The Complete Stories (Page 63)

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Weill halted abruptly, then proceeded in less impassioned tones, "I shouldn’t get excited. All I try to bring out now is that every professional dreamer has his own type of overtones which he can’t mask. To an expert it’s like signing his name on the dreamie. And I, Mr. Byrne, know all the signatures. Now that piece of dirt you brought me has no overtones at all. It was done by an ordinary person. A little talent, maybe, but like you and me, he really can’t think."

Byrne reddened a trifle. "A lot of people can think, Mr. Weill, even if they don’t make dreamies."

"Oh, tush," and Weill wagged his hand in the air. "Don’t be angry with what an old man says. I don’t mean think as in reason. I mean think as in dream. We all can dream after a fashion, just like we all can run. But can you and I run a mile in four minutes? You and I can talk, but are we Daniel Websters? Now when I think of a steak, I think of the word. Maybe I have a quick picture of a brown steak on a platter. Maybe you have a better pictori-alization of it and you can see the crisp fat and the onions and the baked potato. I don’t know. But a dreamer . . . He sees it and smells it and tastes it and everything about it, with the charcoal and the satisfied feeling in the stomach and the way the knife cuts through it and a hundred other things all at once. Very sensual. Very sensual. You and I can’t do it."

"Well, then," said Byrne, "no professional dreamer has done this. That’s something anyway." He put the cylinder in his inner jacket pocket. "I hope we’ll have your full cooperation in squelching this sort of thing."

"Positively, Mr. Byrne. With a whole heart."

"I hope so." Byrne spoke with a consciousness of power. "It’s not up to me, Mr. Weill, to say what will be done and what won’t be done, but this sort of thing," he tapped the cylinder he had brought, "will make it awfully tempting to impose a really strict censorship on dreamies."

He rose. "Good day, Mr. Weill."

"Good day, Mr. Byrne. I’ll hope always for the best."

Francis Belanger burst into Jesse Weill’s office in his usual steaming tizzy, his reddish hair disordered and his face aglow with worry and a mild perspiration. He was brought up sharply by the sight of Weill’s head cradled in the crook of his elbow and bent on the desk until only the glimmer of white hair was visible.

Belanger swallowed. "Boss?"

Weill’s head lifted. "It’s you, Frank?"

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"What’s the matter, boss? Are you sick?"

"I’m old enough to be sick, but I’m on my feet. Staggering, but on my feet. A government man was here."

"What did he want?"

"He threatens censorship. He brought a sample of what’s going round. Cheap dreamies for bottle parties."

"God damn!" said Belanger feelingly.

"The only trouble is that morality makes for good campaign fodder. They’ll be hitting out everywhere. And, to tell the truth, we’re vulnerable, Frank."

"We are? Our stuff is clean. We play up straight adventure and romance."

Weill thrust out his lower lip and wrinkled his forehead. "Between us, Frank, we don’t have to make believe. Clean? It depends on how you look at

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it. It’s not for publication, maybe, but you know and I know that every dreamie has its Freudian connotations. You can’t deny it."

"Sure, if you look for it. If you’re a psychiatrist-"

"If you’re an ordinary person, too. The ordinary observer doesn’t know it’s there and maybe he couldn’t tell a phallic symbol from a mother image even if you pointed it out. Still, his subconscious knows. And it’s the connotations that make many a dreamie click."

"All right, what’s the government going to do? Clean up the subconscious?"

"It’s a problem. I don’t know what they’re going to do. What we have on our side, and what I’m mainly depending on, is the fact that the public loves its dreamies and won’t give them up. … Meanwhile, what did you come in for? You want to see me about something, I suppose?"

Belanger tossed an object onto Weill’s desk and shoved his shirttail deeper into his trousers.

Weill broke open the glistening plastic cover and took out the enclosed cylinder. At one end was engraved in a too fancy script in pastel blue "Along the Himalayan Trail." It bore the mark of Luster-Think.

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"The Competitor’s Product." Weill said it with capitals, and his lips twitched. "It hasn’t been published yet. Where did you get it, Frank?"

"Never mind. I just want you to absorb it."

Weill sighed. "Today, everyone wants me to absorb dreams. Frank, it’s not dirty?"

Belanger said testily, "It has your Freudian symbols. Narrow crevasses between the mountain peaks. I hope that won’t bother you."

"I’m an old man. It stopped bothering me years ago, but that other thing was so poorly done, it hurt. … All right, let’s see what you’ve got here."

Again the recorder. Again the unfreezer over his skull and at the temples. This time, Weill rested back in his chair for fifteen minutes or more, while Francis Belanger went hurriedly through two cigarettes.

When Weill removed the headpiece and blinked dream out of his eyes, Belanger said, "Well, what’s your reaction, boss?"

Weill corrugated his forehead. "It’s not for me. It was repetitious. With competition like this, Dreams, Inc., doesn’t have to worry for a while."

"That’s your mistake, boss. Luster-Think’s going to win with stuff like this. We’ve got to do something."

"Now, Frank-"

"No, you listen. This is the coming thing."

"This!" Weill stared with a half-humorous dubiety at the cylinder. "It’s amateurish, it’s repetitious. Its overtones are very unsubtle. The snow had a distinct lemon sherbet taste. Who tastes lemon sherbet in snow these days, Frank? In the old days, yes. Twenty years ago, maybe. When Lyman Harri-son first made his Snow Symphonies for sale down south, it was a big thing.

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