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Chapter Eight

In which Rachel gets her yo-yo back, Roony sings a song, and Stencil calls on Bloody Chiclitz

 

 Profane, sweating in April's heat, sat on a bench in the little park behind  the Public Library, swatting at flies with rolled-up pages of the Times  classified. From mental cross-plotting he'd decided where he sat now was the  geographical center of the midtown employment agency belt.

A weird area it was. For a week now he'd sat patient in a dozen offices,  filling out forms, having interviews and watching other people, especially  girls. He had an interesting daydream all built up, which went: You're  jobless, I'm jobless, here we both are out of work, let's screw. He was  horny. What little money he'd saved from the sewer job had almost run out  and here he was considering seduction. It kept the time moving right along.

So far no agency he'd been to had sent him anywhere for a job interview. He  had to agree with them. To amuse himself he'd looked in Help Wanted under S.  Nobody wanted a schlemihl. Laborers were for out of the city: Profane wanted  to stay in Manhattan, he'd had enough of wandering out in the suburbs. He  wanted a single point, a base of operations, someplace to screw in private.  It was difficult when you brought a girl to a flophouse. A young kid with a  beard and old dungarees had tried that a few nights ago down where Profane  was staying. The audience, winos and bums, had decided to serenade them  after a few minutes of just watching. "Let me call you sweetheart," they  sang, all somehow on key. A few had fine voices, some sang harmony. It may  have been like the bartender on upper Broadway who was nice to the girls and  their customers. There is a way we behave around young people excited with  each other, even if we haven't been getting any for a while and aren't  likely to very soon. It is a little cynical, a little self-pitying, a little  withdrawn; but at the same time a genuine desire to see young people get  together. Though it springs from a self-centered concern, it is often as  much as a young man like Profane ever does go out of himself and take an  interest in human strangers. Which is better, one would suppose, than  nothing at all.

Profane sighed. The eyes of New York women do not see the wandering bums or  the boys with no place to go. Material wealth and getting laid strolled  arm-in-arm the midway of Profane's mind. If he'd been the type who evolves  theories of history for his own amusement, he might have said all political  events: wars, governments and uprisings, have the desire to get laid as  their roots; because history unfolds according to economic forces and the  only reason anybody wants to get rich is so he can get laid steadily, with  wHomever he chooses. All he believed at this point, on the bench behind the  Library, was that anybody who worked for inanimate money so he could buy  more inanimate objects was out of his head. Inanimate money was to get  animate warmth, dead fingernails in the living shoulderblades, quick cries  against the pillow, tangled hair, lidded eyes, twisting loins . . .

He'd thought himself into an erection. He covered it with the Times  classifed and waited for it to subside. A few pigeons watched him, curious.  It was shortly after noon and the sun was hot. I ought to keep looking, he  thought, the day isn't over. What was be going to do? He was, they told him  unspecialized. Everybody else was at peace with some machine or other. Not  even a pick and shovel had been safe for Profane.

He happened to look down. His erection had produced in the newspaper a  crosswise fold, which moved line by line down the page as the swelling  gradually diminished. It was a list of employment agencies. O.K., thought  Profane, just for the heck of it I will close my eyes, count three and open  them and whatever agency listing that fold is on I will go to them. It will  be like flipping a coin: inanimate schmuck, inanimate paper, pure chance.

He opened his eyes on Space/Time Employment Agency, down on lower Broadway,  near Fulton Street. Bad choice, he thought. It meant 15 cents for the  subway. But a deal was a deal. On the Lexington Avenue downtown he saw a bum  lying across the aisle, diagonal on the seat. Nobody would sit near him. He  was king of the subway. He must have been there all night, yo-yoing out to  Brooklyn and back, tons of water swirling over his head and he perhaps  dreaming his own submarine country, peopled by mermaids and deep-sea  creatures all at peace among the rocks and sunken galleons; must have slept  through rush hour, with all sorts of suit-wearers and high-heel dolls  glaring at him because he was taking up three sitting spaces but none of  them daring to wake him. If under the street and under the sea are the same  then he was king of both. Profane remembered himself on the shuttle back in  February, wondered how he'd looked to Kook, to Fina. Not like a king, he  figured: more like a schlemihl a follower.

