R. Lewis Evans was an English Teacher who loved to write. Although his books are quite well-known, his short stories and articles belong mostly to the more distant past. It was during the 1940s and 1950s that magazine short stories were popular and sought after and Dad wrote over 20 of them. Most were published, and many are of interest especially to those of us who know and love the Lower St. Lawrence and Saguenay areas of Quebec, so I decided to get them out of the file and onto the web-site where they can be read once again.
I've divided the stories into categories. While he wrote mostly river stories about the Tadoussac area, including some historical fiction, he also wrote 6 stories about World War II (4 of which overlap with our beloved river), and a number of odd inspirations, one biblical, several inspired by newspaper items, and even one (gasp!) Science Fiction. There are also some non-fiction articles which will be coming along later in the year. I love them all partly because he wrote about what he loved and I love it too, but partly because his characters are thoughtful, compassionate and real.
I've included a few notes that he kept in the file. Some are news articles he drew his ideas from; others are comments he received from editors either printed in the magazine or sent along to him separately. I've also tried to reproduce the illustrations, duly credited, as all the stories that published were supported by visual art. Only one, Casual Enemy, has no illustrator mentioned. My guess is he drew that one himself.
I've read all these stories several times in my efforts to get them up onto the web-site correctly and I've never tired of them. I hope you enjoy them.
A fair warning: some readers might recognize a few people!
R Lewis Evans More Stories
"Zeb," he cried. "Zeb, come on up top. Bring your bucket. make it quick."
In Case of Fire
A Short Story
by Lewis Evans
(Published in The Standard, October 5th, 1946 - $60.00!)
ILLUSTRATED BY MENENDEZ
The old hand and the novice found hostility turned to friendship in a battle with death
THE windward edge of the fire was below them now, a line that straggled across twenty miles of forest and ate its way in little salients doggedly westwards against the draught.
Downwind, ahead of the aircraft, all was confusion for countless square miles—white smoke, and gray and brown, air-borne ashes, and occasionally the peach-glow of flame dimly reflected on the driving smoke.
Don Ross, late of the RCAF, held the F-24 on its course, passing over the centre of the vast burning area where thousands of cords of Northern Quebec pulpwood were going up in smoke instead of fulfilling their destiny of providing Canadian and American papers with newsprint. With him in the cabin bronzed, graying Zeb Stearn sat with map on knee, pencilling in the present area of the fire for his report back to the Canadian Forestry Service and the Long Lake, Wolf Lake and River Beyond Pulp and Paper Company, which owned these limits. Old Zeb Stearn concentrated on the job and said nothing. He had been saying just that ever since they had taken off from the North Shore that morning.
The northward border of the forest fire seemed to follow the curves of River Beyond, and Don Ross swung the aircraft in that direction. As they approached the river they could see that the fire had already jumped it in several places. Zeb Stearn noted them on his map.
Suddenly Don peered at the river beyond the eastern edge of the fire, set the plane on a glide towards it, and then banked on a curve. He pointed, and Stearn followed his finger. A herd of caribou was fording the river to gain the safer north bank. Don turned to smile at Stearn, but the old fellow did not evince interest by even so much as a grunt. He was again working on the map.
Don felt rather foolish, as though he had excitedly pointed out the Rhine to a man who had already made many operational tours.
THE F-24 was now over the advancing eastern edge, of the fire, and the air was rough. Now and then the thermals rising from the hot earth bounced the plane uncomfortably upwards, and the cabin filled with the raw smell of smoke, making its occupants cough—the first sound Stearn had made so far, Don thought wryly.
He started a slow climb to get above the smoke, and suddenly the engine sputtered, livened up again, and quit cold. Don worked at his controls, but nothing happened, and a great appreciation of the multiple engined aircraft he had known overseas was born in him in a flash.
He shot a glance at Stearn. The older man’s face betrayed no emotion, but he was peering out at the landscape below — already looking for a spot for a forced landing, Don knew; and Don followed suit. Behind him was River Beyond, but like most northern rivers it was shallow, sown with rocks and seamed with sand and gravel bars—a landing there meant two shattered floats at the very least. To the south, beyond the path of the fire, was Wolf Lake, a perfect landing place, but with a cross wind and his present altitude he didn’t think he could make it. Downwind from the fire was the nearest water—he picked it out between waves of smoke—a tiny lake, almost round, possible for a landing, too small for a take-off.
Don tried desperately to make up his mind—take a long chance on Wolf Lake, and maybe not make it and come down in the fire area, or land on this little pond and probably stay there, right in the path of the fire.
Stearn grabbed his arm. "Wolf Lake,” he shouted.
Don swung the gliding plane towards it, and as soon as he had done so he knew— knew for certain—they couldn’t make it. He shook his head and swung again, losing altitude rapidly. The little round lake appeared and disappeared through the smoke as though it were winking at him.
"Okay, honey; here I come,” he murmured, and circled to come at it upwind. The tall spruce round it forced him to glide flatter than he wished, but he almost brushed their tops as he crossed them. The other side of the lake seemed to rush at him, a solid phalanx of dark spruces, but the pontoons took the water with a clumsy splash, the F-24 rocked forward as if she were going to stick her nose down, rocked back, and bucked gently into the matted bushes fringing the shore.
“Well,” said Don, “here we are.”
“And here we stay till we fry,” commented Stearn. “Why didn’t you try for Wolf Lake, where we could have fixed the engine and had room to take off?”
“I knew I couldn’t make it,” said Ross. “It wouldn’t have been any fun putting down in the bush—and the fire.”
“It was a chance,” said Stearn. “This is certainty. The fire will be here by tonight.”
“We have plenty of water,” said Ross. “We can keep ourselves and the aircraft wet.”
ZEB STEARN snorted. “Ever been close to a fire of this size?” he demanded.
“Yes,” snapped Ross. “Mannheim.”
“You weren’t as close to that as you will be to this, my boy. You try keeping the plane wet, and yourself wet, and breathing at the same time. Take my advice and drown quietly. It’s the more comfortable death.”
“Oh, go jump in the lake,” said Don curtly as he opened the door. “I’m going to. I want to find what's wrong with this motor.” He dropped onto a pontoon.
“Why?” demanded Stearn. “Even if you fix it you can't get out of here.
“I'd feel a lot better if the engine could go, though.”
“What're you going to do? Move it on top and take off straight up like a helicopter? We'll get to heaven soon enough without all that trouble.”
“Aw, pipe down, and come and help me get this cowling off.”
Stearn's reply was to settle back and light his pipe.
For ten minutes Ross worked at the engine. The acrid smoke filtering through the bush and bellying out across the lake kept him coughing. Several times he turned the motor over without getting even a kick. At last he opened the cabin door.
“Come on and have a crack at this thing,” he pleaded. “The smoke out here tastes much better than that ‘tabac canadien’ you’re inhaling, anyway.”
“Fix the thing yourself. You're the pilot,” grunted Stearn.
“Oh, come on. You know this engine much better than I do.”
“How should I know anything about it?” Stearn's voice was heavy with sarcasm. "I'm too old to know about things like that.”
The older man spoke with force, as though he were getting a weight off his chest. Ross stood looking at him for a moment.
“Look, Zeb,” he said at length. “Let's have it. What's your gripe?”
Stearn's eyes drilled him. “I'm too old – that's what they tell me. For years I fly this bush and never have any trouble—not like this, anyway—” he gestured at the tiny lake. “Then the war's over and they tell me that I’m too old, that young fellows like you must have my job, that I'm on the shelf. On the skids, more like,” he added bitterly.
“Who says so?” demanded Ross.
“When I got the orders to cover this fire,” said Stearn, “they gave me to understand very plainly that you were the pilot, and I was to leave the flying to you. I was to go just because I knew the country, because I have experience.”
THERE was a silence. Don had only come to the base a week ago, but already he had heard the story that Zeb Stearn had learned his flying in World War I, had come to the bush in 1919, and long ago had been forced to reckon his air time in months instead of hours. He felt sorry for the old fellow, and admired his pride and his record. He felt that what he said next—and how he said it—was desperately important.
