Sam blinked at the silver-foil scroll that was handed him, upon which, in hieroglyph, snake figures danced.

“It is the land grant to all of the territory from the silver mountains to the blue hills, from the dead salt sea there to the distant valleys of moonstone and emerald,” said the Leader.

“M-mine?” said Sam, incredulous.


“One hundred thousand miles of territory?”


“Did you hear that, Elma?”

Elma was sitting on the ground, leaning against the aluminum hot-dog stand, eyes shut.

“But why, why—why are you giving me all this?” asked Sam, trying to look into the metal slots of the eyes.

“That is not all. Here.” Six other scrolls were produced. The names were declared, the territories announced.

“Why, that’s half of Mars! I own half of Mars!” Sam rattled the scrolls in his fists. He shook them at Elma, insane with laughing. “Elma, did you hear?”

“I heard,” said Elma, looking at the sky.

She seemed to be watching for something. She was becoming a little more alert now.

“Thank you, oh, thank you,” said Sam to the bronze mask.

“Tonight is the night,” said the mask. “You must be ready.”

“I will be. What it is—a surprise? Are the rockets coming through earlier than we thought, a month earlier from Earth? All ten thousand rockets, bringing the settlers, the miners, the workers and their wives, all hundred thousand of them? Won’t that be swell, Elma? You see, I told you. I told you, that town there won’t always have just one thousand people in it. There’ll be fifty thousand more coming, and the month after that a hundred thousand more, and by the end of the year five million Earth Men. And me with the only hot-dog stand staked out on the busiest highway to the mines!”

The mask floated on the wind. “We leave you. Prepare. The land is yours.”

In the blowing moonlight, like metal petals of some ancient flower, like blue plumes, like cobalt butterflies immense and quiet, the old ships turned and moved over the shifting sands, the masks beaming and glittering, until the last shine, the last blue color, was lost among the hills.

“Elma, why did they do it? Why didn’t they kill me? Don’t they know anything? What’s wrong with them? Elma, do you understand?” He shook her shoulder. “I own half of Mars!”

She watched the night sky, waiting.

“Come on,” he said. “We’ve got to get the place fixed. All the hot dogs boiling, the buns warm, the chili cooking, the onions peeled and diced, the relish laid out, the napkins in the dips, the place spotless! Hey!” He did a little wild dance, kicking his heels. “Oh boy, I’m happy; yes, sir, I’m happy,” he sang off key. “This is my lucky day!”

He boiled the hot dogs, cut the buns, sliced the onions in a frenzy.

“Just think, that Martian said a surprise. That can only mean one thing, Elma. Those hundred thousand people coming in ahead of schedule, tonight, of all nights! We’ll be flooded! We’ll work long hours for days, what with tourists riding around seeing things, Elma. Think of the money!”

He went out and looked at the sky. He didn’t see anything.

“In a minute, maybe,” he said, snuffing the cool air gratefully, arms up, beating his chest. “Ah!”

Elma said nothing. She peeled potatoes for French fries quietly, her eyes always on the sky.

“Sam,” she said half an hour later. “There it is. Look.”

He looked and saw it.


It rose full and green, like a fine-cut stone, above the hills.

“Good old Earth,” he whispered lovingly. “Good old wonderful Earth. Send me your hungry and your starved. Something something—how does that poem go? Send me your hungry, old Earth. Here’s Sam Parkhill, his hot dogs all boiled, his chili cooking, everything neat as a pin. Come on, you Earth, send me your rocket!”

He went out to look at his place. There it sat, perfect as a fresh-laid egg on the dead sea bottom, the only nucleus of light and warmth in hundreds of miles of lonely wasteland. It was like a heart beating alone in a great dark body. He felt almost sorrowful with pride, gazing at it with wet eyes.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray