Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Teething Ring
Author: Causey, James
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 "Teething Ring" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Teething Ring

By JAMES CAUSEY

[Illustration: Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS]


 _Anyone can make an error, but the higher the
 society ... the more disastrous the mistake!_


Half an hour before, while she had been engrossed in the current soap
opera and Harry Junior was screaming in his crib, Melinda would
naturally have slammed the front door in the little man's face. However,
when the bell rang, she was wearing her new Chinese red housecoat, had
just lustered her nails to a blinding scarlet, and Harry Junior was
sleeping like an angel.

Yawning, Melinda answered the door and the little man said, beaming,
"Excellent day. I have geegaws for information."

Melinda did not quite recoil. He was perhaps five feet tall, with a
gleaming hairless scalp and a young-old face. He wore a plain gray
tunic, and a peddler's tray hung from his thin shoulders.

"Don't want any," Melinda stated flatly.

"_Please._" He had great, beseeching amber eyes. "They all say that. I
haven't much time. I must be back at the University by noon."

"You working your way through college?"

He brightened. "Yes. I suppose you could call it that. Alien
anthropology major."

Melinda softened. The initiations those frats pulled nowadays--shaving
the poor guy's head, eating goldfish--it was criminal.

"Well?" she asked grudgingly. "What's in the tray?"

"Flanglers," said the little man eagerly. "Oscilloscopes. Portable
force-field generators. A neural distorter." Melinda's face was blank.
The little man frowned. "You use them, of course? This _is_ a Class IV
culture?" Melinda essayed a weak shrug and the little man sighed with
relief. His eyes fled past her to the blank screen of the TV set. "Ah, a
monitor." He smiled. "For a moment I was afraid--May I come in?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Melinda shrugged, opened the door. This might be interesting, like a
vacuum-cleaner salesman who had cleaned her drapes last week for free.
And Kitty Kyle Battles Life wouldn't be on for almost an hour.

"My name is Porteous," said the little man with an eager smile. "I'm
doing a thematic on Class IV cultures." He whipped out a stylus, began
jotting down notes. The TV set fascinated him.

"It's turned off right now," Melinda said.

Porteous's eyes widened impossibly. "You mean," he whispered in horror,
"that you're exercising Class V privileges? This is terribly confusing.
I get doors slammed in my face, when Class Fours are supposed to have a
splendid gregarian quotient--you _do_ have atomic power, don't you?"

"Oh, sure," said Melinda uncomfortably. This wasn't going to be much
fun.

"Space travel?" The little face was intent, sharp.

"Well," Melinda yawned, looking at the blank screen, "they've got Space
Patrol, Space Cadet, Tales of Tomorrow ..."

"Excellent. Rocket ships or force-fields?" Melinda blinked. "Does your
husband own one?" Melinda shook her blonde head helplessly. "What are
your economic circumstances?"

Melinda took a deep rasping breath, said, "Listen, mister, is this a
demonstration or a quiz program?"

"Oh, my excuse. Demonstration, certainly. You will not mind the
questions?"

"Questions?" There was an ominous glint in Melinda's blue eyes.

"Your delightful primitive customs, art-forms, personal habits--"

"Look," Melinda said, crimsoning. "This is a respectable neighborhood,
and I'm not answering any Kinsey report, understand?"

The little man nodded, scribbling. "Personal habits are tabu? I so
regret. The demonstration." He waved grandly at the tray. "Anti-grav
sandals? A portable solar converter? Apologizing for this miserable
selection, but on Capella they told me--" He followed Melinda's
entranced gaze, selected a tiny green vial. "This is merely a
regenerative solution. You appear to have no cuts or bruises."

"Oh," said Melinda nastily. "Cures warts, cancer, grows hair, I
suppose."

Porteous brightened. "Of course. I see you can scan. Amazing." He
scribbled further with his stylus, glanced up, blinked at the obvious
scorn on Melinda's face. "Here. Try it."

"You try it." Now watch him squirm!

Porteous hesitated. "Would you like me to grow an extra finger, hair--"

"Grow some hair." Melinda tried not to smile.

The little man unstopped the vial, poured a shimmering green drop on his
wrist, frowning.

"Must concentrate," he said. "Thorium base, suspended solution. Really
jolts the endocrines, complete control ... see?"

Melinda's jaw dropped. She stared at the tiny tuft of hair which had
sprouted on that bare wrist. She was thinking abruptly, unhappily, about
that chignon she had bought yesterday. They had let her buy that for
eight dollars when with this stuff she could have a natural one.

