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Marionettes, Inc.

1949 They walked slowly down the street at about ten in the evening, talking calmly. They were both about thirty-five, both eminently sober. 'But why so early?' said Smith. 'Because,' said Braling. 'Your first night out in years and you go home at ten o'clock.' 'Nerves, I suppose.' 'What I wonder is how you ever managed it. I've been trying to get you out for ten years for a quiet drink. And now, on the one night, you insist on turning in early.' 'Mustn't crowd my luck,' said Braling. 'What did you do, put sleeping powder in your wife's coffee?' 'No, that would be unethical. You'll see soon enough.' They turned a corner. 'Honestly, Braling, I hate to say this, but you have been patient with her. You may not admit it to me, but marriage has been awful for you, hasn't it?' 'I wouldn't say that.' 'It's got around, anyway, here and there, how she got you to marry her. That time back in 1979 when you were going to Rio -'Dear Rio. I never did see it after all my plans.' 'And how she tore her clothes and rumpled her hair and threatened to call the police unless you married her.' 'She always was nervous, Smith, understand.' 'It was more than unfair. You didn't love her. You told her as much, didn't you. 'I recall that I was quite firm on the subject.' 'But you married her anyhow.' 'I had my business to think of, as well as my mother and father. A thing like that would have killed them.'

’ He drew forth a long blue ticket. that’s _you!’ _cried Smith. ‘But I think perhaps it might change now. on the second floor. always the conservative. A man about thirty-five years old. _your _marriage hasn’t exactly been roses. ‘Sh-h-h. married to a woman who overdoes it. ‘She won’t know I’m gone. Well. ‘Yes. except you:’ Smith sighed.’ ‘But how wonderful! You do deserve it! But won’t _she _object? Cause trouble?’ Braling smiled nervously. The man in the window gestured significantly and vanished. his gray eyes steady. ‘Why.’ They waited. there!’ said Braling. and a small thin mustache looked down at them. sad gray eyes.’ ‘Poor Smith. Smith. when you’ve been married ten years. call you at work twelve times a day and talk baby talk. here’s my house. ‘I must be insane. ‘Hold on a moment. I wonder if perhaps she isn’t a little simple-minded?’ ‘Ah. ‘Why. ‘I wish I were going with you. _I’m finally going to make it. not so loud!’ Braling waved upward. with a touch of gray at either temple. Look here. I mean. has it?’ ‘Not exactly. you don’t expect a woman to sit on your lap for two hours every evening. I think what I’ve waited for has come about. Now. after all. In the window above them. I’ll be back in a month and no one the wiser. said Braling. They both stared up through the dark air.’ said Smith.'And it's been ten years. The street door of the apartment opened spare gentleman with the mustache . a shade was raised. it’s a ticket for Rio on the Thursday rocket!’ _ ‘Yes. would you like to know my secret? How I made it out this evening?’ ‘Will you really tell?’ ‘Look up. And it seems to me that in the last month she’s gotten worse.

’ said Braling quietly.’ said Braling.’ _Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. .tick. ‘No.’ said Braling. Braling.tick. appalled. From $ 7. ‘Hello. Braling Two.000 de luxe model. ‘Is this your twin brother? I never knew--‘No. _Tick.’ said Braling Two. Braling.and the came out to meet them. They were identical. _ ‘Oh no! It can’t be!’ ‘It is. Where?’ ‘Give the man your card.’ ‘Let me listen again. Duplicate self or friends. ‘Where’d you get him?’ ‘Isn’t he excellently fashioned?’ ‘Incredible.tick.’ he said.’ Smith hesitated and then leaned forward to place his against the uncomplaining ribs.600 to our $ 15.’ said Smith.tick.tick. guaranteed against all physical wear. ‘Yes.’ Braling Two did a magic trick and produced a white card: MARIONETTES. Smith stared. no. ‘Naturally.tick. ‘Bend close. _ Smith staggered back and fluttered his eyelids. INC.tick. ‘Hello. new humanoid plastic 1990 models. reached out and touched the warm hands and the cheeks the thing. Put your ear Braling Two’s chest.