“Well, you may be too old, and you may not—I haven’t seen you fly. But I’ll tell you two things: first, I’ve seen plenty of pilots who were too old at twenty-one; second, I’m darn glad that you’re along.”
“Thanks,” said Zeb Stearn dryly. "It’s nice to be wanted on what looks like a fatal journey.”
Ross grinned at him. “Come on and play with the engine.”
Zeb Stearn climbed out of the cabin, a little stiffly. “Why do you want to fix it?” he demanded. “It’s just work for nothing.”
“Feel a lot better when it’s in working order,” said Don, and Stearn snorted. “We can move it to the far side of the lake, keep it wet with buckets, and maybe save it.”
Stearn turned on him almost savagely. “You talk a lot of hot air,” he shouted. “Save it for what? A curiosity for the caribou?” He ended up coughing.
Ross gestured towards the yellow and black fuselage and the big CF and three more letters on the wing. “That’s the best mark there is for anyone looking for us,” he said shortly.
That shot went home, for Zeb Stearn nodded and turned towards the engine. “Air intakes clogged up, I’ll bet,” he said. “Those ashes, maybe.” Inside ten minutes he proved himself right, and the engine exploded into life.
Don Ross plunged waist deep into the water and weeds and brush of the lake edge and heaved on a pontoon. Slowly he worked the aircraft round and shoved out from shore. Live sparks were falling round them as they taxied to the down-wind edge of the pond, and when the motor was cut they heard for the first time the actual sound of the fire to the west, a faint menacing roaring that rode on the wind. Zeb Stearn listened to it for a few minutes and shook his head.
“There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight” he quoted. “Put on all the clothes you have, get well soaked in the lake, and have a wet rag to tie over your face.”
Don nodded. There were a canvas bucket and a galvanized iron one in the plane, and he was tying a length of rope to the handle of each. He got a blanket from a packsack in the cabin, wet it, and draped it over the nose of the aircraft. He climbed onto the wing top and sent a few preliminary buckets full splashing over wing, fuselage and tail, killing several hot sparks. The exertion made him pant a little, and his coughing became steady from then on.
IN THE last of the afternoon light he saw a couple of porcupines and a skunk pass along the shore near by, all very intent on their business, which was travel. The faster moving animals and the larger ones must have cleared out long ago, he thought.
Smoke snuffed out the last of the daylight, and the fire became visible, like a nearer after-glow of the sunset, silhouetting the tall timber on the west bank of the pond. Right opposite him, across the water, the trees seemed more widely spaced, and Don could see an inferno of flame roaring towards him. Now and then an evergreen ahead of the fire would flare with the roar of a rocket as its branches caught, and then the blackened trunk would be surrounded and hidden by flames.
Don had a sudden qualm—the gas in the tank. Perhaps they should have tried to drain it off somewhere, but it was too late for that now. He went on lowering the bucket, dragging it up, sloshing the water on the aircraft. Below him he could hear old Zeb wheezing and coughing as he stumbled waist-deep from side to side underneath the plane, dashing water up at the fuselage and tail assembly. Now and then Don's clothing steamed out and began to feel hot, and he had to climb down and dunk himself in the water. He fought against the temptation to stay in its delightful coolness — each time the climb back seemed tougher, dragging his sodden clothes, and each time the plane was drier and hotter as the first bucketful dashed over it.
The hot blast of the wind seared his throat and was painful in the lungs, and coughing was agony that never ceased. His thoughts became disjointed and he knew it and could do nothing to marshal them. In case of fire break glass . . . for use in case of fire . . . those funny axes like tomahawks — if he had one he could chop up the plane and save it from being burnt. Nuts — that was all wrong. Ice — that would be swell, a great big block of it on top the plane, melting and running down all round. Heat, hot as hell, hot air . . . “You talk a lot of hot air." Zeb had shouted . . . hot air bouncing the aircraft upwards — up — hey! wait a minute!
Don slithered down into the water and ducked his head under. Hot air — thermals — there must be a lift from all this heat — quite some lift. In the red glare he measured the distance across the water — not enough, of course, but that place where the trees were more widely spaced — even as he looked the branches of the spruces flanking that gap went up with a roar and a fountain of sparks. “With those branches gone and the heat,” he thought, “there’s a chance.”
“Zeb,” he croaked. “Zeb, come on up on top. Bring your bucket. Make it quick. He clambered up again, wincing as the heat blasted through the cloth muffling his face. Zeb dragged himself up, and Don told him. “We could hold her while we rev. her up,” he added, “and get a fast start.”
Zeb Stearn manipulated his bucket in silence, and squinted at the far bank of the pond. “I don’t like the frying pan,” he said at last. “I'll take a crack at the fire with you."
Don left him to sluice her down, and dragged a mooring rope from the cabin. He wrestled it into a sort of bridle on the rear struts of the undercarriage, stumbled ashore with the end, and took a turn round a tree. Already sparks had started fires on this side of the water, he noted.
HE GOT up on top again at last, his mind snatching at the problems to be solved. “Go on down, Zeb. Get yourself cooled off, and then start her up. When she’s ripe race her a couple of times and I’ll come down.” Stearn literally fell into the water and Don could hear his coughs bubbling through the wetted mask.
Get the blanket off the nose, chuck it in the lake . . . up with a bucket, slosh it on, up with a bucket — the branches seem burned out of that gap . . . the trunks are burning now . . . up with another . . . which pocket's my knife in? . . . got to get it . . .
He felt the aircraft heave as Zeb got aboard again, and then the engine started. The slipstream blasted the heat at him and dashed the water away in spray. He couldn’t wait for Zeb to signal. He plunged down, got his head into the cabin door, groped for and found a packsack to wedge it open a bit against the slipstream. “You take her up,” he yelled at Stearn.
“No,” shouted Zeb, “You take her — better chance . .”
“You gotta take her,” Don yelled. “I’ve got to cut the rope. You couldn’t climb back in — Zeb Stearn nodded. He knew he was too old for that.
“Give her the gun,” yelled Don. He had knife in hand now, and crouched on the pontoon, one hand gripping the door jamb, the other holding the blade on the quivering rod-like rope. The engine roared, the aircraft strained, and water squeezed from the taut rope. Don slashed and the plane leapt forward. Water and spray snatched, at his feet, hot air punched and tore at him. Inch by inch, straining and groaning, he fought his way into the doorway. Head and shoulders in, he felt the aircraft lift steeply. He panted and prayed. Zeb Stearn sat like a statue. There were flashes of fire and blackouts of smoke and then, suddenly, he gasped air that was fresh. With a last struggle he got his legs in, kicked the pack out, and the door slammed shut.
He lay half on the floor, half on the seat for a minute. Zeb was coughing again, he noted, coughing continually, and he was heavy on the controls. You could feel it.
“Take over,” the old man wheezed. “Can’t take it, I guess . . .”
They changed places with the supreme care and slow effort of drunken men, and Zeb slumped in his seat.
Don Ross settled his course by the stars and shivered. The cold was seeping through his wet clothes, blessed cold. Not good for the old man, though, he thought.
“Get out of your clothes, Zeb,” he said. “Get a blanket or something.”
Stearn moved slowly and said nothing. He seemed to be trying to stifle his coughing. Don suddenly realized that he was broken by the knowledge that he was too old — too old to climb into a moving plane, yes, but far worse than that — too old to fly it after that tough afternoon. Don eased the plane gently off course, steering a wide arc under the stars.
“You sure lifted us out of that frying pan, Zeb,” he said. “Nice piece of judgment. I was glad to be out of that job.”
ZEB STEARN said nothing, but went on fumbling with the blanket and coughing sporadically. Don tried again.
“Check my course, will you, Zeb?” he asked. “I'm not sure of myself.”
Zeb glanced at the sky, and gestured Ross back onto his former bearing.