"How much?" she inquired cautiously.

"A half hour of your time only," said Porteous.

Melinda grasped the vial firmly, settled down on the sofa with one leg
tucked carefully under her.

"Okay, shoot. But nothing personal."

       *       *       *       *       *

Porteous was delighted. He asked a multitude of questions, most of them
pointless, some naive, and Melinda dug into her infinitesimal fund of
knowledge and gave. The little man scribbled furiously, clucking like a
gravid hen.

"You mean," he asked in amazement, "that you live in these primitive
huts of your own volition?"

"It's a G.I. housing project," Melinda said, ashamed.

"Astonishing." He wrote: _Feudal anachronisms and atomic power, side by
side. Class Fours periodically "rough it" in back-to-nature movements._

Harry Junior chose that moment to begin screaming for his lunch.
Porteous sat, trembling. "Is that a Security Alarm?"

"My son," said Melinda despondently, and went into the nursery.

Porteous followed, and watched the ululating child with some
trepidation. "Newborn?"

"Eighteen months," said Melinda stiffly, changing diapers. "He's cutting
teeth."

Porteous shuddered. "What a pity. Obviously atavistic. Wouldn't the
creche accept him? You shouldn't have to keep him here."

"I keep after Harry to get a maid, but he says we can't afford one."

"Manifestly insecure," muttered the little man, studying Harry Junior.
"Definite paranoid tendencies."

"He was two weeks premature," volunteered Melinda. "He's real
sensitive."

"I know just the thing," Porteous said happily. "Here." He dipped into
the glittering litter on the tray and handed Harry Junior a translucent
prism. "A neural distorter. We use it to train regressives on Rigel Two.
It might be of assistance."

Melinda eyed the thing doubtfully. Harry Junior was peering into the
shifting crystal depths with a somewhat strained expression.

"Speeds up the neural flow," explained the little man proudly. "Helps
tap the unused eighty per cent. The pre-symptomatic memory is
unaffected, due to automatic cerebral lapse in case of overload. I'm
afraid it won't do much more than cube his present IQ, and an
intelligent idiot is still an idiot, but--"

"How dare you?" Melinda's eyes flashed. "My son is _not_ an idiot! You
get out of here this minute and take your--things with you." As she
reached for the prism, Harry Junior squalled. Melinda relented. "Here,"
she said angrily, fumbling with her purse. "How much are they?"

"Medium of exchange?" Porteous rubbed his bald skull. "Oh, I really
shouldn't--but it'll make such a wonderful addendum to the chapter on
malignant primitives. What is your smallest denomination?"

"Is a dollar okay?" Melinda was hopeful.

Porteous was pleased with the picture of George Washington. He turned
the bill over and over in his fingers, at last bowed low and formally,
apologized for any tabu violations, and left via the front door.

"Crazy fraternities," muttered Melinda, turning on the TV set.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kitty Kyle was dull that morning. At length Melinda used some of the
liquid in the green vial on her eyelashes, was quite pleased at the
results, and hid the rest in the medicine cabinet.

Harry Junior was a model of docility the rest of that day. While Melinda
watched TV and munched chocolates, did and re-did her hair, Harry Junior
played quietly with the crystal prism.

Toward late afternoon, he crawled over to the bookcase, wrestled down
the encyclopedia and pawed through it, gurgling with delight. He
definitely, Melinda decided, would make a fine lawyer someday, not a
useless putterer like Big Harry, who worked all hours overtime in that
damned lab. She scowled as Harry Junior, bored with the encyclopedia,
began reaching for one of Big Harry's tomes on nuclear physics. One
putterer in the family was enough! But when she tried to take the book
away from him, Harry Junior howled so violently that she let well enough
alone.

At six-thirty, Big Harry called from the lab, with the usual despondent
message that he would not be home for supper. Melinda said a few
resigned things about cheerless dinners eaten alone, hinted darkly what
lonesome wives sometimes did for company, and Harry said he was very
sorry, but this might be _it_, and Melinda hung up on him in a temper.

Precisely fifteen minutes later, the doorbell rang. Melinda opened the
front door and gaped. This little man could have been Porteous's double,
except for the black metallic tunic, the glacial gray eyes.

"Mrs. Melinda Adams?" Even the voice was frigid.