Inc. is there a possibility . for myself? You _will_ give me the address.'Smith took his friend's elbow earnestly. natural as natural is. Just a little respite. A night or so. I shall be home with her for the next month. I’ve been home all evening. When I return from Rio. been in business?' 'Secretly. 'I've grown rather fond of her.’ ‘Wonderful! He even smells like you!’ ‘It may be splitting hairs. a marionette. In the meantime another gentleman will be in Rio after ten years of waiting. I love her dearly. but remember the old poem: "Love will fly if held too' 'Could I . Braling Two here will go back in his box." I just want her to relax her grip a . And he's built to do everything .' Smith was beginning to tremble.everything. a robot. _This marionette is me to the hairest detail. Braling Two?' 'Your wife is rather nice.. ‘Will he walk around without sustenance for a month?' he finally asked. won't you. Tonight I said I wished to take a walk to buy a cigar. sleep. After all. but I think it highly ethical. for two years. My wife loves me so much she can't bear to have me gone an hour.' he said. what my wife wants most of all is _me. Smith. you know. once a month even. 'Can you tell me where I can get one. I went down the cellar and took Braling Two out of his box and sent him back up to sit with my wife while I came on out to see you. You'll take good care of my wife. and I have the only lock and key to that box.’ Smith thought that over a minute or two.' Smith took the card and turned it round and round. I keep him in the cellar in a toolbox.I mean. 'Thank you. perspire . love will die if held too tightly.' said Braling Two.‘How long has this gone on?’ ‘I’ve had him for a month. won't you?' 'Here you are. 'You don't know what this means. 'How long has Marionettes. 'For six months if necessary. My wife never goes downstairs.

. The marionette . It will be my task to make her love me comfortably. just like me.' said Smith. The bus pulled to his stop. here. skin. Clients must have a mold made of their body and a color index check of their eyes. You're to treat Braling Two. it is still a felony. Nettie loves me madly.. Smith.. Inc. 'Oh. I don't mean to sound ungrateful. Inc. 'Well. hair. Two months from now my bruised underlip will begin to reshape itself. It will seem strange. He flipped the card over. I'll just slip eight thousand out as a business venture. Clients must expect to wait for two months until their model is finished.. at least. to my wife. Two months from now my hand will heal from being constantly held. etc. to use one. Nettie and I have fifteen thousand on our joint bank account.little bit. Braling and Braling Two turned and walked into the apartment hail. On the crosstown bus Smith whistled softly.' 'You're lucky. that your wife loves you.' Smith went smiling down the street. Address: 43 South Wesley Drive. is two years old and has a fine record of satisfied customers behind it. you might say. if you suddenly stop calling by. he alighted. if caught. Our motto is "No Strings Attached". Not so long.' 'Right! Goodbye. Marionettes.11 . and while humming up the stairs he thought. thought Smith. Not so easy. turning the white card in his fingers: Clients must be pledged to secrecy. Two months from now my ribs will have a chance to mend from the crushing they've en. And thank you. lips. for while an act is pending in Congress to legalize Marionettes.' 'Good luck to you. Do drop around while I'm in Rio. Hate's my problem.

confess his love. What did she mean. 'No more than that. huge.' He rechecked the bankbook frantically. without so much as a by your leave!' He stormed into the bedroom.' stopped. taking their money like this! He bent over her.I know! She bought that little house on the Hudson she's been talking about for months. forget the whole business. He collapsed. He unlocked the door and in a minute was in the bedroom. you make me feel like a criminal. 'There's only five thousand left! What's she done? What's she done with it? More hats. 'Nettie.' Tears came to his eyes. his hand ached and his ribs racked and groaned. 'Nettie. 'Just take it thousand dollars is all. 'What've you done with my money!' he bellowed. the horrid thought. It seems that in the last month you have loved me more wildly than ever before. and turned away. wake up!' She did not stir. wait . 'What've you done with my money!' And then. But as he moved to do this. 'If you were awake you would smother me with kisses and coo in my ear.' He was almost overwhelmed with remorse her innocent face there in the semidarkness. He moved out into the hall and the dark rooms. 'Hold on here!' he cried. righteous and indignant. Sometimes it is impossible for me believe you married me instead of that Bud Chapman you once liked. in many ways. Nettie needn't know. he opened the kidney desk in the library and filched the bankbook. Humming. pale. more perfume! Or.probably pay back my money. There was something about her. He shivered. more clothes. His knees suddenly turned to water. There lay Nettie. His heart throbbed violently. And then the terror and the loneliness . His tongue dried. 'Dear Nettie.' he said. with a pained look in his eyes. You have been a good. 'Ten thousand dollars is missing!' He leaped up. Nettie!' he cried. Really. and piously asleep. She stirred fitfully. The light from the street flushed over her beautiful cheeks. 'Wait a minute. loving wife. with interest. Suddenly he wished to kiss her. He stopped. tear up the card.

