The Static of the Spheres
Chapter 7: Guppa Takes the Bait
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THERE WE WERE, Gumma and Guppa and I, sitting in their living room after
dinner on New Year’s Day. Guppa had a fire going, and he was sitting
in his comfortable chair doing his pigeonholes. Gumma was curled
up on the sofa, working with her slide rule. I was on the floor in
front of the fire, with a stack of birth announcements from recent issues
of the Babbington Reporter and a stack of clean white cards.
The room was cozy and quiet, with just the crackle of the fire, the flutter
of Guppa’s cards, the swish of the slide moving through the stock of Gumma’s
“Is it okay if we listen to the radio?” I asked.
“Of course, Peter,” said Guppa. “I’ll tune it in for you.”
“Oh, don’t get up, Guppa,” I said. “I can tune it in by myself. Eliza showed me how to work it last night.”
I went over to the radio and turned it on.
“This is a wonderful radio,” I said. Neither Guppa nor Gumma said anything. “Gumma, you sure are lucky to have a wonderful radio like this,” I said.
“Mmmm,” said Gumma.
She bent over her slide rule and made some notations on a piece of paper. I switched to one of the international bands, and the room filled with a foreign howl. I twiddled the dial.
“Boy, it would be great to have a radio like this at home,” I said.
The flutter of Guppa’s cards.
“It wouldn’t have to be as fancy as this,” I said. “After all, I’ve already got a radio that gets the regular stations.”
“Mmm-hmm,” said Guppa. He knit his brows and bit his lower lip while he puzzled over one of the cards.
“What I need is a shortwave radio!” I said, as if the idea had just popped into my head from the ether. “If I had a shortwave radio, I’d be able to listen in on people’s conversations from all over the place. I’d hear the rabble speaking in tongues. I might even pick up a few useful phrases.”
“Yes, that’s true,” said Gumma, but I could tell that she was responding only to my tone of voice and that she hadn’t really heard anything I’d said.
“I’ll bet you could build a shortwave radio, couldn’t you, Guppa,” I said, loudly and proudly, very nearly shouting in his ear.
“What?” he asked, startled, looking up from his cards at last.
“You could probably build a shortwave radio, couldn’t you?” I repeated.
“Well—” he began, and Gumma responded to his tone of voice as surely as she had responded to mine. She caught in the way he said “Well—” what might be the first note in a crescendo of self-deception that would end with his being committed to something long and complicated.
To tell the truth, I caught it too, and my heart beat a little faster and a smile came onto my face. I threw my arms around Guppa. “Oh, thanks, Guppa,” I said. “This is going to be great fun!”
“Peter,” said Gumma. “I’m not sure that your grandfather has the time to build a radio for you.”
“Now Lorna,” said Guppa, tousling my hair.
“Oh, Herb,” said Gumma. She was smiling when she said it, and so was Guppa, and so was I.
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Little Follies is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
“My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” “The Static of the Spheres,” “The Fox and the Clam,” “The Girl with the White Fur Muff,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and “Call Me Larry” were originally published in paperback by Apple-Wood Books.
Little Follies was first published in hardcover by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail the author’s imaginary agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.