A Logic Named Joe
It was on the third day of August that Joe come off the assembly
line, and on the fifth Laurine come into town, an' that afternoon I saved
civilization. That's what I figure, anyhow. Laurine is a blonde that I was
crazy about once—and crazy is the word—and Joe is a logic that I have
stored away down in the cellar right now. I had to pay for him because I
said I busted him, and sometimes I think about turning him on and
sometimes I think about taking an ax to him. Sooner or later I'm gonna
do one or the other. I kinda hope it's the ax. I could use a coupla million
dollars—sure!—an' Joe'd tell me how to get or make 'em. He can do
plenty! But so far I've been scared to take a chance. After all, I figure I
really saved civilization by turnin' him off.
The way Laurine fits in is that she makes cold shivers run up an'
down my spine when I think about her. You see, I've got a wife which I
acquired after I had parted from Laurine with much romantic despair.
She is a reasonable good wife, and I have some kids which are hell-cats
but I value 'em. If I have sense enough to leave well enough alone,
sooner or later I will retire on a pension an' Social Security an' spend the
rest of my life fishin' contented an' lyin' about what a great guy I used to
be. But there's Joe. I'm worried about Joe.
I'm a maintenance man for the Logics Company. My job is servicing
logics, and I admit modestly that I am pretty good. I was servicing
televisions before that guy Carson invented his trick circuit that will
select any of 'steenteen million other circuits—in theory there ain't no
limit—and before the Logics Company hooked it into the tank-andintegrator set-up they were usin' 'em as business-machine service. They
added a vision screen for speed—an' they found out they'd made logics.
They were surprised an' pleased. They're still findin' out what logics will
do, but everybody's got 'em.
I got Joe, after Laurine nearly got me. You know the logics setup.
You got a logic in your house. It looks like a vision receiver used to,
only it's got keys instead of dials and you punch the keys for what you
wanna get. It's hooked in to the tank, which has the Carson Circuit all
fixed up with relays. Say you punch "Station SNAFU" on your logic.
Relays in the tank take over an' whatever vision-program SNAFU is
telecastin' comes on your logic's screen. Or you punch "Sally Hancock's
Phone" an' the screen blinks an' sputters an' you're hooked up with the
logic in her house an' if somebody answers you got a vision-phone
connection. But besides that, if you punch for the weather forecast or
who won today's race at Hialeah or who was mistress of the White
House durin' Garfield's administration or what is PDQ and R sellin' for
today, that comes on the screen too. The relays in the tank do it. The
tank is a big buildin' full of all the facts in creation an' all the recorded
telecasts that ever was made—an' it's hooked in with all the other tanks
all over the country—an' everything you wanna know or see or hear, you
punch for it an' you get it. Very convenient. Also it does math for you,
an' keeps books, an' acts as consultin' chemist, physicist, astronomer, an'
tea-leaf reader, with a "Advice to the Lovelorn" thrown in. The only
thing it won't do is tell you exactly what your wife meant when she said,
"Oh, you think so, do you?" in that peculiar kinda voice. Logics don't
work good on women. Only on things that make sense.
Logics are all right, though. They changed civilization, the
highbrows tell us. All on accounta the Carson Circuit. And Joe shoulda
been a perfectly normal logic, keeping some family or other from
wearin' out its brains doin' the kids' homework for 'em. But somethin'
went wrong in the assembly line. It was somethin' so small that precision
gauges didn't measure it, but it made Joe a individual. Maybe he didn't
know it at first. Or maybe, bein' logical, he figured out that if he was to
show he was different from other logics they'd scrap him. Which woulda
been a brilliant idea. But anyhow, he come off the assembly-line, an' he
went through the regular tests without anybody screamin' shrilly on
findin' out what he was. And he went right on out an' was duly installed
in the home of Mr. Thaddeus Korlanovitch at 119 East Seventh Street,
second floor front. So far, everything was serene.
The installation happened late Saturday night. Sunday morning the
Korlanovitch kids turned him on an' seen the Kiddie Shows. Around
noon their parents peeled 'em away from him an' piled 'em in the car.
