Либрусек (книги fb2)
I’m Joe Spade — about as intellectual a guy as you’ll find all day.
I invented Wotto and Voxo and a bunch of other stuff that nobody can get along without anymore. It’s on account of I have so much stuff in my head that I sometimes go to a head-grifter. This day all of them I know is out of town when I call. Lots of times every. body I know is out of town when I call. I go to a new one. The glass in his door says he is a anapsychologist, which is a head-grifter in the popular speech.
“I’m Joe Spade the man that got everything,” I tell him and slap him on the back in that hearty way of mine. There is a crunch sound and at first I think I have crack his rib. Then I see I have only broke his glasses so no harm done. “I am what you call a flat-footed genius, Doc,” I tell him, “with plenty of the crimp-cut greenleaf.”
I take the check card away from him and mark it up myself to save time. I figure I know more about me than he does.
“Remember, I can get them nine-dollar words for four eighty-five wholesale, Doc,” I josh him and he looks me painful.
“Modesty isn’t one of your failings,” this head-grifter tell me as he scun my card. “Hum. Single… Significant.”
I had written down the “single” in the blank for it, but he had see for himself that I am a significant man.
“Solvent,” he read for the blank about the pecuniary stuff; “I like that in a man. We will arrange for a few sessions.”
“One will do it,” I tell him. “Time is running and I am paying. Give me a quick read, Doc.”
“Yes, I can give you a very rapid reading,” he says. “I want you to ponder the ancient adage: It is not good for Man to be alone. Think about it a while, and perhaps you will be able to put one and one together.”
Then he add kind of sad, “Poor woman!” which is either the non-secular of the year or else he is thinking of some other patient. Then he add again, “That will be three yards, in the lingo.”
“Thanks, Doc,” I say. I pay the head-grifter his three hundred dollars and leave. He has hit the nail on the noggin and put his toe on the root of my trouble.
I will take me a partner in my business.
I spot him in Grogley’s, and I know right away he’s the one. He’s about half my size but otherwise he’s as much like me as two feet in one shoe. He’s real good-looking — just like me. He’s dressed sweet, but has a little blood on his face like can happen to anyone in Grogley’s for five minutes. Man, we’re twins! I know we will talk alike and think alike just like we look alike.
“Eheu! Fugaces!” my new partner says real sad. That means “Brother, this has been one day with all the bark on it!” He is drinking the Fancy andhis eyes look like cracked glass.
“He’s been having quite a few little fist fights,” Grogley whispers to me, “but he don’t win none. He isn’t fast with his hands. I think he’s got troubles.”
“Not no more he don’t,” I tell Grogley; “he’s my new partner.”
I slap my new partner on the back in that hearty way I have, and the tooth that flew out must have been a loose one.
“You don’t have no more troubles, Roscoe,” I tell him, “you and me is just become partners.” He looks kind of sick at me.
“Maurice is the name,” he says, “Maurice Maltravers. How are things back in the rocks? You, sir, are a troglodyte. They always come right after the snakes. That’s the only time I wish the snakes would come back.”
Lots of people call me a troglodyte.
“Denied the sympathy of humankind,” Maurice carries on, “perhaps I may find it in an inferior species. I wonder if I could impose on your ears — gahhhh!” (he made a humorous sound there) “are those things ears? — What a fearsome otological apparatus you do have! — the burden of my troubles.”
“I just told you you don’t have none, Maurice,” I say. “Come along with me and we’ll get into the partner business.”
I pick him up by the scruff and haul him out of Grogley’s.
“I see right away you are my kind of man,” I say. “My kind of man — putridus ad volva,” Maurice gives me the echo. Hey, this guy is a gale! Just like me.
“My cogitational patterns are so intricate and identatic oriented,”
says Maurice when I set him down and let him walk a little, “that I become a closed system — unintelligible to the exocosmos and particularly to a chthonian like yourself.”
“I’m mental as hell myself, Maurice,” I tell him, “there ain’t nothing the two of us can’t do together.”
“My immediate difficulty is that the University has denied me further use of the computer,” Maurice tells me. “Without it, I cannot complete the Ultimate Machine.”
“I got a computer’ll make that little red schoolhouse turn green,” I tell him.
We come to my place which a man have call in print “a converted horse barn, probably the most unorthodox and badly appointed scientific laboratory in the world.” I take Maurice in with me, but he carries on like a chicken with its hat off when he finds out the only calculator I got is the one in my head.
“You livid monster, I can’t work in this mares’-nest,” he screeches at me. “I’ve got to have a calculator, a computer.”
I tap my head with a six-pound hammer and grin my famous grin. “It’s all inside here, Maurice boy,” I tell him, “the finest calculator in the world. When I was with the carnivals they billed me as the Idiot Genius. I run races with the best computers they had in a town, multiplying twenty-place numbers and all the little tricks like that. I cheated though.