Having sunk into self-pity he nearly missed the Fulton Street stop. Got the  bottom edge of his suede jacket caught in the doors when they closed; was  nearly carried that way out to Brooklyn. He found Space/Time Employment down  the street and ten floors up. The waiting area was crowded when he got  there. A quick check revealed no girls worth looking at, nobody in fact but  a family who might have stepped through time's hanging arras directly out of  the Great Depression; journeyed to this city in an old Plymouth pickup from  their land of dust: husband, wife and one mother-in-law, all yelling at each  other, none but the old lady really caring about a job, so that she stood,  legs braced, in the middle of the waiting area, telling them both how to  make out their applications, a cigarette dangling from and about to burn her  lipstick.

Profane made out his application, dropped it on the receptionist's desk and  sat down to wait. Soon there came the hurried and sexy tap of high heels in  the corridor outside. As if magnetized his head swiveled around and he saw  coming in the door a tiny girl, lifted up to all of 5' 1" by her heels.  Oboy, oboy, he thought: good stuff. She was not, however, an applicant: she  belonged on the other side of the rail. Smiling and waving hello to everyone  in her country, she clickety-clacked gracefully over to her desk. He could  hear the quiet brush of her thighs, kissing each other in their nylon. Oh,  oh, he thought, look at what I seem to be getting again. Go down you  bastard.

Obstinate, it would not. The back of his neck began to grow heated and rosy.  The receptionist, a slim girl who seemed to be all tight - tight underwear,  stockings, ligaments, tendons, mouth, a true windup woman - moved precisely  among the decks, depositing applications like an automatic card-dealing  machine. Six interviewers, he counted. Six to one odds she drew me. Like  Russian roulette. Why like that? Would she destroy him, she so  frail-looking, such gentle, well-bred legs? She had her head down, studying  the application in her hand. She looked up, he saw the eyes, both slanted  the same way.

"Profane," she called. Looking at him with a little frown.

Oh God, he thought, the loaded chamber. The luck of a schlemihl, who by  common sense should lose at the game. Russian roulette is only one of its  names, he groaned inside, and look: me with this bard on. She called his  name again. He stumbled up from the chair, and proceeded with the Times over  his groin and he bent at a 120 degree angle behind the rail and in to her  own desk. The sign said RACHEL OWLGLASS.

He sat down quickly. She lit a cigarette and cased the upper half of his  body. "It's about time," she said.

He fumbled for a cigarette, nervous. She flicked over a pack of matches with  a fingernail be could feel already gliding across his back, poised to dig in  frenzied when she should come.

And would she ever. Already they were in bed; he could see nothing but a new  extemporized daydream in which no other face but this sad one with its  brimming slash-slash of eyes tightened slowly in his own shadow, pale under  him. God, she had him.

Strangely then the tumescence began to subside, the flesh at his neck to  pale. Any sovereign or broken yo-yo must feel like this after a short time  of lying inert, rolling, falling: suddenly to have its own umbilical string  reconnected, and know the other end is in hands it cannot escape. Hands it  doesn't want to escape. Know that the simple clockwork of itself has no mare  need for symptoms of inutility, lonesomeness, directionlessness, because now  it has a path marked out for it over which it has no control. That's what  the feeling would be, if there were such things as animate yo-yos. Pending  any such warp in the world Profane felt like the closest thing to one and  above her eyes began to doubt his own animateness.

"How about a night watchman," she said at last. Over you? he wondered.

"Where," he said. She mentioned an address nearby in Maiden Lane.  "Anthroresearch Associates:" He knew he couldn't say it as fast. On the back  of a card she scribbled the address and a name - Oley Bergomask. "He hires."  Handed it to him, a quick touch of fingernails. "Come back as soon as you  find out. Bergomask will tell you right away; he doesn't waste time. If it  doesn't work out we'll see what else we have."

