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´╗┐Title: Sam, This is You
Author: Leinster, Murray, 1896-1975
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 "Sam, This is You" ***

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



                              SAM, THIS IS YOU

                             By MURRAY LEINSTER

                          Illustrated by MEL HUNTER

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction
May 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: Sam had led a peaceful and impecunious life--until a voice
cut in on a phone and said: Sam, this is You]

You are not supposed to believe this story, and if you ask Sam Yoder
about it, he is apt to say that it's all a lie. But Sam is a bit
sensitive about it. He does not want the question of privacy to be
raised again--especially in Rosie's hearing. And there are other
matters. But it's all perfectly respectable and straightforward.

It could have happened to anybody--well, almost anybody. Anybody, say,
who was a telephone lineman for the Batesville and Rappahannock
Telephone Company, and who happened to be engaged to Rosie, and who had
been told admiringly by Rosie that a man as smart as he was ought to
make something wonderful of himself. And, of course, anybody who'd taken
that seriously and had been puttering around on a device to make private
conversations on a party-line telephone possible, and almost had the
trick.

It began about six o'clock on July second, when Sam was up a telephone
pole near Bridge's Run. He was hunting for the place where that party
line had gone dead. He'd hooked in his lineman's phone and he couldn't
raise Central, so he was just going to start looking for the break when
his phone rang back, though the line had checked dead.

[Illustration]

Startled, he put the receiver to his ear. "Hello. Who's this?"

"Sam, this is you," a voice replied.

"Huh?" said Sam. "What's that?"

"This is you," the voice on the wire repeated. "You, Sam Yoder. Don't
you recognize your own voice? This is you, Sam Yoder, calling from the
twelfth of July. Don't hang up!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Sam hadn't even thought of hanging up. He was annoyed. He was up a
telephone pole, trying to do some work, resting in his safety belt and
with his climbing irons safely fixed in the wood. Naturally, he thought
somebody was trying to joke with him, and when a man is working is no
time for jokes.

"I'm not hanging up," said Sam dourly, "but you'd better!"

The voice was familiar, though he couldn't quite place it. If it talked
a little more, he undoubtedly would. He knew it just about as well as he
knew his own, and it was irritating not to be able to call this joker by
name.

The voice said, "Sam, it's the second of July where you are, and you're
up a pole by Bridge's Run. The line's dead in two places, else I
couldn't talk to you. Lucky, ain't it?"

[Illustration]

"Whoever you are," Sam said formidably, "it ain't going to be lucky for
you if you ever need telephone service and you've kept wasting my time.
I'm busy!"

"But I'm you!" insisted the voice persuasively. "And you're me! We're
both the same Sam Yoder, only where I am, it's July twelfth. Where you
are, it's July second. You've heard of time-traveling. Well, this is
time-talking. You're talking to yourself--that's me--and I'm talking to
myself--that's you--and it looks like we've got a mighty good chance to
get rich."

Then something came into Sam's memory and every muscle in his body went
taut and tight, even as he was saying to himself, "It can't be!"

But he'd remembered that if a man stands in a corner and talks to the
wall, his voice will sound to him just the way it sounds to somebody
else. Being in the telephone business, he'd tried it and now he did
recognize the voice. It was his. His own. Talking to him. Which, of
course, was impossible.

"Look," said hoarsely, "I don't believe this!"

"Then listen," the voice said briskly. And Sam's face grew red. It
burned. His ears began to feel scorched. Because the voice--_his_
voice--was telling him strictly private matters that nobody else in the
world knew. Nobody but himself and Rosie.

"Quit it!" groaned Sam. "Somebody might be listening! Tell me what you
want and ring off!"

The voice told him what it wanted. His own voice. It sounded pleased. It
told him precisely what it wanted him to do. And then, very kindly, it
told him exactly where the two breaks in the line were. And then it rang
off.

       *       *       *       *       *

He sweated when he looked at the first of the two places. A joining was
bad and he fixed that. It was where his voice had said it would be. And
that was as impossible as anything else.

When he'd fixed the second break, Sam called Central and told her he was
sick and was going home, and that if there were any other phones that
needed fixing today, people were probably better off without phone
service, anyhow.

He went home and washed his face, and made himself a brew of coffee and
drank it, and his memory turned out to be unimpaired. Presently he heard
himself muttering.

