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Hex   By: (1933-2002)

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Illustrated by Summers

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction May 1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

She was a young, enthusiastic worker for the Welfare Department. She liked helping people ... only she really but good helped them!

The office wasn't very bright or sunny, but that didn't matter. In the first place, if Gloria really wanted sun, she could always get some by tuning in on a mind outside, someone walking the streets of downtown New York. And, in the second place, the weather wasn't important; what mattered was how you felt inside. Gloria took off her beret and crammed it into a drawer of her desk. She sat down, feeling perfectly ready for work, her bright eyes sparkling and her whole twenty one year old body eager for the demands of the day.

It was ten minutes to nine in the morning.

On the desk was a mass of reports and folders. Gloria looked at them and sighed; the cleaning woman, she thought, must have upset everything again.

But neatness was the keystone of good, efficient work in any field. Gloria set to work rearranging everything in a proper order. The job took her nearly twenty minutes and, by the time she was finished, the office was full.

Mr. Fredericksohn hadn't arrived yet, naturally. He always came in around nine thirty. But all of the case workers were ready for the day's work. Gloria looked around the office at them, beaming. It was good to be able to help people and to know that what you were doing was right.

She remembered wondering how you could be sure you were right about somebody else, if you couldn't read minds. But, then, there were rules to go by, and all of the fine classes and textbooks that a social case worker had to have. If you paid attention, and if you really wanted to help people, Gloria supposed, it was all right. Certainly everything in her own office seemed to run smoothly.

Not that she would ever do anything about another worker, no matter what. Gloria remembered what Mr. Greystone, a teacher of hers had said, a year or so before: "Never interfere with the case load of another worker. Your sole job is represented by your own case load."

That was good advice, Gloria thought. And, anyhow, her assistance didn't seem to be too badly needed, among the others. She had quite enough to do in taking care of her own clients.

And here she was, wasting time! She shook her head and breathed a little sigh, and began on the first folder.


Name: Wladek, Mrs. Marie Posner. She was no fool. She knew about the reports they had to make, and the sheets covered with all the details of your very own private life; she had seen them on a desk when she had come to keep her appointment. Mrs. Wladek was her name, and that was how the report would look, with her name all reversed in order right on the top. And underneath that there would be her address and her story, all that she had told the case workers, set right down in black and white for anybody at all to read.

When you were poor, you had no privacy, and that was the truth. Mrs. Wladek shook her head. A poor old woman, that was all that she was, and privacy was a luxury not to be asked for. Who said the United States was different from the old country?

Cossacks , she thought. In the old country, one still heard the old stories, the streets paved with gold and the food waiting for such as yourself; oh, the war had not changed that in the least. Now the Voice of America was heard in the old country she had a letter, smuggled out, from her own second cousin Marfa, telling her all about the Voice of America and that was only another trap. They wanted to make you leave your own land and your own country, and come far away to America and to the United States, so that you would have no friends and you would be defenseless... Continue reading book >>

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