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´╗┐Title: Filthy Rich
Author: Sheinbaum, Fred
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 "Filthy Rich" ***

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



                _He was worse than Dillinger, the James
                Boys, Captain Kidd and Benedict Arnold
                   put together--all because he was_

                              FILTHY RICH

                           BY FRED SHEINBAUM

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Worlds of If Science Fiction, April 1957.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


The Thursday morning executive meeting of the General Products
Corporation was adjourned, as usual, with the Consumer's Pledge. The
same pledge recited each morning by children in schools across the
nation.

J.L. Spender, Assistant Vice-President of Cotter Pin Production for
Plant Five was proud to put in these extra Thursday mornings. Let the
common herd work their three day, twenty-one hour week. He was part of
the management team, working behind the scenes, constantly raising the
standard of living of the American Consumer.

A silent elevator whisked J.L. to the roof of the Administration
Building where the heliport attendant rolled out his new helicopter,
a June, 1998 Buick Skymaster. It was a sculpture in chrome and
plexiglass; a suitable vehicle for the assistant vice-president as
prescribed by _Consumer's Guide_. A loyal consumer, he bought the new
model every six months.

Once in the air and on course, J.L. set the Ultramatic autopilot--a new
feature on the '98 model--and pushed the chrome seat control lever to
semi-reclining. Scarcely a cloud marred the pristine blue, and below
nestled the neat, colorful homes of happy American consumers, but his
problem was not to be soothed by sinking back to enjoy the crisp spring
air.

Life, J.L. felt, would be all sweetness and light were it not for the
unaccountable affection his pretty young daughter, Glory, bore for an
ascetic looking young man of doubtful integrity as a consumer.

There had been a parade of acceptable young men through his front door,
none of whom had excited more in him than apathy.

But this one. He wore spectacles with heavy black frames when almost
everyone used disposable contact lenses. His suits were at least a
month behind the current style. And with all those young men to choose
from, Glory picked him to ask to dinner that evening.

Glory had been taught to respect the might of the dollar and the
disaster that comes of not spending it. She was a credit to her family;
a sound, patriotic consumer. She could spend money faster, more
sensibly than any of her frivolous friends. One fortunate young man
would find her an excellent wife. No dollar-hoarder would fill her mind
with subversive notions if he could prevent it.

Much as J.L. disliked having that particular young man to dinner, it
did afford the opportunity to spend some of the extra money that always
collected if you didn't watch very carefully. Being forced to pay a
savings tax wouldn't do his career or social position any good, and he
certainly wouldn't think of putting it into a secret bank account.

The Hudson river was beneath him. He would soon be home. The thought
reminded him that though the family had already passed the five year
mark in this house, he had still not made an appointment with his
architect.

Just before landing J.L. took the controls. The autopilot was supposed
to land itself, but somehow he felt better doing it himself. A control
on the dash opened the garage, another retracted the overhead rotors.
He drove in, closed the garage door, and got out.

He paused in the hall only long enough to throw his hat and top-coat
into the waste receptacle. From the kitchen he heard the familiar
crackling of packages being unwrapped.

"Home at last," he sighed, pecking Marge, his wife, on the cheek. "What
did you buy today, Honey?"

It was a treat to watch the pleasure with which Marge unwrapped
packages. J.L. bought most things out of a sense of duty, but Marge and
Glory really enjoyed spending money, God bless them.

"Oh, lots of things," Marge answered. She held a cut crystal goblet
to the light watching it sparkle. "A new set of china, this exquisite
stemware, and the loveliest linen tablecloth, and ... oh, and they're
sending a genuine oak table for the dining room. The shop I bought it
in has the cleverest service. The man who delivers the table cuts up
the old one so it can be used in the fireplace. Isn't that practical?"

"That _is_ clever," J.L. said. "It's a pity to waste it all on that
good-for-nothing, whatever his name is."

"Stringer."

"What?"

"That's his name, Ernest Stringer. Why is he a good-for-nothing? He
does dress oddly, I admit, but Glory seems to like him."

"That's exactly why I'm worried. If she asked him for dinner there's no
telling what's going on. A person like that is a bad influence." J.L.
said, punctuating by jabbing the air with his index finger.

"Now really, Dear. You hardly know him."

