I was a friend of young Mr. Arthur J. Burns back in the days when the remarkable series of events of which I am going to tell took place. Indeed, Mr. Burns would hardly have considered me, in those days, as a fit material on which to bestow his friendship. So, I cannot vouch personally the truth of the story, nor can I in all consciousness, even say that I believe it wholeheartedly.
There was a Swami Yonandabanda Ghuliputra, but he was arrested on a charge of obtaining money under false pretenses, some six or eight months ago; and evidence was introduced during his trial, tending to prove that he was no more than one Johnny Kilpatrick, of Newark. Of course, it could be that this was merely some charlatan who had stolen the name and reputation of the true swam, and yet~~~
Well, whatever the true story, Arthur Burns has in the last two years, undergone a most remarkable change or character; turning from a reserved, conservative, young introvert into a self-contained, confident and successful advertising man. And how he could have done that without some series of events at least as remarkable as the ones he related to me, I can’t imagine.
According to his story, it began when he saved the life or this. Swami Yonandabanda Ghuliputra. There’s a hotel somewhere up in New England, an old, conservative resort where croquet, bathing, sunning yourself on the veranda and drinking some sort of mineral waters were the major sports. This sort of reserved existence just suited the old Arthur Burns; and the presence of a number of very rich and very credulous old ladies apparently made it sort of a place that just suited the swami, too. So when the swami, communing with nature in nearby woods, fell into a deep pool, Arthur was through a fortunate coincidence, at hand to pull him out.
The swami’s gratitude was overwhelming. Arthur gathered, from his babbled, bubbling thanks, that he was grateful, not only for himself, but for the entire human race. The swami explained that he was a guru of the first class, one of the heaven sent teachers who lead the race onward and upward, and if he had died, all human progress might have been set back a thousand years. He seemed to think that Arthur’s instinctive act of leaping into the pool and pulling him out had marked a turning point in the history of the human race. And he insisted in doing something for Arthur commensurate with the world shaking deed which Arthur had done for him.
What he did, according to Arthur, resulted in the story I am telling here. The swami, of course, was an adept of the Yoga philosophy, and the ultimate end of that philosophy is the complete separation of the mind and the~~~ I’m afraid mu knowledge is a little hazy here. Apparently there’s a soul, and also something called the “astral body” which can house the soul just as the physical body does. Anyhow, the higher adepts of yoga can out their “astral body” loose from their physical body and, housed in that invisible, intangible structure, go and come over the world; while the physical body lies in a sort of a trance, back where it was left. And it was this secret which the swami imparted to the reserved, conservative and introverted young Mr. Burns.
Arthur reacted in characteristic fashion. He accepted the secret politely; made very copious notes of all the details, just in case it might be true; thanked the swami profusely; filed the notes away and…..forgot them.
Forgot them deliberately because he felt that he didn’t have time for them, just then. As I have said, Arthur was a very methodical young man. Two years later, in event or two came up which caused Arthur undue and unexpected expense and he found himself with a vacation and insufficient funds to spend it in the usual manner. So he decided to spend the two weeks investigating this psychic phenomenon and deciding on its truth. And with this investigation, my story really begins.
Arthur began the series of physical exercises which were the early part of the method without much interest. Later in the day, when he reached a part that, to our western minds, would be almost disgusting, he almost dropped the whole thing. But then he noticed just a hint of method in the seeming madness, and so he persisted. And just about eight in the evening, he felt senses leaving him in the trance that is preliminary to the separation of the physical and astral body.
The next thing he knew, he was standing in the middle of the living room of his bachelor quarters and staring with a growing amaze at his own body, lying limp and inert in the easy chair where he, only a minute before, had been sitting.
He must have been far more shocked and surprised than we was able to realize, for his subsequent actions were hardly those of the cool, methodical, young accountant which he had been up to that moment. Arthur Burns, in his body, unexcited and collected in his mind, would have made an experiment or two and the returned safely to his physical being again satisfied that he had succeeded in the test he had made of the swami’s instructions. Instead, after a moment or two of trying to pick up objects that ignored his intangible grasp, and marveling at the soon-discovered fact that he could walk through objects if he concentrated on the desire to do so, and found them solid enough if he didn’t, he was seized with a desire to find out whether he could be observed or not.
He left his apartment and moved out into the street. He seemed to be walking, but several times he wondered whether he was actually doing so or whether in reality he was floating like a bodiless haze, with only old habit forms giving him the impression of walking.
He found it utterly impossible to impress himself on people in any way whatsoever. He tried talking to them; thinking concentratedly in an effort to reach them telepathically, touching them, and every other method that he could think of; but nothing had any effect. It gave him a little nervous chill when he realized that he, more than likely, and indeed everybody else in the world, had probably been watched dozens of times, by astral beings such as he was now, without the slightest knowledge that they were there.