So he said defiantly, "There ain't any crazy people in my family, so it
ain't likely I've gone out of my head. But God knows nobody but Rosie
knows about me telling her sentimental that her nose is so cute, I
couldn't believe she ever had to blow it! Maybe it was me, talking to
myself!"

Talking to oneself is not abnormal. Lots of people do it. Sam missed out
the conclusion to be drawn from the fact that he'd answered himself
back.

He reasoned painfully, "If somebody drove over to Rappahannock, past
Dunnsville, and telephoned back that there was a brush fire at
Dunnsville, I wouldn't be surprised to get to Dunnsville and find a
brush fire there. So if somebody phones back from next Tuesday that Mr.
Broaddus broke his leg next Tuesday--why, I shouldn't be surprised to
get to next Tuesday and find he done it. Going to Rappahannock, past
Dunnsville, and going to next Thursday, past next Tuesday, ain't so much
difference. It's only the difference between a road-map and a calendar."

Then he began to see implications. He blinked.

"Yes, sir!" he said in awe. "I wouldn't've thought of it if I hadn't
told myself on the telephone, but there _is_ money to be made out of
this! I must be near as smart as Rosie thinks I am! I'd better get that
dinkus set up!"

He'd more or less half-heartedly worked out an idea of how a party-line
telephone conversation could be made private, and just out of instinct,
you might say, he'd accumulated around his house a lot of stuff that
should have been on the phone company's inventory. There were condensers
and transmitters and selective-ringing bells and resistances and the
like. He'd meant to put some of them together some day and see what
happened, but he'd been too busy courting Rosie to get at it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now he did get started. His own voice on the telephone had told him to.
It had warned him that one thing he had intended wouldn't work and
something else would. But it was essentially simple, after all. He
finished it and cut off his line from Central and hooked this gadget in.
He rang. Half a minute later, somebody rang back.

"Hello!" said Sam, quivering. He'd broken the line to Central, remember.
In theory, he shouldn't have gotten anybody anywhere. But a very
familiar voice said "Hello" back at him, and Sam swallowed and said,
"Hello, Sam. This is you in the second of July."

The voice at the other end said cordially that Sam had done pretty well
and now the two of them--Sam in the here and now and Sam in the middle
of the week after next--would proceed to get rich together. But the
voice from July twelfth sounded less absorbed in the conversation than
Sam thought quite right. It seemed even abstracted. And Sam was at once
sweating from the pure unreasonableness of the situation and conscious
that he rated congratulation for the highly technical device he had
built. After all, not everybody could build a time-talker!

He said with some irony, "If you're too busy to talk--"

"I'll tell you," replied the voice from the twelfth of July, gratified.
"I am kind of busy right now. You'll understand when you get to where I
am. Don't get mad, Sam. Tell you what--you go see Rosie and tell her
about this and have a nice evening. Ha-ha!"

"Now what," asked Sam cagily, "do you mean by that 'ha-ha'?"

"You'll find out," said the voice. "Knowin' what I know, I'll even
double it. Ha-ha, ha-ha!"

There was a click. Sam rang back, but got no answer. He may have been
the first man in history to take an objective and completely justified
dislike to himself.

But presently he grumbled, "Smart, huh? Two can play at that! I'm the
one that's got to do things if we are both goin' to get rich."

He put his gadget carefully away and combed his hair and ate some cold
food around the house and drove over to see Rosie. It was a night and an
errand which ordinarily would have seemed purely romantic. There were
fireflies floating about, and the Moon shone down splendidly, and a
perfumed breeze carried mosquitoes from one place to another. It was the
sort of night on which, ordinarily, Sam would have thought only of
Rosie, and Rosie would have optimistic ideas about how housekeeping
could, after all, be done on what Sam made a week.

They got settled down in the hammock on Rosie's front porch, and Sam
said expansively, "Rosie, I've made up my mind to get rich. You ought to
have everything your little heart desires. Suppose you tell me what you
want so I'll know how rich I've got to get."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rosie drew back. She looked sharply at Sam. "Do you feel all right?"

He beamed at her. He'd never been married and he didn't know how crazy
it sounded to Rosie to be queried on how much money would satisfy her.
There simply isn't any answer to the question.

