Saturday, September 10, 2016

games, part 13

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

edna, a kind-hearted waitress at a bus station, has offered a night's shelter to julie, a young woman with a strange story.

edna lived in the house she had grown up in, and had lived in it alone since her mother had died a few years past.

the neighborhood had gone a little bit to seed since the war had ended and a couple of nearby factories had closed down. many of the houses were empty, and the lots overgrown.

edna’s old friends - the same ones who told her she should not take in stray humans and animals - kept telling her she should move out before the neighborhood went completely to hell.

and that she especially should not be bringing strangers home when she had hardly any neighbors nearby who would hear her cries for help if she was set upon by one of the objects of her charity.

one of the houses beside edna’s was empty. the other was occupied by another woman living alone - old mrs henderson, the world’s nosiest and nastiest neighbor, who had feuded with edna’s mother for more than twenty years over every little thing either could come up with.

mrs henderson was probably not quite the world’s nosiest neighbor any more, but only because she could hardly move around. and - the point edna’s friends made - she was deaf.

mrs henderson’s lights were all off when edna pulled her old pontiac into the driveway.

edna and julie got out of the car.

julie looked around. it was very dark. the houses that she could see were dark, and there were a lot of trees.

“it’s quiet,” julie said.

“yes it is,” edna answered. a little quieter than usual, edna now noticed, with no breeze.

edna led julie around to the front of the house. she took her house key out of her purse.

“you lock your door,” julie said. she did not seem surprised, just making an observation.

“yes, i do,”

“we never locked our door,” julie said, in the same matter of fact way, as edna opened the door.

“it doesn’t hurt to be careful,” edna said. there was a light switch just inside the door and she turned it on.

“i guess not.” julie did not pursue the subject. she looked around. they were in a small parlor or living room, with a couple of couches, a small coffee table, and a small bookcase.

and a small fireplace which was spotlessly clean and looked unused.

the biggest thing in the room was a big brown radio. an old fashioned standing lamp with a big red globe stood beside the radio.

there was a picture on the wall which julie glanced at. a girl who was probably a princess was staring at a pool or lake like she was thinking about jumping into it.

“have a seat.” edna pointed to one of the couches. “you want something? tea, milk, a coke or ginger ale?”

“thank you. a coke would be nice.” julie sat down on the larger of the two couches. she was directly facing the picture of the princess who was getting ready to jump into the lake.

“unless you would rather go right to bed?” edna asked. “you must be tired after your long day”

“oh,no, “ julie answered. “i am wide awake.” and she was. she had dozed a little in the car on the way over from the bus station but was now completely awake.

edna was pleased. she brought people home because she liked to talk to them. plus, julie’s particular story interested her, horrified as she was by it.

“then make yourself at home.” edna left julie and went into the kitchen.

julie looked around. without getting up, she could tell the house was a pretty good-sized one, bigger than the one she and her mother had lived in. it had an upstairs and probably at least three bedrooms. edna lived in it alone, she had said so on the drive over.

edna returned with a ginger ale and a coke and a couple of glasses on a tray. each glass had a straw and a single large ice cube in it.

“i like your picture,” julie said, looking over edna’s head at it.

“the picture?” edna laughed. “oh, it’s been there for a hundred years. i never even notice it any more.”

“it tells a story,” julie said.

“it does?” edna smiled. “yes, i suppose you could say that.”

“i like things that tell stories, “ said julie. “pictures that tell stories, books that tell stories, songs that tell stories.”

“yes, so do i,” edna agreed.

“if there is no story, what’s the point of anything?”

“and what story do you see in my old picture?” edna glanced back at it. “i always thought she looked kind of sad.”

“she is sad,” said julie. “she is sad because her father, the king, is making her marry the dragon. the dragon will destroy the kingdom unless she marries him.”

“that’s pretty sad,” edna agreed.

“not as sad as it will be when she jumps into the lake.”

“and drowns.”

“no, she doesn’t drown. much worse. she sinks to the bottom of the lake and there is a sea serpent, and she has to marry him. so she might as well have stayed on land and married the dragon.”

edna took a sip of her ginger ale. “you have quite an imagination.”

“i am going to write a best selling novel,” julie said. “or a broadway play.” julie had decided to tell edna about her plan to write a best-selling novel. but - at least for now - not to say anything about the two diamond rings.

“i always thought i could write a best-seller myself,” said edna. “if i wasn’t so tired all the time. but what are you going to do?"

julie nodded sympathetically.

edna would have liked to ask julie more about the mail-ordering husband she was supposed to meet at the bus station but instead said, “what will your best seller be about? do you have an idea for it yet?”

julie took a sip of her coke through its straw and thought for a few seconds. “it’s about a future world,” she said.

“that sounds interesting,” edna encouraged her.

“in the future all the women and girls live in one big city and all the men and boys in another big city . all the boys are brought up to be bullfighters or cowboys or deep-sea divers. and all the girls are brought up to bake either pies or cakes or cookies.

the bullfighters have to marry girls who bake pies. the cowboys marry the girls who bake cakes and the deep-sea divers marry the girls who bake cookies.”

“that’s a good start.” edna said.

“the heroine is a girl named yolina 543. she is the most beautiful girl in the whole big city except for one thing. she has a blue birthmark on her forehead that looks like a bullet hole …”

part 14

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