Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pre-Psycho Snippet

Robert Bloch, creator of Psycho - the story that was adapted by Alfred Hitchcock into a chilling classic, wrote a number of other kinds of stories before he moved to horror. One of his initial ambitions was to become a comedian and some of his early works combine a strange, quirky humour with fiction or science fiction. I quote a small passage from one of his stories which features his Runyonesque character Lefty Feep, who is always trying to make a little money especially at the race tracks. (Of course Damon Runyon will always be a class apart, with his unforgettable friends - Harry the Horse, Spanish John, Little Isadore - and the race track characters - Bookie Bob, Sam Salt and others). But while reading some of Bloch's early stories, one gets a glimpse of a cold, strange world, described in a lighthearted manner that is a world apart from the chilling uncertainty of Psycho.

"Sylvester Skeetch and Mordecai Meetch are bending over a big white table. They are wearing dark glasses and those scientific nightgowns. A big light shines down on the table, and also shines on the knives and saws in their hands. Skeetch is sewing something up and mumbling to himself.

I tiptoe and sneak a peek.

Then I give a gulp.

They have a body on the table and they are sewing it up!

Absolutely - there is a guy lying out on the table, and they are cross-stitching his neck for him!

'Hippocrates' oath!' I mutter, or some such profanity.

Skeetch and Meetch wheel around. Their glasses glare. Then they recognize me. Meetch smiles.

'Well, if it isn't Feep!' he says. 'Glad to see you again.'

I can only stare at the body on the table.

'What kind of morgue smorgasbord are you cooking up there?' I gasp, which is something to gasp.

'Nothing at all,' Meetch answers. 'How's our patient, Skeetch?'


'Patient?' I say.

'Well, you might call him that.' Meetch turns around. 'Ready to get up now?'

Sure enough - I see that the guy on the table is smiling. He nods when Meetch talks to him. I stand there waiting for his sewed head to fall off, but it doesn't.

Instead the guy sits up then stands up.

So does my hair.

'Feep,' says Skeetch, 'Shake hands with Robert.'

I look at Robert. He stands stiff-jointed with a very wooden smile on his face. But he holds out his hand and I grab it. We shake very gently.

He stops shaking hands.

I don't.

Then I look down at my hand to see what I am holding. His arm! It comes off at the shoulder!

'Curse it!' yells Meetch. 'You aren't glued tight enough!'

He grabs the arm, grabs Robert, and throws him down on the table again. Skeetch runs over with a big can of glue and another needle.

I can't bear to look. I cover my eyes..."

This is taken from 'The Racing Robot' and you might guess by now that the man being sewn up is none other than Robert the Robot, who goes on to live a life many humans might die for - to race in the big races, fall head over heels in love with a mannequin beauty Roberta, who smiles back at him and more...

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