The salesman, undaunted, continued, "A goat is loyal. And it has a free, natural soul which no cage can chain up. And there is one exceptional additional feature about goats, one which you may not be aware of. Often times when you invest in an animal and take it home you find, some morning, that it's eaten something radioactive and died. A goat isn't bothered by contaminated quasi-foodstuffs; it can eat eclectically, even items that would fell a cow or a horse or most especially a cat. As a long term investment we feel that the goat - especially the female - offers unbeatable advantages to the serious animal-owner."
"Is this goat a female?" He had noticed a big black goat standing squarely in the center of its cage; he moved that way and the salesman accompanied him. The goat, it seemed to Rick, was beautiful.
"Yes, this goat is a female. A black Nubian goat, very large, as you can see. This is a superb contender in this year's market, sir. And we're offering her at an attractive, unusually low, low price."
Getting out his creased Sidney's, Rick looked up the listing, on goats, black Nubian.
"Will this be a cash deal?" the salesman asked. "Or are you trading in a used animal?"
"All cash," Rick said.
On a slip of paper the salesman scribbled a price and then briefly, almost furtively, showed it to Rick.
" - too much," Rick said, He took the slip of paper and wrote down a more modest figure.
"We couldn't let a goat go for that," the salesman protested. He wrote another figure. "This goat is less than a year old; she has a very long life expectancy." He showed the figure to Rick.
"It's a deal," Rick said.
He signed the time-payment contract, paid over his three thousand dollars - his entire bounty money - as down payment, and shortly found himself standing by his hovercar, rather dazed, as employees of the animal dealer loaded the crate of goat into the car. I own an animal now, he said to himself. A living animal, not electric. For the second time in my life.
The expense, the contractual indebtedness, appalled him; he found himself shaking. But I had to do it, he said to himself. The experience with Phil Resch - I have to get my confidence, my faith in myself and my abilities, back. Or I won't keep my job.
His hands numb he guided the hovercar up into the sky and headed for his apartment and Iran. She'll be angry, he said to himself. Because it'll worry her, the responsibility. And since she's home all day a lot of the maintenance will fall to her. Again he felt dismal.
When he had landed on the roof of his building he sat for a time, weaving together in his mind a story thick with verisimilitude. My job requires it, he thought, scraping bottom. Prestige. We couldn't go on with the electric sheep any longer; it sapped my morale. Maybe I can tell her that, he decided.
Climbing from the car he maneuvered the goat cage from the back seat, with wheezing effort managed to set it down on the roof. The goat, which had slid about during the transfer, regarded him with bright-eyed perspicacity, but made no sound.
He descended to his floor, followed a familiar path down the hall to his own door.
"Hi," Iran greeted him, busy in the kitchen with dinner. "Why so late tonight?"
"Come up to the roof," he said. "I want to show you something."
"You bought an animal." She removed her apron, smoothed back her hair reflexively, and followed him out of the apartment; they progressed down the hall with huge, eager strides. "You shouldn't have gotten it without me," Iran gasped. "I have a right to participate in the decision, the most important acquisition we'll ever - "
"I wanted it to be a surprise," he said.
"You made some bounty money today," Iran said, accusingly.
Rick said, "Yes. I retired three andys." He entered the elevator and together they moved nearer to god. "I had to buy this," he said. "Something went wrong, today; something about retiring them. It wouldn't have been possible for me to go on without getting an animal." The elevator had reached the roof; he led his wife out into the evening darkness, to the cage; switching on the spotlights - maintained for the use of all building residents - he pointed to the goat, silently. Waiting for her reaction.
"Oh my god," Iran said softly. She walked to the cage, peered in; then she circled around it, viewing the goat from every angle. "Is it really real?" she asked. "It's not false?"
"Absolutely real," he said. "Unless they swindled me." But that rarely happened; the fine for counterfeiting would be enormous: two and a half times the full market value of the genuine animal. "No, they didn't swindle me."
"It's a goat," Iran said. "A black Nubian goat." "Female," Rick said. "So maybe later on we can mate her. And we'll get milk out of which we can make cheese."
"Can we let her out? Put her where the sheep is?"
"She ought to be tethered," he said. "For a few days at least."
Iran said in an odd little voice, "'My life is love and pleasure.' An old, old song by Josef Strauss. Remember? When we first met." She put her hand gently on his shoulder, leaned toward him, and kissed him. "Much love. And very much pleasure."
"Thanks," he said, and hugged her.
"Let's run downstairs and give thanks to Mercer. Then we can come up here again and right away name her; she needs a name. And maybe you can find some rope to tether her." She started off.
Standing by his horse Judy, grooming and currying her, their neighbor Bill Barbour called to them, "Hey, that's a nice-looking goat you have, Deckards. Congratulations. Evening, Mrs. Deckard. Maybe you'll have kids; I'll maybe trade you my colt for a couple of kids."