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´╗┐Title: Journey Work
Author: Dryfoos, Dave
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 "Journey Work" ***

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

                             JOURNEY WORK

                            BY DAVE DRYFOOS

                 _Get mad, old man, but don't give up;
             you're not through by a long shot. Somewhere
             there's a job for you, a job that youth can't
                do ... a dangerous job, but a good one
            that'll bring you fame, fortune and peace...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, January 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

In a central California tomato field a dusty-faced man opened the
autodriver of a nuclear-powered truck and inserted a cannery's address
card so the truck would know where to deliver its load.

Six old men--the tomato pickers--waited for their pay in the truck's
lengthening shadow. Most of them smoked or dozed, too tired for talk.

Ollie Hollveg, tallest and oldest of the pickers, eyed the heavy-set
rancher who sat at the tally table figuring the payroll. For this
day's work Ollie expected even less pay than usual; the mumbling,
pencil-licking rancher--his name was Rost--seemed to be overacting the
role of harried proprietor.

Soon Ollie saw his guess confirmed. A look of frustrated rage spread
from face to face as each of the other pickers was in turn called to
the table and paid.

All were overage. None dared protest.

At seventy a poor man without relatives willing to care for him was
supposed to let himself be permanently retired to a Home for Seniles.
If he wasn't senile and didn't want a home with barred windows and a
barbed wire fence, he had to lie low and keep his mouth shut.

Anyone could charge an overage person with incompetence. The charge was
not a crime and so had no defence.

All of which was old stuff to Ollie Hollveg. He'd been dodging the
geriatricians for sixteen years. He considered himself used to the

Yet something about the rancher, Rost--maybe his excessive weight, in
contrast with the pickers' under-fed gauntness, or maybe his cardboard
cowboy boots and imitation sombrero--made Ollie boil in spite of

He tried not to show his feelings. But when he was called to the tally
table the rancher scowled up at him defensively and said, "Don't
glare at me, Hollveg! If you moved as fast picking tomatoes as you do
collecting your pay, you'd have earned more than this."

He pushed out a little pile of coins that came to four dollars
eighty-seven cents.

"Odd pennies?" Ollie's voice broke as he fought to keep it under
control. "Odd pennies, when picking's at the rate of two bits a lug?
That can't be right. Just because we're old, you're stealing from us!"

Rost's fat face turned livid. "Call me a thief?" he sputtered. "Get off
my land!"

Rost jumped clumsily to his feet, upsetting the tally table. Ollie bent
to retrieve the coins scattered in the dust.

"Don't try to steal from me!" Rost shouted. He pulled out a small gas
gun and discharged it under Ollie's nose. Ollie pitched forward onto
his face, twitched, moaned, and lay still.

       *       *       *       *       *

The deputy sheriff held an ampoule under his nose and brought him to
after setting the squad car on the beamway, proceeding under remote
control toward the county seat.

The first thing Ollie thought of was his day's pay. He'd never received
it. Worse--his bedroll was left behind. And there was no stopping nor
turning on the beam way.

He complained bitterly.

"You won't need that stuff," the sharp young deputy said. "Not where
you're going."

"I suppose Rost needs it!" Ollie protested.

"He might at that. All he's got is those measily four rented acres of
tomatoes. The cannery pays him the same as if he had four hundred acres
and could pick by machine.

"About all the profit he can make is what he chisels out of his
pickers. You'll be better off in a Home, Pop, than trying to work
cheaper than a machine."

"Those Homes are prisons!"

The deputy sighed. "I know how you feel. My old grandfather cried when
we put him in. But we couldn't support him and he had no way of making
a living.

"The world changes faster than the people in it, Pop. Science all the
time lets us live longer, but faster and faster it keeps changing the
way we do things. An old guy falls so far behind the times, the only
place for him is a Home."

"But if a man wants to stay out," said Ollie, "I don't see why he

"Old guys are dangerous to the rest of us. I saw three people killed,
not long ago, trying to dodge an oldtimer who walked too slow to get
across a wide street before the lights changed against him."

