Once when Pat Hobby was a boy a maiden aunt took him to the circus. The only fly in the ointment was that she wouldn’t give him a dime to see the bearded lady in the side show—which was Pats’ heart’s desire.
And now forty years later a somewhat parallel situation obtained with Mr. Pat Hobby at the Golden Gate World’s Fair. The lady of his desire was not bearded—no, no such incarnation would have been approved among Mr. Rosis Aquabelles—but the part of the maiden aunt was almost literally played by George Poupolous, motion picture producer.
The heel of the girls shoe come off without warning and she grabbed at the rolling chair for support. The attendant svayed her arm and sat her down beside Pat Hobby, a visitor from Hollywood!
“Could you drop me at the Aquacade?” she groaned.
Pat looked nervously at the door through which Mr. Poupolous had disappeared a minute before. Over was a sign which read “The Birth of Twins in Technicolor. The Golden Gates most Scientific Exhibit.”
Pat had no way of estimating how long the birth of twins took. He thought of her. Popolous who stood handsomely between him and starvation—then he looked at the girl.
“Aquacade,” he said to her attendant.
“I work there,” said the girl.
Pat introduced himself.
“I’m a writer—from Hollywood.”
“I swim at the Aquacade.”
They eyed each other sparring for advantage. She was nineteen. Pat was a somewhat shop-worn thirty mul.
Moreover the recent words of Mr. Poupolous—“George” to his face but referred to otherwose in his absense—rang in Pat’s ear.
“I want you should stay with me. Always when a producer takes a writer on a trip the writer is to stay with him. Suppose I have an idea—like now, a picture about a World’s Fair? Who would it be to write down the idea and remember it?”
Pat spoke urgently to the attendant.
“Push hard,” he said to the attendant. “I got to be back in ten minutes.”
The girl was straw-haired and appealing.
“Did you see the birth of twins,” he asked, and when she looked at him scalthingly he hurriedly added, “I just wondered how long it takes.”
“I’m sure I don’t know. I spend all the time I can get off in the Art Exposition.”
He looked at her again.
“I’m here with a producer,” he said, “He’s always looking for talent.”
Perhaps the Aquabelle had heard this one before because she did not answer—in fact made no further remark untill he had deposited her at the steps of the water carnival. Then she relaxed.
“Come and see us,” she said.
He looked at the Aquabelle longingly and hopelessly. Mr. Poupolous had seen the Aquacade in New York.
“Home, James,” he said.
On the way back he found himself reminded of a bearded lady. Not that Mr. Rose’s employee wore any more than the most conventional and invisible down, but once forty years ago his maiden aunt had refused him ten cents to see a bearded lady. And the present situation had a familiar ring. There was nothing he could do about it—in his present decline two weeks at two fifty were not to be despised.
He reached the midway just as Mr. Poupolous emerged from his scientific studies.
“Where now?” said Pat with proper joviality.
“That was Panorananama,”said Mr. Popolous.
Pat looking longingly at Sally Rands nude ranch.
“Humpfrey Bogart and his wife are here today,” volunteered the man behind the rolling chair. “They had dinner at the Golden Gate Restaurant.”
Pat and Mr. Poupolous exchanged a glance—known as George to his face and “Pupe” behind his back—took the news calmly. He pointed onto the building in front of them and said to his companion, Mr. Pat Hobby.
Mr. Poupolous had never been good at signs.
The youth pushing the chair spoke again.
“You do want to go to the Art Exposition? Humpfrey Bogart and his——”
“Stop!” cried Mr. Poupolous. “There’s Bruce Ligorna.”
Pat’s scelerotic heart was thrilled. After long neglect—broken by an occasional week at two fifty—he was in the swim again. Everybody was here—that was indeed Legorna, the director sitting alone on the steps of the Fine Art Building.
“He looks sick,” said Mr. Poupolous as they approached. “Hi there, Bruce.”
“I’m sick,” said Bruce.
“What’s a matter?”
Ligorna waved his hand despondently toward the picture gallery.
“Hung pictures,” he said, “They make me faint. I shouldn’t have gone in alone—they had to carry me out.”
“Why didn’t you tell them who you were?” demanded Pat indignantly.
“I was unconscious.”
“You mean the pictures made you sick?” asked Mr. Poupolous.
“Always have,” said Bruce dismally, “I been psyked but they can’t find out why. I’m trying to get over it myself—but I should have had somebody with me.”
“Do moving pictures make you sick?” asked Pat.
“No—just hung pictures.”
Poupolous smiled suspiciously to think if he were drunk—but the fresh fine air of the Golden Gate was without a faint….
From editor: That’s all that survived of the text—the end of the story is missing. But according to the survived plan, next “Pat + Popolous go to the baby show + Pat meets the Aquacade girl and dates her. They then chase the Bogarts + once more Ligorna tries the art gallery + faints. At the Aquacade Popolous throws in his cigar. They escape but are pursued + Pat is deserted.” Also, the story should have been ended with the “Epilogue”—presumably, “The Hitchhike.”
According to the note in the surviving plan, “This is the story of Pat trying to recreate a past time and his lamentable failure. He just wants the leaving but doesn’t ever get that.” Also, “Theme: How bored and boring they are! How helpless.”
And there’s a note for the end: “Pat mixed a metaphor for him quickly “Even a rat will fight in a trap” he proposed.”
The first title was “Reunion at the Fair”, it has been crossed out in the manuscript; also text contains a crossed-out paragraphs:
“Mr. Poupolous had never been good reading hard signs, but it was not because of this that he had brought along a Hollywood writer on his trip. “I want to come back into production with a smash,” he told to Pat Hobby, “that’s how I and [undec.] there’s a great picture in the fair.” Pat who owed his present good fortune to this producer’s long action absense from pictures—Pat, who was glad these days for few weeks at two fifty—had naught but astonished wonder at the Pupe idea.”
which includes a material for this theme.
Перевод А.Б. Руднева: Пэт на выставке.