Monday, December 13, 2021

"His Real Disability Was a Mouth Murmur"

"The Wicked Flea."
By Fredric Brown (1906-72).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, January 1943.
Short short short story (4 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus (HERE; using dropdown page selector, go to page 76) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; it will be neces-sary to download the entire issue; go down to text page 74).
(Note: Text is faded at Comic Book Plus.)

     "The wicked flea, Pop. Ever read the Bible?"

A nice haircut, expensive smokes, ditching a hundred bucks like it's nothing, and new, good-fitting shoes—this guy just has to be up to no good. But how to prove it?

Principal characters:
~ The hobo:
  "When's the next rattler out?"
~ Pop:
  "I opened the pack and pulled out a wad of green paper. Yeah, bills."
~ Howie Smith:
  "Listen, I'm not so bad at either observation or deduction. Honest, I've been studying both of them . . ."

References and resources:
- "Not the kind a 'bo would buy": Sometimes self-styled as a gentleman of the road:
  "A hobo is a migrant worker in the United States. Hoboes, tramps and bums are generally regarded as related, but distinct: A hobo travels and is willing to work; a tramp travels, but avoids work if possible; and a bum neither travels nor works" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "this rubber hose stuff": Not as widely practiced these days as it used to be:
  "Judicial torture for the purpose of eliciting a confession has been used in antiquity and was common in pre-modern society, to the point that it is difficult to find a pre-modern state that did not use torture (against the accused, witnesses, and sometimes the plaintiff) in criminal cases" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "give it to the USO": Newly formed at the time:
  "Founded during World War II, the USO sought to be the GI's 'home away from home' and began a tradition of entertaining the troops and providing social facilities. Involvement in the USO was one of the many ways in which the nation had come together to support the war effort, with nearly 1.5 million people having volunteered their services in some way" (Wikipedia HERE).
- Last August we featured another tale by Fredric Brown, "To Slay a Man About a Dog!" (HERE).

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