Then they come back in the house for the lunch they'd forgot an' one of
the kids sneaked back an' they found him punchin' keys for the Kiddie
Shows of the week before. They dragged him out an' went off. But they
left Joe turned on.
That was noon. Nothin' happened until two in the afternoon. It was
the calm before the storm. Laurine wasn't in town yet, but she was
comin'. I picture Joe sittin' there all by himself, buzzing meditative.
Maybe he run Kiddie Shows in the empty apartment for awhile. But I
think he went kinda remote-control exploring in the tank. There ain't any
fact that can be said to be a fact that ain't on a data plate in some tank
somewhere—unless it's one the technicians are diggin' out an' puttin' on
a data plate now. Joe had plenty of material to work on. An' he musta
started workin' right off the bat.
Joe ain't vicious, you understand. He ain't like one of these ambitious
robots you read about that make up their minds the human race is
inefficient and has got to be wiped out an' replaced by thinkin' machines.
Joe's just got ambition. If you were a machine, you'd wanna work right,
wouldn't you? That's Joe. He wants to work right. An' he's a logic. An'
logics can do a Iotta things that ain't been found out yet. So Joe,
discoverin' the fact, begun to feel restless. He selects some things us
dumb humans ain't thought of yet, an' begins to arrange so logics will be
called on to do 'em.
That's all. That's everything. But, brother, it's enough!
Things are kinda quiet in the Maintenance Department about two in
the afternoon. We are playing pinochle. Then one of the guys remembers
he has to call up his wife. He goes to one of the bank of logics in
Maintenance and punches the keys for his house. The screen sputters.
Then a flash comes on the screen.
"Announcing new and improved logics service! Your logic is now
equipped to give you not only consultive but directive service. If you
want to do something and don't know-how to do it—ask your logic!"
There's a pause. A kinda expectant pause. Then, as if reluctantly, his
connection comes through. His wife answers an' gives him hell for
somethin' or other. He takes it an' snaps off.
"Whadda you know?" he says when he comes back. He tells us about
the flash. "We shoulda been warned about that. There's gonna be a lotta
complaints. Suppose a fella asks how to get ridda his wife an' the censor
circuits block the question?"
Somebody melds a hundred aces an' says:
"Why not punch for it an' see what happens?"
It's a gag, o' course. But the guy goes over. He punches keys. In
theory, a censor block is gonna come on an' the screen will say severely,
"Public Policy Forbids This Service." You hafta have censor blocks or
the kiddies will be askin' detailed questions about things they're too
young to know. And there are other reasons. As you will see.
This fella punches, "How can I get rid of my wife?" Just for the fun
of it. The screen is blank for half a second. Then comes a flash. "Service
question: Is she blonde or brunette?" He hollers to us an' we come look.
He punches, "Blonde." There's another brief pause. Then the screen
says, "Hexymetacryloaminoacetine is a constituent of green shoe polish.
Take home a frozen meal including dried-pea soup. Color the soup with
green shoe polish. It will appear to be green-pea soup.
Hexymetacryloaminoacetine is a selective poison which is fatal to blond
females but not to brunettes or males of any coloring. This fact has not
been brought out by human experiment, but is a product of logics
service. You cannot be convicted of murder. It is improbable that you
will be suspected."
The screen goes blank, and we stare at each other. It's bound to be
right. A logic workin' the Carson Circuit can no more make a mistake
than any other kinda computin' machine. I call the tank in a hurry.
"Hey, you guys!" I yell. "Somethin's happened! Logics are givin'
detailed instructions for wife-murder! Check your censor-circuits—but
That was close, I think. But little do I know. At that precise instant,
over on Monroe Avenue, a drunk starts to punch for somethin' on a
logic. The screen says "Announcing new and improved logics service! If
you want to do something and don't know how to do it—ask your logic!"
And the drunk says, owlish, "I'll do it!" So he cancels his first punching
and fumbles around and says: "How can I keep my wife from finding
out I've been drinking?" And the screen says, prompt: "Buy a bottle of
Franine hair shampoo. It is harmless but contains a detergent which will
neutralize ethyl alcohol immediately. Take one teaspoonful for each
jigger of hundred-proof you have consumed."