“Thanks,” said Don. “I'm a bit shaky on direction in these parts. You navigate, huh?”
Zeb Stearn slowly straightened in his seat and cocked an eye at the sky.
“Okay, I'll navigate,” he said. “Steady as you are.” There was a pause, and then Zeb added, “Don't you worry, Don. I'll get us home.”
22 years after he wrote this story Dad was interested to find this short article in the Montreal Star, (Sept. 28, 1968) which tells of a similar, if less successful, situation.
Team seek to salvage vintage plane from lake
Kapuskasing Ontario, Sept. 28 — A federal team will go into a remote lake in this area next week to salvage an ancient seaplane that may be the last of its type in the world. The Curtiss HS-2L has been sitting in the silt in about five feet of water since 1925 or 1927, when the vintage “flying boat” made a crash landing on the lake.
Air museums all over North America have sought one of the
twin-engined H-boats, used as submarine hunters during the First World War, then as bush planes, but the one on the lake bottom is the world’s only confirmed find.
R. W. Bradford, curator of the aviation and space division of the
National Museum of Science and Technology, described it in Ottawa today as “a real find.” A team from his division will salvage the plane for the museum. The work may take a year.
The HS-2L’s last flight was a colorful combination of ingenuity and
farce but not tragedy. Bush Pilot Duke Schiller was forced down by engine failure on the tiny lake or so the story goes. The engine was repaired but to take off from the short lake, Schiller had the
seaplane tied to a tree while he revved it up to full throttle. A woodsman was supposed to chop the rope at the appropriate time.
The woodsman chopped but the rope was only partially severed. The
fearless lumberjack then gave the rope a shake and it broke, hauling him into the lake as the seaplane burst away.
Maybe it was the drag of the lumberjack but the plane didn’t gain quite enough altitude to get over the trees. It brushed them, then gently twisted back into the lake. No one was hurt but the plane was written off as a loss.
Published in the Quebec Diocesan Gazette, (November, 1968)
By Lewis Evans
CARRYING the fishing rod, Joe left home at dawn for two reasons: he wanted to be a hero, and he couldn't stand another day of listening to his little brother Johnny whining.
He really couldn't blame Johnny for whining, because Johnny was desperately hungry, and not old enough to understand why, or tough enough to be brave about it.
Joe was both, because he was seven years old. But he was desperately hungry too, and had been ever since his father had had the accident at the mill, and was still too sick to work.
Joe wasn't sure just how he could be a hero, but he figured if he could be the breadwinner even for one day his father would be pleased, and perhaps Johnny would stop whining for a while.
The last time his father had gone fishing, on a holiday a week before his accident, he had taken Joe with him, and they had caught nine fat perch. Well, his father had done the actual catching, but Joe had helped by finding some of the worms for bait.
As Joe ran down the valley path he had visions of coming home as proudly as his father, with nine perch dangling from a hooked twig.
When he came to the place where the stream had undercut the valley side in flood-time, and had caused a small landslide, he stopped and put down the rod and started digging into the soft earth with his fingers. There was a worm - but he was too slow, and got only half of it. Those things could really move. There was another, and this time he was quicker, it took him about half an hour to get a dozen, and he shivered when he felt them wriggling in his pocket.
He picked up the rod, and ran on down the valley, which flattened and widened out into grasslands as he neared the shore of the lake. The sun was higher now, and it was going to be hot. Where the stream flowed into the lake and the fishermen’s boats were drawn up it was too shallow for fishing from the shore, but a couple of hundred yards to his right there was a steep bank, and the water there was deeper closer to shore, and shaded at this hour by the height of the bank.
Joe scrambled to the very edge of the bank and peered down. The lake water was very calm, and he could see the stones and pebbles dim and wavering on the bottom. He unwound the line from the rod, and impaled a wriggling worm on the hook. There was no barb on the hook, and Joe was afraid the worm would wriggle off, but that was a chance he had to take. He dropped the hook into the lake, and watched it waver down till it was on the bottom. He twisted the rod over and over so that it wound up the line a little and the hook hung about a foot above the pebbles.
Then Joe began to learn how hard it was to be a hero. Nothing happened. The sun climbed higher, and it was getting hot. He tried to concentrate on the line where it passed through the surface, watching for any tremor that might be the sign of a bite. He felt a little dizzy, lying there staring down, and his eyes didn't focus very well. He pulled up now and again to check the worm, and twice found it had wriggled off and he had to put on a new one.
He began to feel that nothing would ever happen, and he again raised the rod to check the worm. This time something did happen - the line went taut, and there was weight and a wriggle on the end. He scrambled to his feet and raised the tip. The rod bent a little, and there was a flash and then a splash on the surface. Joe heaved back and the perch soared over his head onto the grass behind him. He dropped the rod and fell on the perch, which had come off the hook, finally got hold of it, and banged its head on a stone, bruising his fingers. Triumphant, he laid the perch - it was a very small one - in a shady spot, and baited up. Where there had been one surely there were more.
Sure enough, hardly had his hook broken the surface when he felt a tug. He jerked up and thrilled to the pull of the line. He swung the rod up violently, and it cracked and the tip sagged. He dropped it and snatched at the line, pulling hand over hand, and another perch came flipping to him over the edge of the bank. Two! But the rod - it was finished, it wasn't much of a rod really, and his father could make another when he was better, but how could he, Joe, catch more perch? Two little ones wouldn't mean much at home, and without a rod he couldn't get the line far enough out from the bank.
He unwound the line from the broken rod, wondering how else he could be a hero. Putting it in his pocket he felt the remaining worms, and thought of throwing them into the water. That would be nice for other perch, but not for the worms. Instead, he dropped them to fend for themselves in the shady spot, and picked up the two perch. They were so small he didn't bother with a twig to carry them, but stuck them in his pocket where the worms had been.
He was aching with hunger and discouraged. How could he get something more than two little perch to take home?
Suddenly he put his head back and sniffed. A gentle breeze was blowing down the hillside now, and the odour it
carried was like an answer to his question. Someone at the little farm had been baking. Perhaps . . .
Joe started up the hill, not knowing what he would do, but drawn irresistibly by the smell. There was the squat little farmhouse, and there, off to one side, was the hump of a clay bake-oven. Joe paused in the last cluster of bushes before the open ground around the farmhouse. There was the farmer's wife, laying her baking in a row to cool on a wooden bench in the shade thrown by the house.
Joe stared, and his hand crept to find the size of the perch in his pocket. He could hear Johnny's whining, and see his father lying hopelessly on his mattress.
The farmer's wife wiped her hand on her apron, took a look at the sky, and went into the house. A moment later she reappeared with a basket of linen, and went round to the back, out of sight.
Joe moved forward, and then broke into a tip-toe run. he reached the bench, and snatched up as much bread as he could carry, ramming it under his arm, and darted back to the bushes, he looked back, panting.
There was no movement. Crouching, he started away to his right, back towards the valley that led homewards. Keeping among bushes and trees wherever he could, he stumbled along, sweating. He felt the heat of the bread through his shirt, and the smell of it was almost unbearable.
Ahead of him was the crest, and beyond was the valley, wide and grassy near its mouth. He reached the crest and stopped dead.
The valley was full of people.
Joe sank behind a bush and stared, he had never seen so many people in one place in all his life. He had never imagined that there were that many people in the world. What could they be doing there? For a moment the awful thought flashed in his head that they were all waiting for him, to catch him and punish him for stealing the bread. But they weren’t looking at him. They were all in groups of different sizes, some standing, some sitting, some moving about from one group to another, and all, it seemed, talking at once. What in the world could they be talking about?
Joe straightened up and moved closer. He had never been more curious. Closer and closer till he was almost up to the nearest group. Why were they there?
Suddenly a big strong man, just an ordinary fellow, a fisherman perhaps, turned and looked straight at Joe, and his eyes fell on the bread. He started towards Joe. Joe dropped the bread and turned to run, but in a couple of long strides the man had him by the arm, and swung him to a stop.