"They could have slowed the signal," Ollie said. "But no! Always it's
the man who has to adapt to the machine, not the machine to the man.
The only way to get by in this world is to find some machine you just
naturally fit."

"You sound kind of bitter."

"Why not? I used to be a stock control clerk, keeping track of spare
parts supply for a nationally distributed line of machine tools. I had
twenty girls working for me. Then one day they put in a big computer."

He sighed. "No wonder these suicide salesmen do so well. If I had the
money I'd hire somebody to knock me off right now."

"Don't be stupid!" the deputy snarled. "You wouldn't be losing your
freedom if you'd had sense enough to stay out of a fight. And when you
talk about suicide salesmen, you sure prove you can't take care of

But the deputy was kinder than he sounded. Rather than allege
incompetence, he charged Ollie with an assault against Rost. So instead
of being remanded to the geriatricians, Ollie was kept overnight in
jail and ordered held, next morning, for want of fifty dollars bail.

An hour after bail had been set, a dapper thin faced bailbond broker
came to see him.

"Want out?"


"If I put up bail you'll be out."

"No Home?"

"You're classified as a criminal, ineligible for a Home till either
you're found not guilty or serve your time."

"Well, but I'm broke. I can't buy a bailbond."

"You can work it off. I'm going to spring you right now. As soon as
they let you out, meet me in the southwest corner of the park, just
across from the post office."

Ollie did. He thought his bail had been arranged by the deputy.

The broker kept him waiting in the park for half an hour, but was brisk
when he appeared.

"My name is Lansing," he said. "Come on. We're taking a little trip."

He steered Ollie to the copter tower at the park's center and with him
boarded its endless-belt manlift. They were carried ten stories to the
roof, and as they stepped off the manlift an empty copter hovered at
hand. It bore on sides and bottom an address, a phone number, and the
word _Bailbonds_, all in big letters.

The copter rose under the tower's control as soon as they'd entered it,
and continued to rise till Lansing selected a prepunched destination
card and slipped it into the auto-pilot. Then a knowing red light
winked on, the copter levelled off and headed southwest, and Lansing
took one of a pair of chintz-padded wicker seats, motioning Ollie into
the other.

"How do you like the idea of going to a Home?" he asked abruptly.

"I'd rather be dead."

"I know someone who agrees with you. A fellow with bad health who wants
to die but doesn't have the guts to do the necessary. Feel like helping
him out?"

Ollie sighed, smiled grimly, and shook his head. "No, thanks!"

"You might die yourself, Hollveg." Lansing's voice was heavy with

"I might," Ollie agreed hotly. "I might get murdered. And maybe the
same thing will happen to this supposedly sick man you want me to help
out. He may not want to die any more than I do. I've heard you suicide
salesmen do a lot of murder-for-hire."

"You've heard too much, Hollveg."

Lansing took a plushlined metal case from an inside pocket and removed
from it a filled syringe, complete with needle.

"This won't hurt," he said in a sneering imitation of a doctor. "But
it'll end your independence like a barbed wire fence."

Ollie began to sweat. "I've heard of those zombie-shots too," he said.
He looked wildly around, then controlled himself and gestured almost
calmly toward the sky, land, and water visible through the cabin's
plastic walls.

"Maybe you can put the needle away for a while," he suggested. "I'm not
going to walk out on you right now."

Lansing smiled and complied. "You may keep your health a long time
yet," he said urbanely. "If you're sensible, we might even find steady
work for you."

Ollie suppressed a shudder.

Lansing tuned in a Western on the physeo. Soon the odor of sage and
horse-sweat filled the cabin.

Ollie watched avidly. He hadn't seen enough physeo to be bored with it.

There was a mouth watering camp supper scene, with pleasant odors of
broiling beef and burning wood; and a stirring moonlit love scene with
a wholesome girl who smelled of soap and starch, and only faintly of

But then came the climactic chase, a combined stampede, stage-coach
race, and Indian fight. So much alkali dust poured from the physeo that
Ollie got a fit of coughing.

