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Probability   By:

Probability by Louis Trimble

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science Fiction April 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

If you ever get to drinking beer in your favorite saloon and meet a scared little guy who wants to buy you the joint, supply you with fur coats and dolls and run you for Congress listen well! That is, if you really want the joint, the fur coats, the dolls and a seat in Congress. Just ask Mike Murphy....


By Louis Trimble

Illustration by Ed Emsh

The first time this little guy comes in I'm new on the job. He looks around as if he's scared a prohibition agent will pop out of the walls and bite him. Then he gets up his nerve and sidles to the bar. His voice is as thin as the rest of him.

"Glass of beer."

I draw. He drinks and pays and goes out.

That keeps on, Monday through Friday at five ten p.m., year in and year out. He slips in, peers around, has his beer, and pops out. Even in '33, when we become legitimate, he acts the same way scared of his shadow. Except he isn't big enough to have a shadow.

During the war, when we're rationed, I save him his daily glass. He never fails to come in except for two weeks every summer when he's on vacation. From 1922 to 1953 he drinks one daily beer.

In thirty one years, he and I grow older together, and after the first ten he talks a little so that over a period of time I manage to learn something about him. That first day he'd come in, he was on his first job out of college. Well, so was I, only I went to bartending school to learn how to mix prohibition liquor. But even so, it gave us something in common, and when he learned we had started life together as he put it he talked a little more.

His name is Pettis. Six months after I learn that, I get his first name. It's Rabelais, and I could see why he doesn't like it. But when he breaks down and tells me, he gets real bold and says:

"And what's yours, my male Hebe?"

"Mike Murphy."

"Naturally," he said. He laughs. It is the only time I hear him laugh in thirty one years. I can't see anything funny.

He is a draftsman for those old skinflints Cartner and Dillson. When they die, their sons take over and are even worse. In the depression, Pettis gets a little shabby but he always has the price of a glass of beer. In '53 he's at the same desk and doing the same job he started on in '22.

In '35 he gets married. He tells me so. Tasting his beer, he says, "I'll be married this time tomorrow." I often wonder what his wife looks like but I never see her. Not even when it gets decent for ladies to come in, she never shows. Marriage doesn't seem to change him; he never looks happier or less shabby or less browbeat.

In '42 I heard his first complaint. By then we're both getting into our forties and, what with his lack of size and caved in chest and my insides all busted up from pre World War I football, the army doesn't want us. So he never misses a day except on his vacation.

He says, "I can't get raw materials." About three months later, I understand what he means when he says, "My hobby is inventing."

In '45 I ask him, "What do you invent?"

It takes him two years to decide to tell me. By now we are pretty good pals. He never tells anyone else that I know of. He says, "I invent machines. Super machines."

In '48 he says, "But they don't work. Someday...."

And in '53, on the day of our thirty first anniversary, you might say, he comes in and things are different. All different. I can feel it when he opens the door and comes in at five o nine instead of five ten. There is plenty more different, too. He walks up to the bar like it's his and roars:

"Two beers, Mike!"

I drop a glass I'm so surprised, but I give him two beers like he wants. He gulps them both down, puts a foot on the rail and looks me straight in the eye... Continue reading book >>

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