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FUTURE SCIENCE FICTION

March 1953

A BIG MAN with the Girls

Jealousy can sometimes lead
to very important discoveries!

By James MacCreigh & Judith Merril

BART MANDELL was not, really, a jealous man; he'd been around enough to know it didn't pay. But he'd been around enough, too, to understand Sally.

She was a sweet kid: pretty as a sweet-pea from the neck up, and absolutely terrific all the way down. Faithful, and loyal, and loving, too. But a party girl, always on the move, fast on her feet and quick with a quip. Not the sitting-home type at all.

Which explains why Bart decided that two hours' sleep would have to do him.

He hadn't seen Sally for forty-eight hours—not since the search began; that was just about twenty-eight hours too long, and the last time he called she'd sounded pretty much indifferent to whether she ever saw him again. He had eight hours and that was all, before he had to go back out with the search-party aga'n. So he caught a fast, couple of hours of sacktime, washed the sleep out of his system in the sharp spray of the shower, and started down to her house.

The street was lit up like a carnival. It was crazy; here the whole Army was on twenty-four hour duty, with the National Guard working alongside, and the cops out, too. The city—the whole world, maybe—was in danger, and folks who weren't actually out hunting were having themselves a time. He couldn't figure out where the stuff had come from so quickly, but every store along the street had souvenirs and gadgets for sale; maps of Mars, toy rocket ships, and mechanical Martians with green skin and red eyes. Kids were peddling illustrated reprints of the government White Paper on Mars. The bars were full, and even the ice-cream parlors were doing a land-office business.

And all the time, out there in the woods, grim parties of sleepless men were beating the bushes for some sign of the invader.

Bart strode angrily down the street, pushing his way past the meandering groups. His uniform gave him right-of-way, fortunately for the revelers.

He was almost at the side-street where Sally lived, when he realized he had forgotten the flowers.

There was no florist nearby. He stopped at a hastily-constructed sidewalk stand, picked out the biggest and fanciest of the toy rockets, sourly paid three times what it was worth, and turned off to Sally's.

He had to wait at the door just a minute too long when he rang. Then she opened up, and he found out why—she had an apron on, and the house was full of the nicest smell in the world, french fries frying. She stayed in his arms just long enough for him to work himself up to the kind, of kiss he really wanted to give her, then she pulled away.

"The potatoes!" She turned and ran out to the kitchen, bronze curls bobbing as she ran. Bart closed his mouth, stopped gasping, and followed her, just in time to see her slide two inches of steak into the broiler.

"You are," he said, watching her, "beyond any possible doubt, the most wonderful woman on any planet, let alone on Earth."

The corners of her mouth tilted, and she caught her lower "lip with her teeth just in time to stop a full-fledged smile. Bart watched the even white edges press down on the full redness of the lip, and decided he wasn't very hungry after all.

"Oh," he remembered, "I brought you a prese...

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