He couldn't stop. After several excruciating minutes he lay down on the
floor and gasped to Lansing for a drink of water.

"There isn't any," Lansing told him sharply. "And brother, you'd better
get up from there, because you'll have to move fast when we get to

Without knowing what would result, Ollie made sure he neither got up
nor stopped coughing till they reached San Francisco which was fifteen
minutes later.

The pretense involved intense effort for so old a man. His voice went.
He was clammy with sweat from head to foot. His face was pale and his
hands cold.

By the time the copter reached the roof of San Francisco's Union Square
tower, Ollie was actually unable to jump out of the cabin in the thirty
seconds allotted by the remote traffic-control system. Lansing tried to
carry him out, but the result was merely a delay that damned the stream
of traffic.

A winged inspector buzzed them, took remote control of their copter,
and led it to the emergency tower at Civic center.

Ollie was taken off on a stretcher. Lansing, his urbanity washed away
in a flood of redfaced rage, was still in the copter when it rose.
And the hypo was still in his pocket; with Ollie due to get medical
attention, he hadn't been able to use it.

Ollie didn't dare stay long in the hospital. As soon as his stretcher
was set down on the receiving ward floor, he rolled out of it and with
the help of a fat steward struggled to his feet.

"Thanks," he whispered hoarsely. "I have to go now."

"You can't!" said the steward. "You haven't even been examined yet."

"It's against my religion to have to do with medicine," Ollie
improvised. "Besides, I'm perfectly well."

"Yeah? What about your voice--or lack of one?"

"A coughing spell. I'm over it now. And my voice is coming back." It

The steward unbuttoned his coat and scratched his belly meditatively.
"If you don't want treatment you don't have to have it," he said
finally. "The joint's overcrowded now."

Ollie didn't congratulate himself when he got out. He was now a
fugitive from both the geriatricians and the underworld. Soon the
police would want him for bail-jumping, and meanwhile they'd grab him
for vagrancy if they caught him off skidrow.

He headed that way at once, walking over to Mission and down it toward
Third. A clock on a store-front said five twenty. He felt overdue for
supper and bed.

He counted his change--three dollars and forty-two cents. He had no
bedroll; no overcoat, either. Even in this nice summer weather it might
be a little tough for a fellow to get by on the road with so little
plunder. Eighty-six was a trifle old for the rugged life.

What he needed, of course, was a white-collar job. Not only needed, but
deserved--he was a good clerk. Therefore he should go to the Hearst
Building at Third and Market and scan the want ads posted there. As
he'd been doing when in San Francisco for forty years.

He thought of some of the many times he'd stared at that bulletin
board. He'd gone there often during the years he'd worked as a
construction timekeeper, before that skill became obsolete. Then
there'd been an interval when he'd sold rebuilt window washers--for a
firm which still owed him money. And he'd haunted the board during the
months he'd had that job in the automatic grocery, replenishing the
dispensing machines' merchandise.

None of his jobs had come from a want ad. But he had to go look. It was
a ritual.

       *       *       *       *       *

The years had made the ritual a hard one for him. He could read the
fine-printed columns only with head cocked an arm's length away from a
cheap reading glass held up to them. He took a lot of room; forced a
white-capped young mechanic to peer awkwardly around him.

Embarrassed, Ollie moved out of the way. He'd begun to walk off when
the young fellow stopped him. "I don't think you saw this one, Dad," he
said, pointing.

    OLDER MEN (the ad read) without dependents needed for dangerous
    scientific experiments. If able to pass intensive physical and
    mental tests report for interview to Civilian Personnel Office,
    Short Air Force Base, Short, Utah.

"I don't know where the place is at all," Ollie complained wearily.

"Just this side of Salt Lake, on the main line," the young man said. "I
served there, so I'm curious. If you're not--well--" He shrugged and
edged away.

"Thanks, son," Ollie called after him. "I'm going to follow that up."

The young man walked on without looking back.