This guy was plenty plastered—just plastered enough to stagger next
door and obey instructions. An' five minutes later he was cold sober and
writing down the information so he couldn't forget it. It was new, and it
was big! He got rich offa that memo! He patented "SOBUH, The Drink
that Makes Happy Homes!" You can top off any souse with a slug or
two of it an' go home sober as a judge. The guy's cussin' income taxes
You can't kick on stuff like that. But a ambitious young fourteenyear-old wanted to buy some kid stuff and his pop wouldn't fork over.
He called up a friend to tell his troubles. And his logic says: "If you want
to do something and don't know how to do it—ask your logic!" So this
kid punches: "How can I make a lotta money, fast?"
His logic comes through with the simplest, neatest, and the most
efficient counterfeitin' device yet known to science. You see, all the data
was in the tank. The logic—since Joe had closed some relays here an'
there in the tank—simply integrated the facts. That's all. The kid got
caught up with three days later, havin' already spent two thousand
credits an' havin' plenty more on hand. They hadda time tellin' his
counterfeits from the real stuff, an' the only way they done it was that he
changed his printer, kid fashion, not bein' able to let somethin' that was
workin' right alone.
Those are what you might call samples. Nobody knows all that Joe
done. But there was the bank president who got humorous when his
logic flashed that "Ask your logic" spiel on him, and jestingly asked how
to rob his own bank. An' the logic told him, brief and explicit but good!
The bank president hit the ceiling, hollering for cops. There musta been
plenty of that sorta thing. There was fifty-four more robberies than usual
in the next twenty-four hours, all of them planned astute an' perfect.
Some of 'em they never did figure out how they'd been done. Joe, he'd
gone exploring in the tank and closed some relays like a logic is
supposed to do—but only when required—and blocked all censorcircuits an' fixed up this logics service which planned perfect crimes,
nourishing an' attractive meals, counterfeitin' machines, an' new
industries with a fine impartiality. He musta been plenty happy, Joe
must. He was functionin' swell, buzzin' along to himself while the
Korlanovitch kids were off ridin' with their ma an' pa.
They come back at seven o'clock, the kids all happily wore out with
their afternoon of fightin' each other in the car. Their folks put 'em to
bed and sat down to rest. They saw Joe's screen flickerin' meditative
from one subject to another an' old man Korlanovitch had had enough
excitement for one day. He turned Joe off.
An' at that instant the pattern of relays that Joe had turned on
snapped off, all the offers of directive service stopped flashin' on logic
screens everywhere, an' peace descended on the earth.
For everybody else. But for me—Laurine come to town. I have often
thanked Gawd fervent that she didn't marry me when I thought I wanted
her to. In the intervenin' years she had progressed. She was blonde an'
fatal to begin with. She had got blonder and fataler an' had had four
husbands and one acquittal for homicide an' had acquired a air of
enthusiasm and self-confidence. That's just a sketch of the background.
Laurine was not the kinda former girlfriend you like to have turning up
in the same town with your wife. But she came to town, an' Monday
morning she tuned right into the middle of Joe's second spasm of
The Korlanovitch kids had turned him on again. I got these details
later and kinda pieced 'em together. An' every logic in town was
dutifully flashin' a notice, "If you want to do something and don't know
how to do it—ask your logic!" every time they was turned on for use.
