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If John Shooter had come to his door and said 'You stole my car' instead of 'You stole my story,' Mort would have scotched the idea quickly and decisively. He could have done it even if the two cars in question had been the same year, make, model, and color. He would have shown the man in the round black hat his automobile registration, invited him to compare the number on the pink slip to the one on the doorpost, and sent him packing.

His last thought before drifting off was a repeat: He's not done with me yet. Oh no, not this guy. He's a repeater.

His last thought before drifting off was a repeat: He's not done with me yet. Oh no, not this guy. He's a repeater.

... unfortunately, this was October.

Please help me I'm lost and afraid

At that moment Mort lifted up a Xerox of The Organ-Grinder's Boy manuscript, and there, beneath it, was a package of L & M cigarettes. Did they make L & M's anymore? He didn't know. The pack was old, crumpled, but definitely not flat. He took it out and looked at it. He reflected that he must have bought this particular pack in 1985, according to the informal science of stratification one might call-for want of a better word-Deskology.

Yeah, it'll be him, all right-the one person in the whole wide world I shouldn't be talking to with my guard down and one half of my mind feeling unbuttoned from the other half. Sure tell be him-who else?

Please help me I'm lost and afraid

It was as plain as the nose on his face ... or the round black hat on John Shooter's head.

Yet he still felt upset, unsettled, guilty ... he felt at a loss in a way for which there was perhaps no word. And why? Well ... because...

Yeah, it'll be him, all right-the one person in the whole wide world I shouldn't be talking to with my guard down and one half of my mind feeling unbuttoned from the other half. Sure tell be him-who else?

Yet he still felt upset, unsettled, guilty ... he felt at a loss in a way for which there was perhaps no word. And why? Well ... because...

Time-travellers from another age, Mort thought. He stuck one of the cigarettes in his mouth, then went out into the kitchen to get a match from the box by the stove. Time-travellers from another age, riding up through the years, patient cylindrical voyagers, their mission to wait, to persevere, to bide until the proper moment to start me on the road to lung cancer again finally arrives. And it seems the time has finally come.

Mort turned to run, but a hand-Amy's, he was sure-seized him by the belt and pulled him back. And when the knives, glittering in the hot sun of this huge secret garden

If John Shooter had come to his door and said 'You stole my car' instead of 'You stole my story,' Mort would have scotched the idea quickly and decisively. He could have done it even if the two cars in question had been the same year, make, model, and color. He would have shown the man in the round black hat his automobile registration, invited him to compare the number on the pink slip to the one on the doorpost, and sent him packing.

At an earlier point in his prospecting, he had found an old bottle half full of Planter's Peanuts. He doubted if the nuts would be fit to eat, but the lid of the bottle made a fine ashtray. He sat behind his desk, looked out at the lake (like Mrs G., the boats which had been out there earlier were gone), relished his old, vile habit, and found he could think about John Shooter and John Shooter's story with a little more equanimity.

It was as plain as the nose on his face ... or the round black hat on John Shooter's head.

It was the telephone which woke him an hour and a quarter later. He struggled out of a terrible dream-someone had been chasing him, that was all he could clearly remember-to a sitting position on the couch. He was horribly hot; every inch of his skin seemed to be running with sweat. The sun had crept around to this side of the house while he was sleeping and had shone in on him through the window-wall for God knew how long.

He peered inside the pack. He saw three little coffin nails, all in a row.

He peered inside the pack. He saw three little coffin nails, all in a row.

If John Shooter had come to his door and said 'You stole my car' instead of 'You stole my story,' Mort would have scotched the idea quickly and decisively. He could have done it even if the two cars in question had been the same year, make, model, and color. He would have shown the man in the round black hat his automobile registration, invited him to compare the number on the pink slip to the one on the doorpost, and sent him packing.

He dreamed he was lost in a vast cornfield. He blundered from one row to the next, and the sun glinted off the watches he was wearing-half a dozen on each forearm, and each watch set to a different time.

Well, a story was a thing, a real thing-you could think of it like that, anyway, especially if someone had paid you for it-but in another, more important, way, it wasn't a thing at all. It wasn't like a vase, or a chair, or an automobile. It was ink on paper, but it wasn't the ink and it wasn't the paper. People sometimes asked him where he got his ideas, and although he scoffed at the question, it always made him feel vaguely ashamed, vaguely spurious. They seemed to feel there was a Central Idea Dump somewhere (just as there was supposed to be an elephant graveyard somewhere, and a fabled lost city of gold somewhere else), and he must have a secret map which allowed him to get there and back, but Mort knew better. He could remember where he had been when certain ideas came to him, and he knew that the idea was often the result of seeing or sensing some odd connection between objects or events or people which had never seemed to have the slightest connection before, but that was the best he could do. As to why he should see these connections or want to make stories out of them after he had ... to that he hadn't a clue.

It was as plain as the nose on his face ... or the round black hat on John Shooter's head.

At an earlier point in his prospecting, he had found an old bottle half full of Planter's Peanuts. He doubted if the nuts would be fit to eat, but the lid of the bottle made a fine ashtray. He sat behind his desk, looked out at the lake (like Mrs G., the boats which had been out there earlier were gone), relished his old, vile habit, and found he could think about John Shooter and John Shooter's story with a little more equanimity.

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