The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

“Well, the white people live on Earth, which is where we all come from, twenty years ago. We just up and walked away and came to Mars and set down and built towns and here we are. Now we’re Martians instead of Earth people. And no white men’ve come up here in all that time. That’s the story.”

“Why didn’t they come up, Mom?”

“Well, ’cause. Right after we got up here, Earth got in an atom war. They blew each other up terribly. They forgot us. When they finished fighting, after years, they didn’t have any rockets. Took them until recently to build more. So here they come now, twenty years later, to visit.” She gazed at her children numbly and then began to walk. “You wait here. I’m going down the line to Elizabeth Brown’s house. You promise to stay?”

“We don’t want to but we will.”

“All right, then.” And she ran off down the road.

At the Browns’ she arrived in time to see everybody packed into the family car. “Hey there, Hattie! Come on along!”

“Where you going?” she said, breathlessly running up.

“To see the white man!”

“That’s right,” said Mr. Brown seriously. He waved at his load. “These children never saw one, andI almost forgot.”

“What you going to do with that white man?” asked Hattie.

“Do?” said everyone. “Why—justlook at him, is all.”

“You sure?”

“What else can we do?”

“I don’t know,” said Hattie. “I just thought there might be trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“Youknow,” said Hattie vaguely, embarrassed. “You ain’t going to lynch him?”

“Lynch him?” Everyone laughed. Mr. Brown slapped his knee. “Why, bless you, child, no! We’re going to shake his hand. Ain’t we, everyone?”

“Sure, sure!”

Another car drove up from another direction and Hattie gave a cry. “Willie!”

“What you doing ’way down here? Where’re the kids?” shouted her husband angrily. He glared at the others. “You going down like a bunch of fools to see that man come in?”

‘That appears to be just right,” agreed Mr. Brown, nodding and smiling.

‘Well, take your guns along,” said Willie. “I’m on my way home for mine right now!”


“You get in this car, Hattie.” He held the door open firmly, looking at her until she obeyed. Without another word to the others he roared the car down the dusty road.

“Willie, not so fast!”

“Not so fast, huh? We’ll see about that.” He watched the road tear under the car. “What right they got coming up here this late? Why don’t they leave us in peace? Why didn’t they blow themselves up on that old world and let us be?”

“Willie, that ain’t no Christian way to talk.”

“I’m not feeling Christian,” he said savagely, gripping the wheel. “I’m just feeling mean. After all them years of doing what they did to our folks—my mom and dad, and your mom and dad—— You remember? You remember how they hung my father on Knockwood Hill and shot my mother? You remember? Or you got a memory that’s short like the others?”

“I remember,” she said.

“You remember Dr. Phillips and Mr. Burton and their big houses, and my mother’s washing shack, and Dad working when he was old, and the thanks he got was being hung by Dr. Phillips and Mr. Button. Well,” said Willie, “the shoe’s on the other foot now. We’ll see who gets laws passed against him, who gets lynched, who rides the back of streetcars, who gets segregated in shows. We’ll just wait and see.”

“Oh, Willie, you’re talking trouble.”

“Everybody’s talking. Everybody’s thought on this day, thinking it’d never be. Thinking, What kind of day would it be if the white man ever came up here to Mars? But here’s the day, and we can’t run away.

“Ain’t you going to let the white people live up here?”

“Sure.” He smiled, but it was a wide, mean smile, and his eyes were mad. “They can come up and live and work here; why, certainly. All they got to do to deserve it is live in their own small part of town, the slums, and shine our shoes for us, and mop up our trash, and sit in the last row in the balcony. That’s all we ask. And once a week we hang one or two of them. Simple!”

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