... The guy ahead of me in line, who worked with me, was treating the cashier like absolute shit. I never understood that. You work customer service too, dude; you can't give this guy a little slack?
When he had first seen a zoo, Mike had been much upset; Jill had been forced to order him to wait and grok, as be had been about to take immediate action to free all the animals. He had conceded presently, under her arguments - that most of these animals could not stay alive free in the climate and environment where he proposed to turn them loose, that a zoo was a nest ... of a sort. He had followed this first experience with many hours of withdrawal, after which he never again threatened to remove all the bars and glass and grills. He explained to Jill that the bars were to keep peopIe out at least as much as to keep the animals in, which he had failed to grok at first. After that Mike never missed a zoo wherever they went.
But today even the unmitigated misanthropy of the camels could not shake Mike's moodiness; he looked at them without smiling. Nor did the monkeys and apes cheer him up. They stood for quite a while in front of a cage containing a large family of capuchins, watching them eat, sleep, court, nurse, groom and swarm aimlessly around the cage, while Jill surreptitiously tossed them peanuts despite "No Feeding" signs.
She tossed one to a medium sized monkey; before he could eat it a much larger male was on him and not only stole his peanut but gave him a beating, then left. The little fellow made no attempt to pursue his tormentor; be squatted at the scene of the crime, pounded his knuckles against the concrete floor, and chattered his helpless rage. Mike watched it solemnly. Suddenly the mistreated monkey rushed to the side of the cage, picked a monkey still smaller, bowled it over and gave it a drubbing worse than the one he had suffered - after which he seemed quite relaxed. The third monk crawled away, still whimpering, and found shelter in the arm of a female who had a still smaller one, a baby, on her back. The other monkeys paid no attention to any of it.
Mike threw back his head and laughed - went on laughing, loudly and uncontrollably. He gasped for breath, tears came from his eyes; he started to tremble and sink to the floor, still laughing.
"Stop it, Mike!"
He did cease folding himself up but his guffaws and tears went on. An attendant hurried over. "Lady, do you need help?"
"No. Yes, I do. Can you call us a cab? Ground car, air cab, anything. I've got to get him out of here." She added, "He's not well."
"Ambulance? Looks like he's having a fit."
"Anything!" A few minutes later she was leading Mike into a piloted air cab. She gave the address, then said urgently. "Mike, you've got to listen to me. Quiet down."
He became somewhat more quiet but continued to chuckle, laugh aloud, chuckle again, while she wiped his eyes, for all the few minutes it took to get back to their flat. She got him inside, got his clothes off, made him lie down on the bed. "All right, dear. Withdraw now if you need to."
"I'm all right. At last I'm all right."
"I hope so." She sighed. "You certainly scared me, Mike."
"I'm sorry, Little Brother. I know. I was scared, too, the first time I heard laughing."
"Mike, what happened?"
"Jill ... I grok people!"
("I speak rightly, Little Brother. I grok.") "I grok people now, Jill, Little Brother ... precious darling, little imp with lively legs and lovely lewd lascivious lecherous licentious libido ... beautiful bumps and pert posterior ... with soft voice and gentle hands. My baby darling."
"Oh, I knew all the words; I simply didn't know when or why to say them ... nor why you wanted me to. I love you, sweetheart - I grok 'love' now, too."
"You always have. I knew. And I love you ... you smooth ape. My darling."
"'Ape,' yes. Come here, she ape, and put your bead on my shoulder and tell me a joke."
"Just tell you a joke?"
"Well, nothing more than snuggling. Tell me a joke I've never heard and see if I laugh at the right place. I will, I'm sure of it - and I'll be able to tell you why it's funny. Jill ... I grok people!"
"But how, darling? Can you tell me? Does it need Martian? Or mindtalk?"
"No, that's the point. I grok people. I am people ... so now I can say it in people talk. I've found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts so much ... because it's the only thing that'll make it stop hurting."
Jill looked puzzled. "Maybe I'm the one who isn't people. I don't understand."
"Ah, but you are people, little she ape. You grok it so automatically that you don't have to think about it. Because you grew up with people. But I didn't. I've been like a puppy raised apart from other dogs, who couldn't be like his masters and had never learned how to be a dog. So I had to be taught. Brother Mahmoud taught me, Jubal taught me, lots of people taught me ... and you taught me most of all. Today I got my diploma - and I laughed. That poor little monkey."
"Which one, dear? I thought that big one was just mean ... and the one I flipped the peanut to turned out to be just as mean. There certainly wasn't anything funny."
"Jill, Jill my darling! Too much Martian has rubbed off on you. Of course it wasn't funny - it was tragic. That's why I had to laugh. I looked at a cageful of monkeys and suddenly I saw all the mean and cruel and utterly unexplainable things I've seen and heard and read about in the time I've been with my own people, and suddenly it hurt so much I found myself laughing."
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