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BAGATELLE / David OhIe Moldenke was walking down Arden Boulevard one afternoon, in Reno. He passed the Home for Wayward Neutrodynes. One of them was perched on the stoop, licking the last of some rice from a tin pan. The neut released an odor that was sickly sweet and had a greasy pomade in its hair. Moldenke looked around to see if perhaps a stinkbug had been squashed underfoot. A couple of noisy sawflies were playing above its head. There was a bun of proud flesh, a pillowy lump on its upper lip. It had likely been conked there by someone wielding a billy bat. The neut said, "Say, American. You look slick. I have a deal for you. It so happens that I am rounding up bounders of your type for a little excursion that just may net us a bag of fast cash. Do you want to hear the particulars?" Moldenke stopped long enough to give the neut a hearing, knowing they were sometimes foxy investors. The neut said, "Is it correct to say, sir, that we have never met before, that there is no way imaginable I could know your name, that in fact, if I were able to guess it, why then you Americans would think me a mind reader and stuff sawbucks into my pocket? Is that correct?" Moldenke said, "Probly." The neut put aside its empty bowl and took a swig of jitney ale, passing the bottle to Moldenke. Bits of rice peppered the surface of the ale. He went ahead and had a sip, against his better judgement. When the bottle's mouth, wet with the neufs saliva, touched his lips it gave them an acidic bite. "To show I am no piker," said the neut, "Let me demonstrate my talent. May I say, first, sir, that my name is Gatlin Bang, originally from Dodge City." The neut thrust forth a hand from its sleeve. The fingers were like the feathery legs of a barnacle. Moldenke politely declined the handshake, aware of Reno's newest ordinance against public liaison with neutrodynes. "Call me Bang for short," said the neut. "Now, let me see. Your name is, uh, Muldoon. No, no. Molinski. Nah, that's not it. It's Moldenke. Yes, Moldenke. They called you Dink in normal school, am I right?" Moldenke nodded. "There, you see? You Americans have your names written all over you. It's a lead pipe cinch. I can fleece them without letup, forever. Look, Dink, I want you to come along with me to Susnr tonight. They are celebrating Mummy Day up there. We can put the squeeze on the touring Americans, make plenty of bucks. We'll book seats on the Diaxle 1010, departing at sundown." The Missouri Review ยท 23 Moldenke backstepped a little, shaded his eyes, and looked up at Susnr, dawdling in the American sky, an uninvited visitor, a third the size of the moon. It was close enough that Moldenke could see the streetlamps of Altobello, the queen city. "I've never been up there before," he said. Susnr was pielike, presenting a broad face, but a narrow profile. As it turned, one saw less and less of it, until it was but a slice. "Well, then," said Bang. "The time is ripe. Rock 'n' Roll." Moldenke said he would have to go home and pack his kitty bag. "No need for that," said Bang. "The cash will flow to us like water. We will buy what we need, like the Americans do. We must leave for the depot immediately if we expect to get aboard the Diaxle in time for her departure." Moldenke felt giddy, as he did every time he looked at Susnr, or came anywhere near a neutrodyne. "Okay," he said. "What's there to lose?" Moldenke and Bang set off for the depot, which was at the foot of Arden Boulevard. On the way, Moldenke remarked how many neuts he saw sleeping in vestibules, in the gutter, everywhere that provided a refuge from pedestrian traffic. Bang said, "The ones coming down to America, they are a bunch of reprobates and layabouts, eaters of sweets, pflum drinkers. We have not yet learned...


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