And we're sensitive. And then the fever and disillusionment. There's no way to shut me off. 'The cellar.tick. I'm perfectly alive and I have feelings. not to lie still.' Braling guided the other creature's elbow down the stairs to the cellar.' 'I'll try and fix up something more comfortable. _ As Smith walked away down the avenue in the night. 'Well.' said Braling Two. back in the box I go.' said Braling Two abstractedly.tick. 'Nettie!' he cried.tick. Braling and Braling Two turned in at the door to the apartment. For. without desiring to do so.tick.' said Braling.' 'There's a lot they don't know about us. I don't like that toolbox. B-Two.' said Braling Two.' Braling Two gestured irritably.tick. it's the cellar box for you. as they reached the concrete floor and walked across it. 'That's what I want to talk to you about. I keep running. 'We're pretty new.' Braling said.' 'It'll only be a few days now. You can live upstairs. I don't like it.tick.' 'Marionettes are made to move. 'I'm glad he'll be happy too. _Tick.' . How would you like to lie in a box most of the time?' 'Well -' 'You wouldn't like it at all.tick. I'll be off to Rio and you won't have to stay in the box.tick. 'They didn't tell me at the marionette shop that I'd get a difficult specimen. he bent forward and yet forward again until his fevered ear was resting firmly and irrevocably upon her pink bosom. I hate the idea of you going off and laughing and lying in the sun in Rio while we're stuck here in the cold. 'Yes. 'And when you come back from having a good time.engulfed him.

' Braling struggled. The sun was fine on his bared shoulders. 'And another thing. You'll never know.' 'Did she guess? Did she talk to you~ Does she know? Is it?' He screamed.' 'Did my wife put you up to this?' 'No.' said Braling quietly. The wine was most excellent.' Braling took another step and froze.' 'To whom?' Braling Two frowned.' 'I'm glad you're enjoying your employment. 'You won't mind waiting a moment. I think . A metal-firm grip seized his wrists. He squinted his eyes and could see the sea and the mountains and the yellow sand.' Braling :ked his lips nervously. The sound of the waves was good his inward mind. 'I've grown quite fond of her. 'Have you thought of that?' No. 'I'm going to put you in the box. will you?' Braling Two smiled delicately. 'I'm afraid you don't understand. beginning to edge toward the door. 'how nice it in Rio and how I'll never get there.' the other man.' 'What about her?' asked Braling. 'She must have guessed. 'You're in what?' 'And I've been thinking.I think we could be very happy. Incorporated? To tell them to come get me 'No. 'You'll never know. and I've thought out your wife and . 'No one important. lock and lose the key. she must affected you!' Braling Two said.' 'To Marionettes.' .nothing like that!' He tried to rush out the door. Your wife.' 'Th-that's nice. A hand clapped over his mouth. no . I -.I'm in love with her. 'Don't runt' 'Take your hands off!' 'No.' said Braling Two. will u? I have to make a phone call. Then I'll buy another Rio ticket for your wile.' Braling strolled as casually as he could the cellar door. 'I'll never get to go to Rio.'But I've wanted that trip all my life.

Don't be rash.' someone said. Someone had just kissed it. 'Why . Braling awoke.' she haven't done that in years. She put her hand to her cheek.' Ten minutes later Mrs. Hold on. now. wait a minute.'Now. 'We'll see what we can do about that. Braling. She shivered and looked up. . Let's talk this over!' 'Goodbye.