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´╗┐Title: A Message From Our Sponsor
Author: Slesar, Henry
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Message From Our Sponsor" ***

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                      A Message From Our Sponsor

                            By HENRY SLESAR

                          Illustrated by LEE

                 _The foot-in-the-door technique would
                  work perfectly for any salesman--if
                      he had an invisible foot!_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Infinity Science Fiction, October 1956.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

"And that was Smoky Donahue's Western Swingsters, playing _Red Dust_
for all you Martian fans out there. Now let's take a look at the new
recordings, hot off the presses this week from all over the system.
Looks like we have a real treat for you tonight, folks! There's a
brand-new label from way out in outer space. Yes, sir, the very _first_
record put on wax by the Martian Recording Company, and it ought to
be a lulu. We'll spin it for you in just a minute, but first, here's a
message from our sponsor, the Oxygen Corporation of America--Earth's
oldest and finest manufacturers of compressed oxygen equipment.

"Friends, when you're scooting around in your little rocket roadster,
do you ever stop to think that your fine vehicle deserves nothing but
the best in equipment and accessories? Well, next time, take a look at
your oxygen tanks. Are you still using the cumbersome, old, outmoded
tank, with ugly valves and low capacity? Wouldn't you rather have the
new, streamlined Oxco tank that gives you months of service without
refilling? Models cost as low as four thousand dollars, and they're
guaranteed up to a full year. Call your local rocket supply store
today, and get all the facts. When you see the new Oxco, you'll know
why we say ... Oxco never leaves you breathless!

"Well, I see Jonesy, our control board operator, waving at me like
mad, folks. He wants to hear this new disc from Mars, too. So--without
further ado--here we go. It's on the Canal label, and it's called ...

       *       *       *       *       *

The boss slammed the file drawer shut in disgust.

The Martian, standing before his desk, shuffled his feet and rotated
his cap with his third hand. "Displeasing you?" he said. "Come back
other time do?"

"No!" Huber pointed to the chair. "You sit down. We're going to
straighten this whole thing out right now."

He reached across the desk and snapped on the intercom. "Davis!" he
said. "We're going to have a foremen's meeting. This minute!" Davis, at
the other end, was inclined to argue, but the boss stopped him. "Don't
tell me we're busy! I know our production schedule better than you do.
Get the foremen up here right away!"

The foremen shuffled in ten minutes later. They looked sheepish, like
small boys caught in the jam pot.

Huber got right to the point.

"Your boys have been picking on Chafnu again. _And I won't stand for
it!_" He slapped the desk with a board-like palm for emphasis.

Curly, the foreman, said: "Aw, gee, boss. Just a little rhubarb, that's
all. Just a little kiddin' around. Boys didn't mean any harm."

"Mean any _harm_?" Huber's eyes went so wide they threatened to pop out
on the desk. "Chafnu! Show it to 'em."

The Martian looked embarrassed. Then he slowly lifted his rope-like
foot and displayed the quarter-sized burn on the heel.

"Kidding around!" Huber looked dangerous. "That's what you call
kidding around? They could have burned Chafnu to a crisp! You know how
sensitive he is!"

Burke, the small parts man, said placatingly: "Well, the boys are kinda
edgy, Mr. Huber. It must be the weather or something. They need a
little what-do-you-call-it, outlet."

"Besides," said Curly, "the Goons kinda provoke 'em, you know what I

"_Don't ever use that word to me!_"

The irritation that had been brewing in Huber all day now boiled over.
He walked around the desk and shoved his big-jawed face up close to
Curly's chin. His small stature made no difference; Curly trembled

"They're Martians," the boss said. "Not Goons. Understand? _Martians!_
Isn't that right, Chafnu?"

Chafnu looked as if he wished Earth had never been born. He glanced up
guiltily at the assembled foremen.

"All right," said Huber. "Now let's get this straight. One more
incident like today, and I'll hold you guys responsible. Chafnu and all
the other Martians in this plant are doing good work--better, if you
want to know, than most of you Earth guys--"

"Sure," mumbled Curly. "If we had three hands, we could--"

"That's enough, I said!" shouted the boss. He swabbed his forehead
with his hand. "We got Oxco tanks to turn out, so let's get to it. The
meeting's over!"

