|Home | AMERICAN LITERATURE (SEVENTH) | BASKETBALL | BIOLOGY EXPERIMENTS (EIGHTH) | BIOLOGY ORGANIZERS (EIGHTH) | BUS NOTES | CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENTS (SEVENTH) | CHEMISTRY PROBLEM SETS (SEVENTH) | CHEMISTRY QUIZZES (SEVENTH) | COMPOSITION EXERCISES (EIGHTH) | COMPOSITION EXERCISES (SEVENTH) | COOPERATIVE GROUP ROLES (SEVENTH/EIGHTH) | DRAMAS (EIGHTH) | DRAMATIZATION PROJECTS (SEVENTH) | GRAMMAR EXERCISES (EIGHTH) | GRAMMAR EXERCISES (SEVENTH) | HOMEWORK (SEVENTH/EIGHTH) | NOVELS (EIGHTH) | PHILOSOPHY (SEVENTH/EIGHTH) | POETRY (SEVENTH/EIGHTH) | SCHEDULE (SEVENTH/EIGHTH) | SCIENCE FAIR (SEVENTH) | SCIENCE FICTION (SEVENTH) | SHORT STORIES (EIGHTH) | SOFTBALL | SUPPLY LIST (SEVENTH/EIGHTH) | VOCABULARY (SEVENTH/EIGHTH) | WORLD LITERATURE (SEVENTH) | Email|
SCIENCE FICTION (SEVENTH)
“There Will Come Soft Rains”
In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty. The clock ticked on, repeating and repeating its sounds into the emptiness. Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine! In the kitchen the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk. "Today is August 4, 2026," said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, "in the city of Allendale, California." It repeated the date three times for memory's sake.
"Today is Mr. Featherstone's birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita's marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills."
Somewhere in the walls, relays clicked, memory tapes glided under electric eyes. Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o'clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one! But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels. It was raining outside. The weather box on the front door sang quietly: "Rain, rain, go away; rubbers, raincoats for today…" And the rain tapped on the empty house, echoing. Outside, the garage chimed and lifted its door to reveal the waiting car. After a long wait the door swung down again. At eight-thirty the eggs were shriveled and the toast was like stone. An aluminum wedge scraped them into the sink, where hot water whirled them down a metal throat which digested and flushed them away to the distant sea. The dirty dishes were dropped into a hot washer and emerged twinkling dry. Nine-fifteen, sang the clock, time to clean. Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted. The rooms were acrawl with the small cleaning animals, all rubber and metal. They thudded against chairs, whirling their mustached runners, kneading the rug nap, sucking gently at hidden dust. Then, like mysterious invaders, they popped into their burrows. Their pink electric eyes faded. The house was clean. Ten o'clock.
The sun came out from behind the rain. The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles. Ten-fifteen.
The garden sprinklers whirled up in golden founts, filling the soft morning air with scatterings of brightness. The water pelted windowpanes, running down the charred west side where the house had been burned evenly free of its white paint. The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titanic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him a girl, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down. The five spots of paint—the man, the woman, the children, the ball—remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer. The gentle sprinkler rain filled the garden with falling light.
Until this day, how well the house had kept its peace. How carefully it had inquired, "Who goes there? What's the password?" and, getting no answer from lonely foxes and whining cats, it had shut up its windows and drawn shades in an old maidenly preoccupation with self-protection which bordered on a mechanical paranoia. It quivered at each sound, the house did. If a sparrow brushed a window, the shade snapped up. The bird, startled, flew off! No, not even a bird must touch the house! The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly. Twelve noon. A dog whined, shivering, on the front porch. The front door recognized the dog voice and opened. The dog, once huge and fleshy, but now gone to bone and covered with sores, moved in and through the house, tracking mud. Behind it whirred angry mice, angry at having to pick up mud, angry at inconvenience. For not a leaf fragment blew under the door but what the wall panels flipped open and the copper scrap rats flashed swiftly out. The offending dust, hair, or paper, seized in miniature steel jaws, was raced back to the burrows. There, down tubes which fed into the cellar, it was dropped into the sighing vent of an incinerator which sat like evil Baal in a dark corner. The dog ran upstairs, hysterically yelping to each door, at last realizing, as the house realized, that only silence was here. It sniffed the air and scratched the kitchen door.
Behind the door, the stove was making pancakes which filled the house with a rich baked odor and the scent of maple syrup. The dog frothed at the mouth, lying at the door, sniffing, its eyes turned to fire. It ran wildly in circles, biting at its tail, spun in a frenzy, and died. It lay in the parlor for an hour. Two o'clock, sang a voice. Delicately sensing decay at last, the regiments of mice hummed out as softly as blown gray leaves in an electrical wind. Two-fifteen. The dog was gone. In the cellar, the incinerator glowed suddenly and a whirl of sparks leaped up the chimney. Two thirty-five. Bridge tables sprouted from patio walls. Playing cards fluttered onto pads in a shower of pips. Martinis manifested on an oaken bench with egg-salad sandwiches. Music played. But the tables were silent and the cards untouched. At four o'clock the tables folded like great butterflies back through the paneled walls.