"Y-Yes. Why--"

"Major Nord, Galactic Security." The little man bowed. "You were visited
early this morning by one Porteous." He spoke the name with a certain
disgust. "He left a neural distorter here. Correct?"

Melinda's nod was tremulous. Major Nord came quietly into the living
room, shut the door behind him. "My apologies, madam, for the intrusion.
Porteous mistook your world for a Class IV culture, instead of a Class
VII. Here--" He handed her the crumpled dollar bill. "You may check the
serial number. The distorter, please."

       *       *       *       *       *

Melinda shrunk limply onto the sofa. "I don't understand," she said
painfully. "Was he a thief?"

"He was--careless about his spatial coordinates." Major Nord's teeth
showed in the faintest of smiles. "He has been corrected. Where is it?"

"Now look," said Melinda with some asperity. "That thing's kept Harry
Junior quiet all day. I bought it in good faith, and it's not my
fault--say, have you got a warrant?"

"Madam," said the Major with dignity, "I dislike violating local tabus,
but must I explain the impact of a neural distorter on a backwater
culture? What if your Neanderthal had been given atomic blasters? Where
would you have been today? Swinging through trees, no doubt. What if
your Hitler had force-fields?" He exhaled. "Where is your son?"

In the nursery, Harry Junior was contentedly playing with his blocks.
The prism lay glinting in the corner.

Major Nord picked it up carefully, scrutinized Harry Junior. His voice
was very soft.

"You said he was--playing with it?"

Some vestigial maternal instinct prompted Melinda to shake her head
vigorously. The little man stared hard at Harry Junior, who began
whimpering. Trembling, Melinda scooped up Harry Junior.

"Is _that_ all you have to do--run around frightening women and
children? Take your old distorter and get out. Leave decent people
alone!"

Major Nord frowned. If only he could be sure. He peered stonily at Harry
Junior, murmured, "Definite egomania. It doesn't seem to have affected
him. Strange."

"Do you want me to scream?" Melinda demanded.

Major Nord sighed. He bowed to Melinda, went out, closed the door,
touched a tiny stud on his tunic, and vanished.

"The manners of some people," Melinda said to Harry Junior. She was
relieved that the Major had not asked for the green vial.

Harry Junior also looked relieved, although for quite a different
reason.

       *       *       *       *       *

Big Harry arrived home a little after eleven. There were small worry
creases about his mouth and forehead, and the leaden cast of defeat in
his eyes. He went into the bedroom and Melinda sleepily told him about
the little man working his way through college by peddling silly goods,
and about that rude cop named Nord, and Harry said that was simply
astonishing and Melinda said, "Harry, you had a drink!"

"I had two drinks," Harry told her owlishly. "You married a failure,
dear. Part of the experimental model vaporized, _wooosh_, just like
that. On paper it looked so good--"

Melinda had heard it all before. She asked him to see if Harry Junior
was covered, and Big Harry went unsteadily into the nursery, sat down by
his son's crib.

"Poor little guy," he mused. "Your old man's a bum, a useless tinker. He
thought he could send Man to the stars on a string of helium nuclei. Oh,
he was smart. Thought of everything. Auxiliary jets to kick off the
negative charge, bigger mercury vapor banks--a fine straight thrust of
positive Alpha particles." He hiccuped, put his face in his hands.

"Didn't you ever stop to think that a few air molecules could defocus
the stream? Try a vacuum, stupid."

Big Harry stood up.

"Did you say something, son?"

"Gurfle," said Harry Junior.

Big Harry reeled into the living room like a somnambulist.

He got pencil and paper, began jotting frantic formulae. Presently he
called a cab and raced back to the laboratory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Melinda was dreaming about little bald men with diamond-studded trays.
They were chasing her, they kept pelting her with rubies and emeralds,
all they wanted was to ask questions, but she kept running, Harry Junior
clasped tightly in her arms. Now they were ringing alarm bells. The
bells kept ringing and she groaned, sat up in bed, and seized the
telephone.

"Darling." Big Harry's voice shook. "I've got it! More auxiliary
shielding plus a vacuum. We'll be rich!"

"That's just fine," said Melinda crossly. "You woke the baby."

Harry Junior was sobbing bitterly into his pillow. He was sick with
disappointment. Even the most favorable extrapolation showed it would
take him nineteen years to become master of the world.

An eternity. Nineteen years!

                                                        --JAMES CAUSEY



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Galaxy Science Fiction_ January 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.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Teething Ring" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home