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Let’s Play King
by [?]

“Say, he might, at that. Gee, maybe he could make a hundred bucks a week. I’ve heard some of these kids do. Golly, I’d like to have a cane with a silver dog’s-head top!”

“Tom Tait, you get on your coat, and as soon as I scrub the kid’s mug and change his clothes, you take him right straight down to the Main Street Foto Shoppe—I’ll mind the pump—and you get some pictures of him and we’ll shoot ’em out to Hollywood. ”

“Oh, you gimme a big fat pain—hot day like this,” sighed Mr. Tait and, gloomily, “Besides, I might miss a job changing an inner tube. Just like you—throw away fifty cents on a fool chance that we might be able to farm the brat out at maybe fifty bucks a week some day, MAYBE!”

“I don’t play no maybes, never,” said Bessie Tait.

Mr. Abraham Hamilton Granville, president and G. M. of the Jupiter–Triumph-Tait Film Corporation, had adorned his Spanish mansion at Poppy Peaks, California, with the largest private fish bowl in the known world. Other movie satraps might have Pompeian swimming pools, cathedral organs and ballrooms floored with platinum, but it was Mr. Granville’s genius—so had it been, indeed, ever since he had introduced the Holdfast Patent Button, which had put over the renowned Abe Grossburg Little Gents’ Pants Co. , back in 1903—I say it was Mr. Granville’s peculiar genius that he always thought up something a little different.

He had caused cunning craftsmen to erect a fish bowl—no vulgar aquarium but a real, classy, round, glass, parlor fish bowl—twenty feet high and sixty in circumference, on the red-and-green marble terrace of his mansion, Casa Scarlatta.

Poppy Peaks is an addition to Hollywood, built by the more refined and sensitive and otherwise rich members of the movie colony when Hollywood itself became too common for their aristocratic tradition. And of all the county families and nobility of Poppy Peaks, none were more select than the intellectual powers gathered about Mr. Granville this hazy California August afternoon.

Besides Mr. Granville and the production manager, Mr. Eisbein, there was Wiggins, the press agent—formerly the most celebrated red-dog player and mint-julep specialist on the coast, a man who was questionable only in his belief that mange cure will cause thinning mouse-colored hair to turn into raven richness. Was also Miss Lilac Lavery Lugg, writer of the scenarios for such masterpieces of cinematographic passion as “Mad Maids,” “Midnight Madness,” and “Maids o’ the Midnight. ” She was thirty-eight and had never been kissed.

But even more important than these mad magnates o’ midnight was a quiet and genteel family sitting together in scarlet-painted basket chairs.

The father of the family was a gentleman named Mr. T. Benescoten Tait. He had a handsome ruddy mustache, curled, and a gold cigarette case; he wore a lavender suit, white spats, patent-leather shoes, eyeglasses with a broad silk ribbon, and a walking stick whose top was a dog’s-head of gold with ruby eyes.

His lady was less cheering in appearance, but more notable; she wore a white-striped black suit with python-skin slippers. She sat rigid, with eyes like headlights.

And the third of the family was Terry Tait, billed throughout the entire world as “The King of Boy Comedians. ”

He was in English shorts, with a Byronesque silk shirt open at the throat. But on the back of one manicured hand was a grievous smear of dirt, which more suggested raising Cain in Mechanicville, New York, than being sweet in Poppy Peaks; and crouched behind him was a disreputable specimen of that celebrated breed of canines, a Boy’s Dog, who would never be exhibited in any dog show except a strictly private one behind an ill-favored barn.

Terry was ten, this summer of 1930.

“Well, Miss Lugg,” Granville said briskly, “what’s your idea for the new Terrytait?”

“Oh, I’ve got a perfectly priceless idea this time. Terry plays a poor little Ytalian bootblack—he’s really the son of a count, but he got kidnaped—”

Terry crossed over center stage and yammered, “I won’t do it! I’ve been the newsboy that squealed on the gang, and I’ve been the son of the truck driver that got adopted by the banker, and I’ve been Oliver Twist and—I hate these dog-gone poor-city-boy rles! I want to be a boy cowboy, or an Apache!”