Mezzerow Loves Company

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Mezzerow Loves Company

By F. L. WALLACE

Illustrated by EMSH

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction June 1956. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


There were pride and indignation in Mezzerow’s mission to Earth and yet a practical reason … but maybe he should have let bad enough alone!

The official took their passports, scanning the immense variety of stamps he had to choose from. He selected one with multicolored ink that suited his fancy and smeared it against the small square of plastic.

“Marcus Mezzerow?” he asked, glancing at the older man and back at the passport. His lips quivered with amusement at what was printed there. “There seems to be a mistake in the name of the planet,” he said. “It’s hard to believe they’d call it Messy Row.”

“There is a mistake,” said Marcus heavily. “However, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s listed as Messy Row on the charts.”

The official’s face twitched and he bent over the other passport. He was slow in stamping it. “Wilbur Mezzerow?” he asked the young man.

“That’s me,” said Wilbur. “Isn’t it a terrible thing to do? You’d almost think people on Earth can’t spell—or maybe they don’t listen. That’s why Pa and me are here.”

“Wilbur, this man is not responsible for our misfortune,” said Marcus. “Neither can he correct it. Don’t bore him with our problems.”

“Well, sure.”

“Come on.”

“Welcome to Earth,” said the official as they walked away. He caught sight of a woman coming toward him and cringed inwardly before he recognized that she, too, had just arrived from one of the outer worlds. He could tell because of the absence of the identifying gleam in her eyes. On principle he’d stamp her passport with dull and dingy ink.


Wilbur scuffled along beside his father. He hadn’t attained his full growth, but he was as tall though not as heavy as Marcus. “Where are we going now?” he asked. “Get the name changed?”

“Don’t gawk,” said Marcus, restraining his own tendency to gaze around in bewilderment. Things had changed since his father had been here. “No, we’re not. It’s simple, but it may take longer than we think. We have to act as if Earth is an unfriendly planet.”

“Hardly seems like a planet.”

“It is. If you scratch deep enough under those buildings, you’ll find soil and rock.” Even Marcus didn’t know how deep that scratch would have to be.

“Seems hard to believe it was once like—uh—Mezzerow.” Wilbur was looking at the buildings and pedestrians streaming past and the little flutter cars that filled the air. “Bet you can’t find any place to be alone in.”

“More people are alone within ten miles of us than you have ever seen,” said Marcus. He stopped in front of a building and consulted a small notebook. The address agreed, but he looked in vain for a name. There wasn’t a name on any of the buildings. Nevertheless, this ought to be it. They’d been walking for miles and he had checked all the streets. He spoke to Wilbur and they went inside.

It was a hotel. The Universe over, there is no mistaking a hotel for anything else. Continuous arrivals and departures stamp it with peculiar impermanency. A person might stay twenty years and yet seem as transient as the man still signing the registry.

A clerk sauntered over to the Mezzerows. He was plump, but the shoulders of his jacket were obviously much broader than he was. “Looking for someone?” he inquired.

“I’m looking for the Outer Hotel,” said Marcus.

“This is a hotel,” the clerk said, raising his shoulders and letting them fall. One shoulder didn’t come down, so he grasped the bottom of the sleeve and pulled it down.

“What’s the name?”

The clerk yawned. “Doesn’t have a name—just a number. No hotel has had a name for the last hundred years. Too many of them.”

“My father stayed at the Outer Hotel fifty years ago, before he left to discover a new planet. It was at this address.”

The clerk, wary of his shoulder pads, shrugged sideways. It gave him a bent look when one shoulder stayed back. “Maybe it wasn’t a hundred years ago,” he said to his fingernails. “Anyway, they don’t have names now.”

“This must be the old Outer Hotel,” Marcus decided. “We’ll stay here.”

The clerk’s aplomb was not as foolproof as he imagined. It slipped a trifle. “You want to stay here? I mean really?”

“Why not?” growled Marcus. “You have room, don’t you? It seems like a decent place. I don’t have any other recommendations.”

“Certainly it’s decent and we have room. I thought you might be more comfortable elsewhere. I can recommend an exclusive men’s hotel to you.”

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