Often, walking down some avenue, the wide black portfolio swinging from his hand, he caught sight of himself in a shop window and wondered: Who could that be, that city fellow? Or sometimes, seeing his shoes, so thin-soled and unserviceable, he would smile with pity for the man wearing them. They’ll never hold up, he told himself. Seeing them tinder the table at some restaurant; or as he sat on one of those chairs he had used to believe existed only in photographs, his legs crossed, he would by chance see those shoes and smile with contempt. Noticing this, the woman with him might say,

“Do I amuse you then, Charles?”

Half his life he had lived in the city—had not really lived at home since he was seventeen—and the longer he stayed the more strange it seemed; with each year the city became for him more peculiar and unreliable. Finally, he had to admit to himself that the city could never be his, that he was not a participant in its life but merely an observer; and even morê: that he was an observer who was not only too lazy to make notes, but one who would not even count his money. Himself in the city was, like everything else, also to be observed. He, Charles, wearing thicksoled shoes, his pockets heavy with marbles and acorns and lead sinkers he had himself poured into the stone mould, looked at this stranger he had become and asked himself: Would it seem so strange if l were able to recover all the lost fragments? Surely they could then be put together and this city fellow in his well-pressed suit would naturally emerge? Would not his history reveal him, Mr. Ives? Out of one bone from a spinal column, Charles reasoned, they can reconstruct a dinosaur.

But that sort of thing was only to amuse himself as he walked from one office to the next, opening his portfolio and showing his wares to art directors who wore suits exactly like his. Often, talking to one of these men about his studio’s services or discussing the technicalities of a job, he thought of Charles Ives selling insurance in New England. Had Mr. Ives, he asked himself, ever said to a prospect: “And I/you should pass out of the picture...” Had he ever said that? Charles wondered. Oh, Mr. Ives.

He knew that this Charles, the one with the portfolio and the fancy talk—“Actually, what I am is a salesman but in this field they are called Representatives. But actually what I am is just an old-fashioned drummer. We Americans have this tendency, you know. Plumbers have all become Sanitary Engineers.”—this one calling himself Charles was really beyond explaining. He could watch him; that was all he could do: watch, sometimes amused, sometimes contemptuous; and, as time went on, he grew more and more astonished by what he saw; even shocked. Finally, however, this passed into unbelief and, often, seeing his image in a glass, he walked by without recognising Charles. Haifa block away he would think: But good heavens! Wasn’t that...?

Furthermore, he knew very well there was no way to go about this project; in fact, he was not certain what the lost items ought to consist of On a late summer afternoon, having just concluded an arrangement with an advertising agency that he knew was going to be very profitable for himself and the studio he worked for (represented), he took himself into a bar and bought himself a drink. “Here is one tired drummer,” he said, because as he sat down at the little table he had heard himself sigh. The idea occurred to him then, and it may well have been the result of the man at the next table saying, “A whiskey sour, please, but don’t let them put all that garbage in it.”

Perhaps it was that; or perhaps the memory of those mo- vies he had sat through twice, or until someone came in and got him, based on stories by H. G. Wells. He had a favorite seat, so they always knew where to find him. Sitting there in the bar he remembered with absolute clarity the voice of H.B. Warner—or perhaps it was some other Englishman; they had all been very mysterious and their accents had ex- cited him, so exotic they were; and the strange little cars they drove!—H.B. Warner he thought it was; certainly not C. Aubrey Smith; although it might have been Montagu Love—was it Montagu Love?—one of them, anyway, standing in a roomful of plush furniture and unbelievably thick curtains, a fire burning cosily in the grate, stroking his chin, saying, “Suppose I told you, my dear Henderson, that every word ever uttered still exists somewhere in the ether. Now suppose, my dear Henderson, we constructed a machine...”

For many years his grandfather and his aunts were certain he was going to be an inventor. In the part of the barn where the carriage and the wagon had once been (under the hay loft), he always had in process some complicated device which never worked. Everyone understood it was not meant to; but they could all see that he was groping toward something very original and rare. They would not, at the same time, have been surprised if, out of one of his strange constructs of old spark plugs, copper wire, horseshoe nails, nearly dead batteries, rusted rheostats and victrola horns, a voice had emerged, saying, perhaps, “Knowing that it will afford you pleasure to learn that I have brought my undertaking to a successful termination, I have decided upon writing this letter to acquaint you with all the events which have occurred in my voyage, and the discoveries which have resulted from it. Thirty three days after my departure from Cadiz I reached the Indian Sea, where I discovered many islands...”

And at this point his aunt, the dark one he loved best, could have contained herself no longer; and with great pride, look- ing at him but speaking to the others, she would have said, “I swear that Charles has managed to get KDKA. Doesn’t that sound to you like KDKA?”

He would have stood there in his sturdy shoes, his back to the dead forge and the pitted anvil and the harness that was stiff and grey with rot, and smiled modestly and said nothing, permitting them all to believe it was only Pittsburgh.