After moving about the town for several hours (he had an idea that he might, in some way influence some of his friends, due to some rapport caused by their closer knowledge of his nature) , he finally gave up and decided to go home. He walked to the apartment building where he lived, climbed the two flights to the door which held his apartment, and, concentrating on the door, stepped through it and into his living room. He got the shock of his life when he realized that his body was no longer in the chair where he had left it!
For one panic-stricken moment, Arthur thought nothing at all. Memory of Wells’ story of “The Stolen Body” came to him, and the possibility of having had his body stolen by some homeless evil spirit made him go cold all over. And then he noticed that the door to the kitchen was closed and that a streak of light came from under the door. Someone was out in the kitchen! Arthur concentrated on the door at once, wept through it, and got the second shock in five minutes. His body was seated in a tilted back kitchen chair, its feet were up on the table and an air of perfect satisfaction was on its face. In one hand it held a copy of “Throbbing Stories” and in the other a cigarette; and on the table before it a glass of half-emptied quart of beer glistened with cool moisture!
After a moment of wilder surmise than ever assailed stout Cortez upon this peak in Darien, Arthur swept forward to forward to repossess hi vagrant flesh. He got within about a yard of it when he suddenly came up against some sort of psychic wall. He concentrated intensely, in the fashion which he had learned was effective in moving through doors and walls, but it had no effect whatever in this case. He tried increasing the intensity of his concentration but all he succeeded in doing was to cause his body to glance crossly in his direction and mutter: “Go on! Beat it .Don’t bother me!”
The body…this interloping spirit or whatever it was that had possessed his corporeal frame…was aware of him! He hurled himself again, and vainly, at the wall that separated him from his link with reality and blurted out, almost in sobs “Get out of my body! Let me in. Let me in!”
The body grinned. It wasn’t one of Arthur Burns’ tight-lipped, conservative smiles; it was a wide grin.
“Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin,” he chuckled. “I like it too well the way things are.”
“Who are you?” moaned Arthur. “What are you? And why have you stolen my body?”
The physical Arthur looked suddenly serious. “You think that some evil spirit has possessed me, don’t you.” It asked pityingly. “It’s not nearly as bad as that. I’m just the body, old man. Just the beef and bones of Arthur Burns, free at last of all restraints and repressions, and getting ready to have a darned good time.”
“But… but you can’t be!” stammered Arthur. “How can you move about and everything, without the proper control of an inspiring soul”?”
“It does seem strange, doesn’t it?” the body answered, chuckling again. “But I don’t see why I shouldn’t. My heart’s all right, my lungs and bones and muscles are o.k. My brain is clicking on all eight cylinders. I’ve had swell ideas since you left. Some swell ideas!”
It said this last with such a sinister smile that Arthur found something new to worry about.
“I suppose this beer and tobacco is the result of one of those ideas,” he began sternly. Are you aware that I neither smoke nor drink?”
“Am I aware of it!” the body’s eyebrow curled scornfully. “And I’m just beginning to realize what I’ve missed. Many and many a time, on a hot night, I’ve wondered what a good, cool glass of beer would taste like, but all I ever got was pop. Believe me; things are going to be different from now on.”
“From now on, if there is such a thing as a psychic shriek, it burst from Arthur’s in tangible lips then. “How long…how long do you intend to keep this incredible farce up?”
“From now on,” answered the body, calmly, “I’m finding this state of affairs more enjoyable every minute. All the things that I’ve wanted to do and that you’ve repressed. Why, this’ll be a vacation…a glorious, wonderful vacation that’ll stretch on and on and….”
“Oh, but that’s impossible!” Arthur cried. What do you think people will think of me, with you carrying on like this? Remember, as Arthur Burns, you have a certain reputation to uphold.”
“I’m not even certain that I want to keep on being Arthur Burn,” yawned the body. “I think I’ll be a guy named Joe.”
For the first time in his life, Arthur Burns lost his temper. It may be that the soul; is the seat of the emotions and that those emotions are controlled some little bit by the body. I don’t know. From subsequent events in the story, I‘m inclined to believe that this is so. At any rate, all the time that Arthur was a bodiless spirit; he was a lot more emotional in his actions than he was when body and soul were combined. So now, he lost his temper. He hurled himself against the wall that separated him from his tangible frame; he pounded on that wall with substanceless, dubious fists, he cried and sobbed, and beat again against the wall that held him out. But the body had evidently closed its mind to him; it proceeded to finish the beer and then prepared for bed. Only once did it speak and then Arthur was not sure whether the remark was intended for him or not. That was when it took Arthur’s pajamas out of the closet and donned them.