Four-thirty. The nursery walls glowed. Animals took shape: yellow giraffes, blue lions, pink antelopes, lilac panthers cavorting in crystal substance. The walls were glass. They looked out upon color and fantasy. Hidden films docked through well-oiled sprockets, and the walls lived. The nursery floor was woven to resemble a crisp, cereal meadow. Over this ran aluminum roaches and iron crickets, and in the hot still air butterflies of delicate red tissue wavered among the sharp aroma of animal spoors! There was the sound like a great matted yellow hive of bees within a dark bellows, the lazy bumble of a purring lion. And there was the patter of okapi feet and the murmur of a fresh jungle rain, like other hoofs, falling upon the summer-starched grass. Now the walls dissolved into distances of parched weed, mile on mile, and warm endless sky. The animals drew away into thorn brakes and water holes. It was the children's hour.
Five o'clock. The bath filled with clear hot water. Six, seven, eight o'clock.
The dinner dishes manipulated like magic tricks, and in the study a click. In the metal stand opposite the hearth where a fire now blazed up warmly, a cigar popped out, half an inch of soft gray ash on it, smoking, waiting. Nine o'clock. The beds warmed their hidden circuits, for nights were cool here.
Nine-five. A voice spoke from the study ceiling: "Mrs. McClellan, which poem would you like this evening?" The house was silent. The voice said at last, "Since you express no preference, I shall select a poem at random."
Quiet music rose to back the voice. "Sara Teasdale. As I recall, your favorite….
"There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, And swallows circling with their shimmering sound; And frogs in the pools singing at night, And wild plum trees in tremulous white; Robins will wear their feathery fire, Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire; And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done. Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, if mankind perished utterly; And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone."
The fire burned on the stone hearth and the cigar fell away into a mound of quiet ash on its tray. The empty chairs faced each other between the silent walls, and the music played.
At ten o'clock the house began to die. The wind blew. A failing tree bough crashed through the kitchen window. Cleaning solvent, bottled, shattered over the stove. The room was ablaze in an instant! "Fire!" screamed a voice.
The house lights flashed, water pumps shot water from the ceilings. But the solvent spread on the linoleum, licking, eating, under the kitchen door, while the voices took it up in chorus: "Fire, fire, fire!" The house tried to save itself. Doors sprang tightly shut, but the windows were broken by the heat and the wind blew and sucked upon the fire. The house gave ground as the fire in ten billion angry sparks moved with flaming ease from room to room and then up the stairs. While scurrying water rats squeaked from the walls, pistoled their water, and ran for more. And the wall sprays let down showers of mechanical rain. But too late. Somewhere, sighing, a pump shrugged to a stop. The quenching rain ceased. The reserve water supply which had filled baths and washed dishes for many quiet days was gone. The fire crackled up the stairs. It fed upon Picassos and Matisses in the upper halls, like delicacies, baking off the oily flesh, tenderly crisping the canvases into black shavings. Now the fire lay in beds, stood in windows, changed the colors of drapes!
And then, reinforcements. From attic trapdoors, blind robot faces peered down with faucet mouths gushing green chemical. The fire backed off, as even an elephant must at the sight of a dead snake. Now there were twenty snakes whipping over the floor, killing the fire with a clear cold venom of green froth. But the fire was clever. It had sent flames outside the house, up through the attic to the pumps there. An explosion! The attic brain which directed the pumps was shattered into bronze shrapnel on the beams. The fire rushed back into every closet and felt of the clothes hung there. The house shuddered, oak bone on bone, its bared skeleton cringing from the heat, its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air. Help, help! Fire! Run, run! Heat snapped mirrors like the brittle winter ice. And the voices wailed
Fire, fire, run, run, like a tragic nursery rhyme, a dozen voices, high, low, like children dying in a forest, alone, alone. And the voices fading as the wires popped their sheathings like hot chestnuts. One, two, three, four, five voices died. In the nursery the jungle burned. Blue lions roared, purple giraffes bounded off. The panthers ran in circles, changing color, and ten million animals, running before the fire, vanished off toward a distant steaming river.... Ten more voices died. In the last instant under the fire avalanche, other choruses, oblivious, could be heard announcing the time, playing music, cutting the lawn by remote-control mower, or setting an umbrella frantically out and in the slamming and opening front door, a thousand things happening, like a clock shop when each clock strikes the hour insanely before or after the other, a scene of maniac confusion, yet unity; singing, screaming, a few last cleaning mice darting bravely out to carry the horrid ashes away! And one voice, with sublime disregard for the situation, read poetry aloud in the fiery study, until all the film spools burned, until all the wires withered and the circuits cracked. The fire burst the house and let it slam flat down, puffing out skirts of spark and smoke.
In the kitchen, an instant before the rain of fire and timber, the stove could be seen making breakfasts at a psychopathic rate, ten dozen eggs, six loaves of toast, twenty dozen bacon strips, which, eaten by fire, started the stove working again, hysterically hissing! The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under. Smoke and silence. A great quantity of smoke. Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam: "Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is…"
“Our Fair City”
Robert A. Heinlein
Pete Perkins turned into the all- niteparking lot and called out, "Hi, Pappy!"
The old parking lot attendant looked up and answered, "Be with you in a moment, Pete." He was tearing a Sunday comic sheet in narrow strips. A little whirlwind waltzed near him, picking up pieces of old newspaper and bits of dirt and flinging them in the faces of passing pedestrians. The old man held out to it a long streamer of the brightly colored funny-paper. "Here, Kitten," he coaxed. "Come, Kitten-"
The whirlwind hesitated, then drew itself up until it was quite tall, jumped two parked cars, and landed sur le point near him.
It seemed to sniff at the offering.