"Listen," said Sam tenderly. "Nobody knows it, but tonight Joe Hunt and
the Widow Backus are eloping to North Carolina to get married. We'll
find out about it tomorrow. And day after tomorrow, on the Fourth of
July, Dunnsville is going to win the baseball game with Bradensburg,
seven to five, all tied till the ninth inning, and then George Peeby is
going to hit a homer with Fred Holmes on second base."

Rosie stared at him. Sam explained complacently. The Sam Yoder in the
middle of the week after next had told him what to expect in those
particular cases. He would tell him other things to expect. So Sam was
going to get rich.

Rosie said, "Sam! Somebody was playing a joke on you!"

"Yeah?" Sam answered comfortably. "Who else but me knows what you said
to me that time you thought I was mad at you and you were crying out
back of the well-house?"

"Sam!"

"And nobody else knows about that time we were picnicking and a bug got
down the back of your dress and you thought it was a hornet."

"Sam Yoder!" wailed Rosie. "You never told anybody about that!"

"Nope," said Sam truthfully. "I never did. But the me in the week after
next knew. He told me. So he had to be me talking to me. Couldn't've
been anybody else."

Rosie gasped. Sam explained all over again. In detail. When he had
finished, Rosie seemed dazed.

Then she said desperately, "Sam! Either you've t-told somebody else
everything we ever said or did together, or else--there's somebody who
knows every word we ever said to each other! That's awful! Do you really
and truly mean to tell me--"

"Sure I mean to tell you," said Sam happily. "The me in the week after
next called me up and talked about things nobody knows but you and me.
Can't be no doubt at all."

Rosie shivered. "He--he knows every word we ever said! Then he knows
every word we're saying now!" She gulped. "Sam Yoder, you go home!"

Sam gaped at her. She got up and backed away from him.

"D-do you think," she chattered despairingly, "that I--that I'm g-going
to talk to you when s-somebody else--listens to every w-word I say
and--knows everything I do? D-do you think I'm going to _m-marry_ you?"

Then she ran away, weeping noisily, and slammed the door on Sam. Her
father came out presently, looking patient, and asked Sam to go home so
Rosie could finish crying and he could read his newspaper in peace.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the way back to his own house, Sam meditated darkly. By the time he
got there, he was furious. The him in the week after next could have
warned him about this!

He rang and rang and rang, on the cut-off line with his gadget hooked in
to call July the twelfth. But there was no answer.

When morning came, he rang again, but the phone was still dead. He
loaded his tool-kit in the truck and went off to work, feeling about as
low as a man could feel.

He felt lower when he reported at the office and somebody told him
excitedly that Joe Hunt and the Widow Backus had eloped to North
Carolina to get married. Nobody would have tried to stop them if they
had prosaically gotten married at home, but they had eloped to make it
more romantic.

It wasn't romantic to Sam. It was devastating proof that there was
another him ten days off, knowing everything he knew and more besides,
and very likely laughing his head off at the fix Sam was in. Because,
obviously, Rosie would be still more convinced when she heard this news.
She'd know Sam wasn't crazy or the victim of a practical joke. He had
told the truth.

It wasn't the first time a man got in trouble with a woman by telling
her the truth, but it was new to Sam and it hurt.

He went over to Bradensburg that day to repair some broken lines, and
around noon, he went into a store to get something to eat. There were
some local sportsmen in the store, bragging to each other about what the
Bradensburg baseball team would do to the Dunnsville nine.

Sam said peevishly, "Huh! Dunnsville will win that game by two runs!"

"Have you got any money that agrees with you?" a local sportsman
demanded pugnaciously. "If you have, put it up and let somebody cover
it!"

Sam wanted to draw back, but he had roused the civic pride of
Bradensburg. He tried to temporize and he was jeered at. In the end,
philosophically, he dragged out all the money he had with him and bet
it--eleven dollars. It was covered instantly, amid raucous laughter. And
on the way back to Batesville, he reflected unhappily that he was going
to make eleven dollars out of knowing what was going to happen in the
ninth inning of that ball game, but probably at the cost of losing
Rosie.

       *       *       *       *       *

He tried to call his other self that night again. There was no more
answer than before. He unhooked the gadget and restored normal service
to himself. He rang Rosie's house. She answered the phone.

