see," said Gistla softly, "is
an illusion. You see what would be in your
values, a beautiful girl."
George opened his mouth but was unable
to find his voice.
"Do not be afraid, George. Beneath the
illusion of your senses, I am still Gistla. I
am still a Venusian."
George reached out and touched his fingers
against a white arm and a white shoulder
bared by the cape. He touched the
golden hair. "Gistla," he said, amazed.
"Yes," she said sadly.
"But—you really are! Your hair and your
eyes and your mouth. How did you do it?"
She shook her head to show its unimportance.
"It is something—like your hypnotism."
George raised himself from his knees
and sat beside her. "But I can't believe it!"
"You can see, you can feel."
"Yes," George said. "Yes."
"You are happy with me this way, aren't
"But you're so beautiful."
The golden-haired girl nodded her head,
and the shining blue eyes watched him
"You see then," Gistla said. "It does
make a difference. You love me more this
"No," George said, touching her hair
again. "I don't love you more, but if you
can do this, why then, we'll have no more
worries. Don't you see?"
"I think so," Gistla said, looking away.
George's voice was excited, and his eyes
darted over her face and body. "Would
other people see you as I do?"
"If I wished, yes."
"Then you see? It's all changed! You are
what I see. Golden-haired and pale-skinned—"
"I am still Gistla. You would always
know that. Would you love something that
is not real, just because you see it with your
"But I can feel that you're real,"
George said, putting his hands on
her shoulders. He pulled her closer and
kissed her hair. "You're Gistla," he said,
"and you're beautiful." He tipped her face
up to his and bent to kiss her mouth.
His lips touched smooth green skin and
he looked into Gistla's large round lidless
eyes. He recoiled as though he had been
touched by fire.
She watched him as he wiped a trembling
hand across his chest, and her globular head
glistened in the reflection of the late sun.
She nodded. "When you see what I really
am, the difference is important." She gathered
her cloak around her and stood up.
George felt the flush of his face, and he
could not meet her eyes. He heard her walk
a few steps away.
"Good-by, George," she said.
He jumped up quickly. "That wasn't
"No," she said slowly, "but it proved
the value of things."
"It wasn't fair," George repeated. "And
it didn't prove anything."
"I think it did," she said, moving away.
"No, listen, Gistla," he said. "You can't
judge anything by what I did or said. We
are different, in a physical sense, but that
doesn't really matter. If a golden-haired girl
materializes in front of my eyes, you can't
blame me for what my emotions did. It's
still you I love. Not the color of your skin
or the shape of your mouth. But you and
what you or I or anybody else looks like
He followed her and caught her arm.
She turned to face him. "You can say that,"
she said. "Your words tell me that and
your eyes, but I know it isn't true."
The embarrassment was still inside him,
but the way she denied him made him want
her more than ever. He held to her arm
and then he said, "Gistla, could you change
me? I mean, so that other people, even I,
would see me as they see you—as a Venusian?"
She stood very still, staring at him.
"Could you?" he asked.
"Then do it, Gistla. I'll prove to you that
nothing is important but you and me. I'll
be a Venusian, like you are. I'll go back
to my family as a Venusian and I'll take
you with me. I'll prove that neither they
nor anybody else makes any difference in
how I love you!"
Gistla watched him solemnly. Finally she
said, "Would you really do that?"
"Yes," he said quickly, "Yes."
"I love you, George," she said in her
deep round voice.
He lifted his hands to touch her face and
he found that his skin had turned to pale
green. He touched his own face, and he
knew that if he looked into a mirror he
would see a round smooth head with large
"Is that what you wanted?" she asked.
"Yes," he said stubbornly. "That's what
I wanted." He stood there for a long time,
trying to become used to it, fighting the
fear that ran through him every time he
looked at his hands or touched his head.
