James Cruesoe was in the club car of a train plummeting out of Chicago, rocking and swaying as if it were drunk, when the conductor, lurching by, glanced at the bar, gave Cruesoe a wink, and lurched on. Cruesoe listened.
Uproars, shouts and cries.
That is the sound, he thought, of sheep in panic, glad to be fleeced, or hang gliders, flung off cliffs with no wings.
For there at the bar, drawn to a blind source of joyous consternation, stood a cluster of men glad for highway robbery, pleased to have wallets and wits purloined.
That is to say: gamblers.
Amateur gamblers, Cruesoe thought, and rose to stagger down the aisle to peer over the shoulders of businessmen behaving like high school juniors in full stampede.
"Hey, watch! The Queen comes! She goes. Presto! Where?"
"There!" came the cry.
"Gosh," cried the dealer. "Lost my shirt! Again! Queen up, Queen gone! Where?"
He'll let them win twice, Cruesoe thought. Then spring the trap.
"There!" cried all.
"Good gravy!" shouted the unseen gambler. "I'm sunk!"
Cruesoe had to look, he yearned to see this agile vaudeville magician.
On tiptoe, he parted a few squirming shoulders, not knowing what to expect.
But there sat a man with no fuzzy caterpillar brows or waxed mustaches. No black hair sprouted from his ears or nostrils. His skull did not poke through his skin. He wore an ordinary dove-gray suit with a dark gray tie tied with a proper knot. His fingernails were clean but unmanicured. Stunning! An ordinary citizen, with the serene look of a chap about to lose at cribbage.
Ah, yes, Cruesoe thought, as the gambler shuffled his cards slowly. That carefulness revealed the imp under the angel's mask.A calliope salesman's ghost lay like a pale epidermis below the man's vest.
"Careful, gents!" He fluttered the cards. "Don't bet too much!"
Challenged, the men shoveled cash into the furnace.
"Whoa! No bets above four bits! Judiciously, sirs!"
The cards leapfrogged as he gazed about, oblivious of his deal.
"Where's my left thumb, my right? Or are there three thumbs?"
They laughed. What a jokester!
"Con--fused, chums? Baffled? Must I lose again?"
"Yes!" all babbled.
"Damn," he said, crippling his hands. "'Damn! Where's the Red Queen? Start over!"
"No! The middle one! Flip it!"
The card was flipped.
"Ohmigod," someone gasped.
"Can't look." The gambler's eyes were shut. "How much did I lose this time?"
"Nothing," someone whispered.
"Nothing?" The gambler, aghast, popped open his eyes.
They all stared at a black card.
"Gosh," said the gambler. "I thought you had me!"
His fingers spidered to the right, another black card, then to the far left. The Queen!
"Hell," he exhaled, "why's she there? Christ, guys, keep your cash!"
"No! No!" A shaking of heads. "You won. You couldn't help it. It was just-"
"Okay. If you insist! Watch out!"
Cruesoe shut his eyes. This, he thought, is the end. From here on they'll lose and bet and lose again. Their fever's up.
"Sorry, gents. Nice try. There!"
Cruesoe felt his hands become fists. He was twelve again, a fake mustache glued to his lip and his school chums at a party and the three-card monte laid out. "Watch the Red Queen vanish!" And the kids shout and laugh as his hands blurred to win their candy but hand it back to show his love.
"One, two, three! Where can she be?"
He felt his mouth whisper the oldwords, but the voice was the voice of this wizard stealing wallets, counting cash on a late-night train.
"Lost again? God, fellas, quit before your wife shoots you! Okay, Ace of spades, King of clubs, Red Queen. You won't see her again!"
Cruesoe turned, muttering. Don't listen! Sit! Drink! Forget your twelfth birthday, your friends. Quick!
He took one step when:
"That's three times lost, pals. I must fold my tent and . . ."
"No, no, don't leave now! We got to win the damn stuff back. Deal!"
And as if struck, Cruesoe spun about and returned to the madness.
"The Queen was always there on the left," he said.
... It was there all the time," Cruesoe said, louder.
"And who are you, sir?" The gambler raked in the cards, not glancing up.
"A boy magician."