Oh, I was deep, Mr. Ives; when I was little, I was deep. And all it cost eleven cents (eleven cents, Mr. Ives!) to sit in my favorite seat at the Hippodrome: ten cents for the ticket and one penny for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Suppose I told you, my dear Mr. Ives, that this man sitting next to me who wants no garbage in bis whiskey, that this man could be made wholly invisible ? Suppose now that we construct a machine...

What would those items be? Charles asked himself. Through the window be could see a piece of Central Park, the poor dirty trees drawing night around themselves. The park, be bad observed, grew dark before the rest of the city, as if the trees could not wait to bide themselves, ashamed of their sooty, soiled leaves and bark, the daily violations they suffered. A storehouse or warehouse, be thought, some gigantic celestial bin, millions of drawers all neatly labelled. Sup- pose I told you, my dear Henderson, that all those things you thank you’ve lost were never really lost?

Charles signalled for another drink and opened the drawer with bis name on it. He saw the contents of it so clearly that tears came to bis eyes and be averted bis bead when the waiter brought the drink. There were the blue mittens bis aunt bad knitted for him; there were seven rollerskate keys; a handful of ball bearings; and a green wooden snake that moved in oily S’s when grasped the right way. There was an envelope of uncancelled stamps from the Cameroons; beaded mocassins; the sunglasses, made of celluloid, he had lost while waiting for the eclipse the summer he was eight. And a flip-book showing Babe Ruth hitting a home run, his pear-shaped body turning so gracefully on tiny ankles; a newspaper photo of little Gloria Vanderbilt, and another of Toby Wing and one of Les Tremayne and Barbara Luddy clipped from Radio Guide.

There was a complete set of the X-Bar-X Boys books; a signed photo of Chandu the Magician; an oaktag poster he had made for National Book Week (A Book is a Bark to Many Lands); the Jack Armstrong code book {”This way, Billy!” Oh, he could hear Jack’s manly whisper, imperious but basically kind; and he could see the hole in the floor his grandfather had drilled, through which the wire ran from the radio to the battery, that black mysterious force never quite forgotten where it sat in the cellar tinder the shelves of preserves.)

At the back of the drawer, under Christmas-present scarfs, there was his catcher’s mitt, the tennis racket he had inherited from his aunt, a book called The Magnetic Island, magnets, fish hooks, and a bag full of marbles; and cigar boxes containing matchbook covers, eighteen keys on a ring, colored chalk, wax crayons, jacks, a never used contraceptive, an introductory pamphlet from the Rosicrucian Brotherhood telling the story of a man named Jack Steele (after long’ wandering he found wisdom, returned home, and struck oil in his own backyard), a gyroscope, a compass, a white paper bag with an elephant printed on it (it had held peanuts), itching powder, sneezing powder, Chinese puzzles, a device that ftt under the tongue and enabled you to throw your voice (Let me out! Let me out!).

There was a boomerang from the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial (Oh the sesquicentennial, Mr. Ives!), a bottle of banana oil, the model of a Fokker-Wolf, a Win-A-Pony blank, twelve copies of The Shadow magazine (Oh, Lamont Cranston!) There was a wind-up train and two pieces of curving track...

Charles slammed shut the drawer; and, in the same movement, stood up and went to the phonebooth to call his friend—“This woman I know”—and ask her to meet him there at the bar, which was the kind of dark place where they usually met. When he returned to his table he proceeded to do something he had, until now, made a point of never doing: he reviewed his prospects. That is, he counted his money. He tried, at first, to do this without seeing numbers in his head, saying to himself, “Well now, uh, let’s say that I was making such and such, and that now, having consumated this uh deal today, I can count on an additional sum of uh so much more.” Since numbers were full of mystery for Charles, he decided to let his mind go blank, to empty it of everything as, he had heard, mystics claimed to do. Staring at his drink he achieved blankness in a remarkably short time; while in that state the sum of four hundred dollars, complete with dollar sign, appeared in his head. It was illuminated and it glowed like the scroll the angel had given to Mr. Nowack.

“Well, what do you think of a sum like that, Mr. Ives? And per week! Beyond your wildest imagining, eh, Cranston?”

;It was the air in the bar, he realised now, that had made him think of such a thing: it smelled of money. All artificial air, for Charles, carried the odor of money with it. There was a machine somewhere in this building, in the cellar or under the roof or in a shed on the roof, and it was, at great expense, manufacturing air. Whenever Charles, carrying his portfolio, walked into one of those new buildings on Madison or Third, as soon as he stepped into the great white jaws of their lobbies, he could smell the money. There is, Charles knew, a special odor to money that is being spent; it is altogether different from the smell of money in a vault. The smell of money being spent is tangy and exciting, like the odor of one’s own sweat; and this is especially true when it is a great deal of money and when it is being spent simply because it is there, because it is budgeted and earmarked for sending.