"Take it, Kitten," the old man called softly and let the gay streamer slip from his fingers. The whirlwind whipped it up and wound it around its middle. He tore off another and yet another; the whirlwind wound them in corkscrew through the loose mass of dirty paper and trash that constituted its visible body. Renewed by cold gusts that poured down the canyon of tall buildings, it swirled faster and even taller, while it lifted the colored paper ribbons in a fantastic upswept hair-do. The old man turned, smiling. "Kitten does like new clothes."
"Take it easy, Pappy, or you'll have me believing in it."
"Eh? You don't have to believe in Kitten-you can see her."
"Yeah, sure-but you act as if she-I mean 'it'-could understand what you say."
"You still don't think so?" His voice was gently tolerant.
"Hmm . . . lend me your hat." Pappy reached up and took it. "Here, Kitten," he called. "Come back,
Kitten!" The whirlwind was playing around over their heads, several stories high. It dipped down.
"Hey! Where you going with that chapeau?" demanded Perkins.
"Just a moment- Here, Kitten!" The whirlwind sat down suddenly, spilling its load. The old man handed it the hat. The whirlwind snatched it and started it up a fast, long spiral.
"Hey!" yelped Perkins. "What do you think you're doing? That's not funny-that hat cost me six bucks only three years ago."
"Don't worry," the old man soothed. "Kitten will bring it back."
"She will, huh? More likely she'll dump it in the river."
"Oh, no!Kitten never drops anything she doesn't want to drop.Watch." The old man looked up to where the hat was dancing near the penthouse of the hotel across the street."Kitten! Oh, Kitten! Bring it back."
The whirlwind hesitated, the hat fell a couple of stories. It swooped, caught it, and juggled it reluctantly. "Bring it here, Kitten."
The hat commenced a downward spiral, finishing in a long curving swoop. It hit Perkins full in the face. "She was trying to put it on your head," the attendant explained. "Usually she's more accurate."
"She is, eh?" Perkins picked up his hat and stood looking at the whirlwind, mouth open.
"Convinced?" asked the old man.
" 'Convinced?'Oh, sho ' sho '." He looked back at his hat, then again at the whirlwind. "Pappy,this calls for a drink."
They went inside the lot's little shelter shack; Pappy found glasses; Perkins produced a pint, nearly full, and poured two generous slugs. He tossed his down, poured another, and sat down. "The first was in honor of Kitten," he announced. "This one is to fortify me for the Mayor's banquet."
Pappy cluck-clucked sympathetically."You have to cover that?"
"Have to write a column about something, Pappy.' Last night Hizzoner the Mayor, surrounded by a glittering galaxy of highbinders, grifters , sycophants, and ballot thieves, was the recipient of a testimonial dinner celebrating-' Got to write something, Pappy, the cash customers expect it. Why don't I brace up like a man and go on relief?"
"Today's column was good, Pete," the old man comforted him. He picked up a copy of the Daily Forum; Perkins took it from him and ran his eye down his own column.
"OUR FAIR CITY by Peter Perkins," he read, and below that "What, No Horsecars ? It is the tradition of our civic paradise that what was good enough for the founding fathers is good enough for us. We stumble over the very chuckhole in which Great-uncle Tozier broke his leg in '09. It is good to know that the bath water, running out, is not gone forever, but will return through the kitchen faucet, thicker and disguised with chlorine, but the same. (Memo- Hizzoneruses bottled spring water.Must look into this.)
"But I must report a dismaying change. Someone has done away with the horsecars !
"You may not believe this. Our public conveyances run so seldom and slowly that you may not have noticed it; nevertheless I swear that I saw one wobbling down Grand Avenue with no horses of any sort. It seemed to be propelled by some new-fangled electrical device.
"Even in the atomic age some changes are too much. I urge all citizens-" Perkins gave a snort of disgust. "It's tackling a pillbox with a beanshooter , Pappy. This town is corrupt; it'll stay corrupt. Why should I beat out my brains on such piffle? Hand me the bottle."
"Don't be discouraged, Peter. The tyrant fears the laugh more than the assassin's bullet."
"Where'd you pick that up? Okay, so I'm not funny. I've tried laughing them out of office and it hasn't worked. My efforts are as pointless as the activities of your friend the whirling dervish."
The windows rattled under a gusty impact. "Don't talk that way about Kitten," the old man cautioned. "She's sensitive."
"I apologize." He stood up and bowed toward the door. "Kitten, I apologize. Your activities are more useful than mine." He turned to his host. "Let's go out and talk to her, Pappy. I'd rather do that than go to the Mayor's banquet, if I had my druthers."
They went outside, Perkins bearing with him the remains of the colored comic sheet. He began tearing off streamers. "Here, Kitty! Here, Kitty!Soup's on!"
The whirlwind bent down and accepted the strips as fast as he tore them. "She's still got the ones you gave her."
"Certainly," agreed Pappy. "Kitten is a pack rat. When she likes something she'll keep it indefinitely."
"Doesn't she ever get tired? There must be some calm days."
"It's never really calm here. It's the arrangement of the buildings and the wayThird Street leads up from the river. But I think she hides her pet playthings on tops of buildings."
The newspaperman peered into the swirling trash. "I'll bet she's got newspapers from months back. Say, Pappy, I see a column in this, one about our trash collection service and how we don't clean our streets. I'll dig up some papers a couple of years old and claim that they have been blowing around town since publication."
"Whyfake it?" answered Pappy, "let's see what Kitten has." He whistled softly. "Come, baby-let Pappy see your playthings." The whirlwind bulged out; its contents moved less rapidly. The attendant plucked a piece of old newspaper from it in passing. "Here's one three months old."
