No Life of Their Own: And Other Stories (The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak Book 5)

No Life of Their Own: And Other Stories (The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak Book 5) by Clifford D. Simak Read Free Book Online

Book: No Life of Their Own: And Other Stories (The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak Book 5) by Clifford D. Simak Read Free Book Online
Authors: Clifford D. Simak
me. We’ll rouse out all the neighbors and organize a hunt. We’ll find him.” He said to me: “You know the lad? You did some playing with him?”
    “All the time,” I answered.
    “Lead us to all the places where you played. We’ll look there first.”
    Pa said: “I’ll start phoning the neighbors. I’ll get them here right away.”
    He ran up the hill toward the house.
    In an hour or less, there were a hundred people gathered and the sheriff took them all in hand. He divided them into posses and appointed captains for each posse and told them where to hunt.
    It was the most excitement we’ve ever had in the neighborhood.
    The sheriff took me with the posse he headed up and we went down Dark Hollow. I took them to the place where we were digging out the lizard and the place where we had started to dig ourselves a cave and the hole in the creek where Nature Boy had made friends with some whopping trout, and some other places, too. We found some old tracks of Nature Boy’s, but there was no fresh sign, although we hunted up and down the hollow clear to where it flowed into the river, and we trailed back come night, and I was tuckered out.
    And a little scared as well.
    For an awful suspicion had come to me.
    And no matter how hard I tried to keep from thinking of it, I couldn’t help myself, for all the time I was trying to remember if the hopper in that time machine had been big enough to take a kid the size of Nature Boy.
    Ma fed me and sent me up to bed and later she came up and tucked me in and kissed me. She hadn’t done that in years. She knew I was too big to be tucked in and kissed, but she did it anyhow.
    And then she went downstairs and I lay there listening to some men who still were out there in the yard, talking among themselves. Some of the others still were hunting and I knew that I should be out there hunting with them, but I knew Ma wouldn’t let me go and I was glad of it. For I was tired all through and the woods at night can be a scary place.
    I should by rights have gone straight to sleep. Any other night I would have. But I lay there thinking about that hopper in the time machine and I wondered how long it would take before someone told the sheriff about the ruckus between Fancy Pants and Nature Boy, and I thought perhaps they already had. And if so, the sheriff probably was looking into it right now, for the sheriff was nobody’s fool.
    I wondered if I should tell him myself if no one else had. But that was one fight I didn’t have any hankering to get tangled up in.
    Finally I went to sleep and it seemed to me I hadn’t been asleep any time at all when something woke me up. It still was dark, but there was a red glow shining through the window. I sat up quick, with my hair standing half on end.
    I thought at first it might be our barn or the machine shed, but then I saw it wasn’t that close. I skinned out of bed and over to the window. That fire was a big one and it wasn’t too far up the road.
    It looked as if it was on the Carter place, but I knew that must be wrong, for if bad luck like that struck anyone, it wouldn’t be Andy Carter. Unless, of course, he was loaded with insurance.
    I went downstairs in my bare feet and Ma was standing at the door, looking up the road toward the blaze.
    “What is it, Ma?” I asked.
    “It’s the barn on the Carter place,” she said. “They phoned the neighborhood for help, but all the men are out hunting Nature Boy.”
    We stood there, Ma and me, and watched until the blaze almost died out, and then Ma hiked me off to bed.
    I crawled underneath the covers, weak with this new excitement. I wondered why we should tag along for months with nothing happening, and then all at once have it busting out all over.
    I lay there and thought about Andy Carter’s barn and there was something wrong about it. Andy had been the luckiest man in seven counties and now, without any warning, he was having bad luck just like the rest of us.
    I wondered if the

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