The Girl with the Hungry Eyes
Originally appeared in The Girl with Hungry Eyes, and Other Stories, Avon (New York, NY), 1949.
All right, I’ll tell you why the Girl gives me the creeps. Why I can’t stand to go downtown and see the mob slavering up at her on the tower, with that pop bottle or pack of cigarettes or whatever it is beside her. Why I hate to look at magazines any more because I know she’ll turn up somewhere in a brassiere or a bubble bath. Why I don’t like to think of millions of Americans drinking in that poisonous half smile. It’s quite a story—more story than you’re expecting.
No, I haven’t suddenly developed any long-haired indignation at the evils of advertising and the national glamour-girl complex. That’d be a laugh for a man in my racket, wouldn’t it?
Though I think you’ll agree there’s something a little perverted about trying to capitalize on sex that way. But it’s okay with me. And I know we’ve had the Face and the Body and the Look and what not else, so why shouldn’t someone come along who sums it all up so completely, that we have to call her the Girl and blazon her on all the billboards from Times Square to Telegraph Hill?omGv
But the Girl isn’t like any of the others. She’s unnatural. She’s morbid. She’s unholy.
Oh it’s 1948, is it, and the sort of thing I’m hinting at went out with witchcraft? But you see I’m not altogether sure myself what I’m hinting at, beyond a certain point. There are vampires and vampires, and not all of them suck blood.
And there were the murders, if they were murders.
Besides, let 3nme ask you this. Why, when America is obsessed with the Girl, don’t we find out more about her? Why doesn’t she rate a Time cover with a droll biography inside? Why hasn’t there been a feature in Life or the Post? A Profile in the New Yorker? Why hasn’t Charm or Mademoiselle done her career saga? Not ready for it? Nuts!
Why haven’t the movies snapped her up? Why hasn’t she been on Information, Please? Why don’t we see her kissing candidates at political rallies? Why isn’t she chosen queen of some sort of junk or other at a convention?
Why don’t we read about her tastes and hobbies, her views of the Russian situation? Why haven’t the columnists interviewed her in a kimono on the top floor of the tallest hotel in Manhattan and told us who her boy-friends are?
Finally-and this is the real killer-why hasn’t she ever been drawn or painted?
Oh, no she hasn’t. If you knew anything about commercial art you’d know that. Every blessed one of those pictures was worked up from a photograph. Expertly? Of course. They’ve got the top artists on it. But that’s how it’s done.
And now I’ll tell you the why of all that. It’s because from the top to the bottom of the whole world of advertising, news, and business, there isn’t a solitary soul who knows where the Girl came from, where she lives, what she does, who she is, even what her name is.
You heard me. What’s more, not a single solitary soul ever sees her-except one poor damned photographer, who’s making more money off her than he ever hoped to in his life and who’s scared and miserable as hell every minute of the day.
No, I haven’t the faintest idea who he is or where he has his studio. But I know there has to be such a man and I’m morally certain he feels just like I said.
Yes, I might be able to find her, if I tried. I’m not sure though-by now she probably has other safeguards. Besides, I don’t want to.
Oh, I’m off my rocker, am I? That sort of thing can’t happen in this Year of our Atom 1948? People can’t keep out of sight that way, not even Garbo?
Well I happen to know they can, because last year I was that poor damned photographer I was telling you about. Yes, last year, in 1947, when the Girl made her first poisonous splash right here in this big little city of ours.
Yes, I knew you weren’t here last year and you don’t know about it. Even the Girl had to start small. But if you hunted through the files of the local newspapers, you’d find some ads, and I might be able to locate you some of the old displays-I think Lovelybelt is still using one of them. I used to have a mountain of photos myself, until I burned them.
Yes, I made my cut off her. Nothing like what that other photographer must be making, but enough so it still bought this whisky. She was funny about money. I’ll tell you about that.
But first picture me in 1947. I had a fourth floor studio in that rathole the Hauser Building, catty-corner from Ardleigh Park.