At the door he looked back. Was she blowing a kiss or yawning?

 

II

 Winsome had left work early. When he got back to the apartment he found his  wife, Mafia sitting on the floor with Pig Bodine. They were drinking beer  and discussing her Theory. Mafia was sitting crosslegged and wearing very  tight Bermuda shorts. Pig stared captivated at her crotch. That fella  irritates me, Winsome thought. He got beer and sat down next to them. He  wondered idly if Pig were getting any off of his wife. But it was hard to  say who was getting what off Mafia.

There is a curious sea story about Pig Bodine, which Winsome had heard from  Pig himself. Winsome was aware that Pig wanted to make a career someday of  playing male leads in pornographic movies. He'd get this evil smile on his  face, as if he were viewing or possibly committing reel on reel of  depravities. The bilges of the radio shack of U.S.S. Scaffold - Pig's  ship - were jammed solid with Pig's lending library, amassed during the  ship's Mediterranean travels and rented out to the crew at 10 cents per  book. The collection was foul enough to make Pig Bodine a byword of  decadence throughout the squadron. But no one suspected that Pig might have  creative as well as custodial talents.

One night Task Force 60, made up of two carriers, some other heavies and a  circular screen of twelve destroyers, including the Scaffold, was steaming a  few hundred miles east of Gibraltar. It was maybe two in the morning,  visibility unlimited, stars blooming fat and sultry over a tar-colored  Mediterranean. No closing contacts on the radars, everybody on after  steering watch asleep, forward lookouts telling themselves sea stories to  keep awake. That sort of night. All at once every teletype machine in the  task force started clanging away, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Five bells,  or FLASH, initial contact with enemy forces. It being '55 and more or less  peacetime, captains were routed out of bed, general quarters called,  dispersal plans executed. Nobody knew what was happening. By the time the  teletypes started up again the formation was scattered out over a few  hundred square miles of ocean and most radio shacks were crowded to  capacity. The machines started to type.

"Message follows." Teletype operators, com officers leaned forward tense,  thinking of Russian torpedoes, evil and barracudalike.

"Flash." Yes, yes, they thought: five bells, Flash. Go ahead.

Pause. Finally the keys started clattering again.

"THE GREEN DOOR. One night Dolores, Veronica, Justine, Sharon, Cindy Lou,  Geraldine and Irving decided to hold an orgy . . ." Followed, on four and a  half feet of teletype paper, the functional implications of their decision,  told from Irving's point of view.

For some reason Pig never got caught. Possibly because half the Scaffold's  radio gang, also the communications officer, an Annapolis graduate named  Knoop, were in on it and had locked the door to Radio as soon as GQ was  called.

It caught on as a sort of fad. The next night, precedence Operational  Immediate, came A DOG STORY, involving a St. Bernard named Fido and two  WAVES. Pig was on watch when it came over and admitted to his henchman Knoop  that it showed a certain flair. It was followed by other high-priority  efforts: THE FIRST TIME I GOT LAID, WHY OUR X.O. IS QUEER, LUCKY PIERRE RUNS  AMOK. By the time the Scaffold reached Naples, its first port of call, there  were an even dozen, all carefully filed away by Pig under F.

But initial sin entails eventual retribution. Later, somewhere between  Barcelona and Cannes, evil days fell on Pig. One night, routing the message  board, he went to sleep in the doorway of the executive officer's stateroom.  The ship chose that moment to roll ten degrees to port. Pig toppled onto the  terrified lieutenant commander like a corpse. "Bodine," the X.O. shouted,  aghast. "Were you sleeping?" Pig snored away among a litter of  special-request chits. He was sent down on mess cooking. The first day he  fell asleep in the serving line, rendering inedible a gunboat full of mashed  potatoes. So the next meal he was stationed in front of the soup, which was  made by Potamos the cook and which nobody ate anyway. Apparently Pig's knees  had developed this odd way of locking, which if the Scaffold were on an even  keel would enable him to sleep standing up. He was a medical curiosity. When  the ship got back to the States he went under observation at Portsmouth  Naval Hospital. When he returned to the Scaffold he was put on the deck  force of one Pappy Hod, a boatswain's mate. In two days Pappy had driven  him, for the first of what were to be many occasions, over the hill.