"I know him well enough. You are the one who claims to be such a
good judge of character. Look at those glasses he wears. Why doesn't
he wear disposable contact lenses like everyone else. It's positively
unsanitary. And did you see that suit? I'll say he dresses oddly. That
thing hasn't been in style for a month. I bet he doesn't spend half his
salary."

"Oh, I don't know." Marge said, abstractedly. She was admiring the
floral pattern on her new china. "But do be nice to him. Don't say
anything to embarrass Glory."

"Oh, I'll be nice all right. I guess I know how to act. You and your
daughter have trained me. And there are worse things than being
embarrassed." He would have gone on, but at that moment Glory sauntered
into the room.

"Hi, Dad. Back from the grind, I see." Her hair was the color of lemon
and in her blue eyes was reflected a youthful zest for life.

"Do you like the new dress? It comes in seventeen colors. I bought
them all. And hats and shoes and gloves and bags to match." She said,
walking as she had seen professional models walk, with arms akimbo and
swinging hips.

"Very pretty," he said, "but shouldn't there be a little more to it?
Style is style, but leave something to the imagination. They can't be
using up much fabric with a number like that."

"See, Mom. Didn't I tell you exactly what he'd say? Daddy is so
mid-century. Aren't you, Darling?"

"Glory, at the risk of seeming ... ah ... mid-century, I think you owe
your mother and myself some information about this person you've asked
to dinner."

"What kind of information? You've met him," she said. Her eyes narrowed
slightly.

"Yes, I've met him. What is his background? What does he work at? What
kind of a consumer is he?"

"Dad, you are not being fair."

"Not fair? Why not? Are you ashamed of him?"

"No, I'm not ashamed of him. Ernie is a dear sweet boy. He lost both of
his parents when he was very young. Bringing himself up has made him
different from most people, I guess. But he has done very well. And all
by himself, too. He's an OE, you know."

This only added heat to J.L.'s burning suspicion. "I don't want to
sound narrow minded, Glory, but I've met a good many Opinion Engineers
in business and darned few of them are fit company for a young girl.
They picture themselves as independent thinkers. They don't spend their
money as they should."

Glory's lips whitened as she pressed them together. J.L. saw the
gathering storm in her eyes. "That's not fair," she said. "Ernie is
perfectly all right. He just needs looking after. Mother, help me."

Marge smiled calmly, and said, "Your father is just acting like a
father, that's all. He is trying to protect you."

"Well, I'm twenty years old, almost. And it's practically the
twenty-first century, but it looks like the middle ages around here.
I'm sorry I asked him to come. I'll never ask anyone again." She threw
her head back and pressed the back of her hand to her forehead.

"Now don't start getting dramatic. I only want what's best for you,
J.L. said. But it was only bluff. He knew when he was licked.

"All right, all right," he said, trying to prevent her tears from
brimming over. "I promise to be good tonight." It was time for him to
retreat, as gracefully as possible, to his study and the latest issue
of _Consumer's Guide_.

Which he did.

       *       *       *       *       *

At a quarter of seven J.L. tottered into his living room. He was fully
dressed except for a bright red sash hanging slack, like a sail in the
doldrums, just brushing the tops of his patent leather shoes.

Dressing was a nerve-jarring, thirst-making business. He was in full
sympathy with the need for changing men's styles so frequently, but
those overpaid designers could surely dream up easier outfits to get
into.

He separated a decanter of bourbon from its fellows on the
mirror-backed shelves and from it poured a lavish helping. Using the
tip of his index finger, he twirled the ice cubes and, with a sigh,
lifted the golden fluid to his lips.

Over the rim of the glass he saw Glory come floating into view. She was
dressed, mostly below the waist, in yards of a light gauzy fabric that
seemed to have life of its own.

She stopped at the door while her eyes slowly swept the room. J.L. was
reminded of a spider making sure the web would be cosy. Her glance
came to rest on the portly figure of her father.

She exhaled a sigh of controlled exasperation. "Daddy, your sash is
hanging. It looks like a flag at half mast."

"I am perfectly aware that my sash is hanging." He wasn't sure he
approved of the tone of her voice.

"Well tuck it up then. Ernie will be here any minute."

"It refuses to stay up. How do you know? Maybe it is supposed to hang.
Those designers should be forced to dress themselves in these things
before they loose them on an unsuspecting public."

She glided towards him and, with a few deft touches, the sash was
neatly in place. "Dad, promise you'll be nice to him."

