Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"I Fired Again, and the Universe Disintegrated"

"The Little Black Satchel."
By Samuel Hopkins Adams (1871-1958).
First appearance: Munsey's Magazine, September 1901.
Reprinted in The Underworld, October 5, 1927.
Short short short story (3 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).
"I took the revolver and the hand, both, and with them a resolution."
Our narrator, Ellis Carr, is basically your average traveling salesman hauling around a small samples satchel; Ellis's day is going like it usually does until, on the train, he bumps into 
an old college chum, Tom Pennant, and—even better—Tom's absolutely spiffing cousin, Mildred Gaylord. Ellis could reasonably look forward to spending more time with his lovely new acquaintance:
But for the presence of the little black satchel, the next four days would have been unalloyed paradise. Whenever I looked into Mildred Gaylord's eyes my heart came into my throat; whenever I looked at that funereal black cube of concentrated cussedness, it went down into my boots. Cardiac fluctuations are professionally regarded as unhealthy, I believe. I began to get morbid over it; to wonder what Mildred would do if she knew the secret shut up in that satchel. Would she content herself with shunning me like a pestilence? Or would she denounce me to the conductor, in which case I should be ejected from the train at the next stop with a reputation that would close every hotel in the place against me?
And then, while Ellis is brooding over what to do about his dilemma, fate steps in . . .

Comment: A delightful vignette with a couple of surprising plot twists and a satisfying, frantic finale.
Typo: "a rear windown"

- A muckraker in his day, Samuel Hopkins Adams also produced readable fiction on the side, both in the crime fiction and SFF genres; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

The bottom line: "Love will find its way through paths where wolves fear to prey."

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