The Project Gutenberg eBook of Theft

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Title: Theft

Author: Bill Venable

Illustrator: W. E. Terry

Release date: July 19, 2021 [eBook #65876]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Greenleaf Publishing Company, 1952

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at



By Bill Venable

With little green men telling him what to
write, Thompson was certain he had flipped his lid.
His psychiatrist agreed—until he read the stories!

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy
September 1952
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Thompson poured himself a shot of rye and downed it in one quick movement. He then pulled out his tobacco pouch, filled his pipe and applied a flaming match to the bowl. He puffed clouds of fragrant smoke. He frowned deeply. It was a good frown because Thompson was an expert in the art of frowning. This particular frown was a frown of irritated exasperation, because Thompson was an author, and it was late at night, and he'd drunk a quarter of a fifth of rye and smoked eleven pipefuls of tobacco and played four LP records, and he still had no ideas. His head swam from the effects of the whisky, and the tobacco, and the records; but he persevered in his search for An Idea for a Story.

He searched among his records for Le Coq d'Or and put it on the phonograph, at bass tone and loud volume. After the first few bars he got up and took it off, still a man without inspiration. He played Hindemith's Variations on a Theme by Russell next. Utterly useless. He tried The Age of Anxiety and followed it with Petrouchka; intermittently he sat down and pondered passages from Rubaiyat. All to no avail.

About this time the little green men came out of the woodwork. They didn't emerge from the woodwork in the manner one might expect—i.e. squeezing through cracks and knotholes like mice and spiders. They just sort of materialized out of it, rather like they had walked through it. There were four of them.

Thompson took his pipe from his mouth and looked at them.

"Ah," he murmured. "Yes indeed." He knocked the ashes from his pipe and got up from his chair. He put the whisky back in the cupboard and took the record off. Then he sat down again and regarded the little green men. He closed his eyes tightly and held them closed for a minute or so. He opened them and looked at the green men again. Then he rubbed his eyes and pounded his head with his hands. The green men sat in mid-air and stared at him. Thompson regarded them as coldly as possible.

"Well," said the nearest green man, "Aren't you going to say hello?"

Thompson swallowed. "Hello," he managed after a moment.

"Hello," rejoined the other.

Thompson nodded his head affably and remained silent. Presently he went to the cupboard and got out the whisky; he poured a shot and downed it in one quick movement. Then he filled his pipe and lit it. He puffed clouds of smoke and stared at the green men through a blue haze.

"Well," said the nearest green man again, "Aren't you glad?"

Thompson nodded genially.

"We're here to help you write a story, you know," pursued the other.

"Oh." Thompson brightened. "Good. Got any ideas?"

"Naturally. What would you like to write about? Romance? Adventure? Mystery? Fantasy?"

"Let's try—" Thompson pursed his lips and looked at the ceiling, "a short mystery. Something with a surprise ending that lays you out."

"Easy," said the other. "Try this."

He began narrating.

Thompson relaxed in his chair and puffed more clouds of smoke. Presently his face lit up. His eyes dilated and his pupils diminished to specks.

"Ah!" He exclaimed. He pulled his chair up to the typewriter and started typing notes, interspersing the green man's narrative with muttered exclamations.

The green man finished with an ending that sent Thompson over backwards in his chair. Thompson extricated himself and set up the chair again. "Terrific!" he said. "It'll make my fortune!"

"It will," assented the green man.

"What do you want for it?" inquired Thompson craftily.

"Nothing," responded the vision.

"Oh yes," said Thompson. "Nothing. Certainly. Well," he withdrew a stack of typewriter paper from his cluttered desk, "I certainly thank you fellows. Goodbye." He inserted a sheet in the typewriter.

"Oh, we're not leaving," said the off-color gnome.

"You will," said Thompson imperturbably. "In the morning. I'll have a headache but you'll be gone."

"Suit yourself," said the green man. He and his companions rose a foot in the air and sat suspended again. Thompson began to type. Now and then he looked at the green men and smiled, and turned back to his click-clacking on the typewriter.

Twenty double-spaced pages later he was done. He made a neat stack of the sheets and shoved them into an envelope, handily pre-addressed to the editorial offices of one of the more prominent magazines. He sealed the envelope and slapped postage on it. Then he walked three flights down from his apartment to the street, slipped the envelope into a mailbox, and staggered back up to bed.