"We'll have to do better than that."
"I'll try again." He reached out and snatched another. "Last June."
A car honked for service and the old man hurried away. When he returned Perkins was still watching the hovering column. "Any luck?" asked Pappy.
"She won't let me have them.Snatches them away."
"Naughty Kitten," the old man said. "Pete is a friend of ours. You be nice to him." The whirlwind fidgeted uncertainly.
"It's all right," said Perkins. "She didn't know. But look, Pappy-see that piece up there?A front page."
"You want it?"
"Yes. Look closely-the headline reads 'DEWEY' something. You don't suppose she's been hoarding it since the '48 campaign?"
"Could be.Kitten has been around here as long as I can remember. And she does hoard things. Wait a second." He called out softly. Shortly the paper was m his hands. "Now we'll see."
Perkins peered at it. "I'll be a short-term Senator! Can you top that, Pappy?"
The headline read: DEWEY CAPTURES MANILA the date was "1898."
Twenty minutes later they were still considering it over the last of Perkins' bottle. The newspaperman stared at the yellowed, filthy sheet. "Don't tell me this has been blowing around town for the last half century."
" 'Whynot?' Well, I'll concede that the streets haven't been cleaned in that time, but this paper wouldn't last.Sun and rain and so forth."
"Kitten is very careful of her toys. She probably put it under cover during bad weather."
"For the love of Mike, Pappy, you don't really believe- But you do. Frankly, I don't care where she got it; the official theory is going to be that this particular piece of paper has been kicking around our dirty streets, unnoticed and uncollected, for the past fifty years.Boy, am I going to have fun!" He rolled the fragment carefully and started to put it in his pocket.
"Say, don't do that!" his host protested.
"Why not?I'm going to take it down and get a pic of it."
"You mustn't! It belongs to Kitten-I just borrowed it."
"Huh? Are you nuts?"
"She'll be upset if she doesn't get it back. Please, Pete-she'll let you look at it any time you want to."
The old man was so earnest that Perkins was stopped. "Suppose we never see it again? My story hang on it."
"It's no good to you-she has to keep it, to make your story stand up. Don't worry-I'll tell her that she mustn't lose it under any circumstances."
"Well-okay."They stepped outside and Pappy talked earnestly to Kitten,then gave her the 1898 fragment. She promptly tucked it into the top column. Perkins said good-bye to Pappy, and started to leave the lot. He paused and turned around, looking a little befuddled. "Say, Pappy-"
"You don't really think that whirlwind is alive, do you?"
" 'Whynot?' Why not, the man says?"
"Well," said Pappy reasonably, "how do you know you are alive?"
"But . . . why, because I-well, now if you put it-" He stopped. "I don't know. You got me, pal."
Pappy smiled. "You see?"
"Uh, I guess so. G'night , Pappy. G'night , Kitten." He tipped his hat to the whirlwind. The column bowed.
The managing editor sent for Perkins.
"Look, Pete," he said, chucking a sheaf of gray copy paper at him, "whimsy is all right, but I'd like to see some copy that wasn't dashed off in a gin mill."
Perkins looked over the pages shoved at him."OUR FAIR CITY by Peter Perkins. Whistle Up The Wind. Walking our streets always is a piquant, even adventurous, experience. We pick our way through the assorted trash, bits of old garbage, cigarette butts, and other less appetizing items that stud our sidewalks while our faces are assaulted by more buoyant souvenirs, the confetti of last Hallowe'en , shreds of dead leaves, and other items too weather-beaten to be identified. However, I had always assumed that a constant turnover in the riches of our streets caused them to renew themselves at least every seven years-" The column then told of the whirlwind that contained the fifty-year-old newspaper and challenged any other city in the country to match it.
" 'Smatterwith it?" demanded Perkins.
"Beating the drum about the filth in the streets is fine, Pete, butgive it a factual approach."
Perkins leaned over the desk. "Boss, this is factual."
"Huh? Don't be silly, Pete."
"Silly, he says. Look-" Perkins gave him a circumstantial account of Kitten and the 1898 newspaper.
"Pete, you must have been drinking."
"Only Java and tomato juice.Cross my heart and hope to die."
"How about yesterday?I'll bet the whirlwind came right up to the bar with you."
"I was cold, stone-" Perkins stopped himself and stood on his dignity. "That's my story. Print it, or fire me."
"Don't be like that, Pete. I don't want your job; I just want a column with some meat. Dig up some facts on man-hours and costs for street cleaning, compared with other cities."
"Who'd read that junk? Come down the street with me. I'll show you the facts. Wait a moment-I'll pick up a photographer."
A few minutes later Perkins was introducing the managing editor and Clarence V. Weems to Pappy. Clarence unlimbered his camera. "Take a pic of him?"
"Not yet, Clarence.Pappy, can you get Kitten to give us back the museum piece?"
"Why, sure."The old man looked up and whistled. "Oh, Kitten! Come to Pappy." Above their heads a tiny gust took shape, picked up bits of paper and stray leaves, and settled on the lot. Perkins peered into it.
"She hasn't got it," he said in aggrieved tones.
"She'll get it." Pappy stepped forward until the whirlwind enfolded him. They could see his lips move, but the words did not reach them.
"Now?" said Clarence.
"Not yet." The whirlwind bounded up and leapt over an adjoining building. The managing editor opened his mouth, closed it again.
Kitten was soon back. She had dropped everything else and had just one piece of paper-the paper. "Now!" said Perkins. "Can you get a shot of that paper, Clarence-while it's in the air?"
