By Piers Anthony

Herb Moss is a pleasant younger guy. he is a Vegan: a member of a genetically engineered species, half human and half plant, residing on this planet New international.

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I was surprised to see you in the Hall, Herb. It has been half a season. " Had it been so short a time? It seemed much longer to Herb. A lifetime since they had been this close. Physically, yes, but emotionally he suspected they were as far apart as ever. If he should reach for her now, would she intertwine or pull back? Did absence make the heart grow fonder? Or only wiser? Herb found he was too much the coward to test it. Without moving he sensed the invisible barrier that was still there, holding him at arm's length.

He hedged. "Thank you, Holly. " He hoped! "Me? Oh, no! I could go on like this all day! " Herb's hopes of an honorable out wilted in the hot afternoon sun. He sighed audibly. This was Holly's signal to wheedle. She put her arms around his neck, heedless of the fine view of her bust this afforded Herb. Herb was not heedless. He heeded for all he was worth. "Please Herbie," she said with the sweet pout her lips formed with such expertise. Her fresh breath tickled his ear, and his firm resolve melted down to a watery puddle that seemed to form in his knees.

He opened his leaves in acceptance as the congregation mimicked the gesture, repeating the chant in unison. The Elder raised the cup and poured the clear cool liquid over the tender leaves of the female. " he began. " The female quivered with emotion, her blossoms losing a few soft petals. She was in full bloom, as was the proper state for the ceremony. The congregation deposited their cups over their foliage in like manner as all chanted away. Herb hoped no one had seen him as he quaffed his down instead.

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