The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Seventeen

the-martian-chroniclesWay in the Middle of the Air (June 2003/2034) It first appeared in Other Worlds, July 1950.

In an unnamed Southern town, a group of white men learn that all African-Americans are planning to emigrate to Mars. Samuel Teece is an obviously racist white man who loudly decries their departure as he watches a great mass of humanity passing his shop porch. He tries to stop several black men from leaving. One man is harassed because of an old, unneeded debt — other black passers-by give money to relieve the debt. Teece then tries to keep a younger black man (named “Silly”) from leaving, claiming that his work contract (signed with an “X” on a contract, as it is implied that Silly could not read or write) forbids his departure from Teece’s business. After an argument and a threat to lock him in a shed, some of Teece’s white companions stand up to Teece and force him to let Silly leave with his family.

As he drives off, Silly yells to Teece, “what will you do nights now, Mr. Teece?” Teece realizes that Silly is referring to his nocturnal visits to black homes, destroying houses, and lynching black men. Enraged at Silly’s comment, Teece and his father set off to get him. After giving chase in a car, the road becomes impassable, blocked by the discarded belongings of all the departing African-Americans. Teece and his father walk back to the shop, after which the rockets for Mars lift off. Teece, saying that he will be “damned” if he looks at the rockets, sits back in the quiet afternoon, and wonders what he really “will do nights.”

This episode is a poignant depiction of racial prejudice in America. However, it was eliminated from the 2006 William Morrow/Harper Collins, and the 2001 DoubleDay Science Fiction reprinting of The Martian Chronicles.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s