Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaBloPoMo 3: Zeke and Doc

Today's NaBloPoMo post is another fanfic based on Clifford D. Simak's 1938 short story "Hunger Death". I'm proud to be breaking new ground here, as the Johnny Pez blog becomes the central internet source of Simak fanfic. And now, to the story . . .

* * *

It was raining on Venus, just like it always did. Old Doc Trowbridge sat on the verandah of the ramshackle building that housed his office and calmly observed the muddy track that served New Chicago as a main street. The sky was the same dull gray overcast it always was on Venus. It had been ten years since Doc had seen the sun, and he no longer missed it. He took a slug of Martian bocca and watched the rain come down.

Presently he saw Zeke Brown slogging his way up the muddy street, burdened by the raincoat that was the universal possession of Venus' human settlers. "Zeke," Doc called, "come up here and shake some of that rain off." Zeke looked over, thought about it for a moment or two, and came up the bowed wooden steps to the verandah. He took off his dripping raincoat and hat and hung them from a peg on the wall, then took the chair next to Doc. Fishing around the pockets of his blue denim overalls, he pulled out a pipe and lit it up, sending a cloud of smoke out to join the mist that hung over the ground.

Zeke was a thin, middle-aged man who had been five years on Venus. He had a farm east of New Chicago where he and a bunch of other Iowa farmers had been conned into settling by the Venus Land Company.

"Damn skink got into my henhouse again last night," said Zeke. It was a familiar complaint. A native Venusian predator that the Iowa farmers had named the skink had become the bane of their existence, poaching livestock from their farms. "Killed two hens before I could drive the devil out."

"Zeke," said Doc, "if you don't mind me asking, what in heaven's name ever possessed you lot to come here to Venus?"

"It was that land agent," Zeke replied mournfully. "Told us how fertile the land was here on Venus. Said they had crops springing up all over."

"Why, so they do," Doc told him. "They grow rice crops all over this planet. But not corn, for cryin' out loud. You can't grow corn here, they settled that question a couple hundred years ago."

"Well, how in tarnation are we supposed to know that?" demanded Zeke.

"There's all kinds of books on Venus," Doc pointed out. "Why didn't you read a few of them before you came here?"

"Don't hold with book-learnin'," Zeke insisted. "Used to have some a them gub'mint-run schools, them public schools as they call 'em, in Iowa, but folks decided they was just a waste a taxpayer money, so they did away with 'em. Never set foot in any school myself, and I did just fine."

"Zeke, you're stuck on Venus with a failing farm and no way back home. You're not exactly doing just fine."

"Dad-blamed land agent's to blame for that," growled Zeke.

Doc sighed and took another pull from his bottle of bocca. "Whatever you say, Zeke."

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