The October Country

The October Country by Ray Bradbury Page A

Book: The October Country by Ray Bradbury Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ray Bradbury
familiar from his coat and proceeded to chew on it, as on a peppermint stick. Its end devoured, his extraordinary tongue darted within the white confection, sucking out the filling, making contented noises. He was still crunching his goody as she proceeded up the sidewalk to her house, turned the doorknob and walked in.
    "Darling?" she called, smiling around. "Darling, where are you?" She shut the door, walked down the hall and into the living room. "Darling. . ."
    She stared at the floor for twenty seconds, trying to understand.
    She screamed.
    Outside in the sycamore darkness, the little man pierced a long white stick with intermittent holes; then, softly, sighing, his lips puckered, played a little sad tune upon the improvised instrument to accompany the shrill and awful singing of Clarisse's voice as she stood in the living room.
    Many times as a little girl Clarisse had run on the beach sands, stepped on a jellyfish and screamed. It was not so bad, finding an intact, gelatin-skinned jellyfish in one's living room. One could step back from it.
    It was when the jellyfish called you by name . . .

The Jar

    It was one of those things they keep in a jar in the tent of a sideshow on the outskirts of a little, drowsy town. One of those pale things drifting in alcohol plasma, forever dreaming and circling, with its peeled, dead eyes staring out at you and never seeing you. It went with the noiselessness of late night, and only the crickets chirping, the frogs sobbing off in the moist swampland. One of those things in a big jar that makes your stomach jump as it does when you see a preserved arm in a laboratory vat.
    Charlie stared back at it for a long time.
    A long time, his big, raw hands, hairy on the roofs of them, clenching the rope that kept back curious people. He had paid his dime and now he stared.
    It was getting late. The merry-go-round drowsed down to a lazy mechanical tinkle. Tent-peggers back of a canvas smoked and cursed over a poker game. Lights switched out, putting a summer gloom over the carnival. People streamed homeward in cliques and queues. Somewhere, a radio flared up, then cut, leaving Louisiana sky wide and silent with stars.
    There was nothing in the world for Charlie but that pale thing sealed in its universe of serum. Charlie's loose mouth hung open in a pink weal, teeth showing; his eyes were puzzled, admiring, wondering.
    Someone walked in the shadows behind him, small beside Charlie's gaunt tallness. "Oh," said the shadow, coming into the light-bulb glare. "You still here, bud?"
    "Yeah," said Charlie, like a man in his sleep.
    The carny-boss appreciated Charlie's curiosity. He nodded at his old acquaintance in the jar. "Everybody likes it; in a peculiar kinda way, I mean."
    Charlie rubbed his long jaw-bone. "You--uh--ever consider selling it?"
    The carny-boss's eyes dilated, then closed. He snorted. "Naw. It brings customers. They like seeing stuff like that. Sure."
    Charlie made a disappointed, "Oh."
    "Well," considered the carny-boss, "if a guy had money, maybe--"
    "How much money?"
    "If a guy had--" the carny-boss estimated, counting fingers, watching Charlie as he tacked it out one finger after another. "If a guy had three, four, say, maybe seven or eight--"
    Charlie nodded with each motion, expectantly. Seeing this, the carny-boss raised his total, "--maybe ten dollars or maybe fifteen--"
    Charlie scowled, worried. The carny boss retreated. "Say a guy has twelve dollars--" Charlie grinned. "Why he could buy that thing in that jar," concluded the carny-boss.
    "Funny thing," said Charlie, "I got just twelve bucks in my denims. And I been reckoning how looked-up-to I'd be back down at Wilder's Hollow if I brung home something like this to set on my shelf over the table. The folks would sure look up to me then, I bet."
    " Well , now, listen here--" said the carny-boss.
    The sale was completed with the jar put on the back seat of Charlie's wagon. The horse skittered his hoofs when he saw the jar,

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