Now on the radio at the moment was a song about Davy Crockett, which upset  Winsome considerably. This was '56, height of the coonskin hat craze.  Millions of kids everywhere you looked were running around with these bushy  Freudian hermaphrodite symbols on their heads. Nonsensical legends were  being propagated about Crockett, all in direct contradiction to what Winsome  had heard as a boy, across the mountains from Tennessee. This man, a  foul-mouthed louse-ridden boozehound, a corrupt legislator and an  indifferent pioneer, was being set up for the nation's youth as a towering  and cleanlimbed example of Anglo-Saxon superiority. He had swelled into a  hero such as Mafia might have created after waking from a particularly loony  and erotic dream. The song invited parody. Winsome had even cast his own  autobiography into aaaa rhyme and that simpleminded combination of  three - count them - chord changes:

   Born in Durham in '23,

   By a pappy who was absentee,

   Was took to a lynching at the neighborhood tree,

   Whopped him a nigger when he was only three.

 [Refrain]:

Roony, Roony Winsome, king of the decky-dance.

 Pretty soon he started to grow,

   Everyone knew he'd be a loving beau,

   Cause down by the tracks he would frequently go

   To change his luck at a dollar a throw.

   Well he hit Winston-Salem with a rebel yell,

   Found his self a pretty Southron belle

   Was doing fine till her pappy raised hell

   When he noticed her belly was beginning to swell.

   Luckily the war up and came along,

   He joined the army feeling brave and strong,

   His patriotism didn't last for long,

   They put him in a foxhole where he didn't belong.

   He worked him a hustle with his first C.O.,

   Got transferred back to a PIO,

   Sat out the war in a fancy chateau,

   Egging on the troops toward Tokyo.

   When the war was over, his fighting done,

   He hung up his khakis and his Garand gun

   Came along to Noo York to have some fun,

   But couldn't find a job till '51.

   Started writing copy for MCA

   It wasn't any fun but it was steady pay,

   Sneaking out of work one lovely day

   He met him a dolly called Mafi-yay.

   Mafia thought he had a future ahead,

   And looked like she knew how to bounce a bed

   Old Roony must've been sick in the head

   Cause pretty soon, they up and they wed.

   Now he's got a record company,

   A third of the profits plus salary,

   A beautiful wife who wants to be free

   So she can practice her Theory.

 [Refrain]

Roony, Roony Winsome, king of the decky-dance.

 

Pig Bodine had fallen asleep. Mafia was in the next room, watching herself  undress in the mirror. And Paola, Roony thought, where are you? She'd taken  to disappearing, sometimes for two- or three-day stretches, and nobody ever  knew where she went.

Maybe Rachel would put in a word for him with Paola. He had, he knew,  certain nineteenth-century ideas of what was proper. The girl herself was an  enigma. She hardly spoke, she went to the Rusty Spoon now only rarely when  she knew Pig would be somewhere else. Pig coveted her. Concealing himself  behind a code which only did officers dirty (and executives? Winsome  wondered), Pig he was sure envisioned Paola playing opposite him in each  frame of his stag-movie fantasies. It was natural, he supposed; the girl had  the passive look of an object of sadism, something to be attired in various  inanimate costumes and fetishes, tortured, subjected to the weird  indignities of Pig's catalogue, have her smooth and of course  virginal-looking limbs twisted into attitudes to inflame a decadent taste.  Rachel was right, Pig - and even perhaps Paola - could only be products of a  decky-dance. Winsome, self-proclaimed king of it, felt only sorry it should  ever have happened. How it had happened, how anybody, himself included, had  contributed to it he didn't know.

He entered the room as Mafia was bent, stripping off a knee sock. college  girl attire, he thought. He slapped her hard on the nearest buttock; she  straightened, turned, and he slapped her across the face. "Wha," she said.