“Here, my lad,” said the man, “not so fast. You have nothing to fear.”
Joe looked up at him trembling. The man did not look angry. He was smiling down at Joe.
“Where are you off to with all that bread?” he asked.
"I . . . I don't know,” said Joe, and in his confusion he really didn't.
“Well,” said the man. “I'll tell you what. How about letting me have the bread? I'll find some way of paying you back for it.”
“But I need it,” cried Joe.
“That's all right,” said the man. “I'll see you get some more. But right now you just let me have it, will you?” And with that the man stooped, and swept up the bread, took Joe by the arm again, and led him into the midst of the nearest group of people, and up to a tall gentleman in the centre.
“What have you there, Andrew?” asked the tall gentleman.
“There's a lad with five barley loaves,” answered the man called Andrew, “he is willing to help us.”
Some strange impulse sent Joe's hand to his pocket.
“I have a couple of fish too,” he said almost proudly, pulling them out.
The tall gentleman smiled, and all the people around laughed when they saw the two small fishes.
* * *
“I think, Joe,” said his father after the men had gone, and Joe had told his story, “you'd better take some of those twelve baskets to the farmer's wife, it may be only fragments of bread and fish, but there is more than you and I and Johnny can use, and, as the gentleman said, it should not be wasted.”
NOTE: I remember when Dad wrote this story, back in 1968.
At chapel that morning at Bishop's College School where he taught, the lesson for the day had been from the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, Verses 1 - 14, The Feeding of the Five Thousand. For some reason Dad took an interest in the actor in the story with the smallest role, and of the smallest size. Dad went back to the staff room and spent every spare minute he had that day writing feverishly and telling his colleagues to go away!
I have included the text of the gospel reading below:
John 6:1-14 Revised Standard Version (RSV) Feeding the Five Thousand
6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tibe′ri-as. 2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii[a] would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.14 When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!”
PUBLISHED IN THE MONTREAL STANDARD
November 1, 1947 ($50.00!)
He'd been waiting since last Hallowe'en
to show them he wasn't afraid anymore
By Lewis Evans
ILLUSTRATED BY JEFF CHAPLEAU
Pete cowered, and a sob of fear shook him
“WELL, I made them for you,” said the old lady, and watched the light of excitement and anticipation flare up in Gordie’s seven-year-old eyes.
He bounced off the chair by the kitchen table. “Oh Granny, did you? Can I see them? Can I see them right now?”
“They’re upstairs. You’d better come up and try them on, in case they don’t fit.”
Gordie shot out of the kitchen into the hall and up the long flight of stairs. The little old lady could hear his restless feet drumming their impatience on the floor above, but, spry as she was, she did hot hurry.
“Wings, indeed!” she murmured as she started up the stairs. “What an imagination they have at that age!”
When Granny Tompkins reached the top of the stairs she opened a large linen closet, and from the bottom shelf drew out a complicated black object. As she unfolded it it resolved itself into a pair of wings, and, between them, a sort of hood with pointed ears and nose, and slits for eyeholes.
Gordie’s round eyes could not take it all in at once. They darted here and there, and his feet danced under him. He recognized parts of two huge old-fashioned black umbrellas — or was it one of them cut in half ? -— that made the framework of the wings and gave them their bat-like trailing edges. He remembered those umbrellas among countless other treasures he had seen in Granny’s marvellous attic. But over the umbrellas was some shiny black stuff, sewn on as though it were feathers, stuff that shook and rustled as the wings were moved, and the same material covered the head and shoulders.
“Oh Granny!” cried Gordie. “They’re wonderful! Pete won’t have anything as good as this for his costume. Why — why he may even be scared of me in this!” Gordie became so enthralled at the prospect that his Granny had to shake the wings to recall his attention.
“Here,” she said. “You’d better try them on. Why are you so worried about Peter Martin?”
"OH,” said Gordie, as he struggled to get his arms into the tight sleeves that ran across the forward edge of the wings, “he thinks he’s pretty good. At the Hallowe’en Party last year he was dressed like a skeleton, and he kept jumping out and scaring people, and—” Gordie paused.
“And he jumped out and scared me when I was passing the cemetery on the way home. I was dressed as a ghost and I tried to run and I fell down and I cried.”
“And he’s never let you forget it all year, I suppose?” said Granny. She knew Peter Martin and had some idea of the constant battle Gordie had with him at school. Peter was a year older, but in the same class, and at everything but school-work he was just a little bit better and stronger and quicker than Gordie.
“There,” said Granny. “They fit pretty well. How do you like them?”
Gordie contorted himself trying to take in the general effect. “Can I go down to the hall and look in the big mirror?” he asked.
“Of course,” said Granny.
Gordie bounced to the head of the stairs. He was already savouring a triumph over Pete.
“Whee! I’m a bat!” he cried, and he spread his wings and jumped down two steps at once. Then he emitted a shrill squeak of surprise and fear, which sounded quite bat-like, for his feet barely grazed the second step down, and he found himself floating swiftly and silently down into the gloom of the big hall below.
Granny Tompkins gave a gasp of amazement and started down the stairs at a speed that did not look much like that of a seventy-year-old, but before she was half way down Gordie caught a wing-tip in the hatstand and crashed to the floor.
“Gosh, Granny, they work!” he gasped, struggling to his feet.
“Are you hurt, boy?” demanded the old lady.
“Gee, Granny, you sure are smart. Betcha Pete’s granny can’t make a pair that really work.”
Granny Tompkins took Gordie by the shoulders and shook him. “Listen to me,” she said. “They’re not supposed to work. It’s — it’s an accident. You must promise me never to try to fly with them again. You might break your neck, and then what would your mother say? Will you promise?”
“Aw, Granny—” began the boy.
“Promise!” demanded the old lady. “Or I’ll take them back and break them up.”
“I promise,” said Gordie reluctantly, starting at his macabre reflection in the hall mirror.
“Very well. Now get along with you to school. I’ll put these away so no one will know, and you can pick them up here on your way to the party.”
She watched Gordie go down the path and turn left along the road past the cemetery and the church towards the school. He had not even thanked her, but Granny Tompkins was wise enough to realize that that was a compliment to the magnitude of the thing she had done for him. He would have thanked her for a doughnut, all right. The joyance in his gait was enough thanks for her.
Note: This article is the one Dad had pulled from the paper to inspire his reluctant students:
The Montreal Gazette.
ADVENTUROUS WOMAN MAKES PAIR Of WINGS
Virginiatown, Ont., Oct. 2/46. CP.
An adventurous Virginiatown housewife has invented a pair of wings which she uses to jump from buildings 20 to 25 feet high.
Mrs. Phil Golden, the mother of two children, began working on her wings two years ago after disecting birds in an attempt to learn how they fly. She made the wings of parachute silk and bits of plastic. They look like a mass of gigantic feather-like pockets built onto even larger feathers. These feathers or air pockets flush the air back through the larger feathers on to a plastic back. In so doing, a vacuum is formed underneath the outer feathers. The vacuum together with a movable outer attachment at the wing tips allows for the possibility of propulsion by means of earnest wrist action.
Mrs. Golden said a weak heart so far has prevented her from more stringently testing her wings. Up until now she has been jumping from platforms at least 20 to 25 feet in height. Most of her "flying" has been done at night because she is shy of publicity.
She started folding up the costume, but then she paused, and stood in the hall staring thoughtfully at the wings.
“YAH! Gordie Allen — think you’re smart, eh? We all know you’re Gordie Allen.”
The words ripped through Gordie’s disguise, and inside the black hood his face turned scarlet with disappointment and rage.
Peter Martin was supposed to be a black cat, and he had a long black tail made of stuffed cotton stockings. Picking it up in one hand he swung it at the bat, and Gordie felt the umbrella ribs buckle under the blow. Powerless to retaliate, he turned to walk away, and another blow curled itself round his ankles and he fell to his knees.
