“Good-bye,” the children yelled, and waved. The car moved away through the town.
“Did you hear what the old man said?” asked the wife.
“Did you hear him say which way to the freeway?”
He drove through the cool, shady town, staring at the porches and the windows with the colored glass fringing them. If you looked from the inside of those windows out, people had different-colored faces for each pane you looked through. They were Chinese if you looked through one, Indian through another, pink, green, violet, burgundy, wine, chartreuse, the candy colors, the lemon-lime cool colors, the water colors of the windows looking out on lawns and trees and this car slowly driving past.
“Yes, I heard him,” said Clarence Travers.
They left the town behind and took the dirt road to the freeway. They waited their chance, saw an interval between floods of cars hurtling by, swerved out into the stream, and, at fifty miles an hour, were soon hurtling toward the city.
“That’s better,” said Cecelia Travers brightly. She did not look over at her husband. “Now I know where we are.”
Billboards flashed by; a mortuary, a pie crust, a cereal, a garage, a hotel. A hotel in the tar pits of the city, where one day is the pitiless glare of the noon sun, thought Mr. Travers, all of the great Erector-set buildings, like prehistoric dinosaurs, will sink down into the bubbling tar-lava and be encased, bone by bone, for future civilizations. And in the stomachs of the electric lizards, inside the iron dinosaurs, the probing scientists of A.D. One Million will find the little ivory bones, the thinly articulated skeletons of advertising executives and clubwomen and children. Mr. Travers felt his eyes flinch, watering. And the scientists will say, so this is what the iron cities fed on, is it? and give the bones a kick. So this is what kept the iron stomachs full, eh? Poor things, they never had a chance. Probably kept by the iron monsters who needed them in order to survive, who needed them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Aphids, in a way, aphids, kept in a great metal cage.
“Look, Daddy, look, look, before it’s too late!”
The children pointed, yelling. Cecelia Travers did not look. Only the children saw it.
The old highway, two hundred yards away, at their left, sprang back into sight for an instant, wandered aimlessly through field, meadow, and stream, gentle and cool and quiet.
Mr. Travers swung his head sharply to see, but in that instant it was gone. Billboards, trees, hills rushed it away. A thousand cars, honking, shrieking, shouldered them, and bore Clarence and Cecelia Travers and their captive children stunned and silent down the concourse, onward ever onward into a city that had not seen them leave and did not look to see them return
“Let’s see if this car will do sixty or sixty-five,” said Clarence Travers.
It could and did.
MAKE HASTE TO LIVE: AN AFTERWORD
When I was eight years old, in 1928, an incredible event occurred on the back wall outside the Academy motion picture theater in Waukegan, Illinois. An advertising broadside, some thirty feet long and twenty feet high, dramatized Black-stone the Magician in half a dozen miraculous poses: sawing a lady in half; tied to an Arabian cannon that exploded, taking him with it; dancing a live handkerchief in midair; causing a birdcage with a live canary to vanish between his fingers; causing an elephant to … well, you get the idea. I must have stood there for hours, frozen with awe. I knew then that someday I must become a magician.
That’s what happened, didn’t it? I’m not a science fiction, fantasy, magic-realism writer of fairy tales and surrealist poems. Quicker Than the Eye may well be the best title I have ever conjured for a new collection. I pretend to do one thing, cause you to blink, and in the instant seize twenty bright silks out of a bottomless hat.
How does he do that? may well be asked. I really can’t say. I don’t write these stories, they write me. Which causes me to live with a boundless enthusiasm for writing and life that some misinterpret as optimism.