"Something new," said Winsome. "For variety's sake." One hand at her crotch,  one twisted in her hair, he lifted her like the victim she wasn't,  half-carried, half-tossed her to the bed where she lay in a sprawl of white  skin, black pubic hair and socks, all confused. He unzipped his fly. "Aren't  you forgetting something," she said, coy and half-scared, flipping her hair  toward the dresser drawer.

"No," said Winsome, "not that I can think of."

 

III

 Profane returned to the Space/Time agency convinced that if nothing else  Rachel was luck. Bergomask had given him the job.

"Wonderful," she said. "He's paying the fee, you don't owe us anything."

It was near quitting time. She started straightening things on her desk.  "Come Home with me," she said quietly. "Wait out by the elevator."

But he remembered, leaning against the wall out in the corridor: with Fina  it had been like that too. She'd taken him Home like a rosary found in the  street and convinced herself he was magic. Fina had been devoutly R.C. like  his father. Rachel was Jewish, he recalled, like his mother. Maybe all she  wanted to do was to feed him, be a Jewish mother.

They rode down in the elevator crowded together and quiet, she wrapped  serenely in a gray raincoat. At the turnstile in the subway she put in two  tokens for them.

"Hey," said Profane.

"You're broke," she told him.

"I feel like a gigolo." He did. There'd always be some 15 cents, maybe half  a salami in the refrigerator - whatever she'd feed him.

Rachel decided to lodge Profane at Winsome's place and feed him at her own.  Winsome's was known to the Crew as the West Side flophouse. There was floor  space there for all of them at once, and Winsome didn't mind who slept on  it.

The next night Pig Bodine showed up at Rachel's at supper time drunk and in  search of Paola, who was away God knew where.

"Hey," Pig addressed Profane.

"Buddy," Profane said. They opened beer.

Soon Pig had dragged them down to the V-Note to hear McClintic Sphere.  Rachel sat and concentrated on the music while Pig and Profane remembered  sea stories at each other. During one of the breaks she drifted over to  Sphere's table and found out he'd picked up a contract with Winsome to do  two LP's for Outlandish.

They talked for a while. Break ended. The quartet drifted back to the stand,  fiddled around, started off with a Sphere composition called Fugue Your  Buddy. Rachel returned to Pig and Profane. They were discussing Pappy Hod  and Paola. Damn, damn, to herself, what have I brought him to? What have I  brought him back to?

She woke up the next morning, Sunday, mildly hung over. Winsome was outside,  pounding at the door.

"It is a day of rest," she growled. "What the hell."

"Dear father-confessor," he said, looking as if he'd not slept all night,  "don't be angry."

"Tell it to Eigenvalue." She stomped to the kitchen, put Coffee on. "Now,"  she said. "What is your problem?"

What else: Mafia. Now this was all deliberate. He had put on the day before  yesterday's shirt and neglected to comb his hair that morning to put Rachel  in the mood. If you wanted a girl to go pimping for her roommate you didn't  come right out and say so. There were subtleties to be gone through. Wanting  to talk about Mafia was only an excuse.

Rachel wanted to know naturally enough if he'd spoken to the dentist at all  and Winsome said no. Eigenvalue had been busy lately holding bull sessions  with Stencil. Roony wanted a woman's point of view. She poured Coffee and  told him the two roommates were gone. He closed his eyes and jumped in:

"I think she's been slipping around, Rachel."

"So. Find out and divorce her."

They drained the Coffeepot twice. Roony drained himself. At three Paola came  in, smiled at them briefly, disappeared into her room. Did he blush a  little? His heartbeat had speeded up. Dingy damn, he was acting like a young  blood. He rose. "Can we keep talking about this?" he said. "Even  small-talk."

"If it helps," she smiled, not believing it for a minute. "And what's this  about a contract with McClintic? Don't tell me Outlandish is putting out  normal records now. What are you getting, religion?"

"If I am," Roony told her, "it's all I'm getting."

He walked back to his apartment through Riverside Park, wondering if he'd  done right. Maybe, it occurred to him, Rachel might think it was herself he  wanted, not her roommate.

Back at the apartment he found Profane talking with Mafia. Dear God, he  thought, all I want to do is sleep. He went in to the bed, assumed the  foetal position and soon, oddly enough, did drift off.

"You tell me you are half-Jewish and half-Italian," Mafia was saying in the  other room. "What a terribly amusing role. Like Shylock, non a vero, ha, ha.  There is a young actor down at the Rusty Spoon who claims to be an Irish  Armenian Jew. You two must meet."

Profane decided not to argue. So all he said was: "It is probably a nice  place, that Rusty Spoon. But out of my class."

"Rot," she said, "class. Aristocracy is in the soul. You may be a descendant  of kings. Who knows."

I know, Profane thought. I am a descendant of schlemihls, Job founded my  line. Mafia wore a knit dress of some fabric that could be seen through. She  sat with her chin on her knees so that the lower part of the skirt fell  away. Profane rolled over on his stomach. Now this would he interesting, he  thought. Yesterday Rachel had led him in by the hand to find Charisma, Fu  and Mafia playing Australian tag-teams minus one on the living room floor.

Mafia bad squirmed to a prone position parallel to Profane. Apparently she  had some idea of touching noses. Boy I'll bet she thinks that's cute, he  thought. But Fang the cat came tearing in and jumped between them. Mafia lay  on her back and started scratching and dandling the cat. Profane padded to  the icebox for more beer. In came Pig Bodine and Charisma, singing a  drinking song:

   There are sick bars in every town in America,

   Where sick people can pass the time o' day.

   You can screw on the floor in Baltimore,

   Make Freudian scenes in New Orleans,

   Talk Zen and Beckett in Keokuk, Ioway.

   There's espresso machines in Terre Haute, Indiana

   Which is a cultural void if ever a void there be,

   But though I've dragged my ass from Boston, Mass.

   To the wide Pacific sea,

   The Rusty Spoon is still the bar for me,

   The Rusty Spoon is the only place for me.

 

It was like bringing a little bit of that gathering-place in among the  proper facades of Riverside Drive. Soon without anyone realizing it there  was a party. Fu wandered in, got on the phone and started calling people.  Girls appeared miraculously at the front door, which had been left open.  Someone turned on the FM, someone else went out for beer. Cigarette smoke  began to hang from the low ceiling in murky strata. Two or three members got  Profane off in a corner and began to indoctrinate him in the ways of the  Crew. He let them lecture, and drank beer. Soon he was drunk and it was  night. He remembered to set the alarm clack, found an unoccupied corner of a  room and went to sleep.

 

IV

 That night, April 15, David Ben-Gurion warned his country in an Independence  Day speech that Egypt planned to slaughter Israel. A Mideast crisis had been  growing since winter. April 19, a cease-fire between the two countries went  into effect. Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco the same day.  The spring thus wore on, large currents and small eddies alike resulting in  headlines. People read what news they wanted to and each accordingly built  his own rathouse of history's rags and straws. In the city of New York alone  there were at a rough estimate five million different rathouses. God knew  what was going on in the minds of cabinet ministers, heads of state and  civil servants in the capitals of the world. Doubtless their private  versions of history showed up in action. If a normal distribution of types  prevailed they did.

Stencil fell outside the pattern. Civil servant without rating,  architect-by-necessity of intrigues and breathings-together, he should have  been, like his father, inclined toward action. But spent his days instead at  a certain vegetation, talking with Eigenvalue, waiting for Paola to reveal  how she fitted into this grand Gothic pile of inferences he was hard at work  creating. Of course too there were his "leads" which he hunted down now  lackadaisical and only half-interested, as if there were after all something  more important he ought to be doing. What this mission was, however. came no  clearer to him than the ultimate shape of his V-structure - no clearer,  indeed than why he should have begun pursuit of V. in the first place. He  only felt (he said "by instinct") when a bit of information was useful, when  not: when a lead ought to be abandoned, when hounded to the inevitable  looped trail. Naturally about drives as intellectualized as Stencil's there  can be no question of instinct: the obsession was acquired, surely, but  where along the line, how in the world? Unless he was as he insisted purely  the century's man, something which does not exist in nature. It would be  simple in Rusty Spoon-talk to call him contemporary man in search of an  identity. Many of them had already decided this was his Problem. The only  trouble was that Stencil had all the identities he could cope with  conveniently right at the moment: he was quite purely He Who Looks for V.  (and whatever impersonations that might involve), and she was no more his  own identity than Eigenvalue the soul-dentist or any other member of the  Crew.

It did bring up, however, an interesting note of sexual ambiguity. What a  joke if at the end of this hunt he came face to face with himself afflicted  by a kind of soul-transvestism. How the Crew would laugh and laugh.  Truthfully he didn't know what sex V. might be, nor even what genus and  species. To go along assuming that Victoria the girl tourist and Veronica  the sewer rat were one and the same V. was not at all to bring up any  metempsychosis: only to affirm that his quarry fitted in with The Big One,  the century's master cabal, in the same way Victoria had with the Vheissu  plot and Veronica with the new rat-order. If she was a historical fact then  she continued active today and at the moment, because the ultimate Plot  Which Has No Name was as yet unrealized, though V. might be no more a she  than a sailing vessel or a nation.

Early in May Eigenvalue introduced Stencil to Bloody Chiclitz, president of  Yoyodyne, Inc., a company with factories scattered careless about the  country and more government contracts than it really knew what to do with.  In the late 1940's Yoyodyne had been breezing along comfortably as the  Chiclitz Toy Company, with one tiny independent-making shop on the outskirts  of Nutley, New Jersey. For some reason the children of America conceived  around this time a simultaneous and psychopathic craving for simple  gyroscopes, the kind which are set in motion by a string wound around the  rotating shaft, something like a top. Chiclitz, recognizing a market  potential there, decided to expand. He was well on the way to cornering the  toy gyroscope market when along came a group of school kids on tour to point  out that these toys worked on the same principle as a gyrocompass. "As wha,"  said Chiclitz. They explained gyrocompasses to him, also rate and free  gyros. Chiclitz remembered vaguely from a trade magazine that the government  was always in the market for these. They used them on ships, airplanes, more  lately, missiles. "Well," figured Chiclitz, "why not." Small-Business  opportunities in the field at the time were being described as abundant.  Chiclitz started making gyros for the government. Before he knew it he was  also in telemeter instrumentation, test-set components, small communications  equipment. He kept expanding, buying, merging. Now less than ten years later  he had built up an interlocking kingdom responsible for systems management,  airframes, propulsion, command systems, ground support equipment. Dyne, one  newly hired engineer had told him, was a unit of force. So to symbolize the  humble beginnings of the Chiclitz empire and to get the idea of force,  enterprise, engineering skill and rugged individualism in there too,  Chiclitz christened the company Yoyodyne.

Stencil toured one plant out on Long Island. Among instruments of war, he  reasoned, some clue to the cabal might show up. It did. He'd wandered into a  region of offices, drafting boards, blueprint files. Soon Stencil  discovered, sitting half hidden in a forest of file cabinets, and sipping  occasionally at the Coffee in a paper cup which for today's engineer is  practically uniform-of-the-day, a balding and porcine gentleman in a suit of  European cut. The engineer's name was Kurt Mondaugen, he had worked, yes, at  Peenemunde, developing Vergeltungswaffe Eins and Zwei. The magic initial!  Soon the afternoon had gone and Stencil had made an appointment to renew the  conversation.

A week or so later, in one of the secluded side rooms of the Rusty Spoon,  Mondaugen yarned, over an abominable imitation of Munich beer, about  youthful days in South-West Africa.

Stencil listened attentively. The tale proper and the questioning after took  no more than thirty minutes. Yet the next Wednesday afternoon at  Eigenvalue's office, when Stencil retold it, the yarn had undergone  considerable change: had become, as Eigenvalue put it, Stencilized.

 

 

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