“Weren’t you scared to come?” went on the hateful voice. “Bet you went all the way round by Main Street so you wouldn’t pass the graveyard. “Bet you’re scared to pass it going home. Remember last year?”
“I am not scared,” exploded Gordie, forgetting his incognito. “I’ll go past it any old time,” and he moved away, followed by Pete’s unbelieving laughter.
There were witches on broomsticks and owls and ghosts and all sorts of spooky creatures in the big assembly hall, and the decorations were all orange and black, and there was even orange coloured stuff to drink and black candies that tasted much as they looked, and were probably designed to induce dreams of “things that go bump in the night.”
GORDIE forgot all about Pete Martin for a while and began to enjoy himself again, but all of a sudden his stomach felt empty and his heart dropped into the void. Pete was nowhere to be seen! Gordie knew what that meant. The party was nearly over. Pete had gone to hide in the cemetery. When Gordie went past he would jump out and scare him. If Gordie detoured it he would broadcast the fact that he was afraid to pass it.
Miserable, Gordie lingered in the coatroom as the children left. Finally, last of them all, he started homeward, his battered costume clutched under his arm. As he passed the church his steps slowed, and his ears and eyes strained to catch some forewarning of Pete’s onslaught. The tombstones loomed grey in the darkness to his right, and his footsteps grated loudly on the road. Suddenly, far ahead of him, there was a piercing shriek. He stopped, frozen stiff. Then there came the sound of running footsteps, pounding down the road towards him. He couldn’t move.
“Gordie! Gordie!” It was Pete Martin, white-faced and panting. He grabbed Gordie by the arm and cowered behind him. “You should’ve seen it. It flew down out of the sky and landed right beside me . . . it was like a great big black bat with big black wings . . .”
GORDIE tried to steady his voice. “Where were you?” he asked. “In the cemetery.”
“Yeah — down at the end near the old Tompkins place, where there aren’t so many gravestones. I—I was waiting for you. . . . Come on, Gordie— go round by Main Street with me.”
In all his confusion Gordie’s mind was able to realize that this was his great opportunity, if he only had the nerve to use it.
“There’s nothing to be scared of in a cemetery,” he said stoutly. “Come on, Peter. I’ll take you past.”
He gripped Pete’s arm, which made him feel a little braver himself, and set out.
“We’re nearly past,” he whispered to the dragging Pete as the black shape of the Tompkins place loomed against the night sky ahead, and the tombstones on their right thinned out.
Pete’s fingers sank into his arm. “Look,” he breathed, and pointed.
Silhouetted over the roofline appeared a winged creature, and suddenly it launched itself into space, floating down towards the cemetery. Pete cowered, and a sob of fear shook him.
Gordie braced himself. If it was Granny Tompkins practising flying with the wonderful wings she had hit upon, he wasn’t scared of her. If it wasn’t—well, they were nearly past, and the street lamps began in another hundred yards. “Come on,” he said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” And he led Pete on.
NEXT morning Gordie fell in beside Granny Tompkins as they came out of church.
“Enjoy your party?” she demanded.
“Sure did,” said Gordie, and told her all, ending in triumph with the victory over Pete. “You sure are a wonderful grandmother,” he added. “I bet not many guys have grannies that can fly.”
Granny Tompkins made no rejoinder, and after a short pause he clutched her arm. “It was you, Granny, wasn’t it? It was you who flew?”
The old lady hesitated, and then glanced round to make sure no one else could hear them.
“Yes,” she said. “It was your Granny, all right. Thought I’d scare that Pete for good and all. But don’t you breathe a word of it, Gordie.” She shot a frightened glance at the long line of respectable neighbours filing out of church. “Just think how folk would talk!”
“He’d never go by it again, day or night,” she added to herself, “if I told him the truth.” She had gone to bed with a headache last night — right after supper.
Short Story 3300 words
DEAD MAN STEERING
by Lewis Evans
(Dad always said there was no accounting for publishers who couldn't recognize sheer genius when they saw it!)
AHEAD in the darkness, a pair of red and green running lights, canted at a sharp angle, told Pete that a sailing vessel was beating up the Sound towards him. He stuck his head down the cabin companionway and called to his wife.
“Ann, there's a yacht about a quarter of a mile ahead. Want to have another try at a night photo?”
“Sure.” Ann left the supper she was fixing in the galley, grabbed up the necessary equipment, and came out into the cockpit.
“Careful going forward,” warned Pete. “There's a fair sea running.” They took most of their photos from the forward deck of the cabin cruiser in order to keep their own wake out of the pictures. Pete had built a sort of sword-fisherman's pulpit just aft of the anchor bitts.
“Don't worry about me,” said Ann, climbing round the edge of the bridge deck. “Concentrate on getting me a good angle and distance.”
Pete altered course to pass close to the yacht on her leeward side, so that her angle of heel would present her deck to the camera. Experience had taught him that most yachtsmen liked to see all their favourite gadgets in a photo, and most of these were on deck.
Pete cut down the speed, and the little cabin cruiser's exhaust made bobbling noises as her stern squatted and lifted in the quartering seas. He hoped that the motion of the boat wasn't too difficult for Ann's aim, and that their speed in passing the yacht wouldn't be too much for Anne's camera. It would have been better to turn and run with the yacht, but it was too late for that.
The green starboard light was abeam, and the flashbulb went off. Pete got a momentary impression of a yawl under plain sail smashing along close-hauled, and then the blackness of the night contrasting with the white flesh left him blind. He closed his eyes tight for a moment, and then opened them, and could pick out once more the flashing lights of buoys and the shore lights a mile away.
Ann clambered back into the cockpit.
“Not bad,” she commented. “I got it at the end of a roll, so I don’t think the camera was moving too much.” She went below and back to her job as cook, and Pete advanced the throttle and steered for their anchorage at Porthaven, twenty minutes away.
The worst of this racket, he thought, was that it looked to the outsider as if his wife did all the work. And so she did, as far as the photography went, but he was learning the job fast and had some outstanding pictures to his credit already. And the boat was his responsibility - its maintenance and navigation, and the selling end of the business too.
He had become engaged to Ann during the war, when he was in the Navy and she was a photographer for a small town newspaper. He remembered the first date they'd had after he'd been demobilized. He remembered the canned music in the little restaurant, and the cuba libra on the table, and that he had had to drink it with his left hand because his right was gripping Ann's under the tablecloth. He remembered too how desperately they wanted to get married, and how they had got the idea that had made it possible.
“Got a break last week,” Ann had told him.
“Had to cover a sailing race for my paper - it was for a trophy the paper puts up every year. I was lucky and got a really perfect picture of the winner crossing the line, and now one of those boating magazines wants to buy it for a cover, and the owner of the yacht wants a dozen big prints.”
“Yachtsmen love to have pictures of their boats,” Pete had said. “Guess it's because it gives them something to dream over through the winter.”
“Yes, and they never can take them themselves, because they’re always aboard the boat at the most photogenic moments,” added Ann, and Pete had got the idea.
“Look,” he cried. “We want to get married and have somewhere to live - the only thing I know is boats, the only thing you know is photography - “
“Not the only thing, Pete,” murmured Ann.
“Well,” continued Pete after a pause while his eyes answered that one, “we get a boat out of what I saved in the Navy, and live on it, and follow the regattas and races and sell photos of their craft to owners. Why, we could go South in the winter and keep right on with the job.”
And so it had worked out. “Sea-Photos, Inc.” was well established, and the thirty foot cabin cruiser Photofoam was beginning to be recognized and welcomed at regattas and yacht clubs.
Pete eased the cruiser into the anchorage, put her into the wind and cut her way, and went forward to drop the anchor.
After supper the cabin became a darkroom, and the day’s take was developed and printed. Later, when Pete had worked over Lloyd's Yacht Register and other lists, small prints were mailed to owners, with a price list of enlargements.
“That flashlight job we took on the way home looks good on the negative,” said Ann. “I'm going to enlarge it right away.”