More'n that, when people punched for the morning news, they got a full
account of the previous afternoon's doin's. Which put 'em in a frame of
mind to share in the party. One bright fella demands, "How can I make a
perpetual motion machine?" And his logic sputters a while an' then
comes up with a set-up usin' the Brownian movement to turn little
wheels. If the wheels ain't bigger'n a eighth of an inch they'll turn, all
right, an' practically it's perpetual motion. Another one asks for the
secret of transmuting metals. The logic rakes back in the data plates an'
integrates a strictly practical answer. It does take so much power that
you can't make no profit except on radium, but that pays off good. An'
from the fact that for a coupla years to come the police were turnin' up
new and improved jimmies, knob-claws for gettin' at safe-innards, and
all-purpose keys that'd open any known lock—why—there must have
been other inquirers with a strictly practical viewpoint. Joe done a lot for
But he done more in other lines. Educational, say. None of my kids
are old enough to be int'rested, but Joe bypassed all censor-circuits
because they hampered the service he figured logics should give
humanity. So the kids an' teen-agers who wanted to know what comes
after the bees an' flowers found out. And there is certain facts which men
hope their wives won't do more'n suspect, an' those facts are just what
their wives are really curious about. So when a woman dials: "How can I
tell if Oswald is true to me?" and her logic tells her—you can figure out
how many rows got started that night when the men come home!
All this while Joe goes on buzzin' happy to himself, showin' the
Korlanovitch kids the animated funnies with one circuit while with the
others he remote-controls the tank so that all the other logics can give
people what they ask for and thereby raise merry hell.
An' then Laurine gets onto the new service. She turns on the logic in
her hotel room, prob'ly to see the week's style-forecast. But the logic
says, dutiful: "If you want to do something and don't know how to do
it—ask your logic!" So Laurine prob'ly looks enthusiastic—she
would!—and tries to figure out something to ask. She already knows all
about everything she cares about—ain't she had four husbands and shot
one?—so I occur to her. She knows this is the town I live in. So she
punches, "How can I find Ducky?"
O.K., guy! But that is what she used to call me. She gets a service
question. "Is Ducky known by any other name?" So she gives my
regular name. And the logic can't find me. Because my logic ain't listed
under my name on account of I am in Maintenance and don't want to be
pestered when I'm home, and there ain't any data plates on code-listed
logics, because the codes get changed so often—like a guy gets plastered
an' tells a redhead to call him up, an' on gettin' sober hurriedly has the
code changed before she reaches his wife on the screen.
Well! Joe is stumped. That's prob'ly the first question logics service
hasn't been able to answer. "How can I find Ducky?" Quite a problem!
So Joe broods over it while showin' the Korlanovitch kids the animated
comic about the cute little boy who carries sticks of dynamite in his hip
pocket an' plays practical jokes on everybody. Then he gets the trick.
Laurine's screen suddenly flashes:
"Logics special service will work upon your question. Please punch
your logic designation and leave it turned on. You will be called back."
Laurine is merely mildly interested, but she punches her hotel-room
number and has a drink and takes a nap. Joe sets to work. He has been
given a idea.
My wife calls me at Maintenance and hollers. She is fit to be tied.
She says I got to do something. She was gonna make a call to the
butcher shop. Instead of the butcher or even the "If you want to do
something" flash, she got a new one. The screen says, "Service question:
What is your name?" She is kinda puzzled, but she punches it. The
screen sputters an' then says: "Secretarial Service Demonstration! You—
" It reels off her name, address, age, sex, coloring, the amounts of all her
charge accounts in all the stores, my name as her husband, how much I
get a week, the fact that I've been pinched three times—twice was traffic
stuff, and once for a argument I got in with a guy—and the interestin'
item that once when she was mad with me she left me for three weeks
an' had her address changed to her folks' home. Then it says, brisk:
"Logics Service will hereafter keep your personal accounts, take
messages, and locate persons you may wish to get in touch with. This
demonstration is to introduce the service." Then it connects her with the
But she don't want meat, then. She wants blood. She calls me.
"If it'll tell me all about myself," she says, fairly boilin', "it'll tell
anybody else who punches my name! You've got to stop it!"
"Now, now, honey!" I says. "I didn't know about all this! It's new!
But they musta fixed the tank so it won't give out information except to
the logic where a person lives!"
"Nothing of the kind!" she tells me, furious. "I tried! And you know
that Blossom woman who lives next door! She's been married three
times and she's forty-two years old and she says she's only thirty! And
Mrs. Hudson's had her husband arrested four times for nonsupport and
once for beating her up. And—"
"Hey!" I says. "You mean the logic told you this?"