I invented a gadget and carried it in my pocket. It’s jam the relays of the best computers and slow them down for a full second. Give me a one-second hop and I can beat anything in the world at anything. The only things wrong with those jobs is that I had to talk and act kind of dumb to live up to my billing the idiot Genius, and that dumb stuff was hard on an intellectual like I.”
“I can see that it would be,” Maurice said. “Can you handle involuted matrix, Maimonides-conditioned, third-aspect numbers in the Cauchy sequence with simultaneous non-temporal involvement of the Fieschi manifold?”
“Maurice, I can do it and fry up a bunch of eggs to go with it at the same time,” I tell him. Then I look him right in the middle of the eye.
“Maurice,” I say, “you’re working on a nullifier.”
He look at me like he take me serious for the first time. He pull asheaf of papers out of his shirt, and sure enough he is working on a nullifier — a sweet one. “This isn’t an ordinary nullifier,” Maurice points out, and I see that it ain’t. “What other nullifier can posit moral and ethical judgments?
What other can set up and enforce categories? What other can really discern?
This will be the only nullifier able to make full philosophical pronouncements. Can you help me finish it, Proconsul?”
A proconsul is about the same as an alderman, so I know Maurice think high of me. We throw away the clock and get with it. We work about twenty hours a day. I compute it and build it at the same time — out of Wotto-metal naturally. At the end we use feedback a lot. We let the machine decide what we will put in it and what leave out. The main difference between our nullifier and all others is that ours will be able to make decisions. So, let it make them!
We finish it in about a week. Man, it is a sweet thing. We play with it a while to see what it can do. It can do everything.
I point it at half a bushel of bolts and nuts I got there. “Get rid of everything that ain’t standard thread,” I program it. “Half that stuff is junk.”
And half that stuff is gone right now! This thing works! Just set in what you want it to get rid of, and it’s gone without a trace.
“Get rid of everything here that’s no good for nothing,” I program it. I had me a place there that has been described as cluttered. That machine blinked once, and then I had a place you could get around in. That thing knew junk when it saw it, and it sure sent that no-good stuff clear over the edge. Of course anybody can make a nullifier that won’t leave no remains of whatever it latches on to, but this is the only one that knows what not to leave no remains of by itself. Maurice and me is tickled as pink rabbits over the thing.
“Maurice,” I say, and I slap him on the back so his nose bleeds a little, “this is one bushy-tailed gadget. There ain’t nothing we can’t do with it.”
But Maurice looks kind of sad for a moment.
“A quo bono?” he ask, which I think is the name of a mineral water, so I slosh him out some brandy which is better. He drink the brandy but he’s still thoughtful.
“But what good is it?” he ask. “It is a triumph, of course, but in what category could we market it? It seems that I’ve been here a dozen times with the perfect apparatus that nobody wants. Is there really a mass market for a machine that can posit moral and ethical judgments, that can set up and enforce categories, that is able to discern, and to make philosophical pronouncements? Have I not racked up one more triumphant folly?”
“Maurice, this thing is a natural-born garbage disposal,” I tell him. He turn that green color lots of people do when I shed a big light on them.
“A garbage disposal!” he sing out. “The aeons labored to give birth to it through the finest mind — mine — of the millennium, and this brother of a giant ape says it is a garbage disposal! It is a new aspect of thought, the novo instauratio, the mind of tomorrow fruited today, and this obscene ogre says it is a Garbage Disposal!! The Constellations do homage to it, and Time has not waited in vain, and you, you splay-footed horse-herder, you call it a GARBAGE DISPOSAL!”
Maurice was so carried away with the thought that he cried a little.
It sure is nice when someone agrees with you as long and loud as Maurice did. When he was run out of words he got aholt of the brandy bottle with both hands and drunk it all off. Then he slept the clock around. He was real tired.
He looked kind of sheepful when he finally woke up. “I feel better now, outside of feeling worse,” he say. “You are right, Spade, it’s a garbage disposal.’”He programmed it to get all the slush out of his blood and liver and kidneys and head. It did it. It cured his hangover in straight-up no time at all. It also shaved him and removed his appendix. Just give it the nod and it would nullify anything.
“We will call it the Hog-Belly Honey,” I say, “on account of it will eat anything, and it work so sweet.”
“That is what we will call it privately.” Maurice nodded. “But in company it will be known as the Pantophag.” That is the same thing in Greek.
It was at the time of this area of good feeling that I split a Voxo with Maurice. Each of you have one-half of a tuned Voxo and you can talk to each other anywhere the world, and the thing is so nonconspicuous that nobody can see it on you.
We got a big booth and showed the Hog-Belly Honey, the Pantophag, at the Trade Fair.
Say, we did put on a good show! The people came in and looked and listened till they were walleyed. That Maurice could give a good spiel, and I’m about the best there is myself. We sure were two fine-looking men, after Maurice told me that maybe I detracted a little bit by being in my undershirt, and I went and put a shirt on. And that bushy-tailed machine just sparkled — like everything does that is made out of Wotto-metal.
