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Title: The Goodly Creatures
Author: Kornbluth, Cyril M. (1924-1958)
Date of first publication: December 1952
Edition used as base for this ebook: The Explorers. Short Stories by C. M. Kornbluth. New York: Ballantine Books, 1954
Date first posted: 23 September 2016
Date last updated: 23 September 2016
Project Gutenberg Canada ebook #1356

This ebook was produced by Al Haines and Mark Akrigg

Publisher's Note:

As part of the conversion of the book to its new digital format, we have made certain minor adjustments in its layout. All of the author's original text has been included.

The Goodly Creatures

by C. M. Kornbluth

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in 't!
                                Miranda in
The Tempest

Farwell suddenly realized that his fingers had been trembling all morning, with a hair-fine vibration that he couldn't control. He looked at them in amazement and rested them on the keys of his typewriter. The tremor stopped and Farwell told himself to ignore it; then it would go away. The copy in the typewriter said: Kumfyseets—add I in the upper left-hand corner and under it:—hailed by veteran spacemen as the greatest advance in personal comfort and safety on the spaceways since—

Since what? It was just another pneumatic couch. Why didn't he ever get anything he could work with? This one begged for pix—a stripped-down model in a Kumfyseet, smiling under a pretended seven-G takeoff acceleration—but the Chicago Chair Company account didn't have an art budget. No art, and they were howling for tear-sheets already.

—comfort and safety on the spaceways since—

He could take Worple to a good lunch and get a shirt-tail graf in his lousy "Stubby Says" column and that should hold Chicago Chair for another week. They wouldn't know the difference between Worple and—

Farwell's intercom buzzed. "Mr. Henry Schneider to see you about employment."

"Send him in, Grace."

Schneider was a beefy kid with a practiced smile and a heavy handshake. "I saw your ad for a junior copywriter," he said, sitting down confidently. He opened an expensive, new-looking briefcase and threw a folder on the desk.

Farwell leafed through it—the standard presentation. A fact sheet listing journalistic honors in high school and college, summer jobs on weeklies, "rose to sergeantcy in only ten months during U.M.T. period." Copies of by-line pieces pasted neatly, without wrinkles, onto heavy pages. A TV scenario for the college station. A letter from the dean of men, a letter from the dean of the journalism school.

"As you see," Schneider told him, "I'm versatile. Sports, travel, science, human-interest, spot news—anything."

"Yes. Well, you wouldn't be doing much actual writing to start, Schneider. When—"

"I'm glad you mentioned that, Mr. Farwell. What exactly would be the nature of my work?"

"The usual cursus honorum—" Schneider looked blank and then laughed heartily. Farwell tried again: "The usual success story in public relations is, copy boy to junior copywriter to general copywriter to accounts man to executive. If you last that long. For about three months you can serve Greenhough and Brady best by running copy, emptying waste baskets and keeping your eyes open. After you know the routine we can try you on—"

Schneider interrupted: "What's the policy on salaries?" He didn't seem to like the policy on promotions.

Farwell told him the policy on salaries and Schneider tightened his mouth disapprovingly. "That's not much for a starter," he said. "Of course, I don't want to haggle, but I think my presentation shows I can handle responsibility."

Farwell got up with relief and shook his hand. "Too bad we couldn't get together," he said, talking the youngster to the door. "Don't forget your briefcase. If you want, you can leave your name with the girl and we'll get in touch with you if anything comes up. As you say, you might do better in another outfit that has a more responsible job open. It was good of you to give us a try, Schneider..." A warm clap on the shoulder got him out.

Next time, Farwell thought, feeling his 45 years, it would be better to mention the starting salary in the ad and short-stop the youngsters with inflated ideas. He was pretty sure he hadn't acted like that beefy hotshot when he was a kid—or had he?

—comfort and safety on the spaceways since—

He turned on the intercom and said: "Get me Stubby Worple at the Herald."

Worple was in.

"Jim Farwell, Stub. I was looking at the column this morning and I made myself a promise to buzz you and tell you what a damn fine job it is. The lead graf was sensational."

Modest protests.

"No, I mean it. Say, why don't we get together? You got anything on for lunch?"

He did, but how about dinner? Hadn't been to the Mars Room for a coon's age.

