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Бестер, Альфред

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Alfred Bester. The Flowered Thundermug

"We will conclude this first semester of Antiquities 107," Professor
Paul Muni said, "with a reconstruction of an average day in the life of a
mid-twentieth-century inhabitant of the United States of America, as Great
L.A. was known five hundred years ago.
"Let us refer to him as Jukes, one of the proudest names of
the times, immortalized in the Kallikak-Jukes-feud sagas. It is
now generally agreed that the mysterious code letters JU, found
in the directories of Hollywood East, or New York City as it
was called then--viz., JU 6-0600 or JU 2-1914--indicate in some
manner a genealogical relationship to the powerful Jukes
dynasty.
"The year is 1950. Mr. Jukes, a typical `loner'--i.e.,
`bachelor'--lives on a small ranch outside New York. He rises
at dawn, dresses in spurred boots, Daks slacks, rawhide shirt,
gray flannel waistcoat and black knit tie. He arms himself with
a Police Positive revolver or a Frontier Six Shooter and goes
out to the Bar-B-Q to prepare his breakfast of curried plankton
or converted algae. He may or may not surprise juvenile
delinquents or red Indians on his ranch in the act of lynching
a victim or rustling his automobiles, of which he has a herd of
perhaps one hundred and fifty.
"These hooligans he disperses after single combat with his
fists. Like all twentieth-century Americans, Jukes is a brute
of fantastic strength, giving and receiving sledgehammer blows,
or being battered by articles of furniture with inexhaustible
resilience. He rarely uses his gun on such occasions; it is
usually reserved for ceremonial rituals.
"Mr. Jukes journeys to his job in New York City on
horseback; in a sports car (a kind of open automobile), or on
an electric trolley car. He reads his morning newspaper, which
will feature such stories as: `The Discovery of the North
Pole,' `The Sinking of the Luxury Liner Titanic,' `The
Successful Orbiting of Mars by Manned Space Capsule,' or `The
Strange Death of President Harding.'
"Jukes works in an advertising agency situated on Madison
Avenue (now Sunset Boulevard East), which, in those days, was a
rough muddy highway, traversed by stagecoaches, lined with gin
mills and populated by bullies, corpses and beautiful
night-club performers in abbreviated dresses. Jukes is an
agency man, dedicated to the guidance of taste, the improvement
of culture, the election of public officers and the selection
of national heroes.
"His office on the twentieth floor of a towering skyscraper
is decorated in the characteristic style of the mid-twentieth
century. He has a roll-top desk, a Null-G, or Free Fall chair
and a brass spittoon. Illumination is by Optical Maser light
pumps. Large fans suspended from the ceiling cool him in the
summer, and an infrared Franklin stove warms him in the winter.
"The walls are decorated with rare picture



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