Night photos were an experiment they were trying out - the novelty might be good advertisement. So far their attempts had been disappointing.
He bent over the developer tray with Ann. He still got a kick out of watching a picture emerge on the white paper like a ship breaking out of a fog bank. Slowly the photograph materialized - much the same as the split second impression he had got at the moment of the flash. He made out the yacht's name, Mistress Mine, on a ring lifebuoy on the shrouds.
Suddenly Ann drew in her breath sharply, plucked the enlargement out of the developer, slid it into the hypo, and pointed. Her finger indicated the only figure visible on the yacht - the helmsman in the cockpit.
“Look, Pete, look!” she breathed.
Pete bent closer. The man sat with the long tiller tucked under his arm, and his bare head was slumped forward and to one side, presenting his right profile to the camera. Down his cheek ran a dark smear.
“That man's dead,” whispered Ann, and her voice shook.
“Get a magnifying glass and turn up the light.”
Pete took the lens and peered through it. He couldn't be sure, but it certainly looked as if that dark smear started from a round dark spot on the helmsman's temple - a spot that could be a bullet hole.
“But Pete, it's impossible - the yacht sailing straight on like that....”
“No, it's not. With a yawl close-hauled and well balanced, and the hold he has on the tiller, even if he is dead - that's what would happen. She'll plough straight on till the wind shifts or she piles into something.”
Ann sat down suddenly. “But who – what....?” she began.
“Look up Mistress Mine in the register,” ordered Pete. “I'm getting the hook up.”
“But Pete,” cried Ann, “you can't handle this. Go ashore and phone the police.”
“Meanwhile the yawl piles up and the evidence is lost.”
He scrambled forward and hove on the ground tackle. In three minutes the Photofoam was at full speed, bucking the chop in the Sound.
Ann came to his side at the wheel, the register in her hands and a flashlight to read it by.
“'Mistress Mine, yawl, built 1938 by....'”
“Skip that,” cut in Pete. “Who's the present owner?”
“'Joseph D. Bartram,'” read Ann. “Oh, Pete, I know who he is - he's 'Little Joe' - he's a sort of successful racketeer. The paper I worked for used to have a lot to say about him. He's always mixed up in something shady like gambling and the black market, but he always keeps just out of trouble.”
“Just the sort of guy who'd get himself bumped off,” commented Pete.
“But who - ?” began Ann and her voice suddenly lowered. “Pete, the murderer might still be aboard.”
“Uh-huh,” said her husband.
“But why should we stick our necks out? If it's 'Little Joe' he probably got what was coming to him, and I'm not crazy to meet his murderer.”
“Listen, Ducky,” said Pete; “our picture is very dramatic, but it might be a picture of a suicide, not a murder. If we find the Mistress Mine as she was in the picture, and no gun in Joe’s hand or on the cockpit floor, we know it was murder. Personally, I think we may find the yawl, but I don’t think we’ll find Joe.”
“Seems to me the murderer would plan to tip Joe overboard with a weight to keep him down, and leave the yacht drifting, as though he’d been knocked overboard by the boom in the dark. That has been known to happen to men sailing single-handed. No body, no crime - and no Joe. A perfect set-up.”
“How does the murderer get away from the yacht himself, though?” asked Ann.
“Maybe we'll be in time to find out,” said her husband. “The yawl carries a dinghy, but that would be missed. To make it a perfect crime he would have to be taken off by a pal in another boat, or better still sail the yawl in close to shore and swim. Then no one need know he was there.”
There was a pause while Ann thought it over.
“Pete,” she said, “if you're right the murderer must have been aboard when we took the photo.”
“He must have been somewhere below,” said Pete. “My guess is he hid aboard, waited till Joe sailed her well offshore, and shot him from the darkness of the cabin.”
“Well, what about our flash?” demanded Ann. “What would he think of that?”
“I don't know. He wouldn’t see much from inside, especially when the portholes on the side near us were heeled 'way down almost to the water. I don't think he could help seeing a bit of a flash wherever he was. He might have thought we'd raked him with a spotlight for a second. I don't think anyone would think of a photoflash.”
There was another pause, and again the girl broke it.
“You'll be careful. Darling? If we find the yawl, I mean?”
“Of course. You're the only wife I've got.”
“I don't know why I married such a madman,” sighed Ann.
“If there was any truth in what you said when you proposed,” said Peter quickly, “you couldn't resist my good looks and you were dying to get your hands on my money.”
Ann let him have a left jab to the ribs and Pete slid an arm round her and sought safety in a clinch.
The Photofoam ran down the Sound on long zig-zags. The breeze was moderating and the water calmer. It was after midnight now, and most pleasure craft were snug in anchorages, so Pete was not surprised when the first running lights he picked up turned out to be those of the Mistress Mine.
As the cabin cruiser closed the distance between them Pete switched on his spotlight and caught the yawl in its beam. She was hove to, fore reaching a few yards and then luffing and falling off.
“There's a man moving about in the cockpit,” he said. “Get your photoflash and give it to me. We'll be friendly and pretend we think it's 'Little Joe' - what's his other name?”
“Bartram,” breathed Ann.
Pete leaned beyond the side wing of the bridge and hailed.
“Mistress Mine, ahoy! Do you need any help?”
“Sounds just too romantic,” he heard Ann murmur behind him, and his brain took a split second off to think what a swell girl she was.
“What boat's that?” demanded the man on the yawl sharply.
“Take us alongside,” Pete told Ann, “and give me that camera.” He slung it round his neck and clambered forward.
“Photofoam, of Sea-Photos, Inc.,” he shouted. “We saw you hove to, and thought you might be in trouble. Mr. Bartram, isn't it?"
The direct beam of the spotlight was off him now, but Pete could make out the man steadying himself with his left hand on the cockpit coaming. His right was below its edge; Pete could guess what that hand held.
“No trouble, thank you,” the man replied, and Pete felt he could almost hear the fellow's brain racing to explain his position. At length the explanation came out. “I am cruising single-handed,” he said, “and I was cold, so I hove to to go and get myself some warmer clothes and a drink.” He paused, and then asked as if he couldn't resist it, “How do you know my name?”
“It's our business to know yachts and who owns them,” said Pete. “We take photos of them, you know. Mind if I take one now?”
“Portrait of a murderer,” Pete's brain quoted at him. The flash was over and he was blinded again before the man's reply started. In the blackness Pete moved quickly to one side. He was afraid of a shot.
“No - I don't mind a bit.” The words came smoothly and slowly, and Pete's impression was that the man on the yawl had everything figured out now. “How many have you aboard?” the voice went on. “Can't see a thing after that flash.”
“Two,” replied Pete. “Myself and my wife.” Only a yard or two separated the craft now.
“Come aboard and join me in a drink,” the smooth tones continued. “The boats will be okay alongside each other - there’s little wind now. Come along.” The last two words were edged with insistence.
“Hell,” thought Pete. “I'm behind the eight ball now. He’s got to have the camera....” His stomach contracted as his mind added, “and he’s got to have us, too. We're too close - he can get us both if we try to scram.”
The boats bumped gently.
“Play along, play along with him,” Pete’s mind kept telling him. “Maybe you'll get a chance to slug him or something.” He moored the cruiser fore and aft and helped Ann out of the cockpit. She slipped and he caught her to him.
“It’s 'Little Joe',” she breathed.
Pete's brain reeled. 'Little Joe' was the murderer, not the victim. Who, then, was the corpse?
Bartram was awaiting them in the cockpit, his right hand in the huge side pocket of the heavy canvas hunting jacket he wore. He motioned them down the companionway ahead of him. “Whisky, rum, gin?” he asked. “Glad to have someone to drink with. Sit down, won't you?”
Pete sat on a transom on one side of the central table, and Ann beside him. Joe moved past the table on its other side towards the door in the bulkhead at the forward end of the cabin. Beyond it was the galley, Pete guessed.
“Whisky for me,” said Pete. “Ann?”