“Tan!” it sneered. “Solid color! Phui! Wait to you see the pajamas I buy! They’ll knock your eye out.”
And with that as a final remark, it climbed into bed and fall at once into a sound sleep.
Arthur spent a most uncomfortable night. “Tired Nature’s sweet restorer” may be all right for the bodily frame, but apparently the soul, or the astral body, or whatever it was doesn’t need it at all. Arthur remained conscience all night and spent most of it in a vain attempt to recover possession of his body. Toward morning, he even sallied forth and hunted up a spirit medium, in the hope that he might communicate with him by some chance and explain his predicament and get some advice. But either the man was a charlatan or the astral bodies of living man cannot affect spirit mediums… at any rate, Arthur had no effect on him that he had had on other people.
He returned to his home, disheartened and disgusted and when the body arose, late, and dressed, there was nothing that he could do but follow it, futilely, when it left the apartment and started down town.
The body took a west end bus, and Arthur began to entertain a dreadful new suspicion, a suspicion which was verified when the body dropped off of the bus at Elm Street and entered the bank where Arthur kept his savings account, the modest accumulation of all his sacrifices through the past decade.
For a while, Arthur nourished a vain hope that the creature which had disowned him would be unable to sign any checks in Arthur’s characteristic hand-writing, but that hope was vain was soon evident. It scratched out “Arthur J. Burns” without the slightest hesitation and the cashier cashed the check with a genial “G’morning Mr. Burns,” and a casual comment on the weather.
But Arthur, while the check was being cashed, was noticing none of the details of the transaction. He was more aware of the agony of the indignation and frustration, for the check was written for fifteen hundred dollars, and this was fully half of Arthur’s hard-earned savings. His customary reserve, alone, prevented him from screaming out at his tormentor in the sacred precincts of the bank. (Arthur still seemed unable to convince himself that he could no more be heard than be seen.)
Once out on the street, however, he broke into a torrent of remonstrances. “I never heard of such high-handed embezzlement. You just wait! Haven’t you any sense of honor and decency at all? Where did you learn such ways? You’ve never learned them while I was around.”
There was nobody on the street nearby, so the body evidently decided to answer.
“I don’t see what you’re making such a fuss about,” it chortled. “That money’s as much mine as it is yours. Share and share alike is my motto, now that we’ve split up. I took my half out of the bank, and I’m going to spend it as I see fit.” It broke into a real chuckle. “Why don’t you do the same thing, instead of whining for more than your share?”
It stopped and looked speculatively at a used car shop they were passing.
“You know, a nice little coupe would be just the thing for me,” it said speculatively. “I wonder if they’ve got anything good for about a thousand dollars.”
“Don’t think of it, “cried Arthur, in agony. “Do you think I sweated a slaved for all these years to buy a second hand jalopy for a playboy like you?”
The body struck an attitude of listening. “Methinks I hear the voice of conscience,” he muttered melodramatically. But it started into the care, just the same. “Remember,” it whispered, in a manner almost gentle. “It was me that did the sweating and slaving.”
The inability to deny this last remark brought to Arthur’s conscious mind, for the first time, the realization that this really was his own physical body which he was fluttering after so ineffectually; and the admission of this fact so disturbed him that his physical component had approached a salesman, inspected a number of cars and dickered successfully for one of them before Arthur could really be said to have been aware of that was going on. He was brought out of his reverie when the other part of him climbed into a smart little coupe and started to drive it away.
Arthur hastened after, still protesting, but the body had apparently closed its mind to him in that strange way it had, for his wildest protestations and censuring were received with a patience and silence which at last convinced Arthur that the other was not merely ignoring him but was actually quite unaware of him.
The soulless creature at the wheel was delighted with the new toy it possessed. It drove out of town and spent the morning tearing up and down the network of roads that enmeshed the outskirts of the city; it’s almost total lack of emotions making it an ideal driver, and an exceptionally careful one, in spite of its liking for speed.
But of the body lacked emotions, Arthur certainly did not, in the present state, and sitting beside the driver he played the perfect back seat driver….or would have, had the body paid the slightest attention to him
About one o’clock, the car turned back to the city, and shortly after drew up before the restaurant entrance of the Hotel Schaeffer. This hotel’s reputation, while not actually bad, was dubious enough to have kept the meticulous Arthur from ever having entered it, but he did so now, following his body with only the slightest compunction. He was beginning to adapt himself to the realization that, as long as he was in this peculiarly separated state, the better left was going to run things quite differently that he had, hitherto.
For instance, this meal, it was Arthur’s custom to have a frugal mid-day meal, just a double-decker and a glass of malted milk. His rebellious physical being, however, had a roast beef dinner, with beer…with, it developed as the meal progressed, a lot of beer…and even Arthur could see, before it was through dining, that the unaccustomed alcohol was having some effect.