"Yes!" she wails. "It will tell anybody anything! You've got to stop
it! How long will it take?"
"I'll call up the tank," I says. "It can't take long."
"Hurry!" she says, desperate, "before somebody punches my name!
I'm going to see what it says about that hussy across the street."
She snaps off to gather what she can before it's stopped. So I punch
for the tank and I get this new "What is your name?" flash. I got a
morbid curiosity and I punch my name, and the screen says: "Were you
ever called Ducky?" I blink. I ain't got no suspicions. I say, "Sure!" And
the screen says, "There is a call for you."
Bingo! There's the inside of a hotel room and Laurine is reclinin'
asleep on the bed. She'd been told to leave her logic turned on an' she
done it. It is a hot day and she is trying to be cool. I would say that she
oughta not suffer from the heat. Me, being human, I do not stay as cool
as she looks. But there ain't no need to go into that. After I get my breath
I say, "For Heaven's sake!" and she opens her eyes.
At first she looks puzzled, like she was thinking is she getting
absent-minded and is this guy somebody she married lately. Then she
grabs a sheet and drapes it around herself and beams at me.
"Ducky!" she says. "How marvelous!"
I say something like "Ugmph!" I am sweating.
She says: "I put in a call for you, Ducky, and here you are! Isn't it
romantic? Where are you really, Ducky? And when can you come up?
You've no idea how often I've thought of you!"
I am probably the only guy she ever knew real well that she has not
been married to at some time or another.
I say "Ugmph!" again, and swallow.
"Can you come up instantly?" asks Laurine brightly.
"I'm . . . workin'," I say. "I'll . . . uh . . . call you back."
"I'm terribly lonesome," says Laurine. "Please make it quick, Ducky!
I'll have a drink waiting for you. Have you ever thought of me?"
"Yeah," I say, feeble. "Plenty!"
"You darling!" says Laurine. "Here's a kiss to go on with until you
get here! Hurry, Ducky!"
Then I sweat! I still don't know nothing about Joe, understand. I cuss
out the guys at the tank because I blame them for this. If Laurine was
just another blonde—well—when it comes to ordinary blondes I can
leave 'em alone or leave 'em alone, either one. A married man gets that
way or else. But Laurine has a look of unquenched enthusiasm that gives
a man very strange weak sensations at the back of his knees. And she'd
had four husbands and shot one and got acquitted.
So I punch the keys for the tank technical room, fumbling. And the
screen says: "What is your name?" but I don't want any more. I punch
the name of the old guy who's stock clerk in Maintenance. And the
screen gives me some pretty interestin' dope—I never woulda thought
the old fella had ever had that much pep—and winds up by mentionin' a
unclaimed deposit now amountin' to two hundred eighty credits in the
First National Bank, which he should look into. Then it spiels about the
new secretarial service and gives me the tank at last.
I start to swear at the guy who looks at me. But he says, tired:
"Snap it off, fella. We got troubles an' you're just another. What are
the logics doin' now?"
I tell him, and he laughs a hollow laugh.
"A light matter, fella," he says. "A very light matter! We just
managed to clamp off all the data plates that give information on high
explosives. The demand for instructions in counterfeiting is increasing
minute by minute. We are also trying to shut off, by main force, the
relays that hook in to data plates that just barely might give advice on
the fine points of murder. So if people will only keep busy getting the
goods on each other for a while, maybe we'll get a chance to stop the
circuits that are shifting credit-balances from bank to bank before
everybody's bankrupt except the guys who thought of askin' how to get
big bank accounts in a hurry."
"Then," I says hoarse, "shut down the tank! Do somethin'!"
