Click on image to enlarge.
by Mack Reynolds
Category: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Description: Jake O'Gara is quickly losing his movie writer touch, what with all the alcohol in his brain. But his big break finally comes in the form of a djinn. Or so he thinks....
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks, 1957 Space Science Fiction
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [28 KB]
Reading time: 14-19 min.
When the fog finally rolled out, I opened one eye--not very wide and looked around.
"Oh, cut," I winced, "the drunk tank again."
I opened the other eye. My sole fellow occupants were a sour looking tycoon type and one of the biggest and fattest characters I've ever seen. This second one must have been pushing seven feet and three hundred and fifty pounds. I needed a drink but bad. I squinted down at my wrist to find out how long I had to wait until morning. No watch. I'd probably hocked it with some bartender.
"Hey, buddy," I said to the dopey one, "what time is it?"
"Dhhhh?" he dhhhhhed.
The banker type said, "It is exactly ten minutes past two." He had a voice like Clifton Webb. He added, "Hassel can't tell time."
"Hassel?" I said. I looked at the big slob again. I had noticed his bulk before, his face wasn't any more impressive. It was dark and his bedraggled mustache must have been a good foot from tip to tip. Nobody would have accused him of having a spark of intelligence in his eye. Orson Welles cast as Pancho Villa in one of those Preston Sturges' comedies.
It was a long time until morning and another drink. I doubted if I'd make it. I fumbled a pack of Camels from somewhere or other, managed to get one out and into my face, and then extended the pack shakily. "Have one," I said.
The pile of blubber took one, examined it lackadaisically, noticed I had mine in my mouth, stuck his in his mouth and ate it.
I don't have enough troubles--four months behind on my current assignment, and in a slump--I have to be put in a drunk tank with a giant who's got a jumping case of D.T.'s.
The banker type said, "He's a gin."
I looked back at Hassel. "You're telling me," I grunted.
The banker's eye became calculating. He said, "My name is Benjamin Morley Dempsey." He waited as though that should ring up the curtain. It didn't.
"I'm Jake O'Gara," I said.
"Same name as the movie writer, eh?"
He came over to me. "Look here, my man, you seem an intelligent type," he buttered. "Would you like to be let in on a good thing?"
"No," I told him. "I'm just in the process of getting out of a good thing. Tossed out. What're you doing in here? You look sober as a Salvation Army Major at a W. C. T. U. meeting."
"Ha ha," he said needlessly. "As a matter of fact, Mr. O'Gara, I am quite sober. This situation is due to an unfortunate misunderstanding."
My head was spinning like a whirling dervish in a revolving door, but I said, "Yeah, me too, probably. If I could remember." I motioned to Hassel with my still unlit cigarette. "Him too?"
Benjamin Morley Dempsey cleared his throat. "The same mistake, as a matter of fact. Hassel is in the way of being a servant of mine. He, ah, misunderstood my instructions."
"What's this good thing?" I asked him, managing to strike a match and even, eventually, to get the flame to the end of my cigarette. I took a deep drag on the cigarette, then took it out of my mouth and stared at it in hurt surprise. It tasted as though I was burning soft coal.
Dempsey cleared his throat again. "I'll be glad to turn Hassel over to you."
I started to put the cigarette back in my mouth, stopped when it was half way there and did one of those classic double-takes like Tom the cat does in the Tom and Jerry cartoons. "That's the good thing you want to let me in on?" I said. "I should take over Hassel?"
"He's a servant," he said stubbornly.
I looked at Hassel again, closed my eyes in pain. He was standing near the bars happily flipping his lower lip with a dirty forefinger and making charming blubbleblubbleblubble sounds.
"What's he like when he's sober?" I asked. "And why in the name of the last fadeout should I be interested in taking him off your hands? Why don't you turn him over to a nut factory?"
"A servant with unusual powers, as a matter of fact," He cleared his throat as though the saying of the last had hurt. "He's quite sober right now."
"I'd hate to see him drunk."
He shuddered. "So would I."
I threw away the cigarette and stretched back on my bunk, groaning. "Some other time," I told him. "Some other time I'll take him off your hands. Maybe sometime when I'm not swacked. I have too much sense when I'm drunk."
"See here..." he said, and there was an edge of desperation in his voice.
"Go away," I said, "I'm hanging over."
"Your fine in the morning," he said. "Do you have sufficient funds to negotiate your release?"
I swung my feet around to the floor, sat up and investigated my pockets. Two dimes, three cents and a bus token. And judges don't take checks.
I looked up at him wearily. "Listen," I said, "what's your proposition?"