Charley de milo, p.1
Charley de Milo, p.1Daniel F. Galouye
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CHARLEY de MILO
By LARRY M. HARRIS
Illustrated by Emsh
_It isn't at all obvious--at first thought--that having two perfectly good, usable arms could be a real handicap to a man...._
"To be, or not to be--that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms ..." _Hamlet_, Act III, Scene I
The rocket was on the way up, but Professor Lightning didn't seem tocare. Outside the cooktent Wrout flapped his arms and, on that signal,Seaman started up the big electric band, whooping it up with John PhilipSousa for openers, while all over the midway the lights snapped on, bigwhites and yellows, reds, greens, purples and dusky violets framing, ina titillating dimness, the front flap of the girlie tent. The outsidetalkers were busy outside the spectacle tents like Wicks' Hell Drivers,Biggest Auto Show in Fifty States--outside the grind shows, the eats,the rides: "Here and now, for the fourth part of one single dollar bill,the most amazing ..." "... Terrifying and strange beings from thefarthest reaches of the Earth who will exhibit ..." "... Dances learnedat the Court of the Sultan, Ay-rab dances right here, right on theinside, for only--"
And the crowd, filing in, laughed and chattered and shrieked on swoopingrides, the Great Crane, the Space Race, the Merry-Go-Round and theHorses, threw down money to win a kewpie doll, a Hawaiian lei, a reallife-size imitation scale model of Luna in three real dimensions ...living it up on the first show, while the rocket climbed on and out, andbubbled excitement in the blood.
The rocket was up: the carnival was open. But Professor Lightning didn'tseem to care. He sat in the cooktent with his eyes hooded and hiddenunder the unshaded glow of a hundred-and-fifty-watt Forever bulb, whileCharley de Milo fidgeted his feet, and listened, and tried to cut theold man off.
"Look, professor," he said nervously, "why don't we talk about it later?Table it, till after the show?" He scratched the side of his head withhis left foot. "I got to go on in a couple of minutes," he said. "I canhear the talker going now. I got to--"
"Forget the show," Professor Lightning said. His voice was flatter andharsher, and his face more tense, than Charley ever remembered seeingit. "The show isn't important."
Charley blinked, trying to understand. "But, Professor--"
"Listen to me," Professor Lightning said. "The world is at the beginningof a new cultural revolution. Since the Cold War melted, and freedom ofinquiry and research began to live again on both sides of the old IronCurtain, science has begun a new Renaissance. The cultural interflowhas--"
"Please, professor," Charley said miserably, rubbing his toes together."There isn't much time before I got to go on. And you ought to beinside the Science tent, too, because any minute--"
"If I am not in the tent," Professor Lightning said calmly, "I will notappear in the show. It does not matter."
"But they'll fire you," Charley said. He grabbed for a cigarette withhis right foot and got it into his mouth. Striking a match with his leftfoot, he lit the cigarette and blew out a long, ragged plume of smoke."If you're not there on time," he said in strained tones, "they'll fireyou. And what about me?"
Professor Lightning gestured with both big hands. It was the samemovement he used every night, when he showed the crowd there were nowires or batteries secreted on his person. Charley half-expected him tograb hold of a couple of light bulbs and show them glowing in his fists.But the gesture was meant, this time, as an aid to relaxation. "Don'tworry," Professor Lightning said, in a grating sort of caricature of asoothing tone. "If they fire me ... well, then, they save me the troubleof quitting. And as for you, my boy, a carnival job should be thefurthest thing from your thoughts."
"Well, it isn't," Charley said sourly. "And if you'll excuse me,professor, I care how I get the money to eat, even if you don't. I got agood job--"
"You won't need your job," Professor Lightning said, "if you'll listento me."
Charley made up his mind. Much as he hated to be impolite, there weresome things more important than social forms, he decided. He stood up."After the show, professor," he said with firmness, and went out of thecooktent, heading at a rapid dogtrot for the big tent at the other sideof the midway. As he reached it he could see Dave Lungs, the outsidetalker, climb up on the front platform to begin his spiel.
"Marvels of the world!" Dave announced without preliminary. "Wonders ofthe natural universe! Surprises and startling sights for every member ofthe family!" By the time he had got that far, a crowd was beginning tocollect in front of the platform. "For the fourth part of a singledollar bill--" Dave went on, but Charley didn't have the time to listen;he was in the bally.
He lifted the backflap of the tent with one foot, and wriggled inside.
As he made his way to the cluster of people near the front flap, pastthe booths and stands, he felt an enormous sense of relief. He had madeit--with all of fifty seconds to spare.
Ned and Ed stood next to him. "Where you been?" Ed said in a nasalwhisper.
"I got held up," Charley explained. "Professor Lightning, he was talkingto me, and--"
"Later," Ned said. His voice was lower and throatier than Ed's; it wasthe only way Charley could tell them apart, but then, he thought, nobodyever had to tell them apart. They were, like all Siamese twins, alwaystogether. "We're going on," Ned said, and he and his twin moved forward.
Charley moved into place behind them, and came out blinking in the glareof the front platform.
"Siamese twins," Dave was shouting. "A contemporary marvel of science,ladies and gentlemen--and here we have ..."
Charley stepped forward as Ned and Ed stepped back into the shadowsagain.
"... Charley de Milo! Ladies and gentlemen, the world-wide fame of thisbrave and talented boy is stupendous! His feats of skill will amaze you!Watch him thread a needle! Watch him comb his hair! And all for one thinquarter, ladies and gentlemen, only the fourth part--"
The electronic band choked on Sousa, coughed and began again withKabalevsky. Charley watched the audience below, staring up at him,hundreds of faces. He heard their gasp as he flexed his shoulders andturned. He grinned down, taking a second longer than usual, and thenstepped back, still grinning.
"Charley de Milo, the Armless Wonder!" Dave said. "And many more sightsinside, ladies and gentlemen, sights to amaze you, sights to chill yourvery blood, sights ..."
* * * * *
One-thirty, and the last show over. The rocket had come down for thenight; all over the midway lights were blinking off and silence wascreeping, like a stain, over the ground. Professor Lightning was sittingon his bunk, in the small tent he shared with Erma the Fish Girl. Ermawas out drinking with Dave Lungs and some of the others, and only theprofessor and Charley de Milo were in the room. Charley was sitting onErma's bunk, looking resigned.
"Well, if you still want to talk to me," he said, "now's your chance.O.K.?"
"I certainly want to talk to you," Professor Lightning said firmly. "Iwant to tell you of the most important moment of your life."
Charley tried to think of something to say to this, but there wasn'tanything. He shifted on the bunk, scratched at his nose with his leftfoot, and grinned spastically. "Sure," he said at random. "And, by theway, I'm sorry about before, professor. But the show was going on,and--"
"The show," Professor Lightning said, in tones of the utmost contempt."Forget about the show--now, and tomorrow, and forever."
"No words," Professor Lightning said, raising a hand delicately."Please. Allow me to tell you of my invention."
For some reason, Professor Lightning looked irritated. "It's not amachine," he said flatly. Then he sighed and his tone changed. "Charley,my boy," he said, "do you remember what I was telling you before? Abouthow the world has entered a new Age of Science? How new inventions, newdiscoveries, are coming along every day?"
"Well, sure," Charley said. "The papers talk about it every once in awhile. You know, I see the papers, or the
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