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And All the Earth a Grave   By: (1917-1971)

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Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

AND ALL THE EARTH A GRAVE

BY C.C. MacAPP

ILLUSTRATED BY GAUGHAN

There's nothing wrong with dying it just hasn't ever had the proper sales pitch!

It all began when the new bookkeeping machine of a large Midwestern coffin manufacturer slipped a cog, or blew a transistor, or something. It was fantastic that the error one of two decimal places should enjoy a straight run of okays, human and mechanical, clear down the line; but when the figures clacked out at the last clacking out station, there it was. The figures were now sacred; immutable; and it is doubtful whether the President of the concern or the Chairman of the Board would have dared question them even if either of those two gentlemen had been in town.

As for the Advertising Manager, the last thing he wanted to do was question them. He carried them (they were the budget for the coming fiscal year) into his office, staggering a little on the way, and dropped dazedly into his chair. They showed the budget for his own department as exactly one hundred times what he'd been expecting. That is to say, fifty times what he'd put in for.

When the initial shock began to wear off, his face assumed an expression of intense thought. In about five minutes he leaped from his chair, dashed out of the office with a shouted syllable or two for his secretary, and got his car out of the parking lot. At home, he tossed clothes into a travelling bag and barged toward the door, giving his wife a quick kiss and an equally quick explanation. He didn't bother to call the airport. He meant to be on the next plane east, and no nonsense about it....

With one thing and another, the economy hadn't been exactly in overdrive that year, and predictions for the Christmas season were gloomy. Early retail figures bore them out. Gift buying dribbled along feebly until Thanksgiving, despite brave speeches by the Administration. The holiday passed more in self pity than in thankfulness among owners of gift oriented businesses.

Then, on Friday following Thanksgiving, the coffin ads struck.

Struck may be too mild a word. People on the streets saw feverishly working crews (at holiday rates!) slapping up posters on billboards. The first poster was a dilly. A toothy and toothsome young woman leaned over a coffin she'd been unwrapping. She smiled as if she'd just received overtures of matrimony from an eighty year old billionaire. There was a Christmas tree in the background, and the coffin was appropriately wrapped. So was she. She looked as if she had just gotten out of bed, or were ready to get into it. For amorous young men, and some not so young, the message was plain. The motto, " The Gift That Will Last More Than a Lifetime ", seemed hardly to the point.

Those at home were assailed on TV with a variety of bright and clever skits of the same import. Some of them hinted that, if the young lady's gratitude were really precipitous, and the bedroom too far away, the coffin might be comfy... Continue reading book >>




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