He awoke, true to his prediction, with a raging headache. He sat up in bed and looked around the room for the little green men. They were nowhere to be seen. His doubts assuaged, he rose stiffly from his bed and careened off the chest-of-drawers into the bathroom, where he swallowed three aspirins in a glass of water. He turned on the water to see if it was hot, letting it run over his fingers. It was. He took a steaming shower and followed it with an icy one. Then he rubbed himself down with a Turkish towel and, the towel precariously wrapped around his middle, went back into the bedroom. His eyes bugged out and he tripped on the edge of the rug and fell heavily to the floor. When he got up four green men were still sitting complacently on a shaft of sunlight that poured in through the Venetian blind.

Thompson's mouth opened and closed but nothing came out.

"See," said the nearest green man. "I told you so. And don't take on so," he added in alarm. "You'll dislocate your jaw."

Thompson turned his back to the vision and went into the cupboard. He poured a shot of rye and downed it in one quick movement. The bottle in his hand, he sat down on the edge of the bed, regaining his composure.

"Why do you do that?" inquired the gnome with curiosity.

"If I'm going to go on seeing you," Thompson explained, "I may as well be drunk. It helps."

"You mean you still attribute our existence to the effects of alcohol?" inquired the other.

"Oh no," Thompson denied vigorously. "To the bitters."

"You jest," said the gnome in hurt tones. "Don't you want to become a great author?"

"Certainly," Thompson agreed hastily. "You mean you have more ideas?"

"An infinite number," said the green man, waving a deprecatory hand. "We thought of an excellent novel," he added, "while you slept last night. Do you want to hear it?"

"Of course!" Thompson jerked on his shorts. "Wait, though. I need breakfast first." He writhed into a shirt.

"Plenty of time," said the greenie. "While you're gone, we'll assimilate some more ideas."

"Good," said Thompson, pulling on his trousers. "Shall I bring you something to eat?"

"We don't eat," said the other airily. "You can bring a spotlight, though. We can sit best on a beam of light."

"Right," said Thompson. He opened the door.

"Goodbye," remarked the gnome.

"Goodbye," Thompson hurried from the room.

Thompson closed the door of the phone booth behind him. "Hello," he said. "I'd like to make an appointment with Doctor Vossman. Today, if possible."

"Just a moment," said the secretary. He heard her riffle through some papers. "What date did you say you wanted an appointment?"

"Today!" Thompson repeated. His breathing into the mouthpiece came out quite clearly in the receiver against his ear.

"Doctor Vossman can see you today at three. What is the name, please?"

"Thompson. Laurence Thompson."

"Very well, sir. Today at three."

"OK." Thompson hung up and emerged from the phone booth. His ham and eggs were ready at the counter and he sat down and wolfed them. He counted his money as he went out and decided to stop in the hardware store down the street and buy a spotlight.

When he got back to his apartment the sunlight was coming in the window at a forty-five degree angle and the gnomes were almost sitting on the floor. Thompson plugged in the spotlight and turned the beam upward. "There," he told the green men. "That okay?"

"Thank you," said the nearest gnome. The whole group rose in the air and floated over to the spotlight beam, sitting rather comfortably on the edge of it. "We thought of three excellent short stories while you were away. Would you like to hear them?"

"Yeah, sure," responded Thompson. Might as well take advantage of the situation while it lasted.

"Very well," said the nearest green man. "Here's the first one."

At two o'clock Thompson jerked the last sheet of the last story from the typewriter. He went to the cupboard and got out a coat and tie. "I'm going to lunch," he told the gnomes, knotting the tie as he talked. "I'll be back pretty soon."

"Fine," beamed the speaker for the little men.

"Well," said Thompson uncomfortably, slipping into his coat. "You want anything more?"

"We're nicely comfortable, thank you," said the green man. "Goodbye."

"Be seein' you." Thompson slammed the door behind him and added to himself, "I hope not."

The sign on the door said:

Walk in

Thompson walked in. There was nobody in the outer office so he walked to the inner office door and knocked.

"Come in," answered a German accent.

Thompson entered and beheld a small, thin, bespectacled man seated behind a modernistic steel desk.

"Ah," said this apparition. "You are Laurence Thompson. Sit down. Sorry no one was in the outer office but my secretary is out to lunch. What can I do for you."

"Well," said Thompson. "This is kind of hard to say, Doctor, but I'm—seeing things. Hallucinations."

"What are you seeing, Mr. Thompson?"

Thompson fingered the end of his tie. "Little green men."

"Ah," said the doctor. He leaned forward in his chair. "And what do these little green men do?"

"They give me ideas for stories. I'm an author."

"That is all they do?"