The foremen left, more crestfallen than when they had entered the
office. Chafnu looked uncertain as to what he should do next. The
Martian simply sat and watched Huber go back to his desk.

The boss went over to the musaphone and flipped the switch.

"My nerves are shot," he told Chafnu.

He sat back in his swivel chair, sighed, and closed his eyes. The
haunting strains of _Melancholy_ drifted through the office, and Huber
listened and slowly relaxed.

The Martian just sat there, miserably.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Hi, there, fly-boys!

"Time to climb into the wild black yonder again, with your old skipper,
Vince Vanelli, bringing aid and comfort to all the ships in space. We
got a rocket chamber full of new notes and blue notes, all the latest
hits from the Bings of Earth to the Rings of Saturn. So buckle your
g-belts, and lend an ear to the biggest instrumental smash that's hit
the System in an eon.

"You asked for it, spacemen, so here it is again. That everloving
outer-space symphony--_Melancholy_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Pursuit_ was in orbit when the accident happened.

Earth's gravity gripped it like a giant hand and brought it plummeting
down into a granite quarry in Wisconsin. It was a Sunday, and the
explosion of the ship's reactors didn't kill anyone but the two pilots.
There was a routine investigation, but the evidence, as usual, was
spread across too many states to make it productive.

But when the _Marjorie_, a space freighter, got herself in trouble,
the pilot managed to reach the Earth Communication Center before
he disappeared forever into the Mediterranean. The voice cried out
something like "Ox on the bum!"

Then the _Pinafore_ registered an S.O.S. This time an accident was
avoided. A tug was dispatched to the site in a hurry, and the pilots
were transferred. The captain of the tug submitted his log to the Space
Commerce board, and the most pertinent page read:

"_Pinafore's_ oxygen tanks (mfr. Oxco, Serial #2853) were defective,
and were seriously endangering life aboard."

       *       *       *       *       *

Diana Huber tilted the decanter and held it over the glass a little
too long for her husband's liking.

"Easy, easy," he cried from his chair. "How much of that stuff do you
think I can take?"

"This one's mine," she said, starting to pour another.

Huber shifted in his seat. "Aren't you overdoing it, honey?" he asked
uneasily. "I mean, do you really think you should drink so much?"

"It kills time," she said. "It makes the hours a little shorter. What
else have I got to do? You've got your job. What have I got?"

"Well, I only meant--I mean, if the kids--"

"The kids are pasted to the screen," she replied, meaning that they
were at the TV set. She flopped on the overstuffed sofa and yanked
her skirt almost up to her thighs. She still had lovely legs, Huber
thought, but she used them like an old frump. And she wasn't even
fifty--just forty-seven. Why did she have to flop around that way?

"Well, let's have it," she said, twirling the amber fluid in her glass.
"My Hard Day at the Office. By George Huber, Age Eleven."

He looked up, almost shyly. "Oh, nothing new," he said in a low voice.
"Same old stuff."

Diana swallowed half her Scotch. She gave a little cough, blinked, and
said harshly: "You know that's not so. Something's up. Some kind of
labor trouble. And your tanks are blowing out all over space. Is that
the 'same old stuff,' George, dear?"

Huber put down his paper. "It's the men!" he said. "They've gone nuts
or something! Mopin' around all day, singin' the blues, snapping your
head off if you make one little suggestion--"

Diana closed her eyes. "I'm listening. Go on."

"Something's gone wrong with all of them," said Huber, eager to pour
out his overburdened heart. "They act like they just don't want to
work. Turning out plain junk on the assembly line. Even the Accuracy
Control boys are letting down on the job, and they're supposed to be
cracker-jacks! In fact, the only guys that are doing any kind of job
are the Martians. I hired myself fifteen more today. But that's only
gonna stir up _more_ fuss...."

"I hate them," said Diana, sipping slowly and looking down into her
glass moodily. "Ugly, slippery things. Ugh!"

"What?" said Huber blankly.

"Your Martian friends. Taking away good jobs from Earth people. Never
buying anything. And those awful arms! If you ask me, we ought to send
them right back where they--"

"You don't know them!" he interrupted loudly. "They're nice, quiet
folks. They work hard and they don't give you a hard time. They're ten
times as efficient as some of the bums in--"

"All right, all right! You don't have to shout at me." Diana stood
up and gulped the rest of her drink down. Then she went over to the

"Are you going to play that song again?" asked Huber.

"Do you mind?" she said sarcastically. "I happen to like it."

Huber said something under his breath and returned to his paper. But
when the record started, he put it down and just listened as the
strange, haunting Martian melody filled the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

BLINKER: Then the Martian says, "For Pete's sake! Why can't
you clean up this filthy cave sometimes?"

STRAIGHT MAN: So what did his wife say?

BLINKER: So his wife says, "What do you expect? I've only got
three hands!"


STRAIGHT MAN: Well, tell me, Blinker--what else did you do on
your trip to Mars? Did you meet any--what's wrong?

BLINKER: Nothing's wrong. Just don't step in front of the
camera, that's all.

STRAIGHT MAN: Hah, hah. Sorry, old man. Er--tell me, what else
did you do on--

BLINKER: Now for Chrissakes, I told you to get out of the
way! What're you trying to do? Hog the show?

DIRECTOR: (OFF CAMERA) Psst! Blinker! What are you
doing? We're on the air!

BLINKER: I don't care if we're on the air ---- air! I won't be
pushed around!

STRAIGHT MAN: You won't, huh? Okay, you fat tub of lard! I've
had enough of your--

DIRECTOR: Blinker! Adams!

BLINKER: I'll punch that stupid face right into--

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, due to circumstances beyond
our control, the Universal Broadcasting Company interrupts the Joe
Blinker Comedy Hour to bring you a program of recorded mood music.
Our first selection is a popular record on the Canal label, entitled

       *       *       *       *       *

The chairman rapped his gavel for order.

"One more demonstration like that, and we'll have to clear the room
of spectators," he warned. "This inquiry is a serious matter, and we
cannot permit levity. Now, Mr. Collins, go on with your testimony."

Montague Collins, the 51% owner of the Oxygen Corporation of America,
looked uncomfortable.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I did not mean to be funny. I agree
with the chair that defective equipment is a serious business, and my
reference to the Martians' three hands was meant in earnest."

"We understand. Go ahead, Mr. Collins."

"I was merely stating that, contrary to articles in the public press,
the Martians' efficiency level has been more than maintained at the
Oxco plant. It's the human efficiency level that has declined."

There was an excited buzzing.

"I believe," he continued, mopping his face, "that this fact will be
borne out by the experience of many other manufacturers. And I'd like
to submit in evidence some replies to letters I have sent to executives
all over America. You will see that they corroborate what I have told
you. May I have the Chair's permission to read these replies as part of
my testimony?"

"It does not seem relevant at the moment, Mr. Collins, but they may be
submitted for publication into the record. Please tell us about your
own experience."

"I'm afraid I do not have much to add. As a result of our troubles, we
are increasing the number of Martian employees considerably."

"Just how many is 'considerable,' Mr. Collins?"

Montague Collins cleared his throat.

"We now employ four Martians to every three humans."

Not even the gavel could quiet the spectators this time.

       *       *       *       *       *

Curly was about to demolish a ham-and-swiss on rye. But when the
Martian moved across his line of vision, he paused and called out:

"Hey, Chafnu!"

The Martian stopped and swiveled his bulbous head around at the
foreman. "Yes?" he said.

"Want a bite of this?" He held up the sandwich.

"No, your thanks," said Chafnu.

"Go on, have a taste. It's good for you."

"Do not think this," said Chafnu, trying to solve the old riddle of how
to produce an engaging smile. He merely succeeded in looking like a
surprised beetle.

"Whatsamatter, Chafnu? Too good to eat with your foreman?" Curly
flushed. The hirings-and-firings of the last two months had unnerved
him, and the fact that he was handling his own job poorly only made the
situation worse.

"Have not required to food," said the Martian. "Best existence of
silicone substances. Understanding do? However, your thanks, and very."

He began to move on, but Curly was obviously in the mood for trouble.
He got up from the bench and put his beefy hand around one of Chafnu's

"It's pain," said Chafnu mildly. "Improvement if released, your thanks."

"You're a wise guy, Chafnu," said Curly. He knew that he was skirting
a dangerous edge, but he was just too irritated to care. "You're a
bug-eyed bastard. What do you say about that?"

"I have comment inward," the Martian answered, trying to pull away from
the foreman's grip.

"In fact," said Curly, now squeezing harder, "I got a good mind to kick
you right in the seat of the pants. And keep kickin' till you fly right
back to Mars."

"Pain," said Chafnu. "Can release do?"

"And what if I don't?"

"Am in power yours," said the Martian.

"You're goddam right. And I'm going to give you a little lesson in
manners, you--"


Huber came striding over fast, and the look on his face was sufficient
to make the foreman drop both Martian and sandwich.

"Gee, boss, I--"

"Never mind!" Huber thundered. "You had the chance. Now you're getting
your walking papers! Get out of here, Curly! Get out of here now!"

"But Mr. Huber--"

"I said _beat it_! You're not the foreman around here any more. And in
case you want to know who your successor is, take a good look!"

Huber pointed a shaking finger at Chafnu, who bowed his head modestly.

       *       *       *       *       *

"... and here it is, folks! The big one! The top one! The melody that
swept the Solar System! You've proved that you love it. All the disc
jockey requests, all the record sales, all the juke-box half-dollars
have shown that, once more, for the forty-first week in a row--the
number one tune on your hit parade is--"


"But don't get excited, folks! Because I'm _not_ going to play it for
you! I'm going to spin it all for myself--and you can just sit there
and drool! And if anybody wants to fire me for it, let 'em go ahead and
see if I care! Heh, heh, heh--_Ulp!_"

       *       *       *       *       *

Woolsey, of the U.S. Department of Labor, zipped up his brief case and
went over to the office window.

He looked outside at the Capitol building, but the location permitted
only a fractional view of the impressive edifice. Anyway, the sun was
shining brightly and the grass was green.

The man sitting in the chair facing his desk recalled his presence with
a polite cough.

"Oh," said Woolsey, turning around. "Sorry. Mind's wandering, I guess."

"I know how you feel, Mr. Woolsey. My job is getting me down, too.
Can't seem to get interested in the newspaper any more. Just the
thought of working irritates me."

Woolsey sat down, humming softly to himself. He toyed with a paper
clip, then started to bend it out of shape.

"But I guess I better get the story," sighed the man in the chair.
"Boss will give me hell otherwise. Although," he added, "he seems to
care about working even less than I do."

"Yes," said Woolsey abstractedly. "My, it certainly is a nice day. Damn
shame to be indoors on a day like this."

"What say we go for a walk?" asked the reporter. "We can take a stroll
around the fountain. We can do our business just as well."

"Splendid idea!" said Woolsey. "This place is getting on my nerves."

Outside, the Assistant Labor Secretary said:

"Oh, it's true, all right. The Martian labor force now outnumbers the
humans by five to one. Some companies have completely converted to
Martians--like the Oxco Corporation, for instance. In fact, it probably
won't be very long before we'll have an all-Martian labor force across
the country."

The reporter said: "Can I quote you?"

"If you like." The Labor man shrugged. "Seems like employers just can't
find men interested in their jobs. But the Martians go merrily along,
using their three hands at maximum efficiency. And it's not just in
manual labor that they're gaining tremendous amounts of ground."

"How do you mean?"

Woolsey paused by the flowing fountain, watching the cool gusher leap
from the mouth of a stone fish.

"Well," he said vaguely, "they're taking over other kinds of work.
White collar stuff. Teaching. Architecture. In fact, I hear that the
Brooklyn Dodgers are considering a Martian for third base--"


Woolsey said: "Water looks nice, doesn't it? I wonder if they would
mind if I took my shoes off and--"

"Mr. Woolsey!"