"Oh, Mars Room. Sure enough all right with me. Meet you in the bar at 7:30?"

He would.

Well, he'd left himself wide open for that one. He'd be lucky to get off with a $30 tab. But it was a sure tear-sheet for the Chicago Chair people.

Farwell said to the intercom: "Get me a reservation for 8 tonight at the Mars Room, Grace. Dinner for two. Tell Mario it's got to be a good table."

He ripped the Kumfyseets first ad out of the typewriter and dropped it into the waste basket. Fifty a week from Chicago Chair less 30 for entertainment. Mr. Brady wasn't going to like it; Mr. Brady might call him from New York about it to say gently: "Anybody can buy space, Jim. You should know by now that we're not in the business of buying space. Sometimes I think you haven't got a grasp of the big picture the way a branch manager should. Greenhough asked about you the other day and I really didn't know what to tell him." And Farwell would sweat and try to explain how it was a special situation and maybe try to hint that the sales force was sometimes guilty of overselling a client, making promises that Ops couldn't possibly live up to. And Mr. Brady would close on a note of gentle melancholy with a stinging remark or two "for your own good, Jim."

Farwell glanced at the clock on his desk, poured one from his private bottle; Brady receded a little into the background of his mind.

"Mr. Angelo Libonari to see you," said the intercom. "About employment."

"Send him in."

Libonari stumbled on the carpeting that began at the threshold of Farwell's office. "I saw your ad," he began shrilly, "your ad for a junior copywriter."

"Have a seat." The boy was shabby and jittery. "Didn't you bring a presentation?"

He didn't understand. "No, I just saw your ad. I didn't know I had to be introduced. I'm sorry I took up your time—" He was on his way out already.

"Wait a minute, Angelo! I meant, have you got any copies of what you've done, where you've been to school, things like that."

"Oh." The boy pulled out a sheaf of paper from his jacket pocket. "This stuff isn't very good," he said. "As a matter of fact, it isn't really finished. I wrote it for a magazine, Integration, I don't suppose you ever heard of it; they were going to print it but they folded up, it's a kind of prose poem." Abruptly he ran dry and handed over the wad of dog-eared, interlined copy. His eyes said to Farwell: please don't laugh at me.

Farwell read at random: "—and then the Moon will drift astern and out of sight, the broken boundary that used to stand between the eye and the mind." He read it aloud and asked: "Now, what does that mean?"

The boy shyly and proudly explained: "Well, what I was trying to bring out there was that the Moon used to be as far as anybody could go with his eyes. If you wanted to find out anything about the other celestial bodies you had to guess and make inductions—that's sort of the whole theme of the piece—liberation, broken boundaries."

"Uh-huh," said Farwell, and went on reading. It was a rambling account of an Earth-Ganymede flight. There was a lot of stuff as fuzzy as the first bit, there were other bits that were hard, clean writing. The kid might be worth developing if only he didn't look and act so peculiar. Maybe it was just nervousness.

"So you're specially interested in space travel?" he asked.

"Oh, very much. I know I failed to get it over in this; it's all second-hand. I've never been off. But nobody's really written well about it yet—" He froze.

His terrible secret, Farwell supposed with amusement, was that he hoped to be the laureate of space flight. Well, if he wasn't absolutely impossible, Greenhough and Brady could give him a try. Shabby as he was, he wouldn't dare quibble about the pay.

He didn't quibble. He told Farwell he could get along on it nicely, he had a room in the run-down sub-Bohemian near north side of town. He was from San Francisco, but had left home years ago—Farwell got the idea that he'd run away—and been in a lot of places. He'd held a lot of menial jobs and picked up a few credits taking night college courses here and there. After a while Farwell told him he was hired and to see the girl for his withholding tax and personnel data forms.

He buzzed his copy chief about the boy and leaned back in good humor. Angelo could never get to be an accounts man, of course, but he had some talent and imagination. Tame it and the kid could grow into a good producer. A rocket fan would be handy to have around if Sales stuck Ops with any more lemons like Chicago Chair.

Worple drank that night at the Mars Room like a man with a hollow leg and Farwell more or less had to go along with him. He got the Kumfyseets item planted but arrived at the office late and queasy as McGuffy, the copy chief, was bawling out Angelo for showing up in a plaid shirt, and a dirty one at that.

