Science Fiction Short Story Review: "Goodbye, Dead Man!" by Tom W. Harris
Orley Mattup is a guard at a reactor in Bayless, Kentucky. He and a friend of the narrator, Danny Hern, play a back country card game called high-low-jack. Mattup starts losing, despite all good luck rituals he performs. He’s a sore loser. One night when Uncle Pete Barker, one of the technicians, comes back for a hat he left, Mattup kills him with one of the weapons the Outsiders, who ran the reactor, had given him.
After that, Danny swears he’ll “get” Orley. He teaches himself to manipulate the cards, but this is not how he’s going to get Orley.
The rumors about Outsiders shifter personnel prove true. The narrator is to go to Oak Ridge, Danny to Argonne. The night before they leave, Mattup has an incredible winning streak. He’ll even take the last change out of Danny’s pocket.
This is not a pleasant story, but one about two men who hate each other, who seem to be willing to go to any lengths to inflict damage and pain on one another. I didn’t like it and won’t be reading anything more by this author. It’s not violent and disgusting like Ambrose Bierce’s “My Favorite Murder.” It’s just unpleasant.
Title: “Goodbye, Dead Man!” first published in Imagination April 1958
Author: Tom W. Harris
Last Review: “My Favorite Murder” by Ambrose Bierce
Last Sci Fi review: “Keep Out!” by Fredric Brown
©2015 Denise Longrie
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