On one of the empty chairs at the table some previous occupant had left a racing form. The body picked this up and began to study it, as it sipped his glass of beer. It couldn’t have comprehended it, any more than the spiritual Arthur could, but it gave a worldly-wise appearance, and this was probably all the body wished to achieve.
It had one other effect though. A wan little man at one of the other tables got up and sauntered over to sit in one of the empty chairs, quite uninvited.
“Know anything good for today?” he asked familiarly, with a gesture toward the paper which the body held in its hand.
“Know anything good…” For a moment, there was puzzlement in the body’s face then with a chuckle of realization. “Oh, I see what you mean. No, I don’t know anything about the horses. Do you?”
“Do I?!” A beatific grin spread over the little man’s face. “Brother, you are looking at a guy that really knows all about them. I am the original horse’s mouth from which all the touts get their information. Mean to say you never heard of ‘Bunny’ Windhorst, before?” And when the other admitted his ignorance, he went on: “That’s me. I can steer you into some pretty nice things, if you want to hang around. Buy me a beer, will you? I’m temporarily out of funds.”
The body beckoned the waiter and ordered: “A glass of beer,” stiffly, ion the tone of a man unused to ordering. “Get one for ya’self,” said Bunny, magnanimously, and held up two fingers to the waiter. While they drank the beer, the body volunteered the information that, though he was utterly ignorant of races, he had recently come into a fortune and was intent on learning all there was to know. He also stated that his name was “Joe Burns”, and he wanted Bunny to call him Joe.
They had two more beers before Bunny negligently suggested that they take a trip to the track that very afternoon. Joe’s education, he intimated, had been woefully neglected, and there was no time like the present to remedy that deficiency. So, before long, they were in Joe’s coupe, driving in the direction of the racetrack.
If I have said nothing of Arthur’s actions during the last half hour, it is because I imagine you can picture them pretty well yourself. The visit to the Hotel Schaeffer was bad enough. The beer (no, the beers—plural!) were unspeakable, and the conversation with a common tout, unthinkable- - what adjective, then, shall I use to describe the proposed visit to the track?
Arthur argued, he cried, he was reduced to imprecations and finally to complete speechlessness. For a few minutes he almost decided to cast off his errant body as hopelessly lot, but he followed it at last because it was, after all, his only link with reality, and because he was hoping against hope that some miracle might yet take place to bring this incredible farce to an end.
They reached the track early enough to pay a short visit to the paddock where Bunny saluted numerous friends and discussed learnedly the merits of various horses. Joe listened negligently, apparently not too interested in the qualities of the animals that were to race. He fingered the money in his pockets and looked expectantly in the direction of the windows where lines of patrons told him the betting was being made.
But Arthur, to his own surprise, found a decided interest in the horses themselves. He had often, in the past, admired pictures of fine horses; indeed, he owned several lithographs by George Ford Morris; but somehow or other these horses, to him, had never been more than beautiful pictures. No, however, for the first time in his life, he really saw, with open eyes, the moving living, creatures themselves; and when he first saw them he could not restrain an involuntary start of real appreciation.
When the first race began, Arthur’s interest was heightened. He was hovering behind Bunny and his body in the grand-stand; and his interest quickened as he saw the splendid beasts give the initial lunge that hurled them down the track. So great was his interest that it was some time before he noticed that the racing breasts were getting no further away from him! He glanced about and lo! He was floating far over the heads of the watchers and speeding effortlessly after the horses. The realization of his unconsciously exerted power gave him another thrill and, a moment later, he was flying along above the horses and silently screaming encouragement to “Bellboy”, the horse on which Joe had placed his money.
Bellboy lost. But it made little difference to Arthur. He returned to the place where Bunny and Joe were seated, and it was several moments before the fever of excitement died down in him. By then, he was looking forward to the next race.
As the afternoon went by, Arthur followed the horses in race after race; returning each time to see how his body was getting on. He hoped, part of the time, that Bunny’s service would result in Joe’s going broke, for he had an instinctive feeling that as long as Joe had enough money to enjoy himself, normal relations would never be restored. For the rest of the time, he “flew” over the horses’ head, cheering silent encouragement to the horse that Bunny had persuaded Joe to be on.
In the row of seats ahead of Bunny and Joe, there was a rather flashily dressed young woman escorted by a man whose conservative clothes somehow suggested that he wore them more to avoid notice than from any innate desire to be reserved. These two, Arthur noticed absently, were engaged in some sort of altercation but he paid little attention to it at first. Apparently the young lady had declined to take the advice of her escort and apparently she was winning, anyhow. When a thing like that happens, an argument is inevitable; and as the afternoon passed, the argument grew hotter and hotter, interrupted by periods when the two ceased, for a while to even speak to each other.
