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´╗┐Title: Show Business
Author: Boyd, William C. (William Clouser), 1903-1983, Boyd, Lyle Gifford, 1907-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Show Business" ***

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    _Here's the behind-the-scenes lowdown on Luna City life and a
    promoter of Martian dancing girls, vaudeville, and--other things.
    But remember: stop us if you've heard this one!_


SHOW BUSINESS

By Boyd Ellanby

Illustrated by Mel Hunter


Except for old Dworken, Kotha's bar was deserted when I dropped in
shortly after midnight. The ship from Earth was still two days away, and
the Martian flagship would get in next morning, with seven hundred
passengers for Earth on it. Dworken must have been waiting in Luna City
a whole week--at six thousand credits a day. That's as steep to me as it
is to you, but money never seemed to worry Dworken.

He raised the heavy green lids from his protruding brown eyes as I came
in. He waved his tail.

"Sit down and join me," he invited, in his guttural voice. "It is not
good for a man to drink alone. But I haf no combany in dis
by-de-gods-deserted hole. A man must somet'ing be doing, what?"

I sat down in the booth across from my Venusian friend, and stared at
him while he punched a new order into the drinkboard.

"For me, another _shchikh_," he announced. "And for you? De same?"

Against my better judgment, for I knew I'd have plenty to do handling
that mob of tourists--the first crowd of the season is always the
roughest--tomorrow, I consented. Dworken had already consumed six of the
explosive things, as the empty glasses on the table showed, but he
exhibited no effects. I made a mental note, as I'd so often done before,
that this time I would not exceed the safe terrestrial limit of two.

"You must be in the money again, drinking imported _shchikh_," I
remarked. "What are you doing in Luna City this time?"

He merely lifted his heavy eyelids and stared at me without expression.

"Na, in de money I am not. Dere are too many chiselers in business. Just
when I t'ink I haf a goot t'ing, I am shwindeled. It is too bad." He
snorted through his ugly snout, making the Venusian equivalent of a
sigh. I knew there was a story waiting behind that warty skin, but I was
not sure I wanted to hear it. For the next round of drinks would be on
me, and _shchikh_ was a hundred and fifty credits a shot. Still, a man
on a Moon assignment has to amuse himself somehow.

So I said, "What's the latest episode in the Dworken soap opera? What is
the merchandise this time? Gems? Pet Mercurian fire-insects? A new
supply of _danghaana_?"

"I do not smuggle drugs, dat is a base lie," replied my friend stolidly.
He knew, of course, that I still suspected him to be the source of the
last load of that potent narcotic, although I had no more proof than did
the Planetary Bureau of Investigation.

He took a long pull at his drink before he spoke again. "But Dworken is
never down for long. Dis time it is show business. You remember, how I
haf always been by de t'eater so fascinated? Well, I decided to open a
show here in Luna City. T'ink of all the travelers, bored stiff by space
and de emptiness thereof, who pass through here during the season. Even
if only half of them go to my show, it cannot fail."

I waited for some mention of free tickets, but none was made. I was
about as anxious to see Dworken's show as I was to walk barefoot across
the Mare Imbrium, but I asked with what enthusiasm I could force,

"What sort of act are you putting on? Girls?" I shuddered as I recalled
the pathetic shop-worn chorus girls that Sam Low had tried to pass off
last year on the gullible tourists of the spaceways. That show had
lasted ten nights--nine more than it deserved to. There are limits, even
to the gullibility of Earth-lubbers.

"Yes, girls," replied Dworken. "But not what you are perhaps t'inking.
Martian girls."

       *       *       *       *       *

This was more interesting. Even if the girls were now a little too old
for the stage in the Martian capital, they would still get loud cheers
on the Moon. I knew. I started to say so, but Dworken interrupted.

"And not de miserable girls dey buy from de slave traders in Behastin.
Dese girls I collected myself, from de country along de Upper Canal."

I repressed my impulse to show my curiosity. It could all be perfectly
true--and if it were not the opening night would tell. But it sounded a
lot like one of Dworken's taller tales. I had never been able to
disprove any one of them, but I found it a _little_ hard to believe that
so many improbable things had ever happened to one man. However, I like
being entertained, if it doesn't cost me too much, so finally I said,

"I suppose you are going to tell me you ventured out into the interior
of Mars, carrying a six weeks' supply of water and oxygen on your back,
and visited the Xo theaters on the spot?"

"How did you know? Dat is just what I did," solemnly affirmed my
companion. He snorted again, and looked at his glass. It was empty, but
he tilted it into his face again in an eloquent gesture. No words were
needed: I punched the symbols for _shchikh_ into the drinkboard on my
side of the table. Then, after hesitating, I punched the "two in"
signal. I must remember, though, that this was my second and last.

