Richard R. Smith has been writing SF since 1949, "except for the year that
I spent climbing up and down hills in Korea." Former office manager for a
construction company, and a chess enthusiast, he now writes full time and
adds, "My main ambition in life is to write SF for the next forty years!"
by ... Richard R. Smith
There are many ways—murder included—in which husbands
can settle certain problems. This was even more drastic!
George stood by the fireplace,
his features twisted into a grimace.
"It's hell, I tell you. A living hell."
I sipped my drink and tried to
think of a subtle way to change the
subject. I didn't like to hear a person's
personal problems and every
time I visited George, he invariably
complained about Helen. If it
had been anyone else, I might have
thought it wasn't entirely Helen's
fault, but George and I had been
roommates in college and I knew
him like a brother. He was a person
who got along with almost everyone.
Intelligent, easy-going and
He lifted his glass and glared
at me as if I were the guilty party.
"She's a worry-wart," he continued.
"A hypochondriac, a neurotic, an
escapist, and a communist." He
studied the ceiling thoughtfully.
"And sometimes I think she's a
I tried to calm him, "Don't
worry about it. If things get worse,
get a divorce."
"Divorce, ha! She wouldn't give
me a divorce if—"
The door opened.
Helen smiled half-heartedly, her
pale face quickly resuming its unhappy
expression as if it tired her
facial muscles when she smiled.
"Hello, Ed. Nice to see you again."
"Hello, Helen." I glanced at
George and noticed he had closed
his eyes as if the sight of his wife
was unbearable. His lower lip was
white where he gripped it with his
teeth and I silently hoped he
wouldn't draw blood.
Helen sank into a chair and
raised her skirt to reveal her right
leg. "Did George tell you about
my legs?" she inquired. She stroked
the leg affectionately. "Arthritis.
George grafted a new one on for
me. Feels ten times better."
My face blanched. The idea of
replacing body parts from Banks
didn't nauseate me. If a man is in
an automobile accident and loses
an arm, and that arm can be replaced,
I think that's marvelous.
What sickened me were the people
who actually enjoyed having a part
of their body replaced with a part
from a criminal or corpse.
"No." I sat down. My knees
were weak. I felt short of breath.
"George didn't tell me. I—"
She interrupted with details of
the operation. The details and list
of her other ailments lasted half an
hour, during which George drank
steadily and I waited for a lull so
I could glance at my watch and say
something about being late for an
I saw George several times during
the next few weeks. Never at
his house. I didn't visit him on my
own initiative because Helen, as I
had seen during my last visit, had
passed from the stage of being unpleasant
and reached the stage of
being unbearable. I didn't want to
be around her or listen to her, and
George must have realized my feelings
because he didn't invite me
to his house for some time.
But both of us had a habit of
stopping at a club on the outskirts
of town and we met there often.
Each time we met, George complained.
Each time, he seemed to
drink more and complain more.
I worried about his job. He was
a surgeon—one of the best—and a
surgeon needs good nerves and
steady hands when he performs
I urged him to get a divorce, but
he said he didn't want one. "I love
Helen," he said one time. "Well,
I don't exactly love Helen, but I
love her body. It's like the old saying
about marrying a girl because
she's pretty is like picking a rose
by looking at the stem. We're all
different, you know, and we all
have different tastes. When I first
saw Helen— Well, she's just right
for me. To me, she looks as good as
Marilyn Monroe looks to the average
man. I like having her around.
I'd be lost without her, but at the
same time, she's changed so damned
much, she makes me sick."
And there it was. He still wanted
Helen but she had changed into a
personality that he hated. Over a
period of years, she had changed
into a morbid hypochondriac, an
unpleasant woman who enjoyed—more
than anything else—such
things as having one of her legs
replaced and sampling the latest
pills and drugs. George said he had
tried to get her to see a psychiatrist
but she refused. And you can't have
a person committed to a mental institution
because they have an unpleasant
It seemed as if there was no solution
to his problem.
Then, late one evening, I received
a phone call from George.
"Come over and have a few
drinks," he said. "We'll have a
party! Helen's changed. You should
I was interested in his problem,
so I went.
Helen greeted me at the door
and I had the surprise of my life.
At one time, she had been beautiful,
but she had faded during the
past few years. By staying indoors,
she had grown pale, listless. As her
personality changed, it had also
changed her features, and her eyes
had developed a sleepy, lifeless
look, and deep lines had formed
on her face.
But the Helen who greeted me
that night was not like that. Her
face had a healthy flush, her eyes
sparkled and she seemed vibrant,
bubbling ... just like the Helen
I had known so long ago.
George and I had a good time
that night. He laughed and joked
for the first time in months. We
drank, talked, played chess, and
then drank and talked some more.
Every now and then, Helen
would float by, a gorgeous creature,
laughing at George's jokes, mixing
our drinks, and smiling at George
as if he were the most wonderful
man in the world.
When I couldn't bear it any
longer, I whispered, "What happened?"
George drained his glass and
shouted across the room, "Come
George said, "Promise not to tell
anyone? It's very important."
I couldn't imagine his reason for
asking me that, but I said, "I promise."
"Well," George explained, "I
can't take all the credit. I'm a fairly
good surgeon, but Lucas had the
hardest job. We did it together.
Do you know Lucas? He's an electrical
engineer ... a genius. He
designed that electronic calculator
"Show him," Helen interrupted.
"Show him!" She was giggling,
laughing, almost jumping up and
down with joy. I thought: She's
her old self again, cheerful, bubbling
George said, "I finally realized
what she needed more than anything
He raised Helen's soft brown
hair and opened a small panel in
the back of her head. In the recess
was a maze of tubes and electrical
"She needed a new head,"
This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe August 1958.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.