McGuffy came in to see him at 4:30 to ask about Angelo. "He just doesn't seem to be a Greenhough and Brady man, J.F. Of course if you think he's got something on the ball, that's good enough for me. But, honestly, can you see him taking an account to lunch?",

"Is he really getting in your hair, Mac? Give him a few days."

McGuffy was back at the end of the week, raging. "He showed me a poem, J.F. A sonnet about Mars. And he acted as if he was doing me a favor! As if he was handing me a contract with Panamerican Steel!"

Farwell laughed; it was exactly what he would expect Angelo to do. "It was his idea of a compliment, Mac. It means he thinks you're a good critic. I know these kids. I used to—" He broke off, dead-pan.

McGuffy grumbled: "You know I'm loyal, J.F. If you think he's got promise, all right. But he's driving me nuts."

After the copy chief left, Farwell shook his head nervously. What had he almost said? "I used to be one myself." Why, so he had—just about 25 years ago, a quarter of a century ago, when he went into radio work temporarily. Temporarily! A quarter-century ago he had been twenty years old. A quarter-century ago he had almost flunked out of college because he sat up all night trying to write plays instead of studying.

He hazily remembered saying to somebody, a girl, something like: "I am aiming for a really creative synthesis of Pinero and Shaw." Somehow that stuck, but he couldn't remember what the girl looked like or whether she'd been impressed. Farwell felt his ears burning: "A really creative synthesis of Pinero and Shaw." What a little——!

He told the intercom: "Send in Libonari."

The boy was more presentable; his hair was cut and he wore a clean blue shut. "I've had a couple of complaints," said Farwell. "Suppose we get this clear: you are the one who is going to conform if you want to stay with us. Greenhough and Brady isn't going to be remolded nearer to the heart's desire of Angelo Libonari. Are you going out of your way to be difficult?"

The boy shrugged uneasily and stammered: "No, I wouldn't do anything like that. It's just, it's just that I find it hard to take all this seriously—but don't misunderstand me. I mean I can't help thinking that I'm going to do more important things some day, but honestly, I'm trying to do a good job here."

"Well, honestly you'd better try harder," Farwell said, mimicking his nervous voice. And then, more agreeably: "I'm not saying this for fun, Angelo. I just don't want to see you wasted because you won't put out a little effort, use a little self-discipline. You've got a future here if you work with us instead of against us. If you keep rubbing people the wrong way and I have to fire you, what's it going to be? More hash-house jobs, more crummy furnished rooms, hot in the summer, cold in the winter. You'll have something you call 'freedom,' but it's not the real thing. And it's all you'll have. Now beat it and try not to get on Mr. McGuffy's nerves."

The boy left, looking remorseful, and Farwell told himself that not everybody could handle an out-of-the-way type that well. If he pasted the little sermon in his hat he'd be all right.

"Really creative synthesis!" Farwell snorted and poured himself a drink before he buckled down to planning a series of releases for the International Spacemen's Union. The space lines, longing for the old open-shop days, were sniping at the I.S.U. wherever they found an opening. They had a good one in the unions' high initiation fee. The union said the high fee kept waifs and strays out and insured that anybody who paid it meant business and would make the spaceways his career. The union said the benefits that flowed from this were many and obvious. The companies said the union just wanted the money.

Farwell started blocking out a midwestern campaign. It might start with letters to the papers signed by SPACEMAN'S WIFE, WIDOW OF SCAB SPACER and other folks; the union could locate them to sign the letters. Next thing to do was set up a disinterested outfit. He tentatively christened it "The First Pan-American Conference on Space Hazards" and jotted down the names of a few distinguished chronic joiners and sponsors for the letterheads. They could hold a three-day meeting in Chicago, and conclude that the most important factor in space safety is experienced crewmen, and the longer their service the better. No mention of the I.S.U. initiation fee policy out of the F.P.A.C.S.H., but the union could use their conclusions in its material.

The union could use it to get a couple of state legislatures to pass resolutions endorsing the initiation fee policy. G. & B. would write the resolutions, but the I.S.U.—an independent union—would have to swing the big federations into putting pressure on the legislatures in the name of labor unity.

Numerically the spacemen were insignificant.