J.L. smiled. Much as he protested, he liked being fussed over. "Of
course, I'll be nice. When am I not nice? I just said those things
about him because ... well, I wanted you to be wary."

"Don't worry about Ernie. He's a dear. And, please, no economics
lectures. That business about thrift being a menace to prosperity may
have been a new idea when you were young, but now every kid in school
is taught it. So spare us. It makes you sound like an old fuddy duddy."

Fuddy duddy? J.L. was about to make a stunning rejoinder when he heard
the whirring of helicopter rotors overhead.

"There he is." Glory said, excitedly, "Let him in."

"Where are you running?" he asked, surprised. She was as fully dressed
as she was likely to be.

"You know I can't be here when he comes in," she said.

"Can't be here? Where else should you be?" J.L. asked. The situation
was getting out of hand.

"Strategy, my dear parent. I can't just be sitting here waiting when he
walks in. He is supposed to be waiting for me ... with bated breath. It
makes my entrance more effective. Ta ta for now." She was gone.

The prospect of dining at the same table with the young man was
repellent enough. Now he would have to provide entertaining
conversation until Glory chose to appear.

The door chimes sounded.

J.L. drained his glass, stiffened his spine, and strode to the door
pulling it open with a jerk, like a doctor removing adhesive tape.

Any hope J.L. might have had was dashed when the door opened to reveal
Ernest Stringer, his piercing brown eyes, a tight lipped smile, and the
traditional gift of candy under his arm.

"Good evening, Mr. Spender," he said. "You are, I believe, expecting
me." He was so thin that the current, tight fitting style made him look
very like a figure constructed with pipe cleaners.

J.L. did his best to appear gracious. "Come in, come in," he said,
taking his hat and coat. "Glory will be in soon."

The suit was up to date, but J.L. spotted other telling details. His
heels were slightly lighter in color than the rest of the shoes,
indicating they had been reheeled. It was also evident, to a trained
eye, that the collar and cuffs of his shirt had been resized, proof
that the shirt had been laundered; perhaps, even more than once.

"What can I get you to drink?" J.L. asked, leading the way into the
living room.

"Nothing, thank you. I seldom take alcohol," the young man said.

"Is that right? A young fellow like you. It certainly is fortunate that
the rest of your generation doesn't share your prejudice. Alcoholic
beverages account for more than five percent of total consumer
purchases."

"Five percent. As much as that? Well, in that case I should have
something. Ah ... a glass of sherry, I think," he said, smiling with
lips unparted.

"Sherry? Sure you don't want something more ... more substantial?"

"Sherry will do nicely, thank you."

A sherry drinker is capable of anything, J.L. thought. He poured the
wine into a high stemmed glass and mixed another bourbon for himself;
this time going a little easier on the ice.

The young man held the stem between spidery fingers, turning it slowly,
delicately sniffing the bouquet.

J.L. wished Glory or Marge would rescue him. He couldn't think of a
thing to say. What could one say to a male sherry drinker?

"What do you think of the international situation?" J.L. asked, just to
break the uncomfortable silence.

"What international situation?"

"I mean do you think we are headed for war?" J.L. was sorry he had
asked the harmless question.

The young man laughed derisively. "What an idea. Of course there won't
be a war," he said.

"Why do you say that?" He wanted to see how far Stringer would go.

"It's quite evident isn't it? War has been threatening for more than
fifty years. It will probably continue to threaten for fifty more. It
gives our government and that of our enemies the excuse to build enough
munitions to take up the slack in the economy between production and
the ability to consume what we produce."

"That's ridiculous. I've never heard such nonsense." The young idiot,
he thought, anyone with sense knew that to be true, but no one made a
fuss about it for fear of upsetting a system that worked so well.

It was an accepted fact of life, certainly preferable to actual war,
and never mentioned in polite society.

Stringer continued, speaking slowly, as if explaining to a very small
child. He clasped his long fingers over his left knee hugging it almost
to his chest, and rocked himself slightly. "Don't you see? If there was
a real war millions of consumers would be taken out of the market for
the duration, and many permanently. But this way governments can spend
as much as they need to on war goods, to balance the economy, without
disturbing the consumers at all.

"The politicians love it, too. It supplies them with political issues,
not easily come by these days," Stringer concluded. He seemed pleased
with himself.

J.L.'s glass was again empty. He rose to fill it saying, "That is a
very interesting theory. Have you told it to many people?"

