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Brown John's Body   By: (1915-1979)

Brown John's Body by Winston K. Marks

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy January 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

Brown John's Body


Winston Marks

Erd Neff wanted as little to do with his fellow men as possible. So he lived alone in his big cash vault. Alone, except for John....

Erd Neff dropped a thin bundle of currency into the $100 bill drawer of the flat top desk and kicked the drawer shut with a dusty boot.

He flicked the drip from his hooked nose, which was chronically irritated by the wheat dust of the warehouse, then he wiped his fingers down the leg of his soiled denims. Across the 12 X 12, windowless room John stirred awake from the noise and began nosing in the debris of his filthy cage.

"Time for supper, John?" Neff tugged at the twine at his belt and examined his $3 watch. He pinched a dozen grains of wheat from a two pound coffee can and let them sift through the wires of the cage. John pounced on the grain hungrily.

"Wait a minute! What do you say, dammit?" Neff's hand reached for the marshmallow toasting fork that hung from a hook on the wall. He touched the points, filed needle sharp. "What do you say?" he repeated, twanging the tines like a tuning fork.

John skittered to the far corner, tearing new holes in the old newspaper with frantic claws. Cowering against the wires he spat half chewed flecks of wheat trying to say the magic words that would spare him from the fork. "Tinkoo! Tinkoo!" he squeaked, straining to make the two syllables distinct.

Neff hung up the fork, and John turned to lick at the old scabs clotted from earlier jabs, taking sullen inventory to be sure there were no new crimson leaks in his louse infested hide. Until two months ago, he had been just one more gregarious specimen of Mammalia Rodentia Simplicidentata Myomorphia Muridae decumanus. Now he had another name. Like each of his predecessors in the cage, he was a large, brown rat called John after Erd Neff's despised and deceased father. Neff named all his rats John.


"Well, don't get fat."

John finished the grain, pawed the air and squeaked, "Mur!"

"More, hey? You talk fine when you're hungry."

"Peef, mur, mur!" John begged. He did well with his vowels, but "I" and "s" sounds were beyond him. He said "f" for "s". "L's" he ignored entirely.

Neff gave him one more wheat head. "Okay, get fat!"

He turned to the door, lifted the inside, mechanical latch, shoved with his foot and snatched his revolver from his hip holster. The vault door opened ponderously revealing an empty warehouse. Neff peeked through the crack between the hinges to clear the area concealed by the door itself.

One hoodlum hopeful had hidden there. Spotting him through the crack, Neff had simply beefed into the foot thick slab of fireproof steel. Inertial plus surprise had disposed of that one. Neff hadn't even had to shoot.

Tonight there was no one. Funny. The wheat country was getting tame, or else the tin horns had learned their lesson. It was no secret that Erd Neff never visited the local bank, yet it had been more than six months since anyone tried to hold him up.

The local bank hated him plenty. He was costing them. His five loan offices in the rich wheat county skimmed the cream of the mortgage loan business. Of course, nowadays most people paid off their loans, and the low interest rates he charged to lure the business barely paid expenses. Yet, he still picked up an occasional foreclosure. Farmers still got drunk, divorced, gambled, broke legs or committed suicide once in awhile, and Neff's loan documents were ruthless about extensions of time... Continue reading book >>

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