"Shut down the tank?" he says, mirthless. "Does it occur to you,
fella, that the tank has been doin' all the computin' for every business
office for years? It's been handlin' the distribution of ninety-four per cent
of all telecast programs, has given out all information on weather, plane
schedules, special sales, employment opportunities and news; has
handled all person-to-person contacts over wires and recorded every
business conversation and agreement— Listen, fella! Logics changed
civilization. Logics are civilization! If we shut off logics, we go back to
a kind of civilization we have forgotten how to run! I'm getting
hysterical myself and that's why I'm talkin' like this! If my wife finds out
my paycheck is thirty credits a week more than I told her and starts
hunting for that redhead—"
He smiles a haggard smile at me and snaps off. And I sit down and
put my head in my hands. It's true. If something had happened back in
cave days and they'd hadda stop usin' fire— If they'd hadda stop usin'
steam in the nineteenth century or electricity in the twentieth— It's like
that. We got a very simple civilization. In the nineteen hundreds a man
would have to make use of a typewriter, radio, telephone, teletypewriter,
newspaper, reference library, encyclopedias, office files, directories,
plus messenger service and consulting lawyers, chemists, doctors,
dieticians, filing clerks, secretaries—all to put down what he wanted to
remember an' to tell him what other people had put down that he wanted
to know; to report what he said to somebody else and to report to him
what they said back. All we have to have is logics. Anything we want to
know or see or hear, or anybody we want to talk to, we punch keys on a
logic. Shut off logics and everything goes skiddoo. But Laurine—
Somethin' had happened. I still didn't know what it was. Nobody else
knows, even yet. What had happened was Joe. What was the matter with
him was that he wanted to work good. All this fuss he was raisin' was,
actual, nothin' but stuff we shoulda thought of ourselves. Directive
advice, tellin' us what we wanted to know to solve a problem, wasn't but
a slight extension of logical-integrator service. Figurin' out a good way
to poison a fella's wife was only different in degree from figurin' out a
cube root or a guy's bank balance. It was gettin' the answer to a question.
But things was goin' to pot because there was too many answers being
given to too many questions.
One of the logics in Maintenance lights up. I go over, weary, to
answer it. I punch the answer key. Laurine says:
It's the same hotel room. There's two glasses on the table with drinks
in them. One is for me. Laurine's got on some kinda frothy hangin'around-the-house-with-the-boy-friend outfit that automatic makes you
strain your eyes to see if you actual see what you think. Laurine looks at
"Ducky!" says Laurine. "I'm lonesome! Why haven't you come up?"
"I . . . been busy," I say, strangling slightly.
"Pooh!" says Laurine. "Listen, Ducky! Do you remember how much
in love we used to be?"
"Are you doin' anything this evening?" says Laurine.
I gulp again, because she is smiling at me in a way that a single man
would maybe get dizzy, but it gives a old married man like me cold
chills. When a dame looks at you possessive—
"Ducky!" says Laurine, impulsive. "I was so mean to you! Let's get
Desperation gives me a voice.
"I . . . got married," I tell her, hoarse.
Laurine blinks. Then she says, courageous:
"Poor boy! But we'll get you outta that! Only it would be nice if we
could be married today. Now we can only be engaged!"
"I . . . can't—"
"I'll call up your wife," says Laurine, happy, "and have a talk with
her. You must have a code signal for your logic, darling. I tried to ring
your house and noth—"
Click! That's my logic turned off. I turned it off. And I feel faint all
over. I got nervous prostration. I got combat fatigue. I got anything you
like. I got cold feet.
I beat it outta Maintenance, yellin' to somebody I got a emergency
call. I'm gonna get out in a Maintenance car an' cruise around until it's
plausible to go home. Then I'm gonna take the wife an' kids an' beat it
for somewheres that Laurine won't ever find me. I don't wanna be' fifth
in Laurine's series of husbands and maybe the second one she shoots in a
moment of boredom. I got experience of blondes. I got experience of
Laurine! And I'm scared to death!
I beat it out into traffic in the Maintenance car. There was a
disconnected logic in the back, ready to substitute for one that hadda
burned-out coil or something that it was easier to switch and fix back in
the Maintenance shop. I drove crazy but automatic. It was kinda ironic,
if you think of it. I was goin' hoopla over a strictly personal problem,
while civilization was crackin' up all around me because other people
were havin' their personal problems solved as fast as they could state
'em. It is a matter of record that part of the Mid-Western Electric
research guys had been workin' on cold electron-emission for thirty
years, to make vacuum tubes that wouldn't need a power source to heat
the filament. And one of those fellas was intrigued by the "Ask your
logic" flash. He asked how to get cold emission of electrons. And the
logic integrates a few squintillion facts on the physics data plates and
tells him. Just as casual as it told somebody over in the Fourth Ward
how to serve left-over soup in a new attractive way, and somebody else
on Mason Street how to dispose of a torso that somebody had left
careless in his cellar after ceasing to use same.