"They sit on a beam of light, too."

"Oh yes." The doctor took off his spectacles and began to polish them. "On a beam of light, of course. When and how did you first see these little men?"

"Well," Thompson ran nervous fingers through his hair, "Last night was when I first saw them. They came out of the woodwork."

"Last night—" began the doctor with a flash of intuition.

"I was drunk," said Thompson.

"Of course," agreed the doctor. He put his spectacles back on. "Then you have nothing to worry about; at least not in my line of work. Perhaps you should see a physician, delirium tremens is not in my line. Unless you wish me to cure your alcoholism—"

Thompson waved a hand. "Uh uh. Last night I didn't mind so much. But they were there this morning too." He leaned forward toward the doctor. "Would you say I am drunk now?"

"Hard to tell," rejoined the doctor, fluttering his fingers. "Offhand, I would say, no."

"Well," Thompson, "the little green men were still there when I left my apartment at two today."

"I see," said the doctor. "That makes a difference, of course."

"Haven't had but one shot of rye since last night, either."

"Yes, of course," murmured the psychiatrist. "And do you think they are still in your apartment now?"

Thompson shrugged. "Hard to tell."

"Then," said the doctor confidently, "there is only one thing to do. We shall go to your apartment and see." He rose from his chair.

"Good enough," replied Thompson.

"Now," said Thompson, "we will see if they've gone." He opened the door and peered into the room. He shuddered and entered the apartment; the doctor followed and closed the door.

"Are they here?" inquired the doctor, glancing about the room.

Thompson nodded and pointed. "Sitting on the beam of the spotlight."

"Ah yes." The doctor gazed uncomfortably at the spotlight and gave a sigh. He pushed Thompson over to the bed. "Lie down," he said. "Do you have a medicine cabinet?"

"In the bathroom, Doc." Thompson pointed.

The doctor nodded and went into the bathroom and opened the cabinet. He took out a bottle of antihistamine tablets and shook three into his hand. He drew a glass of water and walked back to Thompson's bedside.

"Sit up," he said. "Here, take these."

Thompson downed the pills and took a swallow of water. The doctor set the glass on the bedside table and went over and turned off the spotlight.

"Now," muttered the doctor. He turned on the lamp beside the bed and wrapped a green shirt around the bulb, tying the sleeves together at the top. He turned the lamp on Thompson's face. "You say the little men give you ideas for stories. Eh?"

Thompson shut his eyes and nodded. "On the desk. See?"

"Oh!" The doctor exhaled. "You write the stories down?"

"Naturally. They're great."

The doctor walked around to the desk, picked up one of the manuscripts. He whistled softly. "Just relax," he said, turning to Thompson. "I'm going to read these over."

"Sure, doc." Thompson stretched out comfortably on the bed.

An hour later the doctor was finishing the last story and humming softly to himself. He laid down the manuscript and fluttered his fingers airily. His face was a mask.

"Now, Thompson," he said. "Look around the room. Are the little green men still here?"

Thompson opened his eyes and gazed about the room. "Yep," he said finally. "Over there in the corner, up by the ceiling."

The doctor didn't even look. He took off his spectacles and inserted them carefully in his coat pocket. Then he fished a quarter from his hip pocket and held it up between two fingers.

"Thompson," he said softly. "Look."

Thompson looked. The quarter spun. The lamp above his face cast a soft green light.

"The little green men aren't there, Thompson."

"Yes, they are," remarked Thompson petulantly.

"No, they're not," soothed the doctor.


"No," said the doctor firmly.

"No?" inquired Thompson sleepily.


"You imagined them," breathed the doctor. "They aren't there. Not there at all. Can you hear me, Thompson?"


"Now forget all about your little green men. You can forget about them. You will forget about them." The doctor's voice was a monotone. "They ... never were there. You will never see them again. Never, Thompson. Never see them again. Never again. Thompson. Now go to sleep. You've been dreaming."

Thompson relaxed.


The sleeping man lay still, eyes shut, breathing even. The doctor exhaled softly.

"Why did you do that?" queried the nearest green man. "He's convinced. He'll never see us again."

"Naturally," said the doctor. He didn't even turn around. He got his spectacles out of his pocket and adjusted them on his nose. He turned to face the little green men.

"Come on," he said, waving a hand toward the door. "All my life I've wanted to be a great author. You fellows are going to tell me what to write!"

The green men shifted several feet nearer to him. "Crime, weird, mystery, adventure, or romance?" said the nearest gnome.

"Fantasy," said the doctor, "Let's go!"