Kids threw candy-bar wrappers at it, and they disappeared in the middle of the air. “Frisk me,” they said, and everything in their pockets that was no good for nothing was gone. A man held up a stuffed briefcase, and it was almost empty in a minute. A few people got mad when they lost beards and moustaches, but we explained to them that their boscage hadn’t done a thing for them; if the ornaments had had even appearance value the machine would have left them be. We pointed out other people who kept their brush; whatever they had behind it, they must have needed the cover.
“Could I have one in my house, and when?” a lady asks.
“Tomorrow, for forty-nine ninety-five installed,” I tell her. “It will get rid of anything no good. It’ll pluck chickens, or bone roasts for you. It will clear out all those old love letters from that desk and leave just the ones from the guy that meant it. It will relieve you of thirty pounds in the strategic places, and frankly, lady, this alone will make it worth your while. It will get rid of old buttons that don’t match, and seeds that won’t sprout. It will destroy everything that is not so good for nothing.”
“It can posit moral and ethical judgments,” Maurice tells the people. “It can set up and enforce categories.”
“Maurice and me is partners,” I tell them all. “We look alike and think alike. We even talk alike.”
“Save I in the hieratic and he in the demotic,” Maurice say. “This is the only nullifier in the world able to make full philosophical pronouncements. It is the unfailing judge of what is of some use and what is not. And it disposes neatly.”
Man, the people did pour in to see it all that morning! They slacked off a little bit just about noon.
“I wonder how many people have come into our booth this morning?”
Maurice wondered to me. “I would guess near ten thousand.”
“I don’t have to guess,” I say. “There is nine thousand three hundred and fifty-eight who have come in, Maurice,” I tell him, for I am always the automatic calculator. “There is nine thousand two hundred and ninety-seven who have left,” I go on, “and there are forty-four here now.”
Maurice smiled. “You have made a mistake,” he says. “It doesn’t add up.”
And that is when the hair riz up on the back of my neck.
I don’t make mistakes when I calculate, and I can see now that the Hog-Belly Honey don’t make none either. Well, it’s too late to make one now if you’re not trained for it, but it might not be too late to get out theway of the storm before it hits.
“Crank the cuckoo,” I whisper to Maurice, “make the bindlestiff, hit the macadam!”
“Je ne comprends pas,” says Maurice, which means “Let’s hit the road, boys,” in French, so I know my partner understands me.
I am out of the display hall at a high run, and Maurice racing along beside me so lightfoot that he don’t make no noise. There is a sky-taxi just taking off.
“Jump for it, Maurice!” I sing out I jump for it myself, and hook my fingers over the rear rail and am dangling in the air. I look to see if Maurice make it. Make it! He isn’t even there! He didn’t come out with me. I look back, and I see him through a window going to his spiel again.
Now that is a mule-headed development. My partner, who is as like me as two heads in one hat, had not understand me.
At the port I hook onto a sky-freight just going to Mexico.
I don’t never have to pack no bag. I say that a man who don’t always carry two years’ living in that crimp green stuff in his back pocket ain’t in no condition to meet fait. In thirty minutes I am sit down in a hotel in Cueva Peoquita and have all the pleasantries at hand. Then I snap on my Voxo to hear what Maurice is signaling about.
“Why didn’t you tell me that the Pantophag was nullifying people?” he ask kind of shrill.
“I did tell you,” I say. “Nine thousand two hundred and ninety-seven added to forty-four don’t come to nine thousand three hundred and fifty-eight. You said so yourself. How are things on the home front, Maurice? That’s a joke.”
“It’s no joke,” he say kind of fanatic like. “I have locked myself in a little broom closet, but they’re going to break down the door. What can I do?”
“Why, Maurice, just explain to those people that the folks nullified by the machine were no good for nothing because the machine don’t make mistakes.”
“I doubt that I can convince the parents and spouses and children of the nullified people of this. They’re after blood. They’re breaking down the door now, Spade. I hear them say they will hang me.”
“Tell them you won’t settle for anything less than a new rope, Maurice,” I tell him. That’s an old joke. I switch off the Voxo because Maurice is not making anything except gurgling noises which I cannot interpret.
A thing like that blow over real fast after they have already hang one guy for it and are satisfied. I am back in town and am rolling all those new ideas around in my head, like a bunch of rocks. But I’m not going to build the Hog-Belly Honey again. It is too logical for safety, and is a little before its time.
I am looking to get me another partner. Come into Grogley’s if you are interested. I show up there every hour or so. I want a guy as like me as two necks in one noose — what make me think of a thing like that? — a guy look like me and think like me and talk like me.
Just ask for Joe Spade.
But the one I hook onto for a new partner will have to be a fellow who understands me when the scuppers are down.