Finally he said, quietly, "Let's go meet my
As they drew near the house, he knew
his family was still in the patio. He
could hear the voices of his mother and
father and the high, piercing laughter of
"And, my God," he heard his sister say,
"did you see the way those horrible eyes
looked at you? What ever gets into George?"
"Dear, dear, dear," he heard his mother
Gistla was looking at him. "You do not
have to do this."
"Yes," he said, feeling his heart jump.
He took her hand and they walked to the
gate of the patio. He stood there, feeling
Gistla's hand tighten about his own. And
as he said, "Hello, everybody," he felt his
breath shorten as though he had suddenly
gotten stage fright.
He saw his father turn around. "What's
this?" Mr. Kenington said, frowning.
"Hello, Father," George said.
"Father," Mr. Kenington repeated.
"What are you doing in this patio?"
"I brought Gistla back."
"So I see," said Mr. Kenington, his eyes
narrow as he looked at Gistla. "Where's
"I'm not in the mood for joking with
Venusians," his father snapped. "What
made you think you could come in here like
Gistla's hand tightened again. "Try to
understand," George said. "Gistla—"
"What's going on?" his sister interrupted.
"Gistla, or whatever her name is," Mr.
Kenington said, "has brought a friend of
hers, another Venusian." He said the word,
Venusian, as though it were a curse or a
"My God," said his sister, squinting at
Mrs. Kenington leaned over in her chair,
peering. "Tell them not to come into the
patio, Harry," she said to her husband.
"Listen, Father," George said, feeling
the panic begin. "Gistla changed my appearance,
so that I seem to look like a Venusian.
I came here to tell you that it doesn't make
any difference what I look like, whether
I look like a Venusian or a leaf on a vine
or anything else. I still love her, and it
doesn't make any difference." He heard his
voice rising and becoming louder.
"My God," said his sister, giggling.
"More black magic. Can you make music?"
she asked George.
"Harry," his mother said. "They frighten
me. Can't you make them keep off the
"Mother—" George began.
"Now see here," Mr. Kenington growled.
"You know we don't allow Venusians
around here. I'd advise you to get out of
"Why does he keep calling you father
and mother?" his sister asked. "Isn't that
queer, how he keeps doing that? Make some
music," she said to George.
George could see the hatred in his father's
eyes and in his mother's. And behind his
sister's sarcastic smile, he could see the
hatred there, too. He felt himself getting
more tense, and the panic raced through
"Listen," he shouted. "I'm George, don't
you understand? George!"
"I don't want to tell you again," his
father said, his face very red. "I don't know
what your little game is, but it isn't coming
off, and so I'll tell you just this one time.
You get the hell off this property, or
"Listen," George yelled. "I'm GEORGE!
Don't you understand?"
His father's lips thinned to a white line,
and he began shouting for Joe Finch, the
George knew what he should have done
then, he should have taken Gistla and gone.
He should have walked with her, hand in
hand, down the road and away from there.
But instead, the panic made his heart pound
and he saw the hatred all around him. He
couldn't help it when he shouted to her,
"Gistla! For God's sake, change me back!
Right now! Gistla!"
He stood there, breathing hard, his
muscles knotted like steel, while she stared
at him, looking into his eyes.
Suddenly, he heard his father gasp and
He looked at his hands and they were
white and he felt of his face and it was his
own. He saw his sister's hand against her
mouth, and his father stared at him with
unbelieving eyes. His mother had gotten up
and was coming over to him, her eyes
blinking. "George," she said, "what did
they do to you?" She patted his shoulder,
her hands fluttering like bird wings.
He turned back to Gistla and she was
gone. Beyond the gate now, he knew,
and walking slowly, alone, down the road.
Only this time he would not go after her.
He couldn't. And as he stood there, feeling
his mother's hand patting his shoulder,
hearing his sister say, "My God," seeing
his father shake his head slowly, he felt
very young and at the same time, very old,
and he wanted to cry.
This etext was produced from Planet Stories January 1954. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.