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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) one-two-three for me
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 01:24:19 

Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net> started it all when he wrote:

>The story called "1, 2, 3, etc." (I dont' have my copy here, and that's
>only approximate). Anybody want to analyze this one? Is it a tossaway, or a
>more serious story? ...

My guess is that it is a "tossaway." I think this story is Wolfe's idea of
a joke, more than anything else, although it is certainly a ghost story.
Since this is a Gene Wolfe story, it may have religious significance or
significance of other kinds as well, but I think the background information
presented in "One-Two-Three for Me" is so sparse that very few definite
conclusions can be drawn from it.

I think the most salient feature of this story is that it is a ghost story.
Not just that, it is a ghost story being told around a camp fire. It is
also a future ghost story that uses ruins from a mysterious past which
seems a lot like our present. In these ruins a "cursed object" is found: a
cell phone. This phone has to be, if not cursed, at least supernatural in
some way; otherwise it is hard to explain how a portable phone could still
be in working order after being buried in the ground for 800 years or more.
Even its battery still has a charge!

The primary reason I think this story is one of Wolfe's jokes is that I
think I know where the title comes from. It is a line from a Warner Bros.
cartoon. I have not been able to completely confirm this, but I believe it
is _Racketeer Rabbit_ (Freleng, 1946). This cartoon has a character called
Rocky, who is a caricature of Edward G. Robinson. Rocky is a gangster
hiding out in an abandoned house with his gang and his ill-gotten goods. In
a scene where Rocky is splitting up the loot with his men he counts out the
stolen bills, "One for you and one-two-three for me."

I admit this doesn't seem to help explain this story at all, except perhaps
as a clue that it is about greed. I will also admit that I may be wrong
about this as the source of the title, but this phrase does occur in the
cartoon. Before anyone says that Wolfe is above watching cartoons, there is
at least some evidence that he does. "Three Fingers," in _The Island of Dr.
Death and Other Stories and Other Stories_, certainly deals with Disney
cartoon characters. And, towards the end of _The Fifth Head of Cerberus_,
the corpse of a small animal is described as if it was a cartoon mouse.

Jonathan Laidlow seems convinced that the sounds of "something, an animal
or something, moving around in the dark" that occur when Dik started
tapping two sticks together "trying to get the noise right" were the sounds
of the being that brought the powder to Jo An rising up. I am equally
convinced it was just an ordinary animal, or the wind, and the timing was a
coincidence. After all, there are no mysterious movements in the underbrush
when several people are banging sticks earlier, before they all had heard
the story. Wolfe is just emphasizing that Dik and the others were genuinely
scared by Jak's story. It's also slightly humorous, since Dik obviously
scared himself.

I don't find Nicholas Gevers attempts to find a link between "One-Two-Three
for Me" and "And When They Appear" to be convincing. If there is another
story that will help to explain "One-Two-Three for Me," we will have to
look for it outside of _Strange Travelers_. Another story that came to my
mind is "The Most Beautiful Woman on the World" in _Endangered Species_. I
don't think the stories are linked in any direct way, but they both share
have a story within a story and ii is very hard to be sure what is going on
in either the inner or the outer story.

William Ansley

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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