The devil was in the fog that night. You could feel it with every gust of wind and droplet of moisture against your face. You could hear it as the courthouse clock struck midnight. You could see it in the dim light of the corner lamppost and the blinking traffic signals. You could sense it in the sound of the garbage truck feeding itself with the contents of the dumpster behind the drug store. It was a bad night to be walking rounds. But he had sworn when he set out that nothing could make him not complete his hourly rounds. He needed this job to offset his meager early retirement from when the mill shut down.
As he walked the fog was getting so thick, you could not see your hand in front of your face. The temperature was continuing to drop. In his mustache and beard, the condensation from his breathing was freezing. No other night watchman, he thought, dared to brave walking the rounds. The other two on duty huddled around the coffee pot. Telling lies about what they did in the war, the evils of corporate buyouts and forced retirements, and what they did with certain widow ladies in town to help them not be so lonely occupied their time.
From the distance the whistle sound of the 12:05 train from New Orléans filled the air. The horns of the boats out on the Mississippi River belched their warnings as they fought their way upriver, against the current, pushing their barges northward. Their sounds became clearer as he worked his way from the courthouse square down to the waterfront.
As he turned the corner onto Vicksburg Avenue, he could see two shadowy figures struggling down at the entrance of the Union Mission. Thanks to the backlight of the open door he could tell this was a life or death struggle. Damn, he thought, looks like two drunks trying to kill each other. I better go get the real police. Somebody’s going to get killed. He stopped. He was looking, staring. The devil must have been looking, too.
Suddenly, from the river was a massive explosion. A ball of fire was not only shooting up into the sky, but burning cylinders were being spewed from the barge like a giant July 4th fireworks display. Some were going straight up. Some were going upriver. My God, one went straight into the pilot’s window on the tug completely obliterating the superstructure. And, oh no! One was rocketing straight toward him.
The two men stopped their fighting in front of the Union Mission. They both yelled inside for help and ran up to the corner where the last cylinder impacted.
The smell of burning flesh filled the air. His upper body was at least ten feet from his legs. His intestines were spread over the distance in-between.
“It cut him in two and barbecued him at the same time,” said the first drunk.
“Who, who is he?” asked the second drunk.
The preacher from the mission had run outside and up the sidewalk to the corner during the commotion. “That was the night watchman,” answered the out of breath parson.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Tonight, March 21, 2015, I had a call from my nearly ninety years old dad. He’s a cat lover and owner of two cats. One’s name is Smokey and the other Sugar. The cats are sixteen years twenty days old according to the vet’s records; dad took Smokey to the vet today. The animal doctor performed blood tests and gave her a couple of shots.
Smokey the cat had done poorly for a few days. Dad was concerned for Smokey’s health. She was his late wife’s cat. About 7:00 PM dad called me. He was crying. Smokey had died. It made me think back to that day twenty-five years ago when I cried when my kitty died. Here is my cat Hallie’s story as I wrote it for my the newspaper column I wrote back in September 1990.
Great big crocodile tears were streaming down my face. The tears wouldn’t stop coming. My sobbing was so loud my sons, Kristopher and Jason, wondered if I would be all right. My wife Miss Benita’s comforting arms had never seen me this way before. She assumed one or both of my parents had been killed from the magnitude of my grief. I was glad my daughter Sara was spending the night at her best friend Amelia’s house.
What had brought about this emotional upheaval in me? What would have me grieving with more intensity than when my grandparents or wife’s brother died?
A car squashed my cat Hallie. Specifically, it crushed her skull. Sadly, my two sons had witnessed the tragedy. They ran crying to get me to make it all better. I couldn’t make it better. While her little body was still warm, my kitty was dead.
Hallie was a beautiful, small Calico Cat. She had been born on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th. She died less than six months later on my wife’s birthday, September 14th.
Why make all the fuss about a cat? I loved my kitty. She loved me. It was a love that demanded nothing from me. A love that would rub up against my pants leg even after I accidentally stepped on her tail. A love that would sit nervously in my lap as we rode to the vet’s to get shots, “get fixed”, and the very day she died, to get stitches out from the above mentioned surgery.
She had a love for me that would wait for me to finish mowing the yard to get petted or have her tummy scratched. Hallie was one of the few that demanded nothing from me. She gave me her love and affection in return for hearing her name, a bowel of dry cat food, or an occasional saucer of milk. If you have ever had a kitty or dog die, you understand.
We can learn from a cat. We too, should love with no strings attached.
NOTE: At the time my kitty was run over on September 14, 1990 I served as Associate Pastor and Day School Headmaster at First Baptist Church, Jasper, Texas. My sons were 13 years old, 10 years old and my daughter was two months shy of her sixth birthday. At the time I wrote a local newspaper article. The above was my column that week. I received hundreds of sympathy cards with stories of others loosing their pets.
I love reading and writing short stories. A few years ago I came up with the idea of writing a nonfiction article on the five most influential pre-1950 computers in science fiction. In researching that list of potential computers, I read a number of books and short stories. E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” topped off the list. It left me speechless and amazed. I wrote a review about that story last week. You can find it HERE. A second short story on the list was Misfit by Robert A. Heinlein. You can find it HERE. The third computer I found was “The Engine.” The Engine is a fictional device described in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift in 1726. You can find it HERE. The fourth is The World of Null-A, sometimes written The World of Ā, is a 1948 science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt. You can find it HERE.
“A Logic Named Joe” is a science fiction short story by Murray Leinster that was first published in the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story actually appeared under Leinster’s real name, Will F. Jenkins, since that issue of Astounding also included a story under the Leinster pseudonym called “Adapter”. The story is particularly noteworthy as a prediction of massively networked personal computers and their drawbacks, written at a time when computing was in its infancy.
The story’s narrator is a “logic” (much like a computer) repairman nicknamed Ducky. In the story, a logic that he names Joe develops some degree of sapience and ambition. Joe proceeds to switch around a few relays in “the tank” (one of a distributed set of central information repositories), and cross-correlate all information ever assembled – yielding highly unexpected results. It then proceeds to freely disseminate all of those results to everyone on demand (and simultaneously disabling all of the content-filtering protocols). Logics begin offering up unexpected assistance to everyone that includes designing custom chemicals that alleviate inebriation, giving sex advice to small children, and plotting the perfect murder… Eventually Ducky “saves the civilization” by locating and turning off the only logic capable of doing this.
“A Logic Named Joe” has appeared in the collections Sidewise in Time (Shasta, 1950), The Best of Murray Leinster (Del Rey, 1978), First Contacts (NESFA, 1998), and A Logic Named Joe (Baen, 2005), and was also included in the Machines That Think compilation, with notes by Isaac Asimov, published 1984 Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
A Logic Named Joe was also published in The Great Science Fiction Stories, Volume 8, 1946 Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenburg, DAW Books, November 1982 ISBN 0-87997-780-9
Source: Wikipedia and the short story A Logic Named Joe
I love reading and writing short stories. A few years ago I came up with the idea of writing a nonfiction article on the five most influential pre-1950 computers in science fiction. In researching that list of potential computers, I read a number of books and short stories. E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” topped off the list. It left me speechless and amazed. I wrote a review about that story last week. You can find it HERE. A second short story on the list was Misfit by Robert A. Heinlein. You can find it HERE. The third computer I found was “The Engine.” The Engine is a fictional device described in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift in 1726. You can find it HERE.
The World of Null-A, sometimes written The World of Ā, is a 1948 science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt. Originally published as a three-part serial in Astounding Stories, it incorporates concepts from the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski. The name Ā refers to non-Aristotelian logic.
Gilbert Gosseyn, a man living in an apparent utopia where those with superior understanding and mental control rule the rest of humanity, wants to be tested by the giant Machine that determines such superiority. However, he finds that his memories are false. In his search for his real identity, he discovers that he has extra bodies that are activated when he dies (so that, in a sense, he cannot be killed), that a galactic society of humans exists outside the Solar system, a large interstellar empire wishes to conquer both the Earth and Venus (inhabited by masters of non-Aristotelian logic), and he has extra brain matter that, when properly trained, can allow him to move matter with his mind.
The World of Null-A appeared originally as a 1945 serial in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, which was edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. Van Vogt revised and shortened the tale for the 1948 novel release by Simon and Schuster. In 1970, van Vogt revised it yet again (though only slightly this time), and added an Author’s Introduction in which he both defended the controversial work, and admitted that the original serial had been flawed.
Book Cover Artist: Leo Manso
Sources: Wikipedia and The World of Null-A.