"Christ, a boy magician!" The gambler riffled the deck.
The men backed off.
Cruesoe exhaled. "I know how to do the threecard monte."
"I won't cut in, I just wanted these good men-"
There was a muted rumble from the good men.
"to know anyone can win at the three-card monte."
Looking away, the gambler gave the cards a toss.
"Okay, wisenheimer, deal! Gents, your bets. Our friend here takes over. Watch his hands."
Cruesoe trembled with cold. The cards lay waiting.
"Okay, son. Grab on!"
"I can't do the trick well, I just know how it's done."
"Ha!" The gambler stared around. "Hear that, chums? Knows how it works, but can't do. Right?"
Cruesoe swallowed. "Right. But-"
"But? Does a cripple show an athlete? A dragfoot pace the sprinter? Gents, you want to change horses out here" He glanced at the window. Lights flashed by. "halfway to Cincinnati?"
Thegents, glared and muttered.
"Deal! Show us how you can steal from the poor."
Cruesoe's hands jerked back from the cards as if burnt.
"You prefer not to cheat these idiots in my presence?" the gambler asked.
Clever beast! Hearing themselves so named, the idiots roared assent.
"Can't you see what he's doing?" Cruesoe said.
"Yeah, yeah, we see," they babbled. "Even-steven. Lose some, win some. Why don't you go back where you came from?"
Cruesoe glanced out at a darkness rushing into the past, towns vanishing in night.
"Do you, sir," said the Straight-Arrow gambler, "in front of all these men, accuse me of raping their daughters, molesting their wives?"
The Dean of American storytellers returns to take readers on a breathtaking ride through the wondrous world he envisions through his windshield. His first new story collection since the publication of his critically acclaimed Quicker Than the Eye, "Driving Blind" clearly demonstrates that the master has a firm hand on the wheel, whether he's racing toward a broken-down, one-ring circus in a Mexican border town or cruising through a sad place where first love and first death unexpectedly collide. The incomparable Ray Bradbury is in the driver's seat, off on twenty-one unforgettable excursions through fantasy, time and memory, and there are surprises waiting around every curve and behind each mile marker. The journey promises to be a memorable one.
The incomparable Ray Bradbury is in the driver's seat, off on twenty-one unforgettable excursions through fantasy, time and memory, and there are surprises waiting around every curve and behind each mile marker. The journey promises to be a memorable one.
Ray Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938.Although his formal education ended there, he became a "student of life," selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival,
His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury’s masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden. In an attempt to salvage their history and culture, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy as their books are burned by the totalitarian state. Other works include The October Country, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric!, Quicker Than the Eye, and Driving Blind. In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum "recommended reading" anthologies. Mr. Bradbury’s eagerly awaited new novel, From the Dust Returned, will be published by William Morrow at Halloween 2001. Morrow will release One More For the Road, a new collection Bradbury stories, at Christmas 2001.
Ray Bradbury’s work has been included in four Best American Short Story collections. He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, the PEN Center USA West Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. In November 2000, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was conferred upon Mr. Bradbury at the 2000 National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City.
Ray Bradbury has never confined his vision to the purely literary. He has been nominated for an Academy Award (for his animated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright), and has won an Emmy Award (for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree). He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television’s Ray Bradbury Theater. He was the creative consultant on the United States Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In 1982 he created the interior metaphors for the Spaceship Earth display at Epcot Center, Disney World, and later contributed to the conception of the Orbitron space ride at Euro-Disney, France.
Married since 1947, Mr. Bradbury and his wife Maggie live in Los Angeles with their four beloved cats. They have four daughters and eight grandchildren.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, "The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you’ll come along."
Night train to Babylon -- If MGM is killed, who gets the lion? -- Hello, I must be going -- House divided -- Grand theft -- Remember me? -- Fee fie foe fum -- Driving blind -- I wonder what's become of Sally -- Nothing changes -- That old dog lying in the dust -- Someone in the rain -- Madame ET Monsieur Shill -- Mirror -- End of summer -- Thunder in the morning -- Highest branch on the tree -- Woman is a fast-moving picnic -- Virgin resusitas -- Mr. Pale -- That bird that comes out of the clock -- Brief afterword.