It was always a little frightening to walk into those buildings; always he saw the sick gypsy dying on the high seat of the wagon, and he knew that the machine, that cunning little wood and brass box, was working. It was working! He had been right all along.

In fact, he could never be certain he had seen the gypsy, actually seen her, or whether he had only heard the story from his grandfather and then created the scene in his mind. However it was, he could in fact see it and had almost convinced himself now that he had been present, actually there in the bakery when the gypsy came and sold the money machine to old Mr. Hartenstein.

The town, not even a county seat hut only a market town, was five miles from the village where he lived; and before he started going to school he went there nearly every day with his grandfather in the horse and buggy. They always went to Hartenstein’s bakery and loaded the hack of the buggy with loaves of pumpernickel and rye, black bottomed and dusty with flour; and long fat loaves of white bread, pale and unappealing except where they had split their sides in the oven and their soft innards swelled out.

He felt very much at home in the town; he knew its hack streets and alleys as well, almost, as the roads and hidden paths of his village. He puzzled only over one thing: on Saturdays, did the town come to life for the farmers; or was it the farmers that brought life with them to the town? He suspected it was the first, and had an image of a merchant on lookout in the tower of the derelict Opera House, crying, “Here they come!”

Across the street from Hartenstein’s bakery was a row of company houses and an open field; beyond this field was the steel mill. For years the slag had been dumped on the margin of the field, by the time of Charles’ boyhood it had grown to a grey, scaly mountain that looked as soft as soap; although even at that time a cow and several goats still grazed there. The bakery was directly across from the field; the baking was done in the basement; on the street level there was a grocery store run by Mrs. Hartenstein and her daughters. In the summertime, she always gave Charles a half-pint of chocolate milk. While his grandfather had his order filled and settled accounts, Charles usually sat on the cement steps that led up to the store and drank the milk. He drank it out of the bottle, which was what made it so special. (That bottle, Mr. Ives! That darling little bottle!)

It was here at Hartenstein’s, on Saturdays, that Charles’ grandfather did his betting. Charles once heard a man say, speaking of Charles’ grandfather, “Hen-ery has made that horse of his pay for herself ten times over.” At the time, Charles had no idea what this meant; but it was one of those statements made by an adult he remembered for years, along with such others as: “Hen-ery is one wily Dutchman all right,” and “He’s got more money than he count,” and, “He’s richer than God.” There were always men about who said incomprehensible things and Charles could never be certain why he remembered some and not others, fretting himself over a word like wily and wondering how rich was God and why could his grandfather not count beyond a certain number. Ten skillion? For many years he was fascinated beyond forgetting by a statement made at Flickinger’s barber- shop. There a man had said, “No greater love hath he than the man who will lay down his own wife for his country.” He had been so mystified by this that he had not even pretended to laugh along with the others.

Years later, when he went back for his aunt’s funeral, he walked to the bakery, now being run by Hartenstein’s son. That part of the town had not changed very much. The company houses were still standing, the wood of them so weathered, so nearly fossilised, they looked as if they were made of some strange kind of stone. The bakery had been changed not at all. The township had tried to make a park of the open field. The slag heap had been carted away; but it must have poisoned the ground, because grass would not grow. There were cement walks and green benches where old men sat smoking pipes. The air smelled the same, how- ever, and he recognised some of the old men, although not one of them recognised him.

Sometimes walking down Madison or Third, following his daily route, he would see a man and know at a glance that he was not of the city. The man always wore a suit just like Charles’, and the thin-soled shoes that would never do; but there was something—in his face? his hands?—that would cause Charles to recognise him. Once, one of these men stared back at Charles; they almost spoke; but they stopped just short of saying, “Don’t kid me, buddy,” or “Ain’t it awful!” Charles knew he would never speak to any of these men; it was too private. Not even his dearest friends in the city, not even this woman he knew, were aware how often he laughed at them.

The first time he laughed at them, and was aware he was doing so, was at the apartment of friends one night. They had got onto the subject of the music of Charles Ives because one of the guests was a man who reviewed music for a weekly magazine. This woman Charles knew was also present at the party and she whispered to Charles, “He is famous for rediscovering Beethoven every year.” That night, however, the music critic was talking about Ives and his use of American folk songs and the music of firehouse bands. He said, “Ives celebrates an America that never existed.”

Everyone laughed, enjoying the man’s wit and the shrewdness of his insight; they would quote it for weeks. Charles laughed too, and only a little louder than anyone else. He remembered then that he had laughed in this same way when, on first coming to the city, he had seen a group of teenagers on the subway; they were going to a folk-dance, to a hoot as they called it, and had dressed for the occasion by wearing blue jeans and what they imagined to be country-style shirts. He had laughed then, remembering how he and his friend Leroy and everyone in the village had always put on their best suits and dresses to go to the Saturday-night hoe-down at the firehouse; they dressed as if for church.