He pawed through stacks of material forwarded to him as ammo by the union looking for the exact amount of fee but couldn't locate it. The coyness was not surprising; it recalled the way corporation handouts bannered the "profit per dollar of sales" and buried the total profit in dollars and cents. He buzzed Copy.

"Mac, does anybody there know exactly what the I.S.U. initiation fee is?"

"I'll see, J.F."

A moment later he heard Angelo's voice. "It's kind of complicated, Mr. Farwell—maybe to keep anybody from saying it's exactly this or exactly that. Here's the way it works: base fee, $1000, to be paid before they issue you a work card. What they call 'accrual fee' on top of that—$100 if you're twenty years old, $200 if you're twenty-two, $300 if you're twenty-four and so on up to 30, and after that you can't join. You can pay accrual fee out of your first voyage. From the accrual fee you can deduct $50 for each dependent. On top of that there's a 5 per cent assessment of your first-voyage pay only, earmarked for the I.S.U. Space Medicine Research Foundation at Johns Hopkins. And that's all."

Farwell had been jotting it down. "Thanks, Angelo," he said absently. The Space Medicine Research thing was good, but he'd have to be careful that they weren't represented at the F.P.A.C.S.H.; you didn't want a direct union tie-in there. Now what could you do about the fee? Get the union to dig up somebody who's paid only the $1000 base because of age and the right number of dependents. Forget the accrual and the assessment. How many people on a space ship—50, 60? Make it 60 to get a plausibly unround number. Sixty into 1000 is 16 67/100.

"Dear Editor: Is there anybody riding the spaceways who would not cheerfully pay $16.67 cents to insure that the crewmen who hold his life in their hands are thoroughly experienced veterans of interplanetary flight? Is there anybody so short-sighted that he would embark with a green crew to save $16.67? Of course not! And yet that is what certain short-sighted persons demand! Throwing up a smoke-screen of loose charges to divert the public from the paramount issue of SAFETY they accuse—"

That wasn't exactly it. He had made it look as though the passengers paid the I.S.U. initiation fee. Well, he'd struck a keynote; Copy could take it from there.

And then there ought to be a stunt—a good, big stunt with pix possibilities. Girls, or violence, or both. Maybe a model demonstrating an escape hatch or something at a trade show, something goes wrong, a heroic I.S.U. member in good standing who happens to be nearby dashes in—

He was feeling quite himself again.

The switchboard girl must have been listening in on the New York call. As Farwell stepped from his office he felt electricity in the air; the word had been passed already. He studied the anteroom, trying to see it through Greenhough's eyes.

"Grace," he told the switchboard girl, "get your handbag off the PBX and stick it in a drawer somewhere. Straighten that picture. And put on your bolero—you have nice shoulders and we all appreciate them, but the office is air-conditioned."

She tried to look surprised as he went on into Art.

Holoway didn't bother to pretend. "What time's he getting in?" he asked worriedly. "Can I get a shave?"

"They didn't tell me," said Farwell. "Your shave's all right. Get things picked up and get ties on the boys." The warning light was off; he looked into the darkroom. "A filthy mess!" he snapped. "How can you get any work done in a litter like that? Clean it up."

"Right away, J.F.," Holloway said, hurt.

Copy was in better shape; McGuffy had a taut hand.

"Greenhough's coming in today, I don't know what time. Your boys here look good."

"I can housebreak anything, J.F. Even Angelo. He bought a new suit!"

Farwell allowed a slight puzzled look to cross his face. "Angelo? Oh, the Libonari boy. How's he doing?"

"No complaints. He'll never be an accounts man if I'm any judge, but I've been giving him letters to write the past couple weeks. I don't know how you spotted it, but he's got talent. I have to hand it to you for digging him up, J.F."

Farwell saw the boy now at the last desk on the windowless side of the room, writing earnestly in longhand. Two months on a fair-enough salary hadn't filled him out as much as Farwell expected, but he did have a new suit on his back.

"It was just a gamble," he told McGuffy and went back to his office.