I’d been working at the Marsh-Mason studios until I’d gotten my bellyful of it and decided to start in for myself. The Hauser Building was crummy—I’ll never forget how the stairs creaked—but it was cheap and there was a skylight.
Business was lousy. I kept making the rounds of all the advertisers and agencies, and some of them didn’t object to me too much personally, but my stuff never clicked. I was pretty near broke. I was behind on my rent. Hell, I didn’t even have enough money to have a girl.
It was one of those dark grey afternoons. The building was awfully quiet-even with the shortage they can’t half rent the Hauser. I’d just finished developing some pix I was doing on speculation for Lovelybelt Girdles and Buford’s Pool and Playground—the last a faked-up beach scene. My model had left. A Miss Leon. She was a civics teacher at one of the high schools and modelled for me on the side, just lately on speculation too. After one look at the prints, I decided that Miss Leon probably wasn’t just what Lovelybelt was looking for-or my photography either. I was about to call it a day.
And then the street door slammed four storeys down and there were steps on the stairs and she came in.
She was wearing a cheap, shiny black dress. Black pumps. No stockings. And except that she had a grey cloth coat over one of them, those skinny arms of hers were bare. Her arms are pretty skinny, you know, or can you see things like that any more?
And then the thin neck, the slightly gaunt, almost prim face, the tumbling mass of dark hair, and looking out from under it the hungriest eyes in the world.
That’s the real reason she’s plastered all over the country today, you know-those eyes. Nothing vulgar, but just the same they’re looking at you with a hunger that’s all sex and something more than sex. That’s what everybody’s been looking for since the Year One-something a little more than sex.
Well, boys, there I was, alone with the Girl, in an office that was getting shadowy, in a nearly empty building. A situation that a million male Americans have undoubtedly pictured to themselves with various lush details. How was I feeling? Scared.
I know sex can be frightening. That cold, heart-thumping when you’re alone with a girl and feel you’re going to touch her. But if it was sex this time, it was overlaid with something else.
At least I wasn’t thinking about sex.
I remember that I took a backward step and that my hand jerked so that the photos I was looking at sailed to the floor.
There was the faintest dizzy feeling like something was being drawn out of me. Just a little bit.
That was all. Then she opened her mouth and everything was back to normal for a while.
“I see you’re a photographer, mister,” she said. “Could you use a model?”
Her voice wasn’t very cultivated.
“I doubt it,” I told her, picking up the pix. You see, I wasn’t impressed. The commercial possibilities of her eyes had-n’t registered on me yet, by a long shot. “What have you done?”
Well she gave me a vague sort of story and I began to check her knowledge of model agencies and studios and rates and what not and pretty soon I said to her,
“Look here, you never modelled for a photographer in your life. You just walked in here cold.”
Well, she admitted that was more or less so.
All along through our talk I got the idea she was feeling her way, like someone in a strange place. Not that she was uncertain of herself, or of me, but just of the general situation.
“And you think anyone can model?” I asked her pityingly.
“Sure,” she said.
“Look,” I said, “a photographer can waste a dozen negatives trying to get one half-way human photo of an average woman. How many do you think he’d have to waste before he got a real catchy, glamorous pix of her?”
“I think I could do it,” she said.
Well, I should have kicked her out right then. Maybe I admired the cool way she stuck to her dumb little guns. Maybe I was touched by her underfed look. More likely I was feeling mean on account of the way my pix had been snubbed by everybody and I wanted to take it out on her by showing her up.
“Okay, I’m going to put you on the spot,” I told her. “I’m going to try a couple of shots of you. Understand, it’s strictly on spec. If somebody should ever want to use a photo of you, which is about one chance in two million, I’ll pay you regular rates for your time. Not otherwise.”
She gave me a smile. The first. “That’s swell by me,” she said.
Well, I took three or four shots, closeups of her face since I didn’t fancy her cheap dress, and at least she stood up to my sarcasm. Then I remembered I still had the Lovelybelt stuff and I guess the meanness was still working in me because I handed her a girdle and told her to go back of the screen and get into it and she did, without getting flustered as I’d expected, and since we’d gone that far I figured we might as well shoot the beach scene to round it out, and that was that.