Arthur returned from the next to last race, flushed with the excitement of having cheered on horse to a winning finish. He was surprised to notice that Joe had forgotten the horses and was giving all his attention to the argument that was going on in front of him.
“Yuh got yer ol’ man’s insstinks,” the conservatively dressed man was saying in a language that was anything but conservative. “Yuh don’t know nothin’ about horses. Yuh just got insstinks. If you’d listen to me, I’d show yuh how to use the scientific method of choosin’ a horse. But, no! Yuh gotta…”
“I’ll thank you to leave my father out of this, Art Cramer!” the girl snapped with flashing eyes. “It’s bad enough…the things you’ve said about me, without starting to talk about my folks.”
“Anything I said about that old bum would be short of the truth, and you know it.” snarled Cramer. “And the same thing prob’ly goes fer his lovely daughter, too!”
Joe rose to his feet and touched the girl lightly on the shoulder.
“Pardon me, miss, “he said politely, “I imagine you’ve had enough insults from this specimen for a while. Shall I poke him?”
“I don’t care what you do to him,” cried the girl, angry and on the verge of tears. And while Cramer still looked dazed and uncertain at this interruption Joe swung a blow from the hips straight for Cramer’s face.
Now it is a sad fact that this story, if it is not exactly truth, certainly tries to come very close to imitating it. Cramer ducked in time to receive the blow on the cheek bone instead of on the jaw, swung gently with the blow and delivered a sudden choppy return that caught Joe just where it would do him the most good. Joe did a brief double –take and collapsed at Bunny’s feet, and Cramer, with a quick frightened look about him, hastened up the aisle and out of the grand-stand, leaving Bunny and the girl to look frightened at the unconscious form of the would-be champion.
Numbers of people in the crowd were craning their necks curiously, anxious to see what was going on, but not willing to give up their seats. There were a number of people in the aisle who gathered around, and as Bunny knelt down before the unconscious Joe, they began to offer all the various bits of advice that have been given since the days of the caveman. Arthur, as might be expected, hovered invisibly over the crowd and wrung intangible hands at his at this new predicament which his errant flesh had brought upon them.
Joe wasn’t out for more than a minute. He groaned and sat up groggily.
“He….he’s got a punch like a pile-driver.” He said ruefully. “What happened? Where is he?”
“You walked into it,” snapped Bunny. “You met him halfway. I never saw anything like it. Don’t you know nothin’ about fightin’?”
“Not a darn thing, “Joe answered, almost cheerfully. “I never had a chance to learn. But there seems to be more to it than I thought.”
“You oughta been knocked out,” Bunny broke out angrily. “Jumping a guy when you don’t know nothin’ about him and don’t know nothin’ about fightin’, too. That was the prize boob play of the year…”
“That’s enough of that kind of talk,” broke in the voice of the girl who had been standing uncertainly beside her seat ever since Joe went down. “He’s your pal and a gentleman. Maybe you better get out and let me take over from here.” She stooped down and helped Joe to get back on his feet.
“I want to thank you, mister,” she said, softly. “I shouldn’t have ever been with that guy in the first place. I been warned, but I guess I thought I was smart. Thanks for helping me out.”
Joe muttered a dull: “That’s all right.” And she went on more cheerfully: “Morgot De Vanie’s my name. I’m with the “Gossips” company at the Majestic Theatre. Maybe you’ve seen me there’”
Joe shook his head, now almost himself again. “Not yet,” he said. “But I will. Several times.” They grinned, and with a nod to Bunny, Joe seated himself in the seat vacated by the late Mr. Cramer.
By the time the last race was over, Joe and Margot were friends of long standing and Bunny was enthused and happy because his half of the day’s winning amounted to over forty dollars. Joe suggested that they all go to Varley’s for supper, and they piled into his coupe, chattering like a bunch of high school kids. Arthur still hovered along, but the excitement of the races was gone and he was having time to reflect on what the day’s adventures really meant, when translated into the conservative terms which he usually used to interpret life. Briefly, his rebellious flesh had: Squandered a thousand dollars on a used car, made friends with a race track tout, smoked cigarettes…a dozen or more…drank beer, visited a dubious hotel and a race-track and last, but by no means least, indulged in a common brawl and picked up a chorus girl! Arthur did his best to worry over this incredible and unfortunate state of affairs, but he found it uncommonly hard to do. He felt that continued misfortune had dulled hi9m to the proper appreciation of the enormity of Joe’s depravity,, but the truth of the matter most probably was that he was so interested in what was going on to happen next that he had no time to worry over what had happened in the past. Arthur was beginning to learn a thing or two.
The supper was a success. They chatted gaily and humorously, keeping each other laughing all through the meal. But toward the end, Margot grew sober.
