Clifford simak – dusty zebra

Dusty Zebra

If you’re human, you can’t keep a thing around the house.
You’re always losing things and never finding them and you go charging
Through the place, yelling, cross-examining, blaming.
That’s the way it is in all families.
Just one warning – – don’t try to figure out where all those things have
Gone or who might have taken them. If you have any notion of investigating,
Forget it. You’ll be happier! I’ll tell you how it was with me.
I’d bought the sheet of stamps on my way home from the office so I could
Mail out the cheques for the monthly bills. But
I’d just sat down to write the cheques when Marge and Lewis
Shaw dropped over. I don’t care much for Lewis and he barely tolerates me.
But Marge and Helen are good friends, and they got to talking, and the Shaws
Stayed all evening.
Lewis told me about the work he was doing

at his research laboratory out
At the edge of town. I tried to switch him off to something else, but he kept
Right on. I suppose he’s so interested in his work that he figures everyone
Else must be. But I don’t know a thing about electronics and I can’t tell a
Microgauge from a microscope.
It was a fairly dismal evening and the worst of it was that I couldn’t say
So. Helen would have jumped all over me for being antisocial.
So, the next evening after dinner, I went into the den to write the
Cheques and, of course, the stamps were gone.
I had left the sheet on top of the desk and now the desk was bare except
For one of the Bildo-Bloeks that young Bill had outgrown several years before,
But which still turn up every now and then in the most unlikely places.
I looked around the room. Just in case they might have blown off the desk,
I got down on my hands and knees and searched under everything. There was no
Sign of the stamps.
I went into the living room, where Helen was curled up in a chair,
Watching television.
“I haven’t seen them, Joe,” she said. “They must be where you left them.”
It was exactly the kind of answer I should have expected.
“Bill might know,” I said.
“He’s scarcely been in the house all day. When he does show up, you’ve got
To speak to him.” “What’s the matter now?”
“It’s this trading business. He traded off that new belt we got him for a
Pair of spurs.”
“I can’t see anything wrong in that. When I was a kid…. “
“It’s not just the belt,” she said. “He’s traded everything.
And the worst of it is that he always seems to get the best of it.”
“The kid’s smart.”
“If you take that attitude, Joe…. “
“It’s not my attitude,” I said. “It’s the attitude of the whole business
World. When Bill grows up…. “
“When he grows up, he’ll be in prison. Why, the way he trades, you’d swear
He was training to be a con man!” “All right, I’ll talk to him.”
I went back into the den because the atmosphere wasn’t exactly as friendly
As it might have been and, anyhow, I had to
send out those cheques, stamps or no stamps.
I got the pile of bills and the cheque-book and the fountain pen out of
The drawer. I reached out and picked up the Bildo-Block to put it to one side,
So I’d have a good, clear space to work on. But the moment I picked it up, I
Knew that this thing was no Bildo-Block.
It was the fight size and weight and was black and felt like plastic,
Except that it was slicker than any plastic I had ever felt.
It felt as if it had oil on it, only it didn’t.
I set it down in front of me and pulled the desk lamp closer.
But there wasn’t much to see.



Clifford simak – dusty zebra