"Rosie," Sam asked yearningly, "are you still mad at me?"

"I never was mad at you," said Rose, gulping. "I'm mad at whoever was
talking to you on the phone and knows all our private secrets. And I'm
mad at you if you told him."

"But I didn't have to tell him! He's me! All he has to do is just
remember! I tried to call him last night and again this morning," he
added bitterly, "and he don't answer. Maybe he's gone off somewheres.
I'm thinking it might be a--a kind of illusion, maybe."

"You told me there'd be an elopement last night," retorted Rosie, her
voice wobbling, "and there was. Joe Hunt and the Widow Backus. Just like
you said!"

"It--it could've been a coincidence," suggested Sam, not too hopefully.

"I'm--w-waiting to see if Dunnsville beats Bradensburg seven to five
tomorrow, tied to the ninth, with George Peeby hitting a homer then with
Fred Holmes on second base. If--if that happens, I'll--I'll die!"

"Why?" asked Sam.

"Because it'll mean that I can't m-marry you ever, because somebody
else'd be looking over your shoulder--and we wouldn't ever be by
ourselves all our lives--night or day!"

She hung up, weeping, and Sam swore slowly and steadily and with venom
while he worked to hook up his device again--which did not make a
private conversation on a party line, but allowed a man to talk to
himself ten days away from where he was. And then Sam rang, and rang,
and rang. But he got no answer.

The following day, in the big fourth of July game, Dunnsville beat
Bradensburg seven to five. It was tied to the ninth. Then George Peeby
hit a homer, with Fred Holmes on second base. Sam collected his
winnings, but grimly, without joy.

He stayed home that night, worrying, and every so often trying to call
himself up on the device he had invented and been told--by himself--to
modify. It was a nice gadget, but Sam did not enjoy it. It was a nice
night, too. There was moonlight. But Sam did not enjoy that, either.

Moonlight wouldn't do Sam any good so long as there was another him in
the middle of the week after next, refusing to talk to him so he could
get out of the fix he was in.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning, though, the phone woke him. He swore at it out of habit
until he got out of bed, and then he realized that his gadget was hooked
in and Central was cut off. He made it in one jump to the instrument.

"Hello!"

"Don't fret," said his own voice patronizingly. "Rosie's going to make
up with you."

"How in blazes d'you know what she's going to do?" raged Sam. "She won't
marry me with you hanging around! I've been trying to figure out a way
to get rid of you--"

"Quiet!" commanded the voice on the telephone irritably. "I'm busy. I've
got to go collect the money you've made for us."

"_You_ collect money? _I_ get in trouble and _you_ collect money?"

"I have to," his voice said with the impatient patience of one speaking
to a small idiot child, "before you can have it. Listen here. Where you
are, it's Wednesday. You're going over to Dunnsville today to fix some
phones. You'll be in Mr. Broaddus' law office about half-past ten. You
look out the window and notice a fella setting in a car in front of the
bank. Notice him good!"

"I won't do it," said Sam defiantly. "I ain't taking any orders from
you! Maybe you're me, but _I_ make money and _you_ collect it. For all I
know you spend it before I get to it! I'm quitting this business right
now. It's cost me my own true love and all _my_ life's happiness and to
hell with you!"

"You won't do it?" his own voice asked nastily. "Wait and see!"

So, that morning, the manager told Sam, when he reported for work, to
drive over to Dunnsville and check on some lines there. Sam balked. He
said there were much more important lines needing repair elsewhere. The
manager explained politely to Sam that Mr. Broaddus over in Dunnsville
had been taken drunk at a Fourth of July party and fallen out of a
window. He'd broken his leg, so it was a Christian duty to make sure he
had a telephone in working order in his office, and Sam could get over
there right away or else.

On the way to Dunnsville, Sam morosely remembered that he'd known about
Mr. Broaddus' leg. He had told himself about it on the telephone.

At half-past ten, he was fixing Mr. Broaddus' telephone when he
remembered about the man he was supposed to get a good look at, sitting
in a car in front of the bank. He made an angry resolution not, under
any circumstances, to glance outside of the lawyer's office. He
meditated savagely that, by this resolution, the schemes of his other
self in the future were abolished.

