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Sugar Plum   By: (1911-1992)

Sugar Plum by Reginald Bretnor

First Page:

SUGAR PLUM

by

R. BRETNOR

Illustrated by ASHMAN

[Sidenote: If not for two items, this would be a funny story the Atomic Age brought back the 1925 vogue, and inhibition is not shatter proof.]

On a clear spring evening in 2189, Charles Edward Button came home half an hour late for his supper, tossed his hat to the robot butler who came out from behind the DoItAll, and announced that he had just bought a planet.

[Illustration]

His wife, Betty, was looking small and long suffering on a plastic reproduction of a Victorian love seat, and her cousin Aurelia, a large, handsome woman, was standing behind her protectively.

"Of course," he informed them, "it's not a big planet. But what a bargain! With real oceans, and two moons, and "

"Real estate, real estate, real estate!" Cousin Aurelia's tart voice cut him off in mid sentence. "You know what's come of every one of your investments. Call the man right now and tell him you want your money back!"

"I'm afraid it's too late." Charles avoided her eye. "I bought it up at a tax auction and well, the government never refunds."

"I thought so. A planet nobody wants. Probably all run down, with swamps and deserts, and in some dreadful, shabby district where the neighbors have squirmy tentacles, or eyes on stalks, or big, nasty beaks!"

"It isn't at all. It's in a good neighborhood only two systems away from the Inchcapes' new summer planet. A little remote, but that means more privacy." He took a catalogue out of his pocket. "'Parcel 71,'" he read. "'Sugar Plum, a Class IV planet' that means it's like Earth, only bigger 'claimed 8/12/85 by Space Captain Alexander Burgee, under Planetary Homestead Act of 2147 (amended.)' And here's his description of the place where he landed: 'Neat as a pin, fine climate, full of critters and fish, quite uninhabited.' He was lost in Deep Space, poor fellow. That's why they sold it."

Betty smiled faintly. "The Inchcapes call their planet Bide A Wee. I think Sugar Plum's ever so much nicer. But but can we afford it?"

"We certainly can't!" fumed Cousin Aurelia. "We'll put it back on the market and salvage whatever we can."

"No, we won't," Charles said firmly. "And it's not just a summer resort. We're pulling up stakes to live there all year round."

Betty gasped.

Cousin Aurelia straightened up, bristling.

"I have made up my mind," Charles went on. "I have done a lot of serious thinking." He pointed at the heavily framed neo daguerreotype portraits on the walls. "Our ancestors rediscovered the only true principles, those of the great Nineteenth Century. They brought the Second Victorian Age into being. Civilization reached its peak, its full flowering. But now all is crumbling before the poisonous onslaught of modernism. We who have not been corrupted must seek out a refuge. That, Cousin, is why I bought Sugar Plum."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Cousin Aurelia. "There may be changes everywhere else, but never in Boston."

"Ha!" Charles looked at his watch. "Solomon!" he called out.

The butler came bowing out of the DoItAll nook, where the servants stayed when they were switched off. He wore a swallowtail coat and knee breeches, and had kinky white hair. Made to order, he was Cousin Aurelia's idea.

[Illustration]

"Yassuh, Marse Charles. Here Ah is."

"Solomon," ordered Charles, "tune in Watson Widgett."

Betty paled, uttering a polite little scream.

"Are you mad ?" cried Cousin Aurelia. "I've heard about him. I'll not have that man in my home!"

Charles squared his shoulders. "Cousin, may I remind you that I am head of this house, and that we are Victorians ? It's high time you found out what's going on. Solomon!"

"Yass uh ."

There was a click from the DoItAll, a brief flash of light and a figure appeared in their midst, a cheerful young man in loose trousers and shirt, without coat, waistcoat, cravat, or even a pair of suspenders... Continue reading book >>




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