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Frigid Fracas   By: (1917-1983)

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This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction March and April 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

[Illustration: To my loyal fans. Major Joe Mauser]

FRIGID FRACAS

In any status hungry culture, the level a man is assigned depends on what people think he is not on what he is. And that, of course, means that only the deliberately phony has real status!

by MACK REYNOLDS

ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN SCHOENHERR

I

In other eras he might have been described as swacked, stewed, stoned, smashed, crocked, cockeyed, soused, shellacked, polluted, potted, tanked, lit, stinko, pie eyed, three sheets in the wind, or simply drunk.

In his own time, Major Joseph Mauser, Category Military, Mid Middle Caste, was drenched.

Or at least rapidly getting there.

He wasn't happy about it. It wasn't that kind of a binge.

He lowered one eyelid and concentrated on the list of potables offered by the auto bar. He'd decided earlier in the game that it would be a physical impossibility to get through the whole list but he was making a strong attempt on a representative of each subdivision. He'd had a cocktail, a highball, a sour, a flip, a punch and a julep. He wagged forth a finger to dial a fizz, a Sloe Gin Fizz.

Joe Mauser occupied a small table in a corner of the Middle Caste Category Military Club in Greater Washington. His current fame, transient though it might be, would have made him welcome as a guest in the Upper Caste Club, located in the swank Baltimore section of town. Old pros in the Category Military had comparatively small sufferance for caste lines among themselves; rarified class distinctions meant little when you were in the dill, and you didn't become an old pro without having been in spots where matters had pickled. Joe would have been welcome on the strength of his performance in the most recent fracas in which he had participated as a mercenary, that between Vacuum Tube Transport and Continental Hovercraft. But he didn't want it that way.

You didn't devote the greater part of your life to pulling your way up, pushing your way up, fighting your way up, the ladder of status to be satisfied to associate with your social superiors on the basis of being a nine day wonder, an oddity to be met at cocktail parties and spoken to for a few democratic moments.

No, Joe Mauser would stick to his own position in the scheme of things until through his own efforts he won through to that rarefied altitude in society which his ambition demanded.

A sour voice said, "Celebrating, captain? Oops, major, I mean. So you did get something out of the Catskill Reservation fracas. I'm surprised."

A scowl, Joe decided, would be the best. Various others, in the course of the evening, had attempted to join him. Three or four comrades in arms, one journalist from some fracas buff magazine, some woman he'd never met before, and Zen knew how she'd ever got herself into the club. A snarl had driven some away, or a growl or sneer. This one, he decided, called for an angered scowl, particularly in view of the tone of voice which only brought home doubly how his planning of a full two years had come a cropper.

He looked up, beginning his grimace of discouragement. "Go away," he muttered nastily. The other's identity came through slowly. One of the Telly news reporters who'd covered the fracas; for the moment he couldn't recall the name.

Joe Mauser held the common prejudices of the Category Military for Telly and all its ramifications. Not only for the drooling multitudes who sat before their sets and vicariously participated in the sadism of combat while their trank bemused brains refused contemplation of the reality of their way of life. But also for Category Communications, and particularly its Sub division Telly, Branch Fracas News, and all connected with it... Continue reading book >>




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