Naturally, he presently went to the window and looked to see what he was
abolishing.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a car before the bank with a reddish-haired man sitting in it.
A haze came out of the exhaust, showing that the motor was running. None
of this impressed Sam as remarkable. But as he looked, two other men
came running out of the bank. One of them carried a bag and both of them
had revolvers out and they piled into the car and the reddish-haired man
gunned it and it was abruptly a dwindling speck in a cloud of dust,
getting out of town.

[Illustration]

Three seconds later, old Mr. Bluford, president of the bank, came out
yelling, and the cashier came after him, and it was a first-rate bank
robbery they were yelling about. The men in the get-away car had
departed with thirty-five thousand dollars.

All of it had taken place so fast that Sam hardly realized what had
happened when he went out to see what it was all about, and was
instantly seized upon to do some work. The bankrobbers had shot out the
telephone cable out of town with a shotgun, so word couldn't get ahead
of them. Sam was needed to re-establish communications with the outside
world.

He did, absorbedly reflecting on the details of the robbery as he'd
heard them. He was high up on a telephone pole and the sheriff and
enthusiastic citizens were streaking past in cars to make his labors
unnecessary, when the personal aspect of all this affair hit him.

[Illustration]

"Migawd!" gasped Sam, shocked. "That me in the middle of next week told
me to come over here and watch a bank robbery! But he didn't let on what
was going to happen so's I could stop it!" He felt an incredulous
indignation come over him. "I woulda been a hero!" he said resentfully.
"Rosie woulda admired me! _That other me is a born crook!_"

Then he realized the facts. The other him was himself, only a week and a
half distant. The other him was so far sunk in dastardliness that he
permitted a crime to take place, feeling no more than sardonic
amusement.

And there was nothing he himself could do about it! He couldn't even
tell the authorities about this depraved character! They wouldn't
believe him unless he could get his other self on the telephone to admit
his criminality. Even then, what could they do?

Sam felt what little zest had been left in living go trickling out of
his climbers. He looked into the future and saw nothing desirable in it.

He painstakingly finished the repair of the shot-out telephone line, but
then he went down to his truck and drove over to Rosie's house.

There was but one thing he could do.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rosie came suspiciously to the the door.

"I come to tell you good-by, Rosie," said Sam. "I just found out I'm a
criminal, so I aim to go and commit my crimes far away from my home and
the friends who never thought I'd turn out this way. Good-by, Rosie."

"Sam!" said Rosie. "What's happened now?"

He told her about the bank robbery and how his own self--in the week
after next--had known it was going to happen, and told Sam to go watch
it without giving him information by which it could have been stopped.

"He knew it after it happened," said Sam bitterly, "and he could've told
me about it before! He didn't, so he's a accessory to the crime. And he
is me, which makes me a accessory, too. Good-by, Rosie, my own true
love! You'll never see me again!"

"You set right down here," Rosie ordered firmly. "You haven't done a
thing yet, so it's that other you who's a criminal. You haven't got a
thing to run away for!"

"But I'm going to have! I'm doomed to be a criminal! It's that me in the
week after next! There's nothing to be done!"

"Says who? _I'm_ going to do something!"

"Like what?" asked Sam.

"I'm going to reform you," said Rosie, "before you start!"

       *       *       *       *       *

She was a determined girl, that Rosie. She marched inside and put on her
blue jeans, then went to her father's woodshed where he kept his tools
and got a monkey wrench and stuck it in her hip pocket.

When she came to the truck, Sam said, "What's the idea, Rosie?"

"I'm riding around with you," replied Rosie, with a grim air. "You won't
do anything criminal with me on hand! And if that other you starts
talking to you on the telephone, I'm going to climb that pole and tell
him where he gets off!"

"If anybody could keep me from turning criminal," acknowledged Sam,
"it'd be you, Rosie. But that monkey wrench--what's it for?"

Rosie climbed into the seat beside him.

"You start having criminal ideas," she told him, "and you'll find out!
Now you go on about your business and I and the monkey wrench will look
after your morals!"