Ollie felt committed, not only by his offhand declaration, but by his
ritual. He'd come to look for a job; he'd found one for which he was
eligible; he must go after it.

He headed down Third Street toward the freight yards but stopped at a
skidrow restaurant for a bowl of stew and a cup of coffee. Passing an
old-fashioned catchpenny grocery he went in and bought a half-dozen
rolls to take with him. The proprietor, squat, unshaven, and swarthy,
picked out a large red apple and slipped it in with the rolls.

"Good for you," he said, smiling.

Ollie shook his head.

The grocer frowned, then replaced the apple with an orange. "Easier on
teeth," he said.

"Thank you," said Ollie, smiling. "You make me feel lucky. I'm
answering a want ad--maybe I'll get the job."

The grocer smiled vaguely. "I hope." Then his face livened. "What job?
In paper?"

"Yes." There could be no other, for a man his age.

"It says 'dangerous,'" said the grocer. "I think maybe they cut you up,
find out how you live so long. Or make you sick to try new cure.

"You find better job--or Home. That one bad." There was a slight pause.

"Look. I close soon. You sweep store, I give you dollar."

"You're a good guy," said Ollie. "But I've got three dollars now." He
showed them proudly. "You save yours for somebody who doesn't have a
job to try for."

He tucked the rolls and orange inside his shirt, marched valiantly out
of the dark little store, and continued on to the yards.

The heavy traffic there confused him briefly. Transcontinental freight
was carried in long trains of rubber-tired cars towed on elevated
beamways by remotely-controlled, nuclear-fueled steam tractors. Here at
the San Francisco yards the trains were broken up and the individual
cars hauled by turbo-tractor on city streets and suburban roads for
delivery at the addressees' doors.

The cars were huge, the noise and bustle awe-inspiring. Ollie stood
outside the main exit watching the little tractors and big cars emerge,
till a beamway bull came over, flashed a badge, and told him to move on.

He did. He was a fugitive from so many things; he couldn't afford

He went on around the yards. They were vast. He felt sure that
somewhere there must be an unguarded entry, and set out to find it,
moving cautiously from shadow to shadow along the high plasti-board

Twice he blundered into watchmen. Once he nearly got himself run over.
But after a couple of hours he saw a bindlestiff slip through an
unguarded gate, and in half a minute he was right behind the man.

Ollie moved away from him. There was safety in solitude. Besides, he
had to find a Salt Lake train.

The sealed cars were addressed like so many packages. But he had to
have light to read by, and he risked discovery every time he moved into
the light and took his stance behind the reading glass.

There were other hazards; television beams for the yard clerks to read
numbers by, invisible beams for the bulls to catch him with, headlights
that suddenly flashed on blindingly, humped cars rolling unattended on
silent, murderous tires.

Ollie felt like an ant on a busy sidewalk, liable to be crushed under
foot at any moment.

But an added hazard helped him find his train. The bulls had read that
want ad too. They were out in force around a string of cars. He slipped
between two sleepy-looking men, checked an address, and then slipped
out again, certain every car would be inspected before departure.

A good way down the yard he hid at the base of the fence, dozing and
shivering for several hours as he lay stretched out on the dew-chilled
concrete. He checked each outbound train as it went by, and again knew
his by the bulls on it.

They were on the cowcatcher and in the cab, on the car roofs, and in
the caboose with the train-crew of three trouble-shooting mechanics.
Highlights gleamed on their weapons. Their job was to keep or get all
transients off that train--and they would if they could.

Ollie let most of the train go past. The caboose came by at about
fifteen miles an hour with a sharp-eyed guard head-and-shoulders out of
the cupola. Ollie let him get past, too--and hoped he went on looking
toward the front.

He began to hobble parallel to the train, dismayed at the stiffness
that had set in while he lay out on the damp concrete.

As the rear of the caboose drew even with him he emerged from the
shadows and dived for the coupling at the car's rear. He caught it
clumsily, tore the nail off his left ring finger, but hung on.

