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The Aggravation Of Elmer
by [?]

The world would beat a path to

Elmer’s door–but he had to go

carry the door along with him!

It was the darnedest traffic jam I’d ever seen in White Plains. For two blocks ahead of me, Main Street was gutter to gutter with stalled cars, trucks and buses.

If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get back to the shop, I might have paid more attention. I might have noticed nobody was leaning on his horn. Or that at least a quarter of the drivers were out peering under their hoods.

But at the time it didn’t register. I gave the tie-up a passing glance and was turning up the side street toward Biltom Electronics–Bill-Tom, get it?–when I saw Marge threading her way to the curb. She was leading a small blonde girl of about eight, who clutched a child-size hatbox in her hand. Marge was hot and exasperated, but small fry was as cool and composed as a vanilla cone.

I waited. Even flushed and disheveled, Marge is a treat to look at. She is tall and slender, with brown eyes that match her hair, a smile that first crinkles around her eyes, then sneaks down and becomes a full-fledged grin–

But I’m getting off the subject.

“Honestly, Bill!” Marge said as she saw me. “The traffic nowadays! We’ve been tied up for fifteen minutes. I finally decided to get off the bus and walk, even though it is about a hundred in the shade.”

“Come along to the shop,” I suggested. “The reception room is air-conditioned and you can watch the world’s first baseball game telecast in color. The Giants versus the Dodgers, Carl Erskine pitching.”

Marge brightened. “That’ll be more fun than shopping, won’t it, Doreen?” she asked, looking down at the kid. “Bill, this is Doreen. She lives across the street from me. Her mother’s at the dentist and I said I’d look after her for the day.”

“Hello, Doreen,” I said. “What have you in the hatbox? Doll clothes?”

Doreen gave me a look of faint disgust. “No,” she piped, in a high treble. “An unhappy genii.”

“An unhappy–” I did a double take. “Oh, an unhappy genii? Maybe he’s unhappy because you won’t let him out, ha ha.” Even to myself, I sounded idiotic.

Doreen looked at me pityingly. “It’s not a he, it’s a thing. Elmer made it.”

I knew when I was losing, so I quit.

* * * * *

I hurried Marge and Doreen along toward our little two-story building. Once we got into the air-conditioned reception room, Marge sank down gratefully onto the settee and I switched on the television set with the big 24-inch tube Tom had built.

Biltom Electronics makes TV components, computer parts, things like that. Tom Kennedy is the brains. Me, Bill Rawlins, I do the legwork, and tend to the business details.

“It’s uncanny the way all those cars suddenly stopped when our bus broke down,” Marge said as we waited for the picture to come on. “Any day now this civilization of ours will get so complicated a bus breaking down someplace will bring the whole thing to a halt. Then where will we be?”

“Elmer says silly-zation is doomed!” Doreen put in happily.

The way she rolled the word out made me stare at her.

Marge only nodded. “That’s what Elmer says, all right,” she agreed, a trifle grim.

“Why does Elmer say silly-zation is doomed?” I asked Doreen.

“Because it’s getting hotter.” The kid gave it to me straight. “All the ice at the North Pole is gonna melt. The ocean is gonna rise two hundred feet. Then everybody who doesn’t live on a hill is gonna be drownded. That’s what Elmer says and Elmer isn’t ever wrong.”