His eighth _shchikh_ seemed to instill some animation into Dworken. "I
know you feel skepticality--I mean skepticism--after my exploits. You
will see tomorrow night dat I speak true."

"Amazing!" I said. "Especially as I just happen to remember that three
different expeditions from Earth tried to penetrate more than a hundred
kilometers from Behastin, but either they couldn't carry the water and
oxygen that far, or they resorted to breathing Mars air, and never came
back. And they were Earthmen, not Venusians who are accustomed to two
atmospheres of carbon dioxide."

"My vriend, you must not reason: it was so, it always will be so. The
brinciple of induction is long exbloded. I did indeed breathe Mars air.
Vait! I tell you how."

He took another long swig of _shchikh_. "Vat your Eart'men did not
realize was dat dey cannot acclimate themselves as do we Venusians. You
know de character of our planet made adaptability a condition of
survival. It is true dat our atmosphere is heavy, but on top of our
so-high mountains de air is t'in. We must live everywhere, de space is
so few. I first adapted myself on Eart' to live. I was dere a whole
year, you vill recollect. Den I go further. Your engineers construct air
tanks dat make like de air of mountains, t'in. So, I learn to live in
dose tanks. Each day I haf spent one, two, three hours in dem. I get so
I can breathe air at one-third the pressure of your already t'in
atmosphere. And at one-sixt' the tension of oxygen. No, my vriend, you
could not do this. Your lungs burst. But old Dworken, he has done it.

"I take wit' me only some water, for I know de Martians dey not give
water. To trade, some miniature kerosene lamps. You know dey got no fuel
oil now, only atomics, but dese little lamps dey like for antiques, for
sentiment, because their great-grandfathers used dem.

"Well, I walk through Vlahas, and not stop. Too close by the capital.
Too much contact with men of odder planets. I walk also through Bhur and
Zamat. I come to a small place where dey never see foreigner. Name
Tasaaha. Oh, I tell you, ze men of ze odder planets do not know Mars.
How delightful, how unsboiled, are ze Martians, once you get away from
de people by tourists so sboiled! How wonderful, across the sands to go,
free as birds! The so friendly greetings of de Martian men. And de
Martian women! _Ah!_

"Well, in Tasaaha I go to t'eater. Such lovely girls! You shall see. But
I saw somet'ing else. That, my friend, you hardly believe!"

Dworken looked down at his empty glass and snorted gently. I took the
hint, although for myself I ordered the less lethal Martian _azdzani_. I
was already having difficulty believing parts of his narrative; it would
be interesting to see if the rest were any harder.

My companion continued. "They not only have de chorus, which you haf
seen on Earth, imported from Mars--and such a chorus! Such girls! But
they had somet'ing else."

"You recall your terrestrial history? Once your ancestors had performers
on the stage who did funny motions and said amusing remarks, de
spectators to make laugh. I t'ink you called it 'vaudeville.' Well, on
Mars they have also vaudeville!" He paused, and looked at me from under
half-shut eyelids, and grinned widely to show his reptilian teeth.

I wondered if he'd really found something new. I would even be willing
to pay for a glimpse of Martian vaudeville. I wondered if my Martian was
too rusty for me to understand jokes in the spoken lingo.

"They haf not only men and women telling jokes. They haf trained animals
acting funny!" Dworken went on.

This was too much. "I suppose the animals talked, too?" I said
sarcastically. "Do they speak Earth or Martian?"

He regarded me approvingly. "My friend, you catch on quick." He raised a
paw. "Now, don't at conclusions jump. Let me exblain. At first, I did
not believe it either.

"Dey sprang it with no warning. Onto de stage came a _tllooll_ (you know
him, I t'ink), and a _shiyooch'iid_. The _shiyooch'iid_ was riding a
bicycle--I mean a monocle. One wheel. The _tllooll_ moved just as
awkward as he always does, and tried to ride a tandem four-wheeled
vehicle which had been especially for him made."

In spite of my resolve, I chuckled. The picture of a _tllooll_ trying to
ride a four-wheeled bicycle, pumping each of his eight three-jointed
legs up and down in turn, while maintaining his usual supercilious and
indifferent facial expression, was irresistibly funny.

"Wait!" said my friend, and again raised a paw. "You have as yet not'ing
heard. They make jokes at same time. De _shiyooch'iid_ asks de
_tllooll_, 'Who was dat _tlloolla_ I saw you wit' up the Canal?' and the
_tllooll_ replies, 'Dat was no _tlloolla_, dat was my _shicai_.'"