All this time I wasn’t feeling anything particular in one way or the other except every once in a while I’d get one of those faint dizzy flashes and wonder if there was something wrong with my stomach or if I could have been a bit careless with my chemicals. Still, you know, I think the uneasiness was in me all the while.
I tossed her a card and pencil. “Write your name and address and phone,” I told her and made for the darkroom.
A little later she walked out. I didn’t call any good-byes. I was irked because she hadn’t fussed around or seemed anxious about her poses, or even thanked me, except for that one smile.
I finished developing the negatives, made some prints, glanced at them, decided they weren’t a great deal worse than Miss Leon. On an impulse I slipped them in with the pix I was going to take on the rounds next morning.
By now I’d worked long enough so I was a bit fagged and nervous, but I didn’t dare waste enough money on liquor to help that. I wasn’t very hungry. I think I went to a cheap movie.
I didn’t think of the Girl at all, except maybe to wonder faintly why in my present womanless state I hadn’t made a pass at her. She had seemed to belong to a, well, distinctly more approachable social strata than Miss Leon. But then of course there were all sorts of arguable reasons for my not doing that.
Next morning I made the rounds. My first step was Munsch’s Brewery. They were looking for a “Munsch Girl.” Papa Munsch had a sort of affection for me, though he razzed my photography. He had a good natural judgement about that, too. Fifty years ago he might have been one of the shoestring boys who made Hollywood.
Right now he was out in the plant pursuing his favourite occupation. He put down the beaded can, smacked his lips, gabbled something technical to someone about hops, wiped his fat hands on the big apron he was wearing, and grabbed my thin stack of pix.
He was about half-way through, making noises with his tongue and teeth, when he came to her. I kicked myself for even having stuck her in.
“That’s her,” he said. “The photography’s not so hot, but that’s the girl.”
It was all decided. I wondered now why Papa Munsch sensed what the girl had right away, while I didn’t. I think it was because I saw her first in the flesh, if that’s the right word.
At the time I just felt faint.
“Who is she?” he asked.
“One of my new models,” I tried to make it casual.
“Bring her out tomorrow morning,” he told me. “And your stuff. We’ll photograph her here. I want to show you.”
“Here, don’t look so sick,” he added. “Have some beer.”
Well I went away telling myself it was just a fluke, so that she’d probably blow it tomorrow with her inexperience and so on.
Just the same, when I reverently laid my next stack of pix on Mr. Fitch, of Lovelybelt’s, rose-coloured blotter, I had hers on top.
Mr. Fitch went through the motions of being an art critic. He leaned over backward, squinted his eyes, waved his long fingers, and said, “Hmm. What do you think, Miss Willow? Here, in this light. Of course the photograph doesn’t show the bias cut. And perhaps we should use the Lovelybelt Imp instead of the Angel. Still, the girl… Come over here, Binns.” More finger-waving. “I want a married man’s reaction.”
He couldn’t hide the fact that he was hooked.
Exactly the same thing happened at Buford’s Pool and Playground, except that Da Costa didn’t need a married man’s say-so.
“Hot stuff,” he said, sucking his lips. “Oh boy, you photographers!”
I hot-footed it back to the office and grabbed up the card I’d given her to put down her name and address.
It was blank.
I don’t mind telling you that the next five days were about the worst I ever went through, in an ordinary way. When next morning rolled around and I still hadn’t got hold of her, I had to start stalling.
“She’s sick,” I told Papa Munsch over the phone.
“She’s at a hospital?” he asked me.
“Nothing that serious,” I told him.
“Get her out here then. What’s a little headache?”
“Sorry, I can’t.”
Papa Munsch got suspicious. “You really got this girl?”
“Of course I have.”
“Well, I don’t know, I’d think it was some New York model, except I recognized your lousy photography.”
“Well look, you get her here tomorrow morning, you hear?”
“Try nothing. You get her out here.”
He didn’t know half of what I tried. I went around to all the model and employment agencies. I did some slick detective work at the photographic and art studios. I used up some of my last dimes putting advertisements in all three papers. I looked at high school yearbooks and at employee photos in local house organs. I went to restaurants and drugstores, looking at waitresses, and to dime stores and department stores, looking at clerks. I watched the crowds coming out of movie theatres. I roamed the streets.
Evenings I spent quite a bit of time along Pick-up Row. Somehow that seemed the right place.
The fifth afternoon I knew I was licked. Papa Munsch’s deadline—he’d given me several, but this was it—was due to run out at six o’clock. Mr. Fitch had already cancelled.
I was at the studio window, looking out at Ardleigh Park.
She walked in.
I’d gone over this moment so often in my mind that I had no trouble putting on my act. Even the faint dizzy feeling didn’t throw me off.
“Hello,” I said, hardly looking at her.
“Hello,” she said.
“Not discouraged yet?”
“No.” It didn’t sound uneasy or defiant. It was just a statement.
I snapped a look at my watch, got up and said curtly, “Look here, I’m going to give you a chance. There’s a client of mine looking for a girl your general type. If you do a real good job you may break into the modelling business.
“We can see him this afternoon if we hurry,” I said. I picked up my stuff. “Come on. And next time if you expect favours, don’t forget to leave your phone number.”
“Uh, uh,” she said, not moving.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“I’m not going out to see any client of yours.”
“The hell you aren’t,” I said. “You little nut, I’m giving you a break.”
She shook her head slowly. “You’re not fooling me, baby, you’re not fooling me at all. They want me.” And she gave me the second smile.
At the time I thought she must have seen my newspaper ad. Now I’m not so sure.
“And now I’ll tell you how we’re going to work,” she went on. “You aren’t going to have my name or address or phone number. Nobody is. And we’re going to do all the pictures right here. Just you and me.”
You can imagine the roar I raised at that. I was everything—angry, sarcastic, patiently explanatory, off my nut, threatening, pleading.
I would have slapped her face off, except it was photographic capital.
In the end all I could do was phone Papa Munsch and tell him her conditions. I know I didn’t have a chance, but I had to take it.
He gave me a really angry bawling out, said “no” several times and hung up.
It didn’t faze her. “We’ll start shooting at ten o’clock tomorrow,” she said.
It was just like her, using that corny line from the movie magazines.
About midnight Papa Munsch called me up.
“I don’t know what insane asylum you’re renting this girl from,” he said, “but I’ll take her. Come around tomorrow morning and I’ll try to get it through your head just how I want the pictures. And I’m glad I got you out of bed!”
After that it was a breeze. Even Mr. Fitch reconsidered and after taking two days to tell me it was quite impossible he accepted the conditions too.
Of course you’re all under the spell of the Girl, so you can’t understand how much self-sacrifice it represented on Mr. Fitch’s part when he agreed to forgo supervising the photography of my model in the Lovelybelt Imp or Vixen or whatever it was we finally used.
Next morning she turned up on time according to her schedule, and we went to work. I’ll say one thing for her, she never got tired and she never kicked at the way I fussed over shots. I got along okay except I still had that feeling of something being shoved away gently. Maybe you’ve felt it just a little, looking at her picture.
When we finished I found out there were still more rules. It was about the middle of the afternoon. I started down with her to get a sandwich and coffee.
“Uh uh,” she said, “I’m going down alone. And look, baby, if you ever try to follow me, if you ever so much as stick your head out that window when I go, you can hire yourself another model.”
You can imagine how all this crazy stuff strained my temper—and my imagination. I remember opening the window after she was gone—I waited a few minutes first—and standing there getting some fresh air and trying to figure out what could be back of it, whether she was hiding from the police, or was somebody’s ruined daughter, or maybe had got the idea it was smart to be temperamental, or more likely Papa Munsch was right and she was partly nuts.
But I had my pix to finish up.
Looking back it’s amazing to think how fast her magic began to take hold of the city after that. Remembering what came after, I’m frightened of what’s happening to the whole country—and maybe the world. Yesterday I read something in Time about the Girl’s picture turning up on billboards in Egypt.
The rest of my story will help show you why I’m frightened in that big general way. But I have a theory, too, that helps explain, though it’s one of those things that’s beyond that “certain point.” It’s about the Girl. I’ll give it to you in a few words.
You know how modern advertising gets everybody’s mind set in the same direction, wanting the same things, imagining the same things. And you know the psychologists aren’t so sceptical of telepathy as they used to be.
Add up the two ideas. Suppose the identical desires of millions of people focused on one telepathic person. Say a girl. Shaped her in their image.
Imagine her knowing the hiddenmost hungers of millions of men. Imagine her seeing deeper into those hungers than the people that had them, seeing the hatred and the wish for death behind the lust. Imagine her shaping herself in that complete image, keeping herself as aloof as marble. Yet imagine the hunger she might feel in answer to their hunger.
But that’s getting a long way from the facts of my story. And some of those facts are darn solid. Like money. We made money.
That was the funny thing I was going to tell you. I was afraid the Girl was going to hold me up. She really had me over a barrel, you know.
But she didn’t ask for anything but the regular rates. Later on I insisted on pushing more money at her, a whole lot. But she always took it with that same contemptuous look, as if she were going to toss it down the first drain when she got outside. Maybe she did.
At any rate, I had money. For the first time in months I had money enough to get drunk, buy new clothes, take taxicabs. I could make a play for any girl I wanted to. I only had to pick.
And so of course I had to go and pick—
But first let me tell you about Papa Munsch.
Papa Munsch wasn’t the first of the boys to try to meet my model but I think he was the first to really go soft on her. I could watch the change in his eyes as he looked at her pictures. They began to get sentimental, reverent. Mama Munsch had been dead for two years.
He was smart about the way he planned it. He got me to drop some information which told him when she came to work, and then one morning he came pounding up the stairs a few minutes before.
“I’ve got to see her, Dave,” he told me.
I argued with him, I kidded him, I explained he didn’t know just how serious she was about her crazy ideas. I pointed out he was cutting both our throats. I even amazed myself by bawling him out.
He didn’t take any of it in his usual way. He just kept repeating, “But, Dave, I’ve got to see her.”
The street door slammed.
“That’s her,” I said, lowering my voice. “You’ve got to get out.”
He wouldn’t, so I shoved him in the darkroom. “And keep quiet,” I whispered. “I’ll tell her I can’t work today.”
I knew he’d try to look at her and probably come busting in, but there wasn’t anything else I could do.
The footsteps came to the fourth floor. But she never showed at the door. I got uneasy.
“Get that bum out of there!” she yelled suddenly from beyond the door. Not very loud, but in her commonest voice.
“I’m going up to the next landing,” she said. “And if that fat-bellied bum doesn’t march straight down to the street, he’ll never get another pix of me except spitting in his lousy beer.”
Papa Munsch came out of the darkroom. He was white. He didn’t look at me as he went out. He never looked at her pictures in front of me again.
That was Papa Munsch. Now it’s me I’m telling about. I talked around the subject with her, I hinted, eventually I made my pass.
She lifted my hand off her as if it were a damp rag.
“Nix, baby,” she said. “This is working time.”
“But afterwards…” I pressed.
“The rules still hold.” And I got what I think was the fifth smile.
It’s hard to believe, but she never budged an inch from that crazy line. I mustn’t make a pass at her in the office, because our work was very important and she loved it and there mustn’t be any distractions. And I couldn’t see her anywhere else, because if I tried to, I’d never snap another picture of her—and all this with more money coming in all the time and me never so stupid as to think my photography had anything to do with it.
Of course I wouldn’t have been human if I hadn’t made more passes. But they always got the wet-rag treatment and there weren’t any more smiles.
I changed. I went sort of crazy and light-headed—only sometimes I felt my head was going to burst. And I started to talk to her all the time. About myself.