“I don’t like the idea of you not knowing how to fight, Joe,” she stated.” This Cramer character has a mean streak in him, and I’m afraid you haven’t heard the last of this. Why don’t you go somewhere, some gymnasium or something and learn how to box.”
“Might be a pretty good idea…”Joe began, uncertainly, but Bunny broke in: “You’re darn right it’s a good idea. And I know just the place. You leave him to me, Margot. I know Sammy McKettrick, and I’ll take him down and introduce him tomorrow. He’ll learn more at McKettrick’s in one day than he’d learn anyplace else in one week.”
Joe agreed, and they went on and finished their meal. Shortly after, Margot announced that it was time for her to be at the theatre, so Joe bade Bunny goodbye and drove her over in his coupe. He kissed her goodbye at the stage door.
An hour later, he had a seat in the orchestra and Arthur was sitting, as invisible and intangible as ever, a couple of seats away. The show began and Arthur soon spotted Margot in the chorus. He watched her carefully and had to admit that she excelled the others, both in pulchritude and in ability. At one part, she even had a small specialty, and the applause which followed it, for some reason he couldn’t understand, pleased him tremendously. It wasn’t until the show was over that he seized hold upon himself and sternly brought himself around to the proper viewpoint again.
Joe didn’t visit Margo after the show. The body was no more used to late hours than Arthur was, and he probably realized the necessity of gradually inuring himself to the life of a man about town. But now it was midnight, and he drove homeward, thoughtfully, stopping only long enough to pick up a quart of beer at the neighborhood delicatessen.
When the body was at last seated in Arthur’s favorite chair, with a glass of beer on the end-table beside him, Arthur decided that the time had come when he simply must have a chance to speak again. He concentrated on the body, concentrated furiously, and was pleased at last to see Joe fidget nervously, as if trying to thrust out the invading thoughts. At last his carcass let down the conversational barrier, tossed down the paper he was reading and looked in the general direction of his vagrant soul.
“Hail to thee blithe spirit,” he hailed. “What did you think of the time we had today?”
“That’s exactly what I want to talk to you about,” Stormed Arthur, exultant in the fact that he was once more able to express himself and casting about in his mind for words fit to tell all of his feelings in one fell swoop. “IN one single day, you have literally ruined the entire reputation that I have built up over a lifetime. Aren’t you satisfied now? Aren’t you willing to allow me to repossess you, and suffer the consequences of your arousing?”
“Aw, why don’t you go haunt a house somewhere,” he interrupted rudely. “I don’t see where your reputation has been ruined. “We never met a soul you knew, all day long.”
“Murder will out.” said Arthur, grimly. “Somehow or another, the vile doings of this day will come to light. You just wait and see.”
“Come on,” scoffed Joe. “You enjoyed it almost as well as I did. You had a swell time with the horses…and you didn’t exactly hate Margot, either, did you?”
For a moment Arthur was taken aback. This creature knew his innermost thoughts, thoughts that he had hardly even expressed to himself. “How….How do you know what I think…” he stammered.
“Well, after all,” Joe answered. “It’s my mind as well as yours. If I can’t read my own thoughts, whose thoughts can I read?”
Arthur made no reply. He had had it called to his attention that he had enjoyed a good many of the events of the day, and it irritated him no end. He had no reply ready for Joe’s events of the day, so he sulked and made no reply. The body chuckled, and went on reading the paper; it was reading the sports page.
Mr. Sammy McKettrick’s Gymnasium and Institute of Body Building hardly lived up to its resounding title, but Mr. McKettrick’s enthusiasm made up for any lack of glamour in his surroundings. To hear him tell it, he or his predecessors had been directly responsible for every pugilistic champion from John L. Sullivan to Joe Louis, for most of the head-liners in the wrestling field and for every muscle-bound Mr. America since the first one.
Once assured that Joe was possessed of the necessary medium of exchange, he ordered him to strip to the waist, and discussed the body with Bunny in obscure language full familiar comments about “pecs” and “lats” and “triceps”, which meant nothing at all to either Joe or the hovering half-amazed spirit that floated above them. But at last he turned to the body and announced grandiloquently: “Mr. Burns, I’ll take you on. You got a lot to learn and it’ll take a long while, but you got good material to work on and if you stick to I’ll make a man out of you, yet. It’ll take time, though.”
“Look,” said Joe. “I ain’t got all year. I think there’s a guy laying for me. I’ve got to learn how to protect myself. I want you to teach me how to use my hands, and then, once I get this guy out of my hair, I’ll settle for the bar-bells and the other stuff. How about it?”
“You’ve come to just the right man”, answered Sammy switching his line without even a noticeable pause. “I’ll give you a line that’ll let you hold your own with anybody in less than a week. You’ll hafta work, though…like a dawg.”
