Thursday, February 22, 2024

"Because of You, Their Choice Is Doomed"

THERE'S something very wrong on the . . .

"Night Train to Babylon."
By Ray Bradbury (1920-2012; Wikipedia HERE; FictionMags, 8 page list HERE; ISFDb HERE).
First appearance: EQMM, December 1997.
Collected in Driving Blind (1997; Wikipedia HERE).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (11 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 1).
(Parental caution: Strong language.)

   "The club car rattle-banged by, a dozen volcanic faces with fiery eyes crushed close to the windows, fists hammering the glass."

We're told that a 16th century colonial official recommended that everyone should "think honestie the best policie." Of course, "the best policie" works just fine as long as everybody goes along with it. It's unfortunate, therefore, when James finds himself in a situation where everybody is strongly motivated not to go along with "the best policie" but instead finds it profitable to do the exact opposite . . .

Main characters:
~ James Cruesoe:
  ". . . shook his head. 'That's not how the trick works. It's how you lay down and pick up the cards. Any deck would do'."
~ The Straight-Arrow gambler:
  "His fingernails were clean but unmanicured. Stunning! An ordinary citizen, with the serene look of a chap about to lose at cribbage."
~ The conductor:
  "He took out a little black book, licked his fingers, turned pages. 'Uh-huh,' he said. 'Lookit all the biblical/Egyptian names. Memphis, Tennessee. Cairo, Illinois? Yep! And here's one just ahead. Babylon'."

References and resources:
- "the three-card monte laid out":
  "Three-card monte – also known as find the lady and three-card trick – is a confidence game in which the victims, or 'marks', are tricked into betting a sum of money, on the assumption that they can find the 'money card' among three face-down playing cards. It is very similar to the shell game except that cards are used instead of shells." (Wikipedia HERE.) Also see "Card sharp" (HERE).
- "another from Mandela in South Africa":
  Probably referring to the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Hollywood loves gambling in all of its forms. A couple of movies featuring skullduggery in card games: The Cincinnati Kid (1965; WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966; WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE).
- We've already considered some of Ray Bradbury's fiction: "The Pedestrian" (HERE) and "Morgue Ship" (HERE).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

No comments:

Post a Comment