This tender exchange happened only an hour or so after the robbery and
there was plenty of excitement around. But Sam went soberly about his
work as telephone lineman. Rosie simply rode with him as a--well, it
wasn't as a bodyguard, but a sort of M.P. escort--Morals Police. Where
he worked on a line, he called the central office to report, and he
heard about the hunt for the bank robbers, and told Rosie.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was good fortune that he'd been in Dunnsville when the robbery
happened, because his prompt repair of the phone wires had spoiled the
robbers' get-away plans. They hadn't gone ten miles from Dunnsville
before somebody fired a load of buckshot at them as their car roared by
Lemons' Store. They were past before they realized they'd been shot at.
But the buckshot had punctured the radiator, and two miles on, they were
stuck.

They pushed their car off the road behind some bushes and struck out on
foot, and the sheriff ran right past their car without seeing it. Then
rain began to fall and the bank robbers were wet and scared and
desperate. They knew there'd be roadblocks set up everywhere and they
had that bag of money--part bills, but a lot of it silver--and all of
Tidewater was up in arms.

Taking evasive action, they hastily stuffed their pockets with small
bills--there were no big ones--but dared not take too much lest the
pockets bulge. They hid the major part of their loot in a hollow tree.
They separated, going to nearby towns--while rain fell heavily and
covered their trails--and went to bed with chest colds. They felt
miserable. But the rain washed away the scent they had left and
bloodhounds couldn't do a thing.

None of this was known to Sam, of course. Rosie had taken charge of him
and she kept charge. She rode with him all the afternoon of the robbery.
When quitting time came, he took her home and prepared to retire from
the scene.

But she said grimly, "Oh, no, you don't! You're staying right here!
You're going to sleep in my brother's room, and my pa is going to put a
padlock on the door so you don't go roaming off to call up that
no-account other you and get in more trouble!"

"I might mess things up if I don't talk to him," Sam objected.

"He's messed things up enough by talking to you! The idea of repeating
our private affairs! He hadn't ought to know them! And I'm not sure,"
she said ominously, "that you didn't tell him! If you did, Sam Yoder--"

Sam didn't argue that point, for there was no argument to make. He was
practically meek until he discovered after supper that the schedule for
the evening was a game of cribbage played in the living room where
Rosie's mother and father were.

He mentioned unhappily to Rosie that they were acting like old married
people without the fun of getting that way, but he said that only once.
Rosie glared at him. And when bedtime came, she shooed him into her
brother's room and her father padlocked him in.

He did not sleep well.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning, there was Rosie in her blue jeans with a monkey wrench in
her pocket, ready to go riding with him. She did. And the next day. And
the next. Nothing happened. The state banking association put up five
thousand dollars reward for the bank robbers and the insurance company
put up some more, but there wasn't a trace of the criminals.

There wasn't a trace of criminality about Sam, either. Rosie rode with
him, but they exchanged not one single hand-squeeze, nor one melting
glance, nor did they even play footsie while they were eating lunch in
the truck outside a filling station. Their conduct was exemplary and it
wore on Sam. Possibly it wore on Rosie, too.

One day Sam said morosely, as he chewed on a ham sandwich at lunch,
"Rosie, I'm crazy about you, but this feels like I been divorced without
ever even getting married first."

And Rosie snapped, "If I told you how I feel, that other you in the week
after next would laugh his fool head off. So shut up!"

Things were bad, and they got no better. For nearly a week, Rosie rode
everywhere with Sam in his truck. They acted in a manner which Rosie's
parents would in theory have approved, but didn't even begin to believe
in. They did nothing the world could not have watched without their
being embarrassed, and they said very little that all the world would
not have been bored to hear.

It must have been the eleventh of July when they almost snapped at each
other and Rosie said bitterly, "Let me drive a while. I need to put my
mind on something that it don't make me mad to think about!"

"Go ahead," Sam invited gloomily. He stopped the truck and got out the
door. "I don't look for any happiness in this world any more, anyway."

He went around to the other side of the truck while she slid to the
driver's seat.

"Tomorrow's going to be the twelfth," she said. "Do you realize that?"

"I hadn't given it much thought," admitted Sam, "but what's the
difference?"

"That's the day where the other you was when he called you up the first
time."

"That's right," said Sam morbidly. "It is."

"And so far," added Rosie, jamming her foot viciously down on the
accelerator, "I've kept you honest. If you change into a scoundrel
between now and tomorrow--"

She changed to second gear. The truck jerked and bounced.