He had pretended not to remember the kid. Actually he'd been in his thoughts off and on since he hired him. There had been no trouble with Angelo since his grim little interview with the boy. Farwell hoped, rather sentimentally, he knew, that the interview had launched him on a decent career, turned him aside from the rocky Bohemian road and its pitfalls. As he had been turned aside himself. The nonsensical "really creative synthesis of Pinero and Shaw" pattered through his head again and he winced, thoroughly sick of it. For the past week the thought of visiting a psychiatrist had pattered after Pinero and Shaw every time, each time to be dismissed as silly.

His phone buzzed and he mechanically said, "Jim Farwell."

"Farwell, why didn't you check with me?" rasped Greenhough's voice.

"I don't understand, Mr. Greenhough. Where are you calling from?"

"The Hotel Greybar down the street, of course! I've been sitting here for an hour waiting for your call."

"Mr. Greenhough, all they told me from New York was that you were coming to Chicago."

"Nonsense. I gave the instructions myself."

"I'm sorry about the mixup—I must have misunderstood. Are you going to have a look at the office?"

"No. Why should I do anything like that? I'll call you back." Greenhough hung up.

Farwell leaned back, cursing whoever in New York had crossed up the message. It had probably been done deliberately, he decided—Pete Messler, the New York office manager trying to make him look bad.

He tried to work on an account or two, but nervously put them aside to wait for Greenhough's call. At 5 he tried to reach Greenhough to tell him he was going home and give him his home number. Greenhough's room didn't answer the call or his next four, so he phoned a drugstore to send up a sandwich and coffee.

Before he could get started on the sandwich Greenhough phoned again to invite him to dinner at the Mars Room. He was jovial as could be: "Get myself some of that famous Chicago hospitality, hey, Jim? You know I'm just a hick from Colorado, don't you?" He went on to give Farwell about ten minutes of chuckling reminiscence and then hung up without confirming the dinner date. It turned out that it didn't matter. As Farwell was leaving the deserted office his phone buzzed again. It was Greenhough abruptly calling off the Mars Room. He told Farwell: "I've got somebody important to talk to this evening."

The branch manager at last dared to pour himself a heavy drink and left.

His bedside phone shrilled at 3 in the morning. "Jim Farwell," he croaked into it while two clock dials with the hands making two luminous L's wavered in front of him. His drink at the office had been the first of a series.

"This is Greenhough, Farwell," snarled the voice of the senior partner. "You get over here right away. Bring Clancy, whatever his name is—the lawyer." Click.

Where was "here"? Farwell phoned the Greybar. "Don't connect me with his room—I just want to know if he's in."

The floor clerk said he was and Farwell tried to phone the home of the Chicago branch's lawyer, but got no answer. Too much time lost. He soaked his head in cold water, threw his clothes on and drove hell-for-leather to the Greybar.

Greenhough was in one of the big two-bedroom suites on the sixteenth floor. A frozen-faced blond girl in an evening gown let Farwell in without a word. The senior partner was sprawled on the sofa in dress trousers and stiff shirt. He had a bruise under his left eye.

"I came as quickly as I could, Mr. Greenhough," said Farwell. "I couldn't get in touch with—"

The senior partner coughed thunderously, twitched his face at Farwell in a baffling manner, and then stalked into a bedroom. The blond girl's frozen mask suddenly split into a vindictive grin. "You're going to get it!" she jeered at Farwell. "I'm supposed to think his name's Wilkins. Well, go on after him, pappy."

Farwell went into the bedroom. Greenhough was sitting on the bed dabbing at the bruise and muttering. "I told you I wanted our lawyer!" he shouted at the branch manager. "I was attacked by a drunkard in that damned Mars Room of yours and by God booked by the police like a common criminal! I'm going to get satisfaction if I have to turn the city up-sidedown! Get on that phone and get me Clancy or whatever his name is!"

"But I can't!" said Farwell desperately. "He won't answer his phone and in the second place he isn't that kind of lawyer. I can't ask Clarahan to fight a disorderly-conduct charge—he's a big man here. He only does contract law and that kind of thing. You posted bond, didn't you, Mr. Greenhough?"

"Twenty dollars," said the senior partner bitterly, "and they only wanted ten from that drunken ape."

"Then why not just forget about it? Forfeit the bond and probably you'll never hear of it again, especially since you're an out-of-towner. I'll do what I can to smooth it over if they don't let it slide."

"Get out of here," said Greenhough, dabbing at the bruise again.

