Goblin Reservation by Simak Clifford Chapter 9

Maxwell awoke. Oop was shaking him. "Someone here to see you."

Maxwell threw back the covers, hoisted his feet out the floor, groped blindly for his trousers. Oop handed them to him.

"Who is it?"

"Said his name was Longfellow. Nasty, high-nosed gent. He's waiting outside for you. You could see he wouldn't risk contamination by stepping in the shack."

"Then to hell with him," said Maxwell, starting to crawl back into bed.

"No, no," protested Oop. "I don't mind at all. I'm above insult. There is nothing that can faze me."

Maxwell struggled into his trousers, slid his feet into his shoes and kicked them on.

"Any idea who this fellow is?"

"None at all," said Oop.

Maxwell stumbled across the room to the bench set against the wall, spilled water from the bucket standing there into a washbasin, bent and sloshed water on his face.

"What time is it?" he asked.

"A little after seven."

"Mr. Longfellow must have been in a hurry to see me."

"He's out there now, pacing up and down. Impatient."

Longfellow was impatient.

As Maxwell came out of the door, he hurried up to him and held out a hand.

"Professor Maxwell," he said, "I'm so glad I found you. It was quite a job. Someone told me you might be here," he glanced at the shack and his long nose crinkled just a trifle, "so I took the chance."

"Oop," said Maxwell, quietly, "is an old and valued friend."

"Could we, perhaps, take a stroll," suggested Longfellow. "It is an unusually fine morning. Have you breakfasted yet? No, I don't suppose you have."

"It might help," said Maxwell, "if you told me who you are."

"I'm in Administration. Stephen Longfellow is the name. Appointments secretary to the president."

"Then you're just the man I want to see," said Maxwell. "I need an appointment with the president as soon as possible."

Longfellow shook his head. "I would say offhand that is quite impossible."

They fell into step and walked along the path that led down toward the roadway. Leaves of wondrous, shining yellow fell slowly through the air from a thick-branched walnut tree that stood beside the path. Down by the roadway a maple tree was a blaze of scarlet against the blueness of the morning sky. And far in that sky streamed a V-shaped flock of ducks heading southward.

"Impossible," said Maxwell. "You make it sound final. As if you'd thought about it and come to your decision."

"If you wish to communicate with Dr. Arnold," Longfellow told him coldly, "there are proper channels. You must understand the president is a busy man and-"

"I understand all that," said Maxwell, "and I understand as well about the channels. Innumerable delays, a request passed on from hand to hand and the knowledge of one's communication spread among so many people-"

"Professor Maxwell," Longfellow said, "there is no use, it seems, to beat about the bush. You're a persistent man and, I suspect, a rather stubborn one, and with a man of that bent it is often best to lay it on the line. The president won't see you. He can't afford to see you."

"Because there seems to have been two of me? Because one of me is dead?"

"The press will be full of it this morning. All the headlines shouting about a man come back from the dead. Have you heard the radio, perhaps, or watched television?"

"No," Maxwell said, "I haven't."

"Well, when you get around to it you'll find that you've been made a three-ring circus. I don't mind telling you that it is embarrassing."

"You mean a scandal?"

"I suppose you could call it that. And administration has trouble enough without identifying itself with a situation such as yours. There is this matter of Shakespeare, for example. We can't duck that one, but we can duck you."

"But surely," said Maxwell, "administration can't be too concerned with Shakespeare and myself as compared to all the other problems that it faces. There is the uproar over the revival of duelling at Heidelberg and the dispute over the ethics of employing certain alien students on the football squads and-"

"But can't you see," wailed Longfellow, "that what happens on this particular campus are the things that matter."

"Because administration was transferred here? When Oxford and California and Harvard and half a dozen others-"

"If you ask me," Longfellow declared stiffly, "it was a piece of poor judgment on the part of the board of regents. It has made things very difficult for administration."

"What would happen," asked Maxwell, "if I just walked up the hill and into administration and started pounding desks?"

"You know well enough. You'd be thrown out."

"But if I brought along a corps of the newspaper and television boys and they were outside watching?"

"I suppose then you wouldn't be thrown out. You might even get to see the president. But I can assure you that under circumstances such as those you'd not get whatever it may be you want."

"So," said Maxwell, "I'd lose, no matter how I went about it." "As a matter of fact," Longfellow told him, "I had come this morning on quite a different mission. I was bringing happy news."

"I can imagine that you were," said Maxwell. "What kind of sop are you prepared to throw me to make me disappear?"

"Not a sop," said Longfellow, much aggrieved. "I was told to offer you the post of dean at the experimental college the university is establishing out on Gothic IV."

"You mean that planet with all the witches and the warlocks?"

"It would be a splendid opportunity for a man in your field," Longfellow insisted. "A planet where wizardry developed without the intervention of other intelligences, as is the case on Earth."

"A hundred and fifty light-years distant," said Maxwell. "Somewhat remote and I would think it might be dreary. But I suppose the salary would be good."

"Very good indeed."

"No, thanks," said Maxwell. "I'm satisfied with my job, right here."

"Job?" asked Longfellow.

"Why, yes. In case you have forgotten, I'm on the faculty,"

Longfellow shook his head. "Not any longer," he said "Have you, by any chance, forgotten? You died, more than three weeks ago. We can't let vacancies go unfilled."

"You mean I've been replaced?"

"Why, most certainly," Longfellow told him nastily. "As it stands right now, you are unemployed."