" Natch," said Clarence, and raised his Speed Graphic. "Back a little, and hold it," he ordered, speaking to the whirlwind.
Kitten hesitated and seemed about to skitter away. "Bring it around slow and easy, Kitten," Pappy supplemented, "andturn it over-no, no! Not that way-the other edge up." The paper flattened out and sailed slowly past them, the headline showing.
"Did you get it?" Perkins demanded.
" Natch," said Clarence. "Is that all?" he asked the editor.
" Natc-I mean, 'that's all.' "
"Okay," said Clarence, picked up his case, and left. The editor sighed. "Gentlemen," he said, "let's have a drink."
Four drinks later Perkins and his boss were still arguing.Pappy had left. "Be reasonable, Boss," Pete was saying, "you can't print an item about a live whirlwind. They'd laugh you out of town."
Managing Editor Gaines straightened himself.
"It's the policy of the Forum to print all the news, and print it straight. This is news-we print it." He relaxed. "Hey! Waiter!More of the same-and not so much soda."
"But it's scientifically impossible."
"You saw it, didn't you?"
Gaines stopped him. "We'll ask the Smithsonian Institution to investigate it."
"They'll laugh at you," Perkins insisted. "Ever hear of mass hypnotism?"
"Huh? No, that's no explanation-Clarence saw it, too."
"What does that prove?"
"Obvious-to be hypnotized you have to have a mind.Ipso facto."
"You mean ipse dixit ."
"Quit hiccuping . Perkins, you shouldn't drink in the daytime. Now start over and say it slowly."
"How do you know Clarence doesn't have a mind?"
"Well, he's alive-he must have some sort of a mind, then."
"That's just what I was saying, the whirlwind is alive; therefore it has a mind. Perkins, if those long-beards from the Smithsonian are going to persist in their unscientific attitude, I for one will not stand for it. The Forum will not stand for it. You will not stand for it."
"Not for one minute. I want you to know the Forum is behind you, Pete. You go back to the parking lot and get an interview with thatwhirlwind ."
"But I've got one. You wouldn't let me print it."
"Who wouldn't let you print it? I'll fire him! Come on, Pete. We're going to blow this town sky high. Stop the run. Hold the front page. Get busy!" He put on Pete's hat and strode rapidly into the men's room
Pete settled himself at his desk with a container of coffee, a can of tomato juice, and the Midnight Final (late afternoon) edition. Under a 4-col. cut of Kitten's toy was his column, boxed and moved to the front page. 18-point boldface ordered SEE EDITORIAL PAGE 12. On page 12 another black line enjoined him to SEE "OUR FAIR CITY" PAGE ONE. He ignored this and read: MR. MAYOR-RESIGN!!!!
Pete read it and chuckled."An ill wind-" "-symbolic of the spiritual filth lurking in the dark corners of the city hall." "-will grow to cyclonic proportions and sweep a corrupt and shameless administration from office." The editorial pointed out that the contract for street cleaning and trash removal was held by the Mayor's brother-in-law, and then suggested that the whirlwind could give better service cheaper.
"Pete-is that you?" Pappy's voice demanded. "They got me down at the station house."
"They claim Kitten is a public nuisance."
"I'll be right over." He stopped by the Art Department, snagged Clarence, and left. Pappy was seated in the station lieutenant's office, looking stubborn. Perkins shoved his way in. "What's he here for?" he demanded, jerking a thumb at Pappy.
The lieutenant looked sour. "What are you butting in for, Perkins? You're not his lawyer."
"Not yet, Clarence.For news, Dumbrosky -I work for a newspaper, remember? I repeat-what's he in for?"
"Obstructing an officer in the performance of his duty."
"That right, Pappy?"
The old man looked disgusted. "This character-" He indicated one of the policemen "-comes up to my lot and tries to snatch the Manila-Bay paper away from Kitten. I tell her to keep it up out of his way. Then he waves his stick at me and orders me to take it away from her. I tell him what he can do with his stick." He shrugged. "So here we are."
"I get it," Perkins told him, and turned to Dumbrosky . "You got a call from the city hall, didn't you? So you sent Dugan down to do the dirty work. What I don't get is why you sent Dugan. I hear he's so dumb you don't even let him collect the pay-off on his own beat."
"That's a lie!" put in Dugan. "I do so-"
"Shut up, Dugan!" his boss thundered. "Now, see here, Perkins-you clear out. There ain'tno story here."
" 'Nostory'?" Perkins said softly. "The police force tries to arrest a whirlwind and you say there's no story?"
"Now?" said Clarence.
"Nobody tried to arrest no whirlwind! Now scram."
"Then how come you're charging Pappy with obstructing an officer? What was Dugan doing-flying a kite?"
"He's not charged with obstructing an officer."
"He's not, eh? Just what have you booked him for?"
"He's not booked. We're holding him for questioning."
"So? Not booked, no warrant, no crime alleged, just pick up a citizen and roust him around, Gestapo style." Perkins turned to Pappy. "You're not under arrest. My advice is to get up and walk out that door."
Pappy started to get up. "Hey!" Lieutenant Dumbrosky bounded out of his chair, grabbed Pappy by the shoulder and pushed him down. "I'm giving the orders around here. You stay-"
"Now!" yelled Perkins. Clarence's flashbulb froze them. Then Dumbrosky started up again.
"Who let him in here?Dugan-get that camera."
" Nyannh!" said Clarence and held it away from the cop. They started doing a little Maypole dance, with Clarence as the Maypole.