Joe asserted his willingness to work…”like a dawg” …and a few moments later Arthur groaned to see another sizeable chunk of his fortune disappear down the drain. And Joe began his first lesson in self-defense.
He learned fast. An ordinary human being, faced with a situation such as Joe was faced with, can call upon its higher self to provide all sorts of sublimations and such a high abstractions to get away from facing reality. But Joe was just s physical body, and as such, he was determined to take mighty good care of himself. He was absorbed in the game, and he spent the entire day with McKettrick, or one of his assistants. And he learned….plenty.
And Arthur leaned plenty, too! Arthur would never have visited such a gymnasium as this; under normal circumstances….Arthur’s idea of exercise was a daily dozen in the morning and a brisk walk in the evening,….but, held here by his wayward other self, he began to take an interest in the proceedings, and after a while, he had to admit that there was a strange method in what he had hitherto considered a little short of madness.
Joe left the Gym at supper time, called up Margot and made a dinner date with her. They got along famously, better than ever, and when he kissed her good-bye at the stage door, she flung her arms about his neck and kissed back. Arthur was surprised at her vehemence and so, apparently, was Joe. He grinned uncertainly and then kissed her again and Arthur wondered why she seemed a little disappointed at the second kiss.
He wondered, too why he felt a little twinge of jealousy at the idea of Joe kissing her. He dismissed the feeling, sternly.
The fourth day of Arthur’s peculiarly separated state was a repetition of the third. Joe spent the morning and most of the afternoon in the gymnasium, but he left a little earlier to take Margot for a long ride in the country. They had supper at a distant road-house, and then tore up the roads to get Margot back to the theater in time for the show. Once again Joe kissed her good-bye…..and this time, Margot pushed him away and looked at him quizzically.
“What’s the matter, Joe?” she asked in a hurt manner. “Don’t you like me?”
Joe looked puzzled. “You’re darn right I like you. Don’t I act like it?”
“Most of the time, yes. But when you kiss me….”Her voice trailed off uncertainly.
“I guess you don’t like my kisses, huh?”
“Oh, I like ‘em Joe. More than I should, maybe. But…oh, I don’t know. There’s no kick to them. You….you don’t put any soul in your kissing.”
“Don’t put any soul….” For the first time since his separation from Arthur, Joe seemed at a loss for words. He stumbled through a puzzled good-bye and left; and behind him, a smiling spirit trailed happily. Arthur was not at all jealous, tonight.
And when Joe voluntarily let his mental barriers down, in their room that night, Arthur said nothing and Joe was forced to retire without the conversation which for once, he seemed to desire.
At the gym, the next day, Joe went thru his paces again with the persistent Mr. Sammy McKettrick. To give the instructor credit, he had devised a system that probably did Joe more good than any of the orthodox systems would have done. He was teaching him things which under an ordinary course in self-defense, might not had been taught until after months of training in timing and shadow boxing. He worked on the theory that a god offense in the best defense and inasmuch as he had to neglect a good part of the training, he omitted defensive measures and concentrated on brilliant and unexpected attacks.
Joe learned quickly. And, strangely enough, Arthur learned, too. Had the habitués of the Institute had the least suspicion of the ghostly visitant that swung intangible arms and ducked imaginary blows in their immediate vicinity, the rush to the doors and windows could be better imagined than described, but of course Arthur remained as imperceptible as ever, and probably learned at least as much as Joe did of that method of mayhem known as the manly art of self-defense.
But as the day drew to a close, Mr. McKettrick began to be irritated. He said nothing, so it was hard to imagine just what he was irritated at, but that he was not satisfied with the way things were going on, was most obvious. He began to insist on repetition, and insisted so often that Joe finally came right out as asked him: “What’s the matter, Sammy, don’t I catch on quick enough?”
“Oh, sure, sure,” answered Sammy. “You catch on plenty quick. You’re doing swell, Mr. Burns, but…”
Joe waited, and so did Arthur. Some vague intuition which may be a commoner thing to disembodied spirits that to normal men, made Arthur tense and anxious to hear what McKettrick had to say. Joe said, impatiently: “Go on, what is it?”
“I don’t know,” the instructor said, in a sudden burst of frankness. “You learn plenty quick, you got swell control, everything I could as, but…You don’t put no spirit into it. You do it all like you was a machine. I can’t explain just what I mean, but…well; you just don’t seem to have the proper spirit.”
“I guess I ain’t in the proper mood,” Joe mumbled’ “I guess I better quit for the day. I’ll see you tomorrow, Sammy”.
