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Tape Jockey   By:

Tape Jockey by Tom Leahy

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By Tom Leahy

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction March 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: Pettigill was, you might say, in tune with the world. It wouldn't even have been an exaggeration to say the world was in tune with Pettigill. Then somebody struck a sour note.... ]

The little man said, "Why, Mr. Bartle, come in. This is indeed a pleasure." His pinched face was lighted with an enthusiastic smile.

"You know my name, so I suppose you know the Bulletin sent me for a personality interview," the tall man who stood in the doorway said in a monotone as if it were a statement he had made a thousand times which he had.

"Oh, certainly, Mr. Bartle. I was informed by Section Secretary Andrews this morning. I must say, I am greatly honored by this visit, too. Oh heavens, here I am letting you stand in the doorway. Excuse my discourtesy, sir come in, come in," the little man said, and bustled the bored Bartle into a great room.

The walls of the room were lined by gray metal boxes that had spools of reproduction tape mounted on their vertical fronts tape recorders, hundreds of them.

"I have a rather lonely occupation, Mr. Bartle, and sometimes the common courtesies slip my mind. It is a rather grievous fault and I beg you to overlook it. It would be rather distressing to me if Section Secretary Andrews were to hear of it; he has a rather intolerant attitude toward such faux pas . Do you understand what I mean? Not that I'm dissatisfied with my superior perish the thought, it's just that "

"Don't worry, I won't breathe a word," the tall man interrupted without looking at the babbling fellow shuffling along at his side. "Mr. Pettigill, I don't want to keep you from your work for too long, so I'll just get a few notes and make up the bulk of the story back at the paper." Bartle searched the room with his eyes. "Don't you have a chair in this place?"

"Oh, my gracious, yes. There goes that old discourtesy again, eh?" the little man, Pettigill, said with a dry laugh. He scurried about the room like a confused squirrel until he spotted a chair behind his desk. "My chair. My chair for you, Mr. Bartle!" Again the dry laugh.

"Thanks, Mr. Pettigill."

"Arthur. Call me Arthur. Formality really isn't necessary among Mid Echelon, do you think? Section Secretary Andrews has often requested I call him Morton, but I just can't seem to bring myself to such informality. After all, he is Sub Prime Echelon. It makes one uncomfortable, shall we say, to step out of one's class?" He stopped talking and the corners of his mouth dropped quickly as if he had just been given one minute to live. "You you are only Mid Echelon, aren't you? I mean, if you are Sub Prime, I shouldn't be "

"Relax, Mr. Pettigill 'Arthur' I am Mid Echelon. And I'm only that because my father was a man of far more industry than I; I inherited my classification."

"So? Well, now. Interesting very. He must have been a great man, a great man, Mr. Bartle."

"So I am told, Arthur. But let's get on with it," Bartle said, taking some scrap paper and a pencil stub from his tunic pocket. "Now, tell me about yourself and the Melopsych Center."

"Well," the little man began with a sigh and blinked his eyes peculiarly as though he were mentally shuffling events and facts like a deck of cards. "Well, I my life would be of little interest, but the Center is of the utmost importance. That's it I am no more than a physical extremity that functions in accord with the vital life that courses through the great physique of the Center! No more I ask no more than to serve the Center and in turn, my fellow citizens, whether they be Prime, Sub Prime, Mid, or even Sub Lower!"

He stopped speaking, affecting a martyr like pose... Continue reading book >>

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