Stringer did not answer.

J.L. turned to see what had caused this sudden reticence. The young man
sat with wide-eyed stare and loosely hanging jaw; obviously incapable
of speech.

Glory had made her strategic entrance.

"Ah, there you are, Dear," J.L. said. "Mr. Stringer, here, has just
been explaining international politics to me."

"Doesn't he have a fine mind, Daddy?" she said, catching the young
man's hand and favoring him with a smile that set his adam's apple to
dancing.

Fine? J.L. thought, narrow would be more accurate. He was about to
make an audible comment along those lines when Marge called them in to
dinner.

All through the meal Marge fawned upon the young man, indulging the
predatory instinct of a mother with a marriageable daughter.

With the clam bisque she told of Glory's childhood; the prettiest child
in the neighborhood. With the pressed duckling she told of an army of
suitors, each more desirable than the last, that Glory had discarded
like week-old overcoats. And with the fresh tropical fruit supreme she
praised the condition of matrimony with such fervor that J.L. could
feel the warmth of a blush on his cheek.

When the young people left for the evening Marge sighed and said,
"Don't they make a nice couple?"

"Have you lost your mind?" J.L. replied, with almost saintly restraint.

"Is something the matter, Dear?"

J.L. threw up his hands in despair. "Is something the matter, she asks.
Why did you butter him up like that? Did you see his face? He looked
like a dog being scratched behind the ear. If he proposes to Glory
tonight it's your fault."

"Well, I think he'd make a fine son-in-law."

"That non-consumer? I'd sooner drop him from the helicopter," he said.
He noticed she was smiling. "Don't laugh, Marge. This is serious. I'm
going to have a good long talk with Glory when she gets home. I'll put
a stop to this."

"Be careful what you say, Dear," she said.

"Don't worry. I guess I know how to talk to my own daughter. I'm as
modern as the next parent, you know that. But there comes a time when
every child needs guidance, and I...."

"Don't stay up too late, Dear," Marge interrupted, squelching a yawn.
She kissed his cheek and left the room.

J.L. poured another drink and settled in a comfortable chair to wait
and to plan.

Perhaps he should be imperious. On the screen of his imagination he saw
himself. He was taller. His arms were folded high on his chest; his
legs were spread wide like two sturdy trees. He had grown a full handle
bar mustache. "Glory," he could hear himself say, "I forbid you ever to
see that man again."

Unfortunately the screen showed the probable result. She salaamed
before him, touching her forehead to the carpet, "I hear and obey O
Magnificent One." Sarcasm was more than he could bear. If only he had
some proof. If only Marge hadn't been so approving.

The slam of the front door dragged him from a nightmare in which Glory,
having married Ernest Stringer, was drowning in a roomful of coin and
currency. The level of money had just reached her frightened eyes.

In the dim light of the hall he saw her leaning against the door she
had slammed. Her shoulders were hunched with sobbing.

"Glory, what's the matter?"

She looked up, saw her father, and ran to her room.

J.L. heaved out of the chair and followed, slowly. Her door was open
a crack. He hesitated, then knocked lightly. No answer. He pushed the
door wide enough to see in. She was perched on the edge of the bed,
elbows on her knees, crying silently in the darkened room.

"Mind if I come in?"

Still no answer.

He stepped in and sat gingerly on the bed beside her. Several minutes
passed. "Want to tell me?" he said gently.

She shook her head violently without looking up.

Suddenly, she turned and pressed her face to his chest. The sobbing
subsided a little and her words came haltingly.

"It was awful. He's a subversive--a criminal--and I didn't even guess."
She caught her breath. "We flew over to Staten Island. He parked near
the water. Then he said, 'I want you to marry me.' Just like that. I
liked him a lot--but I didn't know what to say. Then he said--Oh Daddy,
it was horrible--" Her sobs increased again and she fumbled for his
pocket kerchief. "He--he said, 'Look at this'. And Daddy it was one of
those secret bankbooks! He has one hundred thousand dollars--and he's
only twenty-five--and he's proud of it! He's worse than the old time
gangsters, worse than--oh, Daddy--he's a non-consumer...." The last
word trailed off in a wail and she was sobbing again.

J.L. tightened his grip on her shoulders. "Be thankful, Baby," he
murmured. "Be thankful you found the dirty so-and-so out in time."





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