"Hey!" cried Sam. "Watch your driving!"

"Don't you tell me how to drive!"

"But if I get killed before tomorrow--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Rosie changed gear again, but too soon. The truck bucked, and she jammed
down the accelerator again, and it almost leaped off the road.

"If you get killed before tomorrow," raged Rosie, "it'll serve you
right! I've been thinking and thinking and thinking. And even if I stop
you from being a crook, there'll always be that--other you--knowing
everything we say and do." She was hitting forty miles an hour and
speeding up. "So there'd still be no use. No hope, anyway."

She sobbed, partly in fury and partly in grief. And the roadway curved
sharply just about there and she swung the truck crazily around it--and
there was a car standing only halfway off the road.

[Illustration]

Sam grabbed for the steering wheel, but there wasn't time. The light
half-truck, still accelerating, hit the parked car with the noise of
dozens of empty oil-drums falling downstairs. The truck slued around,
bounced back, and then it charged forward and slammed into the parked
car a second time. Then it stalled.

[Illustration]

Somebody yelled at Sam. He got out of the truck, looking at the damage
and trying to figure out how it was that neither he nor Rosie had been
killed, and trying worriedly to think how he was going to explain to the
telephone company that he'd let Rosie drive.

The voice yelled louder. Right at the edge of the woodland, there was a
reddish-haired character screaming at him and tugging at his hip pocket.
The words he used were not fit for Rosie's shell-like ears--even if they
probably came near matching the way she felt. The reddish-haired man
said more nasty words at the top of his voice. His hand came out of his
hip pocket with something glittering in it.

Sam was swinging when the glitter began and he connected before the gun
fired. There was a sort of squashy, smacking sound and the
reddish-haired man lay down quietly in the road.

"Migawd!" said Sam blankly. "This was the fella in front of the bank!
He's one of those robbers!"

He stared. There was a loud crashing in the brushwood. The accident had
happened at the edge of some woodland, and Sam did not need a high I.Q.
to know that the friends of the red-haired man must be on the way.

A second later, he saw them. Rosie was just getting out of the car then.
She was very pale and there wasn't time to tell her to get started up if
possible and away from there.

One of the two running men was carrying a canvas bag with the words BANK
OF DUNNSVILLE on it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The men came at Sam, meanwhile expressing opinions of the state of
things, of Sam, of the Cosmos--of everything but the weather--in terms
even more reprehensible than the first man had used.

They saw the reddish-haired man lying on the ground. One of them--he'd
come out into the road behind the truck and was running toward
Sam--jerked out a pistol. He was about to use it on Sam at a range of
something like six feet when there was a peculiar noise behind him. It
was a sort of hollow _klunk_ which, even at such a time, needed to have
attention paid to it. He jerked his head around to see.

The _klunk_ had been made by Rosie's monkey wrench, falling imperatively
on the head of the second man to come out of the woods. She had carried
it to use on Sam, but she used it instead on a total stranger. He fell
down and lay peacefully still.

Then Sam swung a second time, at the second man to draw a pistol on him.

Then there was only the sweet singing of birds among the trees and the
whirrings and other insect-noises of creatures in the grass and
brushwood.

Presently there were other noises, but they were made by Rosie. She
wept, hanging onto Sam.

He unwound her arms from around his neck and thoughtfully went to the
back of the truck and got out some phone wire and his pliers. He
fastened the three strangers' hands together behind them, and then their
feet, and he piled them in the back of the light truck, along with the
money they had stolen.

They came to, one by one, and Sam explained severely that they must
watch their language in the presence of a lady. The three were so dazed,
though, by what had befallen them that the warning wasn't really
necessary.

Rosie's parents would have been pleased at how completely proper their
behavior was, while they took the three bank robbers into town and
turned them over to the sheriff.

That night, Rosie sat out on the porch with Sam and they discussed the
particular event of the day in some detail. But Rosie was still
concerned about the other Sam. So Sam decided to assert himself.

About half-past nine, he said firmly, "Well, Rosie, I guess I'd better
be getting along home. I've got to try one more time to call myself up
on the telephone and tell me to mind my own business."

"Says who?" demanded Rosie. "You're staying locked up right here tonight
and I'm riding with you tomorrow. If I kept you honest this far, I can
keep it up till sundown tomorrow! Then maybe it'll stick!"

