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MAGAZINE OF HORROR
AND STRANGE STORIES

AUGUST 1963

A Thing of Beauty

By Wallace West

Wallace West to another of the many well-known writers of imaginative fiction who made their debut in Farnswrth-Wright's Weird Tales. There is a deceptive aura of fun that runs through his novels, for sardonic humor, the shocking, and the terrifying may peer through or emerge at any moment. Despite his openness to all bizarre themes, Mr. Wright did, at times, reject a story as too horrible; and here to one occasion where we feel that he was the loser, and we are the gainers.

EACH WINTER day at dawn old John Short scurried alone the snow-covered streets of Cloverdale enroute to open the drafts of the furnace which spread a little warmth through Medical College.

Milkmen and other early-risers chuckled as they saw him limping past, whistling a lively tune or reciting snatches of poetry. The very sight of him, they said, brought them good luck that day.

But it was not the thought of poking into the bowels of the furnace or carting out the ashes which made the hunchback's lips pucker with the notes of "Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage" or roll out a Wordsworthian sonnet. It was the anticipation of his weazened face to beam like die not-yet-risen sun.

Short, you see, also was in charge of the brine vat in which floated the corpses kept for dissection by the students of Northern Med. For more years than Henry Wyndam, N.M.C's white-haired president, could remember, Ola John had tended the "Stiff Room" when he was not nursing the furnace or bedeviling the school librarian for more books of poetry.

Every morning, as soon as die leaky radiators began clanking in the empty classrooms, Short would brush the ashes from his overalls, rub his gnarled hands and take from its corner a fifteen-foot pole with a hook on the end. Then he would head for the brine vat, whistling as he went.


John's greeting to his charges had once been overheard by a student who had come to school early to make up some back work, but had been forced to seek the furnace room to warm his half-frozen hands and feet.

"I tell you, 1 heard him talking to those stiff...

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