It was like being in a constant delirium that never interfered with business. I didn’t pay any attention to the dizzy feeling. It seemed natural.
I’d walk around and for a moment the reflector would look like a sheet of white-hot steel, or the shadows would seem like armies of moths, or the camera would be a big black coal car. But the next instant they’d come all right again.
I think sometimes I was scared to death of her. She’d seem the strangest, horriblest person in the world. But other times…
And I talked. It didn’t matter what I was doing—lighting her, posing her, fussing with props, snapping my pix—or where she was—on the platform, behind the screen, relaxing with a magazine—I kept up a steady gab.
I told her everything I knew about myself. I told her about my first girl. I told her about my brother Bob’s bicycle. I told her about running away on a freight, and the licking Pa gave me when I came home. I told her about shipping to South America and the blue sky at night. I told her about Betty. I told her about my mother dying of cancer. I told her about being beaten up in a fight in an alley back of a bar. I told her about Mildred. I told her about the first picture I ever sold. I told her how Chicago looked from a sailboat. I told her about the longest drunk I was ever on. I told her about Marsh-Mason. I told her about Gwen. I told her about how I met Papa Munsch. I told her about hunting her. I told her about how I felt now.
She never paid the slightest attention to what I said. I couldn’t even tell if she heard me.
It was when we were getting our first nibble from national advertisers that I decided to follow her when she went home.
Wait, I can place it better than that. Something you’ll remember from the out-of-town papers—those maybe-murders I mentioned. I think there were six.
I say “maybe,” because the police could never be sure they weren’t heart attacks. But there’s bound to be suspicion when heart attacks happen to people whose hearts have been okay, and always at night when they’re alone and away from home and there’s a question of what they were doing.
The six deaths created one of those “mystery poisoner” scares. And afterwards there was a feeling that they hadn’t really stopped, but were being continued in a less suspicious way.
That’s one of the things that scares me now.
But at that time my only feeling was relief that I’d decided to follow her.
I made her work until dark one afternoon. I didn’t need any excuses, we were snowed under with orders. I waited until the street door slammed, then I ran down. I was wearing rubber-soled shoes. I’d slipped on a dark coat she’d never seen me in, and a dark hat.
I stood in the doorway until I spotted her. She was walking by Ardleigh Park toward the heart of town. It was one of those warm fall nights. I followed her on the other side of the street. My idea for tonight was just to find out where she lived. That would give me a hold on her.
She stopped in front of a display window of Everly’s department store, standing back from the glow. She stood there looking in.
I remembered we’d done a big photograph of her for Everly’s, to make a flat model for a lingerie display. That was what she was looking at.
At the time it seemed all right to me that she should adore herself, if that was what she was doing.
When people passed she’d turn away a little or drift back farther into the shadows.
Then a man came by alone. I couldn’t see his face very well, but he looked middle-aged. He stopped and stood looking in the window.
She came out of the shadows and stepped up beside him.
How would you boys feel if you were looking at a poster of the Girl and suddenly she was there beside you, her arm linked with yours?
This fellow’s reaction showed plain as day. A crazy dream had come to life for him.
They talked for a moment. Then he waved a taxi to the kerb. They got in and drove off.
I got drunk that night. It was almost as if she’d known I was following her and had picked that way to hurt me. Maybe she had. Maybe this was the finish.
But the next morning she turned up at the usual time and I was back in the delirium, only now with some new angles added.
That night when I followed her she picked a spot under a street lamp, opposite one of the Munsch Girl billboards.
Now it frightens me to think of her lurking that way.
After about twenty minutes a convertible slowed down going past her, backed up, swung in to the kerb.
I was closer this time. I got a good look at the fellow’s face. He was a little younger, about my age.
Next morning the same face looked up at me from the front page of the paper. The convertible had been found parked on a side street. He had been in it. As in the other maybe-murders, the cause of death was uncertain.
All kinds of thoughts were spinning in my head that day, but there were only two things I knew for sure. That I’d got the first real offer from a national advertiser, and that I was going to take the Girl’s arm and walk down the stairs with her when we quit work.
