by DAVID McCORD
THE man at the wheel of the green convertible entered a small green village. He glanced at the dial on the instrument board. It 1old him with mechanical indifference that he needed gas. There was a gas station just ahead to the right.
“Gas,” he said to the attendant.
It was late afternoon and the sky was heavy with dark clouds. He listened to the whir of the pump and watched the dollars and gallons revolve in happy unison for a minute or so. A frown crossed his face as a spatter of fine raindrops struck the windshield of the Roadmaster.
“Shower, I guess,” said the attendant, shutting off the pump. “Ever tried our Rainmaster?”
“I’ve used Snowmaster,” said the man. “And Fogmaster is good. Does a nice job. But you know — you can’t really master fog.”
“Rainmaster’s good,” said the attendant. “Fifty cents; small size. Okay?”
“Here you are,” said the man. “And I’ll take a Coke.”
He pulled out his Inkmaster and noted the cost of the gas. The attendant dropped a nickel into the Cokemaster and extracted a bottle.
“Want a cup, mister?”
“No. Give me a straw.”
“Sipmaster,” corrected the attendant, covering the windshield with a protective spray.
The man finished the Coke, tossed the bottle into the handy Trashmaster, circled out into the road, turned on his Mikemaster, put a stick of juicy Jawmaster in his mouth, and fell to thinking. The rain had stopped as suddenly as it had begun. It was about six-thirty now and he was heading west. The sun blazed out from behind a rain cloud. He pushed a button on the Pushmaster panel and the Sunmaster shut our the glare. (If he pressed it twice it would give him the Moonmaster, which was something new.) He reached into his pocket for his Nosemaster and blew his nose. For an hour he drove, chewed, and listened.
Seven-thirty news. ... He shut off the castermaster, rapidly tuned in a couple of croonmasters, a quizmaster, a covey of gagmasters, and was passing over the close of a commercial on the new homogenizing Fruitsaladmaster, when a voice said suddenly; “The President of the United States asks you to stand by for an important message.”
He caught the startled look on his own face in the Glassmaster. The President of the United States! Where had he last heard that phrase? Someone was rattled. The Statesmaster of the United States, of course. . . . The President of the United States! He might have been living in the days of Jefferson or Cleveland or F.D.R.
Someone was certainly rattled.
What was wrong?
Was this it?
Nervously he touched the Flamemaster Junior to the end of his cigar, which had gone out. He flicked some ashes off his trousers and noted — the way one does in a crisis — where his tailor’s Pantsmaster had carelessly double-creased them.
Stand by. . . . The voice was tense and appropriate.
It was nearly dark now and he pulled up at an intersection on the edge of another town. A trafficmaster put his head halfway through the window’.
He touched the Beammaster’s toggle and slipped off info the Polaroid.
His hand was on the Mikemaster and he cut in a series of stations. It was all the same: “Stand by. . . . Stand by. . . . Stand by. ...”
The hands on his Wristmaster said 7.47. He was in a bright, street now. He could see the anxious look on the faces of the other people in other cars. The American flag waved for a breezy second on the screen of a Vis-a-vismaster in the window of a shop. A small crowd had collected in front of it. He drove on slowly, settled back masterfully, and waited.
The spell broke.
“... of the radio audience. . . . This is the Airmaster speaking from Washington at the request of the Statesmaster. It is now 7.49 Daylightmaster time. At 8.06 an epochal event in world history will take place. From the government secret base at Secret, N.M., a new type of Spacemaster rocket, has been fired. For reasons of security the time of firing will not bo divulged. But tonight at 8.06 Daylightmaster time the rocket is expected to reach the Moon. No one is aboard, but the warhead full of deurythium killulol will explode on impact, and the flash will be visible on Earth to the naked eye from the Atlantic seaboard to Illinois. Watch your Moon for the crimson flash at 8.06 P.M. It will signal man’s first contact with our Satellite.”
“. . . This is station WWW. You have just been listening to an important message from the Airmaster in Washington. Earthbound friends: What could be better than Synthies? Their crunchy crescendos are heard the world over. But that is not all. Just before you see the crimson flash on the face of the Moon at 8.06 P.M. Daylightmaster time, six Jetmasters attached to the Spacemaster will be fired automatically at six acute angles so as not to fall in the Spacemaster’s path. These six Jetmasters will open hermetically and scatter, like peas from a pod, hundreds of spaceproof packages of-Synthies! If a race of Moonmen exists — and evidence points to their existence — you may be sure that they will welcome Synthies with their Earthpakt vitamins. When you travel to the Moon, travel with Synthies!”
He pulled up, parked his car, and got out. The fields beyond were silvery. It had cleared miraculously overhead. What a world! he thought. What a Moon! What an idea! He took off his gray Feltmaster, wiped his forehead, and looked up in awe.