"Hold it!" yelled Perkins. "Go ahead and grab the camera, Dugan-I'm just aching to write the story.' Police Lieutenant Destroys Evidence of Police Brutality.' "
"What do you want I should do, Lieutenant?" pleaded Dugan.
Dumbroskylooked disgusted. " Siddownand close your face. Don't use that picture, Perkins-I'm warning you."
"Of what?Going to make me dance with Dugan? Come on, Pappy. Come on, Clarence." They left.
"OUR FAIR CITY" read the next day. "City Hall Starts Clean Up. While the city street cleaners were enjoying their usual siesta, Lieutenant Dumbrosky , acting on orders of Hizzoner's office, raided our Third Avenue whirlwind. It went sour, as Patrolman Dugan could not entice the whirlwind into the paddy wagon. Dauntless Dugan was undeterred; he took a citizen standing nearby, one James Metcalfe, parking lot attendant, into custody as an accomplice of the whirlwind. An accomplice in what, Dugan didn't say-everybody knows that an accomplice is something pretty awful. Lieutenant Dumbrosky questioned the accomplice. See cut. Lieutenant Dumbrosky weighs 215 pounds, without his shoes. The accomplice weighs 119.
"Moral: Don't get underfoot when the police department is playing games with the wind.
"P. S. As we go to press, the whirlwind is still holding the 1898 museum piece. Stop by Third and Main and take a look. Better hurry- Dumbroskyis expected to make an arrest momentarily."
Pete's column continued needling the administration the following day: "Those Missing Files. It is annoying to know that any document needed by the Grand Jury is sure to be mislaid before it can be introduced in evidence. We suggest that Kitten, our Third Avenue Whirlwind, be hired by the city as file clerk extraordinary and entrusted with any item which is likely to be needed later. She could take the
special civil exam used to reward the faithful-the one nobody ever flunks.
"Indeed, why limit Kitten to a lowly clerical job? She is persistent-and she hangs on to what she gets. No one will argue that she is less qualified than some city officials we have had.
"Let's run Kitten for Mayor! She's an ideal candidate-she has the common touch, she doesn't mind hurly-burly, she runs around in circles, she knows how to throw dirt, and the opposition can't pin anything on her.
"As to the sort of Mayor she would make, there is an old story-Aesop told it-about King Log and King Stork. We're fed up with King Stork; King Log would be welcome relief.
"Memo to Hizzoner -what did become of those Grand Avenue paving bids?
"P. S. Kitten still has the 1898 newspaper on exhibit. Stop by and see it before our police department figures out some way to intimidate a whirlwind."
Pete snagged Clarence and drifted down to the parking lot. The lot was fenced now; a man at a gate handed them two tickets but waved away their money. Inside he found a large circle chained off for Kitten and Pappy inside it. They pushed their way through the crowd to the old man. "Looks like you're coining money, Pappy."
"Should be, but I'm not. They tried to close me up this morning, Pete. Wanted me to pay the $50-a-day circus-and-carnival fee and post a bond besides. So I quit charging for the tickets-but I'm keeping track of them. I'll sue ' em, by gee."
"You won't collect, not in this town. Never mind, we'll make ' emsquirm till they let up."
"That's not all. They tried to capture Kitten this morning."
"The cops.They showed up with one of those blower machines used to ventilate manholes, rigged to run backwards and takea suction . The idea was to suck Kitten down into it, or anyhow to grab what she was carrying."
Pete whistled. "You should have called me."
"Wasn't necessary.I warned Kitten and she stashed the Spanish-War paper someplace,then came back. She loved it. She went through that machine about six times, like a merry-go-round. She'd zip through and come outmore full of pep than ever. Last time through she took Sergeant Yancel's cap with her and it clogged the machine and ruined his cap. They got disgusted and left."
Pete chortled. "You still should have called me. Clarence should have gotten a picture of that."
"Got it," said Clarence.
"Huh? I didn't know you were here this morning, Clarence."
"You didn't ask me."
Pete looked at him. "Clarence, darling-the idea of a news picture is to print it, not to hide it in the art department."
"On your desk," said Clarence.
"Oh. Well, let's move on to a less confusing subject. Pappy, I'd like to put up a big sign here."
"Why not?What do you want to say?"
"Kitten-for-Mayor-Whirlwind Campaign Headquarters.Stick a 24-sheet across the corner of the lot, where they can see it both ways. It fits in with-oh, oh!Company, girls!" He jerked his head toward the entrance.
Sergeant Yancel was back. "All right, all right!" he was saying. "Move on! Clear out of here." He and three cohorts were urging the spectators out of the lot. Pete went to him.
"What goes on, Yancel ?"
Yancellooked around. "Oh, it's you, huh? Well, you, too-we got to clear this place out.Emergency."
Pete looked back over his shoulder. "Better get Kitten out of the way, Pappy!" he called out. "Now, Clarence."
"Got it," said Clarence.
"Okay," Pete answered. "Now, Yancel , you might tell me what it is we just took a picture of, so we can title it properly."
"Smart guy.You and your stooge had better scram if you don't want your heads blown off. We're setting up a bazooka."
"You're setting up a what?" Pete looked toward the squad car, unbelievingly. Sure enough, two of the cops were unloading a bazooka. "Keep shooting, kid," he said to Clarence.
" Natch," said Clarence.
"And quit popping your bubble gum. Now, look, Yancel -I'm just a newsboy. What in the world is the idea?"