The blond was reading a TV magazine in the parlor; she ignored Farwell as he let himself out.

The branch manager drove to an all-night barber shop near one of the terminals and napped through "the works." A slow breakfast killed another hour and by then it wasn't too ridiculously early to appear at the office.

He dawdled over copy until 9 and phoned the Greybar. They told him Mr. Greenhough had checked out leaving no forwarding address. The morning papers came and he found nothing about a scuffle at the Mars Room or the booking of Greenhough. Maybe the senior partner had given a false name—Wilkins?—or maybe the stories had been killed because Greenhough and Brady did some institutional advertising. Maybe there was some mysterious interlock between Greenhough and Brady and the papers high up on some misty alp that Farwell had never glimpsed.

Don't worry about it, he told himself savagely. You gave him good advice, the thing's going to blow over, Clarahan wouldn't have taken it anyway. He hoped Pete Messler in New York wouldn't hear about it and try to use it as a lever to pry him out of the spot he held, the spot Pete Messler coveted. Maybe there was some way he could get somebody in the New York office to keep an eye on Messler and let him know how he was doing, just to get something he could counterpunch with when Messler pulled something like that garbled message stunt.

The intercom buzzed and Grace said, "Angelo wants to see you. He says it's personal."

"Send him in."

The kid was beaming. He looked pretty good—not raw and jumpy; just happy.

"I want to say thanks and good-bye, Mr. Farwell," he told the branch manager. "Look!"

The plastic-laminated card said "WORK PERMIT" and "Brother Angelo Libonari" and "International Union of Spacemen, Spacedockworkers and Rocket Maintenance Men, Unaffiliated (ISU-IND)" and "Member in Good Standing" and other things.

"So that was the game," said Farwell slowly. "We take you and we train you at a loss hoping that some day you'll turn out decent copy for us and as soon as you have a thousand bucks saved up you quit like a shot and buy a work card to be a wiper on a rocket. Well, I hope you show a little more loyalty to your space line than you showed us."

Angelo's face drooped in miserable surprise. "I never thought—" he stuttered. "I didn't mean to run out, Mr. Farwell. I'll give two weeks notice if you want—a month? How about a month?"

"It doesn't matter," said Farwell. "I should have known. I thought I pounded some sense into your head, but I was wrong. You're forgiven, Angelo. I hope you have a good time. What are your plans?" He wasn't really interested, but why go out of his way to kick the kid in the teeth? Obviously he'd meant it when he registered surprise—he didn't have the boss's viewpoint and his other jobs had been one-week stands in hashhouses.

The boy carefully put his work card in his breast pocket and beamed again at what he was saying—partly to Farwell, it appeared, mostly to himself in wonder at its coming true at last. "I'll be a wiper at the start, all right," he said. "I don't care if I never get higher than that. I want to see it and feel it, all of it. That's the only way the real thing's ever going to get written. Higgins and Delare and Beeman and the rest of them—passengers. You can feel it in your bones when you read their stuff. One-trippers or two-trippers.

"They aren't soaked in it. The big passage in Delare's Planetfall, the takeoff from Mars: he's full of the wonder of it, sure. Who wouldn't be the first time? And he kept his eyes open, watching himself and the others. But I'm going to take off from Earth and Mars and Venus and Ganymede and the Moon twenty times before I dare to write about it. I'm going to get it all—brains, bone, muscle, and belly—takeoff, landings, free flight, danger, monotony—all of it."

"Sonnets? Prose poems?" asked Farwell, just to be saying something.

Angelo flushed a little, but his eyes didn't have the old pleading look. He didn't have to plead; he had what he wanted. "They were good exercise," he said stoutly. "I suppose I was trying to write form because I didn't have content. I think it's going to be novels—if I feel like it. And they can publish them or not publish them, just as they please." He meant it, Farwell thought. He had what he wanted.

"I'll look forward to them," he said, and shook hands with the boy. He didn't notice him leave. Angelo Messler, he thought; Pete Libonari. "—really creative synthesis of Pinero and Shaw—" pattered through his head, and the psychiatrist-thought followed naggingly after. He looked at his hands in amazement, suddenly realizing that they had been trembling all morning uncontrollably.

[End of The Goodly Creatures, by C. M. Kornbluth]