Laurine wouldn't never have found me if it hadn't been for this new
logics service. But now that it was started— Zowie! She'd shot one
husband and got acquitted. Suppose she got impatient because I was still
married an' asked logics service how to get me free an' in a spot where
I'd have to marry her by 8:30 p.m.? It woulda told her! Just like it told
that woman out in the suburbs how to make sure her husband wouldn't
run around no more. Br-r-r-r! An' like it told that kid how to find some
buried treasure. Remember? He was happy totin' home the gold reserve
of the Hanoverian Bank and Trust Company when they caught on to it.
The logic had told him how to make some kinda machine that nobody
has been able to figure how it works even yet, only they guess it dodges
around a couple extra dimensions. If Laurine was to start askin'
questions with a technical aspect to them, that would be logics' service
meat! And fella, I was scared! If you think a he-man oughtn't to be
scared of just one blonde—you ain't met Laurine!
I'm drivin' blind when a social-conscious guy asks how to bring
about his own particular system of social organization at once. He don't
ask if it's best or if it'll work. He just wants to get it started. And the
logic—or Joe—tells him! Simultaneous, there's a retired preacher asks
how can the human race be cured of concupiscence. Bein' seventy, he's
pretty safe himself, but he wants to remove the peril to the spiritual
welfare of the rest of us. He finds out. It involves constructin' a sort of
broadcastin' station to emit a certain wave-pattern an' turnin' it on. Just
that. Nothing more. It's found out afterward, when he is solicitin' funds
to construct it. Fortunate, he didn't think to ask logics how to finance it,
or it woulda told him that, too, an' we woulda all been cured of the
impulses we maybe regret afterward but never at the time. And there's
another group of serious thinkers who are sure the human race would be
a lot better off if everybody went back to nature an' lived in the woods
with the ants an' poison ivy. They start askin' questions about how to
cause humanity to abandon cities and artificial conditions of living. They
practically got the answer in logics service!
Maybe it didn't strike you serious at the time, but while I was drivin'
aimless, sweatin' blood over Laurine bein' after me, the fate of
civilization hung in the balance. I ain't kiddin'. For instance, the Superior
Man gang that sneers at the rest of us was quietly asking questions on
what kinda weapons could be made by which Superior Men could take
over and run things . . .
But I drove here an' there, sweatin' an' talkin' to myself.
"What I oughta do is ask this wacky logics service how to get outa
this mess," I says. "But it'd just tell me a intricate and' foolproof way to
bump Laurine off. I wanna have peace! I wanna grow comfortably old
and brag to other old guys about what a hellion I used to be, without
havin' to go through it an' lose my chance of livin' to be a elderly liar."
I turn a corner at random, there in the Maintenance car.
"It was a nice kinda world once," I says, bitter. "I could go home
peaceful and not have belly-cramps wonderin' if a blonde has called up
my wife to announce my engagement to her. I could punch keys on a
logic without gazing into somebody's bedroom while she is giving her
epidermis a air bath and being led to think things I gotta take out in
thinkin'. I could—"
Then I groan, rememberin' that my wife, naturally, is gonna blame
me for the fact that our private life ain't private any more if anybody has
tried to peek into it.
"It was a swell world," I says, homesick for the dear dead daysbefore-yesterday. "We was playin' happy with our toys like little
innocent children until somethin' happened. Like a guy named Joe come
in and squashed all our mud pies."
Then it hit me. I got the whole thing in one flash. There ain't nothing
in the tank set-up to start relays closin'. Relays are closed exclusive by
logics, to get the information the keys are punched for. Nothin' but a
logic coulda cooked up the relay patterns that constituted logics service.