She didn’t seem surprised. “You know what you’re doing?” she said.
She smiled. “I was wondering when you’d get around to it.”
I began to feel good. I was kissing everything good-bye, but I had my arm around hers.
It was another of those warm fall evenings. We cut across into Ardleigh Park. It was dark there, but all around the sky was a sallow pink from the advertising signs.
We walked for a long time in the park. She didn’t say anything and she didn’t look at me, but I could see her lips twitching and after a while her hand tightened on my arm.
We stopped. We’d been walking across the grass. She dropped down and pulled me after her. She put her hands on my shoulders. I was looking down at her face. It was the faintest sallow pink from the glow in the sky. The hungry eyes were dark smudges.
I was fumbling with her blouse. She took my hand away, not like she had in the studio. “I don’t want that,” she said.
First I’ll tell you what I did afterwards. Then I’ll tell you why I did it. Then I’ll tell you what she said.
What I did was run away. I don’t remember all of that because I was dizzy, and the pink sky was swinging against the dark trees. But after a while I staggered into the lights of the street. The next day I closed up the studio. The telephone was ringing when I locked the door and there were unopened letters on the floor. I never saw the Girl again in the flesh, if that’s the right word.
I did it because I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want the life drawn out of me. There are vampires and vampires, and the ones that suck blood aren’t the worst. If it hadn’t been for the warning of those dizzy flashes, and Papa Munsch and the face in the morning paper, I’d have gone the way the others did. But I realized what I was up against while there was still time to tear myself away. I realized that wherever she came from, whatever shaped her, she’s the quintessence of the horror behind the bright billboard. She’s the smile that tricks you into throwing away your money and your life. She’s the eyes that lead you on and on, and then show you death. She’s the creature you give everything for and never really get. She’s the being that takes everything you’ve got and gives nothing in return. When you yearn towards her face on the billboards, remember that. She’s the lure. She’s the bait. She’s the Girl.
And this is what she said, “I want you. I want your high spots. I want everything that’s made you happy and everything that’s hurt you bad. I want your first girl. I want that shiny bicycle. I want that licking. I want that pinhole camera. I want Betty’s legs. I want the blue sky filled with stars. I want your mother’s death. I want your blood on the cobblestones. I want Mildred’s mouth. I want the first picture you sold. I want the lights of Chicago. I want the gin. I want Gwen’s hands. I want your wanting me. I want your life. Feed me, baby, feed me.”
About the Author
Fritz Leiber, in full Fritz Reuter Leiber, Jr., (born Dec. 24, 1910, Chicago, Ill., U.S.—died Sept. 5, 1992, San Francisco, Calif.), American writer noted for his stories of innovation in sword-and-sorcery, contemporary horror, and satiric science fiction.
Leiber, the son of stage and film actors, studied at the University of Chicago (Ph.B., 1932) and the Episcopalian General Theological Seminary (1932–33) and performed on stage and in films before his first published story, “Two Sought Adventure,” appeared in 1939. The story introduced the characters Grey Mouser and Fahfrd, who were featured in a series of swashbuckling adventure fantasies collected in The Three of Swords (1989) and Swords’ Masters (1990). Leiber was also a pioneer of horror stories with modern urban settings, beginning with “Smoke Ghost” (1941) and continuing in his early novels such as Gather, Darkness! (1950), in which a religious dictatorship is conquered by science disguised as witchcraft, and Conjure Wife (1953).
In the early 1950s, the height of McCarthyism, the politically liberal Leiber was noted for his savagely satiric works about a chaotic, crumbling America, including the short story “Coming Attraction” (1950) and the novel The Green Millennium (1953). The satire is less harsh in his later fiction, which includes The Silver Eggheads (1961), a farce on the publishing industry, and A Specter Is Haunting Texas (1969), which mocks war, racism, and hypocrisy. Leiber’s later short stories, such as “Gonna Roll the Bones” (1967), “Ill Met in Lankhmar” (1970), and “Belsen Express” (1975), are among his most admired works.
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