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Macbeth pulled at his enormous mustache. "Go tell the mistress to ring when my drink is ready and then beat it to bed. Hel-lo! I’m imagining daggers, am I?"
IS THIS A DAGGER - SO WHAT? A Short Story Complete in This Issue ★ ★ ★ There was no joy in the Golden West Bar-B-Q save in the heart of the night counterman, which is not a place where you would ordinarily seek joy, at nine on Saturday morning. The floor had still to be swept, and the dishes of the three passengers off the 8:11 Local had still to be excavated and washed, but in the heart of Matt Carnival, the coun terman, there was ecstasy tliat skipped like a lamb, because tonight, before he checked in at the Lunch at ten p.m., he would be able to catch an act of Macbeth. Now Shakespeare was not Mr. Carnival's favorite dramatist. He preferred almost any body whose name began with George: George M. Cohan, George Kaufman, or George Abbott. And this particular exposition of Macbeth was going to be manhandled by amateurs, by the Dramatic Association of Peter J. Bowthorpe College, which sounded to Matt as though the only good laugh lines would be those of the witches. But Matt loved the theater as another man might have loved blondes or trout fishing; he would rather have seen the worst show than the best World’s Series, and here in Flamingo City there hadn’t been one "real play with live actors, in person.” since 1921. As Matt scrubbed the frying pan with a chunk of chain armor, singing to himself, “And greasy Matt doth keel the pot, all on a frosty morning,” a mammoth cross-country bus stopped before the Lunch and there en tered some thirty of the noisiest small-college students of both sexes that he had ever be held. In the days of ready-mades designed by imported English Lords, these small-towners were dressed like Yale or lYinceton. The poetic-minded among them wore crocus-col ored ties and fainting powder-blue jackets with gray bags; the hardy and roughnecks displayed just such apricot and green sweat ers and squash shoes as may be seen in Cam bridge. What gave them away was their geo metric haircuts. They stopped before the Bar-B-Q and bel lowed : Good old Boivthorpe On a bat, Boogy-woogy, T he dramat! Leave it to an actor to "improve" on Shakespeare. Matt Carnival did — and for a strange reason—in this gay short story of today's American stage by Sinclair Lewis Author of Bothol Morridoy, tho yoar'i host-tolling novel of thoator lift Illustrated by C. C. Beall Nice tag-line." reflected Matt Carnival, as the forces of culture charged in and de manded Hamburgers With. But there was no joy or sedateness among the cultural gipsies. They expressed their woe one to another: “Can you beat it?” . . . "Is this lousy luck — ask me.” Matt leaned over the counter to inquire of one of the meeker young gentlemen: “Some thing gone wrong, Cap’n?” "It couldn't be wronger. We’re the P.J.B. College Dramat, and we’ve got our very first chance to tour outside Salty Forks, playing Macbeth here tonight — and for a swell cause, too — a benefit performance.” "That’s fine. Benefit for a college theater?” yearned Matt. “For a theater? What would we want to have a theater for? We only give one play a year. No, no. It’s a benefit for something really important the P.J.B. hockey team.” ^✓h!” Matt had never been able to put hockey in its proper place. The people he knew preferred pinochle as exercise. "And we started out from Salty Forks this morning, and just landed here when Stub Slagle — he’s our Macbeth, and the best actor in the bunch — say, he makes Orson Welles look like a ham — he slipped on the ice and busted his leg. Professor Mclhuish, our coach, and Mr. Spiggott, the college press agent-—’’ The student indicated a small, fretful, middle-aged man with eyeglasses, who was listening to a thin, red headed young man with wild eyes and adjectives, presuma bly the press agent. "They've been wiring and phoning all over, to Kansas City and Omaha and every where, to find a Macbeth. Golly, it would sur prise you how hard it is to find a Macbeth, so early in the morning. They got on the track of a good Richard II and a swell high-class Hamlet — only he only plays it in Russian — but no Macbeths. Maybe Chuck Spiggott, the press agent, can arrange the script so we can play it without Macbeth. Him and Melhuish are going up to the hotel and try to work it out. Chuck is smart that vcay. He runs our college radio station, KKKK, and last year he arranged a hog-calling contest that was so powerful a lot of folks thought the Germans were bombing Salty Forks.” Professor Melhuish and the redheaded Mr. Spiggott, had already departed. The frus trated Thespians wavered after them, and an excited Matt was left alone. At ten in the morning, Pete, the proprietor and day man of the Bar-B-Q, came on duty. A not very cordial farewell was said by our friend the night man. Mr. Carnival, who was a middle-sized, middle-looking, middling slim man of sixty, with a middling bald head. Once he had removed an apron which bore a chart of the last six meals recorded in gravy, you would never have remembered him. He wore a tabby dark-gray overcoat and a gray suit w ith threads showing at the bottom of the trousers. He was just as undistinguishable when he entered his furnished room at Mrs. Schko pek’s, with its iron bedstead and one chair. But in a comer of the room was a huge, a sur prising trunk with a domed top, and that trunk was marked “M.C., Theater.” Matt opened it placidly, like a man accustomed to open many strange objects and events. He took out a new brown suit, rather cut in at the waist, a blue shirt and solid-colored blue tie, dark brown shoes, only the tiniest bit cracked, and an artificial white carnation much better than real. He took out a plaid overcoat. Its collar may have been of rabbit fur, granted; but in that rabbit was the blood of mink or the higher seals. He took out a heavy electric iron, and from the trunk he slid out a fixture ironing board. He pressed the brown suit. He shaved rap idly, and delicately powdered his cheeks. He dressed with miraculous swiftness. He donned the overcoat, hung a walking stick on his arm, twisted his rather doubtful felt hat at a cocky angle, and placed the crumb of room ing-house mirror at such an angle, against the bottom of the bureau, that he could view himself. “I look like a trouper again!” exulted Matt Carnival. And Matt was a trouper, an actor aged in the wood. At the moment he was at liberty, amusing himself — and keeping from starving — by dalliance at the Bar-B-Q. The Princess Choc-o-lay Gang of Girlies Company, in which Matt had depicted an Irishman, a Chinaman, and the front, or better end, of a stage horse, had closed in Comborough, a hundred miles from Flamingo City and the Bar-B-Q; and this was the best job the em ployment agency had for Matt during the period while he was writing scores of letters beginning, "Dear Friend Charley; This is just to let you know would be interested in any engagement, preferably not black-face, comic Nazi, or anything low.” Matt had ex perienced scores of such exiles to Elba since his first theatrical engagement, as a dwarf in Rip Van Winkle, fifty-live years ago, at the age of five. He guessed that Professor Melhuisli and Chuck Spiggott would be staying at the Covered Wagon Hotel, the chief resort of fashion in Flamingo. He did not send up his name, but found their room number on the register and marched in. Melhuish and Chuck were studying a script at a baby-blue desk, and Chuck was^ mourn ing, “Nope, we can’t do the play without Macbeth. Mrs. Mac might bump off the king, and I guess Dodie knows most of the lines, but she wouldn’t be much good fighting with Macduff.” (Continvd on pagm 8)