“The same, thanks,” said Ann. She looked at her husband, and for a second her eyes crossed. Pete felt that his senses were leaving him, and then he got her warning - 'Little Joe' would probably fix those drinks, the two of them would go out like lights, and he would dispose of them and their films as he wished.
Bartram was standing in the doorway, his left shoulder towards the cabin. Pete could bet that the gun was out of that right side pocket now and handy to grab. Bartram smoothly small-talked about the delights of night sailing and his sentences were punctuated by the clink of bottles on glasses.
They couldn't refuse the drinks - that would just bring the gun out. They must drink, and go out like lights - out like lights - like a flash.... Pete remembered the way the photoflash had blinded him twice already that evening. He unslung the camera from his neck, and leaned over Ann as he put the sling over her head. “Here, Honey,” he said, “why don't you try a snap of this cabin? It's a swell job.” And he added under his breath, “You flash, I switch 'em.”
Bartram placed the drinks on the table, Ann's, Pete's, his own at the end nearer the galley. Ann stood up.
“How about a picture, Mr. Bartram?” she smiled. “'The skipper at home' - that sort of thing.”
She raised the camera.
There was a pause and Pete imagined Bartram thinking, “One more doesn't matter - camera and all will be at the bottom of the Sound in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” said 'Little Joe', leaning back against the side of the doorway, glass in left hand and his right in that side pocket again. Pete's heart sank, but Ann came through.
“Put the drink down, if you don't mind. They spoil a photoflash - er - reflections, you know.”
'Little Joe' placed the glass on the table.
“Ready?” asked Ann. “One, two, three....”
Pete knew she was counting for his benefit and on three he shut his eyes. The flash was still perceptible through his eyelids, and he opened them quickly, reached out both hands, and switched his drink and Joe's. Then he looked up to find Joe passing a hand over his eyes and blinking. Pete copied him.
“Some flash, eh, Mr. B?” he laughed. “Well, here's cheers.” He picked up his glass and knocked back about half of it. Thank Heaven it was whisky too - had 'Little Joe' decided on something different that gun would be out with his first sip. He was glad to see Ann fussing with the camera, not drinking.
“Mud in your eye,” said Bartram, and to Pete it sounded as though, he meant it. The Sound had a muddy bottom.
'Little Joe' drained half his glass, and noticed Ann's preoccupation with her camera. “Drink up, lady,” he invited. He raised his glass to her. “Here's luck.” With that his knees folded and he crashed down across the table. Pete leapt on him to pinion his arms and yelled the one word “Rope” at Ann. Their haste was from fright rather than from necessity, for 'Little Joe' was out cold.
In two minutes they had him trussed up, and Pete broke open the gun he had taken from his pocket.
“One shell fired,” he commented. “But who at?”
“At whom,” corrected Ann automatically. She was crumpled on a transom, white and shaking.
Pete raised her head and kissed her. “Stick with me a little longer. Darling,” he said. “Pull yourself together.” He pointed forward. “There's a big sail-locker in the forepeak - that's probably where Joe hid when the other guy sailed the boat out into the Sound. But who was that other guy?"
His eyes fell on a club bag on the port side berth. He started pulling out shirts, a toilet case, an opened envelope.
“Ann,” he said, “ever heard of anyone called Victor Marsh?”
“Sure,” said Ann. “He's an associate of 'Little Joe's'. He was up on a gambling rap last year. Got off with a fine or something, though.”
“Listen.” Pete had the letter out of the envelope. “'Dear Vic: In reference to our conversation yesterday, about your borrowing the Mistress Mine next week end, you can pick her up at her moorings in Flounder River any time Saturday afternoon or evening. Have a good cruise, and don't worry about being single-handed - she handles very easily. Drop into the office Monday and tell me all about it. Joe.'"
“Exit Vic,” commented Ann. “Don't let me hurry you, but don't you think we'd better scram? We're not close enough to land for Joe to swim ashore, so he must have been waiting for a pal to come and take him off.”
Pete sprang into action. He lowered the yawl's sails, left them lying unfurled, and took her in tow. When they were some three miles on their course to Porthaven he caught a glimpse of a speedboat's white bow and red sidelight as she whipped by a mile away. Perhaps she was going to pick up 'Little Joe'.”
By five in the chill dawn a sleepy Porthaven policeman was in charge of the yawl Mistress Mine and her passenger, police headquarters had been notified, and detectives were on their way. Once more the Photofoam dropped her hook.
Pete yawned and stretched. “Bed, bed, beautiful bed!” he exulted.
“Pete I'm going to develop those last two pictures first. If they're good we're famous.”
“Aw Ann,” expostulated her husband, “for Pete's sake-”
Ann smiled at him. “Okay; I'll come – for Pete's sake.”
(Short Short Story)
(Date unknown. Sometime in the late 1970s or 1980s.) (Unpublished)
by Lewis Evans
We on the planet Nereus, who have through these many aeons communicated with each other by thought-transmission, find it limiting to try to express ideas in the antiquated medium of language. However, as my report concerns the planet which calls itself ’Earth' (but which we know as The Flasher) it would seem appropriate, and an interesting exercise, to express the report, this time, in an 'Earth' language.
I have chosen the language they called English, for it was, perhaps, used by most of the people responsible for the recent incident on their planet, though had the incident been delayed for a few of their years the Russian and Asiatic tongues might well have been by then the sole surviving languages.
It is with this incident that my report is mainly concerned. We have, of course, been expecting it for some time, for these things generally run true to pattern, but the thing happened while the attention of most Nereans was centred on the Millenium Peace Celebrations on The Blusher (which in 'Earth' parlance, ironically enough, is called Mars after, of all things, a war god), and I was, by chance, the only close observer on this planet.
My attention was first attracted to 'Earth' by my happening to notice the detonation on that planet of two nuclear explosions in short succession, evidence that the inhabitants had developed their intelligence and ability to the point where they had discovered and begun to make use of that type of energy. These first two explosions, which occurred at almost the same spot on the 'Earth's' surface, were shortly followed by others, of different intensity and at varying intervals and widely separated points.
Assuming that the inhabitants of various parts of 'Earth's' surface were, as usual, at war with each other, I thought it might be interesting, and useful for our records, to have detailed information about the steps leading up to the inevitable climax of a nuclear competition, and so, through our normal channels, I arranged to obtain this information.
I dispatched, therefore, a thought-conveyor of moderate size to 'Earth' from an orbit where it had been cruising until needed. It landed successfully in a good central position, and immediately went into action, receiving significant thought emanations from various parts of 'Earth', and relaying them to our receiving recorders here. The accuracy and delicacy of this thought-conveyor were well attested, by the way, almost as soon as it got there, by the fact that it immediately absorbed and passed on to Nereus the news of its own arrival. I record the actual item here as a quaint insight into 'Earth' lore, though, of course, it is scientifically ridiculous:
“Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (an English language place name):
Scientists here announced today that a meteorite ('Earth' name for our thought-conveyors)
is believed to have fallen in barren lands near the northern borders of the province. An expedition under the leadership of Professor Hegstein is being organized to ascertain the exact locality of its crater and other scientific data.”
(Though hardly credible to us, there is a widely accepted belief on 'Earth' that certain large circular declivities on the planet's surface mark the landing places of what they call meteorites. We, of course, know what really created these ancient craters, and the latest ones as well.)
As soon as I began to correlate the information which came in from our thought-conveyor, I realized that my first conjecture had been wrong. The widely spread and sporadic detonations of a nuclear nature were merely the proving of scientific products by various inhabitants of 'Earth' who were, apparently, working independently of each other, and against 'Earth' time. It seems that each group felt that the more powerful and more numerous the items of nuclear energy it had, the less likely would any other group be to use its own stock against them.
This state of affairs, with each group afraid of provoking the other, and yet equally afraid of falling behind in stock and power of nuclear energy, continued for some 'Earth' years, until I was almost convinced that the moments I devoted to its observation and record were being wasted, since the outcome was a foregone conclusion. However, curiosity as to the exact manner of the actual impulse which would promote the final incident prompted me to persevere in my observation.