Sam protested, but Rosie was adamant--not only about keeping him from
being a crook, but from having any fun to justify his virtue.

       *       *       *       *       *

She shooed him into her brother's room and her father locked him in. And
Sam did not sleep very well, because it looked as though virtue wasn't
even its own reward.

He sat up, brooding. It must have been close to dawn when the obvious
hit him. Then he gazed blankly at the wall and said, "Migawd! O'course!"

He grinned, all by himself, practically from head to foot. And at
breakfast, he hummed contentedly as he stuffed himself with pancakes and
syrup, and Rosie's depressed expression changed to a baffled alarm.

He smiled tenderly upon her when she came doggedly out to the truck,
wearing her blue jeans and with the monkey wrench in her pocket. They
started off the same as any other day and he told her amiably, "Rosie,
the sheriff says we get five thousand dollars reward from the bankers'
association, and there's more from the insurance company, and there's
odd bits of change offered for those fellas for past performances. We're
going to be right well off."

Rosie looked at him gloomily. There was still the matter of the other
Sam in the middle of the week after next. And just then, Sam, who had
been watching the telephone lines beside the road as he drove, pulled
off the road and put on his climbing irons.

"What's this?" asked Rosie frightenedly. "You know--"

"You listen," said Sam, completely serene.

He climbed zestfully to the top of the pole. He hooked in the little
gadget that didn't make private conversations possible on a party line,
but did make it possible for a man to talk to himself ten days in the
future.

Or the past.

"Hello!" said Sam, up at the top of the telephone pole. "Sam, this is
you."

A voice he knew perfectly well sounded in the receiver.

"_Huh? Who's that?_"

"This is you," said Sam. "You, Sam Yoder. Don't you recognize your own
voice? This is you, Sam Yoder, calling from the twelfth of July. Don't
hang up!"

He heard Rosie gasp, all the way down there in the banged-up telephone
truck. Sam had seen the self-evident, at last, and now, in the twelfth
of July, he was talking to himself on the telephone. Only instead of
talking to himself in the week after next, he was talking to himself in
the week before last--he being, back there ten days before, working on
this very same telephone line on this very same pole. And it was the
same conversation, word for word.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he came down the pole, rather expansively, Rosie grabbed him and
wept.

"Oh, Sam!" she sobbed. "It was you all the time!"

"Yeah," said Sam complacently. "I figured it out last night. That me
back there in the second of July, he's cussing me out. And he's going to
tell you about it and you're going to get all wrought up. But I can make
that dumb me back yonder do what has to be done. And you and me, Rosie,
have got a lot of money coming to us. I'm going to carry on through so
he'll earn it for us. But I'm warning you, Rosie, he'll be back at my
house waiting for me to talk to him tonight, and I've got to be home to
tell him to go over to your house. I'm goin' to say 'ha-ha, ha-ha' at
him."

"A-all right," said Rosie, wide-eyed. "You can."

"But I remember that when I call me up tonight, back there ten days ago,
I'm going to be right busy here and now. I'm going to make me mad,
because I don't want to waste time talking to myself back yonder.
Remember? Now what," asked Sam mildly, "would I be doing tonight that
would make me not want to waste time talking to myself ten days ago? You
got any ideas, Rosie?"

"Sam Yoder! I wouldn't! I never heard of such a thing!"

Sam looked at her and shook his head regretfully. "Too bad. If you
won't, I guess I've got to call me up in the week after next and find
out what's cooking."

"You--you _shan't_!" said Rosie fiercely. "I'll get even with you! But
you shan't talk to that--" Then she wailed. "Darn you, Sam! Even if I do
have to marry you so you'll be wanting to talk to me instead of that
dumb you ten days back, you're not going to--you're not--"

Sam grinned. He kissed her. He put her in the truck and they rode off to
Batesville to get married. And they did.

But you're not supposed to believe all this, and if you ask Sam Yoder
about it, he's apt to say it's all a lie. He doesn't want to talk about
private party lines, either. And there are other matters. For instance,
Sam's getting to be a pretty prominent citizen these days. He makes a
lot of money, one way and another. Nobody around home will ever bet with
him on who's going to win at sports and elections, anyhow.





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