Science Fiction Short Story Review: “Old Rambling House” by Frank Herbert
Ted and Martha Graham are pretty sure they’re about to land a deal that’s too good to be true. A foreign-sounding couple wants to swap their old rambling house out in the boonies for their trailer. With the baby on the way, the Grahams are looking for something with more room. Also, Ted’s career as a tax accountant hasn’t been going as well as planned. Seems there aren’t as many wealthy people in the area as he first thought.
The foreign-sounding couple appears. The man introduces himself as Clint Rush and his wife as Raimee. After giving the trailer a cursory going-over, Rush offers to drive the Grahams to the house since the place is hard to find at night. And he and Raimee have other business in town later on so they’ll leave Ted and Martha to explore the house and pick them later.
The house is off a country road, high in the hills. The Rushes leave them alone to discuss things. It’s everything Martha dreamed of, but Ted senses, not for the first time, that something is very wrong. In his estimation, the house is worth $100,000 while their trailer is worth barely $7000.
“But they’re foreigners,” Martha says. How would they know that they’re getting into?
It’s already too late.
This is cute and funny. The ending was a little weak, but not unforgivably so. There is a clue in the first sentence that things aren’t going to go as planned, and Ted knows that some thing’s not right, but never acts on his gut feeling. Instead, he—like his wife—goes with greed and the trap is sprung.
Author Frank Herbert is best remembered for his Dune books, but he was also a journalist. During the Second World War, he served with the Seebees as a photographer.
Title: “Old Rambling House” first published in Galaxy Science Fiction April 1958
Author: Frank Herbert (1920-1986)
Last review: "The Far Lands" by John Buchan
Last sci fi review: "Tight Squeeze" by Dean C. Ing
©2015 Denise Longrie
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has been removed and is no longer visible there. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion in PP.
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