by Frank Banta

Public Domain

Science Fiction Story: They didn't have to worry about a thing for the rest of their natural lives....

Tags: Science Fiction   Novel-Classic  

James Ypsilanti swung at the door with the steak cuber. Or was it the cube steaker? No matter. The door was a good, hardwood door and resisted his onslaught well. But time was on his side.

He had the energy and the time, he knew, and sooner or later the door would be kindling.

It was the door to his room. It was evident to him that he did not need the door to his room and that he did need heat. In fact he had better get some heat pretty soon--although he was keeping warm enough for the present by beating on the door. So he would beat this door to kindling, and then he would build a nice, cozy fire in the hall that would keep him warm for a long time ... if he was stingy with his fuel.

The carpenter came by. The carpenter was always coming by, except when you wanted him, Jim realized. The carpenter was a mighty, mighty busy fellow.

The carpenter stopped short when he saw Jim demolishing the door. In fact he came to a grinding halt.

“Jim, why didn’t you tell me!”

“Carpenter, how was I to know where you were? Who can ever find you?”

“I know Jim. Jim, you work so hard!”

“Yes!” he said, pounding.

“Take this hatchet, Jim. A hatchet is what you demolish doors with! Good-by.” The carpenter departed.

James Ypsilanti swung on the door with his newly acquired hatchet. Soon he was ready for his fire. He struck a match, and in no time had the pile of varnished kindling blazing smokily in the hall. He held his hands over the blaze.

“Ah, good, good. Good.” He closed his eyes. “What could be better than this?” Then he opened them again regretfully. “It’s dinner time. I’d better fix it while I have my fire going.” He hurried to the kitchen and chose a can of eggs-bacon-and-pancakes from the massive stores.

Opening the large can, he heated it over his hall fire. Then he dumped the contents on his tin plate and ate.

“Murder,” he thought somberly. “That’s what I’m in for. Practically murder with consent. She said she couldn’t live without me. Margie begged me to kill her, you might as well say. Good old Margie; a good kid, but I killed her. And now ... Well, that’s life!” He speared a pancake.

“Damn, but it’s cold!” He threw an armload of wood on the fire and it blazed up. “Sure wish these carpenters had feelings. My lord, they got no feelings at all!”

The carpenter arrived with a new hardwood door. Whistling cheerily, he began to install it where the other one had just been hatcheted away.

“Carpenter, that door won’t be staying there long. I’m almost out of fuel.”

“I hope you don’t expect me to be surprised, Jim, if this door doesn’t last very long. The previous twenty-two doors at this location, Jim, did not last very long either.” Still whistling to himself, he installed the last of the hinge screws.

“Why don’t you just give me the doors, instead of causing yourself all this work?” demanded James Ypsilanti.

“‘Inmates will not be issued materials,’ Jim. I’ve quoted that section of the rules to you many times, Jim.”

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