He tried to trot but the train dragged him. He gave a leapfrog player's
jump and landed on top of his own hands, his thighs around the
coupling, his nose against the rear platform-wall of the caboose.

The engine jerked slack out of the long train and nearly dislodged him.
One at a time he moved his hands from the coupling to the base of the
wall. He edged in a little closer. The train gathered speed.

He wasn't really on but he couldn't safely get off. He'd intended
climbing under the caboose to its rear truck, but the bulls and his own
lack of agility made this impossible so now he must ride where he was,
exposed to battering wind and searching cold as the train crossed the
High Sierras, and also exposed to the whims of the trainmen if any
should come out on the platform and look down.

He'd seen men shot off trains. But he didn't worry about it. Instead,
like the old hand he was, he tried to sleep while clinging there.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Sparks the train stopped for a maintenance check. The guards formed
a perimeter but Ollie was inside it. Too stiff to move far, he stayed
in a shadow while the mechanics inspected, then he climbed under the
caboose and stretched out on a girder separating two tires of the
rearmost, six-tired truck.

The tremendous tires fanned up hot winds when rolling, and these had
warmed the steel he lay on. Before the train started he ate a roll,
sucked the orange, and stretched out face down for the speed run across
the central Nevada flatlands.

The guards stayed behind. After the train had started, one of them
shined a light directly in Ollie's eyes.

The train kept on. And he was too close to the tires to be shot at;
rubber-coated death whirled within three inches at either side of him.

As the train picked up speed he was careful to lie still, but beyond
making sure he didn't touch the tires Ollie tried to put all thought of
risk from his mind.

He saw a sudden vivid picture of his dead wife and son as they'd looked
before the undertaker fixed them. They'd been killed while travelling.
In times when to succeed was to get somewhere, they'd been killed en
route. He couldn't remember where to.

They'd died in a head-on crash caused by a stranger's error in
judgment. A thing that didn't happen any more, now that highway
vehicles were controlled by beamed energy instead of individual drivers.

The highway was one place where the human had been tested against
the machine and found inferior. The office was another. If Minna and
Charlie hadn't died so long ago, they might have lived to see him
now--a bindlestiff so low he even lacked a bindle.

Still, it was lonely with no one in the whole wide world to care
whether he lived or died.

He sighed, shifted his position, and was nearly jerked under the wheels
by sudden contact with the tire on his right.

It was over in an instant. The tire simply ripped the coat from his

He still wore the sleeves. The rest was gone. Weathered thread had
saved him.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had ample time to think about the irony of that before rosy
dawnlight was reflected into his face from a glittering salt-pan. He
knew then he was still west of Salt Lake City, and that Short Air Force
Base was close.

Also close, now that night had withdrawn its concealment, was
discovery. He was sure to be found when next the train stopped.

Therefore he eased himself out of his coatsleeves. He moved gingerly,
but still chanced death to improve his appearance.

The train slowed, stopped.

Someone called, "Here he is," and a redhaired Air Policeman leaned
under the caboose, looked him over, and said, "Come on out, Pop."

Ollie's legs were stiff. The airman had to help.

"You're in kind of rough shape," he said. "Where did you think you were

"Why--uh--east." Ollie cast down his eyes, ashamed even to admit he'd
once entertained the notion he might get a job.

The airman wasn't fooled. "You slipped through the train guards after
the job we've got here. Didn't you, Pop?"

"All I want is out," said Ollie stubbornly.

"Well," said the airman, "you can't get off the Base without a pass.
You'll have to go up to Civilian Personnel and get one."

"Can't I wash first?"

He could. He could also get a jeep ride to the terra-cotta headquarters
building, with a stop along the way for a canteen-cup of coffee and a
slice of bread.

When they got to headquarters the airman asked, "Tell the truth, now;
didn't you really come after this job?"

Ollie wouldn't admit he'd lied about it, so he lied again.

"I've seen some of the other guys come in after it," the airman
insisted, "and you look as good as any of them. Why not try for it, now
you're here?"

He gave Ollie a long application to fill out and left him at a desk
just outside the personnel office.