The primary impulse was one that appears to be second nature to the inhabitants of 'Earth', and one without which they do not seem able to survive for any extended period of their time – war. A trifling dispute between two small groups over the control of a small area of solid surface surrounded by liquid - or it may have been over a small area of liquid surrounded by solid, for the thought-conveyor did not seem to be able to gather the details, or perhaps did not consider them worth gathering - and all inhabitants of the planet ranged themselves in one or other of the two camps. Some desultory campaigning with antiquated weapons ensued, but each side existed in fear of the other initiating the use of nuclear energy.
This situation might have continued until I was sure that the subject was not worth my momentary attention, had not the secondary impulse suddenly occurred.
A single individual of one of the opposing groups, while controlling an air-borne vehicle on patrol over a large liquid area, feeling, no doubt, weary of the situation in general and of his own activity in particular, yawned uncontrollably. His primitive pressurized garment became disarranged, he made a sudden movement to adjust it, and triggered a nuclear item which his vehicle carried as a precaution against the surprise use of such by the other group.
This item was detonated in the water area without damage to any inhabitants of the planet, but the detonation was recorded by both sides. At once each side assumed that the other had initiated a nuclear competition, and threw all its most potent weapons into the action.
The result was an interesting - even spectacular - sight, and I was glad that I had not desisted from my observation a few moments earlier.
First one and then another area of The Flasher, or 'Earth', was momentarily illuminated by the comparatively brilliant flashes that inspired our name for it. Beautifully patterned cloud formations occasionally obscured the play of light, and the emanations from our thought-conveyor became weak, confused, and distorted. Undoubtedly some of the larger detonations meant that the surface of the planet was again being pitted by large craters, and it amused me to conjecture that perhaps they in their turn would be explained by 'Earth' inhabitants of the future as the landing places of 'meteorites'.
Hardly had it begun when all such activity ceased completely. The surface of the Flasher reappeared, unobscured by cloud or vapour, its well known features hardly altered, but with no illumination of any sort in any place. Needless to add, there was no communication whatever from our thought-conveyor, for a thought-conveyor cannot convey thoughts when there are none to convey.
Such is my report of the most recent of such incidents on 'Earth'. Since we Nereans have been equipped to observe that planet, our records show that this is the fifth time that life on 'Earth' has destroyed itself, and, if the established pattern is repeated, in several Nerean years (or 'Earth' aeons) infinitesimal and primitive forms of life will gradually develop, and finally attain to the intellectual standard which is the prerequisite to the 'invention' of nuclear energy. Almost immediately, control of this medium will be lost, and it will once more destroy all life on the planet.
If I thought that there was any hope that the pattern might be changed when next the inhabitants of The Flasher approached the flash point, I would be willing to take the time to observe the course of events. It would be an interesting study if they learned to live with and by what they have evolved, and it might even result in our having to discontinue the name The Flasher as inappropriate.
(Short Short Story)
(1000 words, Unpublished. Date unknown.)
by Lewis Evans
A great B-47 of a June-bug droned in through the open window of the class-room and started making bombing runs at the chandelier. Flak in the shape of Johnny Calder's Geometry book whizzed up and the dazed insect crashed on my desk. He was still alive, so I swept him into my pocket for future reference and was hard at work, like everyone else, when the master on duty stuck his head in at the door to see what the disturbance was.
I wondered whether this particular bug was fast on his feet. The night before I had won thirty-five cents in the dormitory when my June-bug had been the first to crawl from the centre to the circumference of a circle chalked on the floor. Then I had sat on him by mistake at Prayers that morning, and so had to build up a new racing stable.
The blank pages of the exercise book on my desk caught my eye. Old Hawk-eye, the English master, a guy with the most extraordinary ideas, had been teaching us the short short story in class, and we were supposed to have one written for him by next day. A thousand words to write, and I had not even the first glimmerings of a plot. I could remember most of his lesson, though.
“Short first paragraph,” he had told us; “jump right into the middle of action at the beginning. Get some dialogue on your first page if you can. And don’t forget that somewhere in the first third of your story there must be a clue to your surprise ending - your 'kick in the tale'.” That was one of Hawk-eye’s little jokes - the same every year, they tell me.
He had droned on about development of tension up to a crisis where everything was right for the crooks or the communists, or wrong for the cops or the Yanks or the British, and then the sudden twist. Oh, I could remember all that, but my mind was still as blank as the pages. The only thing I could think of was how I hated evening preparation in springtime, with the windows wide open and the smell of fresh leaves and grass coming in from the playing fields.
“Hey, Johnny,” I whispered. “Lend me a cigarette? I’m going out for a smoke.”
Johnny looked impressed - smoking is against the law at our school for some ridiculous reason. He found a battered butt in his pocket and chucked it across. I waited till the master - it was Davies, the Science man, and he's a bit vague or I wouldn't have thought of skipping out - went past again in the classroom corridor, and then I whipped over the window-sill. There was an eight foot drop to the ground, but I knew there was an old plank near by that I could lean against the wall to help me back. I had found it near the carpentry shop and brought it over for just such an occasion.
I ran across the quadrangle, keeping out of the splashes of light from the windows, and ducked round behind the dark mass of the gym. There I sat down and lighted Johnny's weed and tried to enjoy life, but that blasted story was still on my mind. Perhaps if I started with the crisis I might get somewhere, I thought. Let's see - the good guy has to be in a jam. His plane's on fire and he has left his parachute at home - no, that's too tough; I'd never get him out of that. Well, he's a paratrooper, and on his way down. He realizes that he is going to land in the shark-infested sea, so what does he do? I don't know. Let's make him drift down over a volcano, and just when he thinks he's done for the hot air from the cone sends him up again; kind of hard to persuade old Hawk-eye there wasn't too much accident in that, though....
Oh, the heck with it. The cigarette was down to the last half inch so I stamped it out and started back. Half way across the quadrangle a familiar voice from the school steps said, “Johnson, come here." It was Hawk-eye in person, having a pipe in the fresh air - a good idea too, if I know his pipes.
I started thinking fast and getting nowhere, except closer to him.
“What are you doing outside the building during preparation?” he demanded.
“Well, sir,” I began, and then I had an idea, a poor thing, but mine own, as someone said before I did. “Well, sir, Mr. Davies told us all to bring a specimen of insect life to his biology class in the morning.”
“Well, sir, that's why I'm out here. I suddenly remembered I didn't have one.”
“And have you succeeded in getting your - er - specimen, Johnson?”
“Yes, sir,” I said, and produced the June-bug from my pocket.
“Get back to your class-room,” ordered Hawk- eye. It was too dark to see the expression on his face, but his voice sounded amused. I don't think he liked Davies much.
That meant I had to go back by the corridor instead of through the window, but Davies was quelling a noise in another class-room, and I made it without being seen.
“Okay?” asked Johnny Galder.
“Hawk-eye pinched me in the quad,” I whispered, “but I talked my way past him. I'm all right if he doesn't check with Davies.”
As I turned to the blank pages of my English exercise book the bell went for the end of preparation.
The next morning in English period old Hawk- eye made us read out our stories. The first two were passable, in a comic-book sort of way; lots of screaming jets and chattering guns spitting death, and stuff like that. Johnny was the third boy he asked, and he had summarized a de Maupassant story in the hopes that Hawk-eye didn't know any French. He did, though, and an afternoon dropped out of Johnny's life forever. Then it was my turn.
“I'm sorry, sir,” I apologized, “but I couldn't think of a plot.”
Hawk-eye chose to be sarcastic.
“You couldn't have written a story with a June-bug as the hidden clue, I suppose?” he suggested in honeyed tones.
And as he measured out my doom I thought, “My gosh! I could have, at that!”
Dad did submit this story for publication but it was soundly rejected with the following note. I include it because Dad thought the note was very funny and he always kept it clipped to the top of his manuscript.