I doubled up, laughing. Unless you have visited Mars this may not strike
you as funny, but I collapsed into a heap. I put my head on the table
and wept with mirth.

It seemed like five minutes before I was able to speak. "Oh, no!"

"Yes, yes, I tell you. Yes!" insisted my friend. He even smiled himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

If you don't know the social system of the Martians there is no point in
my trying to explain why the idea of a _tllooll's_ being out with that
neuter of neuters, a _shicai_, is so devastatingly funny. But that,
suddenly, was not quite the point.

_Did it happen?_ I had large doubts. Nobody had ever heard a _tllooll_
make any sort of a sound, and it was generally supposed that they had no
vocal chords. And no _shiyooch'iid_ (they somewhat resemble a big
groundhog, and live in burrows along the canals of Mars) had ever been
heard to make any noise except a high-pitched whistle when frightened.

"Now, just a minute, Dworken," I said.

"I know, my vriend. I know. You t'ink it is impossible. You t'ink the
talking is faked. So I t'ought too. But vait."

It seems Dworken had inquired among the audience as to who owned the
performing animals. The local Martians were not as impressed as he was
with the performance, but they guided him to the proprietor of the
trained animal act. He was a young Martian, hawk-nosed, with flashing
black eyes, dusky skin, and curly hair.

"So I say to him, dis Martian," Dworken continued, "'If your act on the
level is, I buy.' I had three small diamonds with," he explained.

"But de Martian was hard to deal wit'. First, he said he vould not sell
his so-valuable and so-beloved animals. De only talking animals on Mars,
he said--de liar! At long last I get him to make a price. But, on
condition dat he bring ze animals around to my inn in the morning, for a
private audition."

"I suppose," I interrupted, "you were beginning to have some doubts as
to the Martian's good faith? After all, a talking _tllooll_ and a
talking _shiyooch'iid_ all at one time is quite a lot to ask. I would
have--"

"Blease, vriend, blease!" interrupted my companion. "Do you not t'ink
old Dworken knows dese things? Of course he does! I t'ink. De owner, he
is pulling a fake, I guess. I know dat animals do not really talk.

"Next morning, I t'ink he no show up. But no, I am mistaken. Bromptly at
nine o'clock he come to my inn with a little dogcart, wit' de animals.
He puts dem on de stage in de bar of de inn. They act like before."

"But they didn't talk, of course?"

"Oh, my vriend, dat's where you are wrong. Dey talk like nobotty's
business. De jokes are funnier than ever. Even dirtier, maybe. But
Dworken is not fooled. He t'ink. 'Aha!' I say to de Martian, 'You fake
this, what? De animals not talk. Suppose you have them do de act while
you outside stay, what?' Then I t'ink I have him.

"Ze Martian tear his curly hair, flash his black eyes. He takes insult
that I t'ink he is fake. 'Name of de Martian gods!' he cry. But at last
he agree to go away, and tell animals to go ahead."

"Dworken, you were a sap to string along with him even that far," I said
wearily. "I hope you hadn't paid the guy any money."

He shook his head. "No, my old and best," he said. "Dworken no fool is,
even on Mars. No, no money. But wait! De animals go on without the
owner. Same stage business, same talk, same jokes, and even funnier
yedt. What?"

I started at Dworken. He did not smile, but finished off the eleventh
_shchikh_--the fifth I had bought him.

"Listen," I said. "Are you sitting there telling me you have a _tllooll_
and a _shiyooch'iid_ that can really talk?"

"You listen, my vriend. Like you, I t'ink something is wrong. I say to
Martian owner, 'My vriend, maybe I buy your act, if you tell me how it
is done. But you know as well as I do dat it is impossible to dese
animals to talk. Tell me what is de trick?'"

Dworken lifted his glass and shook it, as though he could not believe it
was empty, then looked at me questioningly. I shook my head. He snorted,
looked melancholy, writhed up from his chair and reached for his fur
cape.

"Vell, thanks for de drinks," he said.

A dark suspicion crept into my mind, but I could not restrain myself.

"Wait, Dworken!" I shouted. "You can't just leave me up in the air like
that! What happened then?"

Dworken snorted into his green handkerchief.

"De Martian admitted it was a fake, after all," he said mournfully. "Can
you imachine it? What a chiseler!

"'De _shiyooch'iid_,' he said, 'can't really talk; de _tllooll_ just
t'rows his voice!'"


THE END



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _If Worlds of Science Fiction_ November
    1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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