From somewhere came the clatter of a facsimile-printer, carrying the
day's message from GHQ. A boy whistled above the squawk of a superwave
radio. But otherwise the place seemed deserted at that early-morning

For lack of anything better to do, Ollie filled out the application,
leaving the job title blank. The only thing that gave him pause, aside
from the difficulty of seeing, was his arrest record, and in time he
decided to put it down just as it was, including the pending assault
charge with its implication of jumped bail.

After an hour a young captain entered the building and went to the
office marked Adjutant. A fat major gave Ollie a piercing glance and
then entered the Civilian Personnel office. At about five minutes of
eight the place suddenly boiled with military and civilian people of
all ages and both sexes.

Things quieted promptly at eight. A blond youth came out of the office,
glanced at Ollie's application form, kept it, and invited him inside.

"First thing for you," he said, "will be a physical exam."

He took Ollie to another room and turned him over to a young medic
who put him in a box like a steam cabinet, attached electrodes to his
temples, wrists, ankles, and chest, and put a helmet on his head.

For five minutes Ollie stood encased, his stomach fluttering as he
recalled the grocer's warning. He waited for the vivisection to begin.

It didn't. He was removed from his shell and handed an inked graph.

"Here's your profile," the medic said. "It's good, considering. Take it
back to the fellow who brought you here."

He did and was ushered into a glassed-in office containing two desks,
each labelled Civilian Personnel Officer. At one sat the fat major. At
the other, a tallish young civilian held Ollie's application.

"My name is Katt," the civilian said, getting up to shake hands. "This
is Major Brownwight."

The major also shook his hand. Katt placed a straightbacked chair
between the two desks, and invited Ollie to sit in it. Ollie did,
gazing uncertainly from one man to the other.

"We heard you arrived by train early this morning," Katt said.

"Yes, sir."

"You were first reported in Sparks, but I'll bet you boarded that train
in San Francisco."

"Yes, sir. What's the penalty?"

"None. I like it. It's enterprising, athletic, and even brave for a man
of your years to do that for a job. Shows resourcefulness. Also skill,
because men are trying to nip rides here from all over the United
States, but very few arrive."

"They're too old," said Major Brownwight. He turned to Katt and added,
"I still don't think it's an old man's job!"

"Well sir," said Katt, stifling a sigh, "your predecessor understood
and approved of it. These old-timers have a lower metabolic rate
than younger people, with all that that implies. They don't mind the
enforced inactivity, they won't use up so much oxygen nor need so much
food, they won't spend so many hours in sleep. All qualities we need."

"Maybe so." The major turned to Ollie and said, "I just transferred in
here. You know more about this than I do."

"I don't even know what you're talking about," Ollie told him.

"Without divulging classified information," said Katt, "for which you
are not yet cleared, I can tell you these are little one-man jobs.
Small stuff--for pioneering. That's why we want you men with lots of
patience, who're used to being alone. People without a fixed place in
society, and not too much to leave behind. A husky old itinerant like
you is just what we want."

"For what?" Ollie insisted.

"To travel--as a sort of working passenger, since piloting will of
course be mechanical--in the first manned spaceships to leave Earth for
the stars."


"Sure. Solo spaceships. Super-fast, which means the trip will
seem relatively short while you're on it, and will give you extra
earth-years of life in the end.

"The job is much easier and less hazardous than the train ride that
brought you here. You're a natural for it. You really fit it."

"Do I, now?" A quick glow of inner warmth melted many bad years away.
Ollie grinned.

"You know," he said, "in a way that's a disappointment."

"How so?" asked the major aggressively. "Don't you want the job?"

"Yes, sir. I want it. But all these years I've been telling myself that
somewhere on this earth was a place I'd fit into, if only I could find
it. Now you tell me I fit in, but the place isn't here on Earth after

"Not right now, no," said Katt. "But you'll be back. Rich and famous,
too. No Home for you, Mr. Hollveg--you'll have a nice place of your

And he did--after photographing the planets of Arcturus.

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+ 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.