"Stick around and find out, wise guy." Yancel turned away. "Okay there! Start doing it-commence firing!"
One of the cops looked up."At what, Sergeant?"
"I thought you used to be a marine-at the whirlwind, of course."
Pappy leaned over Pete's shoulder. "What are they doing?"
"I'm beginning to get a glimmering. Pappy, keep Kitten out of range-I think they mean to put a rocket shell through her gizzard. It might bust up her dynamic stability or something."
"Kitten's safe. I told her to hide. But this is crazy, Pete. They must be absolute, complete and teetotal nuts."
"Any law says a cop has to be sane to be on the force?"
"What whirlwind, Sergeant?" the bazooka man was asking. Yancel started to tell him, forcefully,then deflated when he realized that no whirlwind was available.
"You wait," he told him, and turned to Pappy. "You!" he yelled. "You chased away that whirlwind. Get it back here."
Pete took out his notebook. "This is interesting, Yancel . Is it your professional opinion that a whirlwind can be ordered around like a trained dog? Is that the official position of the police department?"
"I- No comment!You button up, or I'll run you in."
"By all means.But you havethat Buck-Rogers cannon pointed so that, after the shell passes through the whirlwind, if any, it should end up just about at the city hall. Is this a plot to assassinate Hizzoner ?"
Yancellooked around suddenly,then let his gaze travel an imaginary trajectory.
"Hey, you lugs!" he shouted. "Point that thing the other way. You want to knock off the Mayor?"
"That's better," Pete told the Sergeant. "Now they have it trained on the First National Bank. I can't wait."
Yancellooked over the situation again. "Point it where it won't hurt anybody," he ordered. "Do I have to do all your thinking?"
"You point it. We'll fire it."
Pete watched them. "Clarence," he sighed, "you stick around and get a pic of them loading it back into the car. That will be in about five minutes. Pappy and I will be in the Happy Hour Bar-Grill. Get a nice picture, with Yancel's features."
" Natch," said Clarence.
The next installment of OUR FAIR CITY featured three cuts and was headed "Police Declare War on Whirlwind." Pete took a copy and set out for the parking lot, intending to show it to Pappy.
Pappy wasn't there.Nor was Kitten. He looked around the neighborhood , poking his nose in lunchrooms and bars. No luck.
He headed back toward the Forum building, tellinghimself that Pappy might be shopping, or at a movie. He returned to his desk, made a couple of false starts on a column for the morrow, crumpled them up and went to the art department. "Hey! Clarence! Have you been down to the parking lot today?"
"Well, come along. We got to find him."
"Why?" But he came, lugging his camera.
The lot was still deserted, no Pappy, no Kitten-not even a stray breeze. Pete turned away. "Come on, Clarence-say, what are you shooting now?"
Clarence had his camera turned up toward the sky. "Not shooting," said Clarence. "Light is no good."
"What was it?"
"Here, Kitten-come, Kitten." The whirlwind came back near him, spun faster, and picked up a piece of cardboard it had dropped. It whipped it around,then let him have it in the face.
"That's not funny, Kitten," Pete complained. "Where's Pappy?"
The whirlwind sidled back toward him. He saw it reach again for the cardboard. "No, you don't!" he yelped and reached for it, too.
The whirlwind beat him to it. It carried it up some hundred feet and sailed it back. The card caught him edgewise on the bridge of the nose."Kitten!" Pete yelled. "Quit the horsing around."
It was a printed notice, about six by eight inches. Evidently it had been tacked up; there were small tears at all four corners. It read: "THE RITZ-CLASSIC" and under that, "Room 2013, Single Occupancy $6.00, Double Occupancy $8.00." There followed a printed list of the house rules.
Pete stared at it and frowned. Suddenly he chucked it back at the whirlwind. Kitten immediately tossed it back in his face.
"Come on, Clarence," he said briskly. "We're going to the Ritz-Classic-room 2013."
" Natch," said Clarence.
The Ritz-Classic was a colossal fleabag, favored by the bookie-and- madameset, three blocks away. Pete avoided the desk by using the basement entrance. The elevator boy looked at Clarence's camera and said, "No, you don't, Doc. No divorce cases in this hotel."
"Relax," Pete told him. "That's not a real camera. We peddle marijuana-that's the hay mow."
" Whyn'tyou say so? Youhadn't ought to carry it in a camera. You make people nervous. What floor?"
The elevator operator took them up non-stop, ignoring other calls. "That'll be two bucks.Special service."
"What do you pay for the concession?" inquired Pete.
"You gotta nerve to beef-with your racket."
They went back down a floor by stair and looked up room 2013. Pete tried the knob cautiously; the door was locked. He knocked on it-no answer. He pressed an ear to it and thought he could hear movement inside. He stepped back, frowning.
Clarence said, "I just remembered something," and trotted away. He returned quickly, with a red fire ax . "Now?" he asked Pete.
"A lovely thought, Clarence! Not yet." Pete pounded and yelled, "Pappy!Oh, Pappy!"
A large woman in a pink coolie coat opened the door behind them. "How do you expect a party to sleep?" she demanded.
Pete said, "Quiet, madame ! We're on the air." He listened. This time there were sounds of struggling and then, "Pete! Pe -"
"Now!" said Pete. Clarence started swinging.
The lock gave up on the third swing. Pete poured in, with Clarence after him. He collided with someone coming out and sat down abruptly. When he got up he saw Pappy on a bed. The old man was busily trying to get rid of a towel tied around his mouth.
Pete snatched it away. "Get ' em!" yelled Pappy.