"Oh, just for a minute, you know. Can't see any harm in it. Matter of
fact, should be quite refreshing."

"Yes, but, sir--"

"Oh, come now," said Woolsey, starting to unlace his shoes. "If you'd
rather work, go ahead. I want to relax." He took his shoes off and
began to work on the socks, humming the strains of _Melancholy_ to

The reporter scratched his head. "I _don't_ want to work," he
confessed. "I haven't wanted to work for months. The whole idea of
working just makes me sore."

He hesitated a moment, and then reached down for his shoe-laces.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Martian stood in front of the boss's desk, but this time, there was
no nervousness in his manner.

"Chafnu--" said Huber.

"Yes, sir?" said the new foreman.

"Chafnu, I have something to tell you. And I don't know how you're
going to take it."

"Please?" said Chafnu.

Huber got up and went to the table. There was a leather suitcase
perched on top. He took it off and placed it on his desk; then he
opened it. He reached over and took Diana's photograph from the blotter
and put it inside.

"You've been doing a good job," the boss continued. "An excellent job,
as a matter of fact."

"Properly thanking," said Chafnu.

"I don't want you to thank me. It's only logical, after all. Especially
when we put nothing but Martians in your shop. We needed a Martian
foreman then."

He went to the bookcase, lifted out two of the books, and dropped them
into the suitcase.

"Now things have changed again, Chafnu. Changed drastically. And the
Oxygen Corporation of America is going to need your help."

"Desirable of service," said Chafnu. "Very willing of it."

"I know you are. And that's why the Board of Directors have decided
that you should take over the whole show." He clicked the suitcase shut
with an air of finality.

"Uncomprehend," said the Martian blankly.

"We're an all-Martian plant now," Huber said. "Even the front office
will soon be all-Martian. The stockholders figure that the only
reasonable thing to do is put a Martian in charge of everything. You
were my recommendation, and the Board accepted it."

"But strange. You work job, do not?"

"If you mean it's my job, the answer is no. It's not my job any more.
Oh, don't feel sorry for me. I _want_ to quit. I just haven't been
pulling my weight around here for the last year. I'm getting lazy or
something, Chafnu. The whole idea of working bores me silly."

Huber went over to the musaphone and turned it on.

"_Melancholy_," he said, as the haunting phrases emerged from the
loudspeaker. "That's the way I feel about working. You know something,
Chafnu? Sometimes I think that damned tune has something to do with


"Oh, I know it sounds crazy. But somehow, the way I feel about working
and the way that tune sounds--they're all mixed up in my mind. Oh,
well." The boss picked up his suitcase. "The job's yours, Chafnu. So's
the office. Both of 'em aren't the greatest in the world, but I had
some fun."

He stuck out his hand. "Good luck," he said.

"Cannot," said Chafnu.


"Impossible for acceptance," said the Martian.

"But why?" said Huber. "You know you can handle it."

"Confidence great and very," said the Martian. "But reason is not for
acceptance. Plentiful job for Martians."

"I don't get you."

"Declined offer responsible to plan change, understand. Quitting from
factory do Chafnu. Otherwise business."

"You mean you're leaving the factory? You're going to take another
job?" Huber looked befuddled.

"Excitement offer," said the Martian. "Great salary remuneration.

"Well, I'll be damned." Huber grinned and slapped Chafnu lightly on his
sensitive back. "I guess you know what you're doing, Chafnu. Plenty of
opportunities for a Martian these days--especially since humans don't
seem to want to work."

"Situation so," said Chafnu.

"Okay, then," said Huber. "Whatever you have in mind, Chafnu, I hope
you make a go of it. Good luck, old pal!"

"Friendship," said Chafnu warmly, clasping Huber's hand in his three
and shaking it enthusiastically.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Hello you today! Time again emerging for spins on table with disc
black musical. Back up and sit relax! Pipe smoke and good food eating!
Abundancy music available herein, bring pleasure immensely into home
yours. Currency latest in recordings, employing old yours Chicho
Chafnu, piping soon big favorite Martian song _Melancholy_.

"But firstly, a message from sponsor ours...."

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