Humans wouldn't ha' been able to figure it out! Only a logic could
integrate all the stuff that woulda made all the other logics work like this
There was one answer. I drove into a restaurant and went over to a
pay-logic an' dropped in a coin.
"Can a logic be modified," I spell out, "to cooperate in long-term
planning which human brains are too limited in scope to do?"
The screen sputters. Then it says:
"How great will the modifications be?" I punch.
"Microscopically slight. Changes in dimensions," says the screen.
"Even modern precision gauges are not exact enough to check them,
however. They can only come about under present manufacturing
methods by an extremely improbable accident, which has only happened
"How can one get hold of that one accident which can do this highly
necessary work?" I punch.
The screen sputters. Sweat broke out on me. I ain't got it figured out
close, yet, but what I'm scared of is that whatever is Joe will be
suspicious. But what I'm askin' is strictly logical. And logics can't lie.
They gotta be accurate. They can't help it.
"A complete logic capable of the work required," says the screen, "is
now in ordinary family use in—"
And it gives me the Korlanovitch address and do I go over there! Do
I go over there fast! I pull up the Maintenance car in front of the place,
and I take the extra logic outta the back, and I stagger up the
Korlanovitch fiat and I ring the bell. A kid answers the door.
"I'm from Logics Maintenance," I tell the kid. "An inspection record
has shown that your logic is apt to break down any minute. I come to put
in a new one before it does."
The kid says "O.K.!" real bright and runs back to the livin'-room
where Joe—I got the habit of callin' him Joe later, through just
meditatin' about him—is runnin' somethin' the kids wanna look at. I
hook in the other logic an' turn it on, conscientious making sure it works.
Then I say:
"Now kiddies, you punch this one for what you want. I'm gonna take
the old one away before it breaks down."
And I glance at the screen. The kiddies have apparently said they
wanna look at some real cannibals. So the screen is presenting a
anthropological expedition scientific record film of the fertility dance of
the Huba-Jouba tribe of West Africa. It is supposed to be restricted to
anthropological professors an' post-graduate medical students. But there
ain't any censor blocks workin' any more and it's on. The kids are much
interested. Me, bein' a old married man, I blush.
I disconnect Joe. Careful. I turn to the other logic and punch keys for
Maintenance. I do not get a services flash. I get Maintenance. I feel very
good. I report that I am goin' home because I fell down a flight of steps
an' hurt my leg. I add, inspired:
"An' say, I was carryin' the logic I replaced an' it's all busted. I left it
for the dustman to pick up."
"If you don't turn 'em in," says Stock, "you gotta pay for 'em."
"Cheap at the price," I say.
I go home. Laurine ain't called. I put Joe down in the cellar, careful.
If I turned him in, he'd be inspected an' his parts salvaged even if I
busted somethin' on him. Whatever part was off-normal might be used
again and everything start all over. I can't risk it. I pay for him and leave
That's what happened. You might say I saved civilization an' not be
far wrong. I know I ain't goin' to take a chance on havin' Joe in action
again. Not while Laurine is livin'. An' there are other reasons. With all
the nuts who wanna change the world to their own line o' thinkin', an' the
ones that wanna bump people off, an' generally solve their problems—
Yeah! Problems are bad, but I figure I better let sleepin' problems lie.
But on the other hand, if Joe could be tamed, somehow, and got to
work just reasonable— He could make me a coupla million dollars,
easy. But even if I got sense enough not to get rich, an' if I get retired
and just loaf around fishin' an' lyin' to other old duffers about what a
great guy I used to be— Maybe I'll like it, but maybe I won't. And after
all, if I get fed up with bein' old and confined strictly to thinking—why I
could hook Joe in long enough to ask: "How can a old guy not stay old?"
Joe'll be able to find out. An' he'll tell me.
That couldn't be allowed out general, of course. You gotta make
room for kids to grow up. But it's a pretty good world, now Joe's turned
off. Maybe I'll turn him on long enough to learn how to stay in it. But on
the other hand, maybe—
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