Slowly, and then more quickly, they turned and walked away and then started running, scattering from the scene. In a minute the place was desolate. Only Mr. and Mrs. LaFarge remained, looking down, hand in hand, terrified.

The rain fell upon the upturned, unrecognizable face.

Anna said nothing but began to cry.

“Come along home, Anna, there’s nothing we can do,” said the old man.

They climbed down into the boat and went back along the canal in the darkness. They entered their house and lit a small fire and warmed their hands, They went to bed and lay together, cold and thin, listening to the rain returned to the roof above them.

“Listen,” said LaFarge at midnight. “Did you hear something?”

“Nothing, nothing.”

“I’ll go look anyway.”

He fumbled across the dark room and waited by the outer door for a long time before he opened it.

He pulled the door wide and looked out.

Rain poured from the black sky upon the empty dooryard, into the canal and among the blue mountains.

He waited five minutes and then softly, his hands wet, he shut and bolted the door.

November 2005: THE LUGGAGE STORE

It was a very remote thing, when the luggage-store proprietor heard the news on the night radio, received all the way from Earth on a light-sound beam. The proprietor felt how remote it was.

There was going to be a war on Earth.

He went out to peer into the sky.

Yes, there it was. Earth, in the evening heavens, following the sun into the hills. The words on the radio and that green star were one and the same.

“I don’t believe it,” said the proprietor.

“It’s because you’re not there,” said Father Peregrine, who had stopped by to pass the time of evening.

“What do you mean, Father?”

“It’s like when I was a boy,” said Father Peregrine. “We heard about wars in China. But we never believed them. It was too far away. And there were too many people dying. It was impossible. Even when we saw the motion pictures we didn’t believe it. Well, that’s how it is now. Earth is China. It’s so far away it’s unbelievable. It’s not here. You can’t touch it. You can’t even see it. All you see is a green light. Two billion people living on that light? Unbelievable! War? We don’t hear the explosions.”

“We will,” said the proprietor. “I keep thinking about all those people that were going to come to Mars this week. What was it? A hundred thousand or so coming up in the next month or so. What about them if the war starts?”

“I imagine they’ll turn back. They’ll be needed on Earth.”

“Well,” said the proprietor, “I’d better get my luggage dusted off. I got a feeling there’ll be a rush sale here any time.”

“Do you think everyone now on Mars will go back to Earth if this is the Big War we’ve all been expecting for years?”

“It’s a funny thing, Father, but yes, I think we’ll all go back. I know, we came up here to get away from things—politics, the atom bomb, war, pressure groups, prejudice, laws—I know. But it’s still home there. You wait and see. When the first bomb drops on America the people up here’ll start thinking. They haven’t been here long enough. A couple years is all. If they’d been here forty years, it’d be different, but they got relatives down there, and their home towns. Me, I can’t believe in Earth any more; I can’t imagine it much. But I’m old. I don’t count. I might stay on here.”

“I doubt it.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right.”

They stood on the porch watching the stars. Finally Father Peregrine pulled some money from his pocket and handed it to the proprietor. “Come to think of it, you’d better give me a new valise. My old one’s in pretty bad condition …”

November 2005: THE OFF SEASON

Sam Parkhill motioned with the broom, sweeping away the blue Martian sand.

“Here we are,” he said. “Yes, sir, look at that!” He pointed. “Look at that sign. SAM’S HOT DOGS! Ain’t that beautiful, Elma?”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray