Time Out of Joint

Free Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick

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Authors: Philip K. Dick
listings. And perhaps, at the Ruins, there was other material.
    The point of reference. The Ruins.

FIVE
    Bill Black parked his ’57 Ford in the reserved slot in the employees’ lot of the MUDO—Municipal Utility District Office—building. He meandered up the path to the door and inside the building, past the receptionist’s desk, to his office.
    First he opened the window, and then he removed his coat and hung it up in the closet. Cool morning air billowed into the office. He inhaled deeply, stretched his arms a couple of times, and then he dropped himself into his swivel chair and wheeled it around to face his desk. In the wire basket lay two notes. The first turned out to be a gag, a recipe clipped from some household column describing a way to fix a casserole of chicken and peanut butter. He tossed the recipe into the wastebasket and lifted out the second note; with a flourish he unfolded it and read it.
    Man at the house tried to call Bridgeland, Sherman, Devonshire, Walnut, and Kentfield numbers.
    I can’t believe it, Black thought to himself. He stuck the note in his pocket, got up from his desk and went to the closet for his coat, closed the window, left his office and walked down the corridor and past the receptionist’s desk, outside onto the path, and then across the parking lot to his car. A moment later he had backed out onto the street and was driving downtown.
    Well, you can’t have everything in life perfect, he said to himself as he drove through the morning traffic. I wonder what it means. I wonder how it could have happened.
    Some stranger could have stepped in off the street and asked to use the phone. Oh? What a laugh that was.
    I give up, he said to himself. It’s just one of those deadly things that defies analysis. Nothing to do but wait and see what took place. Who made the call, why, and how.
    What a mess, he said to himself.
    Across the street from the back entrance of the Gazette building he parked and got out of his car, stuck a dime in the parking meter, and then entered the Gazette offices by the back stairs.
    "Is Mr. Lowery around?" he asked the girl at the counter.
    "I don’t think he is, sir," the girl said. She moved toward the switchboard. "If you want to wait, I’ll call around and see if they can locate him."
    "Thanks," he said. "Tell him it’s Bill Black."
    The girl tried various offices and then said to him, "I’m sorry, Mr. Black. They say he hasn’t come in yet, but he ought to be in soon. Do you want to wait?"
    "Okay," he said, feeling glum. He threw himself down on a bench, lit a cigarette, and sat with his hands folded.
    After fifteen minutes he heard voices along the hall. A door opened and the tall, lean, baggy-tweed figure of Stuart Lowery put in its appearance. "Oh, hello Mr. Black," he said in his reasonable fashion.
    "Guess what was waiting for me in my office," Bill Black said. He handed Lowery the note. Lowery read it carefully.
    "I’m surprised," Lowery said.
    "Just a freak accident," Black said. "One chance in a billion. Somebody printed up a list of good restaurants and stuck it in his hat, and then he got into one of the supply trucks and rode on in, and while he was unloading stuff from the truck the list fell out of his hat." A notion struck him. "Unloading cabbages, for instance. And when Vic Nielson started to carry the cabbages into the storage locker, he saw the list and said to himself, Just what I need; a list of good restaurants. So he picked it up, carried it home, and pasted it on the wall by the phone."
    Lowery smiled uncertainly.
    "I wonder if anyone wrote down the numbers he called," Black said. "That might be important."
    "Seems to me that one of us will have to go over to the house," Lowery said. "I wasn’t planning to go again until the end of the week. You could go this evening."
    "Do you suppose we could have been infiltrated by some traitor?"
    "Successful approach," Lowery said.
    "Yes," he said.
    "Let’s see if we can find

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