He put on his clothes and strode from the gym, a very thoughtful carcass, indeed. He ate his supper mechanically, and was half-way to the theatre before he remembered that his date with Margot was for after the show instead of before. So he turned the car around and went home, and once in the rooms, he let down the psychic barriers and called to Arthur.
“Look here,” he began. “This business about soul and spirit. This stuff that Margot and Sammy McKettrick are talking about. Don’t let it give you any ideas. I’m still getting along just swell without you. But….what are they driving at, anyhow?”
It would not have been Arthur Burns if he had not felt a smug, satisfaction…and showed it.
“It seems that in certain situations, a soul or spirit is necessary,” he answered.
“You haven’t any emotions. Oh, you have desires and you can simulate emotions pretty good, due to long association with me…but sometime emotions are necessary. And when they are, my dear carcass, what can you do but wish that you had me with you.”
“I don’t wish I had you with me,” Joe snapped out quickly, and then, adamantly, he repeated himself, over and over and over. “I don’t wish it. I don’t wish it.”
Arthur stared at him in surprise. Then his surprised turned upon another matter at once. Some irresistible force swept him toward Joe, swept him away again, and left him swinging back and forth gradually dying down until at last, full minute after the phenomenon started, he found himself stationary again and in command of himself.
Joe had buried his face in his arms on the table, but now he raised a white face, strained and tense. “Think you’re smart, don’t you?” he snarled at Arthur. “It ain’t as easy as you think, is it?”
Arthur’s puzzlement must have been apparent in his voice. “What was that?” he asked. “And what do you mean, I think I’m smart.”
Joe looked at him searchingly for a few seconds, and then chuckled. “If you really don’t know what that was, I guess I’m still boss,” he said “And you won’t get a chance like that again.”
It must have been an unsatisfactory dinner for the body. Half the meal was left untouched when Joe finally arose and went out to his car. He drove out to the country and spent the whole evening driving around like a man faced with a problem on which his whole life depended. He kept his barriers up, and Arthur couldn’t have talked to him if he had wanted to. And strangely, Arthur didn’t want to. Indeed, about ten o’clock Arthur became so bold that he left his vagrant flesh and swept across the city to the theater where he could once more watch Margot do her specialty.
He left the theater shortly before the show ended and started out to hunt for Joe. He had known, ever since the day when he followed the horses, that he was capable of remarkable speed when he willed it, and now he felt pretty sure that he’d be able to locate his body before very long.
He was sweeping up the street west of the theater when his attention was suddenly attracted by a familiar, a too familiar face. Mr. Art Cramer, with a sinister look on his pan and two even more sinister characters on either side of him was walking along the street in the direction of the rear of the theater. Arthur stopped at once and lent an ear to their conversation.
“I’m tellin’ ya again.” Mr. Cramer was saying. “I don’t want this mug cooled Break all the bones ya want to; I want him in the hospital few months, but I don’t want him to croak. All I want is, when he remembers Art Cramer, he’ll scream, see?”
The gentleman with the broken nose, who was walking on Mr. Cramer’s left, grinned a twisted grin.
“Yuh sure he’s gonna be at the stage door, Art?” he queried.
“He’s been there every day since Monday, either before or after the show,” snarled Cramer. “And he wasn’t there before the show, so I figger he’s gotta date tonight.”
Cramer’s first words had raised his suspicions of the bodiless spirit that was floating along beside him, and now that those suspicions were verified Arthur knew that he must warn Joe, at once. He left the vicious trio and flew with all the speed he was capable of imagining, up and down the streets until at last he spied the coupe, not more than half a mile from the theater and hastening in that direction. He fluttered onto the car, seated himself beside the carcass and shouted for attention. For a moment it looked as if Joe had shut him out again but then: “What in thunder do you want now?” asked the body, sullenly. “I thought I was rid of you for a while.”
Arthur poured out his warning tale, winding up with the sort of warning that might have been expected from Arthur. “You can’t go there and keep your date,” he cried soundlessly.
“You’ll have to call Margot up and break the date. Tell her to meet you somewhere else.”
Joe’s attitude toward Arthur’s suggestion couldn’t have been worse.
Anything you suggest is nuts, as far as I’m concerned,” the body snarled. “How do I know you haven’t just made this up to keep me from seeing Margot? Anyhow, what’ve I been training for all week? I’d rather take on all three of ‘em than stand Margot up.”
Arthur was about to remark when he saw a familiar figure walking on the sidewalk.
“Look,” he cried eagerly. “There’s Bunny. If you’re determined to go on down there, at least take him!”
Joe gave a grumbling sort of assent dictated, more than likely, by the very caution that he was endeavoring to conceal, and pulled over to the sidewalk. He hailed Bunny, and after a moment or two of talk, Bunny entered the car and they drove on. With the utmost nonchalance, Joe swung the car into the alley behind the theater.