"Soon as I get you untied."
"I ain't tied. They took my pants. Boy, I thought you'd never come!"
"Took Kitten a while to make me understand."
"I got ' em," announced Clarence."Both of ' em."
"Where?" demanded Pete.
"Here," said Clarence proudly, and patted his camera.
Pete restrained his answer and ran to the door. "They went thata -way," said the large woman, pointing. He took off, skidded around the corner and saw an elevator door just closing.
Pete stopped, bewildered by the crowd just outside the hotel. He was looking uncertainly around when Pappy grabbed him. "There!That car!" The car Pappy pointed out was even then swinging out from the curb just beyond the rank of cabs in front of the hotel; with a deep growl it picked up speed, and headed away. Pete yanked open the door of the nearest cab.
"Follow that car!" he yelled. They all piled in.
"Why?" asked the hackie.
Clarence lifted the fire ax . "Now?" he asked.
The driver ducked. "Forget it," he said. "It was just a yak." He started after the car.
The hack driver's skill helped them in the downtown streets, but the driver of the other car swung right onThird and headed for the river. They streamed across it, fifty yards apart, with traffic snarled behind them, and then were on the no-speed-limit freeway. The cabbie turned his head. "Is the camera truck keeping up?"
"What camera truck?"
" Ain'tthis a movie?"
"Good grief, no! That car is filled with kidnappers. Faster!"
"A snatch?I don't wantno part of it." He braked suddenly.
Pete took the ax and prodded the driver. "You catch ' em!"
The hack speeded up again but the driver protested, "Not in this wreck. They got more power than me."
Pappy grabbed Pete's arm. "There's Kitten!"
"Where?Oh, never mind that now!"
"Slow down!" yelled Pappy. "Kitten, oh, Kitten- over here!"
The whirlwind swooped down and kept pace with them. Pappy called to it. "Here, baby! Go get that car!Up ahead-get it!"
Kitten seemed confused, uncertain. Pappy repeated it and she took off-like a whirlwind. She dipped and gathered a load of paper and trash as she flew.
They saw her dip and strike the car ahead, throwing paper in the face of the driver. The car wobbled. She struck again. The car veered, climbed the curb, ricocheted against the crash rail, and fetched up against a lamp post.
Five minutes later Pete, having left Kitten, Clarence, and the fire ax to hold the fort over two hoodlums suffering from abrasion, multiple contusions and shock, was feeding a dime into a pay phone at the nearest filling station. He dialed long distance. " Gimmethe FBI's kidnap number," he demanded. "You know-the Washington, D.C., snatch number.”
"My goodness," said the operator, "do you mind if I listen in?"
"Get me that number!"
Presently a voice answered, "Federal Bureau of Investigation."
" Lemmetalk to Hoover! Huh? Okay, okay-I'll talk to you. Listen, this is a snatch case. I've got ' emon ice, for the moment, but unless you get one of your boys from your local office here pronto there won't be any snatch case-not if the city cops get here first. What?" Pete quieted down and explained who he was, where he was, and the more believable aspects of the events that had led up to the present situation. The government man cut in on him as he was urging speed and more speed and assured him that the local office was already being notified.
Pete got back to the wreck just as Lieutenant Dumbrosky climbed out of a squad car. Pete hurried up. "Don't do it, Dumbrosky ," he yelled.
The big cop hesitated. "Don't do what?"
"Don't do anything. The FBIare on their way now-and you're already implicated. Don't make it any worse."
Pete pointed to the two hoodlums; Clarence was sitting on one and resting the spike of the ax against the back of the other. "Those birds have already sung. This town is about to fall apart. If you hurry, you might be able to get a plane for Mexico."
Dumbroskylooked at him. "Wise guy," he said doubtfully.
"Ask them. They confessed."
One of the hoods raised his head. "Wewas threatened," he announced. "Take ' emin, lieutenant. They assaulted us."
"Go ahead," Pete said cheerfully. "Take us all in-together. Then you won't be able to lose that pair before the FBI can question them. Maybe you can cop a plea."
"Now?" asked Clarence.
Dumbroskyswung around. "Put that ax down!"
"Do as he says, Clarence. Get your camera ready to get a picture as the G-men arrive."
"You didn't send forno G-men."
"Look behind you!"
A dark blue sedan slid quietly to a stop and four lean, brisk men got out. The first of them said, "Is there someone here named Peter Perkins?"
"Me," said Pete. "Do you mind if I kiss you?”
It was after dark but the parking lot was crowded and noisy. A stand for the new Mayor and distinguished visitors had been erected on one side, opposite it was a bandstand; across the front was a large illuminated sign: HOME OF KITTEN-HONORARY CITIZEN OF OUR FAIR CITY.
In the fenced-off circle in the middle Kitten herself bounced and spun and swayed and danced. Pete stood on one side of the circle with Pappy opposite him; at four-foot intervals around it children were posted. "All set?" called out Pete.
"All set," answered Pappy. Together, Pete, Pappy and the kids started throwing serpentine into the ring. Kitten swooped, gathered the ribbons up and wrapped them around herself.
"Confetti!" yelled Pete. Each of the kids dumped a sackful toward the whirlwind-little of it reached the ground.
"Balloons!" yelled Pete."Lights!" Each of the children started blowing up toy balloons; each had a dozen different colors . As fast as they were inflated they fed them to Kitten. Floodlights and searchlights came on; Kitten was transformed into a fountain of boiling, bubbling color , several stories high.
"Now?" said Clarence.