Yancey Stubbs sat in his favorite chair sipping on a coke and reading Harper’s Magazine. Normally Yancey didn’t hold much with magazines as he considered them dim cousins to books. Harper’s was different. Instead of light and fluffy prose suited for toilet reading, Harper’s was serious and thoughtful. He liked that, serious thought required him to concentrate and concentration was calisthenics for the mind and kept him sharp.
Stubbs had subscribed to Harper’s beginning at the age of 12. He payed for the subscription himself by harvesting discarded pop bottles for the 10-cent return fee. His quest for bottles consumed his life that summer. Every bottle, whether found on the side of the road or liberated from a back porch, was needed.
It wasn’t easy—the worst was resisting the lure to dip into his growing savings for $1 model airplanes and Fantastic Four comics sold at the drug store.
Yancey stayed true to his crusade despite all the temptations available to a 12-year old with a few dollars. The model airplanes, the comic books, the candy, the matinee movies, they had no power over him. He was Percival and a subscription to Harper’s Magazine his holy grail.
Only once did Yancey raid his growing Harper’s fund. His best friend, the unfortunately named Jupiter Nelson, fell out of a tree and broke both his legs. Yancey used nearly a third of his savings to order a leather-bound edition of The Complete Works of H.G. Wells from the Montgomery Ward catalog as a gift to his bedridden friend.
His small act of kindness was worth the effort. Jupiter happily devoured the book and loaned it to Yancey who did the same. The book had a profound effect on the two boys and they enjoyed many discussions about the ethics of Dr. Moraeu and the struggle of humanity to defy the inane animal instincts.
The day finally came when Yancey had enough money to pay for his subscription. He purchased a money order from the post office and sent his subscription card in the mail.
Three weeks later his first issue arrived. Yancey took the magazine and climbed his favorite tree, nestled himself in a comfortable branch, and read it from cover to cover.
Much of what he read was outside the understanding of a 12-year old, even one as smart as Yancey, but he enjoyed reading it just the same, it gave him sense of satisfaction and it made him feel wiser--as if the magazine opened up a window to worlds otherwise inaccessible from his family’s West Virginia farm.
Yancey was deep into a very interesting article, “The Pharmacology of Zombies”, when the phone rang.
He answered on the first ring and was astonished to hear Mathias Conway’s voice on the other end.
Mathias was excited and in his excitement his words tumbled out and became jumbled. He was talking so fast that Yancey couldn’t make sense of what he was saying.
The words continued to flood out of the receiver. Yancey closed his eyes and wished Mathias would put Caesar on the phone. He let Mathias talk until he ran out of steam and was quiet.
Yancey opened his eyes, took a deep calming breath and said:
“Settle down Mathias and tell me what’s wrong.”
This time Mathias spoke clearly into the phone and kept it to the point.
What Yancey heard made him drop the phone.
Yancey buckled his overalls, laced up his boots, and rushed out of his house in such a hurry he forget to shut his front doo and he ran all the way to Mathias's convenience store.